Sermons

Summary: God uses our praying together to change the world.

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Scripture Introduction

I often remind my family of a profound truth I have learned from living: you cannot make people do what you want. Even if it is in their best interest, even if they should do it, matters little. You cannot make people do what you want.

You have tried. You have shown your friends clearly the truth that should change their minds. You know you are right, and you suspect they know it also—but they refuse to conform. Oh, yes, we attempt to control by manipulation. And it may appear to “work,” their desires win out.

Is this not one great difficulty in faithful parenting? When children are young and do not feel their own desires, we often mistake enforced behavior for heartfelt obedience. But later years reveal the error, when the desires of this young adult conflict with those of a dismayed parent.

What we need is a way to change people. Well, I have good news! I have found the answer in Romans 13. [Read Romans 13.30-33. Pray.]

Introduction

Reuben Archer Torrey pastored in northern Ohio before joining D. L. Moody in his evangelistic work in Chicago. He also served as a chaplain in WWI, received an honorary doctorate from Wheaton College and was Dean at (what is now) Biola University. He was an internationally known evangelist (a Billy Graham of his time) and wrote forty books, the most well known ones on prayer and revival.

At a conference in St. Louis a minister was preaching on “The Rest of Faith.” He wanted to emphasize the idea that Jesus has won all the spiritual victories for us and that we need only rest on Christ’s work. But in his excitement, the minister overextended himself and said, “I challenge anyone to show me a single passage in the Bible where we are told to wrestle in prayer.” R. A. Torrey was sitting behind this pastor, and later said of the occasion: “Though contradicting another speaker is usually not done, I felt he had issued a challenge I had to take up.” So Torrey said, softly, “Romans 15.30, brother, Romans 15.30.” Fortunately the man admitted Torrey was right.

The Greek word in Romans 15.30 means “join in a struggle with,” or “fight alongside” or “strive together with.” Therefore, with Torrey, many commentators see this “striving together with me in your prayers,” (which Paul speaks of) as being similar to Jacob’s “wrestling” with God in Genesis 32. The Hebrew word is different, but the idea is the same.

Here in Romans 15.30, Paul actually coins a new word, uniting the preposition “with” and the verb “strive” or “struggle.” Though used only here in the Bible, the main verb appears several times and explains the idea. Jesus (for example) uses it in Luke 13.24: “Strive to enter through the narrow door. For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.” Strive, [agōnidzomai] from which we get the English verb, “agonize” and noun, “antagonist.” Jesus exhorts us to struggle against sin and self in order to enter eternal life — this is a fight worthy of the reward.

The same word appears in 1Corinthians 9.25: “Every athlete exercises self-control in all things.” You do not see it at first; the version I use (the ESV) translates [agōnidzomai] as “athlete”; the New King James has, “everyone who completes.” Literally it is: “the one who struggles” — in other words, everyone who properly strives for the prize exercises self-control.


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