Monday, August 12, 2013

Striving Together for the Faith, Part 2

30 Now I beseech you, brethren, for the Lord Jesus Christ's sake, and for the love of the Spirit, that ye strive together with me in your prayers to God for me; 31 That I may be delivered from them that do not believe in Judaea; and that my service which I have for Jerusalem may be accepted of the saints.  –Romans 15:30, 31 (KJV)

Paul worked under the understanding, notice I did not say assumption, that the church was praying for him.  Praying for one another is a vital aspect of Christianity.  Furthermore, like Paul the Apostle, we labor under the firm conviction that other believers are praying for us.  We need to know that prayer for the brethren is ongoing.  No matter what, we continue in prayer for the church and for one another’s individual needs.  Verse 30 speaks of striving together in prayer.  This is when we are praying with such intensity that we approach the level of prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane when He sweat drops of blood (Luke 22:44).  Praying with that kind of power and depth is beyond my understanding, but we are to strive for such depths of intensity when we pray. 

There are two prayer requests in verse 31.  One is that God would deliver Paul from those in Judea who did not believe and who were against him.  This was an unenlightened world in those days.  Devout Jews were strongly opposed to Christianity and according to the book of Acts were willing commit violence against believers.  Those who persecuted the faith believed they were doing God’s will.  Most Jews today would be appalled at such an idea.  However, we know this is very much in the thinking of radical Islam.  There are also radical branches of Hinduism that endorses violent persecution of Christians in parts of India.  We are more enlightened than this.  I do not agree with the theology of Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I do not intend to harm them when they coming knocking on my door.  Therefore, in Christ-like faith and gentleness, Paul asked the church to pray fervently for him regarding those in Judea who did not believe.

Secondly, Paul asked them to pray that the saints in Jerusalem would accept him.  What was Paul doing that the church in Jerusalem was not?  He was taking the gospel to the Gentiles.  Many believers of the day thought this was only for the Jews.  Furthermore, they erroneously thought that if the Gentiles accepted Christ they had to adopt Jewish custom and practice.  This conflict was at the heart of the controversy in the book of Galatians.  Those believers were confused because they had tried to add Jewish customs to the practice of Christianity.  They had taken on a yoke, as the Bible says in Acts 15:10, which even the ancient Israelites could not bear.  Therefore, Paul prayed for acceptance of the ministry to which God had called him.

There may come a day when you find yourself praying a similar prayer.  Stepping out on faith and trusting Christ with all we have is radical in today’s world.  Christ calls us to strive for the faith and to walk forward in the confidence that the Lord is with us.  Remember, bold faith produces great results.  Halfhearted faith has little effect.  Pray big, believe big, and receive the fullness of God’s blessings. 

God bless you today.