Priorities for a New Year (John MacDiarmid)

Sermon preached at Poole Christian Fellowship on 6 January 2013

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Reference: Luke 10 v 38 – 11 v 13

As we start this New Year and return to the book of Luke, we will use this passage to identify some priorities for the new year. Not just priorities for us as a church, but for each of us an individuals as we serve God on our frontlines, as we come to grips with the challenges that we have, whether it’s work or lack of it, whether school as a student or a teacher, whether parenthood or grandparenthood, marriage or singleness . What are the things that we can do that will mean that we will finish this year in a better state than we start it. Each point has an application that will identify something that we can do that will help us to make 2013 a year when we really move forward.

1. The Priority of Prayer

The story of Martha and Mary is a familiar and touching one. We are more than tempted to feel a little sympathy for Martha as she rushes round doing all the jobs that have to be done m whilst her sister is simply sitting at Jesus’ feet and not helping at all. Martha’s frustration builds up and up until she finally explodes with an accusation at her sister and irritation at the Lord for condoning what she sees is Mary opting out of responsibility.

Jesus’ reply “Martha, Martha…” comes out of love, affection and concern…not rebuke. Martha is het up about many of the things that concern us…meals have to be cooked, the house has to be tidied, children have to be looked after…and so on. But what is the most important thing? The most important thing is our relationship with Jesus. Mary understood that. Jesus is not condoning laziness – but he affirms someone who has their priority straight. Our Most Important Thing is our time with Jesus. Do our lives reflect that?

If there is one thing that will make sure that we finish the year in a better place than we start it, it is the commitment to give some quality time to being with Jesus each day. The daily quiet time is the foundation of our relationship with Jesus. For those of us who have never made this a part of our lives, “Seven Minutes with God” is a great starting point. For those of us for whom it’s already a part of our lives, let’s determine that this is what will characterise us during this year

2. The Pattern of prayer

Luke deliberately follows this passage with what we now call “The Lord’s prayer”. Here he is not giving us a speech to recite our Father (who needs speeches when there is a relationship?) but is giving us an example of what that relationship with our Father looks like.

What do we see in this prayer – in this “model” prayer that Jesus gives us?

We see:

  • Addressing God as father – not the authoritative distant Victorian father, but the intimate “daddy” – no speeches are necessary!
  • Talking to God about the things that are important to Him –his name and His kingdom
  • Depending on the Lord for our daily needs
  • Asking for the mercy and undeserved forgiveness of God to be poured out on our lives – whilst recognising that every day we will receive it to the extent that we are willing to share that mercy and that forgiveness with others.
  • Asking for help in the daily battle with the enemy so that we can live lives that please God.

If we want to know what spending time with God looks like – here it is!

The point that I want to draw out of this passage as an application that will help us in 2013 is the absolute imperative of forgiveness. Forgiveness is at the heart of the Christian faith, giving and receiving it. There is nothing that will damage our lives more than a failure to forgive others – in fact forgiving others is the most selfish thing that we can do. Is 2013 the year when we will finally put the past to bed, forgive unconditionally and move on?

3. Persistence in prayer

Jesus follows the model prayer with a most amusing story of about the man who has such an extraordinary cheek that he dares to wake up his neighbour in the middle of the night, because of his own lack of planning. What a nerve! And Jesus Is pointing out that God is quite happy when we behave like this. There is no suggestion that God is like the impatient neighbour who only acts to get rid of the nuisance. Jesus is saying that God honours the bold, persistent and even outrageous cheek of those who bring their requests to God.

To emphasise this point Jesus says that we should go on asking, go on seeking, go on knocking, because we can be assured of an answer. There is, in this sense, no such thing as unanswered prayer. God always respond to the cries of his children.

His final comparison is with the Father who still knows how to give good gifts to his children, even though he falls far short of God’s love. And the thing that Jesus says we will receive is the very thing that we need most to enjoy our relationship with Jesus- the Holy Spirit.

So what can we learn here to help us on the way in 2013? Jesus commends the virtue of boldness, persistence, unbecoming behaviour in relation to the way we keep on at God! What a great way for us to approach the week of prayer as we start 2013.

John MacDiarmid
January 2013

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