Prayer and fasting 21 days – 2 Timothy 3
There is nothing new about living in difficult times. Surrounded by selfish and immoral people outside the church and sometimes inside church too, we find if we love God and want to live like Him we stand out from others and that can be painful. Paul refers to some serious opposition he suffered. He was beaten and stoned but still gives thanks that God rescued him from death.
How does Paul encourage Timothy to continue in faith? By remembering how he learned the truth – which includes Paul’s example and teaching as well as the scriptures. When we read and apply the Bible in the power of the Spirit who inspired its writing, we are strengthened and transformed.
Lord, help us to pray through and obey what we read in scripture and help us to accept the encouragements and challenges of those You put around us – we want to hear Your voice and live like lights in a dark world, whatever the cost.
Paul’s message is simple: if you want to live a godly life you will be persecuted. So many Christians get upset if they pray something and God does not answer, or does not answer the way they would like Him to. We Christians in the West tend to assume that if there is pressure we should pray against it and avoid it. That is why it is so helpful to engage with the Psalms and the New Testament “apostolic prayers” (prayers that the apostles prayed – follow Apostolic Prayers to see a collection of these). When we pray some of the prayers Jesus, Paul and others prayed, we find we are seeking God’s glory rather than our comfort!
An example of persecution that Paul endured is in Acts 14, at Lystra (referred to in v 11). There is a dramatic welcome in Lystra and then Jews stir up the people so much that Paul is stoned. In those days people understood life and death; they knew how to kill animals for food and people as punishment. It is unlikely that Paul was still alive when the disciples came around his limp, broken and bleeding body to pray. What we see is resurrection life: he was brought back from the dead in a dramatic miracle.
So we see the highs and lows of ministry, the highs and lows of being a faithful witness. And even if the circumstances and the events are different in our lives, we must expect the same mix of miracles and opposition. We pray – then sometimes there is a painful experience and sometimes there is a miracle but both bring glory to God.
Expecting pressure is not an excuse to look for it, or to be defensive or attack in response, or to look odd or to be different for bad reasons! We need to communicate with the people around us in ways they understand and bless them. I need to be good husband, father and son to certain relatives and a good neighbour, etc. even if they do not understand me and put pressure on. What sets us apart is not wearing certain clothes or hairstyles or other outward signs – what sets us apart from those who do not know God is internal. We have a different life-source: the Holy Spirit is leading and transforming us if we follow Him.