“Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God. Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the heart..For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.” I Peter 1:21-23
Dear Faithful Seed-Sowers:
It has been two weeks since I have had a chance to sit down and write a Seed of Faith. The Collins/Peters household was busy building a new fence and gate and I was really busy with the ministry end of being a pastor. One good friend has passed into Heaven, and several other dear friends have been very sick and in the hospital. I thank each and every one of you for your prayers and support as I’ve experienced this last round of chelation, which has hit me pretty hard. My endurance, strength and energy has not been what I’m used to. My feet have been really hurting and for my birthday my wife brought me to a shoe store that watches your gait and measures your feet. With all of the swelling from chelation, my shoe size grew two sizes and I went from a regular width to a triple wide! No wonder my feet were hurting, I was wearing shoes two sizes too small. We had a good laugh over that. Thankfully, I am having more good days than bad ones. You are such a blessing in my life and in the ministry of The Seed. God is good and works for good in our lives as we hold on, stand firm, and trust.
Here’s some Bible trivia. There are eleven times in the Bible where we are encouraged to “love one another.” Today we will look at one of the famous passages — “love one another.” Today’s passage comes right before the foundational verse of The Seed — which is 1 Peter 1:23. I encourage you take you Bibles this week and read 1 Peter or at least the first chapter of 1 Peter.
On a beautiful afternoon in April of 2008, two college women’s softball teams faced each other under the blue skies of the Cascade Mountains. One team was from Western Oregon University and the other team was from Central Washington. Inside a chain-link fence, before a few hundred fans, the two teams played a decisive game. The winner would advance to the division playoffs. The loser would hang up their gloves and go home. The Western Oregon Wolves were a sturdy team that had several strong batters, Sara Tucholsky was not one of them. She hit a strong .153 and played in the game only because the first-string right fielder had muffed a play earlier in the day. Sara had never hit a home run in her career, but on that beautiful Saturday, with two runners on base, Sara connected with a curve-ball and sent it sailing over the left-field fence.
In her excitement Sara missed first base. Her coach shouted for her to return and touch the base. When she turned and started back, something popped in her knee and down she went. Sarah drug herself back to first base, pulled her knee to her chest in pain, and asked the first base coach, “What do I do?” The umpire wasn’t sure. He knew if any of Sara’s teammates assisted her, she would be called out. Sara knew if she tried to stand, she would collapse. Her team couldn’t help her. Her leg couldn’t support her. How could she cross home plate? The umpires huddled to talk.[i]
While the umpires huddled and the Sara groaned in pain, we are going to reflect on I Peter.
You and I have a lot in common with Sara. Sometimes we, too, sit on the bench. Sometimes we stumble and fall. Sometimes, in our excitement, we miss stepping on first base. Sometimes we fall and our fall causes us pain, or causes others we love, pain. Sometimes the umpires in our lives don’t know what to do with us. We have stumbled, we have fallen, and we need to be rescued.
As I sat and studied this week, I was struck by the word that Peter used to describe how our love for one another should be: SINCERE. Peter says that our love for each other should be sincere. The Greek word for is “ἀνυπόκριτος anupokritos” which means “unhypocritical or without hypocrisy, being authentic, upright, genuine and sincere.” Think about it. Peter goes way back with Jesus. He was one of the first fishermen Jesus ever called to follow Him. Peter was there for everything: the miracles, the healings, the feeding of thousands from nothing. Peter heard every single sermon Jesus ever preached. Jesus was sincere. And Peter had learned that God’s love for us is without hypocrisy, God’s love is genuine and sincere, and he wants our love for one another to be without hypocrisy. Our love is to be genuine and sincere. Peter tells us that we should love one another “ekteno” — “deeply, fervently, earnestly, zealously, and without ceasing.” Do you have love like this? Love that is deep, fervent, earnest, sincere, and genuine.
LOVE ONE ANOTHER.
An old story from the early 1900’s illustrates to us how to love one another deeply, fervently earnestly, and without ceasing. While on a three-story scaffold at a construction site one day, a building engineer tripped and fell toward the ground in what appeared to be a fatal fall. Right below the scaffold, a laborer looked up just as the man fell, realized that he was standing in exactly where the engineer would fall, braced himself and absorbed the full impact of the engineer’s fall. The impact slightly injured the engineer but severely hurt the laborer. The brutal collision fractured almost every bone in his body. The good news is that he recovered from the injuries, but he was severely disabled. Years later, a reporter asked the former construction laborer how the building engineer had treated him. The handicapped man told the reporter, “He gave me half of all he owns, including a share of his business. He is constantly concerned about my needs and never lets me want for anything. Almost every day he gives me some token of thanks or remembrance.”
Do you see it? Jesus is the laborer who absorbs our fall. As we round first, second or third base—and we stumble or trip—whether on our own or because of circumstances we cannot see—Jesus absorbs our fall. Often we forget that on the cross, and at Calvary, Jesus stood in our place and took the full impact of our fall. Jesus redeemed us by His shed blood. Jesus bought us back. Jesus payed our ransom. Jesus paid in full and reclaimed each one of us, a prisoner of the war of good and evil.
Back to my opening story. Remember, Sara, the girl we left at first base writhing a pain, clutching her knee, with one hand touching first base? Sara is a long way from home plate. Her teammates cannot help her or she will be called out due to interference. The umpires are talking. The fans are yelling for someone to take Sara off the field. Sara does not want to leave. A hero now enters into the story, Mallory Holtman from Central Washington. Mallory was playing first base and stood listening to Sara cry in pain. Mallory was a senior that year and was her team’s home-run queen. She really wanted her team to win so that they could move on to the league finals. You would think Mallory would be happy, in a round-about way that fate often delivers, to see that Sara could not make it home. Mallory was not! Mallory asked the umpires if it would be okay if she and another teammate carried Sara around the bases. The umpires agreed. Mallory signaled to her shortstop and the two came to Sara, who had tears rolling down her cheeks, and lifted Sara up. Mallory and her teammate paused at second and third base to allow Sara’s good foot to touch each base. The fans were cheering and crying at the same time. Sara made it safely home.
(Check out the Youtube of Sara’s fantastic home-run! … https://youtu.be/yaXVk5GBx-s)
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers (and sisters), love one another deeply, from the heart.
The sincere love of Jesus is what spurs each one of us on as we learn to understand what SINCERE love is. As we read our living word of life, may we be spurred onward. May we wake up each day and focus on LOVING ONE ANOTHER. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll be writing a SEED OF FAITH about your sincere love!
“Father God, thank you for loving each one of us with a genuine and sincere love. Thank you for redeeming us. Thank you that you absorb and forgive our daily falls and fails. Now, as we pray, show us how to love one another. When we see someone who has stumbled, who has fallen face first in the dirt, give us Your sincere love. Help us to LOVE ONE ANOTHER sincerely—from the heart. This week open our eyes, our ears, our mind and heart and show us someone who needs a shoulder to lean on. Amen.”
Seed you Sunday!
God loves you and so do I,
I think most of us have heard the story of the little boy who was praying for a bicycle for Christmas. His was a poor family, so when Christmas morning came there was no bicycle. A friend of the family, who was not too sensitive about such things, said to the boy, “Well, I see God didn’t answer your prayer for a bicycle.” The boy replied, “Yes, He did; He said No.” Most of us are aware that No is an answer every bit as much as Yes. But I have always felt that the story of the little boy’s prayer doesn’t quite get to the heart of the prayer problem. To receive a bicycle might be nice, but it is clearly not essential. Nor is it spiritual. Most of us understand that when we pray for things like bicycles – a better job, more money, success in a business deal, or the resolution of certain personal problems – there is no real reason why we should expect a Yes answer. God may give what we ask for, but again He may not. We accept that. But what about prayers that really are spiritual? What about prayers that are (or at least seem to be) unselfish? What happens when these prayers are not answered? This is where the real problem with prayer lies and why the people who have trouble with it are not the novices in prayer, as we might suspect – novices do not expect much from prayer anyway – but rather the church’s mature believers. It is the saints who feel the burden of unanswered prayer. It is the godly who wrestle with it strenuously.
In the case of Paul’s prayer, recounted in Romans 1, we have a superb example of precisely this problem. Why is it such a good example? First, it is a prayer by an apostle. This doesn’t mean he is without sin, of course. Nor does it mean that all of Paul’s prayers were spiritual. Second, Paul’s prayer was a proper prayer: It is to the Father on the basis of the atoning work of Jesus Christ and, although Paul doesn’t say so explicitly, it was undoubtedly also in the Holy Spirit. There is one more thing to see about this prayer, the third item: It was a prayer for right things. Paul might have prayed for something that would only have enhanced his prestige or personal comfort; that is, he might have prayed selfishly. But that was not the case here at all. He wanted to assist in the spiritual growth and fruitfulness of the Roman believers. This was an entirely worthy and quite spiritual motive. Yet, Paul was prevented from coming. His prayer was not answered positively. Paul doesn’t suggest a reason why his prayers were unanswered, and the fact that he doesn’t opens the door for us to reflect on why prayers like this – including the best of our own prayers – go unanswered.
There may be several reasons why perfectly proper prayers may go unanswered and what we may learn from this. The first is: Unanswered prayer may be God’s way of teaching that we are not as necessary to the work we are praying for as we think we are. This is clear in Paul’s case. Paul had been praying that he might be permitted to travel to Rome to serve and strengthen the Roman Christians. But noble as this desire may have been, it is also clear that the believers in Rome were doing quite well without him. They were doing well without any apostle or noteworthy teacher. Paul testifies to this when he records that their strong faith was being reported on all over the world (v. 8).
The second reason why perfectly proper prayers of ours may be unanswered is that God may have other work for us to do. This seems to have been the chief (perhaps the only) reason why God did not send the great apostle to Rome earlier. Paul speaks of his ministry among the remote cities of the Gentiles as a fulfillment of Isaiah 52:15 in the fifteenth chapter of Romans. Then he adds, somewhat unexpectedly, “This is why I have often been hindered from coming to you (v. 22). Paul recognized that delay in reaching Rome was for the sake of the Christian mission elsewhere. We need to learn this too, and be content through learning it.
The third reason why our prayers may go unanswered for a time is the hardest to understand: There may be spiritual warfare of which you and I are unaware (2 Cor. 12:7, 9; Dan. 10:1-14). Spiritual battles are mysteries to us because we cannot see the warfare. But there are spiritual battles, and we need to know about them. They are an important reason why some of our prayers go unanswered.
In the last study I asked the question, “Does prayer change things or change people?” I answered, “Both.” Prayer changes things (or circumstances) because it is a God-ordained way of changing them. But prayer also (perhaps chiefly) changes people, as pointed out. It’s important that we return to that point now, because, in addition to all that has been said so far, one important reason for God not answering prayer is deficiency in us. And so, prayer needs to change us before it changes circumstances. What needs changing in us?
1)Unconfessed sin: There are more verses in the Bible saying that God will not answer prayers than there are verses that say He will, and one of the chief categories of verses that deal with unanswered prayer concerns sin. 2) Wrong motives: James spoke of this when he said, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). 3) Laziness: It is said of Elijah that he prayed “earnestly” that it would not rain and that it did not rain for three and a half years (James 5:17). Prayer was a serious business with him. One reason our prayers are not answered is that we are not really serious about them. 4) We are too busy: Sometimes we are too busy to pray “earnestly.” If we are too busy to pray, what we are really saying is that we consider the things we are doing to be more important than praying. Idols in the heart: Is an idol keeping you from having prayers answered? Is that idol a person, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a wife, a husband, your children, is it your job, your lifestyle, your social position, your worldly reputation, your image of yourself, and are you determined above all else to be “successful”? To place anything ahead of God is idolatry! 6) Stinginess in our giving: If you do not give to the needy, God will not give to you when you ask Him for something (see Prov. 21:13). 7) Unbelief: The greatest cause of failure in our prayer, and the area in which we most need to be changed, is unbelief. If we do not believe God’s Word unquestioningly, why should we get what we pray for? Is it any surprise that our prayers are unanswered?
Here you are someone who has been praying earnestly for something for a long time and has not had an answer. As we have seen, there are numerous reasons why a positive answer may be delayed, all the way from spiritual warfare in the heavenlies to our sin or unbelief. What are to do? Should you keep on battering the brass doors of heaven with ineffectual petitions? Or should you accept God’s rejection? Should you quit praying? The answer is in Jesus’ parable of the importunate widow, which Luke tells and teaches us that we “should always pray and not give up” (Luke 18:1). Prayer may change us. It may change history. But whatever the case, we must keep on praying! Paul kept praying, and he got to Rome eventually.
Romans 1:13 Reflection Questions:
How do you feel when your prayers go unanswered?
Have you ever realized that your prayers of being answered positively were being delayed? If so how did you respond?
Why do you think you prayers are not being answered?