In this worship gathering, we hear a message from Romans 9.1-16 entitled “Chosen”, where we explore what it means that we are chosen by God, and how that affects our efforts at sharing our faith with others, including people of other faiths. We see the passion with which the Apostle Paul writes to the church in Rome, and us, about the people of his own ethnic heritage. You can watch the whole gathering below, or just the message below that.
In his book Prayer: Finding the Heart’s True Home, Richard Foster writes about various facets of the gemstone of the Christian life that is prayer. Among them is “authoritative prayer”, in which Foster suggests that God’s people are too often too timid about exercising their God-given abilities in prayer.
He cites all kinds of times when Jesus spoke authoritatively in prayer, and then he writes,
“Certainly I should not be expected to do those kinds of things. But then I came upon Jesus’ shocking words: ‘Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father’ (John 14:12)….In my concern over falling off the deep end, I realized that I just might fall off the shallow end. My desire to maintain religious respectability could easily result in a domesticated faith” (pp. 234-235, emphases mine).
Re-reading this book always challenges me, and on this go-round, it was this section that slapped me ‘upside the head.’ Am I more interested in religious respectability than I am about doing the work God has intended for me to do?
It’s as if I would sooner sit in the cold than get up and turn on the furnace.
Now, what might be running through your mind certainly courses through mine, and that’s this: What about the sovereignty of God?
Foster would remind us that any prayer we offer authoritatively must come not from any authority of our own, but from the authority of the Holy Spirit working in and through us – and the Holy Spirit, as the third Person of the Trinity, is sovereign and ultimately decides whether a prayer should be granted or not.
Yet, I want to suggest, too often we don’t even bother.
Instead of shrugging our shoulders and saying, “There’s nothing we can do,” what if we were to speak to the sickness in our loved one, in Jesus’ name?
Many of us are reluctant to do such things because we don’t own a white polyester suit, or a personal jet; we don’t want to be lumped in with those Christians. To be sure, any authoritative ministry we exercise does not happen for our own self-aggrandizement, but for the glory of God. But if God were willing to heal, willing to cast out, willing to aid – if we were simply to ask – would that not be worth the risk of losing religious respectability?
Many Canadians – and even some from abroad – have been talking about the terrible tragedy of the accident that killed and injured so many people associated with the junior hockey team from Humboldt, Saskatchewan, that occurred last week.
As is customary in our social media age, people have done many things to mark their solidarity with the people affected by the accident. They’ve used #HumboldtStrong hashtags; they’ve worn t-shirts or hockey sweaters; they’ve set hockey sticks outside their front doors. Flags have been lowered to half-staff.
Beyond all these symbolic gestures, what has struck me is the way in which the team’s chaplain, Sean Brandow, spoke into the situation at a vigil. (You can watch or read his entire speech here.) He did not gild the lily; he was raw and honest in dealing with the pain and anguish of the tragedy. But he also proclaimed the hope that exists in the midst of sorrow and grief. He didn’t claim to know all the answers. He didn’t claim to understand the mysterious ways of the Lord. But he pointed to the One who has all this figured out.
Brandow said, in part, “I don’t claim to understand how this seems like it’s in God’s control at all, but it is. He’s still on the throne, he’s still God.” That was a statement of faith that everyone present needed to hear.
It’s a statement of faith that you and I need to hear.
Whatever we may go through that we can’t fathom…whatever may occur that seems to suggest that God’s lost control of the situation…God is still on the throne. It may not appearto be the case, but when we make a statement of faith, we’re not talking about appearances. We’re talking about objective truth.
It is not up to followers of Jesus to have everything figured out. It is up to us to proclaim our faith.
So, by all means, be #HumboldtStrong. But as a Christ-follower, above all, be #JesusStrong.
“The Lord is my Shepherd…” (Psalm 23.1)
“The Lord is my light and my salvation…” (Psalm 27.1)
“God is our refuge and strength…” (Psalm 46.1)
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3.20, NLT).