Midweek Fellowship – June 8, 2016
Bishop Ariel Cornelio P. Santos
The Lord is here because He promised that when two or three are gathered together in His Name, there He will be. In fact, I believe even before we gathered, He has already been here waiting for us. For one thing, He is anticipating our praise of Him, our fellowshipping of Him and our calling upon His Name. In the presence of the Lord is overflowing joy. In the presence of the Lord, there is liberty. In the presence of the Lord, there is love in abundance, grace, mercy, forgiveness, understanding, hope, peace and blessing.
God sees us and He sees our heart. God is always thirsty for fellowship between us and Him. Prayer is God wanting to spend time with us. This is our God and Father and He is the One entity who loves us, with love unequalled.
Sometimes, we think that when we pray, God does not know. He has been running the universe for ages and ages. We may be thinking, “God, this may have escaped Your notice so I am bringing it to Your attention.” We call this prayer, but no, God knows everything. He is God! God knows our needs. In the gospel story, Jesus knew the situation of the widow and there was the only son, and that posterity was being cut off so He revived it.
Supplication or requests is one facet of prayer. Prayer is simply spending time with God. While we are it, we may as well progress in our ultimate goal of being like Him – bearing the image of God, of reaching the full stature of Christ Who is the fullness of Godhead in bodily form. As we keep praying, we understand more and more that it is all about pleasing God, wanting to be like Him. Why? This is because He likes spending time with us. He delights in us. He dances over us with joy and He likes us being like Him. It is His will.
Prayer is not twisting the arm of God. It is getting His heart. It is not changing the mind of God; it is assimilating His heart. This goes for anything we do. We don’t pray so that God will see something He hasn’t seen before or doesn’t see right now. We don’t pray to let God know of something He must just forgotten or something that slipped His mind. Sometimes, we interpret verses like, “Let your requests be made known to God,” as if He doesn’t know them. Before you asked, God already knows what you need. In fact, I believe He already has an answer for them.
God wants us to ask nonetheless. Why do we need to pray? Why does God want us to pray? We, parents, know our children’s needs, but isn’t it music to our ears sometimes when the children cajole us? It is given. We, being evil, if we know how to love our children, how much more our Father who is in heaven? We know what our children need, in fact, many times more than they do. It is just like music to the ears of a parent when a child says, “Ah, can I have that?”
Our goal and God’s will is reaching the full stature of Jesus Christ. In the song “The Spirit of God Within Me,” a line goes, “Strive till that image Adam lost new, minted and restored, in shining splendour brightly bears the likeness of the Lord.” This is for us – that we may be shining brightly bearing the likeness of the Lord – which is Jesus: yesterday, today and forever.
When our English Bible says, “Ask and you shall receive; seek and you shall find, knock and the door shall be open unto you,” it actually really means this: keep asking; keep seeking; keep knocking. It is not to bombard the door of heaven or not to bother that the result will be, “Okay, I will give what you need.” Keep asking and keep going to God. Keep spending time with Him because this is what He wants. He wants us to have fellowship with Him.
God enjoyed the fellowship of Adam in the cool of the day in the Garden. The objective is being more like God than getting answers. Answers are really secondary. What God wants is for us to be coming to Him.
I came across a meme that said, “If you only come to God when you are in trouble, then, you are in trouble.” This is not the fullness of God’s will. Of course, He wants us to come to Him when we are in trouble, but He wants us to come to Him all the rest of the time. This is why the New Testament says to pray without ceasing. It is not because we need answers primarily, but because we want to be in tune with the will of God.
A couple of Sundays ago, the gospel was about the centurion’s faith. He had a slave whom he valued and he asked Jesus to heal the slave who was at a point of death. This centurion displayed such great faith that Jesus commended him. The centurion understood that every knee bows and every tongue confesses that Jesus is Lord. Because of this, he believed that only one word, only one command from Jesus will take care of whatever principality or power was responsible for his slave to be at a point of death. He said that Jesus did not need to come to his house, but only say one word and that was enough for him.
In another story, the Gentile woman, whom Jesus also commended, said, “I may not be even be a child of God, but even if I am a dog, I would be happy to be a pep dog in the house of God. I would live on crumbs.” This is such a confrontation to us, as children of God, sitting at the table, with the feast before us, and what we do is to ask for more. We do not realize that there are people whose faith and whose understanding of the power of God and His ability understands that a little goes a long way when it comes to the things of God.
We, the people of God, like Israel, like the children of God, have been abundantly blessed. I am not saying for us to stop praying, but we need to understand that the primary reason for prayer is not supplication. It is only one facet of many.
Fr. Gary mentioned in one Daily Office of Prayer about the size of a mustard seed. It is like a period that you put on a piece of paper, but it grows to a tree that is 20 feet tall and wide. Without hearing this parable, the Gentile woman understood that crumbs can make this seed to be a tree this big. One word has power because we are talking about God. Sometimes, we take Him for granted and sometimes, this affects our other views of other things and this makes our faith weak.
There is a tremendous power and ability in the things of God. When Jesus said in Acts 1, “You shall receive power,” the Greek word is “dynamis.” We get the word dynamite from this word - small and yet of explosive power. Let us realize what we have already in abundance. It may look like what we have is a puny stick, but it could deliver a whole race. It could divide the sea to drown our enemies. We may only have five loaves and two fish, but we can feed five thousand.
This is what the kingdom of God is all about. This is what our God is all about. Do not belittle what we have. Look at your hands and look at your neighbour. God can use your hands and your neighbour. Your neighbour is many times bigger than a dot on your paper. God can work through them.
Our former Patriarch said, “There is a lot more that is accomplished in one hour of Eucharist than a whole day at Congress,” as far as restoring the kingdom of God is. We do a lot more for the betterment of the world doing Eucharist for one hour than what they do in Congress the whole day. In Congress, what happens is that somebody stands up and says nothing, nobody listens and everybody disagrees.
Eight hundred square meters of property, not even prime property, is more than enough to turn the world upside down. We don’t need a race track right now. The power of God is there in that property. Eight hundred square meters will make a mark in this generation and in the future. Fifty years from now, people then will look back and say, “Am I glad that I am a part of this development. Am I glad I cut the grass? Am I glad I helped clear the area? Am I glad I helped mix the cement? Am I glad I spent one hour of my free time however often? Am I glad to be part of the ministry of that building? God can use us and we can change lives.
Recently, I watched an old video clip of a noontime show “Student Canteen”. They were interviewing the cast of “Sound of Music” – Lea Salonga, Monique Wilson, Risa Hontiveros, Raymond Lauchengco amongst others. Lea and Monique were nine-years old then, buttoday, they are well-known celebrities in their own fields.
We belittle the mustard seed and we miss out on a lot of things. If we only see the small things as God sees them, as God made them, then, we would be in a much better place. Realize that you have more than enough because God is your El Shaddai. Sometimes, Filipinos belittle themselves because of their nose and height. Filipinos are citizens of the kingdom of God.
God can work through our hands and through us. Stop belittling ourselves. We are a work in progress. God is not finished with us yet. We need not say, “Just because I am…,” but say, “I am a child of God and His ability and His spirit is in us.” Hopefully, we would stop asking for more of the abundance that we already have. Our God is more than enough; we have more than enough.
Sometimes, if we are given more, what happens is that it is not good for us. Given more, we can get fat, we can drown, we could suffocate or we could burst. What we need is an outlet. We had enough of the prosperity gospel saying, “Bless me, Lord. Bless me, Lord.” We think that our offering will entail a hundredfold return because the Bible says so. We have misunderstood what God wants from us. Instead, may our attitude be asking that our eyes be open to realize the gifts that God has given to us. We need to run with one word; to believe in a work with a few crumbs; to believe and work with a small dot because these things are more than enough. I am here to tell you that you have a lot more – a hundredfold- than the things that I have just mentioned.
What we need to do is to look for outlets for the power, the ability and the energy we already have and let it flow. If it becomes stagnant, it may be harmful to us. The true gospel is the prosperity gospel. St. Paul said to Timothy that godliness is a means of great gain, but sometimes, we don’t realize that we already have great gain. This is not about religion, but godliness. God’s will is for every need to be met. The need doesn’t glorify God; the meeting of the need does it.
God gives more than enough for the need to be blessed and to be a blessing. The oaks of righteousness mentioned in Isaiah 61 became such only later. Before that, they were the afflicted, the broken-hearted, the captives, the prisoners and those who mourn. Isaiah 61 says, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to set free the afflicted, the broken-hearted, the captives, the prisoners because soon they will be called oaks of righteousness and they will rebuilders of the ruins, repairers of the breach, ministers, fixers of what needs to be fixed.
God doesn’t throw away. He fixes and He wants us to participate. Who is the “us”? We, who were formerly afflicted, broken-hearted, and captive, have been delivered. We have been delivered and we have been healed for a reason – that is, so that we can become oaks of righteousness and to be participating in His work of fixing what is broken.
God doesn’t want us to hoard. He doesn’t want to bless us more than we already have. In the Garden of Eden, Adam is us, in Christ. He did not need a refrigerator to store a week supply of food because Adam just picks fresh fruit out from the tree. This is our God!
Ephesians 4:28 says, “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.” God wants us converted from being takers to being suppliers; from being “care-takers” to being “care-givers.” He delivered and healed us so that we will not be tied down by our sickness or bondage, so that not only can we be free from these things, but also so that we can free others and participate in the work of God, which is restoration.
Verse 29 says, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” This applies to all that we do in words and action. If it is not edifying or anything is uplifting, refrain from saying and doing so. Faith, hope, love, healing, forgiveness, joy, strength and encouragement – these things are in the hands of your neighbour waiting to be shared and to build somebody. Don’t worry and don’t be anxious about sharing these things because you will not run out. There is enough of God’s blessing to go around for you and for others. There is an abundance. It is always overflowing so that we can share. This is also true with material things but it is only one facet. Prosperity gospel is not exclusive to money and finances.
God has made us prosperous with faith, hope, love, healing, forgiveness, joy , strength and encouragement, and liberty in His presence. If we don’t have money, we can still bless other people because we have other things. Peter said to the blind beggar, “I may not have silver and gold, but such as I have in abundance, I give to you.” God’s will for us is abundance in everything, not lack; but remember, it is so that we can bless others.
Remember that we are the image of God and we have His blessings that we can participate in His work. With or without us, the kingdom of God will go on because God gives us the blessing, the privilege, the honor, the joy, the fulfilment of participation in His work. He wants to see oaks of righteousness in us.
Hopefully, we can see prayer as more than what we think we need. It is more about us learning from God, hearing from God. Probably, what we need to develop first is the ability to hear. A Christian told me that that he was taught by a preacher in his Church that he doesn’t rely from his ability to hear God but on God’s ability to speak to him. There should be a balance here.
God caused the tree to bear fruit and we need to pick the fruit. We can’t lie down under the tree and wait for it to fall saying, “It is not my ability to pick the fruit.” We have our part and we need to listen. We need to incline our ears and keep asking, keep seeking, and keep knocking. We can’t go wrong in this.
This is Jesus’ teaching and this is the way it is in the kingdom of God.