Adults

Finding Refreshment in Prayer

In Luke 5:15–17, we see Jesus’ source of strength sandwiched between His ministry: “Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick.” (Bold added.)

Jesus was busy about ministry. He was healing and teaching large crowds all the time. So how did He refuel? Where did His strength come from? He regularly stepped away from the demands on Him to pray, to talk with and listen to His Father.

Whatever It Takes to Spread the Gospel

Some of you live in big cities, with the nations surrounding you on every street corner. But some of you are like me—you live in small towns and smaller cities, with neighbors who, for the most part, look, act, and think as you do. So how do we put the principles found in 1 Corinthians 9:19–23 into practice in our daily lives, doing whatever it takes to spread the gospel to all people?

I have learned to be the first to bend—the first to be flexible, the first to apologize, the first to compromise. No, that doesn’t mean I compromise on the gospel. Jesus was, is, and will always be the only way to God. His death, burial, and resurrection are the foundations of our faith, and the Word of God is true. Those things don’t change.

Reaching Others “by All Means”

We live in a world defined by boundaries. We talk of setting boundaries with people, with our jobs, and even with our churches. We want “space” and “me time.”

Quite simply, we think of ourselves a lot.

WMU’s emphasis theme for 2016–2018 encourages us to do something else—to think of reaching others with the gospel “by all means.”

In 1 Corinthians 9:22b, Paul tells us how he is willing to “become all things to all people so that by all possible means [he] might save some.” Rather than talking about the ways that he is excluding people, Paul encourages us by his example to include others, regardless of socioeconomic divisions.

Why is Paul willing to do this? “ I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings” (v. 23).

myMISSION, myCALLING

Exactly three years ago, I was on my first myMISSION trip. We went to Atlanta, and our whole weekend was dedicated to reaching refugees and victims of human trafficking. We’re still getting to know each other, but you can just know that this is my heartbeat.

We went around rough areas of Atlanta, handing out roses to prostitutes—women who needed to know that they were loved and valued. This is something to which I’ve dedicated my life.

Isaiah 61:1b reads, “He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.” Isaiah’s description of his calling rings so true for me. I was so excited to be in this group, fulfilling this calling, but I knew I needed to be keenly aware of the vastly different needs of the women I would meet. This reminds me of Paul’s calling in 1 Corinthians 9:22b: “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.” Paul knew that he was called to preach the gospel to all people, but that took different shapes as God brought him to different places.

All We Need

Immediately after Jesus fed the five thousand, He dismissed the crowd, gathered His disciples, and found a solitary place to pray. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus prayed alone—and often. As the Son of God, He communed faithfully and intimately with His Father. He left His devoted disciples and the masses of broken people for prayer.

If Jesus, Who is God, humbled Himself and prayed, I should probably do the same.

I don’t know about you, but I’m a “works” kind of girl. I like being busy. I could write a book (a very long book) about the amount of times I’ve neglected rest and prayer in order to spend more time working, serving, or trying to meet others’ needs.

You see, I like to believe that God needs me. I tend to enter a cycle that starts with me saying something like, “I’m too important for a break!”

Then after a week or two, I burn out. I stop caring about all my jobs and roles. What I really want—and so desperately need—is someone else to carry the load. Deep down I know it’s Him, our good Father, Who can replenish my soul . . . but I’m too afraid to talk to Him. What if He’ll be angry with me? I failed again.

Why Guard Our Time?

We are all busy in one way or another. Some of us may have children. We have things like jobs that take over our lives or hobbies we undertake to keep us busy, but none of these things should be the most crucial aspect in a believer’s life. The most significant characteristic of the believers’ life should be his or her time with God.

Nothing you do will be more important than being with God.

I recognize that all-or-nothing statements do not tend to go over well with us, and usually we tend to find loopholes, concessions, or reasons why those statements do not apply to us. But believer, to find an exception to this statement would be a great folly, because we know our Father by reading His Word, and we understand what His will is through His Word.

When we read the Bible, God is sanctifying us in His truth (John 17:17). He sanctifies us because He is sending us out into the world. For some, the world may be overseas. For some, it may be their job. For others, it may be their family. And He sends us out into the world to share the good news of Jesus Christ so that all who believe in Him will have life (John 20:31).

A Taste of Boldness

A few semesters ago, I befriended two Chinese students in one of my classes. We could not be more different, but we had great conversations and I was able to begin to share my faith. When they suggested I experience authentic Chinese cuisine to celebrate the end of class, I was eager to continue our conversations while doing something I love: eating.

A few days later, I prayed continuously as I drove to the restaurant, asking for boldness to share the gospel clearly. By the time I arrived, I still didn’t feel the boldness I had prayed for, but I felt comforted by the smell of fried rice. Unfortunately, this feeling quickly vanished when my friends met me and said, “We already ordered for you!”

Soon an array of dishes came and covered our table, revealing various kinds of meat and organs. I looked at the table and felt like a contestant on Fear Factor. But then the Spirit reminded me to pray. I asked if I could bless the food, and then the conversation flowed naturally as I shared my faith and put unidentifiable meats on my plate.

A Beautiful Mystery

September is a great month . . . Fall is just around the corner while summer is still hanging on for one last breath of warm air. Summer can give us the feeling of taking a break. September puts us back on track and brings us back to reality, in a good way.

Students are getting their schedules and signing up for programs and activities. Professionals may be starting their first “real” job or getting back into the swing of things. Moms may be still trying to figure out how to get their infant to sleep through the night and maybe themselves as well. Or they are packing lunches, helping with homework, and figuring out a new balance for home life.

As leaders, we often wonder, what does God want now? Whatever season of life we find ourselves in, how will we define success? What will it take to know God’s will in this new day-to-day reality?

One missionary friend says that she is in transition, asking that same question. Wherever we are, whatever we are doing, how do we know God’s will today?

Free Prayer: Go and Give It

We know that prayer should be the backbone of every undertaking of the believer and the church. But can prayer also be an outreach ministry?

Absolutely! In fact, it might create an opportunity for telling people about the love, forgiveness, and salvation that Christ Jesus gives.

Generally nonbelievers welcome prayer for themselves and others within their circle of concern.

“Prayer is the key to making spiritual inroads,” said Mark Wakefield, chaplaincy strategist with the Alabama Baptist State Board of Missions (SBOM).

For a prayer outreach ministry to be effective, it should be done in places where people gather, such as NASCAR races at the Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama. Wakefield said volunteers with Alabama Raceway Ministries (ARM)—an outreach of the SBOM—assist race fans and others at the speedway, engage them in conversation, pray with them, and, when the opportunity arises, tell them about Jesus.

Though ARM is geared for a raceway environment, its concept is adaptable to other situations: arts and crafts fairs, bridal shows, festivals, car shows, motorcycle rallies—the possibilities abound!

Praying for Guatemala

“We were praying over a Guatemalan town. It had a very small and weak evangelical presence,” shared Mark Fricke, an International Mission Board missionary to Guatemala for 22 years, “and was very well known for its syncretism stronghold—mixing of religion with ancestral beliefs and traditions. Their beliefs are centered on working to gain salvation and to please or honor a saint or spirit.”

Fricke and his team began asking God to work and send someone who would plant himself or herself there as His witness. They prayerwalked and volunteer teams from the United States came, working and praying in that area with them, as well.

“Sometimes we would take 3 steps forward and 2 back. But we [kept] praying faithfully, even when answers didn’t come.” They knew fighting this type of battle could be done only on their knees. And they praised God, believing that He loved those people and had a plan He was working out for their good and His glory.

The answer came.

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