The Old Testament reading we heard from Jeremiah talks about the destruction of Judah and the pain and suffering felt by its people. The destruction was caused by the sins of the people. Jeremiah identified with the people and their pain and suffering. We as Christians must also identify with people and their struggles and pain, especially when they sin. That doesn’t mean that we join them if they sin. We have to open our hearts to the people we serve. When we do, we show God’s love.
All of us need comfort at some point in our lives. There’s no such thing as a pain-free life. God allows pain and suffering because they draw us closer to him. Our pain creates a need for God. God is the “balm in Gilead” that Jeremiah refers to.
One of the ways we can show God’s love for people and therefore identify with them in their suffering is to pray for them. For example, we can pray for the victims of all conditions of mankind-war, sickness, poverty, death and so on. Praying in faith gives us power. How does this happen? It happens because we tap into the greatest power known to mankind-God’s power to change things.
God wants us to be a prayerful people, but he also wants us to pray for people. When we pray for others, we are following the instructions Paul gave to Timothy in 1 Timothy 2:1-7. All blessings from God are conveyed through mediation from various agents, including the prayers offered by his children. The chief blessing of our salvation comes from the intercession and mediation of Jesus when we believe in him in faith. If we pray for everyone, we believe that God loves everyone and that Jesus died for everyone. In order to pray for everyone, we must enter into active relationships with them. It doesn’t matter if they are friends, enemies or total strangers. God wants everyone to be saved, and Christ gave himself as a ransom for everyone.
Jesus is the only mediator between us and God. This fulfills Old Testament prophecies. Jesus fulfilled God’s desire for all people to be saved and to know the truth of God’s love. We fulfill these same desires when we share the Gospel. Part of that process includes continually learning Biblical truths and growing closer to God. For example, every time I prepare a homily, my research helps me discover more truths about what is written in the Bible.
It was God’s grace and desire to save lost humanity which saw Jesus born in a stable in Bethlehem. It was God’s wish to bring all mankind to the knowledge of the truth which motivated Jesus during his earthly ministry. It was God’s goal to save everyone from an eternity in hell that motivated Jesus to remain silent during his trials, suffer without complaint when he was tortured, and offer words of forgiveness to those who nailed him to the cross. Jesus’ rescue mission shows how God was committed to saving us, and it is a rescue mission that we have been asked to share with a lost and dying world.
One group of people that Paul tells us to pray for is our leaders. God is responsible for the appointing of people to positions of authority. We must seek his counsel as revealed in Scripture. We must talk to God about men before we talk to men about God. We do this through prayer. We pray for our leaders so we may live in peace, quietness, godliness and dignity. This is often hard to do because of the situation our world is in today. There are wars and rumours of wars all around us. Look at the current situation in Syria for example.
When we are in fellowship with God, his love enters us and remains in us. When we show kindness to others, his love is revealed through us. Love in this sense benefits both the giver and the receiver. It allows us to become happy people. We show this love when we pray for others. Our prayers are for our own benefit as well. Prayers from other Christians encourage us. Prayer is our expression of faith and dependence on God. When we pray, we serve Christ instead of ourselves. This goes against our carnal, selfish nature with its emphasis on self instead of on Christ. When we pray, we discern God’s will for our lives.
Whether he knew it or not, the shrewd money manager Jesus talks about in Luke 16:1-13 was faithful because he was generous to his master’s debtors. This might not make sense at first glance because the manager was being dismissed for being dishonest but by reducing the amount each debtor owed, the manager was being generous. Faithful people are generous when they don’t have anything to give.
The manager was a good example of Paul’s statement that the love of money is the root of all evil. The manager loved money so much that he charged interest on the money his boss loaned to people. Jewish law prohibited the charging of interest, but the manager was able to get around that law by increasing the amount of the debt owed. For example, if a debtor owed 50 chickens, the manager increased that amount to 100 chickens and pocketed the difference. When the manager reduced the debts, he looked good in the eyes of both the debtors and his boss.
There are five principles in which God will test us and bless us, just like he tested and blessed the manager.
- God gives to generous people. When we are generous, we are like God. When the manager was generous by forgiving part of the debtors’ loans, he was being generous. He was following the part of the Lord’s Prayer where we ask God to “forgive our debts like we forgive our debtors”.
- Obeying God’s vision brings God’s provision. When the manager reduced the amounts of the debtors’ loans, he gained their friendship, and that friendship would be needed after the manager was dismissed. In other words, God provided for the manager’s future when the manager obeyed God’s will by reducing the debts.
- When we do all that God tells us to do, he does what we can’t do. When the manager obeyed God’s will by reducing the debts, the manager’s boss was pleased. God changed the heart of the manager’s boss.
- When we have a need in our lives, we are to sow that need as a seed, and it will come back to us. The manager needed the help of the debtors, and he planted that seed of need by reducing their debts.
- There is always a delay between sowing and reaping. In the case of the manager, we do not know when the people whose debts he reduced helped him, but we do know that he received praise from his boss as soon as the boss found out what happened. The delay between sowing and reaping was a test of faith, and the delay when we sow a seed of need and the time when we can reap the harvest is also a test of our faith.
We can’t put our security in money because money is not as safe and secure as we think it is. Look at the current worldwide economic situation for example. People are losing their jobs. The prices of oil and gas are going through the roof. The world’s future is uncertain, but we can have the certainty of a sure future because we have a sure faith in God.
If we are faithful in the small things God gives us, he will trust us with bigger and better things. If we are faithful where God plants us, he will work through us. We need to be wise as we do God’s work in our world. By doing so we will be the masters of our money, time, and talents instead of letting them master us. If we use our wealth and resources to serve God, we will be welcomed into God’s kingdom.
We are never too important to help with menial tasks. In fact, God will never let us avoid menial tasks. Doing small tasks shows that we have a big heart. Big things often disguise themselves in small tasks. Integrity shows up in the stuff no one sees or the events that happen behind the scenes.
Like the shrewd manager, we have to make decisions about our future, especially our eternal future. We are called upon daily to account for how we have used what we have been given, especially how what we have been given has been used for God’s service. The people of Judah were called upon to account for how they used the relationship God had with them, and they were punished by the destruction of Judah. Paul instructed Timothy on how to use his faith to relate to the people he dealt with on a daily basis, and the result was that Timothy became one of Paul’s most trusted and faithful followers. Jesus calls on us to use our God-given gifts, including prayer, to further our faith and God’s work in this world. If we are successful, we will receive the help we need to cope with life’s challenges. What is more important though is that we will receive the greatest reward God can possibly give us-eternal life with him in heaven.
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- Dr. Charles Stanley, “Investing in Eternity”. Retrieved from www.intouch.org
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- Pastor Ken Klaus, “Heartbroken”. Retrieved from www.lhm.org.
- Sergei Sosedkin, “One God, One Mediator”. Retrieved from www.thisistoday.net.
- Mark D. Roberts, “The Prophet’s Pain”. Retrieved from www.TheHighCalling.org
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- Rebecca Barlow Jordan, “Balm in Gilead”. Retrieved from Christianity.email@example.com
- Larson, B., & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 26: Luke (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1983)
- Mark D. Roberts, “Money Isn’t the Main Thing”. Retrieved from www.TheHighCalling.org
- Doug Fields, “Take Off the Disguise”. Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Dean Deppe, “Give and You Shall Receive”. Retrieved from www.thisistoday.net
- Rick Warren, “Servants are Faithful in the Small Things”. Retrieved from www.purposedriven.com
- Rick Warren, “Faithful People are Generous”. Retrieved from www.purposedriven.com
- Jude Siciliano, OP, “First Impressions, 23rd Sunday, Year C”. Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org