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Appointed Leaders

Jan-2015Brutal, tyrannical, extravagant, persecutor, murderer, cruel, opportunistic.

These are just a few of the words that describe the Roman emperor, Nero. Roman historian, Suetonius, said that Nero “showed neither discrimination nor moderation in putting to death whomsoever he pleased.” He killed his own mother and other relatives, and kicked his pregnant lover to death.

Still, Paul urges Timothy to offer “entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings…on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.”

The Bible was written by people who lived in times when the government was not friendly to the people of God. Yet Jesus says to “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s and to God the things that are God’s.”

Paul had a clear sense of God’s sovereignty over both church and state. He did not regard God as part of one realm and human institutions as part of another. All rulers, he said, are in power because God ordained them.

In spite of the horrible tyranny of Roman emperors (Nero put Paul and many other Christians to death), the general peace made it possible for the gospel to spread rapidly through the Empire. The very regime so fiercely devoted to emperor worship became the catalyst for the proclamation of the gospel. A wicked government may have twisted aims, but God uses its dysfunctional rulers to accomplish His higher purposes.

Why does God appoint rulers like Nero, Herod, Pontius Pilate and Hitler to serve as rulers? We cannot know the full mind of God on these matters, but we can say this:

  • God has the long term in mind; though the short term looks bad to us, it always serves His larger purpose and works for ultimate good.
  • God’s ultimate aim is to complete the Great Commission and glorify Himself.
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God uses rulers to discipline His people and bring them out of complacency and ingratitude to depend upon Him.
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God demonstrates through wicked rulers that He is not limited by human wickedness in accomplishing His greater good.
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Bad rulers have a way of deepening our faith in God so that we call upon Him to work in marvelous ways.
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Bad rulers move us to pray better prayers, develop more godly voting standards, and seek more godly ways of persuasion and action to influence political leaders.

Whenever we fail to pray for our leaders, regardless of their political persuasion, we sin against God. Evangelist Billy Graham has met privately with all kinds of political leaders. He says, “We sometimes forget that some of the loneliest people in the world are those who are constantly in the public eye. They have spiritual needs just like everyone else. I have found many world leaders who sense that our problems today are so complex as to defy [human] solution. They know that the only answer is to be found in God.”

We often forget that the halls of government are also mission fields for the gospel. In India, we have had many opportunities to befriend numerous political leaders—not all of them Christian—who regularly come asking prayer for help with the deep burdens they carry.

Both church and state are God’s avenues to do His will. Let our prayers for our leaders come out of the abundance of our certainty in God and our own daily dialogue with Him so that we might prepare the way for completion of the Great Commission.

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Lydia and All of Us

Throughout the centuries, men have tended to regard women as inferior. This judgment upon women is a judgment upon God who made women and can only quench the Holy Spirit in men who make such judgments.

Lydia is a good example of God’s great work through a woman. Overnight, the history of Europe began to change because Lydia heard the voice of the Holy Spirit speak through Paul. She responded and became Europe’s first convert.

Because of her faithfulness to the message she heard, the gospel spread to those around her, like a stone whose ripples spread out over a pond.

Lydia serves as an example to both men and women of how the Holy Spirit can work in anyone to change the world in the name of Christ.

  1. God opened Lydia’s HEART to do a work of grace in her life. God alone ordained her time to come to Christ and to use her conversion as a means to ultimately change the direction of a whole continent and the rest of the world. Through her witness, her entire household believed and received baptism. Through her and her household, the church at Philippi was born. That church became a strong witness for the Lord and served as a model for future churches. All of this began with the conversion of one woman. There are no small people in the kingdom of God. We must open ourselves to all that God chooses to work through our lives.
  2. Lydia opened her HOME for God’s servants and fellow believers. Like Lydia, we all show our gratitude to God by the way we treat God’s servants and our brothers and sisters in Christ.
  3. Lydia offered her HANDS to minister to others. Lydia took Paul and Silas into her house to nurse their wounds from jail and beatings and help them recover. A helpful spirit is not just “woman’s work.” A helpful spirit is an effective witness for Christ in men and women alike. A helpful spirit is a spirit of salt and light that preserves and enlightens families, cultures and nations with the power of Christ.
  4. Lydia had a good HEAD for business and practical affairs. Lydia was a prosperous businesswoman. Lydia is a good example of a wealthy servant–one who regards all wealth and personal possessions as gifts from God to serve Him and others in need of His transformation.

Since Lydia’s generation, the Spirit of God has worked in the hearts of other women to do great and mighty things. Think of Amy Carmichael who ministered to girls caught in forced prostitution. She modeled ministries in India later founded by men.

Think of Monica, mother of a wayward youth named Augustine who became one of Christianity’s most influential theologians because of her prayers.

Think of Susannah Wesley, mother and faithful teacher to 19 children including John and Charles Wesley.

Think of Elizabeth Elliott, wife of martyred missionary, Jim Elliott, who took up her husband’s mantle and served as God’s instrument to change a savage culture for Christ.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we depend upon God’s Spirit. Let us all thank God for such boundless grace that works in so many ways. Let us especially make sure we accept all the grace He reveals through His chosen women.

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