Minister’s Corner

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Golden Gate Church of Christ San Francisco, California - Ministers Corner

Whatever It Costs

Pause To Pray


Whatever It Costs

All too often, the world places too high a premium on indicia of success and influence that are of much less consequence in God’s eyes. Indeed, inquiries into the most influential people of the 20th century historically result in responses that include entertainers, scientists, politicians, revolutionaries, scientists, scholars, business titans, athlets, and the like. When TIME Magazine offered its list of the most influential people of the 20th century, a surprising name on the list was not a name at all. The isolated fortitude of the “Unknown Rebel,” the young man who stood in the way of a column of tanks in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989, was considered extraordinarily influential. Interestingly, people saw the value of standing for something – WHATEVER IT COSTS. So does our God. God embraces servants who will refuse to bow down and serve any substitutes, but will remain true to Him no matter what the cost.

The Bible tells a story of three young men who qualify as truly influential heroes of the faith. Along with their friend Daniel, three youths named Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were taken into exile by the armies of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. The king chose the cream of the crop from Israel to provide superior candidates for service in his courts. They were provided with the best possible education Babylon could offer so that they would look, think and believe like Babylonians and lose all vestiges of their Hebrew identity. Daniel 1:3-4. However, these opportunities are not what set these young men apart.

To be sure, a time came when they were forced to decide between the faith of biblical convictions or an allegiance to the gods of Babylon. An edict was issued from Nebuchadnezzar that everyone was to fall down and worship the golden image he was setting up on the plain of Dura. The King threatened these young men with death if they refused to bow down to the his gods. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused! Why? From where did this depth of resolve come? What gave them the resiliance to stand for their God – our God – WHATEVER IT COSTS? The Bible teaches us that these three were men with deep convictions and discipline; and, they were men of courageous faith and determination.

With a healthy understanding of their own faith and a broad exposure to the ungodly culture around them, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were not confused about what to do when faced with the order to violate everything they held sacred. In fact, their decision was settled long before the crisis. For them, bowing down was simply not an option … under no circumstances, no threat of any kind of penalty … and no price was too high to pay for doing what they had to do. That was already resolved.
Plus, their courage was anchored firmly in the Lord. Notwithstanding years of living apart from the support of their countrymen, family, and friends – in a land hostile to what they held dear, these three responded with fervent conviction:

O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to give you an answer concerning this matter. If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up. Daniel 3:16-18

This is courage anchored firmly in the Lord. They felt no need to defend their actions. Certainly, there are some occasions when we must speak up and offer a well-reasoned defense for the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15). But, here, in the circumstance they faced, these three realized that what was most important was to take a stand. They felt no need to doubt God’s power. In fact, their attitude was: “If the issue is bow or burn, then we will place our lives in the capable hands of Almighty God because we know that He is able to deliver us from anything you could possibly do to us!” Like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, we can say such things because tomorrow He will still be Lord and we will answer to Him for how we respond. They felt no need to deny their convictions. This is my favorite part of the bold response of these three young men, because this is where faith in action does not depend upon what God does but upon who God is! Like God’s servant in Job 13:15, these three young men did not even ask God to deliver them, nor did they cry out for any others to plead their case before Him…they simply placed themselves in His hands and did what they knew they had to do! Would that we could all be equally courageous and determined. The determination of these young men was rewarded powerfully with the result.

And the satraps, the prefects, the governors and the king’s high officials gathered around and saw in regard to these men that the fire had no effect on the bodies of these men nor was the hair of their head singed, nor were their trousers damaged, nor had the smell of fire even come upon them. Daniel 3:27

Although the Lord was not bound to deliver them from the fire, He chose to do so to commend their trust in Him and to convince their enemies of His power and glory. They were not burned by the flames. They were not alone in the furnace. Even the king who had them thrown in the fire declared that the courageous trust of the men had been rewarded as their God had delivered them and come to them. They were no longer threatened for their faith.

Therefore, I make a decree that any people, nation or tongue that speaks anything offensive against the God of Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego shall be torn limb from limb and their houses reduced to a rubbish heap, inasmuch as there is no other god who is able to deliver in this way. Daniel 3:29

Although he did not understand what it meant to serve the Lord rightly, the king did ensure that no one would get in the way of those who placed their unyielding trust in the God of gods and Lord of lords.

We who would serve the Lord God see where our focus should lie. Indeed, we who know the Lord God already understand that there is no other before whom we should bow down. We know that He alone is God. We know that we belong to Him alone when we trust in Jesus Christ. WHATEVER IT COSTS … acceptance … reputation … career … livelihood … imprisonment … even our lives—we will stand up for Jesus Christ! We can never bow down and serve or worship any other but the Lord our God!

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Pause To Pray

I. Introduction

A. Not withstanding an abundance of hindrances to prayer, we must pray.

Examples of Hindrances to Prayer
(______ hinders prayer.)

Anxiety

Idolatry

Selfishness

Disobedience

Insincerity

Self-righteousness

Doubt

Irreverence

Sleepiness

Faithlessness

Losing Heart

Unconfessed Sin

Forsaking God

A Mean Spirit

Unfaithfulness

Haughtiness

Meaningless Repetition

An Unforgiving Spirit

Hypocrisy

Pretentiousness

Wickedness

Equally Important . . . Failure to Pray Hinders Prayer

B. The scriptures invite us to pray, warning that failure to do so constitutes sin.

1. Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right.
1 Samuel 12:23

2. All of them are hot as an oven; they devour their rulers. All their kings fall, and none of them calls on me.
Hosea 7:7

3. You lust & do not have. You murder & covet and cannot obtain. You fight & war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.”
James 4:2

II. Prayerlessness is Sin!

A. Samuel Said Prayerlessness is Sin.

1. Far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by failing to pray for you.
I Samuel 12:23

2. The Holy Spirit guided Samuel’s heart to say this; That same Holy Spirit had it recorded in the Bible ‘for our learning.’

B. The Scriptures Command Us to Pray!
Indeed, when we break these commands we sin.

1. “Pray without ceasing.” NKJV “Never stop praying.” NLT “Pray continually.” NIV
1 Thessalonians 5:17

2. Men always ought to pray and not lose heart.
Luke 18:1 (The Persistent Widow)

3. The apostle Paul says that the Christian is to be “praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints.”
Ephesians 6:18

4. Jesus warns His disciples more than once to watch and pray lest they should enter into temptation.

III. Results of Prayerlessness

A. God’s people do not get what they ought to have. In fact, many do not have daily necessities because they do not pray.

1. No doubt many remain afflicted because they have not obeyed God’s command, “Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray.” Many of the sick remain sick because they do not “call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord,” as the Lord said.

2. God says we are to ask, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Matthew 6:11

B. God’s people lack wisdom due to prayerlessness.

1. Sometimes there are other hindrances, but often it simply lack of prayer. Many of God’s children go through this world as orphans due to lack of prayer.

2. They lack wisdom because they haven’t obeyed the command:
“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
James 1:5

3. Many are undecided and in doubt about duty, because they have not prayed.
see James 1:8

4. They have not, because they ask not. James 4:2

5. Matthew 7:7-8
They do not ask and they do not receive.
They do not seek and they do not find.
They do not knock and the door is not opened.

C. Extended Analogy: God’s people die prematurely due to lack of prayer.

1. Three Kings in Contrast

a. And Asa in the thirty and ninth year of his reign was diseased in his feet, until his disease was exceeding great: yet in his disease he sought not to the Lord.
2 Chronicles 16:12-13 (Death of King Asa)

b. So Saul died for his unfaithfulness which he had committed against the Lord, because he did not keep the word of the Lord, and also because he consulted a medium for guidance. But he did not inquire of the Lord; therefore He killed him, and turned the kingdom over to David the son of Jesse.
1 Chronicles 10:13-14 (Death of King Saul)

c. On the other hand, King Hezekiah was “sick unto death.” God sent Isaiah to say to him, “Thus saith the Lord, set thine house in order: for thou shalt die, and not live.” But Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed and God raised him up and gave him fifteen more years.
Isaiah 38:1

2. Like Us

a. But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people . . .
1 Peter 2:9

b. Like Kings Asa, Saul, and Hezekiah, we face ‘terminal illnesses’ that can only be treated through prayer. Through prayer, we avail ourselves of the lines of communication God has established to enable us to overcome our illnesses and have life in Him.

IV. Overcoming Prayerlessness

A. Take time to pray when things come up.

1. It may be a challenge to pray a single collective prayer, encompassing all of the adoration, communion, thanksgiving, confession, petitions, intercession, and submission that you want to express to our Heavenly Father.

2. So, Pause to Pray for whenever an occasion arises.

B. Do not allow formalities of prayer to obstruct your prayer life.

1. Many times – every day – every Christian has occasions to pause and say, “Lord, I noticed how You _____. Thank You!” or “Lord, I was wrong when I _____. Please forgive me!” or “Lord, I don’t know what to do about _____. Please guide me in this strange situation.” or “Lord, I just met _____. Please bless them.”

2. Connect prayer with every detail of your life. Indeed, for some people and on some occasions, your prayer may be reduced to: “Jesus.” The Lord knows your needs.

3. In any event, always remember to Pause to Pray!

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