In a recent post we looked at a broad cross-section of pressures Americans face. Among the significant pressures indicated in a survey conducted by LifeWay Research and Bible Studies for Life were confronting temptation, experiencing bias or prejudice, relating to family and friends, and facing criticism.
The only responses to garner more than one-third of Americans in agreement (both at 36%) were “lacking money for basic needs” and “dealing with conflict.”
As Christians, we should strive to build relationships with those inside and outside the community of faith. What then are the most effective ways to address these two issues?
Caring for those in need
The Apostle James made it clear, our response to those in need directly reflects our claims to faith and salvation: “If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well.’ But you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16, HCSB).
Whether these brothers and sisters are inside or outside our small groups hardly seems relevant. It’s an opportunity. People in need are people in need no matter where they are. Jesus never made such divisions, why should we? Christians in the first century made a distinctive reputation for themselves by caring for the poor and plague ridden while the Romans were scurrying out of town. Christians today should be the first ones to aid those who lack basic needs. Not only is this the command of Scripture, it is our spiritual heritage.
Caring for those in conflict
As we have seen through the LifeWay Research survey, people in America today are dealing with conflict. This conflict brings pressure that is often ongoing.
Scripture tells us in Galatians 6:2 to “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ”. Burden bearing is conducive to our own spiritual growth as we are reminded of our own burdens. We imitate Christ when we care for others in the middle of our own needs.
Those who have worked to develop the Bible Studies for Life curriculum, myself included, made a commitment to build the program in such a way that it strengthens individuals and families — even those dealing with needs or conflicts who need their faith family to help carry their burdens. But, it is impossible to carry the burdens of people we don’t know. We can’t help bear the burden for at least one-third of Americans who are dealing with conflict of some kind because we are unaware of the conflict and don’t know them. This means living in a small group community where burdens are shared and carried is important.
No less theologians than Paul McCartney and John Lennon struck this chord decades ago when they noted in Eleanor Rigby, “Look at all the lonely people. Where do they all come from? Look at all the lonely people. Where do they all belong?”
The answer, of course, is that they belong in a faith community with others who are pursuing God, and doing so in the midst of pressures of every kind.
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. FloydSenior Pastor, Cross Church Northwest Arkansas General Editor, Bible Studies for Life
The church is fighting to find a way to make a difference. Methodologies are tested endlessly. Strategies are adjusted continually. Even theologies are compromised periodically. Each is nothing more than a frail attempt to make some kind of difference.
Yet, at our fingertips is the hope to make a difference. Stirred by the words of Acts 12:5, God has placed upon me what I believe is the most powerful action the church can do. What does Acts 12:5 say?
“So Peter was kept in prison, but prayer was being made earnestly to God for him by the church.”
Peter was just hours before his execution under the leadership of King Herod. While he was in prison, the church was praying. The Bible says the church was praying earnestly to God on Peter’s behalf, meaning with great fervency and intensity they were stretched out before God, crying out to Him to save the life of Peter!
The Most Powerful Action The Church Can Do Is Pray
I write those words and ask you to say them out loud as you read them: The most powerful action the church can do is pray! Under the same conditions Peter faced, if they existed in our time, some modern churches would:
*Appoint a study committee to discover the needed actions or,
*Call a business conference to see what possible solutions may exist or,
*Contact an attorney to take some kind of legal action
What would your church do? I am convinced that the two most powerful words in Acts 12 are the words, “but prayer.”
Bondage Is Everywhere
Peter was in literal bondage and it was called prison. Yet, people all over our nation and world are living in bondage. Sadly, many of our churches only attempt new methodologies, or new strategies, or even lower themselves to adjust their theologies all in a futile attempt to help people overcome their problems.
Why Don’t We Pray
When the most powerful action the church can take is prayer, why don’t we pray? What is it about us that we will try almost anything other than prayer? When we pray we are depending on God! When we choose not to pray, we are depending on ourselves! God help the church to become the praying people He intended for us to be.
When We Pray, God Does Miracles!
Yes, I write it again and ask you to say it out loud: When we pray, God does miracles! In Acts 12, this is exactly what happened. God freed Peter from prison miraculously, all in response to the prayers of God’s people. God took this ordinary man named Peter, making him the recipient of an extraordinary work of God because the church prayed.
This Week, I Want To Challenge You
This week, I want to challenge you to take these four actions:
1. Pray for miracles: God is able to do anything, anywhere, at anytime, with and for anyone; therefore, pray for miracles!
2. Expect miracles: Because our God is Sovereign and in complete control of all things and He desires us to pray to Him about all things, expect miracles when you pray. Refuse to settle, expect God to move and to answer prayer.
3. Trust God’s sovereign will: Yes, He is in complete control of all things; therefore, when you pray, God moves your heart to receive whatever He so chooses to do in response to your prayers. The ways of God are often unexplainable; therefore, the sovereign will of God has to be trusted.
4. Church, rise up and pray: The greatest action a church can do is pray!
Believe it! Do it! I want our people to know that when their lives are falling apart, our church is praying. When the world is uncertain, our church is praying. When families are struggling, our church is praying. When hope is seemingly dissipating, our church is praying. Therefore, rise up and pray!
Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd