Have you been feeling a sense of almost overwhelming discouragement over the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Libya and Israel? I have. I believe what’s happening in the Middle East is of global concern, not only for Christians, but for all who suffer oppression under ungodly leadership. As I’ve been praying and anguishing over the plight of the Northern Iraqis under ISIS terrorism, I was encouraged by this message preached by my spiritual brother, Bill Rudd, on “Body Building” (building up the Body of Christ). If you have time for a spiritual body building message, you can hear it here: http://www.calvarymuskegon.com/media/
If not, let me give you a quick overview. The text is from Ephesians 1, and the setting is Paul sitting in a Roman prison, waiting to see whether or not he will be freed or beheaded. (He was beheaded, as is happening in the Middle East.) Even in such dire circumstances, Paul wasn’t praying like mad that he’d be freed. He was praying for believers to grow in their faith! Why? Because he wasn’t afraid to die and knew there is something even more important than life on this earth.
Paul’s prayer for the believers in Ephesus was three-fold: 1. That they would have a spirit of wisdom and revelation to know God better, both about him and by being in a relationship with him 2. That they would know the richness of the hope that is ours in Christ. In this world of terrible suffering, it’s only “Friday” (so to speak), but Sunday is coming! 3. That they would understand the immeasurable power of God to work good on behalf of those who trust in him. What is the ultimate power? Our promised resurrection. What kind of power can raise someone from the dead? Only something greater than any power on earth. No power of evil, no government, no terrorist group, no power of nature or man or can raise someone from the dead. Only God has the power to raise someone from the dead, and he promised to raise us from the dead, just as he did Jesus! Death is awful, but it’s not the end, and we should not fear death.
Bill read this beautiful closing paragraph of the last chapter of the last book in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia: “But the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us, this is not the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All of their life in this world, and all of their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page. We’re still awaiting the beginning of chapter one of the great story which no one on earth has ever read, which goes on forever, in which every chapter is better than the one before.”
When our hearts are overwhelmed by the plight of those suffering around the world, our single greatest resource is petitioning God for help. Will you join me in praying?
“I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in heavenly places” (Ephesians 1:16-20).