Today’s selected reading continues in the first New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy who was a true son in the faith to the apostle. More specifically today’s passage is found in the second and third chapters of this New Testament book. “Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle—I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying—a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth” (1 Timothy 2:1-7).
“I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly c.o thing, but which is proper for women professing godliness with good works. Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness with self-control” (1 Timothy 2:8-15).
“This is a faithful saying: if a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. A bishop must then be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil” (1 Timothy 3:1-7).
“Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 3:8-13).
“These things I write to you, though I hope to come to you shortly; but if I am delayed, I write so that you may know how you ought to conduct yourself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth. And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:14-16).
When you come to the second chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy you will find some of the most powerful teaching on prayer outside of the Lord Jesus Himself. As you come to the second chapter of this epistle you will find the apostle Paul admonishing and exhorting Timothy concerning prayer—and not only only prayer in the corporate setting of the church but also in the personal setting of the home as well. If you begin reading with and from the opening verse of this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Paul exhorting Timothy that all supplications, prayers, intercessions and the giving of thanks be made for all men. Pause for a moment and consider the words which the apostle spoke in this passage and how absolutely relevant and necessary they are for us today. Notice the words the apostle Paul wrote in this particular passage of Scripture and how the apostle Paul essentially categorized four different types of prayer(s) within the life of a believer. Upon reading the words which the apostle Paul wrote you will find him first speaking of supplications, second speaking of prayers, third speaking of intercessions and finally the giving of thanks. What’s more is the apostle Paul didn’t merely stop with these different types of prayer, fellowship and communion with the Father. The apostle Paul would indeed write these words here and admonish that these different types of prayer not be made for oneself but “for all men.” Stop and consider how incredibly challenging this is—particularly and especially when it comes to your own personal and private prayer life. Consider how challenging it is to put yourself last—especially when praying and coming before the Father. The words the apostle Paul admonished and exhorted Timothy with in this passage of Scripture go against everything we think, everything we feel and everything we have been taught concerning prayer within the church. In fact I would dare say there are countless men and women who read these words and who wouldn’t know how to carry out and fulfill the words which the apostle Paul spoke if it depended on them.
I recently read a quote on the popular social media platform Twitter and the quote simply said “Pray as though it depends on God; live as though it depends on you.” I am absolutely convinced there is tremendous truth found in this quote which must be recognized for it presents us with the unique perspective concerning prayer—and not only concerning prayer but also concerning our response to prayer. If we are truly honest with ourselves and with the living God we must needs acknowledge that prayer has never nor will it ever be about what God alone can do. Far too many times we approach prayer as the bringing of our petitions and our requests before the living God, maybe exercising a degree and measure of faith and having within our hearts an expectation that God might possibly answer and respond to our prayer(s). There are very few times when we as the saints of God approach prayer with the mindset that while much might in fact depend on God to show up there is a part and role which we play. I am absolutely convinced there are very few among us within this generation and within our churches who approach prayer—not only with the understanding that much might in fact depend upon the living God but there is also a part and role that we ourselves must needs play. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of this reality of praying as though it depends on God and living as thought it depends on you is found in the ninth and tenth chapters of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew. It is within the final verses of the ninth chapter of the New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew we find the Lord Jesus emphatically declaring that the harvest was plentiful but the laborers were indeed few. Jesus would then proceed to instruct them to pray unto the Lord of the harvest that He might send laborers into the midst of it to carry out the work. What follows in the tenth chapter of this same gospel is the Lord Jesus calling the twelve disciples unto themselves, ordaining them as apostles and then sending them out. Consider if you will the following words which are found within this passage of Scripture beginning with the final verses of the ninth chapter:
“Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every sickness and every disease among the people. But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion for them, because they were weary and scattered, like sheep having no shepherd. Then He said to His disciples, The harvest truly is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest” (Matthew 9:35-38).
If there is one thing I absolutely love about the words which are found in this passage of Scripture it’s how Jesus begins with and by describing the work. What’s more is that not only does Jesus begin by describing the work but He also describes how big and how great the work truly is. The Lord Jesus emphatically declared unto His disciples how the harvest was truly plentiful but the laborers were few. Please don’t miss and lose sight of how incredibly important this truly is when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth of how there are times when the Lord will place before us the importance of the work—and not only the importance of the work but also the size and scope of the work. That which we find in this passage of Scripture is the Lord Jesus setting the work before the disciples—a work which He himself had engaged in since returning from the wilderness in the power of the Holy Spirit. At this point in time the disciples whom Jesus had called had witnessed and observed the Lord Jesus engaging in the work of the ministry which the Father had ordained and appointed for Him. Up until this point the Lord Jesus had indeed and had in fact undertaken and engaged Himself in the work of the ministry and had indeed moved throughout and in the midst of the harvest. Until this point in time it was the Lord Jesus Himself who was laboring in the harvest field that the work of the living God might be accomplished in the midst of the earth. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful and powerful truth surrounding the size, the scale and the scope of the work which was not only before Jesus but which was also before the disciples. Ultimately Jesus knew that He would depart from this earth and return unto the Father and it would be the disciples and His followers who would remain in the midst of the harvest laboring on behalf of the Father who was seated upon the throne.
That which strikes me to no end within this passage of Scripture is how the Lord Jesus would reveal and show unto the disciples just how big the work truly was. With this being said, however, we must needs recognize that although it is true that Jesus showed the disciples how big the work before them was He also showed and demonstrated how big the living and eternal God truly was. As you read the words found in this passage of Scripture you will find Jesus describing the size of the work by declaring that the harvest was plentiful but the laborers were few. That which made the work truly incredible during that generation—and not only within that generation but within and throughout every generation since then—is the fact that the harvest truly is plentiful but the laborers are few. Perhaps one thing I would love to know and understand is ratio and percentage of laborers in direct relation to the harvest. Pause for a moment and consider how massive the harvest field is and how massive the harvest within that field truly is and then stop and think about how many laborers are actually laboring within that harvest. What we find the Lord Jesus presenting before the disciples on this particular occasion is the full scale and scope of the work which was before them during that generation. The Lord presented unto the disciples that the harvest was truly plentiful but how the laborers were few. Essentially that which the Lord did within this passage of Scripture was show how big the work was before them in the midst of the world and how there were very few who were ready, willing and able to enter into that work. Jesus emphatically declared unto the disciples how the harvest was truly plentiful but the laborers were few thus expressing the tremendous truth surrounding the grand scale and size of the work which was before them.
If you continue reading the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find that despite Jesus demonstrating and showing them how big and how great the work was He also showed them how big and how great the living and eternal God was. Although the harvest was truly plentiful and although the laborers were few He would then instruct them to pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His Harvest. Oh it was indeed true that the harvest was indeed plentiful and it was indeed true that the laborers were few, however, it was also true that there was a great big God who was up for the challenge of the harvest. The living and eternal God was indeed up for the challenge of the harvest being plentiful but the laborers being few and as a direct result of this He instructed these twelve disciples to pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. If there is one thing that is incredibly important when reading these words it’s that before Jesus actually sent out His twelve disciples as laborers into the harvest He first instructed them to pray. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful reality that there are indeed two responses to the harvest being plentiful but the laborers being few. The first and perhaps the greatest response to the harvest being plentiful but the laborers being few was prayer for prayer is indeed the most important response to the work which is before us. Before Jesus called His twelve disciples to Him He would first instruct them to pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Thus that which the Lord Jesus did within this particular passage was admonish and instruct the disciples to pray for the harvest before they would actually enter into and labor within the harvest.
We must needs recognize and pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for there would be many who would like to jump right into the tenth chapter from Jesus’ words concerning the harvest being plentiful but the laborers being few. There are those among us within our churches who would like to immediately enter into the response to the size and scope of the harvest and would seek to enter into and engage in the work which was before us. The truth of the matter, however, is that this simply is not the case for there is a great need to engage ourselves in prayer for the harvest before we engage ourselves in the work of the harvest. THE PRAYER FOR THE HARVEST! THE WORK OF THE HARVEST! What we have a great need of recognizing and understanding is that more often than not one of the greatest tests of our ability to engage in the work of the harvest is our willingness to pray for the harvest. Is it possible that before Jesus sends us into the harvest He first watches and observes whether or not we actively pray for the harvest? Is it possible that before Jesus is willing to send us forth into the midst of the harvest He first calls us to pray for the harvest and then watches and observes how frequently and how fervently we pray for it? There is something to be said about those who aren’t merely willing to engage in the work of the harvest but those who are also willing to engage in the prayers of and the prayers for the harvest. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the need to engage ourselves in prayer for the harvest—and not only prayer for the harvest but also intercession for the harvest. One thing that is true of the church is there is no shortage of those who are perhaps willing to enter into the harvest and engage themselves in the work, however, there are very few within the harvest who are truly willing to give themselves in prayer for the harvest itself.
The more you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture the more you can and will encounter the tremendous truth surrounding Jesus presenting unto the disciples the size, the scope and scale of the work but then instructing them to pray unto the Lord of the harvest that He might send forth laborers into the harvest. What we must recognize within these words spoken by the Lord Jesus is that while it was indeed true He emphasized the size and greatness of the work He also emphasized the greatness of the living God. Despite the fact the harvest was truly plentiful but the laborers were few the living and eternal God had the ability to send forth laborers into the harvest. What we find within this passage of Scripture is Jesus instructing the disciples to pray as though it all depended on God before commanding them to live as though it depended on them. In the final verses of the ninth chapter we find Jesus instructing HIs disciples to pray unto the Lord of the harvest that He might send forth laborers into the midst of it and by and through this that which He did was instruct and admonish the disciples to pray as though the raising up and releasing of laborers into the harvest was indeed up to the living God. What’s more is that there is something we must acknowledge within this passage and that is how Jesus didn’t speak of the disciples praying the Lord of the harvest and then men and women taking it upon themselves to enter into the harvest and engage in the work present within it.
I sit here today thinking about the words found in this passage of Scripture and I am brought face to face with the incredible reality that when Jesus spoke unto the disciples He didn’t declare unto them the harvest was plentiful but the laborers were few and then told them to go forth into the harvest. There are countless men and women who take it upon themselves to simply go into the harvest without being sent by the Lord of the harvest. Perhaps one of the greatest truths we must needs recognize and understand is that when it comes to the harvest it isn’t merely about men and women simply going forth into the midst of the harvest according to their own whim and their own desire and plan(s). That which we find within this passage is the Lord instructing the disciples to pray the Lord of the harvest but not pray that the Lord of the harvest might approve those who take it upon themselves to go forth into the harvest but rather to send out laborers into His harvest. Two things strike me about this which must needs be carefully considered and that is how the harvest is and belongs to the Lord and how it is the Lord Himself who sends forth laborers into the harvest. It isn’t men and women taking it upon themselves to go into the harvest without the approval and authorization of the living and eternal God. There is something truly astonishing and captivating about the Lord of the harvest raising up and sending forth laborers into the midst of the harvest according to his divine will, plans and purpose. In fact this is precisely what is so incredibly powerful about the words which are found in the tenth chapter for within the tenth chapter we find the Lord Jesus calling His twelve disciples to Himself, giving them power over unclean spirits to cast them out and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. What Jesus would then do was send them out two by two into the cities, towns, villages and homes of Israel that they might truly labor in the midst of the harvest. With this being said, however, and before I present you with the words found in the tenth chapter I find it necessary to call your attention to the danger of going when you haven’t been sent and what it looks like when the LORD not only looks for one who will go but also what happens when one steps up and offers to go and is sent by the living and eternal God:
“My heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake. I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine has overcome, because of the Lord and because of His holy words. For the land is full of adulterers; for because of a curse the land mourns. The pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up. Their course of life is evil, and their might is not right. For both prophet and priest are profane; yes, in my house I have found their wickedness, says the Lord. Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery ways; in the darkness they shall be driven on and fall in them; for I will bring disaster on them, the year of their punishment, says the LORD. And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria: They prophesied by Baal and caused my people Israel to err. Also I have seen a horrible thing in the prophets of Jerusalem: they commit adultery and walk in lies; they also strengthen the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns back from his wickedness. All of them are like Sodom to me, and her inhabitants like Gomorrah. Therefore thus says the LORD of hosts concerning the prophets: Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall; for from the prophets of Jerusalem profaneness has gone out into all the land. Thus says the Lord of hosts: Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. They make you worthless; they speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the LORD. They continually say to those who despise me, The LORD has said, You shall have peace; and to everyone who walks according to the dictates of his own heart, they say, No evil shall come upon you. For who has stood in the counsel of the LORD, and has perceived and heard his word? Who has marked his word and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind of the LORD has gone forth in fury—a violent whirlwind! It will fall violently on the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORD will not turn back until He has executed and performed the thoughts of His heart. In the latter days you will understand it perfectly. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they would have turned them form their evil way and from the evil of their doings. Am I a God near at hand, says the LORD, and not a God afar off? Can anyone hide himself in secret places, so I shall not see him? Says the LORD; Do I not fill heaven and earth? Says the LORD. I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed! How long will this be in the heart of the prophets who prophesy lies? Indeed they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make my people forget my name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot my name for Baal. The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; and he who has my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? Says the LORD. Is not my word like a fire? Says the LORD, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, says the LORD, who steal my words every one from his neighbor. Behold, I am against the prophets, says the LORD, who use their tongues and say, He says, Behold I am against those who prophesy false dreams, says the LORD, and tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies and by their recklessness. Yet I did not send them or command them; therefore they shall not profit this people at all, says the LORD. So when these people or the prophet or the priest ask you, saying, What is the oracle of the LORD? You shall then say to them, What oracle? I will even forsake you, says the LORD. And as for the prophet and the priest and the people who say, The oracle of the LORD! I will even punish that man and his house. Thus every one of you shall say to his neighbor, and every one to his brother, What has the LORD answered? And What has the LORD spoken? And the oracle of the LORD you shall mention no more. For every man’s word will be his oracle, for you have perverted the words of the living God, the LORD of hosts, our God. Thus you shall say to the prophet, What has the LORD answered you? And, What has the LORD spoken? But since you say, The oracle of the LORD! Therefore thus says the LORD: Because you say this word, The oracle of the LORD! And I have sent to you, saying, Do not say, The oracle of the LORD! Therefore behold, I, even I, will utterly forget you and forsake you, and the city that I gave you and your fathers, and will cast you out of my presence. And I will bring an everlasting reproach upon you, and a perpetual shame, which shall not be forgotten” (Jeremiah 23:9-40).
Please pay close attention to the words which the LORD spoke through His servant the prophet Jeremiah in this passage of Scripture. IN the twenty-first verse of this passage you will find the LORD speaking of the false prophets which were present during those days. The LORD through the prophet Jeremiah clearly declared that He did not send these prophets and yet they ran. What’s more is the LORD would also go on to declare that He had not spoken to them and yet they prophesied. Pause and consider how absolutely incredible these words truly are for they call and draw our attention to two distinct realities of being a prophet of the LORD—and not only a prophet of the LORD but also a servant and messenger of the LORD. Within this passage we find the LORD declaring through Jeremiah that He had not sent these prophets and He had not spoken unto them. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely wonderful it truly is for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding being sent by the living God and hearing the voice of the living God speaking to His servants. Two of the greatest questions facing any who would dare engage in the work of the harvest and even the work of the kingdom is whether or not they have been sent by the living God and whether or not the living God has indeed spoken unto them. There is a great need for us to recognize this for in the thirty-second verse of this passage of Scripture we find the LORD once more declaring concerning these prophets that He did not send nor command them and as a direct result they carried about their recklessness among the people and would have no profit among them. How absolutely incredible this truly is when you take the time to think about it for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding how incredibly important it is to not only be sent by the living God but also to hear the voice of God clearly speaking to us.
It is with this in mind I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the following words which are found in the sixth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah. Within this passage of Scripture we find the king of the southern kingdom of Judah dying and in the year in which he died Isaiah saw a very specific vision. What’s more is that not only did Isaiah see a very specific vision in the midst of the death which had taken place within the southern kingdom of Judah but that vision would also lead to a mission and assignment from the living and eternal God. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for within this passage of Scripture we find the living and eternal God asking a very pointed and powerful question—a question which still resonates within us during this generation. The living and eternal God would ask the question of who would go for them and who might they send forth into the midst of the nation. The LORD was clearly looking for that one who He might send forth into the midst of that nation and that generation and this vision would come in direct relation to the vision which Isaiah would see. This vision which Isaiah would see was not only a vision of the holiness of the living God but it was also a vision of his own sinfulness and his own need for cleansing. Within the sixth chapter of this passage of Scripture we find the living and eternal God showing the prophet Isaiah a vision of His holiness in the year that king Uzziah died and it is in the midst of that vision of the holiness of the living God the prophet Isaiah would come face to face with his own sinfulness and his own iniquity. What’s more is the prophet Isaiah would recognize that he was a man who was undone for he was a man of unclean lips who dwelt in the midst of an unclean people. It would be at this moment a seraphim would take a live coal from upon the altar and press it upon the lips of Isaiah cleansing his lips—the very thing he had spoken of before the living and eternal God. With this in mind I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the sixth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah beginning with the first and opening verse:
“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the LORD sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory! And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said: Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts. Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a live coal which he had taken with the tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth with it, and said: Behold, this has touched your lips. Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged. And I heard the voice of the LORD, saying: Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Here am I! Send me. And He said, Go and tell this people: Keep on hearing, but do not understand; keep on seeing, but do not perceive. Make the heart of this people dull, and their ears heavy, and shut their eyes: lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed” (Isaiah 6:1-10).
Pay close attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture for not only do we find the prophet Isaiah hearing the voice of the LORD asking whom he would send but the prophet would respond by emphatically declaring, “Hear am I! Send me!” Within this passage of Scripture we not only find the call of the LORD concerning whom He would send but we also find the prophet’s response by emphatically declaring that He would go and asking the LORD to send him. The prophet Isaiah within this passage of Scripture clearly asked the LORD to send him after hearing the LORD ask whom He would send. Thus within this passage we not only find the tremendous reality of the living God looking for whom he would send but we also find the prophet Isaiah responding to that call by offering to go himself. The prophet Isaiah would hear the call of whom the LORD would send and he would respond by emphatically declaring and proclaiming that He would go and then asked the LORD to send him. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the call for those whom the LORD can send and those who will respond by asking the LORD to send them. Within this passage we do in fact find the desire of the LORD to send forth His servants and the response of men and women to send them. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we can and will be those who will hear the call and invitation of the living God to send forth servants, messengers and laborers into the harvest and will respond asking the LORD to send us. Are we those who possess within us a willingness to hear the voice of the living calling for those whom He might send and will be those who will respond by offering ourselves to go for Him into the world and into the harvest. With this in mind consider the following words which are found in the tenth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew beginning with the first verse of the chapter:
“And when He had called His twelve disciples to Him, He gave them power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed Him. These twelve Jesus sent out and commanded them, saying, Do not go into the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter a city of the Samaritans. But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give. Provide neither gold nor silver nor copper in your money belts, nor bag for your journey, nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food. Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And whosever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet. Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city! Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. You will be brought before governors and kings for my sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles. But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you. Now brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of man comes. A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household! Therefore do not fear them. For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, and hidden that will not be known. Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who will kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a Cooper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground a part from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. Therefore whoever confesses me before men, him I will also confess before my Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies me before men, him I will also deny before my Father who is in heaven. Do not think. That I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter in law against her mother in law; and a man’s enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it. He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet’s reward. And he who receives a righteous man in the name of a righteous man shall receive a righteous man’s reward. And whosever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall be no means lose his reward” (Matthew 10:1-42).
If you read the words which are found in this passage of Scripture you will find the apostle Matthew describing how Jesus—after he had declared unto them the harvest was plentiful and the laborers were few and after instructing them to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into the harvest—calling the disciples unto himself and sending them out. What’s more is that not only did He send them out but He sent them out with power over unclean spirits to cast them out and to heal all manner of sickness before instructing and commanding them. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding Jesus’ sending His disciples out as laborers into the harvest. What’s more is that I have—for quite some time—believed that what Jesus did was not only instruct His disciples to pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into the harvest but He also sent them forth as answers to their own prayers. There is something we must needs recognize within this passage for within it we not only find the Lord instructing them to pray unto the Lord of the harvest as though it all depended on Him but He also sent them forth as though it all depended on them. The disciples were sent forth as answers to their own prayers and the prayers which the Lord Jesus instructed them to pray. The disciples were sent forth by the Lord Jesus—not only in response to the laborers being few but also in response to the prayers which the Lord instructed them to pray. The disciples were sent forth in the midst of the harvest that they might indeed carry out the work of the ministry of the kingdom. What’s more is that what this passage demonstrates is the incredible reality that although Jesus did indeed travel through all the villages healing the sick, casting out devils, cleansing the lepers and the like the work was too great and too big for even Him. Jesus would indeed carry out the work which was before Him ordained and appointed by the eternal and living God and yet He would invite the disciples to partner together with Him in the work of the ministry.
I sit here today thinking about this and how absolutely wonderful and incredible it is when thinking about the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto Timothy in the second chapter of this first epistle. The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy that all supplications, prayers, intercessions and giving of thanks be made for all men. If there is one thing we must needs understand concerning these words is that when it comes to prayer we are not the primary focus. I realize this may come as a shock and surprise to you who might consider yourself great and powerful pray-ers, however, the truth of the matter is that prayer has never been nor will it ever be about you primarily. Of course this isn’t to say that when we come before the throne of grace we cannot seek mercy and grace to help in time of need. The book of the Psalms are replete with cries of the psalmists in response to the things they were facing during their days and generation. There is indeed a place for us to come before the throne of grace—and come before the throne of grace boldly—that we might indeed make our petitions and our requests known unto the living God. In fact it was the apostle Paul who wrote and admonished the saints to pray without ceasing as well as to be anxious for nothing but in everything with prayer and supplication making their requests known to God. Consider the following words which are found in the writing(s) of the apostle Paul concerning prayer as well as the words which are found in the epistle written by James unto the saints which were scattered and suffering:
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22).
“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced fruit” (James 5:13-18).
There is a great need for us to recognize and understand that which is found within these verses for they bring us face to face with the incredible importance of prayer—and not only the importance of prayer but also the results of prayer. When writing unto the Philippian saints the apostle Paul admonished them to be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication. Not only this but the apostle Paul also admonished them to—with thanksgiving—let their requests be made known to God. Moreover the apostle Paul also admonished them to let the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard their hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. When writing unto the saints of God which were at Thessalonica the apostle Paul admonished them to rejoice always and to pray without ceasing. What’s more, however, is that when we read these words we find the apostle Paul also being sure to include the admonition to give thanks. This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the reality of how important prayer and supplication is—and not only how important prayer and supplication are but how directly and intrinsically linked and connected to them is thanksgiving. Any discussion we have about prayer and supplication must needs include thanksgiving and the giving of thanks before and unto the living God. There are a great many men and women who might very well be good at praying, good at praying without ceasing and praying and offering supplications in everything, however, when it comes to having a thankful heart, or a thankful spirit, or even offering and expressing thanksgiving before and unto the living God they have absolutely no clue how to do or even what they are doing. Three different times when writing and speaking of prayer the apostle Paul directly links thanksgiving and the offering of thanks before and unto the living and eternal God.
The more I think about the words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy his spiritual and true son in the faith the more I am brought face to face with the tremendous importance of prayer, supplications, intercessions and the giving of thanks. I am absolutely gripped and captivated with and by the absolutely wonderful truth that is centered upon prayer and how at the very heart of prayer should be an attitude of gratefulness and thankfulness for who the living God is and what He has done. In fact I would dare say that at the very heart and core of faith itself is an appreciation and thankfulness for what the living and eternal God has indeed done for us. There is not a doubt in my mind that faith has directly linked and connected to it the wonderful and powerful sense of thanksgiving offered up unto the living and eternal God. This is incredibly important for there are countless men and women who are very good at praying, who are very good at interceding and who even very good at offering supplications, however, when it comes to expressing thankfulness, thanksgiving and gratitude before and unto the living God they have absolutely no clue how to do it. There are countless men and women among us within our churches who might very well be good pray-ers and good at praying, however, they have absolutely no clue how to express thanks for what the living God has done and who He is. To illustrate this even more tell me when the last time was you stood in the presence of the living God and simply thanked Him for who He was? When was the last time you stood in the presence of the living God and thanked Him for what He had done? When was the last time you asked for nothing but simply offered your thanks before and unto the living God? In all reality I would dare say we must needs be as good at giving thanks and offering thanksgiving as we are in praying and asking God for our requests.
I read the words which are found in the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy and I can’t help but be confronted with two distinct elements to his words which are incredibly difficult for many of us within the church and the body of Christ. Within the words the apostle Paul wrote in this passage of Scripture we encounter his admonition that prayers, supplications and intercession be offered up everywhere, however, he directly links thanksgiving and others to these manifestations and disciplines within our lives. In all reality that which the apostle Paul emphasized and described within these verses is that prayer, intercession and supplications aren’t always about us. There are times when our prayers, when our supplications, when our intercession are about others and when we take a backseat to the needs and struggles of others. When was the last time you put yourself last, thanked God for who He is and what He’s done and interceded and prayed for others without even thinking about yourself? When was the last time you simply gave thanks to God and prayed for others leaving your own situation and circumstances to the wonderful working and power of the living God? When was the last time you knelt in the presence of the living God offering thanks before and unto Him and simply offered up prayers for those around you who were in need—those who were struggling, those who were wrestling and those who were dealing with something much bigger than themselves? When was the last time you truly entered into a time of prayer and didn’t even think about yourself but thought about, elevated and lifted up the needs of others? This is something we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the need to be men and women of thankful hearts who are willing to express gratitude for the living and eternal God and what He has indeed done for us in our lives. There is a great need for men and women to lift up prayers, supplications, and intercessions but to recognize that at the very heart of it is thanksgiving where we acknowledge who God is and what He has done.
With all of this being said I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to words which the apostle Paul wrote in two other places within his epistles and writings. In the second chapter of the epistle written unto the Philippian saints as well as in the sixth chapter of the epistle written unto the churches which were in Galatia the apostle Paul admonished the saints concerning their relationship to others. What’s more is that the words of the apostle Paul are in direct alignment with the words which the Lord Jesus delivered in His famous Sermon on the Mount as well as the words which we find in the second and fourth chapters of the New Testament book of Acts. If you want to truly understand the words which are found in the second chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul unto Timothy a true son in the faith there is a great need to first understand the words of Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount and then the words which are found in the second chapter of the New Testament book of Acts. Consider if you will the following words which are found in these passages of Scripture beginning with the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle Matthew:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:1-12).
“You have heard that it was said, An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. You have heard that it was said, You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (matthew 5:38-48).
“Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets that they may have glory from men. Assuredly I say to you, they have their reward. But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly” (Matthew 6:1-4).
“And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secretly will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debs, as we forgive our debtors. And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen. For if you forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:5-15).
“And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, Be saved from this perverse generation. Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand would were added to them. And they continue steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved” i(Acts 2:40-47).
“Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common. And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors oof lands or houses sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need. And Jose’s, who was also named Barnabas by the apostles (which is translated Son of Encouragement), a Levite of the country of Cyprus, having land, sold it, and brought the money and laid it at the apostles’ feet” (Acts 4:32-27).
“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be qual with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservants, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:1-11).
“Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also are tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load. Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man’s sows that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow early while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:1-10).
As I transition back to the second chapter of the first epistle written by the apostle Paul I can’t help but be absolutely captivated with the words he wrote admonishing the saints to give themselves to supplications, prayers, intercession and giving of thanks for all men. I am absolutely challenged and convicted by prayer and how much of our prayers and praying is entirely and altogether selfish within our own hearts and souls as we focus solely upon ourselves and upon our own needs. If there is one thing we must needs recognize and understand it’s that we have been called to put the needs of others before our own and to esteem others as better than ourselves. There is perhaps no greater place to demonstrate this than in prayer—particularly and especially when we are indeed going through something within our own hearts and lives. There is nothing more challenging than dealing with our own struggle, with our own conflict and with those things which are before us and rather than focusing on ourselves we commit ourselves to praying for others and lifting them up before the throne of God in prayer, in supplication and intercession. What we find within this passage of Scripture is the apostle Paul admonishing the saints to make supplications, prayers and intercessions for all men, for kings, for all who are in authority and to do so that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. This is something we must needs recognize and understand for it calls and draws our attention to the absolutely wonderful truth surrounding the need to be men and women who pray lifting up holy hands without wrath and doubting. We as the saints of God must needs be those who recognize and understand that we have a tremendous responsibility to others in prayer, in intercession and in supplication. We have a responsibility to others in prayer and perhaps the single greatest question we must needs ask ourselves is whether or not we are indeed those who are willing to lift up others in prayer, in supplication and in intercession.
Upon bringing this writing to a close I find it absolutely necessary to call and draw your attention to the incredible burden and responsibility we have in prayer. There is a great need for us as the saints of God to recognize and understand that when it comes to prayer we have a responsibility to more than simply ourselves. We as the saints of God have a responsibility to those who are in authority, to those who in need, to kings, to governors, to rulers, to presidents, and to all those who have been given a position of authority among us within our generation. IN all reality I am convinced the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the New Testament epistle written unto the saints which were at Rome are directly applicable to that which he wrote unto Timothy in this particular epistle. It is indeed true that we are to come boldly before the throne of grace that we might receive mercy and grace to help in time of need. It is indeed true that we have been called to pray without ceasing and to be anxious for nothing but in everything with prayer, supplication and intercession for others. One of the hardest things for us to do is love for someone other than ourselves and this is especially true in prayer and intercession. There are many within our churches today who haven’t learned and who haven’t figured out that we have been called to live for something so much bigger than ourselves. We have indeed and have in fact been called to be those who are ready, willing and able to be men and women of passionate intercession and selfless devotion unto those who are before and around us within our neighborhood, within our community, within our church and even within our cities, towns and nations. There is a great need for us to live thankful and grateful lives before the living God for who He is and what He has done within our lives and for us. It is with this in mind I leave you with the following words which are found in the twelfth and thirteenth chapters of the epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints which were at Rome:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think o himself more highly than he ought to think, but to honk soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many are one body in Christ, and individual members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith; or minister, let us use it in our ministering; he who teachers, in teaching; he who exhorts, in exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads with diligence; he who shows mercy with cheerfulness” (Romans 12:1-8).
“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another. Do not set your mind on high things, but associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own opinion. Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the LORD. Therefore, if you’re enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).
“Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same. For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attentions continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:1-7).
“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet, and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Romans 13:8-10).