In all my prayers for all of you I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:4-6
One thing I love about going to the beach is taking photographs from the edge of the water that take in the wide expanse of the Gulf of Mexico – especially at sunset! There is something both overwhelming and at the same time assuring about being one tiny part of that enormous expanse. But to catch the magnitude of that scene I have to switch my camera from the portrait setting to a wide angle lens.
That reminds me of a song we like to sing at church with the line, “I know breakthrough is coming.” Usually while I am heartily belting out the lyrics I am thinking of some issue that I am hoping God will help me or maybe someone in our family with. Now it is true that God does want to meet our personal needs, but the amazing thing about the Apostle Paul’s prayer is that it is completely focused on others. He wasn’t only clinging on to that hope that God wasn’t finished with him yet (Remember Paul is sitting in prison while he is writing). No! In fact Paul writes to encourage the Philippian church not to give up on what God has started with them. He is trusting the God of breakthrough, but not just for himself to get out of jail. He is believing that God has great things in store for His friends back in Macedonia.
Praying like Paul is like switching from looking down at our feet while we stand on the seashore, to looking at the people around us through God’s wide angle lens. That is not to say that our own battles are insignificant, but that the breakthroughs which God has in store include far more than just us. We are one small part of God’s big plan. His amazing love includes so much more than we can imagine and so many more people than we could ever dream of. So in switching over to using God’s wide angle lens, think about who you can pray for this morning. Maybe that someone else needs a breakthrough that only you can ask God for today.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7
In 1964 Muhammad Ali became the youngest challenger to ever win the heavyweight boxing title when he beat Sonny Liston. Every time Ali stepped into the ring he brashly proclaimed his superiority over his foe. Ali never imagined losing because it was not in his DNA to process losing. The only good fight Ali planned was a knockout!
The Apostle Paul was in many ways just like Muhammad Ali. Every time Paul entered into spiritual combat he had only one goal in mind: complete victory through His Lord Jesus Christ! Throughout Paul’s ministry he was often persecuted, tossed in prison and finally executed and yet He boldly stated that he ended his life a victor. When Paul wrote to his young friend Timothy; he was in effect tag teaming his successor in the ongoing battle. Timothy later passed that fight onto the churches under his care. If we listen we will hear the bell is ringing for the first round of our own match to begin. Centuries have passed and the world is a different place, but God’s challenge remains the same. It is our turn to fight our own good fight with that same boldness and faith. When we trust in Christ in our fight we will win, because we are tag teaming with the greatest heavyweight champion of all time: our Lord Jesus Christ!
Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.’ Acts 27:23-24
When my sister and I were making too much noise, my Mom used to yell at us “Quiet! I can’t hear myself think!” That is exactly what both Paul and the sailors were experiencing in a fourteen day storm. One of the greatest difficulties during heavy storms is our inability to think or even communicate with others. But no matter what our circumstances we can continue to pray. When it seems most difficult we need to encourage ourselves with the reminder that God often sends His message at mid-night. In fact He not only sent a message to Saint Paul in the storm at mid-night but He chose a few other times in the Bible to do the same:
It was at mid-night that the angels appeared to the shepherds – And at mid-night that Jesus came walking out over the waves – It was midnight when the call went out, “The bridegroom is coming.” – And at midnight God will send His message to us. At mid-night when we are least expecting God’s help He comes. At mid-night He stands by our side and says, “Don’t be afraid.”
What are you facing today? Is it mid-night in your storm? It is not too late! In fact mid-night is the perfect time for Jesus. He comes at mid-night with a message of Hope!