Note: Here is a great devotional thought from John Piper (below with my own thoughts added) about Spiritual gifts and the implications on unanswered prayers. I have thought about this for a long time over the years, especially after everything we experienced before, during, and after Caleb’s accident. I’ve come to the conclusion that our beliefs in the Churches of Christ, when it comes to cessationism (the belief that God doesn’t work miraculously today–that He only did such things in biblical times), really limit the potential power of God in our lives. Who knows the many untold times God has desired to answer our prayers, but they were left unanswered because we rejected the means through which God desired to answer them.
“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams.” – Acts 2:17
First, let’s just remind ourselves of some truths about spiritual gifts from 1 Corinthians 12. Then we will notice a simple implication for unanswered prayer.
1. God wants us to know about spiritual gifts.
“Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers, I do not want you to be uninformed” (1 Corinthians 12:1).
Did you know that there is not a single contradiction in the Bible? Years ago this claim was never really challenged among believers. Most people respected the Bible as God’s authoritative Word. But today, to even make such a suggestion often garners snickers from others, even among Christians. I’ve studied the Bible and been in ministry for years, and one thing I’ve heard over and over again from critics of the Bible (and unfortunately a growing number of Christians) is that it is full of contradictions.
The number of Christians who agree with this claim is really what unsettles me most. They say they believe in God, but many don’t see the Bible as authoritative, because of it’s so-called errors. Unbelievers often make the claim that the Bible was simply a book written by man, and specifically by the church as a means to “control” others under a religious code, for the purpose of solidifying power and control for money.
Here’s the thing. When I ask them to give me an example of a contradiction, every single time without exception, I’ve discovered that the problem was not the Bible itself, but rather their understanding of the Bible. 100% of the time, the issue is a lack of understanding of either the context, history, language, customs, or simply an antipathy against the text or Christianity itself.
I am convinced that the single greatest struggle of Christians today is not sin, but a lack of knowing who they are in Christ, that Christ in them has defeated sin and has empowered them to live lives abundant and free from the power of sin.
My first understanding of this truth came in the days when God used 180 Degrees Ministries to set me free from addiction and help me see life through the lens of God’s grace rather than through the skewed lens of my own limited understanding. I had grown to believe that my struggle with sin somehow put me on the outer edges of God’s love and that if I didn’t stop, sooner or later I would lose my salvation.
After my transformation at 180 Degrees, I came to see that I was a son of God, fully bought with a price—a price that was paid for by the blood of Christ—that becoming a Christian did not leave me as a tidied up sinner, now able to start over on my own with a clean slate, but it left me completely reborn in heaven with God, and fully in the hands of my Creator as a new creation of His for all eternity.
Ever heard the old hymn, “Count Your Blessings?” I know it sounds cliche, but it’s true. In the midst of adversity oftentimes we get so laser focused on our problems or what is going on in the world with economic or political news, that we don’t stop to look at the good. In times like these it is very easy to have a sense of dissatisfaction and get depressed with all that is going on. Perhaps one of the things that we as Christians need to do, along with prayer, is to always keep things in perspective. It’s important as Christians in the midst of adversity to remember the seemingly insignificant, but yet profound blessings that God gives us each and every single day.
As the line in the old hymn goes, “Count your many blessings name them one by one…” Here are a few you can keep in mind today:
When I was a much younger Christian, I had an image of prayer that looked something like this. I would close my eyes and squint really hard. I would then pray earnestly and powerfully, almost as if I was forcing my words as hard as I could beyond the ceiling and hopefully up to the throne room of God. I know it sounds comical. But that’s how I saw it at the time.
Because of my lack of understanding of grace, I spent most of my time feeling ashamed and far away from God. I knew God loved me, but because of all I had done and all I struggled with, I was sure that His love was through the gritting of His teeth as He tolerated this oft disobedient child of His.
You may not have the extreme views that I did, but nonetheless many today feel that God is not close. They feel as though their prayers are seldom heard and that the way to get God’s attention is to “be a better Christian,” do more, go to church more, read the Bible more, etc.
If this is you, then let me share something with you that will totally change your view of both prayer and God. Once I came to realize this truth it revolutionized my relationship with God and brought a sense of closeness with Him like I’d never experienced in my life. Colossians 3:3 says:
I have had the question asked to me before, “Which book of the Bible is your favorite?” It really is a hard question to answer seeing that every book of the Bible is an integral and important part of the whole. Nevertheless there are some books that do stand out in my mind as books that offer me special comfort or encouragement in my day to day life.
One of those books for me is the book (or more accurately the letter) of Ephesians. It is probably one of the most concise pieces of Paul’s writings that lay forth the meaning of the gospel and its affect on those who live by it.
One of my favorite passages in Ephesians comes from chapter 2:1-10.
I was recently contacted by Mitch Washer, personal friend of mine and founder of The Comforted, a soon-to-be-launched blog and ministry dedicated to highlighting personal stories of trial and tragedy and how God comforted people through the hardest times of their lives.
Tim, I hope you are well man. I am in the process of starting a new ministry called The Comforted. The idea comes from 2 Corinthians 1:3-11 where Paul talks about God as the God of all comfort and goes into detail about his sufferings and how God has brought him to a place of relying solely on Him and ultimately finding comfort. Not so that things will be easy for him, but that he may use that comfort and encouragement to comfort others who are or who have suffered. So God has put it on my heart to create a ministry based on that idea. So I need your help if and only if you feel comfortable. I would like a paragraph or two on a time you have suffered and had to rely solely on God.
Here is the article I submitted. I pray that it encourages you as the God of all comfort, comforts you.
Our story begins in October 2010 when my wife, Tiffany and I decided to take our two oldest boys, Colby who was 4 and Caleb who was 2, on what would be their first ever camping trip. We decided to go to Fall Creek Falls in Tennessee. And though we were late getting to the park due to getting lost we had a blast as we made our way down the trail, spending at least 45 minutes walking to the bottom to see the falls. It was then out of nowhere we heard the thundering and crashing of a boulder plummeting down toward us from 256 feet above. We didn’t have time to react or scream. As soon as we heard what sounded like a cannon blast it was all over. And then immediately the reality of the situation sank in. Our son Caleb had been struck in the head with the boulder while being carried in my wife’s arms.
When dealing with other people, especially other believers when we have disagreements with them, do you tend to come against them or come alongside them? Do you tend to get argumentative and accusatory or do you speak with them while maintaining a heart that is faithful and loyal to them as brothers or sisters in Christ, even if you feel they are wrong and you are right?
I am sometimes amazed at how “unChristian” Christians can sometimes be when it comes to how we speak and relate with one another. I’ve heard believers speak to each other in ways and in tones that they would never use with “unchurched” people for fear they would not be a good witness for Christ and turn them off to the gospel! And yet, we cannot maintain a level of respect and love for those who are our fellow gospel-believers and gospel-receivers?
…For This Is The Whole Purpose of Man
It’s been a long but good day. I officiated the funeral of a sweet 90 year old woman, a believer in Christ. Whenever I serve at funerals I am always reminded of just how fragile and fleeting life is. I am reminded of the Psalmist who said, “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16)
Solomon truly had it right when he summed up all of his world-renowned wisdom: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty, purpose, reason for man’s existence. And His commands are so simple, love Him and love each other. Those are the two ingredients for a life well lived, a life full of meaning.
Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13
This last weekend I had the privilege of being a chaperon for our youth group as we made our trek to the smoky mountains of Tennessee for what is notably the largest gathering of teens in the Churches of Christ: Winterfest. The theme was “Watch,” as in watch the Jesus of the gospels and watch your life together with other believers. I caught a glimpse of heaven as literally 14,000 teens praised God with all of their hearts. The time there was exhilarating.
I wish I could summarize all that we learned over the weekend. There were numerous speakers and other talent, all doing a superb job of expounding on the themes at hand. One speaker that really stood out to me was not a preacher per se. He was a poet by the name of David Bowden. Bowden’s gift is the ability to summarize in rhyme some of the deepest truths of the Bible. I watched as Bowden confidently mounted the stage and then for the next 10 minutes explained in poetry form what many theologians have spent volumes writing about over the last 2,000 years.
The title of the poem was simple: Are you a Christian or a Disciple? Some might see that as a false dichotomy. After all if we have faith in Jesus aren’t we Christians? It’s true, if you have given your life to Christ you are indeed a Christian. But that wasn’t was Bowden was getting at. The point Bowden was making is that there is a great difference between being a Christian (in name only) and being a disciple (a true follower and learner of Christ). And the more I think about it, I’d have to say I agree with him.