Whether it’s the war in Iraq, or millions of displaced people in Sudan, the terrorist bombing of the Australian embassy in Jakarta, or the threat of terrorist attack maybe even in our own country – current world events can play heavily on the minds of people.
My grandmother used to used to say, “I don’t know what’s happened to the world today – whatever happened to the good old days.” But I would remind her that it was her generation that took the entire world to war, not just once, but twice! So globally the world may be in turmoil, but has that ever been any different?
Never-the-less, there are times when global events place us under great pressure. We may watch the news and feel helpless, and powerless to change anything.
As Believers then, how are we to represent Jesus Christ to the world in such a climate? What should we do, how should we behave in times of global pressure? Can we really make a difference in world events anyway? What is the Believer’s responsibility when peace is under threat?
To help us get some answers, let me first bring these global issues down to a scenario that may be easier for us to grasp.
1. LEARN TO MAKE A PRIORITY OF PRAYER (2:1)
Two men were walking through a field one day when they spotted an enraged bull. Immediately they ran toward the nearest fence. The storming bull ran after them in hot pursuit, and they realised that they were not going to make it. Terrified, one man shouted to his friend, “Say a prayer, John. We’re in trouble ” John said, “I’ve never prayed out loud before. I don’t know what to say. “But you have to ” yelled his companion; “The bull is catching up to us.” “All right,” said John, as he ran with all his might; “I’ll say the only prayer I know. My father used to say it at the table: Oh Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful
There are sometimes in life, when the pressure is on, and we have to learn to make a priority of prayer.
When the pressure is on globally, what should be our first response? The world community approaches pressure with politics, diplomacy, or peace talks. People in the street might protest or organise a peace a rally.
But the Lord says that our first reaction to global issues must be prayer.
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone
(1 Timothy 2:1)
God wants our first response to be prayer because although the pressure and turmoil we see at present may look like it’s grounded in politics or even religion – in actual fact it is a spiritual battle. And spiritual battles must be fought with spiritual means – like prayer.
In describing the armour of God used for spiritual warfare, the Lord instructs us to ....
Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests (Ephesians 6:17-18).
So the point is this, if we want to make a difference in a climate of global pressure we must make prayer a priority.
And the Lord has spelled out for us here just how we should pray under pressure.
“Requests” - This part of prayer focusses on ourselves. We are to ask the Lord to meet our needs. We should ask the Lord to help us to live for him in a world that is antagonistic to him, and to all that is good and upright.
And it’s not selfish to pray like this – it’s wise. We ask God to help us because we cannot help ourselves. In fact we said this just the week before last – if we’re not relying on God to meet our needs then who are we relying on? If it is anyone less then that is idol worship. It’s ok to pray for yourself – it’s not selfish.
Our times of meditation should also include an element of worship. This is what is meant here by the use of the word “Prayers.” This part of prayer focusses on the Lord. Prayer should include an act of worship not just our shopping list of needs. And worship in prayer helps us under pressure because it reminds us that God is present and it reminds us of all his almighty qualities. Reflecting on just who God is can settle any anxiety we may have about world affairs (He’s got the whole world in his hands).
Then there’s “Intercession.” This is prayer focussed on others. Believers are invited into the presence of the king to pray for others. We are not helpless to come to the aid of people around the world – we can pray to the Almighty who knows them intimately and who is powerful and able to help.
Finally “Thanksgiving” or “gratitude” is the attitude with which we should come to prayer. And giving thanks to God can really help us when the pressure is on. When we remember and give thanks for what the Lord has done for us in the past our our faith is strengthened because we can see that we can trust him to meet our needs in the future – just as he has done in the past.
So what does this mean for us today? Well, never again can you say, “I never know what to pray for.” There is a world of concerns to pray for – and the Lord is pleased when we do that. Perhaps you might like to “Pray through the paper” as you read it each morning.
Jesus is concerned about world affairs. In fact he holds the whole lot together.
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).
All of society is his concern. Jesus wants the world to run in harmony with his righteous principles – and if this is his concern, it should be ours too.
This kind of prayer doesn’t only help other people that we will never know, it also helps us to keep sight of God’s vision for his world. And our own anxiety is relieved when – in our prayers - we seek and acknowledge God’s firm and steady, guiding hand on the world.
So prayer should be our first priority under pressure.
2. UNDERSTAND THE PLACE OF AUTHORITY
And our prayer should be for everyone, but in particular for our leaders. Paul wrote in this letter to Timothy ....
I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone--for kings and all those in authority (1 Timothy 2:1).
We should remember that when the apostle Paul wrote this letter to Timothy he was in prison in Rome under the jurisdiction of the cruel and godless monster, the Roman Emperor Nero.
What kind of man was Nero? Well he murdered his own mother because he didn’t like her advice. And he murdered his wife Poppaea by kicking her when she was pregnant. He had innocent people put to death so that he could confiscate their wealth to pay for his extravagant lifestyle. And he is credited with starting the fire that burned down over half the entire city of Rome in AD64.
Some might want to condemn such a man to hell, but the Lord says, “as a matter of first priority, I want you to pray for kings and all those in authority.” In other words the Lord want us to understand the place of authority.
If we want peace and unity in our world then the Lord says we must respect authority enough to pray for them.
We may not agree with our own leaders or other leaders around the world, in fact we may be horrified by their actions, but we are to respect their office and understand their place in the scheme of things. The Lord makes this very clear to us.
Show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, honour the king (1 Peter 2:17).
Why would the Lord ask us to respect an inhumane killer like Nero or like Saddam Hussein or Osama Bin Laden? It’s because every human being is created in the image and likeness of God. And if we truly want to worship the Lord then we must respect the things he has created. Those things, or those people, may be in rebellion against their created order, but they are the Lord’s possession none the less. And he loves them and wants to save them just as much as he does the next person.
And we must respect the fact that the Lord is working out his purposes even under the rule of a tyrannical dictator. As the Lord himself reminds us ....
......... there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God (Romans 13:1).
Righteous or un-righteous, just or unjust, Christian, or pagan every leader holds position only because God allows it.
For us this means we should thank God for the leaders that allow us to conduct our lives peacefully – for the freedom we have to worship publicly – for the legislators, administrators and judicial leaders that keep the lid on anarchy.
And in the end, if we want peace and unity in our world then the Lord says we must respect authority enough to pray for them.
3. CHECK ON OUR APPROACH TO HUMANITY
And then there’s just one final point.
Recently British truck driver Ken Bigley was beheaded by Iraqi militants after they had held him hostage for three weeks. My immediate verbal response when I heard this news was to say “They’re just animals these people aren’t they?” But as human as that response was - the fact is Bigley’s killers aren’t ’just animals’.
No matter what we may think of these evil murderers – they, like us, have been created in the image and likeness of God. And they are loved by him. God even wants these butchers to spend eternity with him in heaven.
It sounds incredible doesn’t it? But, you see, in times of global pressure, the Lord wants us to check our approach to humanity.
This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,who gave himself as a ransom for all men (1 Timothy 2:3-6).
a. There is one God (Creator of all people)
The point that the Lord wants us to understand here is this, from now on, we are to view no-one from a human point of view. That’s what I did when I called these killers “just animals.” Because I was looking at the situation with human eyes. But the truth is there is one God, and he is the Creator of all people. To God these Iraqi’s are his precious creation – they may be incredibly distorted – but they are his priceless creation none-the-less. They are of equal value in God’s eyes, as their victim – and you and me.
Jesus himself gives us the perfect example of what it means to view people with God’s eyes. As he hung dying on the cross, what did he say to God about his murders? He said, “Forgive them because they don’t know what they’re doing.”
b. There is one mediator (Mediator of all people).
And Jesus himself confirmed that his salvation is available to all people without distinguishing one from the other. At a feast just prior to his crucifixion Jesus said,
“..... when I am lifted up from the earth, [I] will draw all men to myself" (John 12:32)
And in our passage from 1 Timothy we read that there is,
....one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,who gave himself as a ransom for all men
(1 Timothy 2:3-6)
Now don’t misunderstand this point. This doesn’t mean all people will be saved without exception – because the whole world is not going to be saved. The bible makes that clear. But it does mean that salvation is available to all people without distinction – it is available to anyone regardless of their gender, nationality, ethnicity or social status. And salvation is available to anyone no matter what they have done. But like any gift, it must be received from the Giver.
And God makes the gift of salvation available to everyone because he loves them – so much so that he gave his only Son for us (John 3:16). So now we, like Jesus, are to view no-one from a human point of view.
This effects everything about how we respond to people.
For a start these evil butchers in Iraq – we are not to hate them – we are to pray for their salvation. We are to view them as God’s beautiful – though distorted – Creation. And our hope for them is that they be transformed into the what the Lord first intended them to be before evil had its way in their lives.
What does this mean for you and the people you know in your life? You are no longer to view any of them from a human point of view – but you are to see them through God’s eyes.
Friends, what we’ve been talking about today are not suggestions. These are compulsory requirements of all people who call themselves followers of Jesus.
You see, God’s plan for his creation is peace and unity. This was his vision when he created the earth, and it was the reason he sent Jesus. Maybe, just maybe the reason this peace is under threat is because we haven’t followed these simple, God ordained principles.
God says, when our churches and we ourselves remain paralysed in prayer, we must learn to make prayer a priority.
God says, when our churches and we ourselves remain ignorant of God’s hand on those in authority - we must change our attitude and respect those in authority enough to pray for them.
God says, when our churches and we ourselves find it impossible to love other people, we must learn to no-longer view anyone from a human point of view.
Peace on earth and good will toward men, this is God’s plan. And every Believer has a responsibility to further this plan. Today, the Lord has shown us how to do it.