The practice of prayer is so fundamental to the overall spiritual health of the Christian that Paul wrote by inspiration, “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). To Timothy Paul wrote, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting;” (1 Timothy 2:8). But as fundamental as prayer is there are a lot of misconceptions about how prayer works.
Prayer is the medium through which we communicate our thanks, requests, and cares to God. God communicates to use through his Word and His providence. A big misconception is that God answers prayers in the affirmative or not at all. Often when we get what we want we respond thankfully by saying that God has answered our prayers. But the truth is that God answers every prayer. Sometimes God says, “Yes,” and sometimes He responds, “Not right now.” And there are also times when God says, “No.”
God Told David, “No.” After the birth of David’s son, which had been conceived in sin with Bathsheba, the prophet Nathan told the king that because of his sin the child would die. David responded by pleading with God for the child’s life. He “fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground” (2 Samuel 12:16). But God said, “No.”
God Told Paul, “No.” The great evangelist, missionary, and apostle was afflicted with “a thorn in the flesh…a messenger of Satan to buffet” him, that he may not “be exalted above measure.” Paul said, “Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me.” But God replied, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Paul reacted by saying, “Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). God said, “No.”
God Told Jesus, “No.” In the Garden of Gethsemane as the Lord prepared for the cross that lay before Him Jesus pleaded, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me…” (Matthew 26:39). The text tells us that three times he prayed this same prayer, but each time he concluded, “nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” And God said, “No.”
God says no to us when we consider sin over righteousness. God says no to us when our wish is not in accordance to his will. God says no to us when what we want is not in our best interest. The most tragic response will be when God says no to those who desire to enter his eternal home after death that have not been obedient and faithful.
The thing is; we often times think that we know what is best for us, but in reality, we are not that smart. Isaiah prophesied the words of God saying, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9). And Jeremiah is recorded as saying, “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).
Many years ago, during a particular low point in my life, I was feeling lost, discouraged and hopeless. My life was misdirected and in a state of turmoil. I recall one particular evening begging God to give me some very clear and specific blessings; my hearts desires that I knew would bring me peace and good fortune. Today I am blessed beyond measure even though I did not get even one thing I asked for that dark, bleak night so long ago. All because God said, “No.”
Place your trust and faith in God. Do His will and let Him guide your life with His Word. Leave your cares and desires with Him. Be obedient; be faithful!
When was Jesus born? We are nearing a time of the year when most of the religious world will be celebrating the birth of Jesus. Most people assume that December 25th was the day Jesus Christ was born. It is a proposed date given by a man many years ago, that has become accepted by most religious people as fact. Was December 25th the day Christ was born? What should be the Christian’s response to this assertion?
The Bible gives no date regarding the birth of Jesus. It could have fallen in one of many months. We do know that shepherds were out in the field tending to sheep on the night of his birth. This would tend to suggest that the birth, actually occurred during a warmer month other than December, but no one can be for sure. Any attempt to give an exact date is mere speculation at best.
Why was this date chosen? The date of December 25th was a date chosen by a Catholic bishop named Liberious in 354 A.D. Many disagreed with his suggested date at that time. Days in nearly every month were offered by others. At the time bishop Liberious chose to observe Christ’s birth, there was another holiday observed by non-Catholics which was designated as the time to celebrate the birth of the sun. The pagan festival with its merrymaking was such a poplar custom, many Catholics would celebrate Christ’s birth at the time their pagan acquaintances celebrated the birth of the sun. Thus, began a long -standing tradition that is still observed by most of the religious world today.
What should the response of New Testament Christians be? Should we observe this Catholic holiday with its religious connotations? Is it wrong for Christians to celebrate December 25th as a holy day in which Jesus was born? Consider what the Bible has to say regarding these questions.
Jesus teaches that we are to observe all things whatsoever He has commanded (Matt. 28:20). Where has God commanded Christians to observe December 25th as a religious holy day? Paul warned Christians not to go beyond the things that are written (1 Cor. 4:6). Is not creating and observing Christmas as a holy day going beyond what has been written? Are we not teaching our children the doctrines and commandments of men when we give religious significance to December 25th (Matt. 15:9)? God gave his people one special day. Paul told some Christians that he was afraid of them because of the days, months and seasons they observed, lest he should have labored in vain (Gal. 4:10,11). These acts and others were evidence that they were being removed from the simple gospel of Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:6-8).
New Testament Christians should not Observe Christmas with a religious connotation because it is not a holy day. A day can only be holy if designated so by God. December 25th was chosen by a Catholic bishop, not by God. It is a Catholic tradition that most Protestants have embraced. “Was not this special event in history something that should be remembered?” Absolutely! However, everything that Jesus did on earth was of special significance. Name one event recorded in our New Testament that wasn’t significant and shouldn’t be remembered. There is not one single reference that is not of great importance. This doesn’t mean that one should never study about and be thankful for his birth. However, it is one thing to study about and be thankful for Christ’s birth and another thing to set aside a particular day as a holy day to observe each year.
What then can a Christian do during the holiday season? A Christian can recognize the day as a national holiday. Our country recognizes many national holidays. Recognizing a day as a national holiday doesn’t require that one place any religious significance to the day. Christmas can be a time to celebrate the end of the year. It can be used as an opportunity to demonstrate love toward family and friends by giving gifts. Christians can get together for parties during the season and enjoy each other’s fellowship. Christians can accept bonuses from their places of employment. Christians can take days off given by their employer. Christians can decorate their homes with seasonal items that do not suggest an observance of a religious holy day. In other words, Christians can do anything others do except place a religious significance to the day.
We need to be thankful for the birth of the Savior. We need to be thankful for the life he lived. Especially we need to be thankful for the sacrifice that he made on Calvary. This event was of more importance to humanity than any other in the history of the world. Let us not minimize the remembrance of this resurrection on the first day of every week by introducing man-made “holy days” or elevating any other event above the death, burial and resurrection that transpired in the long ago.
As the words of a popular song say, “This world is not my home; I’m just a passing thru. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” Jesus says, “Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:20-21). We must lay up our treasures in heaven, not here on the earth. The Bible says, “And as it is appointed for man to die once, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). When we draw our last breath, what we have accumulated here on the earth will go to someone else. After we pass from this life our fate is sealed and we will be judged by what is written in the word of God (John 12:48).
Life here on earth is so temporary and short. Life passes so quickly. James 4:14 says, “Whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” Many people are living their lives as though they will live forever here on the earth. One day this earth and all of its possessions will be burned up. No one knows when this will be. “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (2 Peter 3:10-11).
As the words of the song continue to say, “If heaven is not my home, then Lord what will I do?” For the vast majority of people, heaven will not be their home (Matthew 22:14). Their home will be a real and never ending hell in which they will be “tormented day and night forever and ever in burning fire and brimstone” (Revelation 20:10, 15). But for the few whose home is heaven, “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
The apostle Paul was longing to leave this world and go home to heaven. He says, “For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you…For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:23-24, 3:20).
As mortal human beings we cannot begin to imagine how great and wonderful heaven will be. We cannot comprehend its glory. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:9. “Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, Nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.” We have, “an inheritance incorruptible and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you” (1 Peter 1:4), “knowing that you have a better and enduring possession for yourselves in heaven” (Hebrews 10:34). As human beings we are eternal in that we have a soul that lives forever in one of two places. Our home will be either heaven or hell. We make the choice as to where we will go while we are here on Earth. If one is not preparing to go to heaven he will end up in hell.
Jesus taught, “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness…” (Matthew 6:33). Our number one goal in this life must be for heaven to be our home. “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14). No one will accidentally go to heaven.