34 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, but you were not willing! 35 See! Your house is left to you desolate; and assuredly, I say to you, you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Luke 13:34–35, NKJV)!
God wanted to hold Jerusalem close to Himself, sheltered and safe. But she objected. Now, desolation would be left in the wake of their rejection of God’s prophets and the Messiah. Only in the Messiah’s salvation from her sins would she be blessed (v. 35; Ps. 118:26). Our nation faces many problems brought on by sin: Racism, hatred, division, crime, immoralities of all sorts, hypocrisy – the list goes on. Our sins disgrace our nation: “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people” (Prov. 14:34). The answer to our nation’s ills is not political, economic, sociological, psychological, or environmental. The answer is salvation from sin, conversion of hearts and lives to Jesus Christ. His gospel truth changes hearts and lives, replacing injustice with fairness. It overcomes evil. Salvation from our sins is the prosperity we must seek. “Save now, I pray, O Lord; O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the house of the Lord” (Ps. 118:25-26).
2 Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving; 3 meanwhile praying also for us, that God would open to us a door for the word, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in chains, 4 that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak. 5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:2–6, NKJV)
Paul urged Christians to rely on the power of prayer and divine providence to spread the gospel. Thankful hearts are alert to blessings from God’s hand (v. 2). Trusting in God’s foresight and provisions, we pray for open doors (access, opportunity) for God’s word to reach hearts and lives. We pray for those who walk through those doors and teach others (3). Paul relied on brethren praying for him. Although in prison, he yearned for their prayers so that he (and they) would use wisdom in speaking the gospel to the lost. While God opens doors for the gospel, we must be wise, prudent, and gracious in choosing our words. Time is precious, so use it properly. Doors of spiritual opportunity are too often closed by impulsive words and unwise actions. So, let us work on aligning our motive (“to answer each one”) with well-placed, gracious words of truth. When we do, we trust God will work through us for His glory (Phil. 2:12-13).
26 Help me, O Lord my God! Oh, save me according to Your mercy, 27 That they may know that this is Your hand— That You, Lord, have done it! (Psalm 109:26–27, NKJV)
David had enemies who terrorized him and wanted him dead. King Saul was chief among this number (1 Sam. 18:25, 28; 19:1; 20:30-33). Psalm 109 is David’s plea to the Lord to hold his enemies accountable for their sins against him. They had spoken deceit and lies against David (109:2). Hatred consumed them, driving them to fight against him unjustly (109:3). They had rewarded his love and prayers with hateful accusations and threats (109:4-5). David’s prayer calls for divine retribution against these evildoers (109:6-20). Without context, it sounds harsh. In truth, it is his earnest supplication for God to bring judgment upon them for their evil works. God’s judgments are according to truth. They are righteous and applied impartially according to our conduct (Rom. 2:1-11). David did not repay their evil with revenge. He left the matter in God’s hands, who saved him from trouble (2 Sam. 24:6-7, 9-12). David was confident God in mercy would save him (Psa. 138:7). David was sure his enemies would be able to see God’s power at work in the deliverance he would receive from God’s hand. God worked to deliver David in answer to his prayers. God still works in our lives to answer prayers when we depend on His presence, power, mercy, and deliverance (1 Jno. 3:21-22; 5:14-15).
5 Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. 6 Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one. (Colossians 4:5–6, NKJV)
Wisdom is the application of known truth, at the right time and in the right measure. It is the use of spiritual discernment, in love and knowledge, to advance the excellent things of righteousness that glorify God and approve us in His sight (Philippians 1:9-11). When we flavor our words with graciousness we walk in wisdom by making the most of our opportunities toward the lost. Like food seasoned with salt, wisdom learns when and how to answer those who are outside of Christ (as well as fellow Christians) so that our opportunity to teach and persuade others is maximized. Put simply, we have an obligation to give gracious answers to others. Wisdom knows this, and helps us speak so as to enhance, not disrupt, our chance to communicate truth to others. Unless we season our words with grace we fail to redeem our opportunity to help someone follow Jesus.
So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. (Romans 1:15, NKJV)
Paul was eager to preach the gospel to the Christians in Rome. Not every Christian is a gospel preacher, like Paul (2 Timothy 1:11). But, every Christian must “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15). To do that, the apostle Peter said we must sanctify (set apart) in our hearts Christ as Lord. We must recognize Christ as our supreme authority. His word rules us. He is the one to whom we submit our hearts and our lives. His word sustains our hope in Him. His word supplies the reasons we give in defense of our hope. So, we be learning and living the gospel (Hebrews 5:12-14). What we preach with our words and by our lives, shows whether we have set apart Jesus Christ in our hearts as Lord. Be sure Jesus rules in your heart. His word must prevail over everything you think and do. Proclaim His gospel with your words and by your actions. Otherwise, you have not yet sanctified Him in your heart as Lord. As such, you are unprepared to preach the gospel to others.
13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; (1 Peter 3:13–15, NKJV)
Peter does not say Christians will be free from harm when we follow what is good. On the contrary, suffering for the sake of righteousness will happen. God blesses the Christian who endures such troubles and threats (cf. Matt. 5:10-12). Just as God assured Isaiah that He was his “sanctuary” (holy abode and sure protection) in the face of opposition, so the Lord is for us (v. 14; Isa. 8:12-14). As you “sanctify Christ as Lord in your heart” (NASB), you will be equipped with the necessary faith to be prepared to give an answer for your hope in Christ. So that, even when you suffer for what is good, you will not grow weary. If Christ is not Lord of your life, then you will not long endure suffering for the sake of what is right. Instead of faltering when defamed for being a Christian, let us say with Paul, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2 Tim. 1:12).
1 Hear my prayer, O Lord, and let my cry come to You. 2 Do not hide Your face from me in the day of my trouble; Incline Your ear to me; In the day that I call, answer me speedily. (Psalm 102:1–2, NKJV)
Burdensome trials are common to us all as we travel through life; none of us are immune from the pains and sorrows of the flesh. Those who live by faith face the additional stresses and strains brought on by seeing and hearing the lawless deeds of the wicked (2 Peter. 2:8). Yet, just as God “delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked”, the Lord knows how to “deliver the godly out of temptations” (2 Pet. 2:7, 9). One way He does so is by hearing and answering the fervent prayers of the righteous. The Lord hears the cries of His people. He sends forth His goodwill from His throne of grace to help us in time of need (Heb. 4:16). God is our “very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1). Do not forget to pray, and do not fail to trust that God will hear and answer your prayers (1 Jno. 5:14-15).
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us… (Ephesians 3:20, NKJV)
Because God is omnipotent, our prayers ought to acknowledge this essential attribute of His deity. Faith in His power should influence how we pray. God can bring to pass whatever He chooses is consistent with His will (1 Jno. 5:14-15). Although God has limited Himself with regard to present-day miracles, He still works providentially. Therefore, let us make sure we pray to God like He is God, not like He is a man. Ask for the things that seem impossible to us, pray for the things that our power alone could never bring to pass. By doing this, we treat God like the God that He is: “able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”
Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us (Ephesians 3:20, NKJV)
Although our petitions to God are often limited in scope and momentary in time, God is limitless in His ability to act on our behalf. God’s ability to answer our prayers is beyond measure, and is the very power that works in us (Eph. 3:17). Since Christ dwells in our hearts “through faith,” we can only conclude that God powerfully answers our prayers in harmony with His powerful word, which anchors our faith (Rom. 10:17). God’s word assures Christians that He works according to His will: “if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us…we have the petitions that we have asked of Him” (1 Jno. 5:14-15). Remember to whom you pray: there is none like Him. “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power and the glory, the victory and the majesty; For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours” (1 Chron. 29:11). God is able to powerfully answer our prayers far beyond our ability to ask or think. And so, like incense, our prayers confidently ascend before the throne of God (Rev. 8:3-4).
It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear. (Isaiah 65:24, NKJV)
God is never far from His faithful ones. He has always been “a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1). In today’s verse, Christians have a prophetic reminder that God gives abundant attention to our prayers. God’s ready interest and awareness of His children is one of the spiritual blessings we possess in Christ as citizens of “heavenly Jerusalem” (the church, Eph. 1:3; Heb. 12:22-23). Our Father in heaven is so attentive to our needs that He knows what they are before we ask Him (Matt. 6:8). Rather than this preventing prayer, it heightens our trust that “the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are open to their cry (Psa. 34:15; 1 Pet. 3:12). Our faith rests solidly on His unwavering love and care; we are “anxious for nothing” (Phil. 4:6). The Lord is always near. He already knows your need—better than you do. He promises to answer when you speak to Him. So, come boldly before His throne of grace to “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).