5 April 2020
The Suffering Servant [download]
During this series of Lenten Prayer, our theme has been “Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering”. None of us knew, at the time that theme was settled upon, that during this particular season of Lent people would be faced with growing suffering on a global scale in the form of the coronavirus pandemic. However, to quote from Pastor Chris’s letter to the church this week: ‘The Lord is always faithful to us. We never need to doubt that he is working out his good purposes for us”.
What steadies us, in these times of uncertainty and upheaval, is the knowledge that God’s plan of salvation for mankind continues to unfold, according to his original intention, in Christ Jesus.
And so it is appropriate, and may take on new meaning for us, to focus on the suffering of the One who left the throne of heaven with the express purpose of suffering for our sake, taking upon himself the sins of the world and submitting willingly to the punishment that should have been ours.
Our prayers are based on four passages of Scripture from the Book of Isaiah, which together are known as the Songs of the Suffering Servant. Among Jews, to this day, the meaning of these Scriptures is disputed: do they refer to the prophet who wrote them, to the prophet Jeremiah, or to the nation of Israel?
For the Christian, the prophecies find their purpose and fulfilment in the person of Jesus. This is made clear in Acts chapter 8, when Philip finds the Ethiopian Eunuch reading the description of the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:
“ The eunuch asked Philip, ‘Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?’ Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.” (Acts 8:34-6)
For us today, reading the Songs prayerfully helps us to meditate on the divine love that drew Jesus to the Cross, reflect on all that he endured for our sake, and give thanks that through his perfect obedience he alone was worthy to be the sacrifice for our sins.
The four Songs (headings are taken from the New International Version) are:
Please read them and see how God the Holy Spirit leads you to respond – perhaps in worship, in confession, intercession for our world, or some other way.
We are making our prayers while ‘socially distancing’, but please do share insights or answers to your prayers with a friend or member of CLT.
22 March 2020
Cultivating and maintaining a godly response in times of distress
Our natural instinct is to desire for vengeance when we are hurt or become anxious when our comfortable orderly lives come under threat, however, as we look deeper into scripture we see that God sometimes allows certain situations to occur in order to draw out his divine nature which he’s invested in us to gather in his harvest. For we are God's fellow workers, God's field, and God's building (1 Cor 3:9). We see in Matt 5 v 3-11 the blessings that await those who cultivate godly attitudes; blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy, blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven… and so on. We’ve recently been reminded to keep in step with the Holy Spirit who helps us to respond in ways that honour God which is exactly what Christ did when all the odds were stacked again him. Praise God that we can benefit from his victory! “But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ's triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere.” 2 Cor 2 v 14
In previous weeks, I shared from scripture how saints of old responded to challenges in the following ways:
- Standing on God’s Promises
- Job 1 v 6 - end: responded in worship to the loss of his loved ones, wealth and status in quick succession.
- Job 2 v 1-10: responded in worship to in times of illness
- Job 42 v 7 - 10: interceding for those who hurt us can bring an end to our own suffering
- Stephen - Acts 7 v 54 – 59: interceding for those who hurt us - 1
- Moses - Numbers 14 v 10 ‐ 24: interceding for those who hurt us - 2
• Moses did not jump at the chance to see his persecutors punished/ destroyed.
• He has deep concern for the people for whom he intercedes
• He has intimate knowledge of God and he knows that God will never willingly want to destroy His people. So, he appeals to God's character, reminding God of who he is as God revealed himself to him in Exodus 34 v 6-7 thus demonstrating that the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
Trusting in God’s Promises
Abraham - Genesis 22: standing on God's promises when we don’t understand
Caleb & Joshua: Numbers 14 v 1 - 9: Trusting God's promises against popular opinion.
Other examples include David, Daniel and Noah to name a few. Perhaps, God has placed people in our lives either in the past or presently, whose journey of faith serve as examples of how to walk with God in the midst of severe suffering learning to draw on his strength in spite of their circumstances, inspiring others to do the same.
This week, I’ll be focusing on responding in Penitence and Petition.
It’s comforting to note from Job’s life that suffering is not necessarily as a result of sin, however, we live in a fallen world, which is why it is important to allow the Holy Spirit to help us discern rightly. First, He says “If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1 v 8-9. And, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3 v 23). Also, he says “This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: if our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him.” 1 John 3 v 16-23. For, “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, and His tender mercies are over all His works.” Psalm 145 v 8-9.
Application: So, what?
"Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. You too, be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near. Don’t grumble against one another, brothers and sisters, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing at the door! Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy" – James 5 v 7-11
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” John 16 v 33
Let’s pray together
Sovereign Lord, thank you that through your Son Jesus we are counted righteous in your sight and therefore your ears are open to our prayers and for the confidence we have that when we approach you with sincere hearts in prayer you hear us. For your holy name please continue the good work that you have begun in us and use us in these unprecedented times your glory we pray. These times may be uncertain for us, but not for you, for you know the end from the beginning. Deliver us for accordingly to your great love and mercy. Draw us by your spirit to yourself O Lord, our joy and my delight. Fill us anew, and stir our hearts afresh with passion for your beloved world, and help us to respond in ways that honour you.
Page created 22/03/2020.