Posts Tagged ‘seeking God’s will’

Joshua 13:1-7 (Part 2 of 2)

The Land Yet to Be Conquered

 

One of the mantras of organizational planning is to decide where you want to end up and then work your way back to now. That means that we must decide what our target is for the future so that we measure all our steps from now on how to get to that target. For example, on a personal level, if you want to retire at age 62 (instead of 67) and you are in your mid-fifties now, you must plan now how you are going to do that. You must take the necessary steps to acquire sufficient wealth to allow you be retired five more years than would normally be the case. You must plan on living on less social security each month because you will be retiring five years earlier. The social security folks do that so that you benefits will last five additional years. There are other steps that each of must take now to retire and live in a manner that we desire. You can’t just keep living as if you are not going to need money when you retire regardless of how old you are. So many people do not really plan for retirement and thus struggle mightily to adjust to their new financial picture when they do retire. As in all things, God knows our future but we have to participate in it by doing what we need to do be prepared.

 

The same thing is true for me when comes to the financial future of our church. We must understand where we want our ministries at church to be five years from now so that we can plan now on how we are going to get there. Our senior/founding pastor at LifeSong has challenged us over the next six weeks to identify what we think our ministries will look like in five years. We need to dream the dreams that need dreaming. We must figure out where God wants our ministries to be in five years. We must pray. We must seek His will. We must say why not when our typical response is that it cannot be done. We must see the mountain that needs to be climbed. We must believe that God will provide us the way to get it done. For me, he has placed a dream in my heart for the financial/administrative ministry of our church and I want to dream it even if I am like Moses and not there to see it come to fruition. We must all be like that in our ministries. We must dream the dreams for the ministries not for ourselves. We must make sure that our ministry has the fuel to get the bus there regardless of whether we are there or not.

 

What are my dreams for the finance/admin ministry of the church. It all hangs off of one broad statement that is a place I see our church in five years. Everything that I will be doing and planning for the next five years will be in support of that one broad statement. That broad statement is that I want to position our church in a way that it is only 50% dependent on member contributions for its annual revenue. We are not talking reducing tithes in any way but creating new, additional streams of revenue. Right now, our church is 98% dependent on the tithes/offerings and other donations of our members. That other 2% right now comes from bookstore sales and rental income. Thus, this goal of reducing it to 50% is a mighty large goal because we want to grow our tithe/offering donations at least 5% or more each year so to reduce that overall 98% to 50% will take some doing. It will require us doing things that we currently do not do. God has given me a glimpse of how we are to do that but I have got to trust Him and do the individual steps that He knows I need to take to get there.

 

Why is this even a goal? We want our church to survive and thrive in the future. We want our pastors to teach and preach the Word of God without fear of it costing us donations. We most of all want to be able to spread the gospel to the farthest reaches that God leads us to spread it. We want to be able to have the money to do the big dreams that God gives us. We want to send people around the world as missionaries. We want to plant churches in towns where God leads us and give them the support those first 3-5 years that will make them successful. We want to develop ways to reach children and teens with the gospel in new and unique ways. We want to help people in our communities in ways that we cannot currently because of financial limitations. We want to be able to finance helps ministries that we currently cannot. In it all, we want to dream the big dreams and fulfill God’s intentions for our church. We must glorify God in our community and nation and world in the way that He has intended for us.

 

So, it’s about glorifying Him and doing what He leads us to do. This is the plan that He has put on my heart for our church. God is leading me to take the experience that we gained (through a lot of work and hard knocks) in developing our financial reporting structures at LifeSong and export that to other churches. We will be providing benefits mainly to small and medium sized churches that are now simply operating their churches out of checkbooks. Before we developed our financial reporting systems at LifeSong, we had no clue as to where we were or how we were performing. Budgets were stabs in the dark because we had no clue what we were spending on what. God is leading me to help other churches develop financial reporting systems that are meaningful to their own church. There are packages out that churches can buy that churches have to adapt to but what we did was center our financial reporting structures around the main ministries of our church. Everything revolves around the main emphases, or four stakes of ministry of our church (Missions, Discipleship, Children/Youth, Sunday Morning Worship). It was a pretty massive undertaking that I won’t bore you with here, but these were necessary things to identify the assets and liabilities of the church and to have a starting point for the financial records. We are now able to manage the church’s finances with a precision unexpected in a church. We want to be able help other churches gain control of their finances and thereby create (1) transparency in church finances and (2) demonstrate that we are good stewards of the resources that God has given us.

 

Another way that God has borne this desire in me is to create a separate corporation, a for-profit corporation in which the church is the sole shareholder. In this way, we can do a couple of things. We can (1) create for-profit businesses that are consistent with the goals and desires of the church but that will make money all of which after reserving funds for capital can pay dividends of the net profits back to the church. An idea of business like this would be to create, say, a local coffeehouse that can be used to be a local business selling coffee and such but also be a meeting place where people can bring their friends that might be intimidated by the church itself and take them there to hear contemporary Christian artists, have biblically based discussion groups and so on, but at the same time it would be a viable for-profit business. The profits from this and other for-profit enterprises could then be paid as dividends to the church and the church could then use the proceeds to fund national missions such as church planting.

 

Two (2), we can create a separate 501(c)3 community development corporation where we can seek donations from corporations that will not give directly to churches and then use those donations to meet needs in our communities in such a way that hopefully we could fund all of our local community outreach activities through these donations – which would then all tithes and offering to more enhance the other three stakes of ministry at the church.

 

These are all pretty big dreams for a church that cannot afford to have a full-time finance guy at the moment, but 5 years ago, we were managing the church just out of checkbooks with no real clue how much we were spending on what. That was a big dream just to get our financial reporting systems in place. So, the big dream are not insurmountable when we have God who is giving us the dream and we just obey His leading. He will always give us new land to conquer.

 

That was the thing that struck me when reading this passage for a second time before we move to the next passage in my next blog. That thing was God was already giving Joshua the vision of where He wanted Israel to be down the road before the land was completely conquered to begin with. What? That’s pretty bold. God was already instructing Joshua on dividing up the land before it was even fully conquered. That’s the thing God will give us vision for the next thing before He leads us down that road, but we have to listen, obey, and execute. God will give us the target, it is up to us to shoot. Here is what the passage, Joshua 13:1-7, says:

 

13 When Joshua had grown old, the Lord said to him, “You are now very old, and there are still very large areas of land to be taken over.

 

2 “This is the land that remains: all the regions of the Philistines and Geshurites, 3 from the Shihor River on the east of Egypt to the territory of Ekron on the north, all of it counted as Canaanite though held by the five Philistine rulers in Gaza, Ashdod, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron; the territory of the Avvites 4 on the south; all the land of the Canaanites, from Arah of the Sidonians as far as Aphek and the border of the Amorites; 5 the area of Byblos; and all Lebanon to the east, from Baal Gad below Mount Hermon to Lebo Hamath.

 

6 “As for all the inhabitants of the mountain regions from Lebanon to Misrephoth Maim, that is, all the Sidonians, I myself will drive them out before the Israelites. Be sure to allocate this land to Israel for an inheritance, as I have instructed you, 7 and divide it as an inheritance among the nine tribes and half of the tribe of Manasseh.”

 

Here in this passage, we see that much of the land was unconquered at this point, but it was God’s plan to go ahead and include the unconquered lands in the division among the tribes of Israel. God’s desire was that it would eventually be conquered by the Israelites. God knows the future, and as He leads you He already knows about the victories that lie ahead. But just as the Israelites still had to go to battle and fight, we must still face the trials and fight the battles of our unconquered lands. What are your unconquered lands? What are the challenges that you face? What are the dreams that God has placed in your heart?

 

God has unconquered land for you. We must listen to Him and seek His will. Without seeking His heart, we have no vision. When we do not earnestly seek Him, we will have no idea where to take our ministries. When we do not seek Him, our ministries become about us. The book of Joshua shows us several times what happens we God’s people do not seek His will. Where do you want your ministry to be in five years? And I am not talking about those of us who head up ministries at churches. God has a ministry for each of us. What’s that going to look like in five years? If you don’t know where you are going (having the dream and vision), you will never get there because you will take wrong turns that delay or derail your efforts. Dream the big dreams about what your ministry is for God? How can your turn your job, your hobby, your neighborhood into ministries. What would you do for a ministry if you were not scared? Seek God’s will for your ministry and then dream the big dreams.

 

For those of us who head church ministries, God has a vision for what you are doing? Are you scared that it will take you beyond your comfort zone so you don’t dream? Seek God’s will for your ministry and think about it from a perspective of that it is God’s dream not yours and think about in the frame of mind that you must do what is best for the ministry and not necessarily because of what your strengths or limitations are? Seek God’s will for your ministry. Then, dream the big dreams. God has unconquered land for your ministry. He really does. All we have to do is be willing to listen and say why not, Lord? Let’s do it! Lord, this is all probably beyond what I can do right now but I am trusting you to show me how, what, when and where. When we are submitted to Him totally, He will give us the big dreams. He will give us the next thing. He will give us unconquered territory and the vision to see what it will look like after we have conquered it.

 

Let us be ready. Let us be willing. Let us be submitted. Let us dream God-sized dreams. Let us see Him glorified in the dreams that we dream. Let us plan. Let us execute. Let us already have an idea what the unconquered territory will look like after it is conquered. God will give us the way. God will lead the way. God will make dreams that only God can accomplish come true.

 

What is your unconquered territory? Is God calling you to conquer it? Dream God sized dreams and depend on Him to show you the way.

 

Amen and Amen.

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Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7 (Part 3 of 7)

A Call to Love and Obedience

Have you ever had a conversation with someone or with a group of friends and you say, “Wait a minute! How did we get to talking about this?” You know those wandering conversations that you have friends sometimes. You start out talking about the rivalry between Clemson University and the University of South Carolina and their most recent trends in football and somehow twenty minutes later the conversation is about who will be the Republican nominee for President in 2020. That’s when you have to do, what I call, a conversation audit. You have to follow the audit trail of the conversation back to its beginning and see where the conversation took its twist and turns. The Clemson-South Carolina conversation starter, diverted when someone talked about South Carolina Governor Ms. Nikki Haley being a Clemson graduate, then that turned into a conversation about her being a rising star in the Republican Party, and that became a discussion about what Trump’s presidency means for her political career and those of other rising stars in the party. Then, that became a conversation about how Trump would be a one-termer even if he is a successful president because at the end of four years he will most likely tire of the presidency and move on to something else. Then, it became a conversation about how critical the 2020 election would become because the liberals will be out for blood because of their feeling that the election was stolen from them. Then, that became a conversation about “who are we, chopped liver?” We are the majority of people in the majority of states that voted for Trump and against Clinton. Then, that became a conversation about again how, if we thought 2016 was an important election, then 2020 would be more important when Trump leaves a political vacuum and there most be a moderate Republican in 2020 which drives us back to Nikki Haley which drives us back to Clemson which drives us back to the Clemson-South Carolina rivalry and how it would suck for Gamecock fans to watch Clemson win the national championship in football and then watch a Clemson grad win the presidency in 2020 and see the Tiger paw on the White House for 4 or more years.

 

You see the conversation trail. You see how one person diverted a conversation from a talk about the Clemson-South Carolina football rivalry into a conversation about politics for which it took probably an hour to get back to the original point. Someone with politics on their mind decided to usurp and detour the conversation. That wanted to really talk about the future of the Republican Party after what they assume will be the political vacuum created by Donald Trump when he leaves office after one term. To them, their passion was about how the presidency is simply the next prize for Donald Trump, something to put on his life’s resume. Sure, he tapped into the general population’s angst against the urban liberal control of our minds and thoughts and rode that to the White House. They believe that though Trump was a kick in the pants the political system sorely needed that Trump will be very clunky as president and will get little done. That is why it may dangerous for people to be in his administration. Four years from now, Trump will say, “screw this…I want to go make big huge deals again!” What will that do to the presidential race when this grand experiment ends in 2020. Will it be an even more radicalized Democratic Party out for vengeance or will it be a moderate Republican. Nikki Haley, of course, is a rising in the Party. She’s got to play her cards right over the next 4 years as the UN Ambassador, not if she is confirmed but when, so that she can emerge as one of the political rockets in the 2020 presidential campaign. That’s what the diverter of the conversation had on their heart when they walked in the room and sat down with friends. So, they pounced on the opportunity, to bring up Nikki Haley’s Clemson heritage so as to get to their own agenda for the conversation.

 

Have you ever been a part of a conversation like that? That ended up in a completely different place, a different planet, from where you started. Like I said, that’s when you have to do a conversation audit and figure out the divergent points in the conversation road that led us away from the original point. And, there is that person who turned the conversation away from its original point and place. Conversation stealers! They take the conversation and make it theirs and about what they want to talk about! As Angelah Johnson would say when she plays her character, Bon Qui Qui, “Ruuuude!”

 

I know that this little diddy of mine about conversation stealers and conversation audits and following the conversation trail might seem totally way out in left field when talking about following God, but I think you will understand the demented mind of Mark Bowling after we read this passage again this morning with an eye toward the question, “How do we follow God?”. Let’s read Deuteronomy 10:12-11:7 together today with that in mind:

 

12 And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God ask of you but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, 13 and to observe the Lord’s commands and decrees that I am giving you today for your own good?

 

14 To the Lord your God belong the heavens, even the highest heavens, the earth and everything in it. 15 Yet the Lord set his affection on your ancestors and loved them, and he chose you, their descendants, above all the nations—as it is today. 16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 20 Fear the Lord your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name. 21 He is the one you praise; he is your God, who performed for you those great and awesome wonders you saw with your own eyes. 22 Your ancestors who went down into Egypt were seventy in all, and now the Lord your God has made you as numerous as the stars in the sky.

Love and Obey the Lord

 

11 Love the Lord your God and keep his requirements, his decrees, his laws and his commands always. 2 Remember today that your children were not the ones who saw and experienced the discipline of the Lord your God: his majesty, his mighty hand, his outstretched arm; 3 the signs he performed and the things he did in the heart of Egypt, both to Pharaoh king of Egypt and to his whole country; 4 what he did to the Egyptian army, to its horses and chariots, how he overwhelmed them with the waters of the Red Sea[a] as they were pursuing you, and how the Lord brought lasting ruin on them. 5 It was not your children who saw what he did for you in the wilderness until you arrived at this place, 6 and what he did to Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab the Reubenite, when the earth opened its mouth right in the middle of all Israel and swallowed them up with their households, their tents and every living thing that belonged to them. 7 But it was your own eyes that saw all these great things the Lord has done

 

In this series of blogs, we are talking about how we should relate to God. First, we talked about knowing Him more intimately through prayer. Then, we talked about how we should love God with all we have just as we love our spouses (with that same level of spiritual intimacy). Then, we talked about how we should respect God in awe and reverence and how the comparable earthly representation of that is a good, godly earthly father. Today, we will talk about how to follow God. Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Follow God. Get in line behind Him and follow, right? How often do we screw that up? That simple command – to follow God!

 

We are conversation stealers when it comes to following God. Just like that person that diverted the conversation from the Clemson-South Carolina football rivalry into a conversation about the future of the Republican party after Trump, we hear a word from God and then we take over. We jump in and make it our own and not God’s. In his blog, “How To Follow God’s Will”, at http://www.awmi.net/reading/teaching-articles/follow_will/, Andrew Wommack says,

 

“People often take a word from God, make a paragraph out of it, and are out there in self-will. Or, like Moses, they take the word and try to make it happen without asking God about the timing. I see this all the time. There is a right way and a wrong way to accomplish things. There is God’s way, and there is a selfish way.”

 

How often do you and I steal the conversation from God? How often do we guise our own ambitions in terms of doing what we think God has called us to do? We mistake our own personal desires for God’s will. We replace the narrative. We overlay our personal desires as chocolate coating over the real peanut butter of God’s will inside. We divert the conversation to our agenda and our desires. We must examine ourselves and determine if we are stealing the conversation and steering it to our own agenda. That sure does feel good though. To rationalize how your personal desires are indeed the will of God. We make it fit. We rationalize it. We work the puzzle til all the pieces fit. We make God fit us. We make it where we create the rationalization for staying put in our comfort zone as God’s Will. We rationalize how God calls us to do the possible and not the impossible because He wants me to be happy and comfortable. We rationalize away and stay put because everybody else tells us we are crazy and as such it must not be God’s will.

 

As well, we may mistake our personal agenda for personal glory and fame for God’s will. If we are at a church or a business or whatever, we must ask the question, “will this project or initiative survive me leaving this church, this business or whatever?” If whatever we are doing will not survive once we leave, it is certainly not God’s will, it’s yours. If your church itself will not survive a pastor leaving it, then, who’s will is the church after? Who are we following? We must remember not to steal the conversation with God and impose our desires upon the conversation. We must be humble before the Lord. We must follow Him. We must examine as to whether our actions bring Him glory rather than ourselves. One of the things that I love about my senior pastor is that you will have to dig deep into our church website to even find a picture of him. He has often told me that he would leave this church he founded and that remains his passion to this day, if he sees that he is becoming detrimental to what God is doing at LifeSong. This is the church he founded! He would leave it if it ever became about him and not what God is doing. Sure, my senior pastor is not perfect and I am sure there are ways that he may get in the way of what God is doing just like all of us do, but those are bold words and humble words of a man who, I think, for all his faults and failures is a man after God’s own heart.

 

May you and I have that passion to follow the Lord! Really follow. Really let Him lead us. May we be humble enough to recognize when we are getting in His way and repent and get behind Him instead of trying to lead God. We are to follow. He is God. We must recognize our place. He is the leader and we are the followers.

 

Let us not steal the conversation from God. Let us not take God’s Will and replace it with our agenda. Let us be willing to see where God’s conversation takes us. Let us do a conversation audit right now. Let us follow our conversation trail. Let us discover where we made that slight shift in the conversation with God to make it slightly and more slightly and more slightly about what we want to talk about rather than what God wants to tell us, and teach us, and lead us to. Can you follow your conversation trail back to the point where it started becoming about your conversation agenda? Can you go back and repent of that turn in the conversation? Can you make it about God now and God only and what God wants? Listen to what HE is saying instead of trying to finish His sentence for Him.

 

Amen and Amen.

Luke 2:36-38 — The widow Anna teaches us many things in this very short passage. First thing I see is that when things happen to us, they can either make us bitter or make us better. The second thing would be that age is not a marker of ministry effectiveness.

First, let’s look at bitter vs. better. We all have stuff happen to us. We live in a fallen world. Tragedy happens to us. Evil is often thrust upon us. Other times, we are the cause of our own misfortune. It is, after all, a world filled with sinners committing sins daily. Here, we see Anna. She was widowed at very young age apparently. She was married only 7 years before her husband died. In the culture of the time, it probably meant that she was in her early 20’s when her husband passed. There is no mention of how he died and I think that this background is probably unnecessary. We should just know that he died. Anna could have become a bitter women. She could waited probably the lengthy time in first century Palestine for her to be allowed to find a new husband. She was probably left without much prospect due to the inheritance rules of the day. We hear no mention of any children in this brief passage, thus, in Jewish society at the time, there was no way for her to claim any inheritance because it would have been through a son that she would have any claim. She was probably left destitute. Some in this situation in that time period who saw little options might have turned to prostitution as a way to support themselves. She could have become very bitter for what life had done to her. However, this is not what we see in Anna. Her life tragedies drew her closer to God. She became so in tune with the Lord that she basically took up residence at the Temple. She stayed day and night. She worshiped God with fasting and prayer. She did this every day. She become so in tune with God that she became a prophetess. She so devoted herself to the Lord that she understood His will. She sought it daily and revealed it to others. She did not become bitter. She became better. We often let our circumstances in life swallow us up and that’s all we can think about or talk about — what happened to us. We probably all have known someone who has become so obsessed with the destruction of their ex-spouse because of an unwanted divorce that they lose sight of everything else. They quit living and become bitter people who have let the pain of life become their god. It has become their friend. Their destructive behavior destroys friendships and effects their children. Let us not become that kind of person. Let us see what God does with our new circumstances as the result of unwanted events. They can make us bitter and ineffective (what Satan wants) or it make us humble, teachable, and useful (what God wants). God gives us free will to react to life as we see fit. However, He wants us to see Him in our circumstances. He wants us to need Him. He wants us humble. He wants us to be in need of Him. He wants us to build our character in our circumstances so that we see life as Him preparing us for what He has prepared for us next. Sure, we wish to avoid pain in life. We’re human. What I am saying here is that we can let what happens to us rule us and make us bitter or we can let what happens to us make us more humble and dependent on God. That’s when He starts doing His work in us!

The next thing that this short passage teaches us is that age has nothing to do with our ministry effectiveness. In today’s society in the 21st century, everything about our society worships youth and the beauty of youth. Even this kind of mentality has invaded the church, particularly in the wave of the “new church movement” in which we currently live. Old is considered traditional church. Traditional church (Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc.). Old is hymnals in the back of the wooden pews in fixed and bolted positions. Old is the preacher behind a pulpit. Old is a robed choir behind him. In the new church movement, you see young hip pastors. No robes with stoles here. Blue jeans. 25-44 years old. Edgy haircuts. Often subtly in the new church movement we are glorifying youth without even realizing it. We figure that people in the 50+ age range are not in our churches because they are old school and we need hip people in our churches. Old folks just don’t get it. Anna could teach us many things in this passage. Anna teaches us that age has nothing to do with ministry and it has everything to do with the spirit of the Lord. In this first century Palestine as in most cultures of the time, age was respected and valued. They words were treated like they were gold nuggets. Their words carried weight. Anna was dedicated to the Lord for 50-60 years doing nothing daily but praising the Lord. She was full on, all-in for God. She knew hardship in her life but she didn’t let it get in the way of loving and serving her Lord. She was an old lady at this time but she was still vital in the Lord. Don’t you think that if she would not have been effective in the Temple daily she surely would have been asked to leave. Are we, in the new church movement, subtly asking the early baby boomers to leave our church by not including them, by not encouraging them to use their talents to their highest ability. Do we assume that they are not participating in leadership in our churches because they are tired and just want the young folk to take over? Let us find the Annas in our midst. Let us encourage them to serve. Let us learn from them. The message that they grew up with may have been packaged differently but the message is the same. At my age, early 50s, I grew up in the old church and am right square in the middle of the new church movement. Church must change the packaging every generation to meet the new generation. However, we must never change the message. The gospel message is a timeless one. New church does not have a franchise on the message. Anna, 21 centuries ago, got the message. Through the centuries we have got the message. The message has not changed. That’s what ties Jeff Hickman and Perry Noble to Martin Luther. That’s what ties Big Daddy Weave to Charles Wesley. Let us embrace the wisdom that our elders have with the message. Let’s allow them to be central to the new church movement. They know the message has never changed. It is timeless. Thus, let us find our Annas in the new church movement. Encourage them to serve the Lord with great fervor as Anna did all the way til age 84. They God we serve in our new church movement is ageless and timeless so we should encourage young, old, middle aged, teens, youth, you name it. Let’s encourage everyone to serve the Lord no matter their demographic statistics.

Father help me to have Anna’s dedication to you such that I seek your will daily despite the clutter of my mind and the world that I live in. Help me to never let what happens to me become the definition of who I am. Help me to become more humble with every circumstance of life so that you can use me mightily. Help me to grow more dependent on you daily. Help me to become so focused on you that I stay energized to serve you regardless of circumstance, or regardless of my age. Help me to be useful to your kingdom, Lord, til I take my last breath on this planet and am called home to you. Amen.

Luke 1:5-25 — Prayers of the faithful are answered. It may not be today. It may not be tomorrow. But, God does answer the prayers of those who seek His will in His own due time. Remember when you were a kid and your parents made you wait 30 minutes after lunch by the pool or the lake before you could go swimming. Those waiting periods were excruuuuuuccccciiiiaaaaating. Remember the long trips in the car on family trips…are we there yet? Are we there yet? It’s kind of like that for today’s devotional.

Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t merely go through the motions in following God’s law. They backed up their outward compliance with God’s law with inward obedience. Unlike the religious leaders whom Jesus called hypocrites, they did not stop with the letter of the law. Their obedience call from the heart and this is why they were called “righteous in God’s eyes.” God answers the prayers of those who earnestly seek Him. Do you think that God will answer the prayers of those who are not seeking to be in alignment with His will. It is clear from scripture that God not only hears prayers of His saints, but that He also answers their prayers. God says to Christians that He will listen to your prayers. However, our prayers must be in alliance with God’s own, perfect will (Matt. 26:39). Our prayers must be after God’s own heart. We must seek His will. However, the question remains, does God answer the prayers of unbelievers? I Peter 3:12 plainly says that God will hear a believer’s prayer but not those of the unsaved: “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” He will answer. The answer may be an immediate yes. It may be a no. It may be a not now. He answers. He answers the priors of those who are submitted to and seek Him. The prayers of those who are evil fall on deaf ears.

In Zechariah and Elizabeth, they were not “for show” believers and they certainly were not non-believers. They were barren with no children. They prayed, and prayed, and prayed for children. The difference between Zechariah and Elizabeth was that they trusted God with the answer. They were righteous people. They were submitted to God’s holy will for their lives. There was pain and suffering. There was humiliation. However, they never gave up on God. They knew that God will answer the prayers of the righteous in one way or another and in His due time. Do you feel like God is not answering your prayers fast enough. When we get angry at God for not showing any sign of having answered our prayers, we are acting as if He is a vending machine God. Push the button, and the answer to the prayer comes out. We in our freeze-dried, microwave, drive-thru, 30 days to a slimmer you, instant coffee, fire the coach if he doesn’t win in 3 seasons, if I don’t like it I will return it kind of world, we have a hard time with God not giving us immediate answers. We want prayer-boom-answer. I am as guilty as anyone. I have finished seminary at age 52 and I am impatient. I want to hear the answer to my prayer now. I must learn the patience of Zechariah and Elizabeth. I must remember Moses had to wait a long, long time in the desert wilderness before He was called. Although lives are shorter now, I must remember that Moses did not begin his ministry until He was ready in God’s eyes – when His earthly life was two-thirds over. We must be understanding of God’s sovereignty and His timing and we must be patient and trusting of the Sovereign Lord of the entire universe, the Sovereign Lord of all eternity. How did Zechariah and Elizabeth not lose faith. They knew that faith involves trust. Faith involves submission. We must trust that God is working, working, working. We must trust that He is wiser than we. We must trust that He wil answer our prayers the way that He as Sovereign Lord wants to answer them.

God often answers the prayers of His faithful in ways far beyond what we could have imagined. For their persistent but trusting prayers, Zechariah and Elizabeth’s prayers were answered mightily in God’s due timing. For their patient trust and their seeking of God’s will, they were to be rewarded with the birth of a son who would make the way for the Messiah. He was to be the forerunner. He was to light the fires. He was to mark the way toward righteousness. He was to call out the hypocrites and point them toward salvation. He was to be John the Baptist. Their prayers were answered in a son. They prayers were answered in an amazing son. God hears your prayers, oh, you who earnestly seek Him. He will do so abundantly. He will answer the prayers of the faithful and will do so in ways we could not have imagined previously. He is a mighty God. When we get ourselves out of the way and our demands for immediate response and seek and believe that God will answer in His way and in His time, He will bless our persistence and our patience and our seeking of His will.

Father, I am flesh and bones. I am flesh and bones in the 21st century where everything is fast, fast, fast. We think our internet is not fast enough when it does not respond in under 1 second. I am impatient. I want my answers from you now, oh Lord. I get frustrated when you don’t give me immediate answers to my prayers. Father, teach me the patience that I need. Father, you know my heart. I am not perfect but I do so love you and what you have already done for me in my salvation through Your Son. Help me to pray for your will not mine. Help me to be patient and perseverant in my prayers to you. Help me more than anything to trust that You are God and You will answer in the way and in the time that You desire as my Sovereign Lord. Please forgive my impatience Lord but please remember my love for you, Oh Lord, Most High. Amen.