“Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” The apostle Peter writing to believers in difficult times (1 Peter 4:12-19)
I have heard many of those who believe in Jesus Christ speaking of their concerns regarding difficult times ahead in North America. For some, their concern is mostly political, as if some political solution or election outcome will determine the degree of spiritual quality of our living. Others point to the pandemic as the source of the difficulties coming upon us. Still others name the political upheaval being fomented by anarchists that is tearing at the fabric of our society.
Certainly, we are in times of tumult, uproar, and uncertainty. The underlying conditions present in our society – rejecting our God, selfishness and destructive living, and rampant evil not only tolerated but promoted and celebrated – are exposing the schemes of Satan, our arch-enemy. The apostle John told us that the entire world lies under the evil one’s power (1 John 5:19), and he uses the world to bring about suffering. Satan intends “only to kill, steal, and destroy,” stated Jesus (John 10:10), and he is clearly accomplishing his purposes in our society today.
Sadly, our enemy has also been successful in dragging the institutional church down with society. We have left the established patterns of the New Testament church for our “new and better” way of the world’s systems and processes. We think that we are redeeming the world’s systems when in fact they are adulterating the institutional church.
Before we pray for the world to get better, perhaps we should pray for the followers of Christ to get better. As Peter told us in the passage quoted above, judgment begins with the house of God, His true church in the world. Our God intends to use our difficulties not only to expose wrongdoing, but to bring about revival and renewal among us.
But how do we pray for revival and renewal in the church? The scriptures give us some patterns. For example:
Psalm 37:39-40 “The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble. The Lord helps them and delivers them; he delivers them from the wicked and saves them, because they take refuge in him.”
We need to deal with anything in which we are taking refuge that is not our God alone. Our false refuges include politics and political solutions. Relying on wealth, savings, and supplies. Trusting alone in weapons and violence. My point is not that these are bad, but that depending on them for refuge in any way will take us out from under our God’s promises for help and deliverance. It is time for us to lay aside false refuges and deal with our God alone. Then this prayer can be our own. Then we can turn to our God as our stronghold, helper, deliverer, and our righteousness.
Psalm 85:4-13 “Restore us again, God our Savior, and put away your displeasure toward us. Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger through all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your unfailing love, Lord, and grant us your salvation.
I will listen to what God the Lord says; he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants — but let them not turn to folly. Surely his salvation is near those who fear him, that his glory may dwell in our land.
Love and faithfulness meet together; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs forth from the earth, and righteousness looks down from heaven.
The Lord will indeed give what is good, and our land will yield its harvest. Righteousness goes before him and prepares the way for his steps.”
We must face into the truth; the institutional church in all of its stripes is a mess. We are losing ground on all fronts. We are compromised. We are weak and sick. We are the Laodicean church described in Revelation 3.
We must begin to pray as the psalmist does here, with confession and repentance. Repentance not just from specific sins but from worldliness, self-service, and human dependence. Repentance from “doing church” our way and the world’s way.
Only on the basis of true, heart-felt repentance can we pray the rest of the passage: for revival, salvation from our errors, protection from returning to our folly, and for returning to a sincere love and reverence for our God alone and above all else.
Remember that the term “land,” here is a catch phrase for the covenant promises of our God. Our prayers must be Kingdom-focused only. Praying for this political solution or that one will yield nothing, for all political solutions are systems under the enemy’s control. There is no real help to be found in them.
How shall we pray during these difficult times? Let us begin with prayers of repentance and submission to the will of our God. Let us ask Him to open our eyes to our folly so that we can escape it by His power and deliverance and not return to it again.
Look for more on praying in difficult times soon.