Pray for Your Pastor Often

Tim Challies on his blog recently wrote about this very topic.  As a young and inexperienced pastor, I couldn’t agree more.  I often remind the congregation that the Lord has entrusted to me of this very thing.  And I am thankful that they do this often.

The Apostle Paul often asked the mission churches that he worked with to pray for him.  See the following examples:   Continue reading “Pray for Your Pastor Often”

How You Can Be Praying for Us Here in Uganda

Picture of a boda boda – similar to the ones we used when we went to meet Elliot and Harold at the bus depot

This is our third day in Uganda.  We are praising the Lord for all His mercies to us through Jesus Christ.  We rejoice and give thanks to the Lord for the safe arrival of Elliot Khembo and Harold Juma from JTW Malawi.  They arrived at 2:00 am on Thursday morning.  My brother Timothy and I went to meet them at the bus depot using motorbike “taxi’s” commonly called boda boda here in Uganda.  It was quite an experience.  All the same we made it back to “home” safely.

In this post, I would like to share a few specific ways in which you can be praying for us.  These have been taken and adapted from Paul’s plea for prayer in his epistle to the Romans in Romans 15:30-33 which reads:

I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.

The Sunday before we left to come here, I preached on this text and and gave our congregation some specific ways they can be praying for us while we are gone this summer.  Here is a brief summary of what I shared with our congregation:

What Did Paul Ask the Roman Believers to Pray for Him?  Three things:  1.  That he may be delivered from the unbelieving Judeans,  2.  That his service might be acceptable to the saints, 3.  That by God’s will he may return to them and be refreshed in their company.

In a similar way, I ask that you please remember us and the JTW Team with us here that the Lord may protect us from those who may be hostile to the gospel.  No doubt, we will mingle with many unbelievers as we go about the work that the Lord has called us to do here.  Please pray that the Lord will go before us and protect us.  In addition to that, please pray also that those who do not believe might come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and find eternal life in Him.

I also ask that you please pray that our service here may be acceptable to the saints in this country.  We are going to be mingling with a lot of Christians (pastors and laymen alike) in a number of the local churches while we are here.  Please pray that our ministry to them may be tremendously blessed of the Lord and that it may be acceptable to them.  Pray that their hearts (as well as ours) may be prepared to receive the Word of God with faith.  Pray that our hearts might be good/fertile soil where the Word of God will thrive and bear fruit to the glory of God in Jesus Christ. Finally, please pray that by the will of God, we may all return home with joy.  Please pray that the Lord may prosper His work through us here during the time that we are going to be here and that we will all be able to return home with great testimonies of the mighty works of God among His people here in Uganda according to His will.

Why Did Paul Ask Them to Pray for These Things? 

First, it was for the sake/glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We too desire that in all that happens through us here might be to the glory of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Secondly, it was for the sake of love (i.e. as a demonstration of their love for him).  We too ask you to pray for us as a demonstration and proof of the love that the Lord God by His Holy Spirit works in the lives of believers for Him and for one another.  For these reasons, please pray for us brethren.

How Were They to Pray for Paul? 

First, they were to strive in prayer for Paul.  Paul’s appeal to them was that they put forth all that was within them in the duty of prayer on his behalf.  They were to pray with focus, faith and fervency.  They were to wrestle with God on his behalf and pray for him in their praying being assured that the effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous avails much (James 5:16).

Secondly, they were to strive in prayer together with Paul.  When Paul begged the Roman believers to pray for him, he did not intend thereby to excuse his praying for himself.  Quite the contrary!  He had resolved to strive in prayer for himself too, daily wrestling with God and he invited them to join him in that endeavor.  Although he was so separated from them by a great distance, he nevertheless invited them to join him in prayer.  One commentator said, “those who are put far asunder by the disposal of God’s providence may yet meet together at the throne of His grace.”  And, “those who beg the prayers of others must not neglect to pray for themselves.  In the same way, we invite you brothers and sisters to strive together with us in prayer over these next few weeks.  May it please the Lord to allow us to meet at His holy throne of grace daily where we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need (Hebrews 4:16) through Jesus Christ and to His praise, glory and honor! Pray for us brethren even as we pray for ourselves and for you to the glory of God in Christ Jesus our Savior!

Paul – The “Chief” of Sinners

“The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Timothy 1:15).

We have all heard it and perhaps we have even said it ourselves.  “I am the worst cook…”  “I am the worst organizer…”  “I am the worst preacher…”  “I am the worst teacher…”  “I am the worst gardener…”  “I am the worst mother/father/daughter/son-in-law…,” etc.

Why do we say such things?  We don’t believe these things when we say them.  So, why do we say them?  I would like to suggest a few reasons.  Sometimes, we just don’t want people’s expectations to be too high.  We don’t want them to be disappointed if we fail to deliver the goods.  Or perhaps we say such things simply to elicit sympathy.  We want people to feel sorry for us.  We want them to pat us on the back and tell us that we are really not the worst, but someone else is.  Often, people say things like these out of a false sense of humility.  We are subtly fishing for compliments.  We want people to tell us that far from being the worst, we are actually the best they know.  Sometimes we say these things due to a very poor self-image.  Life has been so hard for us.  We have been battered for so long.  We are tired and sick of everything and we feel that we owe it to ourselves and the world to say such things.  Self-depreciation has perhaps become a lifestyle.  Sometimes we say such things because we have unhealthy and unrealistic expectations of ourselves.  We are perfectionists and we judge anything less than perfect to be the absolute worst.  But perhaps we say these things simply because we don’t really know what else to say!  We each have our own favorite, well-rehearsed, self-inflicting put-downs which we like to repeat to ourselves and others from time to time.  But if truth be told, we don’t really believe them.  We don’t really know why we keep saying them but we do.

In 1 Timothy 1:15, we have a statement from the Apostle Paul which sounds very similar to the statements we have looked at above.  Paul addresses himself as the “chief” of sinners.  Why would Paul say this about himself?

Why Does Paul Call Himself the “Chief” of Sinners?  Why does he do that?  We need to be clear right here at the outset.  Paul doesn’t address himself as the “chief” of sinners because he wants to limit people’s expectations of him.  Far from it!  He doesn’t make this statement because he wants to elicit sympathy.  He doesn’t make because he has some false sense of humility.  He doesn’t make this statement because he has lost all self-respect or because he is fishing for compliments.  And Paul certainly does not make this statement because he doesn’t have a clue!  No!

Paul as an apostle makes this statement under the inspiration of Holy Spirit.  This was not an off-handed or an incorrect self-depreciating comment.  This statement is one of deep gratitude and sincere humility.

This is not the first time where we see Paul reflecting on his life and spiritual standing.  It’s interesting to trace Paul’s personal progress toward this great confession.  There are at least two other places where Paul stops to think, reflect and evaluate his own spiritual standing (something that we have neglected in our day much to our detriment).

He wrote in 1 Corinthians 15:9, “I am the least of the apostles…,” to which we might sarcastically say, “Wow, Paul, how humble you are!   How self-depreciating…!  The least of the apostles!  During Paul’s time the apostles would have been considered the most exclusive group of men that lived on the face of the planet earth!   As apostles, they held the unprecedented and unrepeatable office.  There were only twelve others and he was the thirteenth.  “That certainly doesn’t sound very humble,” we might say.

A little later in his life, Paul wrote in Ephesians 3:8, “I am the least of all the saints…”  And to that we might respond by saying, “Well, that is certainly a step down…but it’s not that great a step downward.” In Paul’s day, Christians made only about one percent of the population.  Therefore, being the least of the top one percent and the least of the top ten percent of the people in the entire world is not really that great of a step down!

But much later in his life, Paul wrote these words which we find in 1 Timothy 1:15 where he refers to himself as the “chief” of sinners.  What changed?  The longer he lived (as a Christian), the lower estimate he had of his own spiritual standing.  Paul is no longer setting himself above anyone else!  He now puts himself at the bottom of the pile of all of humanity.  No longer just “the least of the apostles” or “the least of the saints”!  He is now the “chief” of sinners.  The closer he got to Christ, the more clearly he saw his sin.  The more clearly he saw the original, the ideal, the pattern, the more clearly he understood how far short he fell of that standard.

It’s not so much that Paul wants to draw attention to himself as the “chief” sinner although I am sure he was not speaking hyperbolically here.  Rather, he wants to cast a greater light on Christ and show us the magnificence of Christ, His love, mercy and grace towards sinners!  Paul is calling us all to cast our eyes upon Christ and marvel at Him and the greatness of His saving grace.  As Paul is evaluating his own spiritual standing (i.e. in relation to the grace and glory of God in Christ) he cannot help but see himself as the “chief” sinner.

He had seen the original pattern and he immediately understood his position in this world as being the “chief” of sinners.  He had seen the perfect Man in the Lord Jesus Christ and consequently, he stopped comparing himself to the rest of the apostles.  He stopped comparing himself to the rest of the believers in the world.  He is now comparing himself to the Lord Jesus Christ and at once, he sees himself as he really is, the “chief” of sinners.  The more he increased in the knowledge of Christ, the more he grew in grace.  The more the image of Christ was restored in him, the more he understood how much of that image was yet to be restored in him.

We all know this from our own experiences in life, don’t we?  The further we stay from the light, the less we see the dirt on us.  Conversely, the closer we get to the light, the more clearly we will see the dirt on us.

Here is a very sobering truth that we all need to grapple with:  the most spiritual among us are those who most clearly see their sins and NOT those who think they are okay and have no sin.  And so it was with Paul.  Towards the end of his life, a very long way down the road, he ultimately came to view and speak of himself as the “chief” of sinners.  Those who are maturing in the faith and growing closer to Christ, have a low view of themselves and a high view of God.  I wonder if that describes you and me.  I pray so!

“He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).

NEEDED! DEAD OR ALIVE: FAITHFUL PREACHERS!!

As a minister of the gospel, there is no subject that interests me more than the preaching.  I am not just interested in a “fanciful” manner, but I am captivated by this subject because it sums up God’s call upon my life this side of heaven.  But it’s not just preaching in general that interests me.  Rather it is Christ who is to be the Grand Theme and Subject of all faithful preaching!  I am not only called to preach.  I am called to “preach Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 1:23).  “…We do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord…” 2 Cor. 4:5).  All true preaching is Christ-centered, and all Christ-centered preaching is true preaching.  There are no two ways about it!  Those who are committed to the faithful exposition of Scripture will necessarily preach Christ because all of the Scriptures testify about Him (Luke 24:25-27,44-48; John 5:39).

Sadly, there is a dearth of preaching in our day.  Many are the pulpits which have been severely afflicted and inflicted by this terminal disease.  We do not lack “preachers” capable of giving interesting talks, moral advice or motivational speeches.  There are plenty of those around – everywhere you turn!  But faithful, Christ-centered preachers!  Oh, no!  Those are scarce!  Only a few of them are still standing!  I think the sign below needs to be hang on just about every church door today.

William Still in his book entitled, The Work of The Pastor writes:  “…If the hope of the world is Christ, it is Christ in all the Scriptures, and that hope can only be fulfilled by men pouring out the riches of Christ’s saving grace upon the Lord’s people through the Scriptures” (p. 93)

Why then is there such a dearth of faithful, Christ-centered preaching in our day?  Well, that’s a very good question.  Many reasons can be given as to why this is the case.  But one thing is for certain, there has been a great lost of confidence in Scriptures among both preachers and hearers as Alistair Begg points out in his book, Preaching for God’s Glory (pages 18-19):

The absence of expository preaching is directly related to an erosion of confidence in the authority of and sufficiency of Scripture.  At the beginning of the nineteenth the battle lines were drawn against the forces of liberalism.  Liberals were challenging the miraculous, questioning the divine, and opposing the historicity of the New Testament documents.  Evangelicals weathered that storm, and empty liberal churches testify to the futility of the liberal quest for a demythologized Christ.  But today the battle is more subtle.  The Scriptures are neglected and debased and are used only as a springboard for all kinds of “talks” that are far removed from genuine biblical exposition…There is little, if any, sense of either the preacher or the congregation bowing under the majestic authority of God’s written Word.

I couldn’t agree more!  Let me end this post by asking you to do three things in light of what I have shared here:

First, pray with me that the Lord will raise up a new generation of preachers who will not be afraid or ashamed to preach the “whole counsel of God” and point people to the Lord Jesus Christ in every sermon.

Secondly, pray for your pastors that by God’s grace and the working of God’s Holy Spirit they may be kept faithful and true to their calling. In my view, that is the best way to keep your ministers accountable before God and their congregations.

Secondly, pray for me also that whenever I open my mouth, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel…that I may proclaim it clearly and boldly, as I should (see Ephesians 6:19-20; Colossians 4:3-4).  Thank you!

For more on this, please click on this link:  Contending for the Faith in America.

I also recommend the following additional resources:

Essays:  Is Christ-Centered Preaching a Biblical Mandate? by Fred A. Malone;  A Listener’s Guide to the Pulpit by Todd Wilken; Preaching Christ, by Charles McIlvaine (1799-1873)

Books:  Preaching Christ in All Scripture, by Edmund Clowney; Him We Proclaim, by Dennis Johnson, Christ-Centered Preaching, by Bryan Chapell

What Constitutes Saving Faith? Part 1

Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q & A 86).

I thank the Lord for yet another opportunity to consider with you the important truths taught us in His Word on the gospel.  Today (as promised yesterday), I plan to discuss the question:  “What is saving faith?”   While I will not be able to discuss this subject exhaustively, I do hope however that I will be able to do so sufficiently with the Lord’s help.

Common Faith vs Saving Faith:  Before going any further, I would like to point out an important distinction which is implied in the question that I seek to discuss – namely, the distinction between common faith and saving faith.  The very fact that we can ask this question suggests to us that there is a kind of faith which is not saving otherwise the question would be redundant and senseless.  If all faith is saving, then there is no need to talk about “saving faith.”  But the fact of the matter is that not all faith is saving.  Therefore, it is very important that we delineate and distill the distinction between common and saving faith, as best as we can, under the faithful guidance of the Holy Scriptures.

Common faith is natural and dead.  It does nothing for sinners and offers nothing to them.  Saving faith however is supernatural and alive.  It saves sinners by graciously offering them Jesus Christ through the gospel.  Each one of us needs to stop and examine ourselves to see whether we have common or saving faith.  Any cursory reading of the Scriptures warns us of the danger and deception of common faith.  We read of many who “believed” but had no saving faith.  Consider King Agrippa in Acts 26; or the hearers whom Christ compares to the rock in the Parable of the Sower in Luke 8:6; or the multitudes who believed in the Name of Jesus when they saw the miracles which he performed in John 2:23, etc.  Although it could be rightly said that these “believed,” the Bible says that “Jesus on His part did not entrust Himself to them, because He knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for He Himself knew what was in man” (John 2:24).

Saving faith is different from common faith both in its nature and essence.  According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, “faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon him alone for salvation, as he is offered to us in the gospel” (Q & A 86).  What a helpful definition and summary of what the Scriptures teach on saving faith!  A close examination of the teaching of Scripture suggests to at least the following five things about saving faith:

Firstly, saving faith is intended for God’s elect.  The LORD God has ordained from all eternity those who will be saved “to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:1-14).  These are the true subjects of saving faith.  All of God’s elect have been chosen by God in Christ from the foundation of the world.  Therefore, these will come to Him and find life in Jesus’ Name (Acts 13:48; John 6:37).

Secondly, saving faith is invoked by the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit works this faith in the hearts of God’s elect.  The Bible tells us that “the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).  Saving faith is “the gift of God” given to those who were once spiritually “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1-10).  Paul calls the Holy Spirit, “the Spirit of faith” in 2 Corinthians 4:13.

Thirdly, saving faith is inspired by the Word of God.  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).  The Word read or preached is by God’s appointment, the chief means by the Holy Spirit works faith in the hearts of His elect.  He uses the Word to draw sinners to Himself for their salvation.  A classic example of how this happens is recorded for us in Acts 16:14 concerning Lydia, “The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.”  This was most definitely the work of the Holy Spirit.

Fourthly, saving faith inclines one’s heart toward Christ.  Saving faith is Christ-centered.  It supernaturally bends one’s heart Christ-ward.  By His Spirit, through the Word, the Lord God is pleased to open the eyes of His elect to His glory in Jesus Christ and He becomes their singular delight and passion.  “…The god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4-6).

Fifthly, saving faith initiates a lasting spiritual transformation in the life of the believer.  Hebrews 11:6 tells us that “without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”  Also in Hebrews 12:14 we read, “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”  Saving faith will necessarily and gradually produce holiness in the life of the believer.  “You shall be holy for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44; Matthew 5:44; 1 Peter 1:16).  Ephesians 1:4 tells us that “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him…”  I like what William Gurnall says on this:

Mark, not because He foresaw that they would be of themselves holy, but that they should be holy; this was that God resolved He would make them to be.  Consider it is not necessary that thou shouldst be rich; but it is necessary thou shouldst be holy, if thou meanest to be happy.  You may travel to heaven with never a penny in your purse, but not without holiness in your heart and life also.

AMEN!

Please look out for Part 2 of “What Constitutes Saving Faith?” tomorrow, Lord willing!  Resting in Christ!

“Not Ashamed of the Gospel”

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16-17)

Over the next few days, I would like to focus our discussion on the gospel.  A few days ago, I posted some videos by John PiperMichael Horton, and Jefferson Bethke talking about this very important subject.  I encourage you to revisit them if you haven’t already or if you simply don’t have enough time to read this blog.  But I hope that you will take some time to consider with me Paul’s words recorded for us in Romans 1:16-17.

“Not Ashamed of the Gospel” – Paul begins verse 16 by making this bold statement that he is “not ashamed of the gospel.”  O, how we need such courage and bravery today.  It is a terrible blight in our day that there are not enough men whose backbones are strong enough to stand up for anything.  There are not enough men who are bold enough to stand up for their convictions regardless of the cost!  That’s tragic!  Paul was a different kind of man.  It is worth noting that he was writing these words from Rome where he had been imprisoned for the sake of the gospel before his death!  Even though he knew that this bold statement would be considered outrageous by many in his day and that it would get him into further trouble, nothing could stop him from declaring his position on the gospel.  He was unstoppable!  He was the kind of person who would just make his opponents mad!  They couldn’t silence him!  For as long as he could breathe, he was determined to make this gospel known to the nations!

A Bold Statement:  The gospel “is the power of God for salvation!”  Here is the crux of the matter!  The reason Paul was so bold and unstoppable with respect to the gospel was because he so believed that the gospel “is the power of God for salvation” for all men (Jews and Gentiles alike).  Paul had been given this conviction by the Holy Spirit.  He once was lost but now was found.  Once, he was blind to the glories of the gospel and its liberating power through Jesus Christ.  But now he could see because the Lord was pleased to remove the scales from his eyes (Acts 9:1-19).  He personally experienced this very truth – that the gospel is indeed the “power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (emphasis added). 

A Sincere Confession:  Some background to Paul’s life as a Jew would be helpful here because for him as a Jew, this was not only a bold statement.  It was also a sincere confession.  As a Jew, he had been taught that his salvation rested in his personal obedience to the Torah and all its stipulations as set forth at Mount Sinai (see Exodus 19).  He once considered himself “blameless” with respect to “righteousness under the law” (Philippians 3:6).  Paul, with permission from the Jewish high priest, was determined to persecute Christians.  Any good Jew, the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ crucified for sinners, was a “stumbling block” (1 Corinthians 1:22).  Anyone who endeavored to preach this gospel was not only weak but also a great enemy to the entire Jewish establishment.  But when Paul met Christ on the road to Damascus, he was radically changed and by the grace of God, he wholeheartedly embraced the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ for himself!

First, the focus of his life changed!  From that point on, he learned to “glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (Philippians 3:3).  From a purely legalistic, moral and physical perspective, Paul had more than enough reasons to boast (glory) in the flesh.  Yet, he considered all that “loss for the sake of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:7).   In verse 8 of Philippians 3, Paul refers to this as “refuse” or “dung!”  That’s how disgusted he was with his own righteousness according to the law?  Why?  Was it because the law is bad?  Of course not!  In Romans 7, Paul himself makes a very strong defense of the law.  No!  It was not because Paul thought that the law was bad.  Rather, it was because Paul had discovered that his “righteousness according to the law” was like “filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6) before God.  He realized that all those “good things” (i.e. his Jewish descent and his adherence to the law), were not good enough to commend him before God for salvation (Philippians 3:1-14).

Secondly, the passion of His life changed!  He was willing even to suffer for the sake of this gospel.  He was changed from a persecutor to a preacher of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Christ had now become the singular passion of his life as he himself writes in Philippians 3:8-9, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (emphasis added).  That was Paul’s confession as a changed Jew!  Praise be to the Lord for that!

So when Paul writes in Romans 1:16-17, he knows exactly what he is talking about because he was personally a beneficiary of this wonderful gospel of God’s grace.  He wants to tell us that God has put His saving power in His gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and not anywhere else!  Thus, we may safely conclude that salvation does not, cannot and will not come to us (as sinful creatures) through any other way but through the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ which tells us that nothing in us or about us can commend us before God for salvation.  Even our very best deeds, are “like filthy rags” before God, yes “dung” – so ugly, worthless and disgusting!  But thanks be to God that that’s not the end of the story!

“The Just Shall Live By Faith”- By trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, we are given a new (yes, a REAL) righteousness, a “righteousness from God!”  Paul writes, “For in it (in the gospel), the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith” (parenthesis added) – Romans 1:17.  In other words, this gospel announces to us that a new kind of righteousness which does not depend on us but on God Himself is being offered to sinners like you and me!  This gospel announces to us release from bondage to the law.  This gospel calls us to trust God for our salvation.  This gospel offers us salvation by faith alone in Christ alone!  This gospel is the world’s best news!  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)!   We need to hear and believe it as does every person on the face of the earth!  As it is written, “The just shall live by faith” (Romans 1:17).  It’s only by trusting in Jesus Christ that one is saved from sin and from the eternal wrath of God.  That’s why the gospel also called “Good News!”  Praise the Lord through Jesus Christ!

In my next post, I plan to move our discussion on this important subject along.  Lord willing, I shall attempt to answer the question, “What Constitutes Saving Faith?”

Rejoicing in the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!  I pray that you are too!  See you tomorrow, God willing!

Billy Graham’s Meditation on The Power of Prayer

“Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God.  Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.”  Hebrews 13:7

I would like to share with you an excerpt from a longer article on the power of prayer by Billy Graham.  Mr. Graham (now 93 years old) has been used by the LORD to reach many lives around the globe with the saving gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.  Few men in the history of Christianity have experienced the blessed joy of leading so many people to the cross of Jesus Christ for salvation in the same way that he has and for this we are to give all the praise, glory and honor to the God for “salvation belongs to the LORD” (Jonah 2:9).  Mr. Graham’s success can be attributed to nothing but the power of prayer.  O, how we need more great men of prayer in our day!  Here is what Mr. Graham wrote on prayer on January 3, 2011:

There is only one power available to change the course of history, and that is the power of prayer—the prayer of God-fearing, Christ-believing men and women.

But today we have come to a place where many people regard prayer as simply a formality. We have no sense of coming to grips with God, except for the continuation of a venerated tradition. Yet how can we go on unless there is a renewed emphasis on prayer?

Thousands of people pray only in times of great stress, danger or uncertainty. Christ instructed His followers always to pray. So fervent and so direct were the prayers of Jesus that once when He had finished praying, His followers turned to Him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1).

From one end of the Bible to the other is the record of those whose prayers have been answered—those who turned the tide of history by prayer; those who fervently prayed, and God answered. Abraham prayed, and so long as he prayed, God did not destroy the city of Sodom where Abraham’s nephew Lot lived.

Hezekiah prayed when his city was threatened by the invading armies of the Assyrians under the leadership of Sennacherib. The entire army of Sennacherib was destroyed and the nation was spared for another generation—because the king had prayed.

Elijah prayed, and God sent fire from Heaven to consume the offering on the altar he had built in the presence of God’s enemies. Elisha prayed, and the son of the Shunammite woman was raised from the dead. Jesus prayed at the door of the tomb of Lazarus, and the one who had been dead for four days came forth. The thief on the cross prayed, and Jesus assured him that he would be with Him in Paradise. Paul prayed, and churches were born in Asia Minor and in Europe. Peter prayed, and Dorcas was raised to life to have added years of service for Jesus Christ.

John Wesley prayed, and revival came to England. Jonathan Edwards prayed, and revival came to Northampton, Mass., where thousands of people joined the churches. History has been changed time after time because of prayer, and it could be changed again if people went to their knees in believing prayer.

What a glorious thing it would be if millions of us would avail ourselves of the privilege of prayer! Jesus Christ died to make this communion and communication with the Father possible. He told us of the joy in Heaven when one sinner turns from sin to God and breathes the simple prayer: “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”

When the disciples came to Jesus and said, “Lord, teach us to pray,” the Savior answered by giving them His model petition, “The Lord’s Prayer.” However, that was only part of His sacred instruction. In scores of passages Jesus Christ offered further guidance, and because He practiced what He preached, His whole life was a series of lessons on prevailing prayer. Jesus had only three years of public ministry, yet He was never too hurried to spend hours in prayer.

How quickly and carelessly, by contrast, we pray. Snatches of memorized verses hastily spoken in the morning, then we say goodbye to God for the rest of the day until we rush through a few closing petitions at night. This is not the prayer program that Jesus outlined. Jesus pleaded long and repeatedly. It is recorded that He spent entire nights in fervent appeal. But how little perseverance and persistence and pleading we show!

The Scripture says, “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). This should be the motto of every follower of Jesus Christ. Never stop praying, no matter how dark and hopeless your case may seem. A woman once wrote me that she had been pleading for 10 years for the conversion of her husband but that he was more hardened than ever. I advised her to continue to plead. Then some time later I heard from her again. She said that her husband was gloriously and miraculously converted in the eleventh year of her praying. Suppose she had stopped praying after only 10 years!

Our Lord frequently prayed alone, separating Himself from every earthly distraction. I would urge you to select a room or corner in your home where you can regularly meet alone with God. That quiet, secluded, soul-to-God praying in which you come to the mercy seat can be your greatest blessing.

As we observe the prayer life of Jesus, we notice the earnestness with which He prayed. The New Testament records that in Gethsemane He cried out with a loud voice, that in the intensity of His supplication He fell headlong on the damp ground of the garden, that He pleaded until His sweat became “like great drops of blood” (Luke 22: 44).

For the rest of this article please follow this link:  Power When You Pray.

For more lessons from Billy Graham, please follow this link:  Q & A: Billy Graham on Aging, Regrets, and Evangelicals.

For more on prayer, I recommend:  Men of Prayer Needed, by E. M. Bounds (1835-1913).