“A Prayerful Heart”
“Now, O LORD, please remember how I have walked before you in faithfulness and with a whole heart and have done what is good in your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly (2 Kings 20:3).
King Hezekiah was sick and dying. We don’t know the specifics. Apparently a boil had become infected and now was threatening his life (20:1 & 20:7). He had served God wisely and well. He had stood against the wicked King Sennacherib of Assyria. Hezekiah trusted God. He removed all the pagan altars that dotted Israel’s landscape. He restored temple worship and kept the Passover as a sacred celebration. His rule and reign were marked by a return to the LORD (2 Chronicles 29-30). Nevertheless, his days were numbered. He knew it and so he prayed. The instantaneous manner in which God responded to this King’s prayer is fascinating. Hezekiah prayed, God listened, God dispatched an answer, and Hezekiah was healed. The great prophet Isaiah had been the messenger that day. He announced the now famous line to Hezekiah, “Set your house in order…” and the memorable reply from God to the king’s original prayer, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears. Behold, I will heal you” (20:1 & 20:5).
Hezekiah is a king marked with a prayerful heart. When Sennacherib had surrounded Jerusalem, intending to destroy it, Hezekiah’s first response was to pray (2 Kings 19:15-19). When his own life was threatened with death, he turned to prayer again. I want my heart to be a place where my first thought is always to pray. So, “Father, incline my heart toward you. Whether it be a prayer of help or thanks, prompt me to first and always seek you, In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for The Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from The Lord as a reward. It is The Lord Christ you are serving.” Colossians 3:23-24
It seemed appropriate on this Labor Day to give some spiritual thought to all the work we do for just a few minutes. Here’s the question to consider. Who and/or what am I working for? Many of us would answer with the person who has authority over us. We work for our parents, our coach, our teacher, our boss, or our supervisor. Others would mention the tangible rewards that come from working: a paycheck, a promotion, or a purchase.
In the first century, the slaves Paul was addressing had to do what their masters said, but Paul says they could elevate their work by doing it for God instead. He encourages them to work with all their heart as if they were serving him. With this simple attitudinal adjustment we can elevate any work to holy status and we can be sure that our Boss will reward us. So on this day of not working, think about your work and recommit to working for God and his reward instead of whoever or whatever else you have been working for.
“Don’t you know me, even after I been with you so long?” John 14:9
At the last Supper Jesus teaches the disciples. This intimate conversation only appears in the Gospel of John. Jesus has just taught them that he is going to prepare a place for them. They don’t get it and Thomas asks to know the way so they can find Jesus. Jesus sates: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” Philip responds: “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus asks the above question then follows with an answer: “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (vv. 6-9)
The disciples have been with Jesus for about three years. They have been through a lot together. There is a depth to their relationship. Yet, they still question what God is doing in their midst. Jesus welcomes their questions but asks more questions to draw out their faith. Yet, they struggle to understand. Sound familiar?
How long have you known Jesus? What kind of relationship do you have with him? How well do you know him? How much time do you spend with Jesus? Do you know Jesus well enough to notice when it is He that is speaking and/or working?
Pray: Father, I want to know you deeper. I desire for us to be close. I invite you to be a part of every aspect of my life today. Give me faith to see you at work in my life and the lives of those around me.
“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10
If no one was going to see you do a good thing today, will you still do it? Do you have a strong enough resolve to do the right thing, the hard thing, the hidden good deeds even when they won’t contribute to someone’s favorable opinion of you?
Ask yourself, are you an exhibitionist or are you content to plug away in life, doing good, though no one may notice? Do you step it up in front of an audience doing your best to convince them that you really are a good guy, hoping onlookers will be impressed by your generosity, your nice attitude, your reputation?
Are you content with being good, without looking good? At this year’s Global Leadership Summit, we were challenged to consider if we were more interested in being the person who changed the world, than we were in changing the world.
There is a place and time for our light to shine before men, for sure. That’s not the thrust of this meditation today. The concept I ask you to struggle over today is, “why” do I/would I do good in full vision of those around me? And I think the truth of that answer comes in what you are willing to do when no one sees it.
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” John 1:48-49
Nathanael was just enjoying a moment under the tree. He was probably enjoying the shade and cool breeze on an otherwise hot day in Israel. He might’ve simply been taking a break from the duties that occupied his day. At some point he was interrupted by Philip, they’d found the messiah. Nathanael wasn’t convinced. But he was invited to “come and see” (v46). He did so skeptically… and life would never be the same.
Before Nathanael can say anything Jesus speaks. He knows Nathanael. He knows his character. He knows his heart. All along, he’s been watching. Before Nathanael was interrupted by Philip, Jesus was watching. Before he set foot to investigate Philip’s claims, Jesus was present. In an instant, Nathanael realizes he’s standing before the very Son of God. Jesus was watching him long before he set out to watch Jesus.
In a world longing to be recognized, in a culture craving admiration, our Savior is actively watching us. When something’s bought without an appraisal or an inspection it’s called buying something “sight unseen”. Jesus, bought your redemption on the cross. But it was anything but sight unseen. He’s been watching you your entire life. He knew exactly what he was getting. And he still chose you and me.
Today you might not be sitting under a tree like Nathanael, but the same God that saw him sitting there and loved him is the same God that sees you today and loves you.
“Sovereign and Good”
“And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?” (Jonah 4:11)
What comes to your mind when you think about the story of Jonah? Perhaps the lasting imagery is one of a fantastic fish with a big appetite. Maybe you think of a stingy prophet. The abrupt end of the story of Jonah leaves us leaning in and looking for closure. Whatever lasting impression comes to mind, I’d like to chime in with my own. Our God is a sovereign God who is good to the core.
Either attribute without the other would leave us wanting. If the Lord were sovereign without goodness, we would be fearful of His will for us. If He were good, but not sovereign, He would be reduced to wishful thinking that is impotent. There is one key word that is repeated four times in this account that helps us to see His sovereignty. The Hebrew word is “manah” and it is translated to mean “appointed” or “provided” in various translations. It is found in Jonah 1:17 and 4:6,7, and 8. These passages help us to see that the Lord “appointed” a fish, a plant, a worm, and a wind to draw Jonah and the people of Nineveh back to God for their good. The Lord is sovereign over all creation and this account demonstrates this powerfully. While the final verse seems to conclude the story rather abruptly, it does leave us with enough insight to peek into the heart of God. His sovereignty is well demonstrated throughout this narrative, and His goodness is most pronounced in the final verse when His concern is directed to the 120,000 people of Nineveh … and even the cattle!
It seems that Jonah was “angry enough to die” over the loss of a plant, yet he did not share the same heart for God’s people. The story’s bizarre ending forces me to draw my own conclusions about what Jonah values, what God values, and ultimately what I value. Does my heart reflect that of a stingy prophet or a good God?
“For they were pleased to do it, and indeed they owe it to them. For if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessings, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.” Romans 15:27
Near the end of his letter to the Romans, Paul is updating this Christian community that he has never met on his travel plans. He fully intends to visit Rome soon, but first he must get the offering he has been collecting from churches all over Greece and Asia to the poor believers in Jerusalem. After that, he will stop by to see them on the way to Spain. So, he gives his travel itinerary. But today, I want to focus on what he said about the offering he was taking.
The Gentile Christians were pleased to give, but Paul says that they “owed” the Jewish Christians because of spiritual blessings they had received. Indeed, the Gentiles were now blessed to be under the same blessing and covenant of Abraham as his actual descendants. And in Paul’s economy, a debt of gratitude should flow from that. I think we still “owe.” We have been given every spiritual blessing through Jesus Christ so we should be willing to share with others. Think of this today. How much have you been blessed and therefore how much do you owe?