Yesterday I described a terrifying dream of persecution and how the Lord (in His goodness) unexpectedly used it to teach me a few points from the book of Philemon. If you missed yesterday’s post (which included the first point), then click HERE to read it.
Let’s dive right into the remaining two points that the Lord showed me:
As a prisoner of Christ, Paul emphasizes the importance of personally praying for others while he himself is under duress. And he doesn’t just pray for their overall well-being; he specifically prays for their faith in Christ Jesus in Philemon 1:6: “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.”
Beloved, there are two types of people in our lives that we should constantly be praying for:
I. Unbelievers – We all know them. The wisest and most effective way to prepare for a conversation with a non-believer (perhaps as part of evangelism) is to pray for them in advance. Ask God to lead you into how to even pray for them, and He will be faithful to show you.
II. Believers – Believe it or not, believers (me included) need equally as much prayer. Just because they are a Christian does not mean they know how to live like a Christian. This is a process, beloved. The most effective way to cultivate change in a person’s life is not by talking to them, but by actually praying for them first.
In times of adversity, praying for others is a healthy and intentional way for us to maintain intimacy with Christ while keeping our minds from meditating on our own circumstances. This act alone fulfills the second portion of the Great Commandment (loving others as ourselves) and is also the first step in fulfilling the Great Commission. The fruit we can produce when we focus on the positive and care for others is amazing.
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-39
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-10
Being a prisoner of Christ means to be thankful, even when the world says we should we grumbling. Paul’s situation appears tragic and hopeless, and many would give him full permission to complain and curse God just like Job’s carping visitors did. Here I can imagine one of Paul’s friends saying: “Dude, you smell. The water is dirty, there are rats hanging around, and you haven’t felt warm sunshine, had a good meal or a hot shower in months. Why on earth would you be thankful? Just curse God and die.” And that sentiment would likely cross a lot of people’s minds.
Instead Paul decides to open his letter with this statement: “I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints.” Philemon 1:4-5
We must remember beloved, that the kingdom of God is radical. Years ago, a pastor once admonished me to imagine a “normal” kingdom with me living in it. The he said, “Now, turn it upside down. That, beloved, is the kingdom of God.” I have never forgotten those words because they have proven to be so true in my own walk of faith. God’s kingdom can feel bizarre to us, with our human rationale and ever-changing emotions. Yet we can always trust that when God gives us a commandment, choosing to follow Him is by far the best decision we can make.
“Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation’.” Philippians 2:14-15
We can be grateful and positive in conflict, beloved, because God makes what is impossible to man alone possible through Himself. Becoming a prisoner of Christ Jesus perfectly exemplifies this. We give up our freedom to complain, grumble, rebel, focus on self, and meditate on the temporal things of this world; instead we become a slave to the One True King, Jesus Christ. Then, when hardship does arrive (in all varying degrees), our focus, trust, and stability already rest in something much stronger than the circumstance that encircles us.
“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm 18:2
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