How do you respond to the daily complexities and pain in the world? Do you jump right in to help? Do you bury yourself in other things? Andy Shudall reminds us that God was here before any troubles, and he remains faithful - will we remain dependent on God? Roland Peapell provides some thoughts on prayer as part of this reflection.
So today, as I write, I’m thinking about employment issues and finances, parenting, our church building project, growing small groups, and how a couple of words in one Bible verse really make it tough to understand. I am trying to make sense of the world in the light of the shootings in the Orlando gay nightclub, the numbers of men, women, and children who are drowning in the Mediterranean Sea each week, the challenges of Auckland housing and homelessness, the cruelties of civil wars, the US presidential elections that will impact the world, and the health and food emergencies throughout Africa and Latin America.
Oh Father God,who sees through darkness as though it were the brightest day, Holy Spirit, who hovers over the chaos and brings order, Lord Jesus, who brought hope and life through your death and resurrection; This broken world needs to be known by you, ordered by you, loved by you. May your kingdom come today as in a future day, here as in heaven.
It is a strengthening comfort to know that God sees through the complexities and understands the truth - thankfully he isn’t new to being God! Because I don’t know about you, but I struggle to know how to face some of the complexities and pain in our world, and when left to our own devices, some of our responses are not necessarily helpful.
One option is that we retreat to that which is in front of us and look no further, as if God is only the god of our experience, our neighbourhood, and our understanding. Or, we try and make-believe that the world is different by creating domestic and personal bliss - as if the happiest music, nice things for the house, and cars, boats, houses, and jobs might deliver the ideal life; or at least keep the pain of the world at bay.
Taking this mindset down a more destructive path, we might turn to alcohol or drugs to numb the pain, or make compromised relationship or financial choices to try to feel better.
Alternatively, we could take the moral high ground: it is common to want to feel in control and in hoping for a world that is different from the one that presents itself to us each day, maybe we think, “If I were in charge, there’d be no...” as if we are more loving, compassionate, insightful, and willing to act, than God.
Or maybe, if we look deep down, we think it is simply that some are blessed and some are not, and that’s just the way it is, as if somehow some deserve comforts and others miss out.
Facing all the sin and suffering in the world, in our own strength and resources, totally overwhelms us. The volume of brokenness in our own hearts, neighbourhoods, and wider world is brought before us starkly by the information superhighway and we are left stranded on the footpath, watching speeding stories from all kinds of sources.
Back to the start
“In the beginning when God...” – these are the Bible’s first words, and the first words that John the gospel writer wants us to know about Jesus. It all begins with Jesus. He is our foundation and our frame of reference; our first steps begin in him. Existence begins in his being, and creation has its genesis in his will and word. Wisdom originates in his character. Knowledge is founded on his knowing. Life itself is given by him, from him, for his glory.
"He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything" (Colossians 1: 15-18).
We, all of us, are utterly dependent on him – he created us and the world we live in. Everything is under God’s care and seen by his gaze.
You see the sitting and the lying down of the billions, You see the setting and the rising sun of all our days, You mark our going and coming, our speaking and our silence. We cannot run from you, or hide from your all-seeing sight.
You hear our unspoken thoughts and understand our living and dying.You count our breaths, number our days and even know the hairs on our heads. Give us today that which we need, show us righteous paths, and make us weak enough to depend on you, and strong enough to flee our wrong desires.
We need to be dependent on him in our responses to the difficulties in our world. We are created to know him first, and in knowing him, to think and act in light of his thoughts, his word, and his ways. We are called to turn away from believing in ourselves and instead turn to Christ. We are called to follow Christ, who makes God known and solely gives sinful people the right to be called the children of God.
We need to allow ourselves to be disturbed by the complexities and pain in our world; disturbed to a level that we engage, pray, and follow God’s lead. Because it is as we engage with God that we remember who we are, who God is, and in this place, we can be comforted, empowered, and set free to proclaim his hope.
Oh true God overall gods, Give me eyes and ears and a heart for your word. You who has endless love and wisdom, open my mind to understand truth. Oh ever living one, breathe life into me again.
Story: Andy Shudall
Andy is the senior pastor at Titirangi Baptist Church.
Prayer is our Anchor
There has been a lot written about prayer and for good reason: prayer can be confusing and sometimes we don’t know what to pray! Let’s take a look at it.
The Bible has so many references to prayer, in all forms. Why might this be? Well, prayer is our personal soul language that we use to communicate with God. Prayer is the anchor for our souls. Prayer doesn’t need fancy language; it is what I call ‘anytime language.’ Anytime, anywhere. God knows all and he is interested in the real us, so be honest – talk to God if it’s been a stink day. Bring simple, honest heart prayers in your soul language to God.
I believe prayer is about exalting God for who he is. We can all fall into the trap of trying to exalt ourselves, but in prayer, we come first to exalt God. Jesus started off his teaching about prayer by exalting God: “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name” (Matthew 6:9). I find it can be easy to forget about thanking God, but this is also part of remembering who he is.
In prayer, we create space where God can change us (it isn’t about us trying to change God). But in thinking about this, it is important to point out that our prayers may not always bring the outcome we expect: we can’t fence God in. Ray Anderson writes: “Prayer is not a means of removing the unknown and unpredictable elements in life, but rather a way of including the unknown and unpredictable in the outworking of the grace of God in our lives.”(1)
Finally, and really importantly for us, we need to not get too distracted with doing things: the doing needs to make room for prayer. We can get so busy, even doing good things, that we leave prayer in the background. So ask yourself, does prayer have the central place in your life and your church?
Story: Roland Peapell
Roland is an elder at Napier Baptist Church who enjoys writing from life experiences to help others in their Christian walk.
- Ray S. Anderson. 1991. The Gospel According to Judas. Colorado Springs. Helmers & Howard.
- Where have you found yourself overwhelmed?
- What does your response to bad news or the flood of information from the media and the web tell you about yourself?
- What place does God have in your response?
- Take time to think about this phrase: “We need to allow ourselves to be disturbed by the complexities and pain in our world; disturbed to a level that we engage, pray, and follow God’s lead.”
- Roland talks about prayer using ‘anytime language.’ Have a look at the prayer from Matthew 6 and consider using this through your day in your ‘anytime language.’
- What is God calling you to do in everyday patterns of living to fulfil his answer to your prayers?
Photo Credit: Shaun Menary/lightstock.com
Scripture: Unless otherwise specified, Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.