Prayer is Our Best Weapon

Read 1 Timothy 2:1-8

Over the course of some of the Mark series, “Inside Out,” we looked at many different types of prayer. In the “Teach Me How to Pray” weeks we looked at adoration, confession, lament, and thanksgiving. These are common types of prayer. Supplication is probably the category we spend the most time in though. Anything that we ask God for would fall into supplication. We often pray for friends and loved ones, we pray for healing, we pray for peace, we pray about broken relationships. But how often do we pray for our leaders.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-2, Paul writes to Timothy who is young leader in the church, “I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity.” Paul encourages Timothy that he ought to pray for those in leadership above him. Why? Because prayer is our best weapon.

If the leaders above him were not believers, it made great sense to lift them up in prayer so that support, rather than persecutions might ensue. Nobody had more say over how their general life would be lived than the king of their state or country. During Timothy’s time, religious persecution of Christians was rampant, and many kings wreaked havoc on the church at large. Paul’s answer for this was not public disagreement or discourse. His answer was not protest or all out war. Paul’s answer was to pray. Pray for your leaders, “so that you may lead a quiet life.”

Through prayer God has raised the dead, cast out demons, healed the sick, and changed hearts. Why not pray for leaders? If the leader is a believer already, and leading well down a good path, great! But how many Christian leaders have you seen on television who’s lives have ended up in scandals with affairs, addictions, or abuse of power? Leadership isn’t easy, and Paul’s response to that is to lift up leaders in prayer.

So much more so if the leader is actually not a believer should we lift them in prayer. I think of how much I enjoy watching Saturday Night Live skits and John Oliver bits on politicians. They are simply hilarious. And it’s not bad to laugh. But sometimes to cope with things headed in a bad direction politically or in international relations we turn to laughter over leaders more than we turn to God.

Pray for your leaders of the church, of your corporations, of your provinces and nations, that things may be peaceful! There is nothing so powerful as prayer. Paul writes, “I desire, then, that in every place that [all]* should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument.” *Though Paul actually directs this statement toward men, it is a good reminder to us all to lift up hands in prayer.

Questions:

  1. Who are the leaders in your life that you should be praying for?
  2. What does your prayer life look like? Do you spend a lot of time in thanksgiving, adoration, supplication, confession, lament?
  3. Is there some type of prayer that you particularly struggle with?
  4. How would you like to see your prayer life expand or grow?
  5. Spend some time praying for the leaders in your life.

 

This Won’t Be Easy

By Grant Vissers

Read: 1 Timothy 1:18-20

Paul wastes little time getting to the meat of the matter. His letter is a reminder to Timothy to continue the work that he has been called to do. “Timothy, my son, I am giving you this command in keeping with the prophecies once made about you, so that by recalling them you may fight the battle well, holding on to faith and a good conscience…”

Just prior to this charge, Paul has challenged Timothy to confront false teachers regarding teaching that drew people into confusion, speculation, and ultimately away from the gospel message of faith and love. Here it seems like Paul is challenging Timothy to not become distracted or influenced by the teaching or teachers themselves. Instead, Timothy’s effort should be directed to fighting the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience.

I wonder what runs the risk of distracting the church today? I wonder what has the potential to pull us away from holding on to the faith and fighting our good fight?

When I think about things that have the capacity to distract us today, I think of modern day idols. Idols were physical representations of gods, that were worshipped in the place of the one, true God. In other words, idols distract from what is true. Friedrich Nietzsche writes, “There are more idols in the world than there are realities.” I think that is true, we live in a culture filled with idols. Our idols might not be physical representations of gods, but they might be idols of the heart. In Ezekiel 14:3 God says about the Israelite elders, “These men have set up their gods in their hearts.” Timothy Keller writes of this passage, “Like us, the elders must have responded to this charge, ‘Idols? What Idols? I don’t see any idols.’ God was saying that the human heart takes good things like a successful career, love, material possessions, even family, and turns them into ultimate things.”

Money, success, jobs, appearance, reputation, can all be modern day idols. At the end of the day they are things that distract us from God. Sure, many of them are necessary to survive, however, none of them should be turned into “ultimate things.”

If the reality is that anything has the potential to be turned into an idol, then the obvious question is, “How can I avoid worshipping an idol?” Paul’s answer seems to me to be a little too simple, “hold on to the faith.” Hebrews 10:23 puts a little more meat on the bones, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” The hope that we profess, the hope of the resurrection and faith that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do, is hope because God is faithful. The one who promises, and the one who calls, He is faithful. Holding on to the faith becomes possible because God Himself promises to be faithful.

Questions:

  1. What idols run the risk of distracting you?
  2. What does “hold on to the faith,” look like for you?
  3. What do you think Paul means by, “fight the battle well?”
  4. Do you think that even the church could have idols?

 

 

 

 

Grace is Where You Start and Stay

Read 1 Timothy 1:12-17

There is story I once heard about a prison warden who dramatically changed the prison he worked at in the Southern United States with the power of grace. He started introducing prisoners to the concept of the Gospel and positioning them to recognize their own brokenness and allow the grace of Jesus into their life. During the course of the warden’s tenure at the prison, many people accepted Christ and the fruits of that played out in lower re-offending rates, better rehabilitation, and better reintegration into society after release.

It is a classic story of change toward good! But the point that stuck with me from the story is a quote from a prisoner. When one prisoner was asked about his personal life change and how he ended up doing so much good with his own life, he replied, “Forgiven much—love much.”

This is almost exactly the Apostle Paul’s story. We like to sugar-coat the story of Paul sometimes in a Sunday-school friendly way. Paul was a bad man who met Jesus and then started being a “good Christian.” But Paul (formerly Saul) wasn’t just convicted of crimes against believers because he didn’t have good legal representation; he was actually proud of the fact that he attacked Christians. He took pride in the fact that he was cleansing the area of the Christian seed that was becoming so prolific. The story says that Paul ravaged Christian households dragging men and women off to prison. It also said that he “approved” of killing Christians. That is until he met Jesus (read the story in Acts 7-9).

Saul, the great defiler of the church, became Paul, the planter of many churches when he had a powerful encounter with grace. Just like the prisoner who said, “Forgiven much—love much,” Paul wrote this to Timothy: “I am grateful to Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because he judged me faithful and appointed me to his service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer, a persecutor, and a man of violence. But I received mercy…and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Timothy 1:12-14) Forgiven much—love much.

Because of the incredible abundance of grace that Paul felt from Jesus, he was “overflowing” with it for others. In leadership, you must start with grace. But you cannot start with grace out of nowhere, you must experience yourself. Then with the grace you have received, you can “overflow” it onto others.

Paul doesn’t become bloated in his thinking of himself as an apostle, but rather calls himself the “foremost among sinners.” He names himself the biggest bad guy, the worst of the worst. In doing this he is saying that because he has been forgiven for so much, his capacity for love is greater still. “But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience.” Paul doesn’t even take credit for his loving people, but rather says that Christ can show that through him.

When leaders live out of grace themselves, they can so much better pour it onto others. “Forgiven much—love much.”

Questions:

  1. Where in your life have you receive grace or mercy?
  2. What did it feel like to be granted grace?
  3. How can receiving grace make us more patient or more loving with others?
  4. Are there aspects of your life in which you could show more “overflowing” grace?
  5. How does abundant grace affect leadership?