Study 3: Who's really in charge?

What were the first believers really like?  Were they really, as some have assumed, super saints who didn’t waver in their faith, becoming BFF’s (*) with everyone in the church?

This idea holds up (well, sort of) until you begin to read the New Testament. It didn’t take long for the cracks and crackpots to emerge and for the unity of the church to be threatened.

The first believers were as human as you and I. They had their own views on how things should be done, not everyone found it easy to adapt to community life and some struggled to work through the consequences of past relationships and behaviour. Then, as now, the church could be an explosive mix or it might – just – reflect the harmony characterised by a dependence on God’s leading.

When we pray, do we expect God to answer? When God answers, are we surprised because (in all honesty) we’d gone through the motions just as we may have done many times before with little response?

If that’s the case, we’re in good company. When Peter was released from prison and went straight to the church to tell his story, they were unwilling to interrupt their prayer meeting because they couldn’t believe it was him. If we recognise God’s willingness to answer prayer alongside His ability to respond in whatever way he chooses, then we are putting Him and His will at the heart of our prayer life, not trying to take charge ourselves. 
[(*) Best Friends Forever]

God’s Kingdom is not a place, but a relationship. It exists wherever people enthrone Jesus as lord of their lives. (J. I. Packer, Growing in Christ)

Our prayers may be awkward. Our attempts may be feeble. But since the power of prayer is in the one who hears it and not in the one who says it, our prayers do make a difference. (Max Lucado)

To think about

  1. Do our prayers (in public and/or in private) reflect God’s will or ours?
  2. How will we know the difference?
  3. How do we respond when God says “no?”

To pray “your kingdom come” is to ask God the Father to expand his rule over the territory of our hearts and lives; to pray “Your will be done” (Matthew 6:10) is to express our willingness to submit to his rule whatever the cost.

Who comes first?

  1. What aspects of our personal kingdoms are difficult to submit to God’s rule and authority? 
  2. What do you expect to happen when you pray, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)? 
  3. Is this a prayer for God’s will to be done in our society as a whole or for God’s will to be done in our individual lives - or both? Explain why you came to your conclusion.

The Kingdom of God is concerned with what happens now: it reflects what discipleship looks like if we allow Christ to take control of our lives. Then we will take on more of His character, as well as responding to the world and its needs as He would.

There’s more to it that that. The Kingdom of God also reflects what will happen when Christ returns to reign over all the earth. What this involves has long been the subject of much debate – let’s turn to scripture to see what it says there about the Sovereignty of God.

Please read Matthew 25: 31 – 46

How does He decide?

  1. What is the basis for judgement?
  2. Do you think Jesus is teaching that we gain entrance into his kingdom by good works rather than by faith? Explain your answer
  3. Which of the actions in verses 34 to 36 do you find easiest or most natural to do? Which do you find that hardest?
  4. If these actions are the marks of kingdom-seekers, what will change in your life as you pray, “Your kingdom come”? 
  5. In heaven God’s name is honoured, God’s reign is supreme, and God’s will is carried out fervently and willingly. Our prayer is that the same would be true on earth. What resources do you have available that you can use to do God’s will toward someone in need this week?

As you close

Pray David’s prayer in Psalm 40:8—“I desire to do your will, O my God.” What is God asking you to do next?

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