A Peaceable Life
I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence (1 Timothy 2:1-2)
We heard a sermon last Sunday morning that was thoughtful, interesting, informative and well-presented. The speaker used few notes and had a lot of assurance. Basically, the pastor was presenting the struggle that many have in making career decisions. It was helpful, but it seemed to have a limited application. Looking around the congregation, I noted they were mostly middle-class Americans who did have career choices; but tomorrow or next week, problems may arise that will make such a sermon seem - irrelevant.
It's interesting how one context will remind you of another. My oldest son and daughter-in-law gave me a book for Christmas, entitled, Discover the Power in the Prayers of Paul,” by David Bordon. The book notes that Paul (in his letters) lapsed in and out of prayer all the time. If Paul thought of someone, he breathed a prayer along with the thought. It's an interesting observation and more of us need to pray like he did.
The book, Discover the Power contains some disturbing statistics: In spite of the extreme persecution suffered by the early Christians, nearly two-thirds of all Christians martyred for their faith died in the TWENTIETH century, not the firstaccording to current estimates, more than 435 believers lose their lives EVERY DAY because of their faith in Jesus Christ! Approximately 158,775 of our brethren in Christ are murdered for their faith each and every year!
Amazing! Somehow, in God's wisdom, many are kept within a "bubble" of safety, in which the value of life is defined as whether you like your career or not, while other Christians are in harm's way to the extent that their very lives are at stake on a continuing basis.
And THAT context fit right in with the Guidepost article I also was reading. It was written by a lady named Immaculée, who lived in Rwanda, in 1994. There were two large groups of Rwandans, the Hutu and the Tutsi, and for whatever reason, the Hutus decided to hate the Tutsis and kill them. It does not seem to have been for religious reasons because, as Immaculée put it, she had many Hutu friends; we went to the same schools, attended the same churches and swam and played together She hid with seven other women in a tiny bathroom of a Hutu pastor's house, concealed behind a large wardrobe. Thousands would die, but she survived.
For some reason, as I listened to the pastor's well-prepared sermon on Sunday morning, I could not forget the statistics from the book I had been reading, and the Guidepost article was also in my mind. Career selection is important, but there was an enormous contrast between that well-manicured congregation and the genocide mentioned in the articles.
In our Scripture for today, Paul the Apostle was addressing Timothy, a younger man, who, along with another young man named Silvanus were listed as co-authors of the letters to the Christians at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:1, 2 Thessalonians 1:1). Timothy was so important to the purposes of God that the incredibly busy Paul sent him not just one, but TWO letters, in which he included advice that is important for us all we need to pray!
You may or may not live in a country where it is dangerous to be a Christian, like the places where more than 435 believers lose their lives every day because of their faith in Jesus Christ. Paul, Timothy, Silvanus, the Thessalonians and other believers of the time, DID live in great danger. They knew that every day might be their last one on this earth.
The early Christians were hated by just about everybody. The leaders in Rome didn't like them, and neither did leaders among the Jews. Those in the mystery religions of the time hated our ancestors in the faith individuals in the early church were being attacked from every side, and even though you may seem to have a peaceable life today, it's an illusion, for it's both a blessing and it's dangerous to be a Christian. Here are a few of today's headlines about our brethren in the Lord:
These "headlines" are from www.ChristianPersecution.info, but similar information can be found on a number of websites. In places like the Sudan, if you are a Christian, you have been marked for death. You can see from these instances that there is a lot of hatred directed at Christians around the world. But don't be afraid, for God has known all this from the beginning. Jesus said, If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you (John 15:18). He intimately understands your situation from personal experience. And He will answer when you pray.
While it is important to pick a good career, as the pastor advised us to do last Sunday, infinitely more important is that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence (1 Timothy 2:1-2). Much more is at stake than what we do for a living.
We need to pray, and like a muscle that needs to be used in order to be strong, we need to pray in order to become strong in prayer. Ask God for the leaders of the country you live in. Pray for the leaders in countries where persecution is rampant. And note that persecution is like a contagious disease that spreads from one place to another. It must be stopped now, or you may be next. Leaders at all levels of government need our prayers. Ask God, in the Name of Jesus, to intervene in their lives and cause them to act with mercy for the good of those they are supposed to serve. As Scripture says, The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes (Proverbs 21:1). He can and will respond to our need. Let's pray right now:
Lord, we don't really even understand why You hear our prayers, except You love us so much. We pray for our leaders, the rulers of this world, that they will end the persecution and violence. Protect Your people; help us to pray. Grant us quiet and peaceable lives in all godliness and reverence. In Jesus Name. Amen.