Currently, I’m listening to an audiobook entitled, The Good Life by Charles Colson. Colson worked in Richard Nixon’s White House and was charged with criminal activity related to the Watergate scandal. The event brought Colson face to face with his sin and led to his conversion. After prison, Colson began Prison Fellowship which seeks to introduce prisoners to faith in Jesus Christ.

Colson’s story is fascinating. According to his own testimony, he became enamored with the power and influence of the presidency. At the height of his political influence, his office was just a few doors down from the Oval Office. Colson’s dream of political influence was dashed by Watergate.

Political influence drives many. A few get to serve politicians or in the White House. Many more use local elections or their social media platforms to be heard. Have you ever wondered would it be like to have political influence?

As I was considering this subject, I was reminded that I have the daily privilege of entering the presence of the Ruler of the universe. Truly, there is only One with real influence. Kings, presidents, politicians, and political operatives seek power. But one day their power will wane, and like Richard Nixon, they will leave the scene of power. Yet, God remains.

God’s sovereign rule is glorious and establishes the overwhelming privilege of our prayer lives. Here is just a brief sample of verses to remind us this truth:

And I said, “O Lord God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, 

Nehemiah 1:5

“Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: 

Jeremiah 33:2

24 And when they heard it, they lifted their voices together to God and said, “Sovereign Lord, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them, 25 who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,

“‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
    and the peoples plot in vain?
26 The kings of the earth set themselves,
    and the rulers were gathered together,
    against the Lord and against his Anointed’—

Acts 4:24-26 (quoting Psalm 2)

We could go on. The Bible is full of testimonies of God’s rule and reign. When God invites us to pray, he invites us to talk to him who has influence and all glory. For the believer, there is no greater influence than what we have with God.

Because God invites us to pray, he desires to work through us as his people to accomplish his eternal purposes.

  • I can’t change Washington or Raleigh.
  • I can’t stop pandemics or fix racial unrest.
  • I can’t convict sinners or cause repentance.
  • I can’t heal the sick or remove depression.

But I can pray, and so can you. We can pray about any and all of these things. God has a plan and purpose for what’s going on in our world and in your life. Prayer is our means to connect with God’s purposes. It is an opportunity to participate with God in his sovereign rule.

Will you accept this privilege?

Photo by Elijah Macleod on Unsplash

This past week’s sermon was a challenge for me. I preached from John 15:1-11, Jesus’ teaching about the vine and the branches. He instructs his followers to abide in him. The challenge for me came regarding Jesus’ teaching on joy in verse 11.

11 These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

John 15:11

To be truthful I’ve struggled to have joy during the past several months. Now if Jesus had taught to be full of fear, doubt, frustration, or uncertainty, I would have had those covered during the last several months. My guess is that I’m not alone. Between pandemics and protests, viruses and racial tensions, stay-at-home orders and lifted restrictions, there is a sense of uncertainty that permeates our experience. Uncertainty does not feed joy.

As I studied and preached this text over the weekend, I became convinced that the goal of abiding in Christ is that we might have joy. Abiding in Christ is an active command from Christ, but it is first of all a gift. Jesus declared to his followers in verse 3:

Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.

John 15:3

As humans, we are born in sin and inherently flawed. We are prone to worry, doubt, and impatience. But Jesus teaches us that abiding in him and being made clean by him are gifts that he offers. No, I’m not inherently joyful. But when I reflect on what he’s done for me, I can have joy: the delight in God’s control in all things and his care for me through all things. Here are some reasons we can have joy regardless of our circumstances:

  • Jesus makes us clean through his cross. We don’t earn or deserve cleansing; it is a gift.
  • Jesus invites us to abide in relationship with him. We get to know and relate to the Creator of the universe.
  • Jesus makes us fruitful when we abide in him. We get to live a life that matters eternally because of Christ.
  • Jesus promises to answer our prayers when we abide in him. We get to bring our burdens and requests before him confidently.

John 15 teaches that our relationship with Jesus is the reason for joy. Do you need joy? Pause and think about the salvation that Jesus gave you. Remember that you are in a relationship with the Creator of all. Know that your life matters because Jesus gives you eternal life and the opportunity to share that life with others. Take heart that you can bring whatever struggle or situation to Jesus in prayer.

Abide in Jesus and have joy.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash