I love my church.
And I’m so grateful that God has brought us ministers that love God’s word, devote themselves to God’s word, and deliver God’s word to us each and every week.
This morning our student pastor, Michael Howard, shared with us the following verses in Romans 3:30-33:
I appeal to you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to strive together with me in your prayers to God on my behalf, 31 that I may be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my service for Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints, 32 so that by God’s will I may come to you with joy and be refreshed in your company. 33 May the God of peace be with you all. Amen.
Wrestle and rest. Wrestle and rest. Until this morning, I thought the two to be polar opposites. My thinking has been challenged, something that all great sermons should do.
I’ve written on my blog about wrestling before. It’s been a common theme of my life over the past several years. Wrestling within myself over belief or unbelief in God. Wrestling with God over the things that I don’t understand. Wrestling against His will for my life.
I guess you could say, I’m a bit rebellious.
But this morning we looked at a different type of wrestling. A wrestling we do together.
Take a look at verse 30 above. Paul is appealing to the believers to strive together with him in prayer on Paul’s behalf. Take a look at that word “strive”. One definition is “to struggle vigorously”. Now why would Paul use the word “strive”–such a strong word–as opposed to just asking the believers to pray for him.
I believe it is because what Paul himself was doing in his own prayers was striving. Striving with God to be delivered from the unbelievers in Judea. To not be hindered in coming to Rome to see the believers that that he longed to see. His prayers were fervent, urgent, earnest. He wanted the believers in Rome to be praying the same sort of prayers on his behalf–fervent, urgent, earnest.
But I think there is another reason as well. I believe he did not want to be alone in his prayers. I personally find praying to be, at times, a very lonely experience. There are times that I am so burdened that I don’t want to pray alone. I desire to know that someone else is praying with me. For me. Striving with me. Striving for me. Speaking words that I can’t bear to say out loud myself.
We were shown this morning that this is one of the purposes of church. How beautiful it was to see husbands and wives praying with each other this morning. How special it was to see friends praying for each other this morning. I left worship feeling both tremendously blessed, but also with that familiar ache of loneliness in prayer.
We must strive with and for each other.
And look at verse 32. This is where rest comes in. He asks them to pray that he might come to them and be refreshed by being with them. I despise churchy words, but I suppose the only word I can come up with is fellowship. Paul longs to be with a people that he knows will refresh him, that God will use to grant him rest in God. Because our rest only comes through God….not through any other source. Any other source is idolatry.
Yesterday was a day of rest for me–unintended–but I suppose needed, for I just could not stay awake. My body was finished. My mind shut down. I slept for hours yesterday. It was much-needed, uninterrupted rest. But there is another kind of rest–the rest you find when you are safe. The rest you find when you are amongst brothers and sisters in Christ. The rest you find in corporate worship. That’s the kind of rest I received this morning.
Wrestling and rest. Rest in the midst of wrestling. Wrestling in the midst of rest. Not polar opposites. Rather, two God-ordained activities that serve to minister to the deepest needs of our souls.