by Mike Ratliff
For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. (Romans 8:22-27 ESV)
We are exhorted throughout God’s Word to persevere even in the most rugged of circumstances. We are given a promise of what awaits those who do persevere, the adoption as “sons” and redemption of our bodies, which is positional for all truly in Christ. Yet, we look forward to these and other promises with eyes of faith. This temporal part of our life as Christians can be quite a battle with the flesh to the point of crying out like the Apostle Paul, “O wretched man that I am!” Weakness in this battle is directly attributable to a lack of praying as we should, while, conversely, victory in this battle is directly attributable to proper praying in the spirit, that is, in harmony with the leading of the Holy Spirit rather than according to one’s own agenda. There are many “church” things out there that are not good for us. These “church” things are the product of those scoffers who have entered the Church to divide it.
But you must remember, beloved, the predictions of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ. They said to you, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.” It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. (Jude 17-19 ESV)
We are in this “last time.” These people with their own agenda have entered the Church following their own ungodly passions. They pervert the truth for their own profit. They are worldly people devoid of the Spirit and in order for us to persevere to the end, we must turn from them and have no part in their ministries. How are we to know to turn from these people? We must pray and walk in the knowledge given to us by God as we do this.
But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. (Jude 20-21 ESV)
The way to minimize the influence of these false prophets and teachers is to live proactively as a follower of Christ (Jude 3). I know so many Christians who are proactive Southern Baptists, or proactive Presbyterian, et cetera. However, this religiosity is not the same thing as being proactive follower of Christ nor will it provide them with the same level of discernment and knowledge of God. What does it mean for us to build ourselves up in our most holy faith? These who are proactively following Christ are building themselves up in their most holy faith by building on the foundation (1 Corinthians 3:11) and cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20) in Christ. God has given us the wonderful gift of His Word written down by the apostles and prophets so that we can build ourselves up by the Word of God.
We are also to pray in the Holy Spirit. What does this mean? To begin with, it is not a call to some ecstatic form of prayer, but simply a call to pray consistently in the will and power of the Spirit, as one would pray in the name of Jesus Christ.
In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. (Ephesians 6:16-20 ESV)
The “all prayer and supplication” focuses on the variety of prayer while the “praying at all times in the Spirit” focuses on the frequency. The part “in the Spirit” focuses on submission, as one lines up with the will of God. The “keep alert” focuses on the manner while “all perseverance” focuses on the persistence. Paul also tells us to do this “for all the saints and him.” Paul does not ask for his health or well-being or “things,” but for boldness and faithfulness in the midst of his imprisonment that he would continue proclaiming the gospel to the unsaved, no matter what the cost.
So, when we are called to persevere, to stand firm, to not run from the battle line, it is a call to be men and women of prayer. We fight the good fight correctly as we pray in the Spirit and obey what God leads us to do. As we shed our fascination with the world and its ways then we are ready for this, not until. There is no way to mix being all tied up in the world and its ways, and perseverance to the end as praying, obedient, proactive followers of Christ. In case I haven’t reminded those reading this in awhile, this life is amazingly short. Time slips through our fingers like sand. We are like a vapor that is there for just a few seconds and is gone. Do not put off what you know God wants you to do. That later day may never come.
Soli Deo Gloria!