Finding Strength Through Prayer

I want to be strong. I want to be tough. I want to be unafraid.

Trying to be strong has a correlation with a particular fear that you may have. For example, you want to be physically strong. You try to build muscle through working out because there is a particular fear that you don’t want to be bullied by anyone. Another example, you want to be emotional strong. Your whole family is down due to financial problems, but you don’t want to be affected by it, so you try to encourage everyone and carry the burden of showing everyone there is still hope. Because if you won’t do this, you fear everything might crumble down, and your whole family might end up losing their faith.

There is a particular fear that is wrong, but I believe there is a fear that is right as well most especially if it’s  fear for the well-being of someone else. Fear is an emotion and I believe the best way, to counter this feeling is through prayer. Through prayer, we can find the strength that we need to battle fear or other emotions related to it.

Let’s look at the Prayer of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane in Mark 14:32-38.

32 They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.” 35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.” 37 And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 

Garden of GethsemaneGethsemane means “oil press” and currently, ancient olive trees are still found in this garden. We have to understand that this is a place where He and his disciples commonly pray. In John 18:2, Judas knew where to find Jesus because he knows where he would usually go with his disciples.
In verse 32 when they arrive in Gethsemane, Jesus ask his disciples to sit here while He prays but it’s surprising to note that from His group he specifically asked Peter, James and John (verse 33) to accompany him.

Jesus is 100% God and 100% human, it was perfectly normal for him to desire companionship during this time. Jesus was under heavy emotions that he felt very distressed and troubled. It was a very heavy feeling. A feeling of terrified amazement; gripped with terror. And Peter, James and John was the ones who was with him in the Home of Jarius (Mark 5:37) and Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2).

I believe Jesus wanted to teach Peter, James and John a lesson also. The three are leaders who will be able to teach the other not to rely on their self-confidence during this time. They need to learn to be alert, not to give in the temptation and most especially pray. Jesus addresses that in verse 38.

Only in the book Mark will see how Jesus address the Father in his prayer.

35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 And He was saying, “Abba! Father!…

 

Abba means “papa” or “daddy” and it showed his relationship and intimacy with His father. Upon starting this prayer, He understood whom He was talking. Because in times of weakness:

  • Strength is gained through knowing who you have beside you
  • Strength is gained through knowing who you have supporting you
  • Strength is gained through knowing who you have taking care of you

Jesus prayed in and said “Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.”

We mustn’t think that the Lord feared death or that the physical suffering ahead was overwhelming for Him. It was the thought of being separated from His Father that was so intense that it was to the point of death because of sheer agony. In Luke 22:44, Jesus had such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood. He knew would be made sin for us – 2 Corinthians 5:2. He would bear the sins of the whole (1 Peter 2:24) and the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13). And because of this, he would experience being forsaken by His Father (Matthew 27:46). The cause of His overwhelming anguish and distress, but he said “Yet not what I will, but what You will.”

Jesus did not wrestle with the Father’s will. He willing submitted to it. That’s why in verse 35 you would see He “fell to the ground” as a sign of surrender. Three times He prayed this and three times He acknowledge His father’s will.

He saw his disciples sleeping, and this is what He said.

38 Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

 

He wanted to teach his disciples a lesson. They needed to be alert and sharp because a lot will happen in the next couple of minutes – Jesus will be arrested, disciples will be scattered (mentioned in the same chapter in Mark); Peter will deny Jesus, Jesus will be in Trial and then crucified. From Wiersbe Bible commentary – “Be alert as you pray! Keep your spiritual eyes open, for the enemy is near!” Judas is already coming with soldiers to hand over Jesus.

In times of weakness, the enemy will always target the flesh. How easy is it at times when we’re tired and emotionally down to get easily irritated. If we put our guard down, worldly pleasure or desire can easily lure us. Busyness resulting in physical deterioration can result in worrying and stress.

In this example, in the few moments the disciples will be scattered because their master will be arrested and crucified. They will abandon him and feel weak without a leader. But they are to be strong, alert and not give in to the temptation. They should remember the things Jesus taught them and remain spiritually connected through prayer.

That is our defence whenever we feel weak and vulnerable. Jesus modelled it. You may be going through a lot of problems and trials. Follow what Jesus did during this time of distress. He shared to His Father what he felt. He was Honest. He was connected with the Lord in prayer. He was Intimate. And He submitted to the will of the Lord. He Surrendered.

In the end, we find our strength in God alone. Remember you are HIS, and He cares for you.

1 Peter 5:7 – Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.

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Note from the author: This is an excerpt from my message in B1G South TOP (Time of Prayer) entitled “Finding Strength Through Prayer”. The B1G South ministry is the singles ministry of CCF Alabang. We have service every Saturday at 6pm at the 3rd floor of CCF Alabang. Everyone is invited! I would love to meet you if you have time to visit.

Singleness Is A Blessing

Love, Sex and Dating

It’s important that we understand God’s amazing single design regarding our blessed singleness. We love to crack jokes about love and talk about it. Marriage has sometimes been a pursuit in life, but it is not just a means to an end in this single life.

We cannot get too caught up in Marriage. Yes, it is important but there are also other concerns we need to deal with ourselves. That’s why it’s important for us to establish a good foundation first regarding our singleness.

Being single happens only once whether it’s just a permanent or temporary state. It happens very fast and it happens to be a gift as well. Singleness is a Blessing.

For the majority, they will get married and it’s important to prepare for the journey towards that chapter. But for certain individuals God might have really blessed them to remain single – 1 Corinthians 7:1

7 Now concerning the things about which you wrote, it is good for a man not to touch a woman.

Paul said in verse 1 “which you wrote.” It seems the Corinthian church during that time had some questions to Paul about marriage and singleness. Not to touch a woman does not literally mean touch. He was referring to not having sexual relationship within marriage as he goes on verse 2

2 But because of immoralities, each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband. 3 The husband must fulfil his duty to his wife, and likewise also the wife to her husband.4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. 5 Stop depriving one another, except by agreement for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer, and come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

During this time, Paul was writing to the Corinthian church in the City of Corinth. It was the chief city of Greece and was a large commercial city. Immorality was very rampant that it contained at least 12 temples and one of those temples is dedicated to Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The worshipers of this temple practiced religious prostitution. Immorality was widely known in Corinth that they used the Greek verb “to Corinthianize” meaning “to practice sexual immorality.

That’s why Paul addresses this concern in Chapter 6. Paul was saying so you will not be vulnerable to temptations due to the environment around you, get married There will still be a temptation even if you are married that’s why married people should fulfil their role sexually.

6 But this I say by way of concession, not of command. 7 Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.

Paul is saying being married is not above staying single. Not an absolute command to marry. Not an absolute command to stay single. Being single is not “sub” or “super” spiritual since both marital statuses are a gift from God. Each man has his own gift as Paul said in verse 7. So don’t frown if you are permanently going to be single. It is a gift. A blessing!

Paul goes on with Chapter 7 and discusses some issues and then he addresses “singles” in verse 25.

25 Now concerning virgins I have no command of the Lord, but I give an opinion as one who by the mercy of the Lord is trustworthy.

Looking at the word virgin, Paul was referring to the unmarried ones.

When he said, “I have no command,” he is not saying here that his words are of human opinion. All scripture is inspired by God. Every word and sentence are divinely inspired and breathe in by God as stated in 2 Timothy 3:16.

What Paul was saying is while he was writing his letter, there was no divine revelation yet regarding this matter. But as He started to write then God used his mind, vocabulary and experience to produce His own perfect, infallible and inerrant word. Paul’s word is from the Lord and someone trustworthily inspired.

So this was Paul used by God to speak His words clearly why at this single time of your life you should secure an undivided attention to the Lord.

26 I think then that this is good in view of the present distress that it is good for a man to remain as he is.

The first reason Paul is advocating remaining single because of the present distress. What could be that the present distress?

Could it be the condition of the church, since there was sexual immorality? That doesn’t make sense because Paul was saying in verse 2 to 5 to get married because of this sin! So what can be the “present distress?”

It was not  specified what the present distress might be but as we look in verse 27 to 28, we will understand more what Paul was saying.

27 Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be released. Are you released from a wife? Do not seek a wife.28 But if you marry, you have not sinned; and if a virgin marries, she has not sinned. Yet such will have trouble in this life, and I am trying to spare you.

Life in other translations is “flesh” or it’s our human nature with its frailties (physically or morally) and passions, or simply to say being a human being. On the other hand, “trouble” is pressure.

It could have been that Paul was saying because of the present distress, which even us believers are already having a hard time with – battling temptations of sexual immorality,  our frailties as human beings – it is already hard enough for us to live in this world as a godly individual.

What more the pressure of trying to help someone and being responsible for another person due to marriage?

But despite the “trouble” or dealing with your flesh do not think that the easiest way out is to be released from your spouse.

Despite the possible conflicts and “troubles” due to imperfect people being united as one in marriage, – do not seek to be released. That’s why if you don’t have a spouse. Paul was saying don’t look for one.

But again as he said in verse 28, it doesn’t mean that when you look for a spouse and get married you have sinned.

It could have also been Paul saying I am trying to spare you from trouble in life. Referring to the hardships you will encounter when you are face persecution and married.

Persecution during that time was not verbal, it was physical. It meant your life in danger.

That’s why if you do not want to face the pressure (it will come naturally if you have a family) of thinking about your spouse and children when persecution comes then don’t get married.

Your wife will be in danger along with your children once persecution comes. Even if your spouse and children are from death and you weren’t, they would feel the pain of losing someone.

29 But this I say, brethren, the time has been shortened, so that from now on those who have wives should be as though they had none; 30 and those who weep, as though they did not weep; and those who rejoice, as though they did not rejoice; and those who buy, as though they did not possess; 31 and those who use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.

Time has been shortened doesn’t mean it has been reduced from 24 hours to 23.98 hours. It means the brevity of life. The shortness of Life which is nothing in comparison to eternity

As though they had none – not saying disregard your marriage but make the most out of your time serving the Lord even in marriage

It is also not saying you are not to have emotions, but not do not lose sight of your eternal perspective. Mourn, weep or wail but do not lose your eternal perspective. Despite persecution or even death that lurks – know yours and your brother’s and sister’s eternal destination. Rejoice, be glad or joyful. Rejoice and be happy here on earth but do not cling on too much of what the world is offering. Buy what you need but do not think you will own it forever since whatever you buy here on here will not be with you in eternity. Do not hold on to material possesses.

Why? It’s in verse 31. For the form of this world is passing away.

32 But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.

Lastly, Paul wants us just to be free from concern. There are certain specific responsibilities within marriage. Being a single allows you to secure undistracted devotion to Him. Here is a video from Ben Stuart found in desiring God as he discusses why securing undistracted devotion to the Lord is important during your season of being single.

 

Now I ask you the same question: have you secured that undivided devotion to Him?

Have you maximized your time fully to know the Lord and have a deep intimate relationship with Him? Do you have a regular and intimate, quiet time with the Lord? Do you make time to go to Bible Studies and be in fellowship with other believers? We have a singles fellowship every Saturday – to help singles fellowship with one another and grow in listening to God’s word

Have you applied what you have learned and continue to grow in the area of serving others? Have you taken the call to lead a discipleship group and took on the call of the great commission? Have you experienced the joy of serving in ministry according to the talents and gifts the Lord has given you?

I have always encouraged singles to serve! Because I know now is the time where you have the opportunity to give that undivided attention. No matter what you do, time will move forward. You will get easily tired and even at times cannot stay up late anymore.

Men, you will play a vital role in your family someday. If you are meant to be temporarily single, you need to make the most out of this time while single to prepare yourself for the next stage. Whatever you do men, you are called to lead. If you want to embrace the role God has set for you – you are meant to lead your family. Why not learn how to lead by example right now by serving in ministry and hopefully lead a cluster or group. Or better yet, lead your own discipleship group.

Now is the time, friends. God wants you fully to embrace your singleness and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord. Now is the time to be blessed while single and maximize your time without any responsibility from marriage. Devote it to the Lord.

I just want to share this to you, back then while I was in my late teens I wrote my goals before I reach 25. I remember what I wrote:

  • Get married
  • Have a big house
  • Own a business

These things are not bad. But I as walked with the Lord, I realize there are important things to put my focus into and that is to serve him at this time – at this moment! I see my friends getting engage, some very relax enjoying life and others traveling. When I look back at what I have given up, sometimes I wonder – what if. But despite everything else, it was all worth it! There is a cost if you want to follow Jesus. But seeing people getting to know the Lord and being changed by God is worth it. It’s worth it!

If ever, I walk down that aisle when I get married I want to be able to say – “Man, my single life was fully undivided for the Lord – now is another chapter and I embrace it!”

Do you want to be able to say the same?

Leave a comment below and share to us what are other ways you can secure that undivided attention to the Lord. God bless!

Note from the author: This is an excerpt from my message in B1G South Connect entitled “The Amazing Single Design”. The B1G South ministry is the singles ministry of CCF Alabang. We have service every Saturday at 6pm at the 3rd floor of CCF Alabang. Everyone is invited! I would love to meet you if you have time to visit.

Parable of the Prodigal Son – The Oldest Son

The parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 has three characters: The youngest son, The oldest son and The Father. The prodigal son represents a sinner who repent while the Father represents God, who is joyful when one comes into repentance. Here we would see the Father’s love to his Son. But what about the oldest son? What lesson what we learn about him?

As we go through Luke 5 we would also see the Father’s love in how we responded to the oldest son.

25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 27 ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

This cause the older brother to be and refused to celebrate the return of his Father. But the Father wanted the oldest son to celebrate with them so he pleaded with him. The Father wanted the older son to see the situation as he sees it – His lost brother now found.

The older brother said to him:

‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

Look at how the older brother reacted. We can learn two things from the attitude of the older brother. First, his focus was always on his performance when he said “Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders.”

Look at how angry the oldest brother is. He used the word or term slavery, and in confidence even mentioned that “NEVER” has he disobeyed his Father. Which is very unlikely for the following reasons: contempt for his Father’s actions and his refusal to celebrate with his Father – he refused to go in. This is truly in comparison to the disobedience of his younger brother who disobeyed his Father but his emotions is just too blown up to exaggerate and say he has never disobeyed his Father.

Next is that we can see he was somehow expecting something in return for his work when he said “yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.” All those years of labour seems that it was motivated by what He can get from his Father.

And again, he was comparing himself with his young brother with scorn when he said “but when this son of yours.” He didn’t mention the youngest brother as “my brother” but “when this son of yours.”
This shows three things that the oldest son were really focused on:

  1. His work and possible rewards
  2. His performance compared to his younger brother
  3. His own business and never took the time to understand his Father

The oldest son represented the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus also talking to. When we look at Luke 15:1-2

15 Now all the tax collectors and the sinners were coming near Him to listen to Him. 2 Both the Pharisees and the scribes began to grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”

The Pharisees in the time of our Lord were the popular group. They were extremely accurate and minute in all matters appertaining to the Law of Moses. When Jesus in his story introduced the elder brother, it is a clear illustration of the scribes and Pharisees. Just like the oldest son, the Pharisees and scribes were guilty that their outward actions was only important since their inward attitudes were abominable.

They had no sense of sin and no interest in repenting sinners – it was all about them. Just like the character of the oldest son: hard working and obedient but was lacking heart in how he responded.

But look at how the Father reacted to all of these things.

31 “‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

We first have to realize that, technically everything that the Father owns was already for the Oldest Son. The share was already divided.

  1. Was he never disobeying the Father in hopes of getting his Favor and to get more from his inheritance?
  2. Wasn’t all that he was working for was for his benefit as well?
  3. Did he realized he (as a son) has the freedom to ask for the young goat?
  4. Did he not know that his Father can willing give what he requested?

That’s why the Father said “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.”

Friends, if you would try to think about how the oldest son acted – have you not the same?

  • Are you still moved when someone comes in repentance and gets to know the Lord?
  • Have you been too caught up with performing?
  • Focus is on doing the daily Quiet Times and not the reason why you are doing it
  • Too much focus on the performance on ministry and no longer about God or his people
  • Working for eternal rewards when that is just an additional prize when the prize has always been getting God alone.
  • Are you quick to compare yourself with other people?
  • Do you not take the time to actually know how your Father feels about you and his people?

Again, the main focus of the lesson is in the response of the Father and his love for his son. The Father representing God who is eager to forgive, and joyful when one comes into repentance. Even with the oldest brother, he responded in a loving and patient way.
He is just waiting for you. Waiting for you to open your heart to him. Listen to what He wants you to know – know that he loves you no matter what! Whatever you have done. Whatever mistake. Whatever you have, he loves you and he just choose to.

He is just has love for you. He is not disappointed, but only has compassion for you. Psalm 103:8 – The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.

Note from the author: This is an excerpt from my message during the B1G South True Life Retreat entitled “True Love”. If you want to read my experiences during the retreat you can read it here: Day 1Day 2, and Day 3.

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