My Prayer For Smith Chapel In the Years To Come

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“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth,… And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:3-6,9-14.

This past Lord’s Day morning, was our first gathering of 2017. I wanted to begin the year by reflecting upon the past year, and fixing our eyes upon Christ and the need for grace and growth in the years to come. I shared the following from Colossians 1, and I hope you will be blessed, and urged to pray in this way for yourself, your family, your friends and our Church.

  1. Begin with encouragement “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ, and the love you have for all the saints”…  2016 has been the most difficult year of life for many of you: some of you have lost loved ones, others  of you have faced near financial ruin, while some suffered a tragedy or were diagnosed with serious illnesses, others still have seen your family torn apart, faced fear, doubt, anxiety, and depression. For others 2016 was a decent year, nothing extremely noteworthy or overly exciting, but you wouldn’t call it a bad year. For others, it may have been filled with joy: perhaps you welcomed a new life, maybe you were finally given the promotion or new job you were looking for,  perhaps you had a relationship restored or seen a wandering child come home, maybe even witnessed the salvation of a loved one, seen God move mightily in your life, and had answered prayers, or finally experienced joy in God for the first time. For some, your 2016 was a mix of all of these; a roller-coaster of emotions, an elevator ride of experiences, feeling all of these emotions at one point or another. As I have gotten to know you this year, and as I have seen your struggles, and your joys, as I pray for you and for us as a Church in the years to come, I begin with great encouragement. I have seen such growth, such steadfastness, such reliance on God this year. As Paul tells these Colossians, I have heard of your faith in Christ, and your love for the saints, and more than that I have seen it this year. I have seen some of you as individuals, and all of us together as a Church, put through the fire, faced with deaths, sickness, persecution, slander, broken relationships and I have see faith in Christ grow, and love for one another deepen, and that fills me with great encouragement. So I do not pray without hope, or in fear, but with great encouragement. As I begin with encouragement, I also pray with and for…                           
  2. Hope – Paul continues in Colossians 1, “Because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the gospel which has come to you”                                             One of the reasons I am filled with such encouragement as I pray for you, and for the Church as a whole is that in everything we have been through, I see the source of our strength as hope in the God of the gospel, hope as the evidence of the gospel which has come to us by the work of God Himself by the Spirit in the Scripture. As I continue to pray for you, and for us, I pray that we would overflow, even more, with hope, knowing the glory of the hope laid up for us in heaven. Hope that says, “I Consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed to us.” Romans 8:18. Hope that says, “Our citizenship is in heaven and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly bodies to be like His glorious body, by the power that enables Him even to subject all things unto Himself.” Philippians 3:20. Hope that says, “Nothing can separate us from the love of God, tribulations, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword, death, life, angels, demons, rulers, the present, the future, height, depth, nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:36-39 (Emphasis Mine). I pray this year, the reality of this hope floods your soul and so deeply roots you in the love of God that nothing can shake you. As I pray for growth in hope given by the gospel, I also pray for…                                                                                                                                                              
  3. Mission“Of this you have heard before in the gospel which has come to you. As indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing”                                                                                 It is extremely fitting that the Heath family would be here this morning, because one of the things I pray for our Church is that we would be missional. What I mean, is that the glory of the gospel would make us missional. This is why we pray for unreached peoples every Sunday, this is why we support missionaries, namely because this gospel of God, is meant to go to the whole world. We worship God by declaring Him among the nations according to Psalm 96. My prayer is this year we would be more missional than ever; that this joy in God, our source of hope, our love for Christ would escape these four walls, and go to all the world. I pray that we would give more, pray more, send more, sacrifice more, fast more, and even that God would raise up missionaries from among us, if He would see fit to do so. I pray not only for our Church to grow in obedience to missions, but also…                                                           
  4. Knowledge “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will, in all spiritual wisdom and understanding”                                                                                                                                         While many of us don’t claim to know it all, we have a tendency to come to Church and listen like we know it all, or we tend to read our Bibles like we know it all, or we tend to neglect Church, the Scripture, prayer and learning like we know it all. Oh, I pray this year will be different. I pray that you, and all of us as a Church, would be filled with the knowledge of God and of His will, I pray that we will be filled with spiritual wisdom and spiritual understanding, not with the wisdom of the world, but with the wisdom and knowledge of God. Jesus said the greatest commandment, was to Love the Lord God with all our hearts, souls minds and strength. That means, it is not just actions, it is not just affections, it is also in the mind. This means we need to continually be growing in the knowledge of God. I recently read a quote from J.I. Packer which basically said, “If we are to obey the command to love the Lord with all of our minds, we must be deeply theological.” We must never settle for our current knowledge, we must never assume we have arrived at an appropriate, full knowledge of God. I am also praying for…                                                                                                              
  5. Holiness “And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will, in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God”                                                                            As I have said before, there is a direct connection to what we think, and what we do. This means, there is a direct link between our theology and our holiness. As I pray for you, and for us all to grow in knowledge of God and His will, the outcome of that will be, us as individuals and as a Church, walking in a manner worthy of the Lord, living and being in such a way that is fully pleasing to Him, existing continually in a state of bearing fruit in every good work, and then Paul comes full circle with it to say, increasing in the knowledge of God. Our knowledge of God fuels our living for God, and our living for God fuels our desire for increasing in the knowledge of God. I pray this year, more than ever, we would be a people, who are holy, not self-righteous, but humbly, depending upon and walking by the Spirit.  I pray we would be a people who strive to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, worthy of the gospel, a people who are known for bearing fruit in every good work, a people who are getting their hands dirty, spending their time, money and resources to make Jesus known, and who are filled with worship as they increase in the knowledge of God. As I pray for our knowledge and holiness, I also pray for…                                                                                           
  6. Strength“Being strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, with all endurance and patience with joy.”                                                                                                             As I pray for these things, it doesn’t mean all of our suffering is over. It doesn’t mean the trials will cease. It doesn’t guarantee smooth sailing, it actually means trials, suffering, and troubled seas are most likely ahead. However, as I pray for you, and for our Church, I pray as Paul did that you would be strengthened with all power according to the glorious might of God. I Pray this year, the hope which held you last year will grow into the very strength and might of God in you this year, that as the trials come you will be filled with endurance, patience and joy. That is the evidence of a life rooted in Christ, power, patience and joy. I can assure you, the only way you can patiently endure the suffering and hardship of living a godly life with joy, is by the power of God. As I pray for your strength, I also pray for growth in…                                     
  7. Thanksgiving“Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”                                                                                                                                            I also pray this year that we will grow in thanksgiving, not just thanksgiving for stuff, because it is easy to give thanks for things, for the tangible things we can see, I am talking about a thanksgiving that reaches into the depths of your heart, soul and mind and makes the work of God in salvation an eternal well springing forth as an equally eternal source of thanksgiving. He has qualified us, He has delivered us, He has transferred us from darkness to the Kingdom of Christ, may we grow in thanksgiving as we are founded on the work of God in our salvation this year. Finally, I am also praying that all of us as individual, and also as a Church would be…                     
  8. Centered on Christ“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” There are so many things we could focus on, so many trends we could go along with, so many strategies we could utilize, so many philosophies of Church growth we could adhere to, yet as I pray for you and for us as a body, I want none of them. I pray that we would be a people centered on Christ, Christ alone, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins: that our thoughts would be centered on Christ, our affections would be centered on Christ, our finances would be centered on Christ, our relationships would be centered on Christ, our actions would be centered on Christ, our conversations would be centered on Christ, our hearts and desires centered on Christ. Oh that in this year and for the rest of our lives hereafter we would be a people centered on Christ and Christ alone! I am not talking about making New Year’s resolutions, I am talking about casting ourselves completely on God, growing in Him, taking the Gospel to the nations, and living continuously centered on Christ.

If we make this commitment as a Church who can tell what God will do in us, through us, for us, and even more for His glory.

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