What if I don’t like our president?

At the end of eight years, the general population is almost always ready for a change.  In the history of our country, it has only happened a couple of times that one political party was able to see their candidate take office after eight years.  We see ourselves getting too progressive and long to return to our heritage and then we feel so stuck in our ways that we need some serious change.  New generations rise up and consider their values earth-shattering and they rock the country, only to get bogged down in the mundane and a new generation rises up.

For the next month and a half we are in a unique situation where we still have an acting president but the next one has already been chosen.  This means something profoundly true:  almost everyone very strongly dislikes one of the two men.  The voting world who chose President Elect Donald Trump is sick and tired of Barack Obama, while many others still consider him to be one of the best presidents our country has known and fear that Trump is going to single handedly destroy our nation and “undo all the progress we have seen” these past eight years.  In short, if you are neutral about both men – or possibly even like both men, you are probably very far removed from politics.

One of the attributes that makes our nation unique and great in many people’s eyes is our first amendment:  our freedom of speech.  We can say whatever we darn well feel like saying and no one can harm us for it – or judge us, as the culture now states.  There are some tricky aspects to that as we can still be legally protected from slander and harassment, but none of us lives in fear that our daily conversation, our social media posts or even our blog posts will land us in jail.  We have an inalienable right to our opinions and we will make them known.

God, however, has a different opinion about all of that.  Slander, gossip and disrespect are all sins – which are fundamentally rooted in pride, arrogance and selfishness.

“Whoever slanders his neighbor secretly I will destroy. Whoever has a haughty look and an arrogant heart I will not endure.”

– Ps 101.5

“The one who conceals hatred has lying lips, and whoever utters slander is a fool.”

– Prov 10.18

“Speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”

– Titus 3.2

God simply and profoundly commands us to speak evil of no one.  Not only that,  he clearly and profoundly commands us to respect our leaders:

“Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”

– 1 Peter 2.17

One might object to this commandment because of how wicked our current or upcoming president is.  We simply cannot respect or honor a man who (fill in the blank).  But Peter was writing to the early church who was being persecuted and murdered.  The people were “scattered” across the known world – they were running for their lives.  And Peter’s command was to honor the king:  the king who would murder them for loving and serving Jesus.  Is Obama murdering us?  Is Trump threatening to murder us?  Are we running for our lives?  Even if this were the case we would still be commanded to honor the president.

One may object further and cite our form of government which allows us a voice in choosing our leadership and laws.  “We must speak out and help others make informed decisions.”  “It is our civic duty to have a strong opinion and to play our role.”  Yes, I whole-heartedly agree that we live in a unique and wonderful country whereby we are granted a part (albeit a very small part) of the decision making process.  This is why presidential candidates spend months and millions of dollars campaigning:  they must win our vote!

I would also argue, however, that there is a good and right way to make informed decisions and even to disagree with the values and positions a candidate would take while still respecting and honoring him (or her).  There is even a godly way to recognize a candidate’s moral failures, sin and perceived lack of qualification without slander, gossip and sin.

The reality is simple.  We live in a fallen world.  We are functioning in a fallen and broken system.  Democracy is not God’s form of government!  We are allowing ourselves to be governed by fallen and broken people.  Even if our president were the most mature and godly man to walk the face of the Earth, he would still be a sinner and a man.  He would make mistakes and we would disagree with him on something.  And each of us are fallen and broken people.  Imperfect people will choose imperfect leaders and mistakes will be made.  Period.  And yet we are commanded to respect and honor one another, and we are commanded to respect and honor our leadership.

Scripture does clearly command us to fight sin and pursue holiness.  Thus we see the example of Jesus, the apostles and many others to disobey the leadership when they would have us sin or not follow God (Acts 4.19. 5.29).  We also have the example of some of the greatest forefathers in our faith standing up against political sin, such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the abundance of people who fought against the slaughter of the Jews and non-Arians in WWII.  We must never follow blindly, we must always evaluate our own actions and our government by Scripture, and we must refuse to sin even when we would be commanded to by men.  And we are fortunate enough to live in a society where we might be able to make an impact and bring about change!

But this in no way changes God’s expectation of us that we love all men and that we honor the position of king (or president in our nation).

So let me simply ask you this question:  Are your facebook posts and your political conversations Biblically loving, respecting and honoring the president?  Have you slandered Trump, Hillary or Obama?  Sure, you might do a better job.  Sure, you might know better.  But God does not give us a pass to disrespect or not love someone just because we know better.  He sovereignly and intentionally places every king and president in power.  Do you trust Him for that?  Do you follow His leadership when He gives you an opportunity to make a positive change?  Do you obey Him and respect authority?

You do not have to like your leader.  You do not have to agree with him either.  In fact, you are expected to weigh your actions and obedience against Scripture an never sin in the things that you do – therefore you should intensely evaluate your leadership  But you must love him.  And you must respect him.  Otherwise, we bring the condemnation of God upon ourselves:

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”

– Rom 13.1-2

Slander is still slander when spoken against our leadership.  Gossip is still gossip when spoken against our leadership.  Whether you distrust or dislike our current president or our future one.  Let us examine ourselves and remember our tongues.

“If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.”

– James 1.26

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Our favorite sin

gossip

Let’s be honest.  Each of us has a scale of sins and wickedness by which we gauge and evaluate our personal morality and self-worth.  There are things that we would never consider in our day-to-day lives, like murder.  We think through the ten commandments and think, “I would never rob someone, I would never kill someone, I would never…” and walk away feeling pretty good about ourselves.

Then there are those sins of temptation with which we wrestle.  Sins of disposition, if you will.  We are all born with or inclined socially to certain sins:  white lies, fudging on our taxes, exaggeration, gossip, pride, slander, etc.  Some of us might be inclined to the large-scale sins like murder and grand larceny, but for the average Joe, it is typically these sins of the heart and more personal sins that tempt us on a regular basis.

But lastly there are those sins that we actually enjoy and with which we have made peace.  These are those most dangerous of sins.  Any sin with which we have made peace can potentially separate us from God.  Forever.  Again, it can be any of the listed sins from the major or tempting sins, but they are typically sins of the heart.  And what is most terrifying about these sins is that we not only accept them and allow them to continue in our own lives, but we also are keenly aware of other Christians preforming them and we give them approval in doing so.

This is a terrifying reality, of which the Bible speaks extremely harshly:

“And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.”

– Rom 1.28-32

Read through that list again slowly.  It is a depraved mind that is full of greed or envy.  It is wickedness to gossip or slander.  Pride, insolence, any strife or boasting.  Disobedient to parents!  Anyone who is unloving, untrustworthy, or without understanding.  This mention of understanding is not knowledge based, it is someone who carelessly passes by someone in need – perhaps with a disability – and just continues about their own lives without concern for the person in need.  Do you avoid that mentally handicapped person who shows up at your church every week?

Pride, slander and gossip are so detrimental and yet so much a part of our lives.  In the church world, we might have felt convicted about any of those three, but in order to continue to placate our flesh, we dress them up as prayer requests.  “Please pray for Suzie Q, you won’t believe what happened…”  Or, “We really need to remember John Doe, he is struggling with…”  Or even still, “Pray for me, I really need/deserve/am angry at…”

We, if we allow this kind of attitude and conversation within the church are just as guilty as those who do it:  We “give hearty approval” by listening to their prayer requests, throwing out a verbal hail mary, and entertaining the sin (Rom 1.32).

But the danger of this sin is eternal:

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.

– Heb 10.26-27

John teaches us that there is grace when we sin, provided we confess it, repent from it and never make peace with it (1 John 2.1).  Where we enter into dangerous territory is when we consider these palatable sins excusable.  When they are no longer bitter in our mouths or hearts, and we choose to enjoy them or receive the momentary pleasure that comes from them.

Hear me clearly, all sin is desirable.  It is a very rare occasion that any of us would give in to a sin that we despise and hate.  Sexual sin feels good in the moment.  Stealing provides a rush and the pleasure of ownership, if even momentary.  Lying pads one’s ego and creates some sense of image or appearance that is not true.  Even murder might provide some level of pleasure for some people.  Drunkenness pleases the senses and removes the worries of the world.

But when we are given Spiritual life by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, He enters into our worlds and rocks them.  It is His purpose and job to convict us of sin and push us on to holiness – helping us and empowering us to stop sinning unto the glory of God:

“And [the Spirit], when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment…”

– John 16.8

Thomas Watson teaches us well,

“Until sin be bitter, Christ will not be sweet.”

When we choose to sin in light of His prodding and conviction in our hearts, we grieve The Holy Spirit who is working to convict us and make us hate sin.  How do we keep from grieving him?  Paul tells us clearly:

“Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.  Be angry and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not give the devil an opportunity.  He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.  Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.  Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice.  Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

– Eph 4.25-32

Slander and gossip are extremely dangerous.  Jesus said that we will each give an account for every careless word that comes out of our mouths (Matt 12.36).  God promises to destroy anyone who slanders his neighbor (Ps 101.5).  So let us not take it lightly.  Let us examine our own hearts and those with whom we interact in the Church.  Let us claim with Augustine:

“Let those who like to slander the lives of the absent know their own are not worthy of this table.”

– Augustine

All sins with which we make peace are damnable and can separate us from God.  Let us press on to fight these sins in our own lives and in the lives of those whom we love.  Let us put it away, remove it from our lives, our churches and our hearts.  Let us learn to hate the taste of sin – that it would bitter – so that Christ alone tastes sweet and we can grow in maturity.

How To Squash Gossip.

gossip 1

We are taught a simple rhyme as children to help us cope with other children and develop thick skin:

“Sticks and stones may break my bones,
but words will never harm me.”

Unfortunately, we have all learned that this is not the truth.  Words are extremely destructive and hurtful, and there are times that we would probably prefer someone to just hit us rather than continue to talk about us.  This is why James says,

“And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.”

– James 3.6

James teaches us that our tongues, not by their nature of existence, but by the words that they say, are those while defile our entire body.  They can destroy everything.  They are ruthless, and are a fire set ablaze by Hell.  He even says that no one can perfectly tame the tongue, it is “a restless evil and full of deadly poison” (James 3.8).  Yes, it is a terrible thing to hurt someone physically, but we can also destroy someone with the words we say.

Thus Scripture regularly admonishes us not to gossip.

“A perverse man spreads strife,
And a slanderer separates intimate friends.”

– Prov 16.28

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

– Eph 4.29

There are six things which the Lord hates,
Yes, seven which are an abomination to Him:
Haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
And hands that shed innocent blood,
A heart that devises wicked plans,
Feet that run rapidly to evil,
A false witness who utters lies,
And one who spreads strife among brothers.

– Prov 6.16-19

“Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.”

– Titus 3.1-2

Gossip is not always telling lies, it can be telling half truths as well as just talking about someone in an unsavory way.  The expectation for Christians is to only speak words that are edifying.  Thus we can always test ourselves by asking if the story we are preparing to tell will edify the listener and/or the subject.  Does it build one another up?  Or does it tear someone down?

We are commanded, quite simply, not to gossip.  Thus – as with all other commands – we can understand and tell ourselves to “just stop it”.  As with any other sin of habit, however, we must intentionally fight our sin.  How do we do that?

  1.  We agree with God that it is a sin.  If we desire to stop gossiping only because we know it hurts people, there will come a day when we want to hurt someone.  However, if we relinquish authority over our own lives and realize that God is King, and submit to His commandments and will, there is a greater power at play than our convictions and feelings.  God said do not do it, there will be consequences if we do, and it displeases Him.  Therefore, we recognize that gossip is indeed a sin.
  2. We recognize our tendencies.  Gossip may be so ingrained in our lives and personalities that we are unaware of it.  It may be second nature to update our friends and family about everyone in our lives that we do not recognize when we cross the line.  We must be thoughtful about our words and actions, examining them and asking if it is edifying to others and glorifying to God.
  3. Enlist an accountability partner.  Secret sin is exceptionally difficult to conquer, and even if we find victory for a season, there is little to keep us from slipping back in a moment of weakness.  An accountability partner can be a spouse, a friend or an acquaintance who has found victory over the sin in his life.  You do not necessarily have to air all of your dirty laundry, you can ask this person to hold you accountable on one specific topic.  Maybe he sends you a text once a week asking if you have gossiped.  Maybe you meet up for coffee once a month and discuss your successes and failures.  The moment you know someone will be asking you, and you have committed to transparency, you will watch what you say much more intimately.  Bringing our sin to the light will reveal it for its wicked nature and will help us find victory.

    “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.  For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

    – John 3.19-20

  4. Fight the battle in your mind.  All sin begins in the mind, with temptation.  Some people us fighter verses, some people practice the discipline of replacement.  A fighter verse is a verse you have memorized on the topic at hand.  When you find yourself thinking about gossiping, call to mind that verse about edification or James declaring our tongues a fire set ablaze by Hell.  Quote it to yourself, pray it to God, ask for the strength to control your tongue.  The discipline of replacement is to be aware that simply cutting something out of our lives is difficult, but if we do something else in its place we can more easily create new habits.  If we find ourselves ready to gossip, we can say something up-building about that person or situation.  Or we can pray for them.  Our thoughts pass through our minds before we say them, and if we catch them before they become action, we save ourselves a lot of grief and heartache.
  5. Remember that we will only find victory by the power of the Holy Spirit.  When we are born again, the Holy Spirit takes up residence in our lives.  It is His job to convict us of sin and push us on to righteousness (John 16.8).  Our human nature is to sin, and as long as we walk by our flesh, we will sin continually.  We must, therefore, declare war on our flesh and walk by the Spirit (Gal 5.17, 24).  Paul says,

    “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

    – Gal 2.20
    We cannot find victory over sin which is glorifying to God unless we submit to the Holy Spirit and allow Him to live through us.

  6. Remember that we will fail.  James says that no one can tame the tongue.  If a man is perfect in what he says, he is a perfect man.  We will not attain perfect.  We will all fail.  But when we do fail, we must remember that we have an advocate who intercedes for us.  We confess our sins to one another (our accountability partner and the person of whom we spoke ill), and we move on (1 John 1.9, 2.1-2).

What then, when gossip is running rampant around you?

Churches have, by-in-large, failed at addressing personal sin.  Jesus gives us crystal clear instructions about handling sin in our midst:

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother.  But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that by the mouth of two or three witnesses every fact may be confirmed.  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”

– Matt 18.15-17

If someone is gossiping to you, call it out as sin.  Immediately.  If he does not respond in repentance, or if he continues gossiping even in a later situation, then enlist someone else in your circle to confront him.  If he still does not listen, then go to the pastor and bring it before the church.  If even this will not draw him to repentance and change, then we remove him from the church and disassociate ourselves with him.  Paul goes so far as to say we should not even share a meal with such a one (1 Cor 5.11).  Why?  Because such a one claims to be a child of God but yet refuses to submit to God by killing his sin.  He knows the Gospel and has refused to submit to it.  He is dangerous.

This system squashes gossip on all levels.  First of all, it changes the heart from one of judgment and disdain to love for the brother.  If someone offends us or hurts us, instead of talking about it to everyone else we confront him and make it right – for his soul’s sake.  We desire to see him freed from his sin.

Second of all, it outlines how to come to a healthy end.  Often times we gossip because we see the situation as stagnant.  There is just nothing we can do to change it, and we “vent” to our friends out of frustration.  But when there is a plan in place to address the situation, it is easier to control our tongues and not blow up or talk about it at inappropriate times.

Third of all, it makes the situation known when it needs to be known.  When the sin is brought before the Church, everyone hears what needs to be said about the situation.  The pastor takes ownership, the situation is clearly explained, and the sinner either repents and is restored, or removed from the church.  End of story.  No one is left wondering, no one is left confused, and therefore there is no need to gossip about what happened.  It is a closed matter.  People do not just slip out the back door, feelings are not left unresolved.

This is why we bring things into the light, and live transparently as a body and as believers.  We must fight our own personal sin, and we must also fight one another’s sin – out of love and concern for one another.

The bigger churches get, the more difficult this becomes.  But if you are part of a large body, do not let that hinder you from Jesus’ command.  Perhaps the church confrontation would be with your small group, or in a member’s meeting with a specific audience.  Your pastor will know how to best handle the situation, should he need to intervene.  We cannot make peace with sin – and we must squash it before it gains a foothold in our churches.

“For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries.”

– Heb 10.26-27

 

The tongue…set on fire by Hell.

gossip

Most of us learned a little rhyme when we were young to help us cope with the mean things other children would say.  “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never harm me” was the sing-song response of the playground when one child insulted another.  And while words alone may not actually break our bones, we all have learned the power of the tongue as we have grown older.

James gives us a solemn overview of the tongue:

“For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.  Now if we put the bits into the horses’ mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well.  Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.  So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.  For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.  But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.”

– James 2-8

The tongue, in and of itself, is just a muscle.  But it is the muscle by which we communicate the things that are going on in our hearts and minds.  The other parts of our bodies can be used for evil as well:  the hands can steal things, the feet can kick or hurt someone and the sexual organs can be used to have affairs.  But the tongue is the method by which we communicate.  And it is through our communication that the intention of our hearts and nature are known.

The life of the Christian is the process of sanctification – becoming more like Jesus.  When we come to God for salvation we realize that we are wicked and sinners, in and of ourselves, and we need a Savior to forgive us from our sins and also to empower us to change.  As we are walking down that path of change and dying to sin we fall along the way.  And the tongue is most often the method by which we stumble.  James sees that reality to the degree that he calls our tongue a fire set ablaze by Hell, a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

This is exemplified not only by lying, but by gossip, by rumors, by choosing not to say what needs to be said and by discouraging others.  Sometimes we talk flippantly and do not consider who is around and hearing what we say, sometimes we are just foolish and goofy, or thoughtless about our audience.  Truthful things, or generalizations can hurt a specific audience if said in the wrong way.

Thus the tongue, run by our flesh and sinful nature, can cause infinite problems.  And it is that by which we cause most of our problems.  We set a forest on fire with one small word.  We drive the entire ship with one breath.  We guide the horse with one small bit.  And James reveals that this will be a lifelong battle – as the one who can tame is tongue and does not stumble in what he says is a perfect man.

The tongue is extremely difficult to restrain, and we should all ask God for wisdom in doing so.  You might have conquered the battle of profanity and cursing, but perhaps you still gossip.  You might be disciplined to not gossip, but perhaps you have racial tendencies and offend people of other ethnic backgrounds.  Perhaps you are tempted to lie, or to exaggerate the truth to make your story sound a little better.  Perhaps you are just too blunt and hurt people’s feelings – or perhaps you offer insincere platitudes to make people like you!  Perhaps you never talk about Jesus.

We all have room to grow in regards to our tongue, the things we say and the things we communicate.  Let us seek to put out the fires instead of start them.  Let us seek to honor God, and not let anything that dishonors him breech our lips.

Prayer Request or Gossip Column?

prayer group

PRAY WITHOUT CEASING.
 – 1 Thess 5.17

Are you living in the true power and freedom of prayer?  The Bible has so much to say about prayer and it and what it says is dramatically different than what is practiced and believed in today’s western Church.

“Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.”

– John 15.13-14

Jesus promised that anything we ask in His name, to the glory of God the Father and the Son, He will do it.  Anything to His glory.  Do you stop and evaluate your prayer and prayer requests by that simple standard?  We often do not.  In fact, we often use prayer request time as gossip time.  One generation ago, Churches used to have “prayer chains”.  As soon as a crisis would hit, one person would be notified who would immediately call another who would immediately call another until the whole church was informed.  Now-a-days we have mass emails, facebook and texting, but the sentiment is the same.  I attended a church ten years ago that sought to have one member of the church praying at every moment of every day.  They had a sign up sheet by hour, and a member would pray for an hour then call the next member to remind them of their commitment, the next member would pray for an hour and then call the next.  This is a good idea.

Except when our intention for the passing on of news changes from an earnest petition to prayer to gossip.

We have all been in that group and heard that so-called request.  “Please pray for sister Sally, I just heard that she (fill in the blank)” or “Let’s remember brother Bob, he is really struggling with (fill in the blank)“.  Then the group bows together and prays, “God please be with sister Sally as she deals with…”.  Christian gossip.  What does “please be with” even mean?  Is it to God’s glory?  Is it to sister Sally’s growth and maturity as a believer?

We do know that there are times when God answers our prayers with a no, and there is Biblical precedence to that.  Paul, the first missionary to the non-Jewish world, went into many towns and cities and preformed miracles and saw countless people come to faith.  In the middle of his service and obedience, he prayed for healing for himself three times and God told him no, so that he would continue to rely on God’s strength and not his own.

Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me—to keep me from exalting myself!  Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me.  And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

 – 2 Cor 12.7-9

Paul’s prayer for healing and deliverance was not in God’s plan, because God received the most glory through Paul because of his weakness.  Paul understood this, and because his intention and desire was to glorify God, his response was:

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.

 – 2 Cor 12.10

He was content with his weakness and the trials that came about because of it, because He saw God’s purpose in it and trusted that God’s answer to his prayer was best.

When we approach prayer, we may think that what we are asking is to God’s glory, but He may have a different agenda.  It is impossible to know with certainty that our prayer is what God intends to do.  But Jesus does say that whatever we ask that will result in His glory, He will do.

Do you believe that?

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

 – Phil 4.6

In everything, through prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Thanksgiving means saying thank you, and truly being thankful for what God is doing.  Supplication means asking – telling God what you want, pleading with Him.  And prayer is that general conversation with God.  So whatever you are about to do, whatever you are listening to in your small group, talk to God about it.  Thank Him for everything, ask Him what you desire to ask Him, and just talk to Him about it!

I fear that more often than not our prayer request time is a time where we gossip about ourselves and others, and then little or no prayer is genuinely had over the matter.  The one offering the request moves on to the next group and shares it again, and the listener often lets it slip from their memory.

Let’s not do this.  Let’s remember God for who He is and His power, let’s learn to love Him more, and let’s learn to pray without ceasing, praying to His glory and honor – not just to our comfort, trusting Him to answer our prayers.  Let’s break the mold of gossip and become known as a people of prayer who know and love God.