David Brainerd observed, “The idea that everything would happen exactly as it does regardless of whether we pray or not is a specter that haunts the minds of many who sincerely profess belief in God. It makes prayer psychologically impossible, replacing it with dead ritual at best.” The answer to the question “Does prayer make a difference?” is definitely, “Yes!”. But let’s consider how and why the Bible teaches us that prayer matters so much.
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:1-3). Easter is now passed, but thank God the implications of Christ’s resurrection continue perpetually.
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. (Psalm 23:2) While it is true that we all have experienced what we might call “a good day” — when the children are behaving, the sun is shining, our body is healthy, our spouse is agreeable — these blessings from our benevolent God are not unique to believers who have Christ as their shepherd. Even unbelievers can enjoy these things.
The psalmist famously writes: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me” (Psalm 23:4). Francis Schaeffer, in his book The God Who Is There, references a tragic poem found with the body of a 23-year old young woman and drug addict who had committed suicide. The note read:
It is important to know that every sin leads to Hell — even a sin as seemingly “small” as eating one bite of a forbidden fruit. There is no sin which, in the eyes of God, is “forgivable” in the sense of being too small or petty for God to care about.
“So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples“ (Matthew 28:8). This is Matthew’s account of the resurrection of Jesus, and the women who encountered an angel at the empty tomb. How true to obvious human experience this is! These disciples witness the empty tomb of Jesus and the angelic announcement of his resurrection – and so they, in great awe and joy, run to to bring the good news to others. The empty tomb occasions a full heart, overflowing with joyful, evangelistic zeal.
“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). After dedicating an entire chapter to the subject of the resurrection, Paul concludes with this word: “Therefore.” Based on the abundant proofs for the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and based on the truth that Christ is the firstfruits of what all believers will experience through him, and based on the fact that we shall all be changed from perishable to imperishable – therefore, beloved, be steadfast!
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?“ (John 11:25-26). The scene here is that Jesus’ friend Lazarus had just died, and now Jesus is speaking to Lazarus’ sister Martha. And there are some inescapable lessons to learn from this situation, and from Jesus’ response to it. First, death is a reality. Death is the end of every person (Ecclesiastes 7:2). Death is not unexpected. The manner of it may be
What you sow does not come to life unless it dies (1 Corinthians 15:36). Paul, speaking here in the context of the resurrection of the dead, compares our earthly body to a seed. The seed must be planted, and die, in order for it to eventually become the full-grown plant. Similarly, Paul goes on in the very next verse to insist, our earthly body is only the bare kernel of what our glorified body will be. This is a stunning analogy, with awesome implications for the afterlife!
But someone will ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body do they come?” You foolish person! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies (1 Corinthians 15:35-36). Paul, in discussing the truth of the general resurrection of the dead, anticipates some possible queries and objections. Someone might ask, for instance, “How are the dead raised?” This is a good question! Christian, linger here and learn from the heretic.
Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, interpretation is part of almost every human’s daily life. Communication would not be possible without a common understanding and means of interpreting. However, even with years of practice, we can all misjudge or misinterpret someone else’s—even our own spouse’s—words, actions, or facial expressions. This danger of misinterpretation is even greater when we come to the Bible.
It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes (Psalm 119:71). The psalmist David had felt the deep pain of real affliction, and through it he had come to know God better, through his Word. The cost of coming to know God better was his own comfort, but David says it was worth it, it was good. From the beginning to the end of the Bible, God holds himself up as the treasure of the universe, of surpassing value.
Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Nothing could be more purely practical than this passage, this claim by Jesus! Yes, it is a theological claim, but it should be far more than another point of orthodoxy for us as Christians.
Many people misunderstand the truth of God’s omnipotence — the fact that he has all power. So one might sincerely wonder why the cross of Jesus Christ was necessary. Why didn’t God just waive his omnipotent “wand” and make everything okay without his Son having to die? The key is to remember that, while God has the power to do anything he wishes, what God wants to do is always in accord with the rest of his attributes and character.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want (Psalm 23:1). In less than ten words the psalmist David expresses the great confidence and sweet security of every believer: first, that Yahweh alone is Lord; second, that he guides and provides for those who put their trust in him; and, finally, that those who are thus cared for shall not want for any good thing.