Good gracious, this section is intense. And glorious. And the answer to our every human need.
In reading through our old friend Andrew Murray's book With Christ in the School of Prayer, I came across this beautiful picture of what our prayer can be -
"...the seed we sow in the soil of heaven, the efforts we put forth, and the influence we seek to exert in the world above, need our whole being: we must give ourselves to prayer. But let us hold firm the great confidence that in due season we will reap if we don’t give up."
What an image! The idea that, as we lift our hands in holy prayer, we are really scattering our prayers into the rich, loamy soil of the heavenly places. As we trust Him for the result of our prayers, we are like gardeners, like farmers, who would wait patiently, and properly, for the return on their seed-planting.
Today, may we "hold firm the great confidence" that is wisely placed in Jesus, the Gardener and Vinedresser of our hearts and lives-in-Him. May we pray with expectation and endurance; may today see opportunities to reap where, in the past, we have sown diligently.
As we prepare to launch The Union-Colorado College on Sunday, November 1st, we've been delighting in our times of preparation at Shove Memorial Chapel. Day before yesterday, we met for a soundcheck and I brought my son, Hoyt, along for the fun.
While Adam tested levels and songs, I caught this moment of Hoyt looking up to him and seemingly studying the ways of worship from a true master. THIS is the attentiveness I always want to bring when I'm learning to worship, whenever I'm enjoying worship, of our glorious Savior!
"Then Jesus said to them, 'I myself am the bread of life. The man who comes to me will never be hungry and the man who believes in me will never again be thirsty. Yet I have told you that you have seen me and do not believe. Everything that my Father gives me will come to me and I will never refuse anyone who comes to me. For I have come down from Heaven, not to do what I want, but to do the will of him who sent me. The will of him who sent me is that I should not lose anything of what he has given me, but should raise it up when the last day comes. And this is the will of the one who sent me, that everyone who sees the Son and trusts in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up when the last day comes.'" John 6:35-40
How often we hear people say, and even say ourselves, "Oh, I wish I knew the Lord's will" for some decision they need to make, or crisis, or question they're pondering. But in these last two verses, Jesus tells us the Will of God: 1) that He "should not lose anything of what [the Father] has given [Him]" and 2) "that everyone who sees the Son and trusts Him should have eternal life." THE Will of God is to possess and redeem. How stunning!
But did you notice that each of these will-of-God statements is binary, composed of two parts? The first part in each was different, but the second was the same: He will "raise [them] up when the last day comes." The word John uses there for "raise up" means just that - "to raise up" or "raise from the dead" - but it also has a lesser definition that goes beautifully with what we know to be one of the true definitions of our lives-in-Him: "to produce a witness."
THE Will of God is to possess and redeem, that we might be raised up - raised from the dead, in fact - and produced as witnesses of what we know and have seen of Him.
The first half of John 6 is beautifully bookended by bread - the bread that feeds 1,000s and the Bread of Life that is Jesus Himself. In the meanwhile, He also walks on water FYI.
When we think of Hebrews 11's "hall of fame of faith," we probably most often think of the name-by-name explanations of how each Biblical figure manifested such belief. However, of late, I've been more struck by the connective-tissue-paragraphs that unite those accounts and reinforce the glories of what we possess in Jesus.
With my own emphases added, consider those sections (Hebrews 11:1-3, 13-16, 32-40) all in a row:
"Now faith means putting our full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see. It was this kind of faith that won their reputation for the saints of old. And it is after all only by faith that our minds accept as fact that the whole scheme of time and space was created by God’s command — that the world which we can see has come into being through principles which are invisible..."
"All these whom we have mentioned maintained their faith but died without actually receiving God’s promises, though they had seen them in the distance, had hailed them as true and were quite convinced of their reality. They freely admitted that they lived on this earth as exiles and foreigners. Men who say that mean, of course, that their eyes are fixed upon their true home-land. If they had meant the particular country they had left behind, they had ample opportunity to return. No, the fact is that they longed for a better country altogether, nothing less than a heavenly one. And because of this faith of theirs, God is not ashamed to be called their God for in sober truth he has prepared for them a city in Heaven..."
"And what other examples shall I give? There is simply not time to continue by telling the stories of Gideon, Barak, Samson and Jeptha; of David, Samuel and the prophets. Through their faith these men conquered kingdoms, ruled in justice and proved the truth of God’s promises. They shut the mouths of lions, they quenched the furious blaze of fire, they escaped from death itself. From being weaklings they became strong men and mighty warriors; they routed whole armies of foreigners. Some returned to their womenfolk from certain death, while others were tortured and refused to be ransomed, because they wanted to deserve a more honourable resurrection in the world to come. Others were exposed to the test of public mockery and flogging, and to the torture of being left bound in prison. They were killed by stoning, by being sawn in two; they were tempted by specious promises of release and then were killed with the sword. Many became refugees with nothing but sheepskins or goatskins to cover them. They lost everything and yet were spurned and ill-treated by a world that was too evil to see their worth. They lived as vagrants in the desert, on the mountains, or in caves or holes in the ground.
"All these won a glowing testimony to their faith, but they did not then and there receive the fulfillment of the promise. God had something better planned for our day, and it was not his plan that they should reach perfection without us."
The intimacies that exist between Jesus and the Father are a place into which we're truly invited. So let's go there!
There may be no greater stretch in all of Paul's writings than Ephesians 1:3-14. Let's enjoy it together!
I have listened to this song six times in the last two days. Every single time, it has brought tears to my eyes. My favorite line: "You are my vision/My reason for living/Your kindness leads me to repentance..."
Enjoy the goodness of a Lord who can inspire such beauty in worship!
Elton Trueblood, in his wonderful The Company of the Committed, lays out a strong case for the meaning, importance and power of the act of of bearing-witness to Jesus. This is not soap-box preaching. He's referring to filled-up individuals using every means, angle and opportunity to give glory to the truth of who Jesus is. Here are, without comment, some of his most compelling thoughts from that chapter:
“The true inwardness of the Church is reflected, not in the Temple, which Christ said could be destroyed without loss, and not in the synagogue, which He seems to have abandoned with deliberate decision, but in the sending out of the Seventy. The Church is intended as a concrete answer to the prayer that laborers be sent forth to the harvest. The Company of Jesus is not people streaming to a shrine; and it is not people making up an audience for a speaker; it is laborers engaged in the harvesting task of reaching their perplexed and seeking brethren with something so vital that, if it is received, it will change their lives.” 45
“If a man is being tried for murder and I happen to possess, in my little stream of experience, the evidence that the accused man was actually at a different spot at the time of his alleged murderous act, I am not free to withhold it. If I do withhold it I am myself a murderer, for I destroy an innocent man by my silence. The failure to witness in such a situation is a highly immoral act. Thus it is clearly that we do not avoid the moral ambiguities of testimony by mere refusal to testify.” 48,49
“It is not that the Church is formed first and then, subsequently, is expected to witness. Rather, the original fellowship is the fellowship of witness; this is what it is formed to accomplish. ‘Conversion,’ says [Gabriel] Marcel in a memorable sentence, ‘is the act by which man is called to be a witness.’ The call to witness is a call which men can answer affirmatively or negatively, but one who answers it negatively, however kind and pious he may be, is not in the Company of Jesus.” 49
“We make a witness by telling not who we are but whose we are. Though it would be ridiculous for me to try to make a witness by telling of my own righteousness, which, after all, does not exist, it is not at all ridiculous for me to confess, with candor, to Whom I am committed. This is why the Vocation of Witness belongs necessarily to the Company of the Committed, rather than to the company of the good or the wise or the prudent.” 54
“The value of the individual’s story of Christ’s healing power lies largely in the undeniable fact that each human life stands at a unique point in the total web of human experience, and, as a consequence, each one has an approach to others which is not identical with the opportunity of any other human being. If I do not open the door for another, it may never be opened, for it is possible that I may be the only one who holds this particular key. The worker on the production line may have an entree to the life of his fellow worker on the line which can never be matched by any pastor or teacher or professional evangelist. The responsibility of each individual Christian is to do that which no other person can do as well as he can.” 55,56
From John 4 -Jesus said to [the nobleman who had come from Capernaum to ask Him to heal his son], “I suppose you will never believe unless you see signs and wonders!”
“Sir,” returned the official, “please come down before my boy dies!”
“You can go home,” returned Jesus, “your son is alive and well.” And the man believed what Jesus had said to him and went on his way.
On the journey back his servants met him with the report, “Your son is alive and well.” So he asked them at what time he had begun to recover, and they replied: “The fever left him yesterday at one o’clock in the afternoon”. Then the father knew that this must have happened at the very moment when Jesus had said to him, “Your son is alive and well.” And he and his whole household believed in Jesus. This, then, was the second sign that Jesus gave on his return from Judea to Galilee.
And what a sign it was! The first one, the water being turned into wine - also at Cana - had had the effect of His disciples seeing it, recognizing His power and believing. This second sign at Cana - and, by miraculous extension, at Capernaum - had allowed the official to believe first, after recognizing Jesus' power, and then to see. And now his whole household has been given the gift of of belief in this Jesus too!
I want to pause here on the premise of Belief that is given in this account. I have been in Bible studies before, discussions about situations like this one, where people have actually said, "Well, but what if he'd arrived back and the servants had said his son was dead? What then?" WHAT A FOOLISH QUESTION. First off, if Jesus said it, then there was no other outcome possible than the one we see here; no other potentiality exists outside of His stated words.
Secondly, why do we ever approach these moments with doubt, unbelief or negative modern hindsight? When we dance around with these theoretical questions, it seems to me that we've already lost sight of the truth of what we have in Jesus.
Why do you pray? Do you pray only for results, for real-time "answers" and actions that will themselves prove the veracity of God? Or do you pray to align yourself with the glorious veracity that is God, so that you might, by believing and receiving more of Him, already possess the greatest answer to prayer possible? You see, to receive more of Him in prayer is far greater than any earthly answer.
I would say that this father's 7-hour walk from Cana to Capernaum while believing in Jesus had as much, if not more, value than arriving to find his son still alive. My friends, everyone one day dies. But belief that lasts into eternity does not.
Today, will you and I walk, talk, live, love, and do all things in and through the power of trusting Jesus for our everything?