Learning to pray for you…

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“For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

See how he prays?

Not only does he pray so consistently, but he prays with such depth. My prayers for other people are often so shallow and driven by circumstances.  If someone’s sick, I’ll pray that they get better.  If someone’s out of work, I’ll pray that they find a job. If someone’s lonely, I’ll pray that they find a friend. If someone’s taking a test, I’ll pray that they get an “A.” When I pray for people I often pray that their problems will get solved and that the path of life will be smooth.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with that.  God wants us to pray the desires of our heart. But that’s just the start.  Move deeper:  pray for a person’s character to be developed and for them to get to know God better and understand the depth of his amazing love for them in the midst of the difficulties they’re in. Praying not just for an end to the problems, but praying for them to find God faithful through the problems.  Those are the things that consume the prayers of the apostle Paul.

Here he’s praying that they would be filled with the knowledge of God’s will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.  The will of God Paul is talking about here is not, “Should I marry this person or that person?  Should I take this job or that job?  Should I stay in this house or move somewhere else? Should I go to this college or that college or not go to college at all?”  Those are the kinds of things that come to my mind when I think about the will of God. And those are all valid prayers and God wants us to seek him for those decisions.

But they’re all about what we do and not about who we are.

And God is much more interested in who we are than in what we do, in our integrity than in our itinerary.

So Paul is praying that they would have spiritual intelligence, that they would have the wisdom to see life the way God sees life and then the understanding to apply that wisdom to real life situations.

  • Parents: when you pray for your kids pray that God will give them spiritual intelligence.
  • When you pray for your spouse pray that he or she will see life the way God sees life.
  • When you pray for those in your small group or others that you know pray that they will apply God’s wisdom to the real life situations they’re facing.

Let’s go deeper in our prayers for one another. Pray those kinds of prayers for yourself too. God loves to hear them and answer them.  And as we pray that way then we will live a life worthy of the Lord.

Look at verse 10,And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, 11 being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father

Paul knows life is hard.  Some people think that the moment you become a Christian your life’s going to get easier.  All your problems will be solved.  God wants you to be healthy, wealthy and wise all the time. But that’s not the case.  Life is hard for everybody.  But as a believer we now have the resources to deal with life head on.  We don’t have to run and hide. We can face life with the strength of God’s power that gives us great endurance, patience and joy.

The word “endurance” is the ability to deal triumphantly with anything that life throws at us.  Are you being hit hard with something right now?  The word “patience” is the ability to put up with difficult people.  Do you have any difficult people in your life that you have to put up with? Paul prays for the endurance that no situation can defeat and for the patience that no person can defeat.  So that we can live life not by just gritting our teeth and gutting it out, not with a martyr’s mentality and a “poor me” attitude, but with joy. We have the power inside to do that. D

on’t give any situation or any person the power to steal your joy.

How can we live that way?  Only by understanding who we really are and what we really have in Christ. Do you know who you are?  Do you know what you have in Christ?  That’s what Paul says we joyfully give thanks for.

Look at verses 12-14, joyfully 12 giving thanks to the Father who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. 13 For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

That’s a mouthful of theology.   But when we unpack those verses we see three things that describe who we really are in Christ.  We have a share in God’s inheritance.  We are citizens of a new kingdom.  We have been redeemed from spiritual bondage.

When the apostle Paul became a Christ follower, literally knocked off his horse and dramatically converted while he was on his way to kill Christians in Damascus, he was given a commission by God that contains these great themes.

In Acts 26:15-18, while Paul is telling his story to King Agrippa he says, Then I asked, “Who are you, Lord?”  “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting … Now get up and stand on your feet.  I have appeared to you to appoint you as a servant and as a witness of what you have seen of me and what I will show you.  I will rescue you from your own people and from the Gentiles. I am sending you to them to open their eyes and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”

So in this letter Paul is doing exactly what God commissioned him to do when he was rescued.  He’s opening our eyes to what is really true about us.  And that is that we can live life with joy because we have a share in God’s inheritance.  In Bible times an inheritance was the estate that a father passed on to his son. And if he had more than one son, the firstborn always got twice as much as the other boys in the family.  But you had to be in the family to get an inheritance. A father couldn’t pass on an inheritance to a son that wasn’t his.  And that inheritance meant financial security for the sons.  It gave them a head start in life.

As believers in Christ we have been adopted into God’s family, we are now his sons and daughter.And God our heavenly Father, Paul says, has passed on his inheritance to us because we’re in his family now.  But it’s not found in the stuff of this world, which isn’t secure. The most permanent inheritance on earth is still only temporary. It’s found in the riches of heaven.

Someday all that belongs to God the Father, and that’s everything, will be ours. And that will make us far richer than Bill Gates, or Ted Turner, or any sheik living in Saudi Arabia. We are rich in Christ.  We have an inheritance waiting for us that nothing can destroy. And we can’t be disinherited because in God’s eyes our sin has been completely removed from us and God sees us as perfect sons and daughters.  Our riches are waiting for us.  We are all future millionaires in the best sense of the word. That should give us joy.  That is something to be thankful for!

We are citizens of a new kingdom. When we were born into this world the Bible says we were born into the kingdom of darkness under the authority of Satan the god of this world. And his kingdom is under God’s judgment. It won’t last forever.  But Jesus Christ has taken us out of that kingdom, terminated our citizenship in that kingdom, and translated us into a new kingdom under a new King who is coming back to take us home.

Paul puts it this way in Philippians 3:20, But our citizenship is in heaven.  And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Our heavenly citizenship doesn’t begin when we die, we’re citizens of heaven right now. That’s our real home.  We’re just passing through this world on a visa.

When we were born physically, the Bible says, we were born into Satan’s kingdom of darkness. We had no choice but to obey him. We were under his authority.  But when we were born spiritually, through faith in Christ, we became citizens of the kingdom of light, no longer under Satan’s authority. We don’t need to listen to him anymore. He has no more power over us.  That should give us joy.  That is something to be thankful for!

We have been redeemed from spiritual bondage.  Redemption in the Bible always means liberation from bondage. The most vivid illustration is the liberation of 2.5 million slaves from bondage in Egypt.  In that case the redeemer was Moses who redeemed them by the blood of the Passover lamb that was placed over the door of every Israelite home. The Exodus was the night of their redemption. And on that night the slaves left the land of bondage, crossed over the parted Red Sea, and became pilgrims on their way to a new land, the Promised Land, where they would be free.

Satan is the Pharaoh, the slave owner over all those who are in his kingdom of darkness. They have no choice but to serve him. But Christ came to redeem us, to liberate us, to rescue us, from spiritual slavery.  And like the Exodus there was a price to be paid.  For them it was the blood of the Passover lamb. But for us it was the blood of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  It was Christ’s own blood that liberated us.  That should give us joy.  That is something to be thankful for!

Paul ends this glorious section by saying that forgiveness of sins is part of our redemption. The root idea behind forgiveness is “to separate or remove.” So that when God looks at us he no longer sees our sin. It has been removed, separated from us forever.

The image here is that of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the most sacred day on the Jewish calendar. It was the day when the high priest of Israel would enter the most sacred place in the Jewish temple, called the holy of holies, and he would take the blood of a goat and put it on the mercy seat. The mercy seat was like the altar, under which was the Jewish Law which the nation had broken.  And the blood was sprinkled over the law so that when God looked at the broken law he saw it through the blood.  This is described in great detail in Leviticus 16.

After that the high priest took the second goat, placed both hands on its head, and confessed Israel’s sins, symbolically transferring them to the goat. Then the goat was given to a trusted man who took it way out into the desert, to a solitary place, so far away that it could never find it’s way back.  That goat was called the scapegoat and symbolized that the sins of the people had been removed, separated from them, forgiven for another year.

But that process had to be repeated year after year after year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, until Christ died, the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world. So now, when we trust Christ as your Savior our sin is removed from us once and for all, forever.  So that when God see us, he sees us through the blood of his Son. That should give us joy.  That is something to be thankful for!

These are all powerful images that God has given to us through the apostle Paul to give us endurance in difficult circumstance, patience with difficult people, and joy in living life.  This is not dry theology meant for the classroom. This is dynamic truth that was meant to change our lives at the core of our being.

God wants all of us to understand who we really are in Christ and believe it so that we will walk worthy of the Lord and please him in every way, bearing fruit in every good work.

 

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