Prayerful Focus

Steve Viars January 19, 2008 1 Timothy 2:1-8

 

- Let me ask you to think about our country’s worst president during your adult lifetime...now I realize for some the list of potential answers is rather long, for others, its very short...

- and please don’t shout your answer out – that won’t help you later in the service...but who would you consider that person to be?...

- now please think about the front-runners in the current presidential election...the Barak Obama’s, the Hillary Clintons, the John McCains, and Mike Huckabys, Mitt Romney, etc...

- which of them would you want to see be our country’s next president the least?...

- so now you should have 2 names in your data base – the president you liked the least in the past...and the potential president you would like the least in the future...

- now let’s add 2 more questions...

1. How did God want you to respond to imperfect governmental authority in the past...and how would He want you to respond to imperfect governmental authority in the future?

- and if you say, well—I’m not sure I like that question because we’re talking about really imperfect authority in this case...

- then here’s the next question...

2. Has our country ever had a president in the past, or is it likely that we will ever have one in the future...as bad as that of 1st century Rome?...

- Yet what was the plan that God laid out for the 1st century church regarding the way they were to relate to, and interact with government, and other people in authority?

- and if that was the plan for them, then...what do you think that says about God’s plan for us, now?...

- and how closely aligned to that plan is the evangelical church today?

- is this what we’re really known for?...

- is this what we’re really focused on?...

- and what does all of this say about how likely it is that we will be able to be used by God in the accomplishment of His mission today?...

- with that in mind, I’d like to invite you to open your Bible to I Timothy chapter 2 this morning...that’s on page 162 of the back section of the Bible under the chair in front of you...

- our church’s theme this year is Seeking God’s Plan...we have the privilege and the responsibility this year to determine as a church family our next 5 year strategic ministry plan...what we as a congregation believe the Lord wants our church and its associated ministries to accomplish in the next 5 years...

- that is a very important undertaking, to say the least...

- but we don’t believe that God’s will is just something we should be concerned about when contemplating bug ticket decisions...

- God’s plan is something for everyday life...

- and we think that the more skilled we become at seeking God’s plan in the routine decisions we have to make each and every day...the better positioned we’ll be to walk with God when it’s time to make a really momentous one...

- in January and February, we’re talking about Seeking God’s Plan for His Family...

- this is a study from the book of I Timothy about what God desires for His church...

- one of the points we made last week was that a growing number of people believe they can have a perfectly functioning relationship with Christ without having any involvement in a church.

- someone told me later that there was actually an article in last Sunday’s Indianapolis Star that talked about that same point...

- the article was entitled – “Many say they believe in God, not churches...”

- here are a couple of highlights...

- A new survey of U.S. adults who don’t go to church, even on holidays, finds 72% say “God, a higher power, or supreme being, actually exists”.  But just as many (72%) also say the church is “full of hypocrites”.

- Indeed, 44 % agree with the statement “Christians get on my nerves”.

- More than one in five Americans, 22%, say they never go to church, the highest ever recorded by the General Social Survey, conducted every two years by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago.  In 2004, the percentage was 17%.

- Most of the unchurched (86%) say they believe they can have a “good relationship with God without belonging to a church”. 

- “These outsiders are making a clear comment that churches are not getting through on the two greatest commandments,” to love God and love your neighbor, says Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research.

- now, how would we respond to some of that?...what about the worn-out charge that the church is full of hypocrites?...

- there’s certainly truth in that, isn’t there?...

- we are called upon to adorn the doctrine of God with holy living, and if the way we communicate, and the way we do business, and the way we solve problems, and the way we function in our homes, or neighborhoods, or personal lives is not substantially different than those around us who don’t claim to know the Lord...the...can I say it, shame on us...

- sure, it’s a cop out from the perspective of the person making the statement, but that doesn’t mean there’s not a nugget of truth that ought to get our attention...

- and what about the issue of churches getting off track from the central of loving God and loving others and letting that compassion be an attraction to those who don’t know Christ?...

- there’s some truth in that too, isn’t there?...

- last’s week’s study of chapter 1 emphasized the issue of legalism...and how churches can get off track of the core message of the gospel of grace by coming up with all these other rules that then become the standard list that everybody has to follow, whether those ideas can be proven in Scripture or not...so the church becomes harsh, or judgmental, or self-righteous...where’s the attraction in that?...

- one man was quoted in this article as saying...”Is there a workshop for churches in being less annoying, less hypocritical?” asks Arthur Farnsley, administrator for the Society for the Scientific Study of Religion.

- and I understand that’s pretty cynical...but isn’t true that sometimes God’s people give those outside the church a ready supply of reasons, or at least, excuses not to believe?...

- now, what’s the core of problem...either to a lack of authenticity on the part of God’s people...or a diversion from the central mission on the part of the church...or on the other hand...

- the core problem for a person who believes it’s possible to have a perfectly functional relationship with Christ apart from any association with a local body of believers, a church.

- the answer’s the same --- the wrong source of truth in seeking God’s plan...

- God’s Word will not allow for the existence of a hypocritical, distracted church...and since judgment always begins at the household of God, we ought to take such matters very seriously...

- on the other hand, as we tried to systematically point out last week...if you take the church out of the NT, the document falls apart...

- God is mediating His plan and program in this age in and through the establishment and development of churches...

- and when things are done well, and properly...in a biblically focused fashion...the church can be the most powerful force on earth...

- as we said, last week we worked our way through chapter one...the theme of which was Purposeful Instruction.

- God’s plan for the church in part is that we avoid the danger of legalism...and put our attention on the – v. 11 – “glorious gospel of the blessed God”...

- and when that is the focus of God’s people...not their works, but His mercy...

- then the teaching that is done will produce...what did verse 5 say?...

- 1 Timothy 1:5 - But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

- well, if we get that in place...what’s next on God’s GPS system? -- read I Timothy 2:1-8

- if we are truly seeking God’s plan for His family, we certainly want to have purposeful instruction (last week—chapter 1), and we also want to have a Prayerful Focus.

- that’s what we’d like to spend the rest of our time on this morning...

‑ these verses give us 3 principles to help our church be a family of prayer.

- now, I’m not going to even ask if you think that you, and we, need to hear about this...

- I hope we would all listen up and say...having a more prayerful focus is something I want to learn more about, and get better at...(would that be where we’re coming from?)

I. God is Honored When His People Pray.

- just like in chapter 1, God is honored when His people avoid legalism and self-righteousness by placing their focus on the gospel of grace and mercy...in chapter 2, God is honored when His people pray...now, please notice...

A. The significant place of prayer in this passage – v. 1

1. “First of all.”

- now that we’ve gotten legalism out of the way...let’s talk about what should be at the top of the list...

- if we really want to seek God’s plan for His family, here it is...

2. “I urge...”

- Paul is speaking from the passion of his heart...look also at...

B. The facets of prayer.

- when Paul chains a groups of words like this together, he wants to be sure that we really get it...

1. entreaties – deesis – to be without, to lack something

- we make an entreaty for someone who lacks something...

- we have found Christ to be our greatest treasure, and we want to faithfully pray for those who have not yet found Him...

- Puritan Richard Baxter wrote -- Oh, if you have the hearts of Christians or of men in you, let them yearn towards your...neighbors. Alas, there is but a step betwixt them and death and hell; many hundred diseases are waiting ready to seize on them, and if they die unregenerate, they are lost forever. Have you hearts of rock, that cannot pity men in such a case as this? If you believe not the Word of God, and the danger of sinners, why are you Christians yourselves? If you do believe it, why do you not bestir yourself to the helping of others? Do you not care who is damned, so you be saved? If so, you have sufficient cause to pity yourselves, for it is a frame of spirit utterly inconsistent with grace. … Dost thou live close by them, or meet them in the streets, or labor with them, or travel with them, or sit and talk with them, and say nothing to them of their souls, or the life to come? If their houses were on fire, thou wouldst run and help them; and wilt thou not help them when their souls are almost at the fire of hell?

- when is the last time you made a specific entreaty to God on behalf of a person who does not yet know Him...this is of first importance...

2. prayers – proseuche – used only in reference to God, an act of worship

- when we take the time to come to God in prayer, we are aligning our hearts with God’s purposes...

3. petitions – enteuxis – “to fall in with someone”

- this isn’t a cold, impersonal discussion about someone who doesn’t really matter...

- our concern is genuine...our concern is sincere...

Charles Haddon Spurgeon - One thing more, the soul-winner must be a master of the art of prayer. You cannot bring souls to God if you go not to God yourself. You must get your battle-ax, and your weapons of war, from the armory of sacred communication with Christ. If you are much alone with Jesus, you will catch His Spirit; you will be fired with the flame that burned in His breast, and consumed His life. You will weep with the tears that fell upon Jerusalem when He saw it perishing; and if you cannot speak so eloquently as He did, yet shall there be about what you say somewhat of the same power which in Him thrilled the hearts and awoke the consciences of men. My dear hearers, especially you members of the church, I am always so anxious lest any of you should begin to lie upon your oars, and take things easy in the matters of God’s kingdom. There are some of you—I bless you, and I bless God at the remembrance of you—who are in season, and out of season, in earnest for winning souls, and you are the truly wise; but I fear there are others whose hands are slack, who are satisfied to let me preach, but do not themselves preach; who take these seats, and occupy these pews, and hope the cause goes well, but that is all they do.

4. thanksgivings

- gratitude to God for providing His Son, and for the privilege of being an ambassador of that message

- one of the reasons the world does not always find the church particularly attractive is because what they hear from our lips is something other than thanksgiving...

- now, let’s just push the pause button on what we’ve seen thus far...

- is there a lesson for us here?...

- sure, we want the Lord to direct us as we seek His plan for our church’s future

- but do you believe God will show us His plan for our future if we’re not following His plan for our present?...

- and how important is this according to Paul?...of first importance...

- so what do we do with this?...I would like to challenge each of us to make a goal of more faithfully praying for those around us who do not yet know the Lord, and for us to have a faithful, and effective, and consistent ministry...

- and you saw it at the end of verse 1 – for all men...

- not just for those we like, not just for those we think have a chance of coming to the Lord in our opinion...Developing more of a prayerful focus for all men...

- if you’ve been reviewing our church’s initiatives for this year...some of them especially need to be bathed in prayer...

Reaching Out

1. Deploy and oversee new leaders for the Project Jerusalem ministry with the goal of being more faithful and effective at contacting those who move in around us than ever before.

Meeting Needs

3. Develop additional ways to use the community center in a mission driven fashion.

4. Improve oversight and relationship-building at the skate park, the Loft, family fun nights, first Friday, and other community center programs to accomplish the mission for which the community center was built.

5. Offer excellent indoor and outdoor sports opportunities for people of all ages with the desire to get to know our neighbors better.

6. Lead youth ministry workers to pursue the goal of getting to know every young person in the neighborhoods east of I-65 and create a “neighborhood parish” view of all youth ministries.

7. Continue to work with Food Pantry/Clothing Closet workers to develop our ministry to neighbors in need.

- of course along with this would be those specific persons the Lord has placed all around you, but if we’re serious about seeking God’s plan for His family, then we’ll certainly be working to develop a more prayerful focus...are you willing to take that challenge?

II. God Especially Wants Us to Pray for Leaders in Government and Others in Authority.

- see, what’s the answer to the question...what should you do if the person you desire least to be our next president actually is the one who is elected...the answer is, pray for him, or for her...

- and friend, if that’s not where your heart is, you have approximately 9 months to get there...

A. Why “kings?”

 - In other words, governmental leaders...there are many answers to that...

1) Because their responsibility is heavy.

- Romans 13 tells us that God institutes governmental to suppress evil...

- how would you like that as part of your job description?...

- regardless of what you think of President Bush, would you at least acknowledge that trying to deal with countries like Iraq, and trying to address the issue of terrorism is an incredibly heavy burden...

- and perhaps the people of God would do better to pray more and criticize less...

- and I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have opinions and that we shouldn’t voice them at the appropriate time and in the appropriate ways...

- but when the church establishes itself as simply another voting block...we forfeited our position as people of prayer

[if time allows, talk mention CPS, or the county commissioners and their decision about the juvenile detention center]

2) Because they are often maligned or misrepresented.

- we live in a very cynical culture where people stand ready to criticize their elected leaders, often in ways that are unbalanced and unfair...

- [cf. situation with Sheila Klinker – asked to help a group of residents find a way to build an athletic complex in the county – she is willing to hold a neighborhood meeting to discuss it, and all of a sudden in the mind of some she is the one pushing it...]

- [regardless of what you think of all of Shelia’s positions, the fact is that she has been a real friend of our church – our counseling organization is actually written specifically into State Law in several places to protect what we do because of the effort of Sheila Klinker....and that’s not some sort of endorsement...it’s an attempt to motivate us to pray for our leaders...]

3) Because their job is often thankless.

- cf. the “repeal property taxes emphasis” – fine, but you either reduce services (or improve efficiency), or you raise taxes somewhere else – does that really help?...and is it really the responsibility of the government, or do we as citizens need to have more reasonable expectations for the services we demand versus the taxes we are willing to pay?...

- remember – we are to pray with thanksgiving...and this church has an incredible number of reasons to be thankful for our elected officials...and when is the last time we thanked God for them, or jotted them a note thanking them for their service and promising to pray for them?...

- cf. the building commissioner and the way they handled our auditorium renovation

- cf. the county surveyor and the way he has responded to the times we’ve added gravel parking areas

- cf. the Mayor’s response to me forgetting the paperwork for the VOH utility expansion...

4) We should be satisfied, if not ecstatic, if we are allowed to freely minister.

- v. 2 - 1 Timothy 2:2 - ...so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.

- cf. the way the state responded to the construction of VOH

- cf. the way the state and local educators have responded to our school...

- we clearly live in one of the easiest states in our country in which to do ministry...yet do our elected officials hear words of prayer and thankfulness from our lips, or do they hear something else?

B. Why should we pray for others in authority?

- for the same reasons we gave for those leading in government...

- we live in a very rebellious culture...and we can often be very rebellious  people...and prayer can help rope that in...

- wives, when’s the last time you prayed for your hubby...and the position of leadership God has given him in your home?...

- some wives, after about their 5th husband, come to realize, maybe this is not all about my husbands’ failures, maybe it’s about my rebellious heart...

- do you pray for your boss and the position of leadership and authority he/she occupies?....

- some people think---its amazing how every one of my bosses turns out to be incompetent...

- some people do that in the church...where they make a complete mess of their testimony and then criticize the pastor or deacon who try to help them...

- that’s where the phrase at the end of verse 2 fits into all of this – “in all godliness and dignity”...

- the more we’re on our knees bending our will to that of the heavenly Father, the more likely we are to relate to authority, even imperfect [remember the Roman empire] well...

C. What does God think about such prayer?

1 Timothy 2:3 - This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,

- the question that all of us would have to answer this morning is...how good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior have we been on this particular point?

- now the rest of these verses are very important as well...

III. A Prayerful Focus Helps Us Stay Centered on the Mission.

- verse 4 is an amazing statement about...

A. God’s desire

- 1 Timothy 2:4 - who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.

- that raises the important theological point, by the way, that there is a difference between God’s desires, and God’s decrees...it also leads to the amazing conclusion that there are at least some senses in which God does not always get everything He desires...wrap your mind around that one...

- but this helps us focus our efforts – is that really going to help us lead others to Christ?...

B. God’s provision.

- 1 Timothy 2:5-6 - For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.

- our hope/salvation is not in a political party or the outcome of the next election...it’s in a person, the Lord and savior Jesus Christ...

C. God’s appointment.

1 Timothy 2:7 - For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

D. God’s invitation.

1 Timothy 2:8 - Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.

- this brings us back full circle to how legalism results in arguments and division...evangelistic praying has a way of uniting the body around our all important mission...

- Conclusion – issue of having the right GPS system...

- cf. article about some people having accidents because their GPS systems let them down

- people in the church who are hypocritical or distracted need to recalibrate their GPS

- but so do people who believe they can have a great relationship with Christ apart from God’s people

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video