37. Hearing leads to Action (4)

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 37. Hearing leads to Action (4)

John 2:5   His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

We continue with this fictitious example of a listening prayer group and the revelation that came, to see how we may cooperate with the Lord, seated with him in the heavenly realms, bringing in the kingdom of God on earth.  Now let’s move on to see the final phase of this story:

(Proactive after further prayer)

Having been left feeling somewhat encouraged by what had happened so far in the week with his junior and his boss, Alan realised that the problem of the Client was still not resolved, and he needed to do something about it. He prayed briefly and dialled the number. The call was not exactly an unqualified success but at the end of it the client had agreed to have lunch with him in two days’ time. In that waiting time he called a couple of others from the prayer group and asked them to pray for his coming encounter.

 (Approaching the Client)

Two days later he sat at a table in the restaurant waiting for the client who was ten minutes late.

As soon as the man arrived, he muttered at Alan, “I don’t know why I am bothering with you! I’m thinking of taking my business elsewhere. You’re a blithering idiot!”

“Yes, I am,” was all Alan could manage.

“Well, that’s a good starting place,” the other replied tartly.

“Yes, I’m really sorry I upset you on the phone the other day. I’m afraid I made a very bad job of explaining some of the pitfalls of the course of action you were proposing, and I fully understand that it upset you, and I’m really sorry.”

(A change of response)

The other looked embarrassed. “Well I must confess I wasn’t expecting to hear that from you.” He looked a lot calmer. “All right, let’s order and as we’re here, you might as well have another go at explaining what you’re thinking.”

They ordered and talked.

Twenty minutes later the client put down his knife and fork and smiled at Alan. “You young idiot! Why didn’t you put it like that in the first place?”

Alan thought it better not to say that he had said roughly the same thing before, and just shrugged his shoulders. “I must have been having a bad day. I’m sorry.”

More smiles. “Right, well let’s talk some more.”

An hour and a half later Alan returned to the office with a lucrative contact under his belt.

And that is the end of the story. But let’s consider the lessons that come out of this particular part of it. It doesn’t matter that it was fictitious for it demonstrates how things need to be and how they can work out.  First, for this part of the prayer request, Alan recognised that he needed to be proactive. Second, before he acted, he prayed, made contact and then requested further prayer backup. Third, in his approach to his client he exhibited humility. Fourth, and this is vital for us to see in these things, God clearly moved by changing the man’s heart. Our expectation must be for God who answers prayer to move and bring changes to the circumstances. Our role of to pray (stick close to Him), be alert and watch the changing circumstances and be ready to move within them with His grace. In that we are watching to see these moves as the hidden hand of God.

The story of Esther is famous for not having clear and obvious signs of God moving dramatically (as, similarly, with the story of Ruth) but we do see what we call the providential hand of God – circumstances changing to make way for God’s people to move in. In the story of Joseph in the Old Testament, we find first of all in respect of Potiphar, Joseph found favour in his eyes,” (Gen 39:4) and then in prison, “the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favour in the eyes of the prison warder.” (Gen 39:21) i.e. God moves on the heart of unbelievers on behalf of His people. As people of faith, we should be expecting this when we are available and seeing ourselves as seated with Christ in the heavenly realms (Eph 2:6)

Now our danger is that having read that story, you say, “Oh but it’s only a story. It’s not that easy!” Well it is, and things happen like this a) when we approach prayer meetings like this and b) are willing to be part of the answer to what we pray. If we reflect on the wider story, we can see a number of things that may help us in our own prayer experiences:

  • The praying people had learned to listen to God for HIS will as they prayed.
  • What they ‘heard’ from the Lord became a resource for further prayer for encouraging activity afterwards
  • The ‘answers’ involved Alan stepping out in faith in the week ahead:
    • looking at what was happening as the Lord provided opportunities for him to speak and act,
    • being willing to be humble, gracious and available for whatever came up,
    • being willing to accept that he perhaps hadn’t handled some of the people very well previously but, even more importantly,
    • here were opportunities to be a blessing to others, despite the past.
  • The ‘answers’ also involved the needs of other people coming to the surface and providing a basis for Alan to show love, care and compassion and faith – and then for God to move some more!

Perhaps we may analyse it in the following way. In the Prayer Meeting faith and encouragement and future direction were given when the people listened to God. After the Prayer Meeting, things happened (answers came) when the person in question was willing to play his part in bringing answers. Or to put it in yet another way, simply praying words out loud in a prayer meeting can be unbelieving ritual. Praying, listening and then acting on what you hear is faith building and opens the way for God to move in a much greater way. Simply praying weekly ‘shopping lists’ does little to build our faith and we remain unchanged – and circumstances and people around us only change a small amount. ‘Listening prayer’ followed by ‘available obedience’ develops faith and enables us to grow to be more available and more like Jesus, and so that God can work, and circumstances and people can be radically changed. The kingdom comes!

36. Hearing leads to Action (3)

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 36. Hearing leads to Action (3)

John 2:5   His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

We continue pursuing a fictitious example of a listening prayer group and the revelation that came, as an example of how we may cooperate with the Lord, seated with him in the heavenly realms, bringing in the kingdom of God on earth.  Let’s move on to see what happened next.

(Alan’s Boss)

It had been two days after the prayer meeting that Alan had been in his boss’s office talking through various pieces of work. When they came to the conclusion of it, Alan realised there was something he needed to mention.

“Boss, I’ll be off in a couple of days, just for the one day, I’ll take it out of my annual leave. It’s just that my daughter is applying for Uni and we want to go with her to the Open Day of one she has her eye on, if that’s all right with you?”

“Yes, no problem,” the boss replied and then added almost as an aside, “I wish I had got stuff like that happening with my kids.”

“Sounds like it’s not going well?” Alan enquired lightly.

“You’re joking. My boy, the older of the two, is coming up to his A-levels and we just can’t get him to work. And then my wife caught the younger one, my daughter, and she’s only thirteen, talking to a friend on the phone about using Cannabis. I really don’t know about kids today! Who would have ‘em!”

Alan made non-descript noises and made for the door, then paused in the opening, “Mind if I pray for them, boss?”

His boss didn’t answer and just turned back to papers on his desk.

Alan left feeling a little rebuffed – but that night he did remember to pray for them.

It was the day after his day off, when he was back in the office, and again had to talk some business stuff through with the boss. His boss seemed a bit more irritable than usual – which was saying something! – but they talked through the stuff and then as Alan was about to leave his office, his boss said in a casual but nervous, if not embarrassed tone, “Er… I don’t know if you prayed about my kids the other day but there’s been a remarkable change in them in just a few days. My wife has managed to have a good talk with my daughter about the dangers of drugs – which she seemed to accept – and my son suddenly seems to have got down to revising for his exams like there’s no tomorrow.” He winced.

“Are you all right, boss, you look like you’re in pain?” Alan ventured.

“Yes, I don’t know what it is; I woke up with a stiff neck this morning. I can hardly move it and it’s agony!”

Now it was Alan’s turn to feel nervous. “Er… would you like me to pray for it?” he ventured again.

“You can do what you like; I’ll take anything to get rid of this!”

“No, I mean would you like me to pray for you now, here, this minute?”

His boss looked uncomfortable. “Well shut the door then.”

Alan shut the door and went over to his boss. “I’ll just put my hand on your shoulder as I pray, if that’s all right?” His boss said nothing, so he did. “Lord Jesus, I know you love us both and I know you healed anyone who was ill when they came to you when you walked on this earth, so can I ask for you to heal this neck right now. Father, please let it be, in Jesus name. Amen.” His boss said nothing.

Alan opened his eyes and to his surprise saw tears running down his boss’s face and the older man was swivelling his head.

“That’s amazing. How did that happen? The pain’s completely gone!”

“Jesus just healed you because he loves you,” Alan found himself saying.

“Sit down, I need to ask you some things,” his boss replied.

Forty minutes later Alan came out of his office very thoughtful and with tears in his eyes.

Now this may be making some of us seriously uncomfortable. I was recently in a well-known annual ‘Bible Convention’, led by good evangelicals and they had invited a delightful head of a bible seminary to take the morning Bible studies – and she was excellent. On the last one, as a natural outflow of the Bible book we had been following, she suggested that the Lord might want to heal people there, that morning, and graciously turned to the man who had been compering the morning, if that is the right word for such a time, and said, “I’m just a visitor here, how do you want to do this?” I have never seen someone look so discomforted and he replied after a moment, “Well, people can just pray for each other where they are,” which was not a faith-filled answer as she had already spoken about people with real needs coming to the front for prayer. Many of us are good at receiving ‘the Word’ but as soon as it means stepping out in faith, we move to the back of the boat and let the brash Peters of the world step over the side. God delights in His children who ‘risk it’.

Alan, with the sense of high expectation that we mentioned yesterday, ‘stepped out of the boat’ and God turned up. He had already pushed the boat out (to change the metaphor slightly) by offering to pray and when he got no answer, just went home and prayed – and things happened! Because they happened, when his boss was in such pain he was past caring what happened, the way was open for Alan to pray for healing and leave the answer to the Lord – who healed!

I was at a brunch for the vulnerable in society recently and a young man (well a good bit younger than me) walked in, a man I had known some ten years before and whose family and work situation was dire! I noticed that he could hardly hobble his way in, with back and leg problems, so I greeted him and, knowing he had been anti-Christian and had forbade his wife to go to church, nevertheless sought to reach out to him. (We’ll call him Rick.) When I offered to be available to pray for him in private he hedged. “Look,” I said, “the best that could happen is that you get healed completely, the next best is that you get partly healed and the worst that could happen is that nothing happens! You can’t lose.” He still went out refusing prayer. How crazy is that! Make yourself available with humility and gentleness, and the worst that can happen is nothing and they might think you rubbish. The best that might happen is they get healed and might just turn to the Lord. “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Mt 6:10) Go for it!

35. Hearing leads to Action (2)

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 35. Hearing leads to Action (2)

John 2:5   His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

We are pursuing a fictitious example of a listening prayer group and the revelation that came. We need to move on to see what happened and then draw some lessons from it.

(The office junior)

When Alan went onto the office the next morning he went with a slight sense of apprehension. What should he say or do? The easy answer was nothing but just watch. In his interactions with his junior over the next couple of days, he was particularly careful to be open and friendly and gracious. Nothing happened. It was on the third day that things started to change. As he happened to be passing the young man’s desk, he noticed he was just sitting there staring ahead and doing nothing.

He paused. “Kev?”

No response. He pulled up a chair. There was no one within listening distance. He tried again, very gently. “Kev, what’s up?” Kevin seemed to suddenly realise he wasn’t alone. “Oh, sorry Alan, it’s nothing.”

“Are you sure? Do you need to talk about something?”

“No, not really, no it’s fine, it really is…. well …. I don’t know what to do. My wife’s has been diagnosed with cancer. We’ve known about it for a number of months, and it’s the bad sort and now at the hospital yesterday they say it will be touch and go, and…” his voice trailed off as he fought back tears.

Alan found he had tears running down his own face. “Oh Kev, I am so sorry. Is there anything I can do?”

“There’s nothing anyone can do. Anyway why are you crying, you don’t even know her!”

“Well that’s right but I just don’t know how I would feel in your shoes. I am so sorry. Look you’re not going to be able to concentrate on some of this stuff you’ve got on your desk at the moment. Let me get one of the others to lighten your load. What can I take from you?”

They discussed the possibilities and Alan took several files to redistribute round the office without saying why to the other staff.

“Do you need some time off? Is there anything you can be doing for her?”

“Well not really, but I suppose I need to arrange for the kids to be picked up from school in the days to come. Oh, what are we going to do?” He fought back the tears as a floodgate looked like it was just ready to burst.

“Look let’s not worry about that for now. Take one day at a time. Look, the other stuff you have here is not urgent. Go home now and just come in when you can. Kev, would you mind if I asked my church to pray for her?” Kev just nodded. “What’s her name so we know who we’re praying for?

“Marianne, but we call her Merry. Alan, I just don’t know what to do, and I know my work’s been going to pot, and I’m struggling with some of this stuff anyway.” He looked miserable.

“Look Kev, let’s not worry about that now. Let’s see how this works out and then perhaps in the future I can get you on that training course that is up on the notice board.”

“Yes, I’d like that. Thanks.”

“Come on, let’s go and get a coffee into you then you get back home, and we’ll take it from there – together.” The two left the office for coffee.

Back in the office, Alan thought to himself, “well that was an answer to prayer I wasn’t expecting!”

I am tempted to follow on with the other two things the group had prayed about, but this is all about bringing in the kingdom of God on the earth and there are some things in the story above that bear thinking about.

New Expectation: Because the group has prayed. and revelation had come, Alan is now in a state of expectation about an outcome. He doesn’t know what it will be, but he is on the lookout for something to happen. He is looking for the Lord to move, but that isn’t always in ways that we might expect.

New Concern: We may say (being really pious) that as Christians we should always be loving, gracious and caring for those around us, but the truth is that in the mundane ongoing-ness of daily life, especially life at work, it is so easy to stop making an effort to be a blessing to all those around us. However, now Alan is in a new state of expectancy, that has caused him to be particularly alert to those around him, and especially his young subordinate. It is because of this, that he spots the young man looking down, and needing some help.

New Compassion: Something different has happened and, because he is on the watch for such things as maybe part of God’s moving, he pauses up and gives the young man time, care and consideration, expressed in a variety of ways to help him with his present situation.

Spiritual Input: Don’t rush here, for there will be time to go further, yet Alan does gently ask him if he may share this with his prayer group. Don’t be surprised or cynical about the response because very often people may not be ready to hear the Gospel and certainly not be ready for church, but they will very happily receive prayer.

Conclusion: Perhaps the most important change here has been that in Alan himself. He has suddenly gone on the alert because someone dared to say they thought they had heard from God and he is now watching to see how God will open the situation up. As we said before, don’t prejudge how the Lord might move, but just be open and available to Him and, working with Him, you prepare the way of the Lord, for Him to come more fully into this situation: In the wilderness (of the office) prepare the way for the Lord.” (Isa 40:3) Tomorrow, we’ll see what else happens to Alan

34. Hearing leads to Action (1)

Lessons in Growth Meditations: 34. Hearing leads to Action (1)

John 2:5   His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Just in case we’ve lost the thread, let’s remind ourselves that in the big picture of ‘ways to grow’, we are now considering how, as part of the body of Christ, seated with him in the heavenly realms, we can be part with him in bringing in the kingdom of God on earth. For the last few studies I have been talking about how important it is to learn to listen to God. Now I will have said this before, but it is so important we need to hear it again here: hearing must be followed by obeying. Now that may sound heavy and so I want to divert from what we do usually and instead reiterate an example of this I have written elsewhere. This takes place in an imaginary prayer group. Now don’t be put off by the word, ‘imaginary’, because is does work like this. To make it easier to take in I will insert sub-headings so you can see how they proceed:

(Alan’s ‘issues’)

Alan, (our imaginary Christian) comes to the weekly church prayer meeting and shares about the difficulties he is having at work. There are several issues:

  • he has a member of staff below him who is not performing well and who gets angry and irritated if challenged over it.
  • Alan has received indications that the firm is in financial difficulties,
  • A bad-tempered client slammed the phone down on him yesterday.

Alan asks the group to pray. Very well, let’s see how this church responds.

 (The young member of staff)

As they start to pray and thank the Lord that He is in charge of their lives, one person stops the group praying.

“Alan,” she starts, “just as we started praying, I had this picture of your young member of staff and they were in their home, sitting with their head in their hands, crying. I believe the Lord wants you to reach into his life and help him.”

The prayer group leader joined in. “That’s great. One thing I noticed about life in the Old Testament, was that they sought the Lord for an answer, got a sense of it, and then prayed for it. Would someone like to pray for Alan then in respect of this young man?”

One of the other group members prayed and asked the Lord to give Alan an opportunity at work to speak to the young man, and another asked the Lord to give Alan wisdom to know how to gently ask about his home life.

(Alan’s Boss)

There was a pause after the prayers and then one of the others in the group spoke up, “Well, this seems a bit weird. I’m sorry about this Alan but I saw your boss in tears as well.” There was laughter around the group. “No, no, this wasn’t because he’s in trouble,” the other replied, “it seemed to be for some other reason, but you were sitting across his desk from him, Alan, so I don’t know what was happening.”

The group leader broke in again. “Well it looks, my friend, as if the Lord has got something for you to do with your boss as well.” He grinned.

Alan grinned back, “Well, I don’t know about that; he’s a hard-bitten old something or other, and I can’t ever see him in tears.”

“Well, somebody pray for Alan and his boss then,” the leader suggested.

Another of the group prayed: “Lord, this is starting to get heavy. We can’t see how Alan’s boss is ever going to be in tears, but will you help Alan to be on the lookout for opportunities to talk to him and give him wisdom to know what to say or do when those opportunities arise. Amen.” The group responded with an ‘Amen’. Alan sat there wondering what was coming next.

(Alan’s client)

Someone in the group giggled. “I’m sorry, Alan, I don’t have a picture of your angry client in tears. In fact, quite to the contrary, I see him getting even more angry, but somehow you say something, and I see him smiling. I know that’s not much help, but that’s what I see.”

In came the group leader again, “Well that’s all right; it may start out worse but that looks like a good outcome. Sorry, Alan, you’re getting dumped with rather a lot here tonight because it looks like you are the catalyst that will change him from fury to smiling. OK, folks, this is getting harder. One or two of you pray for Alan and his client, would you please.”

One person prayed and asked the Lord to give Alan a gift of faith to believe in this possibility, another prayed that the Lord would give him grace to just cope with this client graciously the next time he spoke with him, and another asked the Lord to give him wisdom in speaking to this client.

Alan sat there wondering why he had risked asking for prayer, yet he realised that deep down there was a sense of excitement within: three people had received pictures for him and a number of them had prayed with real care and concern for him. Yes, that was good, but what would the future hold?

I say again, when we are open to the Lord’s leading, when we risk ‘hearing’ from Him, He shares His heart and brings revelation that will take us on. Now I used as our opening verse those famous words of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at the wedding in Cana, and they should act as a constant reminder; this is not to entertain us, this is to let us know how we are to proceed. I have said it before, one aspect of listening prayer is to ask, “Lord, is there something you want me to do to be an answer to this prayer? Is there a part you have for me to play in this?” If we come with this sort of attitude, watch out, the kingdom is coming!

Oh, the outworking of Alan’s situation? I’ll share that tomorrow.

8. Righteousness by Faith

Meditations on ‘Focusing Faith’ : 8.  Righteousness comes by faith

Heb 11:5,6   By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

The sense of guilt (and even shame) is so often seen in human beings that we might almost think it is a natural characteristic of being human, this sense of not quite having made it, of getting something wrong. Of course we try to cover it up and steel our conscience against such things but on occasions of rare honesty most people will confess to having a sense of guilt about something. But there is something about this sense and it is that we human beings have this awareness of right and wrong. Of course we have been through a period in history where some have said everything is relative and therefore there are no fixed rights and wrongs – well, at least people say that until they have been wronged by another and then it is different!

The Bible uses this word ‘righteousness’ and perhaps the most simple definition of it could be ‘the state of being right in God’s eyes’. We would all like to think that we are all right in God’s eyes, because, after all, God is loving and so turns a blind eye to our imperfections doesn’t He? But no, actually He doesn’t. So much human behaviour, and indeed religious behaviour, is given over to trying to be ‘good people’ If not good in God’s eyes (because atheists struggle to pretend He’s not there) then at least good in our own eyes and the eyes of those around us. We do like to put on masks to cover up the real person who is there.

It is clear when you read through this hall of faith in Hebrews 11 that the writer is working chronologically through the key Old Testament figures and so it is not surprising that he next mentions Noah, but what is surprising it that he mentions him in  the context of righteousness. If we know our Old Testament we perhaps might not expect that to get mentioned until Abraham but, no, Noah is spoken about in the context of both faith and of righteousness.

For those who try to pretend the account of the flood is fictional this passage comes as a wake-up call to its reality. The Son of God spoke of him as an historical figure (Mt 24:37,38) as did the apostle Peter (1 Pet 3:20). In fact Peter in his second letter referred to Noah as a preacher of righteousness.” (2 Pet 2:5) Interesting!

Explaining Noah’s faith, the writer speaks of his actions in terms he expressed earlier in the chapter, “when warned about things not yet seen.” Faith, he said earlier, “is being … certain of what we do not see.” The Lord told Noah to get ready to cope with a coming flood by building a large Ark.  The flood was a future event: it had not yet happened and so when Noah responded and “built an ark to save his family,” he was responding to God’s word and that was faith.

Now Noah’s faith was not something in isolation, it was something he did in the face of the godless and unbelieving world around him. Building the Ark may well have taken a couple of years and so even if Noah hadn’t actually challenged his neighbours outright, his activity building the Ark would have brought comment and questions, but ultimately no one said, “Can I come along please?” Simply he and his family responded. In that “he condemned the world.”  Belief in God was possible for all people but only Noah believed and responded to God.

Perhaps we need to see the realities of the state of the world as laid out in Genesis 6: “Noah was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time, and he walked with God.” (Gen 6:9) Before he did anything in respect of the Ark he was seen to be a righteous and blameless man, and in that he stood out, for look at the description of the rest of the world that follows: “Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence. God saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So God said to Noah, “I am going to put an end to all people, for the earth is filled with violence because of them.”  (Gen 6:11-13)

Now I am not going to get into whether the Flood was worldwide or local, the main point is all about that state of the earth and why God was acting against it – and how Noah stood out. He was already, please note, a man of faith in that he, like Enoch who we have already considered, “walked with God”. But now the writer to the Hebrews emphasises his faith by the way he responded to God’s call to build an ark and thus stood out from the rest of the world. I like how the Message version puts it: His act of faith drew a sharp line between the evil of the unbelieving world and the rightness of the believing world.” The Living version is also good: “Noah’s belief in God was in direct contrast to the sin and disbelief of the rest of the world.”

But as we noted at the beginning, his act of faith was also equated with righteousness and he became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”  He was seen as being right in God’s eyes for his act of faith, being obedient to God’s leading. An heir is an inheritor. Yes, that is going to become clear in the case of Abraham later on, but it is almost as if Noah is the forerunner to ‘justification by faith’, that is seen in Abraham. In other words, although it had not yet been declared or made clear yet, that was what he was experiencing by his act of faith. Faith is thus always equated with righteousness.

It was Habakkuk who declared, “the righteous will live by his faith.” (Hab 2:4) A righteous person – one living in the light of God and being accredited as righteous by God – will be a person of faith.  We will see this in various New Testament verses – Rom 1:17, Gal 3:11,  Eph 2:8,  Heb 10:38.

Christians are first of all believers, but life flows in them as they respond to belief and that is faith. Faith is belief in action. Noah exemplified it by his belief in God which led him to ‘walk with God’ which led him to ‘hear’ God and then hearing he responded to God (building the Ark) and thus revealed both righteousness and faith to the rest of the world who were condemned by their absence of either thing. Don’t be just a believer.

9. Action Stations!

Meditations in 1 Peter : 9 :  Action Stations!

1 Pet 1:13 Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen old war films, especially ones at sea. The ship is cruising quietly, then the lookouts spot enemy aircraft approaching and suddenly ‘Action Stations’ is sounded. Instantly the ship is transformed. One minute is was quiet and at ease and the next people are rushing to their places ready for battle.

Our verse above starts with a Therefore indicating that what he now says is a response to what has gone before. In verses 10-12 he had spoken about how our present salvation was been hinted at throughout the Old Testament.  Prior to that he had spoken about our invisible faith which was yet so real and had concluded, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” (v.9)  Did you note the word, ‘receiving’ which speaks of action or an ongoing activity. We tend to tend think that salvation is all about what happened on the day when we came to Christ and were converted (Acts 15:3, Rom 16:5) but Peter here said we are receiving our salvation which is in the present but ongoing.  Day by day we receive what God has got for us and this is our salvation.

You may have heard the old illustration about people being shipwrecked at sea. The lifeboat goes out and winches them off the boat. They are saved! As the lifeboat makes its way back to the shore they are being saved. When it arrives back in the harbour and they get off onto dry land, they are well and truly saved!  Those three stages correspond to our lives. When we came to Christ we were saved. Today we are being saved, and when we go to heaven we will be well and truly saved!

So Peter said we are receiving our salvation, it’s coming to us from God, but now he’s saying “prepare your minds for action.”  Now that could be taken two ways. Get ready to use your minds, or get your minds ready to cope with the action that is coming. Both are right!

Christians ARE people who should be using their minds. In some quarters there has been the idea that once you move into the area of faith you switch off you mind.  Is it a coincidence that God chose a very bright intelligent guy called Paul to take the Gospel across Asia Minor?   Was it a coincidence that God chose an educated doctor to write one of the gospels and the Acts of the apostles?  If you have a mind – use it!  But hold on, some of us say, I’m not clever.  No, it’s OK,  two of the other gospel writers started out as uneducated fishermen. Perhaps there is more in your head than you realise. Every time we teach, we are asking you to use your mind.  When Paul challenged the local elders of churches to be prepared to counter the heresies of the day, they did it with their minds!

But it is ALSO about getting your minds ready to cope with the action that is coming as an expression of your salvation.  In the crisis that brought us to Christ we may have come to the place where we recognised our failure and our need of saving – in fact if we didn’t we probably haven’t been saved!  At that point we died to our old lives, we gave up on them, but then we had to learn that the Christian life is a life of resurrection, of God imparting new life to us so that we live new righteous lives.  Then we hear that God wants to take and use our lives to bless His world.  When we hear both these things, our natural way of thinking says I can’t do that, I can’t be a new righteous person, I can’t be used of God.  We have to learn to believe God and not our own inadequacies.

We have to learn that as God empowers and directs us, we can now take control of our lives.  No longer do we let ourselves get swept along by our emotions, or by things people say to us, or even the things going wrong around us.  That is why Peter says, “be self controlled.” Part of this salvation that we are receiving means that we learn to resist the devil, resist sin and purposefully live for God. Those are all choices we make and actions we take.

But there is something more:set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” When is Jesus Christ revealed? As he speaks and acts today and when he returns on the last day!  Toset your hope” simply means to think rightly and with assurance about tomorrow and realise there is more to come. What you have is not all of it.  God’s grace is God’s provision of ability and it comes as Jesus draws near and imparts his ability to you. Yet there is the distance (eternity) element to it, but we don’t have to wait until eternity to receive God’s grace, because receiving this salvation is all about receiving God’s grace – now.