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Posts Tagged ‘Romans 3:23’

 

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Some years ago I started keeping prayer cards instead of a prayer list. A 3x 5 gives plenty of room to record updates and answers. Another benefit: It’s easy to rotate through the stack, praying for six to ten people/organizations per day.

One card in the stack trips me up. At the top is written the name of “a difficult person.” He’s arrogant, dishonest, and unreliable.

I know I need to include him in my prayers, but I hardly know where to begin, except for “God, help this man!”

So I finally did some reading on the subject of difficult people, to find out how to pray for such individuals. Below are several suggestions I found helpful. If you have challenging folks in your life, perhaps you’ll find these thoughts useful also.

First, I need to begin with repentance. Before I pray about the faults and shortcomings of others, I need to address my own (Matthew 7:1-5). In addition, before I look at the person to be forgiven, I must look to God for the power to forgive (1).

 

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Second, I can ask God to:

  1. Open the heart of this person to the error(s) of his ways.
  1. Reveal the truth of the gospel to him—that Jesus is the only Way to salvation.
  1. Grant the person self-awareness so he’ll see how his choices and behavior negatively impact others.
  1. Curtail his influence so that innocent people might be protected.
  1. Bring godly people into his sphere, to exemplify the God-enhanced life.
  1. Cause circumstances that draw his attention to God.
  1. Reveal the difference to him between godly wisdom and human foolishness.

 

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Third, I can praise God that:

  • He is sovereign over all—even difficult people.
  • He can cause positive outcomes—in spite of erroneous judgments.
  • “Mistakes” on their part can actually produce God-ordained benefits.

 

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And just how might such a prayer unfold? Perhaps something like this:

 

Oh, God, as I pray for those who

cause great frustration and even suffering for others,

it’s easy to lose sight of my own sinfulness.

I have not lived free of pride, dishonesty or unreliability either.

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Forgive me, Father, for the many ways

I fall short of your desires for me.

Thank you for your grace and love that

prompt you to accept my confession and

prod me toward greater reliance upon you,

to become a better version of myself.

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Because I fall short

(even though I know you as my Savior and Master),

it is with deep humility I pray for Mr. X.

I am no better than he is.

 

First, may he recognize the truth of your Word

and the reality of salvation through your Son, Jesus.

I pray Mr. X will seek the Light of your wisdom to guide his way.

May your Holy Spirit shed Light on the choices he’s already made,

and reveal to him the full, true consequences of his behavior.

Guide him to change course to your ways.

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I thank you, Lord, that every day you are

sending Christians into Mr. X’s life as bearers of your Light,

to draw him to you.

You are engineering circumstances that highlight your power,

and using that sovereign power to curtail his influence.

I thank you for your ability

to produce positive outcomes even through difficult people.

The story of Joseph is one example.

In addition, even mistakes on the part of Mr. X

can actually produce just and righteous benefits.

 

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Oh, how I praise you, Almighty God,

that you have established your throne in heaven,

and your kingdom rules over all—

even over difficult people.

 

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(Psalm 51:1-5; Romans 3:23; Romans 7:18; Ecclesiastes 2:13; John 16:13; Psalm 119:130; Matthew 5:16; Romans 1:20; Psalm 37:17; Proverbs 19:21; Psalm 103:19)

  1. Ralph Sockman,The Higher Happiness, Pierce & Smith, 1950, p. 107.

 

How do you pray for difficult people?  Please share your insights in the Comments section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.fotosearch.com; http://www.pinterest.com (5), http://www.ourdailyblossom.com; http://www.pinterest (2).

 

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Years ago I read a story that still comes to mind now and then.

As I recall, an older church member (a woman of very high standards which she vocalized frequently), came to visit a young mother of the church—unannounced.

The impromptu hostess—we’ll call her Beth—invited Mrs. Perfect into her home, grateful that she’d straightened up a bit after her two older children left for school. The two younger ones were playing quietly with new Legos (How fortunate was that?), allowing the two women to chat.

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As they sat at the kitchen table, Beth considered the room from her guest’s perspective: table cleared, dishes done, counters not too cluttered or spotted. Whew.

Then she saw it: an orange peel on the floor—not a fresh strip from breakfast; more likely from last week. How did I miss that? Beth thought. One thing for sure: Mrs. Perfect wouldn’t miss it. It was in plain view from where she sat, too.

Suddenly, Beth experienced an epiphany. What difference did it make to her if this poor, old woman noticed the orange peel? Mrs. Perfect, however, would leave with a spring in her step because she would never allow such filth to remain undetected on her floor.

And Beth smiled to herself as the other woman prattled on about the upcoming bazaar.   I hope that orange peel makes her day. And Beth truly meant it.

God brings that story to my mind because I have to fight against perfectionism, too.

Obsessive man laying on grass, perfection

And the reasons? So others will be pleased with me, appreciate me, and admire my efforts. Notice: me, me, my.

Clearly perfectionism is a close relative of self-centeredness.  Oh, Lord, forgive me.

I pray God steers me away from such counter-productive expectations of myself. Instead, I want to strive for excellence.

Yes, there is a difference between perfection and excellence.

Perfectionists have the tendency to:

  • Set unreasonably high standards
  • Experience satisfaction only when those high standards are met
  • Become depressed over failures and disappointments
  • Be controlled by fear of failure and therefore procrastinate
  • Worry about disapproval when mistakes are made

On the other hand, those striving for excellence are likely to:

  • Set standards that are high but reachable
  • Enjoy the process as well as the outcome
  • Recover quickly from failures and disappointments
  • Keep fear under control with positive truth
  • View mistakes as opportunities for growth

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For the Christian, excellence should be our loving response to God, with the desire to please him.

And what might those responses look like, as we strive for excellence?

  • Ask God to reveal what his expectations are. Then invite him to work in us toward meeting his standard:  maturity (James 1:4).
  • Take pleasure in signs of spiritual growth, as we manifest the fruit of the Spirit more and more each day (Philippians 1:9-11).
  • Turn to him for encouragement and strength when failures and disappointments come (Psalm 18:25-33).
  • Keep fear under control with appropriate scriptures and uplifting devotionals (Psalm 118:5-8).
  • View mistakes as opportunities to grow in maturity and in our relationship with God (Proverbs 24:16).

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(By the way, when the Bible tells us to be perfect (as in Matthew 5:48), the words, mature and complete are helpful synonyms to interpose. Perfection is not within our abilities to achieve (Romans 3:23). We know it and God knows it.

Here’s what we can do:

“Strive toward holiness, yet relax in grace.”

–Philip Yancey

 

Isn’t that a wonderfully balanced goal?

Let’s remember: “Christ has set us free to live a free life. So take your stand! Never again let anyone [including ourselves] put a harness of slavery [to perfectionism] on you.” – Galatians 5:1 (MSG)*

*Words in brackets added.

Photo credits:  www.deeprootsathome.com; http://www.femhack.com; http://www.worshipmatters.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).

What are your thoughts about perfectionism and Christian excellence?  Share your comments below!

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No doubt we would all agree:  Christmas is much more than carols, cookies, and cards.  The heart of this holiday goes even deeper than the love we express with presents.  It is a celebration of God’s inexpressible gift (2 Corinthians 9:15).

And those of us who accept God’s gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus, ought to live our lives with overflowing gratitude.  The motivation behind our words and deeds should be the same sacrificial love which motivated Jesus.

Henry van Dyke (1852-1933)

Henry van Dyke (1852-1933, photo credit: Wikipedia)

What might that look like in everyday life?  Henry van Dyke* made several suggestions through these thought-provoking questions:

“Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people, and to remember what other people have done for you;

To ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world;

To put your rights in the background, and your duties in the foreground;

To own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life;

To close your book of complaints against the management of the universe, and look around you for a place where you can sow a few seeds of happiness—

Are you willing to do these things even for a day?

Then you can keep Christmas.”

Ouch.  If God made these stipulations into law, and only law-abiders were allowed to celebrate Christmas, I’d be left out.  My thoughts and motivations are not always pure.  I do not consistently put others’ needs before my own.  My focus is not always on what I can give.

But Rev. van Dyke’s essay does not end on that hopeless note.  He adds one more glorious line.

“But you can never keep it alone.”

Of course not!  “We are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us” (Romans 3:23, The Message).

However.  God does not expect instantaneous perfection, the minute we invite Jesus into our lives.  “God who began the good work within [us] will keep right on helping [us] grow in his grace until his task within [us] is finally finished on that day when Jesus Christ returns” (Philippians 1:6, The Living Bible).

Hallelujah!

(Photo credit:  www.worshipkids.com)

Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,

God of glory, Lord of love;

Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,

Opening to the sun above.

Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,

Drive the dark of doubt away;

Giver of immortal gladness,

Fill us with the light of day.

(also by Henry van Dyke)

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

*Henry van Dyke (1852-1933) was an author, educator, and clergyman.  His lengthy list of accomplishments included professor of English literature at Princeton, minister to the Netherlands and Luxembourg (by appointment of President Wilson), and author of many poems, stories, and essays. “The Other Wise Man” and “The First Christmas Tree.” are among his most popular works.  He also wrote the lyrics for a number of hymns, including “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee.”  The first verse is quoted above.

 

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