What Shall I Do?

January 21, 2001 / No. 3029

Dear radio friends,

In this week our nation will witness the inauguration of a new president into the highest office of the land. As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, committed to the absolute truths of the Scriptures, we will not seek in this program to join our voice with the endless commentaries which are being offered today. We hear many commentaries on the significance of this presidency and many predictions of what the future holds concerning the economy and concerning the social conditions of our nation. We will not join such commentators today. Rather we will soberly, and in good hope, look into the holy Scriptures for direction, for understanding.

From the holy Scriptures, we know and believe the absolute sovereignty of God. That means that God rules over everything. Psalm 97:1 says, “Jehovah reigneth.” We know that it is through everything, both big and small, that He accomplishes His own purposes.

We have heard the footsteps of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we remember when He said that before He comes again ( Matt. 24), lawlessness shall abound. And we see that. Our nation has endorsed the perversions of homosexuality and lesbianism, killed the unborn, polluted the air with profanity and pornography, and has ridiculed the absolute truths of God’s Word.

Now, it is not beyond imagination that such a nation will also fall into the anarchy which the rejection of God must bring. For man, who arrogantly believes that he may set aside God’s law, will also set aside human law when it pleases him.

But, what shall we do? What shall we do, as believers, when we see increasing evil in society?

The Word of God tells us that also in this the child of God is different. God’s church is meant to stand out differently in the midst of an unbelieving world and nation. We are God’s chosen people. We read in I Peter 2:9, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” We read again in Philippians 2:15, 16, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life.”

What shall we do? The apostle Paul calls us to an important aspect of our calling toward our nation, toward our president, and toward every elected official. He gives us that calling in I Timothy 2:1-5. That calling is: to pray. The apostle Paul in that portion of Scripture is speaking to his beloved son, Timothy, about the life of the church in a pagan society. The then-reigning emperor in Paul’s day was Nero. Christians were being used as human torches in the city of Rome. Paul writes to Timothy to remind him that the church of God in all ages has a different view of government than others around them, including the view that the government holds of itself. The child of God stands out in the world in which he lives precisely because he has a higher loyalty. That is the distinguishing feature. We seek ( Heb. 11) a city whose builder and maker is God. Men and women of the world have their loyalties within this world. But the Christian’s chief devotion is not this world but (Phil. 3) our citizenship is in heaven. We belong to the eternal kingdom of our God and are subject to the Lord Jesus Christ.

This does not make us revolutionaries, to overthrow the law of the land. This does not make us disinterested by-standers as we are citizens of this country. But, for Christ’s sake, we desire to be faithful to Him also in our citizenship in our own country. And an important part of that calling, we read, is to pray for those who have authority over us. In I Timothy 2:1-5, Paul will set forth some of the fundamental principles which must guide us in days such as these, which must guide us in a way of life acceptable to God.

What are we to do? Paul says in this text, “I exhort (the word is “urged”) therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; for kings, and for all that are in authority.” We can and we must pray. That is what we are to do.

Now it is important for the understanding of the chapter to remember that Paul is addressing Timothy on an aspect of public worship. If you look at the chapter you will see that the reference of the apostle is to the worship of the church and what must take place in the worship of that church. Referring to that, he is addressing Timothy in his place as a pastor who is called to lead the people of God in public worship. He gives instruction to Timothy, first of all, on prayer. The prayers of the worship service of the church of Jesus Christ are then to be for all men, for kings and for all who are in authority. The word “all men,” refers to all kinds of men. It does not refer to every member of the human race. That becomes plain in verse 2 when the apostle goes on to say, “for kings, and for all that are in authority. Your prayers, Timothy, must not be restricted to one class of mankind. You must not restrict them to some social status or to those who you think are favorable to the church of Jesus Christ; but every type of man (poor and rich, the employer and the employee, government, all groups and classes of men). You are to make prayers for all types of men, for kings and for all that are in authority.” Especially them, because, when those who hold authority show themselves opposed to God’s Word and show themselves (as in the days of Paul) enemies of the gospel of Christ and antagonistic to the truth of Christ, our tendency would otherwise be to omit them in our prayers. Pray for all types of men, for kings and those in authority.

That this is no insignificant point becomes plain from the fact that the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of God, begins to spend the vocabulary for prayer. He uses four different expressions which are used in the New Testament to indicate different aspects of prayer. He says, first of all, “I will that supplications be made for kings and those in authority.” This word refers to petitions for a definite need which is keenly felt. Supplications arise out of a concrete situation. It is a humble request made to God in the midst of most disturbing and shattering moments. We ask God, then, according to His will, dependent upon Him, in our sickness, for health. We ask Him in serious illness of a child if it might be His will that the child be restored. We ask Him in the waywardness of a son or daughter or a loved one in the family that such a one be brought to repentance according to His gracious will. A supplication means that we feel a need pressing upon our heart and we bring a petition to God as those who have no strength.

Then the apostle says, “prayers.” This is a more general word, which means that we spread requests before God. The word is sometimes translated “worship” and means that in our prayers we must be conscious of Him before whom we come. We bow and spread our requests before Him. When we take it with the first word: supplications and prayers, then the word prayer here would refer to more general petitions, those things that we always have need of that are ever-present. We pray then for grace and for wisdom and for greater devotion to God.

The third word that the apostle uses is “intercession.” This word means to intercede or to come before God in the behalf of another. The word is very interesting. It means literally, “to fall in with,” “to meet and converse freely.” We read in the Scriptures that it is Christ who intercedes for us. His heart is toward us and He knows our need truly. Therefore, He always brings our needs perfectly to the Father. Now our intercession for others means that we have an understanding of the will of God in Scripture. We pray in the interest of others. We do not hold back.

Finally, the apostle says, “with thanksgiving.” That is the amazing thing about prayer. No matter our state, no matter our heart’s-pleading, no matter our condition – always we must bring thankfulness, gratitude. Pray with thanksgiving. We thank God that we may come to Him as the One who hears and answers our prayers.

Now, what are we to do? God says, pray for those who are in authority. By prayer, He means supplicate, worship, intercede with thanksgiving in the specific needs and crises of the nation, in the needs of government when God’s law is being set aside and rulers are ruling out of the quagmire of their own minds. We must bring the needs before God, and with thanksgiving. Go to God. Bring specific needs according to His will.

But the question is: exactly what are we to pray? Then we have this answer in verse 2: “That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.” There are some who might hear those words to be very self-serving, as if the apostle is saying, “Pray, intercede, supplicate, give thanks in the behalf of those who are in authority in order that you might lead a quiet life.” So that the prayer would be, “Lord, may the rulers rule in such a way that I have a good life, free of all earthly disturbance.”

But that is not the idea – although, without any blushing, our prayers do not center in men and governments, but in the good of His church. At the heart of our prayers must be the cause of God and His church. We pray, “Lord, gather Thy church. Preserve it against heresy. Revive it from apostasy, enlivening the faith of our fathers. Pass the truth on to our generations. And, Lord, in order that this may be attained, govern and direct and lead the nations to do Thy

will.” But when we look closer, we see that this petition means that we pray for those who have authority over us, that they might fulfill their God-appointed obligations. God has ordained government for this purpose: that we might lead a quiet and peaceable life. The words “quiet” and “peaceful” mean tranquil and calm. Government does that by obeying God and by punishing the evil as God defines it and protecting the good. Our prayer, then, will be that God, according to His will, impress upon those who rule that it is their duty and calling as servants of God so to rule that life might be quiet and peaceable. The most high God has called men. For God’s is the authority and God sets men up over other men. These men must answer to God.

Paul, of course, was under no delusions. Paul understood that the kingdom of man was set up against God and His Son, even as we read in Psalm 2. Paul was not envisioning some millennium. He did not live in the best of all worlds. He lived in the dark shadow of Nero, the collapse of the Roman Empire through decay. He did not believe that there would be some earthly manifestation of the kingdom of God holding sway over the entire world. No, he did not believe that! But yet, he says, we are to pray. And we are to pray in order that we might live in godliness and honesty.

Now, we do not need a well-ordered society to live in godliness. Sometimes under the most ungodly rulers God’s people have been outstandingly godly. But as far as the worship of God is concerned, as far as teaching men to live godly lives and to live honest lives, this is unhampered when there is freedom from disturbances. Satan’s kingdom is advanced by anarchy. Men are always kept stoked up and in their passions. But the worship of God and the promotion of God’s kingdom is benefited by a freedom from disturbances. So we pray, “Lord, according to Thy will, may rulers understand their calling; that their calling comes from Thee. They are answerable to the living God. And so ruling, may they do that which is right and just in Thy sight in order that Thy church might prosper and that Thy Word might be taught.”

That is what we are to do.

Do you pray? Do you do this? Do you pray fervently?

Therefore, says the apostle, I will that men pray everywhere, lifting up their hands without doubting. The church is to pray. We are to pray that the will of God might be done and that God might be pleased to answer our prayers, and that God may be pleased to raise up men who will obey Him and do His will. Is this what distinguishes you? Does this distinguish you from others? Do you lift up your hands to God and do you pray? Do you plead with God that He would raise up men in authority who, by His spirit, would understand their calling and do His will? Do you pray that? Do you pray, “Lord, I am a stranger here. My hope is in Thee. My desire is that I might conduct myself in every area of life to Thy honor and to Thy glory in all things”?

That is what we are to do. Then the Lord promises us that He will give to us grace and strength. As we stand before the world, as we stand before rulers, as we stand before any, we might boldly testify and confess that Jesus Christ reigns in glory, that He is the judge of all, that we are His servants, that we seek His kingdom. Therefore, we call men, by the grace of God, also to serve Him, to obey Him, and to follow Him.

May God give us wisdom and grace to obey this precious Word of God.

Let us pray.

Father, we thank Thee for Thy Word. We pray that we may heed it and do it. According to Thy will, heavenly Father, raise up men in our country who understand that all authority is of God and that they too must answer to God. We pray that thou wilt also work according to Thy will that they might know this from their heart; and from their heart obey Thee and do Thy will. Nevertheless, heavenly Father, we know that Thy kingdom comes in the day of Jesus Christ, that now we are pilgrims and strangers, that wickedness abounds. May our lives be holy, a testimony against such wickedness. May we be found faithful to Thee in all things and looking for the kingdom of our God. In Jesus’ name, Amen.