The Herald Weekly Vol XV : 53

Be Thankful

The last day or night of the year always brings on reflective or nostalgic feelings. It is a time of recalling the things that happened in the last 12 months, and reflecting on how God has enabled us to cope with the journey through the year. As we look back, we are urged to give thanks to the Lord our God … and to give thanks with a grateful heart.

Heb 13:15-16 urges us to give thanks:
“By Him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name. But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.”

Thanksgiving to God should be done continually. Our lips should be reminded not to complain, to indulge in idle talk or gossip, but be used to give thanks to God. God will be pleased with our offering of thanksgiving on our lips than when we ostentatiously bring our gifts to Him.

The early Pilgrims who left England to look for better homes suffered much during their long journey across the seas before they landed on the New Americas in December 1620. Many lost loved ones on that hazardous voyage, and found that they had no food in the midst of cold winters. Many more died as diseases wiped them out. They could have complained but they gave thanks to the Lord. They befriended the native Indians and learnt farming. Toil and suffering gave way to thanksgiving. They did not dwell on their losses, but gave thanks to God for new hope and new life in the new land.

What have you gone through this year – sickness, suffering or loss? If you continue to dwell on these things, life is not going to get better. But if you turn to God for help and give thanks in gratitude to Him for seeing you through all these, you will find hope and more strength in Christ to help you cope with the hardships of life.

We can learn from the Apostle Paul’s life. After he declared his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, he encountered many trials. Some Christians doubted his conversion, especially after seeing how he used to persecute the Christians and put them into prison. When he became a missionary, there were a few who desired for the power he had to heal, but there were others who rejected him and threw him and his fellow-missionary out of their city. At the end of his life, he was sent to Rome to be tried by the Roman Emperor, and encountered a huge storm in the Mediterranean Sea. Acts 27 recounts how he stood out in faith in God, and helped the soldiers and other prisoners to survive the shipwreck. In the midst of all that suffering, Paul took bread and gave thanks. Sharing a simple meal together helped them to be grateful towards God for protecting them and providing for their needs.

Be Watchful, Be Prayerful

Andrew Murray says: “Watchmen are ordinarily placed on the walls of a city to give notice to the rulers of coming danger. God appoints watchmen not only to warn men – often they will not hear – but also to summon Him to come to their aid whenever need or the enemy may be threatening. The great mark of the intercessors are that they are not to hold their peace day or night, to take no rest, and to give God no rest, until the deliverance comes. In faith they may count upon the assurance that God will answer their prayers.”

Jesus said: “Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.” (Matt 21:36)

He told His disciples to “watch and pray” when they went into the Garden of Gethsemane before He was betrayed by Judas. He said: “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matt 26:41)

As the year 2017 comes to a close, we need to be watchful and prayerful. Why?

1. Believers are to be fore warned.

As watchmen in the Lord, we watch what is happening around us, and are forewarned that changes in society will affect us as followers of Christ.

Christ knew that His enemies (the chief priests and soldiers) would be coming to take Him away. He also knew that His followers would scatter out of fear of the authorities. They would be afraid to be associated with Him for fear that they too would be arrested.

In recent times, many Christians in some countries face lots of difficulties in order to follow Jesus. They cannot declare their faith in the Lord Jesus publicly, neither can they share freely about their Saviour Jesus Christ. Yet, they persevere in their love, worship and service to God because they have been forewarned of suffering for their beliefs. Philippians 1:29 says, “For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake.”

The Apostle Paul was always warning the believers:

“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (Eph 6:11)

“Set your affections on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col 3:2)

“Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.” (Col 4:2)

“Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering…not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” (Heb 10:23,25)

2. Believers are to take action.

When things get difficult, what do we do? Do we leave the church, or give up our faith? When we see other believers backsliding or continuing in their sin, what do we do? Do we judge and condemn them?

We can react in several ways: flight, fight or take steps to be in control of the difficult situation. One may think that action means to get up and do something that others can see. But, action can also mean to go to God in prayer. When Paul got news of others who were suffering, he would pray for them. He would also appeal to other believers to help – in prayer or in kind. In the face of persecution, trials and temptations, Paul urged Christians to spend more time in prayer.

Why is there a need to pray?

a) Prayer teaches us to lean on God.

Whenever the Apostle Paul faced hardships he would turn to God for help. His epistles to different churches often reminded the believers to pray. “Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me…” (Rom 15:30). Paul prayed for himself, and for those he ministered to. Paul urged the Christians to pray for themselves and for others as well.

“Be careful for nothing: but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:16-7)

“Pray without ceasing…In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thes 5:17-18)

“Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” (Eph 6:18-19)

b) Prayer is our protection against the evil around us

Paul urged the Roman Christians to pray for him to be delivered from those who do not believe (Rom 15:31). Paul needed prayer – so that he would be able to survive in the midst of attack from non-believers, as well as believers who were jealous of his service to God. Paul survived all these because many were praying for him, and calling on God to help him. Thus, we need to pray for those who live in countries where it is hard for them to live as Christians.

Many evil deeds are taking place in society. Many are asking to be recognized for their gay tendencies, even in the church. Satan is deceiving us into believing that we can be Christians and need not give up our secret sins or sinful tendencies. We are told to love the sinner, but hate the sin. Love the sinners, and excuse them for what they are inclined to do behind us.

Many believers are beginning to choose to lead immoral lives because they think it is alright. There are those who live with partners who are not their legal spouse and think it is acceptable. Many young people think it is okay to go on vacations with their boy or girlfriends because others are doing it, and it is cheaper to share a bed than have separate rooms for couples who are not married yet. But the Bible clearly says: “Flee fornication (1 Cor 6:18)…Flee youthful lusts…” ( 2 Tim 2:22). Have they not been taught or forewarned. No! Many have grown up in the church, but still choose to go against God’s Word. Many are being challenged to compromise in their faith in Christ.

As fellow-believers, we have an important role to be watchful, and prayerful. We need to be discerning and lead others back to the fold. We need to support them in prayer as the evil one attacks them at every angle. When we pray, the Holy Spirit will work in their lives. He will warn them of impending dangers; He will teach them and bring all truth to their minds. He will help them fight against the wiles of the devil. We cannot fight spiritual battles on our own. We need the Holy Spirit to help us.

Beloved, let us be thankful, be watchful and prayerful in the year ahead.

Pastor Bob Phee

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