By, Isam Itson III
Ephesians 6:17 and 18, “and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 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,…”
The forces that appeal to our self interest and fear are relentless and overwhelming. We are bombarded with messages designed by people who want us to happily spend our lives and resources for their benefit. Apart from reporting on natural disasters, most of the news we see is designed to make us accept a way of life that really only serves a select segment of the population. The commercial advertisers who finance the news programs want me to buy their products or employ their services. They want me to spend my time, energy, and money for their benefit, no matter what it costs me. And they want me to be happy about it.
This is the heart of what the Bible calls sin. God did not create us to take advantage of each other. God created us to help each other. Our relationships only work when we are dedicated to helping each other. This is the way of life that honors God. This is the very definition of a righteous, just, and virtuous life. Simple. Not easy.
Why is it so hard to do the right thing? Because self indulgence feels good. Every one of us battles with the temptation to justify our dedication to our self interest. We don’t want to share. We don’t want to look out for anyone else. We want people to make us happy. And, we want people to be happy about making us happy. Scale that mindset up and that explains the heart of every conflict between people, communities, societies, and nations.
As followers of Jesus Christ, how do we overcome our predisposition to selfishness? How do we live faithfully in relationship with God and each other? How do we find the strength to keep loving our enemies and repaying evil with good, in the name of Jesus? According to the Apostle Paul, we remember who God is and how much he loves us. Then we encourage each other and help each other honor God’s love. Finally, we pray. A lot.
Ephesians 6:18, “…praying at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication.”
Prayer honors the fact that our lives come from and depend upon God. And prayer honors the fact that our lives are meant to be dedicated to honoring the love, faithfulness, wisdom, authority, and power of God. Our prayers honor our trust in God for ourselves, everyone else, and all creation.
We pray by ourselves and we pray together. We pray for the things we need in order to fulfill God’s calling for us as human beings made in his image, redeemed by Jesus Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit. We carry on a conversation with God that honors the fact that God is with us, that he is listening, and that he wants to help us live for the fulfillment of his purpose for creating us. And like all good conversations we listen more than we speak.
How do I listen to God? When I see or hear about something that captures my attention I ask God how his word relates to what I am seeing and learning. I really want to know what God thinks. I remind myself of God’s written word and I ask God about the implications of his word on my attitudes and actions, in relationship to myself and others. That’s why making time to attentively read or listen to the scriptures being read, is so important.
Then I speak to God after reflecting and meditating on the scriptures. Sometimes I am happy with what I am seeing and hearing through my meditation upon God’s word. Sometimes I am troubled, frustrated, and angered by it. Sometimes it feels like God is asking too much of me. Sometimes it feels like he is being too soft on on people. Sometimes it feels like he is being too hard on us. Mostly, God is reminding me of how trusting him with my needs frees me to be used by him to help other people with what they need.
Some of my general prayers along this line of thought are, “God, help me organize my life and spend my time blessing others. Because I want other people to live their lives with the peace of knowing and trusting you.” “God, help me be righteous, just, and honorable. Help me be kind to the people I encounter today. And help me do all of this no matter what I have to sacrifice.” “God, help me trust you with the concerns of my life today so I can be respectful, kind, and loving to the people I meet today.” “God, I trust you to provide the time, people, wisdom, and opportunities I need to fulfill your purpose for me today.”
The bottom line is we are never alone. God is always with us. His loyal love and faithfulness encourages me to keep moving forward.
We read and meditate on God’s word throughout the day. We pray throughout the day. We pray together, meet together, and worship God together. At church and in small groups, we hear God’s word applied to the challenges we face within our families and communities in our daily lives. All in order to bring our best to each other in response to God. We do this to help each other love one another in obedience to Jesus Christ. And we do this to help each other help others, in the name of Jesus Christ. Even our enemies. Especially those who do not yet follow Jesus Christ.
All so that more of us can help people help other people, in the name of Jesus and to the glory of God the Father. This is how we fight self righteousness, injustice, and immorality in ourselves. We sharpen and use the time, energy, and expertise we already possess, and start helping each other bless the people around us. As more of us fully embrace this God given responsibility for each others well-being our communities become better.
It takes time, dedication, perseverance, and patience to live dedicated to God’s purpose for our lives as human beings made in his image. First things first. If we want to make a difference in our societies, and we are already followers of Jesus Christ, we have to meditate on God’s word and we have to pray. Otherwise, we will not have the strength to stand with each other against the relentless temptation to place our self interest before the love of God and the best interests of others.
1. Are you speaking to God about the things that concern you in your life and in the world?
2. What does God think about the things that concern you?
3. Will you take the steps necessary to find out what God thinks?
4. What will giving your life to God in this way cost you?