January 2008 - Vol. 26

What If We Really Believed?

By John Hughes

At a retreat in London a few years ago, after a rousing chorus of a song proclaming the truth of Christ’s resurrection, the worship leader asked the group, frankly and exuberantly, “Well? Do you believe it?” The question hit me hard and I decided to take it seriously. I re-read the words to the song we had just sung, reflected on their meaning, and a new inspiration came over me. Actually, yes. Yes, I do believe it. And that is a big deal.

In the truth of the gospel
If we really believe the truth of the gospel, it changes everything. It can’t be moderately important. There are moments when I realize how little of the gospel I understand – times when I’m aware that I’m only scratching the surface of the reality of God’s love and plan. Jesus said to the woman at the well, “If you knew the gift of God … you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water” (John 4:10). He’s essentially saying, “If you had any idea who I am and what I have to offer, you would live your life very differently than you do now.” And I think the same is true for us, most of the time.

In the power of prayer
A few months ago the staff at our University Christian Outreach (UCO) chapter decided to pray in a more focused way because we weren’t getting many new recruits (young men, in particular) to sign up for the weekend away that we were planning. So I began to pray specifically for several new young men I had contact with, and for the retreat as a whole. At the last minute before the registration deadline, virtually all the young men I had prayed for signed up. The retreat ended up being an enormous blessing – these 10 young men were emboldened and equipped to become leaders in the outreach. I believe that this retreat will surely be bearing fruit for years to come.

Later I was telling someone how amazing it was that all these men had signed up, and he said, “Well yeah – isn’t that what you were praying for?” Funny, I thought, I hadn’t made that connection. I had been surprised that the result I wanted had actually come about. I hadn’t been praying as though anyone heard or could answer. I was just – you know – praying, that’s all. And I thought, what would our prayer life look like if we really believed?

The comforting news is that I’m not the first one in salvation history to have this problem. In Acts 12, Peter is imprisoned and “earnest prayer for him was made to God by the church” (v. 5). Then God 
responds with power: the chains fall off, the gates open on their own, and he’s miraculously freed. Peter immediately goes to where some people are gathered, praying for him. Then comes the best part: when the servant girl tells them that Peter’s there, standing at the door, they tell her there’s no way, and that she’s crazy (v. 15). They were too busy praying to realize that God may have in fact heard and answered their prayer. It seems laughable but it’s no different than my response to the answered prayer above. 

In the word of the Lord to us
One of the newer students in our UCO chapter came to me concerned because he didn’t think we were taking seriously enough the prophetic word we were receiving at our prayer meetings. “I mean, if it’s the Lord of the Universe speaking to us, then we should probably take that time pretty seriously, right?” I told him he was absolutely right, and then I began to wonder if my own approach to such things needed tweaking.

At the Sword of the Spirit’s International Coordinators Meeting in Santo Domingo last May, we heard the Lord say a lot of things to us about our mission as a community of disciples on mission. The transcription of the prophetic word was 19 pages long! It seems to me that the prophetic word to the Sword of the Spirit in recent years about a season of grace for mission and evangelism has increased in volume, intensity, and even urgency. I need to soberly ask myself: Do I believe that God speaks prophetically to us? Really? Do I believe it in such a way that it affects practical decisions I make as a UCO mission leader and a member of the Word of Life Community?  What would happen if all community members and leaders really believed that the Lord himself was speaking personally to us as individuals as well as corporately?

When we read or hear the prophetic words from the International Coordinators Meeting in Santo Domingo do we think to ourselves, “Oh that’s nice – I’m gonna skim through this quickly?” Or do we respond in faith and sober reverence, prayerfully examining the Lord’s word to us, eager to respond and change according to his call?

In one of the prophetic words the Lord said, “I cannot do with you what I intend to do with you until you have given me more than you have yet given.” I think the right response to this should be, “What more do you seek from us, Lord? What would you like to do with us?

In another prophetic work the Lord said, “You are not prepared for the mission I have for you.” – “How can I prepare, Lord? What do I need to change in my life to be more fully your servant?”

And in another prophetic word the Lord said,  “Today I call you to move forward” – I think that the Lord actually wants us to respond to this word by asking him for his direction: “To where, Lord? How? Show us and we will follow you.”

Let us believe afresh – “that the Lord is God, he made us and we are his; we are his people...” (Psalm 100:3). His gospel is true, his ears hear our prayer. As his people we are to listen and respond in faith when he speaks his word to us.

[John Hughes attends Knox Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA. He is the mission leader for University Christian Outreach in Ann Arbor and an underway member of the Word of Life community.] 

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