‘Each next risk is the biggest one’: James MacDonald talks with Mark Driscoll
Wed May 22, 2013
by Mark Driscoll
Tue May 21, 2013
by Amanda Edmondson
From prison to ReTrain: Russell’s story
Mon May 20, 2013
9 types of leaders in Scripture
Mon May 20, 2013
by Justin Holcomb
5 bits of wisdom for the professional Christian woman
Sun May 19, 2013
by Shandel Slaten
Aggressive and Progressive Faith
Arguing and Inquiring are OK
One of the things we notice in the Bible, perhaps to our surprise, is that God doesn’t mind us arguing with him. In fact, he seems to welcome it if we do it humbly and on the basis of his revelation. God’s Word is ours to be wielded in prayer. This should be a further incentive to read, memorise, meditate upon, and study Scripture. Ransack the Bible for promises and take them to him in prayer. He invites us to do so. Besides this, there may be things that God has spoken prophetically about your life, the church, your family, and the city. Such things are not simply to occupy journals from yesteryear. Don’t treat them like museum spectacles behind glass. Seek God with them. Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” God does not reward passive fatalism, but aggressive faith. If this seems an overstatement, you need to read the Gospels again. Not to mention the prayers of Moses, Samuel, Elijah, and the apostles in Acts.
Nehemiah does not waste time being ‘spiritual.’ He expects things to get done. We need to be persuaded of this principle since there is no end of nonsense talked, and written, by people who seem to see prayer as an exercise in piety. This can especially be so when prayer is discussed in a purely devotional context. “O Lord, let your ear be attentive to the prayer of your servant, and to the prayer of your servants who delight to fear your name, and give success to your servant today, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man” (Neh. 1:11). There is a scatter-gun approach to praying which betrays a lack of any expectation. We talk but we give the impression that God is probably not listening and definitely not very interested. Such praying is close to what Jesus describes in Matthew 6:7, “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words.” It’s clear that certain praying gets nowhere near the ears of God since it is a mere religious exercise and is offered up to no one in particular.
Faith Grows With Exercise
Besides mere piety, the other thing Nehemiah avoids in his prayer found in Nehemiah 1 is vain unreality. It seems that true faith grows as it is exercised, like a muscle. We learn to ask for things from God as we learn his ways and get to know him. This is described in John 15, but also illustrated in Genesis 18 when Abraham’s prayers for Sodom and Gomorrah become progressively bolder. Additionally, P. T. Forsyth says, “Lose the importunity of prayer . . . lose the real conflict of will and will, lose the habit of wrestling and the hope of prevailing with God, make it mere walking with God in friendly talk; and precious as that is, yet you tend to lose the reality of prayer at last.”
Some will be dissatisfied with modest praying that is based on genuine faith and instead offer grand requests based on phony ‘faith.’ God calls us to consistent partnership with himself, so it is more likely that we will be called upon to pray for incremental, but consistent, growth in kingdom advance rather than the entire salvation of the city by this afternoon. The striking thing here is that Nehemiah does offer up prayer for 5 months, but the only request we know he makes is this one: “Lord give me favour with the King.” Nehemiah, where’s your faith!? Ask God for more! But Nehemiah is wiser. He knows he has a life calling. He is going to have to pray every victory in at a time. Each one is still a miracle.