If I wanted to write a book that was to be a best-seller it would be titled. “Who to marry, what job to take and where to move according to God’s will”.
Because when we get to crucial points in our life, where we have to make decisions that are going to impact us for the rest of our lives it’s a natural tendency to kind of freeze up and not know what to do. I just went through this in deciding to move to Fort Qu’Appelle. Life changes are hard.
As nice as it would be to have a handbook for making the right decisions, there is no surefire easy way to make decisions according to God’s will. God has called us to use wisdom, community and everything written in his word to inform and guide us.
Today our text in Luke brings us to a point where Jesus had to make a crucial decision regarding his ministry. He was going to pick out 12 men to be his disciples and Apostles who would found his Church and be his witnesses. At this critical Juncture Jesus prays. By examining how and why he does this it can give us insight into how prayer can guide our own decision making, in the Church, at home and even in business and the workplace.
So what better way to begin by praying.
Part 1 – Sustained prayer
Luke 6:12-16 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles: Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.
Jesus has a crucial decision. Who was he going to choose to be part of the 12? Who was going to be his apostles who would be the founders of his Church?
The character and personalities of the twelve were very consequential to Jesus’s purposes. Jesus was going to say to them at the end of his earthly life.
Matthew 19:28 Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
These were to be the judges of Israel’s faithfulness (or unfaithfulness as the case will be). These Apostles were the foundation of the Church, the Church we are still part of today. These Apostles would write or commission the books of the bible that guide us 2000 years later.
Jesus has just told us. Luke 5:38 But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins.
Here in the twelve we have the new wineskins in embryonic form. This is the beginning of the Church.
The number 12 if a very significant number in the bible. This is most obviously the twelve tribes of Israel, descended from Jacob, named Israel by God.
The clothing of the high priest had 12 stones representing the 12 tribes. 12 loaves were set out before God, representing the 12 tribes before God’s presence in the temple(Also the loaves that we talked about last week with David!)
Moses sent out 12 spy’s to the promised land, one from each tribe. They took 12 stones from the Jordan as a witness of God power in stopping the waters. There were 12 lions on the steps up to Solomon’s palace. The future Jerusalem in the book of Revelation will have 12 gates guarded by 12 angels.
12 is divisible by 2/3/4/6. And it’s why the imperial system is superior to the metric for measuring most real-life items.
There are 144 verses in the bible with the number 12 in them. Which is 12 squared, which is certainly a coincidence but it’s still fun for those who love math.
So when Jesus appoints 12 disciples or Apostles to found his new Church he sending a message. He is re-founding Israel. Instead of a nation organized around a common family heritage, and inclusion in the covenant being based on blood ties. This new nation of Jesus Christ is founded on God’s sovereign choice of these 12 men, and then all who called to belief from every tribe, tongue and nation.
Jesus choosing of 12 disciples means that he is self consciously beginning a new people that would be grafted into the promise of God, while the unfaithful natural branched are cut off because they disobeyed the Word.
James picks up on this idea
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. James 1:1
The twelve tribes were a way of speaking of the Church that is founded on the 12 apostles. The renewed people of God. Who were joined together in Jesus Christ by faith, rather than family or blood ties.
So Jesus has to make this critical decision. One in which there would be no going back on. Who would he choose to be members of his band of brothers, his confidants, his disciples, his Apostles?
We are not Jesus and there are no more Apostles, but how Jesus comes to this crucial decision informs us how to make critical decisions.
It says in verse 12
Luke 6:12 In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.
Jesus was pinched between these two realities of his situation. On one side he had the Pharisee’s that were now so upset with Him that they were ready to kill him, and on the other side he had 12 men that he was going to choose to found His Church.
When making crucial decisions we are often faced with opposition, and with choices that are difficult to take back. I remember deciding to come here to be your pastor, that was a decision that I could not just go back on, I had to make a choice that was going to change my life forever.
When I married my wife, that was a decision that was going to last as long as we lived.
When we stand on the precipice of these decisions were we need to make a leap of faith and there is no going back, we need to look to Jesus here.
1) Jesus went out to the mountain.
Jesus goes out by himself. Just like Moses receiving the 10 commandments and establishing the nation of Israel. Jesus goes up the mountain but instead of merely receiving a law, he was going to receive from God 12 names.
When we pray we want to go into a place where we can focus on prayer. Maybe this is a retreat center. My former Elder Len Friesen always talked about his walk through his forest. Maybe this is a prayer closet. Maybe, if you are a mom with kids this is the bathroom where you can lock to door and hide (Mom with kids terminator graphic?)
We can pray anywhere, Jonah pray’s from the belly of the fish in the depths of the sea. God can hear anywhere, but it’s often good practice to have a place to go to pray. You know we often design our house around our televisions, but maybe we should design it around our prayer lives?
2) Jesus spent all night in prayer
When we make key decisions we want to come to them with sustained prayer. Jesus spends the night in prayer here.
Prayer is not a time-saving technique to be crammed into the edges of our day. It’s a relationship that needs time. We talk about quality time vs quantity time. But the fact is we need both. Our prayer life is core to our relationship with God. In some ways, it is not so different than our relationship with others we love.
Imagine if I was trying for efficacy and speed with my relationship with my wife. I got a stopwatch and set it for 10 minutes and sais, “Ok dear, we are going to spend quality time together, I am going to show complete attention for 10 minutes until the timer goes off”
I thought about trying this out in real life to see how it went, but then I thought about wanting to continue living.
We need time for relationships, and our prayer life must reflect this.
I know that many of you struggle to pray sustained prayers. And this is one area where you and I are not different. You might think that I can pray along time in those pastoral prayers, but I do write them out so it’s kind of cheating.
Here is some advice on sustaining your prayer
1) Pray about it. When you begin to pray, often the best prayer is to ask God to help you with your prayer. I know it sounds silly, but it works.
2) Pray with your bible open.
This is the single most important advice I ever received about prayer. Pray with your bible open. You want to hear a word from God, a sure word from God, It’s right here in his book. God’s word gives us the language of prayer. It is a grammar book and a dictionary. It is a conversation starter.
How can one not pray when you read
Psalm 23:1 The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
Psalm 23:4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Pray a little, read a little. One of the reasons that Psalms exist is to shape our prayer life. To teach us to pray.
Are you in serious trouble?
Psalm 25:1-2 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust; let me not be put to shame; let not my enemies exult over me.
Do you feel hopeless in your spiritual walk? The angriest Atheist who rails against God has nothing on Psalm 88 which ends
Psalm 88:18 18 You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness.
The end, That is the closing note of the Psalm.
Are you happy in thanksgiving?
Psalm 146:1-2 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul! I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
Or turn to the NT and read the many promises given to Christians in Christ
1 Peter 1:3-4 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you,
All of these are a springboard into developing a prayer life that is vibrant and can sustain prayer with God for long periods.
3) Pray with a group
We have prayer meetings to pray together, These are often the longest prayer times I have during the week. And I can announce it here, this Wednesday at 12 we are having our first in-person prayer meeting in 2 months. Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more details.
Praying together is a key way we can grow in our prayer life. Now Jesus prays by himself in this text but later on another mount, the mount of olives he would ask Peter, James and John to stand watch and pray with him as he prayed
Luke 22:42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Being in a group gives strength to our prayers and helps us to focus. Trailing off into nothingness is harder when you know others are listening in! ( to often my prayers in my head are “Dear lord God I pray… oh did I need to pick up a new hinge for… oh praying, God it thank thee … is that the dog…. Oh God…. yeah:
It’s been a good practice of Kari and I to pray together before bed each night. It’s hard to stay upset at someone and pray with them.
4) Use a prayer guide
There are many great resources out there to pray through, Some use the book of common prayer.
There are guides to praying for your neighbours, guides to praying for the persecuted church. Most of these resources are merely a google search away. This week in our weekly newsletter I will include some links to prayer resources. If you are not signed up for our church newsletter you can click on the email link below in the show notes to sign up!
Tips to having a sustained prayer life
1)Pray about it
2)Pray with your bible open
3)Pray with a group
4)Use a prayer guide
So Jesus goes up the mountain and prays all night long. It’s something to aspire too, but many of us are a long way from this kind of prayer life. The next day he comes back down and God has given him direction. He has a group of men in mind.
Luke 6:13 13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles:
Point 2 – Godly decisions often make little worldly sense.
Missionaries who go to foreign fields. Giving money away, Showing Kindness to people who do not show kindness back, forgiving all, loving not only your friends and family but your enemies. The Lord not only works in mysterious ways but he commands us to work in mysterious ways.
So let’s look at this list of the twelve disciples, the cream of the crop, the best the nation of Israel has to offer to begin the new era of the Church.
Simon who Jesus named Peter, the rock. Who cracked like an egg under pressure.
A man who actively campaigned against Jesus’ intention of suffering and dying for the sins of the world. If Jesus had listened to Peter’s advice we would still be dead in our sins. A man who denied Jesus the Lord three times before the rooster crowed. He was impulsive, braggadocios and even after the resurrection of Jesus could be out of step with the Gospel!
We have James and John who’s mother campaigned for a better role in Jesus’s Kingdom.
Matthew also called Levi – The tax collector.
Simon, a member of a violent revolutionary group
Thomas the Doubter, And then the most curious selection of all. Jesus after praying all night chose Judas Iscariot, a name that is synonymous with treachery.
If God’s ways are not our ways, prayer is going to lead us down paths that di not makes sense to worldly people
Prayerless Christians make smart, worldly decisions and have zero positive impact for God’s kingdom.
Prayerful Christians make foolish, idiotic decisions (According to the world) but turn that same world upside down.
Jesus chose 12 men that no messianic headhunting agency would even have on their longest candidate list. The disciples had more character flaws than qualifications. But they were exactly who God wanted them to be.
God’s plans are different than ours, a lesson that 2020 has taught us. Real prayer is going to lead to strange but Godly decisions. We do not go to God with our good ideas for 5 minutes and then go off to do what we want to do. But we actively seek his will in prayer for guidance according to what he has revealed in his word.
Point 2 – Godly decisions often make little worldly sense
POINT 3 – Trust in God’s sovereignty.
Jesus chose all these strange characters. but the most strange of all was the choice of his own betrayer. This is perplexing, but this was God’s plan. Judas, who would pilfer from the money bag, who would sell the messiah for 30 pieces. Calvin comments here.
“At the very beginning, it was judged proper
to give an early demonstration of the future
state of the Church, that weak persons might
not stumble on account of the fall of a reprobate”
This is a perceptive insight, the Church of Jesus Christ was founded upon 1/12 traitor. And 100% coward, all of them would leave Jesus in his time of need, there would be none standing watch when Jesus spend the last night on the mountain praying. And you cannot but help see glimpses of Jesus wrestling with God in prayer on this first night. Wrestling with God about appointing Judas, or even Peter with all the problems he would cause. But finally, it was God’s will that these men, even Judas would be with Jesus.
And so, as Calvin points out, Every time we are let down by a church leader. Every time a pastor is caught sleeping with his secretary and we all feel betrayed by someone so close to God being revealed to be so far away. We remember that it was the same from the beggining and even the betrayers and cowards could not stop God’s plan to save the world by the atoning death of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Jesus’s choice in disciples made little sense to everyone around them, but God led him in prayer to it, and it was the right choice for God’s plan. And so whereever you are you can have confidence that you are right were God intended, even when it is far from what you intended.
Summary. How to make good Godly decisions
1) Pray sustained prayers
1)Pray about it
2)Pray with your bible open
3)Pray with a group
4)Use a prayer guide
3) Godly decisions often make little worldly sense
4)Trust in God’s sovereignty
This is far from a guide to making better decisions, but we must know that better decisions are made with better prayer. That is not everything in making godly decisions. Along with prayer I would read the bible, ask wise council, and patiently consider you options.
Ultimately we wake up everyday with nothing. We have no power over our circumstance. We have no ability to have a good attitude. We only have sinful hearts that are constantly leading us astray. All our money could vanish in a moment, our freedoms too. And yet we have a father who has everything, All knowledge, all wisdom all wealth all power, everything. When we know our inability, we pray to the one who has all ability.
When we know our poverty we will plead to the father who has all wealth.
when we know our weakness will will throw ourselves again and again into our Father of all strength.