Pandemic influenza spreads rapidly. A program on BBC 1 recently showed that between 10am and 6pm over 70 people came in contact with the index case and were exposed to the virus. Because this was an new strain of the virus, there was no immunity, and a very high proportion of those who came in contact with that index case went on to develop the infection.
Due to the incubation period (1-3 days) when the infected person doesn’t know they are infected, they may encounter several more people who in turn will infect others. The spread of the infection is exponential – in little less than one week, the entire country would have been exposed to the virus, with potentially fatal results.
Think about how many people you interact with each day. At work, when you pop into the corner shop for milk, when you drop the kids off on the school playground. And then think about all the people they interact with. What if you were the index case, the one who started it all. That would be three days of interactions.
It got me thinking – how infectious am I? You see, I’ve been infected with something that I believe is very contagious. Unlike Influenza, the infection I have will actually bring life to people rather than death. The problem is, just like in the incubation period of Influenza, I tend to walk around as if I haven’t been infected, and there is nothing I can do about the state of the world around me. I have – as you do, the only solution that will work – yet we live as if the solution lies elsewhere.
We are leaky vessels. We need to keep being filled (Ephesian 5:18). We know all about the Great Commission (Matt 28:19), how much more effective would we be if we leaked in the workplace, or the school playground? It is all very well us sitting in our churches on a Sunday morning, declaring that the world needs to meet Jesus, but it is our job to introduce them. We can’t leave it to someone else.
As Christians we are infectious – let’s get out there and pass Jesus on.
A few weeks ago, I was watching a clip of a Francis Chan message. He was re telling a situation where some Jehovah’s Witnesses approached him and asked if they could talk to him. He said yes, and in the course of the conversation he was told, “We can’t pray directly to God, it needs to come from our leaders. God won’t listen to the prayers of just anyone. ”
Chan’s response shocked me at first, but the more I think about it, and search the scriptures that he quoted – I think I agree.
Let’s see if you are shocked too.
He said, “you’re right, God doesn’t listen to everyone’s prayers – but he listens to mine.”
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been taught that God always listens to prayers. He may not answer them in the way we want or expect, but he always listens. If I’m honest, although I’ve been taught that he listens to all prayers, my actual belief was that he listened to everyone else’s, but not to mine. In order to be heard, I had to spend weeks reading my bible (next to impossible) , making sure I didn’t sin too much (who was I trying to kid?) and generally behave myself (almost as difficult as reading my bible). The end result was there was no point in praying myself, because I hadn’t met all the other criteria I believed were in place in order for it not being a waste of time.
Turns out there are some things that God says will render your prayers worthless – they just aren’t the things that I thought they were.
Let’s have a look at some of them.
James 1:5-7. James tells us that we need to ask in faith, without doubt. God won’t give anything to this sort of double-minded person. Sounds a bit harsh doesn’t it, but when you think about it, it makes sense. The saying goes that “if you don’t ask, you don’t get.”, but I think there is a subtle difference here. Remembering who God is, and how He feels about us is key here. When we remember how good God is, and how much He wants to bless us, we ask hopeful that He will, expecting Him to say Yes – rather than just going through the motions expecting the answer to be no, but feeling you have to ask anyway.
James 4:3. Why are we asking God for things? Will the abundance of Heaven be used simply to promote yourself, or is it for the benefit of others? Do you have compassion for your fellow man, or is your prayer focused purely on what you can get? I’m not suggesting for a second that we shouldn’t pray for ourselves, but what drives us to pray is just as important as what we pray for.
1 Peter 3:7 – Guys, Peter here tells us to honour our wives, to live in understanding with them so our prayers may not be hindered. I’m not brave enough here to tackle the “weaker vessel” part of this verse, but just think about that for a moment. Ever think, I’ve been praying about this for ages, God seems to be on mute. How is your relationship with your spouse?
Amos talks about humbling ourselves and turning from our evil ways, before God will turn and hear our prayers. This might well be a more corporate example, more applicable to a country rather than an individual, but nonetheless describes a situation where God may not answer our prayers.
In the same way that there isn’t a formula to healing, this isn’t supposed to be a tick box exercise to get what we want from God. The very thought that there might be, sort of goes against James 4:3 anyway – what is your motive. I think it is really important though, as we strive to become more like Jesus, to consider the things that get in the way of that relationship. I don’t want to simplify how God deals with our prayers. His ways are not our ways. Who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct Him? But He does give us some direction, there are some pointers that help us understand.
Prayer, at its heart after all is simply having a conversation with our Father, Abba, Daddy, Papa. I am really fortunate to have a great relationship with my Dad. I know he loves me, and I can talk to him about pretty much anything. Turns out most of the things I struggle with, he has too, and has a wealth of experience as a result. I don’t do it often enough, but conversations with my Dad are really worthwhile times. Some people don’t have the same experience with their Dads, for a whole host of reasons. I can’t begin to understand what that feels like. What I do know though is Father God is good. Father God loves you. Father God wants good for you. You can talk to Him about anything. He will understand. He will help you through the storm. He will put you back together again afterwards.
I’m sure that over the years I have done things that have strained the relationship with my Dad. I am sure that there are things that have (probably still do) make it difficult to talk to him. There are things that I have had to face up to and change in order to restore the relationship – but once done, lines of communication were open and free.
It’s true – God doesn’t listen to everyone’s prayers – but He listens to mine.
I walked 25km last summer, but couldn’t say I was fit. I have friends training to run marathons, and others who struggle to walk down the street. We all have our own level of fitness. We should probably all be trying to get fitter.
If you had to run for your faith, could you? Would you?
C.S Lewis once said of Jesus that either he was who he claimed to be, or he was a mad man who we should pay no attention to. There is no middle ground.
You can’t have a ‘meh’ response to Jesus.
From the confusion of Friday, still reeling from the shock of the cruel death of Jesus “the women” went to the tomb. The tasks they had expected to perform were abandoned.
A conversation with an angel left them confused, as they tried to piece together events of the previous few days and the reality of an empty tomb.
They didn’t wander back, chatting as they went.
Partly out of fear – they had just seen an angel after all, and partly because they dared to hope that Jesus had meant what he promised, they ran back to their friends to tell them the good news.
Once they had blurted out their story, in disbelief, two of Jesus closet friends, Peter & John ran to the tomb. They found things just as women had described.
The thing that struck me when I read this was how much running there was.
Either Jesus didn’t rise and we can move on with our lives – or he did, and we need to move quickly, with purpose to tell people what we know. To share the good news.
Jesus IS ALIVE.
Do you have good news to tell. Are you ready to run to tell others the good news?
Our testimony – they story of what Jesus has done for us, may be exactly the story our friends need to hear. Are you willing to tell that story?
If the fragility of life has not directly affected you personally yet this year, just watch the news. There really is no time to waste – we don’t all have to run, but most of us have to move quicker than we have been.