Are you combative, aggressive, meeting life these days with angry words and attitudes? Anger is abundant in America and I am not just talking about the protests in the streets. Who among us has not reacted to life with a sense of outrage … How could he? What was she thinking? That is the most idiotic idea! Sometimes the expressions are much more ‘colorful’ than I would care to repeat in this blog.
Anger can be useful but, like an explosive, it can wound and destroy, too. When properly focused and kept under control, anger motivates us to make change, to get involved, to resist wrongs. Are you mad at the right things?
I hope that your convictions are deep enough that anger is stirred when you see injustice. I hope you love God enough to hate sin as He does. I hope you are passionate about owning eternal riches enough to reject the seductions of the devil and the trinkets he offers to you. Christian, we need to be capable of actually getting mad at Hell. AND, we need to use that anger in a way that Christ desires.
My Scripture meditation took me to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians again today. He reminds us of our grace heritage, of the Spirit’s work on our behalf, and in his closing lines asks us power up!
“A final word: Be strong with the Lord’s mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies and tricks of the Devil. For we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits in the heavenly realms.
Use every piece of God’s armor to resist the enemy in the time of evil, so that after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the sturdy belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News, so that you will be fully prepared. In every battle you will need faith as your shield to stop the fiery arrows aimed at you by Satan. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:10-18, NLT)
Perhaps you are thinking, “How very medieval of you, Jerry, to blame demons for our problems.” Whatever you may want to believe, the Bible is quite clear that evil is real, personal and active. There are not two gods, One good; one evil. Scripture reveals to us that the Devil is a created being, a powerful spiritual being who hates all things God and good. His agents (demons) act to kill and destroy, albeit, usually hidden behind the scenes. Christians must pray to be discerning so that their efforts for Christ are like a guided missile and every resource has maximum effect.
Christians are wary of such militant language, for good reason. Much harm has been done in the Name of Christ by people who got angry at the wrong things and sought the destruction of the wrong people. (Think Crusades, Inquisitions, Salem witch trials, and Falwell’s Moral Majority) Our true enemy, the Word reminds us, is not other people – regardless of what we think about them. We are engaged in battle with powerful spiritual beings who are deployed to resist and destroy what God loves.
Paul starts that revealing passage by urging us to put on the protective armor God provides – truth, His ‘righteousness’ that is being in close relationship with Him, the peace of Christ that keeps us from debilitating shame and guilt, and faith that shields us. We must understand that we are saved from sin, by the gift of God’s grace. This new identity leads to transformation of character and is like a helmet that protects our thinking processes. We are equipped to meet the falsehoods that deceive others because we have the Word of God. What He speaks to our mind and heart becomes a sword that cuts down the lying spirits that advance against us.
And then there is this – which we must NOT FORGET. “Pray at all times and on every occasion in the power of the Holy Spirit. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all Christians everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:18, NLT) Pray, pray, pray, and then pray again. Yes, this is the way that we wage war in pursuit of the Kingdom objectives. If the only prayers we know are the childish ones like now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, or the selfish ones – God bless me, my kids, my friends. Amen we will not be very effective in dealing with those spiritual forces that want to destroy us. If we only say prayers in church or on special days, or mumble our way through some sentimental thoughts as we drift off to sleep, our powerlessness in the face of evil will match our prayerlessness.
Prayer is real work that involves heart and mind, that demands discipline, a constant engagement with the Spirit on behalf of the world around us. Yes, the Word says we are to ‘pray without ceasing.’ We pray while we work, while we relax, when we are upset, when we are thankful – in short, all the time. A glimpse of the practicality of prayer is found where Jesus says “when someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer for that person.” (Luke 6:28) Prayer is not an escape from the world, as some would see it. It is a primary way that Christians bring God’s will to bear on the world in which they live. “May Your will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.”
If you don’t know how to pray, just start. Prayers are not effective because they are eloquent or long. God seeks people who desire Him, who will pursue Him, whose lives are a conversation with Him. This is the heart of true prayer. How we pray will often mirror our personality. Some will pray quietly, some will shout. Some will use many words, some almost none. Our most powerful prayers will not be those we pray in public forums because they are too often addressed to the crowd instead of God. We will defeat evil when we learn to live with our lives hidden in Christ.
Our word from the Word are Jesus’ profound words from Matthew’s Gospel.
“Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace. The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. …”
“This, then, is how you should pray:
”‘Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Matthew 6:9-13, NIV)
Christian, let God make you mad at Hell! Then, pray!
Pray along with this great hymn.
Come Thou fount of ev’ry blessing
Tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing
Call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet
Sung by flaming tongues above
Praise the mount I’m fixed upon it
Mount of Thy redeeming love
Here I raise mine Ebenezer
(a marker stone of an encounter with God set by Jacob)
Hither by Thy help I’m come
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home
Jesus sought me when a stranger
Wand’ring from the fold of God
He to rescue me from danger
Interposed His precious blood
O to grace how great a debtor
Daily I’m constrained to be
Let Thy grace Lord like a fetter
Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee
Prone to wander Lord I feel it
Prone to leave the God I love
Here’s my heart Lord take and seal it
Seal it for Thy courts above
John Wyeth | Robert Robinson © Words: Public Domain