Summary: We’re at War! 1) Pray with confidence 2) Pray for confidence
An egg, a piece of bacon, a couple of sausages, a bit of cheese, a slab of butter, a pork chop, some liver, and a scoop of pudding. No, it’s not what I had for breakfast this morning. It was the weekly allotment of food per person in Britain during World War II. Can you believe that? Most of us can eat that much food in one sitting and yet it was all the food one was allowed to buy per week during the war! Clothes and gasoline were rationed too. Luxury liners were turned into troop carriers. All available resources were poured into the war effort. No, it was not a comfortable way to live but people knew what was at stake and were willing to put up with the discomfort to keep their troops supplied so that victory could be achieved.
Our sermon text reminds us that we are at war. There is a lot more at stake in this war than any other war fought in the history of mankind. In this war Satan seeks to steal faith and destroy eternal futures in heaven. And this war is not just being waged on the other side of the world; it’s being fought in our homes, at our workplace, and in our congregations. How has the knowledge that we are at war with Satan affected the way we live? Do we “ration” our time, talents, and treasures so that the war effort can be fought aggressively? Do we willingly make do with less at home so that the work of spreading the gospel abroad can continue full force? What about the way in which we use God’s gift of prayer? How has war with Satan influenced the way we pray and for what we pray? Our text demonstrates how warring Christians are to pray. We are to pray with courage, and for courage.
Although it’s sometimes easy for us to forget that we’re at war, that was not the case for the apostles. The Jewish leaders who had worked together with Pilate to have Jesus crucified, kept a close eye on the apostles’ activities and hauled them in for questioning on a regular basis. On one such occasion, Peter and John were arrested after they healed a crippled man and told the crowds that they had done this through the power of Jesus. The Jewish leaders commanded Peter and John never to even speak the name of Jesus again and threatened them with harm if they did.
Intimidation has always been an effective weapon in war. If the opposition can be intimidated, then victory can be declared without having to fire a single shot. Working through the Jewish leaders, Satan was doing his best to intimidate Jesus’ disciples. Did it work? Hardly. When Peter and John told the other disciples what had happened they prayed together with courage saying: “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? 26 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One.’ 27 Indeed Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. 28 They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen” (Acts 4:25b-28).
The disciples were not intimidated because they knew well God’s promises. They knew how God had said through King David that the leaders of this world will conspire and rage against Jesus and his followers but their raging is in vain. Why? Because God remains in control. He lets happen only that which will benefit his people. This was evident in the way God allowed the Jewish leaders and Pilate to crucify Jesus. What they did was sinful, but God used it to save the world. Later on God used the persecution of Christians for his purposes too. The persecution, like a stone thrown into a calm pond, caused the Christians to scatter, but as they fled they shared their faith wherever they went expanding the gospel’s reach.
The challenges our synod has faced in the last few years should remind us that we too are at war with Satan. Our mission resources are shrinking. Our ability to train enough future pastors and teachers is being challenged. On top of all this Satan keeps up his relentless attacks on our families, our congregations, and our own faith through governments that don’t appreciate the value of marriage, and a world that celebrates selfishness. Is it time to panic? No. It’s time to pray, and with courage.
While it seems that things are out of control, Psalm 2, which the disciples quoted in their prayer, reminds us that God is still in charge. He laughs at the powers of this world that conspire against his anointed one, Jesus. He promises to work everything for our good. How will God use our current synodical difficulties for our good? It may be in making each one of us aware that the synod needs Jesus more than Jesus needs the synod. It may be in helping us see that the synod is not an entity that’s out there, it’s here. We are the synod. We are to finance and encourage its work with our firstfruits and not leave this to a few wealthy individuals to look after.