“Rejoice in the Lord always…”
Written from prison, by a guy facing execution, explaining how he’d been spared ‘sorrow. upon sorrow’ by his mate’s recovery from a near fatal illness.
This is part of the Christian’s emotional reality. We feel destroyed, and we find delight. Extremely hard pressed, and we know his peace. Stressed and straining, alongside being satisfied in him. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
It’s not simple, but is life under the sun.
We follow the One acquainted with grief, and anointed with joy.
“…again I say rejoice.”
If you want to love people well, and serve them consistently over the long term, you’re going to need to get adequate rest.
I love sport, and I want to keep fit…
but I find exercising by myself is really difficult. I’ll get out for a run sometimes… but work outs? Sit-ups?? I’ll do a session or two but rarely keep it consistent.
It all happens with friends – running, squash, football. Real progress happens, it’s enjoyable, we build relationships, because we do it together.
Disciple, you love the Kingdom, and you want to grow…
but maybe some key growth activities – prayer, bible study, sharing your faith etc are really difficult by yourself? You’ll do a session or two but struggle to keep it consistent.
This could happen with friends – prayer times, courses, service etc. Real progress could happen, enjoyably, whilst building relationships, because you do it together.
Who said you get extra benefit for doing it alone?
For the person looking to stay healthy or get fit there are a myriad of techniques, coaches, special formulas, secret supplements, spectacular stretches, grinning gurus and much more out there to buy.
But you already know what’s really going to work for sustainable results over the long term:
Eat healthy, and exercise.
Sure you can pull these apart, debate, pick holes, put it back together again – but you know. You know. At the end of the day it boils down to:
Eating healthy and exercising.
For the disciple looking to grow in Christ-likeness and fruitfulness there are a myriad of techniques…
The prayers of the apostles recorded in the new testament provide disciples with a wealth of vocabulary and content to fuel our prayer lives. Three things about these examples which can keep us on course and fruitful through the decades. The prayers are:
To the Lord
We don’t have a record of the early disciples praying to anyone other than the Lord. They don’t address angels, or saints, or Mary, or territorial spirits, or demons, or any other kind of power. They offer requests again and again to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the church
With the exception of Paul’s prayer that Israel may be saved in Romans 11, every pray we have in the epistles is for the church, and, even more specifically, for the church in a city. Now, we are called to offer all kinds of requests, on all kinds of occasions, for leaders, for circumstances, for our enemies and many other things – but the meat and drink is for the church.
About the positive
It is striking that we never hear of Paul, or Peter or James or the gang praying for the removal of the negative. There is no prayer-with-a-sideways glance asking for the diminishing of particular sins. It’s “Lord, more love, more grace, more power on this bunch”. It’s more of the good, not less of the bad.
If the meat and drink of our prayer life is to the Lord, for the church, about the positive… well, then things could really get interesting…
‘He isn’t here – he is risen.’
Disciple, we get to run this race fuelled by grace and propelled by hope.
On occasion in this walk of discipleship…
You’ll feel crushed.
The status quo will appear firmly entrenched and immovable. The Kingdom you’ve spoken so much about will seem inconsequential.
You’ll be nursing a strong sense of having failed; weeping bitterly over your betrayal of the Lord.
Jesus will seem dead and buried, just another holy man or religious martyr like the others.
Heaven will be stony silent.
There’ll be times in your walk like this disciple.