18th Sunday after Pentecost
1 Timothy 2:1-8
What’s it Worth? The Value of Prayer with Outreach
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
The aromas that emanate on Saturday morning from the several blocks along College avenue are intoxicating. With the grills grilling and the fryers frying, it’s difficult to stroll through the downtown farmer’s market without spending money. And we sit there thinking, “Is it worth the money?” Two-seconds later, as you’re taking that first bite into that delectable sandwich, or egg roll, or dessert, you think, “Totally worth it!”
What is the worth and the value of things and materials? What is the price tag of an autographed Aaron Rodgers, game worn, grass stained, jersey? In some auctions, I’m sure that a jersey like that would go for thousands of dollars! Just this last week, I heard someone mention how much someone paid for a downtown New York parking space. I checked my facts. 250,000 dollars for a parking space downtown. What is it worth it? In their eyes, yes!
A lot of times, the value and worth of an object isn’t necessarily measured in the size or quality of the object. Isn’t it really how much someone is willing to pay for it? What is a life worth? With all the shootings this last week, you really wonder, how much is a life worth? I’m sure the family would do anything to get back the ones they lost. What is life worth? If someone kidnapped one of your family members, what would you do to get them back? What price would you pay? Parents and families truly show how precious that child is when they are willing to pay anything to have their child returned.
What is a soul worth? As we dive into Scripture, we are reminded of the sin that we live in. The things we do, the things we say, the thoughts we think are all blackened and twisted by sin and the devil. And we wonder, how could our sinful bag of bones be worth anything to God?
In our lesson, Paul is writing, obviously, to Timothy. Paul was somewhere along on his fourth missionary journey. He had instructed Timothy to care for the church at Ephesus while he went on to Macedonia. When he realized that he might not return to Ephesus in the near future, he wrote this first letter to timothy to encourage him, instruct him, and remind him that his job as a spiritual leader was important, because in God’s eyes, souls are important. They have value because God wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
God gives importance to us. Just like a family member or a friend is willing to actually sit and listen to us, he is willing to listen to us. In fact, He wants to listen to us and he encourages us to do it all the more. In fact, Paul encourages Timothy and the congregation to pray, pray, pray, and pray! Paul used 4 different types of the word prayer to remind us the importance and value of prayer! How awesome is it that we can approach God in childlike confidence with any need of ours? And in doing so, we can thank God all the more for everything he has done for us.
Prayer is so cool. But, I’ll be the first to admit, sometimes I feel as if I run out of things to pray for. Someone has even asked me, “What should we pray for?” Paul doesn’t even think twice about that. Paul tells us WHOM we should pray for. He says “all people.” It’s so important that we pray for others and not only things for ourselves. If you’re praying for all people, I don’t think you’ll ever run out of things or people to pray for! We can pray for those in our congregation, and our church body as a whole. Even more important, we ought to pray for the billions of people worldwide who don’t know life with Christ. We don’t often think to pray for nonbelievers. Yet, God wants us to. And we pray that the Holy Sprit work in their hearts.
Paul instructs us to pray even for the government. This sort of surprises us that Paul mentions this. We tend to forget prayer for those in authority over us, especially if they are non-Christian or oppressive leaders. Nero was a Roman emperor that prided himself on the persecution of Christians. To Nero, persecuting the Christians was entertainment like a disco ball is for a wedding DJ. Paul himself, was most likely killed because of Nero. Nevertheless, even heathen rulers are those who have been established by God, and are God’s servant to do you good. So they need our prayers, especially those who may seek the church’s harm. What a blessing to live in a country where the church can worship and share God’s Word. We pray the prayer of Paul that we have freedom from disturbances so that the gospel may be spread effectively. Even an emperor as bloodthirsty as Nero was to be prayed for and not cursed. This was Paul's instruction because the attitudes and actions of the rulers had a very profound effect on the lives of his subjects, particularly also his Christian subjects.
Pray, pray, pray, pray. What is it worth? I think God is saying that it’s important! It is good to pray and it is awesome to pray for others. We are to be concerned about the salvation of all people. A few people we can contact individually, but the great majority seem to be beyond our reach. Yet they are not really so, because we can reach them through our prayers to God.
And yet, when I lay my head on my pillow, or as I sit at work, as I'm stressing over my personal finances, isn’t this the most difficult thing to do? Praying for others? What’s another person’s soul worth to me? Most of the time, it appears that it’s worth nothing. A lot of times, I could care less about other people, much less unbelievers. It’s really sad how we become so selfish in our thinking. I want things for me. I want more money, more clothes, more stuff. I want less problems, less stress, and less emotions. We become much more involved in our own will and way than what God wants. What is the value of another person’s soul? Too often our selfishness and pride won’t even let us answer that question. In fact, because of our sin, we don’t even see the importance in reaching out to others.
What is a soul worth? Fortunately, God views that question entirely different than we do, through our sinful lens. God sees the importance of every soul. As the Savior-God, we know that the Lord doesn’t want anyone to perish, but he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” The truth is, God is the one who has given value to our souls. It goes back to the question: what is the value of an object? Remember, the value and worth of an object isn’t necessarily measured in the size or quality of the object, but its value is in what the person is willing to pay for it?
The value of our souls was extremely precious to God! Sin separated us all from the one and only God there is. In fact, our sin made us worthless to God. And in spite of all of that, God sent his Son for us. Jesus was our substitute, our go between, our mediator, our redeemer. Jesus Christ paid the ransom. And what an awesome picture Paul uses there of making the payment for us. What are you worth to God? By sending his only son, God has given us infinite worth. The value of everyone’s soul is priceless. I think, we have a compelling reason to pray for all people.
There’s a story of a man who lost his son in a war. This man lived a pretty careless and godless life; but his son’s death brought him to his senses, and brought him face to face with God as he had never been before in all his life. He became a changed man. One day he was standing before the local war memorial and was looking at his son’s name on it. He said, “I guess he had to go down to lift me up.” And that is what Jesus did! It cost the life, the death, the pain, and the sacrifice of Jesus to bring people home to God.
And, as we continue to pray for “all people,” as Paul said, it’s most definitely implied that we share that life giving message! No one has ever come to faith without hearing the message. Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?” (Romans 10:14) Paul called himself a teacher, a preacher, an apostle, and even a herald. Think of what a herald was! He was the bringer of important news or some command from the king’s court either at an athletic event, or a religious festival. He was to have qualifications, like having a strong voice. But, the most important qualification was that he faithfully represent or report the word of the one who sent him. He was not to be the “original” but his message was to be that of another. Paul faithfully preached God’s Word, not his own message. And, he knew that all the troubles he went through to share God’s word was worth it, because God views the value of those lost souls as worth it.
When God shows me what he was willing to pay for my life it has a huge bearing on the way I look at the world and the people God puts into my life. I don’t see the person at the grocery store as another person waiting in line. Rather, I see someone who God values and wants dearly to have with Him in heaven.
If we’re worried about: what do I even say to someone? When will a good opportunity come up? Who do I even talk to? Don’t you think that that is yet another good reason to come to God in prayer? And we can go to His Word, where we are reminded of His promises. And we can work together, as Christians, to come up with strategies for reaching the lost. In fact, the handouts from last week are an excellent starting point for learning how to evangelize!
As members of St. Paul in Appleton, we should always be striving to reach the lost because we know that God considers their lives and their souls incredibly valuable and important, just as he views ours. If we see the value of souls, we should do whatever we can to share that message with those people who are lost.
What is it worth? A 250,000 dollar parking space. Nothing. An autographed football jersey. Nothing. A delicious sandwich? Nothing. These are all nothing compared to the value God has placed on us. Encouraged by the very love that God showed us and his love for all people, we seek to pray for and reach out to the lost. Are they worth it? God says, “Totally worth it!”
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.