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You Ought to Pray

The Aboriginal Australians of long ago never associated conception with childbirth. Because of the time lapse between copulation and birth being separated by nine months they never equated the two. The act and the outcome were dissociated.

That same outlook exists in our society regarding two actions.

Many people never link an adverse action and the ultimate outcome in spite of Scripture linking them: “Be sure your sins will find you out.” Some seem to think that if a person sins and there are no immediate consequences, they get away with it. Often a repentant person does not suffer overtly because of a sin. But the sin itself was the discipline in that the act prevented the enjoyment of the moment had it been ideally spent.

Fifty-one years ago a young woman in our community was sexually assaulted and murdered. Using genetic genealogy police have now been able to connect the accused with a cloth from the scent by matching the genetic signature of a distant relative of the perpetrator. Normally after the lapse of such time the act would not be connected with the ultimate outcome. Not all crimes are solved, but all criminals reap the result before God.

From a more pleasant point of view some never associate a prayer offered and the deferred answer. Often the time lapse dissociates the two. The Bible is replete with stories of delays experienced in answered prayers. There are reasons for such.

Often God acts immediately to prepare things in order to answer a prayer. On other occasions time is required in order to prepare the one praying before God overtly acts.

Reflect on your prayers, old and new, and see if in retrospect you thought some were not answered and in reality they were. Some good things of today may actually be direct or indirect responses to prayers of long ago.

Give God time to be God.

God lovingly and wisely knows how best to respond to our prayers. It is incumbent on us to pray. His response is always to our advantage.

Have you had some prayers to which He answered “No?” Have you thanked Him for not giving you some things because He knew they were not best for you?”

“You ought always to pray, and not to faint.”

Of Jesus it is said, “He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart…” (Luke 18: 1).

Examples That Inspire

Hebrews 12: 1 – 4

As athletes are inspired by examples of the greats who have gone before them and the encouragement of those who watch them, so we believers have such sources of motivation. Hebrews 12: 1 – 4 is an example of this intended to inspire consistent and persistent faithfulness to the Lord.

The “great cloud of witnesses” is a reference to those noted in Chapter 11.  The word translated witness, “martus,” means one who bears witness by his death.  These persons were not listed simply as spectators, but as testimonial witnesses to the fact that God will see you through.

They are not there to be inspired by our action, but to inspire us by their action, their living and spoken testimony.  It is as though they are shouting such encouragement as, “God enabled us to be winners.  He will do the same for you.  Press on to the finish faithfully.”

They testify that you can’t win unless you run, so get in the race.  They testify that if you are in the race, run with endurance – don’t quit.

As witnesses, they are testifying to God’s sufficiency and His faithfulness.  They, not we, are examples.

The “weights” are spoken of as things which are not necessarily sins, but they do restrict us.  Athletes take off their warm-up when it is time to compete.  There are some things that are neither good nor bad, but neither are they helpful.  Cut them out.  A great athlete doesn’t choose between the good and the bad, but the better and the best.  Anything that hinders your spiritual progress should be abandoned.  Judaitic ritual and tradition was hindering them.  What hinders you?

A weight is anything, good or bad, that weighs us down, diverts our attention, saps our energy, or dampens our enthusiasm for the things of God.

Also noted is “The sin which so easily ensnares us….”  Anything that entangles you will not enable you to be a winner.  Every person has an area of vulnerability, a sin which easily ensnares.  Identify it, and ask Jesus to help you win over it.  Put it off like an unwanted limitation. “The” means a specific one.

Now comes the basic nitty and fundamental gritty of the race.

There is an exhortation to “run with endurance.”  Anybody can enter the most difficult race.   It takes endurance to finish.  The Bible is filled with examples of people who started and did not finish, such as John Mark and Demas.

Race translates the word “agon,”and is the root of our word agony.  This was not a passive idleness being advocated, but aggressive persistence.

Victory comes as a result of “looking unto Jesus.”  He is the chief, the primary witness.  This book is written to help us keep our eyes on Jesus.  Of our faith He is “the author”, that is, the leader or captain, and “finisher,” that is, the perfecter of our faith.  Jesus has run the same race course you are on. 

“Consider”, that is, analyze your own life as compared to His.  It is when we get to feeling life is unfair and unjust to us that we become discouraged.  When you know suffering is normal and fits God’s plan, you are motivated by it. Before us there have been “martus,” ones who bear witness by his death.

The Faith Factor in Happiness

Jesus gathered with the disciples in the upper room the night of His execution. The world of the disciples is about to go into eclipse at midday. Their world is about to fall apart. They were understandably distressed.

He has always told His followers of the glory and the pain involved in following Him. As they must, we must so realize you can’t expect to eat the honey unless you are willing to take the stings.

In comforting His disciples that night He shared a principle that can give us stability in our crisis. It is faith, Faith is merely confidence in God’s character.

Hear this: “Faith is the submission of our reasoning and worry to all that is revealed (in God’s Word).”

Faith does not ignore facts, it introduces facts, the facts of revelation.

Faith is not irrational; it is supernatural.

The Greek word for faith, “pistis”  comes from the word, “pisteuo,” meaning to obey. When you say you have faith in God you are saying I am willing to obey God.

Dale Evans, wife of Old West cowboy hero Roy Rogers, observed: “I sought the pot of gold at the foot of the rainbow. It eluded me. By simple faith, I found it at the foot of the cross.”

Perhaps you have been looking for your pot of gold without success. All that the heart longs for can be found in Jesus.

When we look at things through our natural eyes they may well appear to be foreboding and frightening. When we look at them through the eyes of faith they are seen differently.

Faith is confidence in God.

Is there any area of your life in which Jesus is not trusted with absolute control?

It is possible, though always improper, for Him to be present in your life without being President of your life.

He is not to be dormant in your life, but dominant.

Do you want Him merely as your Savior Lord or as your Sovereign Lord, that is, the one with absolute authority? If you say you have faith in Him, act like it. That means to trust and obey Him.

“This is the victory that overcomes the world, even your faith.”

Faith Is Obedience

Don’t try to tell the world you love Jesus while not obeying Him. Jesus said, “If you love Me you will obey Me” (John 14: 15).

He then made a statement of confirmation: “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him” (John 14:21).

Jesus made it clear. If we love Him we obey Him. If you are not obeying Him you don’t love Him no matter how loudly you profess that you love Him. He made it clear, didn’t He? Conversely, our obedience of Him reveals we love Him.

Faith is obedience. You are walking in the way if you obey His instructions.

A 20th Century example is Corrie ten Boom. She lived through the worst Satan could hurl at her. In a Nazi concentration camp she saw her family tortured, starved, and killed. She survived through a clerical error. Yet, through all of her anguish, misery, torment and pain she was obedient to God and strong in her faith.

Her obedience under those extenuating circumstances, like that of many others, may be explained by this statement found on one of the walls in a German concentration camp:

“I believe in the sun, even when it isn’t shining.
I believe in love, even when I feel it not.
I believe in God, even when He is silent.”

The way is not a process but a person.  Once we have chosen Him as our way to life we must make Him our way of life and not turn back.

The Mexican General Santa Anna forced Sam Houston and his rag tag army into an area of near impossibility. Defeat seemed imminent to many. To Houston’s back was the river. To his fore the army of Santa Anna.  He called his aid, Deaf Smith, and ordered him to burn the bridge across the river. Deaf protested that it was the only way out for them. Houston replied, “We ain’t going out that way, burn the bridge.” With that resolution he was committed to one way and offered no alternative. Do you have some bridges you need to burn to evidence your total dependence on Jesus?

Older theologians described saving faith in three words:
NOTITIA = knowledge.
ASSENSUS = intellectual assent.
FIDUCIA  =  a trust of personal commitment.     

How can you know you are doing the right thing? Proverbs 10: 17 answers, “He is in the way of life that keeps instruction.”

Pray with the Psalmist, “Teach me your way, I will walk in truths” (Psalm 86: 11).

What Does It Mean To Abide?

As a fruit tree is intended to bear fruit so a Christian is intended to produce certain things in life. Such spiritual qualities are likened to “fruit.” The branch can’t produce fruit unless it is connected to a vine. Simple, isn’t it?

Jesus likens our relationship to Him to that of a branch to a vine. He said the branch must “abide” in Him.  Abide translates the Greek word “meno.” It is translated by eight different English words in the New Testament: abide, be present, continue, dwell, endure, remain, stand, and tarry.

John 15: 7 gives a sign that we are abiding in Him. It is that His words “abide in” us. That calls for more than intellectual ascent, it requires obedience.

The issue is obedience. A recent “Gallup Poll” showed Americans are “impressively religious.” The poll probed beneath the surface of that fact. It further showed that 3 out of 4 “Do not connect religion with their judgment of right and wrong.”

If you think you are saved, but you aren’t interested in obedience, you had better check your ticket.

“What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” (James 2:14). It is the kind of faith that works. Loving God is more than emotional goosebumps; it is a commitment to selfless love resulting in obedience.

Do you love the Lord enough to obey Him?

Don’t throw God a bone unless it has the meat of obedience on it.

Emotional highs are refreshing. However, it doesn’t matter how high you jump when you shout. What counts is how straight you walk when you hit the ground. Christ is looking for consistency.

Would you be pleased with a refrigerator that works six days a week, but won’t run on the other?

What would your boss think if you missed work a few days each month?

What must our Lord think when we act equally as sporadic in our spiritual lives?

Psalm 37: 4, 5 portrays what happens when we obey God:

“Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.”