Greetings from St A’s!
Prayer is a beautiful and enjoyable thing. It can also be a little confusing…
Sometimes, sitting in prayer feels very similar to just sitting quietly. It can be hard to discern what is from the Lord and what is the product of one’s own imagination and rambling mind. At other times, the Lord’s leading can be more clearly recognized.
A few weeks ago, I sat down to pray and write a few reflections in my ‘journal’. Unexpectedly and very clearly, two sentences came into my mind:
O death, where is your sting?
The work of the Lord is to believe in Him Who has been sent.
I dearly wish I was the sort of person who could say in an instant which chapter and verse those words came from. As it was, I could get close, but also had to have a swift ‘rummage’ in my Bible to get everything completely clear. The first words are from Hosea 13 and St Paul quotes them in 1 Corinthians 15:55. The second quotation is from Jesus and can be found in John 6:29. It is more accurately translated as, “This is the work of the Lord, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent.”
Having discovered ‘where’, my next question of God was simply, ‘why’? What connection can there be between these sentences? Why would they so suddenly come to mind at about 9.40am on Thursday 6th March 2014?
Anyone reading on to verse 58 in 1 Corinthians 15 would spot a link immediately. After quoting Hosea and rejoicing in Christ’s victory over death, Paul goes on to say, ‘Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord…’ (italics are mine). Paul uses the same Greek word for ‘work’ that is used in John 6: ergon – a word meaning strenuous toil, labour, effort or work.
It had never before struck me that I didn’t look at belief or faith in terms of hard work, and yet, Jesus and Paul clearly did. Over the years, my view of faith has probably been more inclined towards notions of the mystical and romantic; not towards the idea of it being a gritty daily exertion. I found that Jesus’ words reminded me of the advice often given to newlyweds: you have to work at a marriage. Just so: you have to work at believing.
When Jesus first spoke these words of warning, they were ignored by many of His followers. Christ called them to be about the work of God and believe in Him as the ‘Bread of Life’. However, we read the following words towards the end of John 6: ‘When many of His disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying, who can listen to it?”’ and, ‘After this, many of His disciples turned back and no longer walked with Him.’
I thank the Lord for all of the wonderful times when faith is easy and rejoicing in God’s goodness is an instinctive and lovely reflex. How important it is, though, to heed the repeated Biblical warning that faith is also work.
I believe that the Lord prompted me to consider these things a few weeks ago. To be honest, I still couldn’t say with absolute certainty why He did so. Perhaps I will find these words giving clarity or completion to a sermon, or a conversation with someone in need? With this in mind, I will hold both sentences close to my heart in the ensuing weeks and months.
Or, perhaps these words will be a timely interjection in the spiritual life of a reader of The Messenger? This very article could be part of God’s purpose!
Whichever it may be, I wish you all every blessing as you continue your walk with Jesus. Let us always be mindful that, ‘in the Lord, your labour is not in vain.’ (1 Corinthians 15:58)