Not Fair-Weather Followers

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

I had a friend in my seminary days named Dave, who was a die-hard Cleveland Browns fan. In case you have never heard of the Browns, they are an NFL football team, and according to the Bench Report, they are in the top 10 worst football teams in NFL history. But Dave was willing to endure friendly ribbing and a bit of ridicule because, for whatever reason, he loved his team.

This sort of faithfulness through good and bad times can be recounted over and over in more important ways–in marriage, in business relationships, and in friendships. But it is especially critical when we are talking about our faith in the Lord Jesus.

The Apostle Paul warned Timothy, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty.” (2 Timothy 3:1, ESV). This can be expected because the unrighteous people of this world will rebel against those that they perceive to be lovers of God and His Word.

Jesus himself said, ““If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me.” (John 15:18–21, ESV)

Today is Election Day here in the USA. I don’t know the results, but I do know that somebody has to lose. I am hopeful that those who love liberty and justice will rise up and vote to protect our freedoms as they vote. But there is no guarantee that this will happen. On the evening of the last presidential election, I went to bed while the votes were still being tallied and the pundits were making their predictions. I awoke to hear the news in the morning.

No matter the results, I am not a fair-weather follower of Jesus. Even if this country flips over into anarchy and chaos, so that the economy tanks, the banks are emptied, and the streets are filled with hatred and violence. I will mourn, and pray, and resist–but I will not stop looking to Jesus Christ as my hope because I am not a fair-weather follower. …”I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

The Missing Ministry of Prayer

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving. At the same time, pray also for us, that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ, on account of which I am in prison— that I may make it clear, which is how I ought to speak.

(Colossians 4:2–4, ESV)

It seems that very often whenever one hears about prayer in the Christian life, it is directed mainly to the subject of personal prayer: for self and others. Very little is spoken in regard to corporate prayer, pastoral prayer, and the ministry of prayer. That is a shame. Prayer is the engine by which the work of ministry depends because it shows our great need for God to move on our behalf.

In Paul’s closing chapter to the church in Colosse, we are reminded of this truth. Paul asks for steadfast prayer, praying with a thankful heart, but also for the missionary team that Paul is leading. He asks for prayer–not for safety, nor for comfort, but for an open door for the reception of the gospel. He prays that he would be bold, and clear and that he would not shrink back in fear to speak truthfully about the need to turn to Christ for salvation. Paul knows all too well the weakness of the human heart and that he too can succumb to this temptation. He is, after all, in prison because of his willingness to suffer for Christ.

I don’t often hear much about the importance of prayer in fighting the spiritual battle that we are engaged in either. In Ephesians 6:18 in the context of spiritual warfare and the Christian’s armor it says, “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:18, ESV). Praying in agreement with the Spirit (what “praying in the Spirit” means), is directly connected to fighting this spiritual battle we are to be engaged in. And we are not simply to pray for ourselves, but especially to remember our fellow brothers and sisters: “…making supplication for all the saints.”

If we wonder why in an age of so many technological advancements and spiritual resources we are making so little headway, perhaps we need to look at the place of prayer in our personal lives and in the life of the Church today. Do we go to battle on our knees? Do we wage war on behalf of our pastors, our churches, our missionaries, our school teachers, our civic leaders? Do we pray for the gospel to make advances into society by the power of the gospel proclaimed?

As E. M. Bounds, a man of great prayer, wrote many years ago, “What the Church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use—men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men.[1]

Brothers and sisters, as we pick up our Swords, may we wield them with prayer on our lips for the battle we will engage today. May we daily fight the good fight in full dependence upon the Spirit, beseeching the throne of grace with prayer to our mighty God who will fight for us.

[1] E. M. Bounds, Power Through Prayer (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, paperback ed. 1972), 7.

Thankful for Gospel Partnerships

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” Philippians 1:3–5 (ESV)

The idea of separation in fundamentalist circles has been a blessing at times and at other times it has resulted in the unnecessary weakening of the Church through schism after schism. Some historians have noted that the doctrine of separation in fundamentalism has probably helped to preserve the Bible church from the influx of much that is plaguing the evangelical church in its ecumenism and inability to even define the gospel. Of course, fundamentalism has its own issues to deal with.

Getting the right balance, biblically speaking, can be a challenge and it takes great wisdom along with a desire to be faithful to the Lord and the Word above all else. This wisdom and fidelity, when applied with humility, will allow for the opportunity to partner with other biblically faithful Christians to do the work of the ministry for the glory of Jesus Christ.

As Paul reflected on his time with the Christians in the city of Philippi, he fondly remembered their partnership for the sake of the gospel. Although Paul was the church planter and Apostle in this city, he could not carry the burden for the work alone. Paul joyfully proclaimed the gospel and watched as the work of God in the heart of his people in Philippi bloomed into a beautiful fellowship of saints who would carry on the work as Paul carried the gospel seeds elsewhere.

Right now in our country the world is ablaze with such hatred and violence that it is shocking to see. More evidence of a coming persecution like we have never seen in the States is looming on the horizon. Like Paul, I am thankful for the many gospel partnerships that exist within my fellowship at IFCA, and those outside as well. I have noticed that where there had been bad blood between certain groups and denominations in the past, many biblical Christians are now seeing that our differences were really in-house debates with other brothers and sisters, and as such should be laid aside as we gear up and band together for the work that Jesus has sent us to do. That is a great thing to see!

I pray that as the circle of those who are committed to biblical truth and the fundamentals of the Bible becomes smaller in the face of a growing external aggression, we would draw closer to one another, working together, praying for one another, and if we are called, being willing to suffer together for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the end, it is not about our little corner of the vineyard. Instead, may we remember that it has always been about Jesus.