Praying Prayers of Paul for the Church You Love
This week, take this prayer of the Apostle Paul and use it as a prompt to pray for North Wake.
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, ~ Philippians 1:3-4
Meditation For Preparation
Warning: Maturity is Not an Option
Read Hebrews 5:11-6:8
Even though it was 17 years ago this month, I can remember the very class session almost as though it were yesterday. The class was called Unity of the Bible, Dr. Daniel Fuller was the teacher, and for the first time I was confronted with the biblical fact that one of the ways God causes us to persevere in faith and be saved is by warning us that we could make shipwreck of our faith and be lost.
Or to put it another way, I had never been shown from Scripture that God graciously warns us that we could drift away and be lost; and that he does this precisely in order to strengthen our assurance that we will not drift away and be lost. And if you are today like I was then, something inside you may be saying, "My assurance and hope are not particularly helped by being told that I might drift away from God and be lost."
How Our Need for Hope and Strength Is Met
Do you see what is at issue here? We all come to the Bible with needs for hope and encouragement and strength. And the Bible stands ready to meet those needs. But we also come with a set of expectations —sometimes learned from our culture — as to how those needs are to be met. Like patients coming to the doctor with prescriptions already written in their pockets which we expect the doctor to sign for us.
If, then, the Bible takes a radically different approach to meeting our need for hope and encouragement and strength, we have to make a very crucial choice: will we reject the biblical prescription and go to another doctor who will endorse our prescription for hope? Or will we humbly admit that God knows us better than we know ourselves—loves us more than we love ourselves—and look patiently for the wisdom in his prescription and counsel?
That's where I was, and that is where some of you are. Eager to attain the spiritual health of assurance and hope, but very skeptical that the prescription of Hebrews 6 is of any help.
Picture a gymnast part way through his floor routine, starting to get fatigued, and with the fatigue starting to feel uncertain that he could complete his routine. He springs into a high double back flip. He is almost overcome by a panic that he can't pull it out.
The coach has seen this coming and knows that there are two things (or three as we will see today) that this gymnast needs. He needs immediate help to get down without breaking his neck. And he needs counsel about his sloughing off in practice.
1. An Urgent Cry
To get him down the coach shouts, "Find the floor!" Which means, Look to Jesus. He is firm and sure and gives hope and strength. Jesus gives us our equilibrium in panicky situations. We saw this from Hebrews 11:2; 3:1.
2. Serious Counsel
Then after the competition is over the coach tells him that one of the reasons he got into trouble was failure to put the basics into regular exercise. We saw this in Hebrews 5:14. "Solid food [more advanced gymnastic training] is for the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to distinguish good from evil." In other words, this gymnast—this church—had not been putting his faith into daily practice. And when the organ of faith is not used, it begins to die. And its faculties of discernment become dull and sluggish. And when the faculties of split-second discernment become dull, a gymnast begins to lose his confidence, and when a well-founded confidence begins to go, a terrible accident may be in the offing.
3. A Grave Warning
Which brings us to the third thing that the coach gives to his gymnast. The first was the urgent cry: Look to Jesus! He is a great Savior! The second was the serious counsel: go back to the beginning and exercise the organ of faith every day in little things and big things. And now third the coach gives a grave warning to the gymnast: if you ignore my counsel and continue on in this neglect, you will become weaker and weaker and one of these days you are going to break your neck and never compete again.
And when the coach says that, it is not because he desires the ruin of his gymnast. He tells us very specifically what his desire for the gymnast is in 6:11–12—he wants him to have assurance and hope and confidence. He wants him (v. 12) to have patient endurance. And he wants him to inherit the gold medal in the last day.
Adapted from John Piper. Sermon April 24, 1988 http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/put-on-your-priestly-robe