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).
3 I thank God, whom I serve with a pure conscience, as my forefathers did, as without ceasing I remember you in my prayers night and day, 4 greatly desiring to see you, being mindful of your tears, that I may be filled with joy, 5 when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also. (2 Timothy 1:3–5, NKJV)
Tears and joy. Timothy shed tears as his beloved father in the faith was imprisoned in Rome. Death was near (2 Tim. 4:6, 17-18). Would Timothy arrive in time to see Paul one last time (2 Tim. 4:9)? We do not know. Yet, Paul did not dwell on his departure except to say it was near, he was ready, and the Lord would deliver him (2 Tim. 4:6-8, 16-18). He focused on the joy of seeing Timothy’s face again and on the deep faith that sustained his companion, brother, and friend. Comforted by knowing Paul prayed continually for him, we are sure Timothy went to Rome as quickly as possible (2 Tim. 4:9, 21). Life brings times of sadness, pain, loss, and sorrow. Prayers and memories of lives lived faithfully see us through the vale of tears and sustain us with a joy no one can take from us (Jno. 16:22). Remembering the faith of Timothy, Eunice, and Lois comforted Paul. No doubt, Timothy remembered Paul’s pure conscience and faithful service. So it is between fellow-Christians when life fades and eternity’s light grows brighter. Read 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 with tears and joy. “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psa. 126:5). As when God restored the captivity of Zion, so it will be when He gathers His faithful ones to glory (Psa. 126:1-4). Tears will be replaced with joy forevermore.
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).
1 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may run swiftly and be glorified, just as it is with you, 2 and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have faith. (2 Thessalonians 3:1–2, NKJV)
The effectiveness of prayer was not an afterthought to Christians of the New Testament age (Jas. 5:16). The apostle Paul often asked brethren to pray for him, and he repeatedly prayed for his fellow Christians (1 Thess. 3:10; Eph. 6:18-19; Phil. 1:9; Col. 1:3, 9; 4:3). In today’s passage, Paul asked for specific prayers, something we ought to do, too. First, he asked for prayers that God’s word would triumph in its purposes (saving the lost and strengthening the saved, v. 1). The gospel was achieving these purposes in their lives (1 Thess. 1:2-9; 2 Thess. 1:3-4). We are confident they joined Paul in praying the gospel would win the race and be honored as other souls believed and obeyed Jesus (Rom. 1:16-17). Second, Paul asked them to pray for mutual deliverance from faithless, unreasonable, and wicked people (v. 2). Like the currents of a flowing river, forces of evil try to sweep us away and drown us in error and sin’s corruption. The Lord is active and faithful to rescue us and guard us against the evil one and his cohorts as we do what His apostles command (2 Thess. 3:3-4). May we offer such prayers daily.
6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, 7 casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6–7, NKJV)
Every day has its share of cares and troubles (Matt. 6:34). How do we handle them? Do they discourage us unto despair? Do they weaken our faith in God? Do they immobilize our walk with Christ? Peter said to cast all our care (anxiety, distractions) on God because He cares for us. But how? How do Christians cast our cares upon a caring God? 1) By replacing our pride with humility (v. 6). God “resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (1 Pet. 5:5). As long as we rebel against God’s help, we will grope helplessly in the dark for relief that never satisfies our soul. 2) By patiently waiting on the Lord (v. 6). Humility prompts faithful endurance in the face of life’s distractions and obstacles (1 Pet. 2:20; 4:12-13). God works on His timetable. It is good for us that He does (2 Pet. 3:9, 14-15). We cast our care on Him by obeying His will as our way of life. 3) By resisting the devil with sober vigilance (1 Pet. 5:8-9). Our adversary tempts us to make mountains out of molehills and forget the mighty hand of God that protects us. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psa. 46:1). We must flee to His refuge, rely on His strength, resist the devil, and remain “steadfast in the faith” (1 Pet. 5:9). 4) Pray without ceasing (Phil. 4:6-7). God’s peace protects the heart and lives of those who trust Him and follow His way of truth. These are just some of the ways we throw all our care on Almighty God. “Have faith in God” (Mk. 11:22).
1 Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 2 Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: 3 Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, 4 Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, 5 Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (Psalm 103:1–5, NKJV)
David calls upon his soul to kneel before the Lord God with thankful praise and salutation of His holiness and His merciful treatment. God’s benefits (His treatment) toward Israel foreshadowed His unceasing care for His church. His benefits toward us are boundless, deserving our grateful acknowledgment with all that is within us. He gives us the “every spiritual blessing” in Christ, beginning with the forgiveness of our iniquities (Eph. 1:3, 7; 2:1-7). God also cares about our physical welfare, providing healing and comfort for the ailing and weak (Jas. 5:14). God protects us from many dangers as we seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matt. 6:31-33; Rom. 8:31-39). Even as He feeds the birds, He certainly provides our daily bread (Matt. 6:26, 11). May we be strengthened daily by the calm assurance that our heavenly Father rules His world. His providence enriches our lives, calling for our undivided allegiance, gratitude, and praise.
9 And the patriarchs, becoming envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him and delivered him out of all his troubles, 10 and gave him favor and wisdom in the presence of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and he made him governor over Egypt and all his house. (Acts 7:9–10, NKJV)
The providence of God unfolds before our eyes in the life of Joseph (Gen. 37-50). God did not create the world and then lay it up in a display case to watch what would happen next. While God has undoubtedly intervened in the affairs of this world with miracles by suspending natural processes and occurrences, He has also arranged His world in such a way that He operates in it through the course of natural events. The life of Joseph is an example of God’s providence. God was actively involved in Joseph’s life through its day to day events. In today’s passage, Stephen said God was with Joseph and delivered him, gave him favor and wisdom, and made him governor over Egypt and Pharaoh’s house. These verbs (delivered, gave, made) show God was at work, not against the free will of men and women, but through their choices and actions. God used the envy of Joseph’s brother to bring about good (Gen. 50:20). He used natural, cyclical seasons of bounty and famine to execute His plan to elevate Joseph and to save Israel. Even now, God hears and answers the prayers of the righteous, not by injecting miracles into the natural world, but by carrying out His purposes through the operation of the world according to His design and sovereign care (Jas. 5:16-18; 1:17).
45 Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, 46 saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house is a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a ‘den of thieves.’” (Luke 19:45–46, NKJV)
The corruption of God’s house of prayer is on full display as Christ’s indignation raged against those who had turned temple worship into an oppressive and lucrative business enterprise (Matt. 21:12-13). Jesus used Isaiah 56:7 to expose and condemn their unholy treatment of God’s house and God’s people. Now, the church is God’s holy temple (Eph. 2:19-22). Despite Christ’s pointed warning against defiling God’s house, people continue to defile God’s house of prayer, the church. The reconfiguration of the church constitutes a departure from the faith the Spirit expressly warned would happen (1 Tim. 4:1-3; Gal. 1:6-10). Over time, the church’s worship became polluted with rites and rituals not found in the covenant of Christ. The church’s organization was turned into an ecclesiastical hierarchy ruling over independent congregations of saints. The church’s work became contaminated by material pursuits as people made merchandise of the gospel (2 Cor. 2:17). Jesus does not look on approvingly while the will and wisdom of men corrupt His church (Col. 2:8, 20-23). The church does not belong to us; it belongs to Christ. Christ’s gospel continues to disrupt the innovations that defile God’s house under the guise of progress and advancement (1 Tim. 6:20-21; 2 Jno. 9).
9 And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank. 10 Now there was a certain disciple at Damascus named Ananias; and to him the Lord said in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 So the Lord said to him, “Arise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire at the house of Judas for one called Saul of Tarsus, for behold, he is praying. (Acts 9:9–11, NKJV)
An important question arises from the aftermath of Saul’s encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-8). Saul asked, “Lord, what do you want me to do?” and was told to “go into the city, and you will be told what you must do,” to which he complied (Acts 9:6-8). Here is the question: If Saul was saved when Jesus appeared to him on the road, why did Ananias ask him, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord?” (Acts 22:16) The answer is obvious. After three days of blindness, fasting, and praying, Saul was still in need of his sins being cleansed. Although fasting, Saul’s repentance was not all he needed to be forgiven. Although praying, Saul’s prayers did not constitute “calling on the name of the Lord” to be saved. However, when his faith compelled Saul to arise and be baptized, his sins were washed away by the blood of Jesus (Rom. 6:3). This is how sinners are saved today. Not by miracles. Not by faith alone, repentance alone, prayer alone, or baptism alone. Do you have the faith to do all Jesus commands so your sins will be washed away?