How Much Do You Care?
Well, how concerned are we? How concerned are we for people for whom we pray? Does it burn in our hearts?
Alright, thank you very much. And hello again, radio friends. How in the world are you? Doing alright? I’m fine, thank you. Feeling great, praise the Lord. So good to wake up and feel good, isn’t it? [chuckle] Feel well, I’ll say that, for you English teachers. Somebody’s always reminding me that every now and again I make a slip. Well, I do that, sometimes, deliberately to see if you’re listening. That’s mischievous, isn’t it?
We’re talking about Epaphras, who had learned not only to pray, but to pray effectively, says, “Always laboring fervently for you in prayers.” Now, here’s your formula. Laboring fervently is the word agonize. Get down to bedrock when you’re praying, so that you really mean business for God. “Ye shall seek me and find me,” God said through Jeremiah, “when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” “These people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me,” is God’s complaint concerning people who pray idly. Don’t you think God knows whether you mean business when you pray? Well, sometimes you and I need to examine our own hearts and motives to find out whether indeed we are praying earnestly. It might be a good exercise for you today just to ask how sincere, how earnest am I in my praying. Laboring fervently is the Greek word “agonizing” for you in prayers.
And there has to be an object of prayer laboring for you, for you in prayers. I said the last time we got together, start your praying at home with people you know the best. If you pray well for the people you know the best, you’ll pray more effectively for folk you don’t know, alright? Paul said, “I wish you knew the great burden that I have for you at Colossae and for people in Laodicea,” and he said, “for them who have not seen my face in the flesh.” What’s he talking about? Well, he says, I pray for you because I know you, and I’m also praying earnestly for people whom I have never met. There is the process that results in effective praying. Start with people and things and circumstances about which you know, and you’ll pray better about other things as a result.
Now, what did he ask for these people? This is an interesting prayer. He said, “Praying, laboring fervently for you in prayers that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” That word “perfect” is a word that means matured, fully grown. If it’s in terms of a plan, it’s a plan that has been fully worked out. If it’s terms of a living being, it’s an animal or a person that is full grown. That’s the concept that you have there, that you may stand mature, fully grown up, you might say. Teleois is the Greek word which means really complete and full grown and mature, with God’s perfect plan worked out in you. That’s the overtones of it. I sort of… That’s a Cookism. I bring it in, but that’s how I see it. If you’re fully mature and fully complete, that means that God’s perfect plan is being completed in you, that you may stand completed, grown up in the will of God.
So many people are dear little children in the faith, aren’t they? They say and do the childish things religiously. One of the surprises that I got early in the ministry was to find that people who are so very capable in the business world can be quite childish when they come to handling spiritual matters, because they haven’t grown up spiritually as yet. As a young minister, I made a few mistakes in trying to cope with people whom I expected to be mature spiritually because they were mature commercially, let us say, business-wise or socially. And I didn’t realize for a while that you have to give God time with these people, and you, yourself, have to give them time.
Pastor, if you’ve got someone who is able and successful in the business world but who is childish in spiritual things, spend time with him or her. Teach them how to pray, teach them how to search the word, teach them how to listen to God’s blessed indwelling Holy Spirit as he speaks through the word and through the mind and conscience. And you’ll see them growing and becoming this word, perfect, grown up in the will of God. Spend time with people helping them to grow up spiritually. Epaphras was concerned about his friends. He wanted them to be grown up in the things of God.
You and I might well ask ourselves, “How mature are we? How mature are we in the things of God? Are we still little children?” Paul says, “That ye be no more children tossed about with every wind of doctrine and the slight of men by which they wait in cunningness to deceive.” He said, “Don’t be like little children, easily fooled, easily baffled, and easily buffeted, and tossed about.” He said, “Grow up into Christ.” That’s what Paul said to the Ephesians. So, there’s that concept. He prayed, agonizing for them that they might grow up and be mature.
That’s a far cry, isn’t it, from praying for… In those general terms, we say, “Well, bless John and help him.” This man, in his praying, was focusing on a specific need of these people whom he knew so well. Then he said, “Perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Now, this word complete is different from the word perfect. I told you perfect had to do with the completion of a plan. God’s perfect plan for your life, maturing, maturation. Now, the next word that’s translated, complete, comes from a Greek verb, pleroo, which means to fill up to the overflow, to fill clear full, ’til it spills over. He says, “I want you to be so in touch with the will of God that your life is just spilling over in His will.” That’s the overflow word. Jesus said, “If any man come to me… ” He says, “If any man thirsts, let him come unto me and drink. Out of his innermost being shall flow rivers of living water,” that were rivers of living waters, our word, artesian well, like a spring that never quits.
When I use the word spring, I have one picture that comes to my mind from my boyhood, when I lived on a farm in Ohio. At the turn of the seasons, at the springtime, my uncle Frank and aunt Esther would get in the ancient 1921 Maxwell Touring car, and they would make the trip from their farm on Hardscrabble Road over to Green Springs, Ohio. Any of you people who live near Tiffin, you know where Green Springs is. Now, it’s named for those springs, icy cold water with a sulfur content, smells like over-ripe eggs, and if the wind is right you can tell you’re getting near the town long before you can see it. And they would come over there, and they would say, “Now, Robert, this is good for you. It’s springtime, you need this.” And they would give me a large portion of that sulfur tasting icy cold water, and I would drink it down with a grimace and feel sorry for myself. When we say springs, I always think of those springs. Well, they were always flowing, they never ran dry, always gushing up, and they were there. Springs of living water, out of His innermost being shall flow rivers of living water. An artesian well, a spring that never gives up, never runs dry, always running over.
Now, I make allowance for moods. I don’t always feel bouncy and happy. I’m not always jumping up and down and shouting ‘Hallelujah’. I have my moods as well. I kept a graph of my moods for a whole year. On one occasion I remember, in that entire year I had a piece of graph paper that was cross-hatched with 365 different spaces, and I indexed it vertically to show my different moods all the way from yippee to yuck. [laughter] And I found that my moods varied every two weeks or so. I was up, and I was down. And I found that co-incidentally my daily moods varied depending on whether I’d met the Lord in a quiet time in the morning. If I had been too busy to seek His face, my mood wasn’t too pleasant for part of that day. And so I learned that you’d better seek your Lord in the morning if you’re going to have a good day. Well, your moods do vary, don’t they? And you don’t always expect to be jumping up and down with glee.
At the same time… At the same time, you can be full of the blessing of the Lord, full of the spirit of God, in fulfillment of that command in Ephesians 5:18 which says, “Be not drunk with wine wherein is excess but be filled with the spirit.” And that command, that verb is in the linear sense. It means keep on. Being filled, you might sort of transliterate it. Keep on being filled with the spirit, overflowing with the spirit of God in answer to your faith and in answer to your prayers, that you might be perfect and complete. And that’s the spill over. Every time you’re jostled in life, spill over the blessing of your wonderful Lord.
I think so often of Cyril Thompson who, although I did not know it, didn’t have a single rupee in his pocket to stand between him and hunger there on the mission field. No support had been sent to him from Great Britain for a considerable length of time, but he was on hand to greet Merrill Dunlop and me, as Hubert Mitchell and Dick Riley brought us in from Dum Dum airport, just outside of Calcutta, early one morning. He was on hand at the headquarters office in Calcutta to welcome us. And so as I was introduced to him, I said, “Well, brother, I’m glad to meet you. How are you?” And he stood straight and tall and he said, “Brother, I am full of the joy of the Lord,” and his face just gleamed. Not a single rupee in his pocket to stand between him and starvation, nothing at all. He was stranded on the mission field. I guess he got something later on, as I understand, but the dear missionaries were having to pitch in and help a little bit at that point. But he was rejoicing in the Lord. Oh, I have never forgotten the glow on that precious face as he looked at me and said, “I’m full of the joy of the Lord.”
I want to be that kind of a person. Though circumstances may be against us, always spilling over the blessing of God. That’s what that word complete really means, pleroo, full to overflowing. That’s what Epaphras was praying for his precious friends in Colossae. Now Paul says, “I bear him record that he hath a great zeal for you, and them that are in Laodicea and them in Hierapolis. He hath a great zeal for you.” Zeal, it comes from our word to bubble and to boil. He’s got a great zeal. There’s a word here that’s related to the idea of just almost dying for a cause. He has a great zeal for you and for those in Laodicea and so on.
Well, how concerned are we? How much concerned are we for people for whom we pray? Does it burn in our hearts? Does it just consume us? Does it make us willing to be a martyr for the whole cause of their well-being? Does it make us willing to sacrifice anything for them? These are the questions that are pretty close to our spiritual jugular vein, you may say. He hath a great zeal for you. Well, the whole thing’s wrapped up on how much do I care. How much do I care about a person? I remember making a visit in the hospital years ago on a young fellow who never really would give me the time of day. He didn’t really care much for me and for what I stood for, but he had an operation, appendicitis or something, and I went to see him and put my hand on his forehead and prayed for him. And when I said, “Amen,” his eyes were filled with tears, and he said, “Doc, you do care, don’t you?” Well, of course I do. You have to care about people. How much do we care about the people for whom we pray? That’s the question you might well think about as the hours go on today. We’ll get at some more of this the next time we get together.
Dear Father, today help us to be good prayers, earnest, pointed, effective, full of the spirit of God as we pray. In His name, amen.
Till I meet you once again by way of radio, walk with the King today and be a blessing!
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