43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?47 And if you greet only your brothers,[i] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
Help us to love not only those who love us first, but also those who treat us badly. Jesus expressed his love by dying for us precisely at a time when we were rebelling against his authority. Help us to do the same sort of thing whenever we are presented with the chance. Then help us to make opportunities to love where none exist.
When we are disrespected, help us to respond with respect. When we are ignored precisely as we think we need someone’s attention, help us to think of the needs of others and pay attention to them. When we are hurt, help us to respond with healing love and in so doing, become more like Jesus our Lord.
In saying all of this, we know that this love does not come naturally to us, but we know that it can arise as the result of you working supernaturally within our hearts. We need your Holy Spirit to work within us to produce this spiritual fruit.
Father, may self-giving love be a mark of who we are as your children and as followers of Jesus Christ. It is in his name that we pray.
18While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him.
When Christ called his first disciples to follow him, he let them know that their primary focus would change. Instead of catching fish they would now catch people, drawing others into a relationship with you through Jesus Christ.
How appropriate that some of your first followers did this kind of work! They knew what it was to try to bring in a catch. Sometimes they failed and sometimes they met with amazing success. There was even a time when they fished all night and caught nothing until the risen Christ advised them. When they listened to him, they caught more than they could bring into the boat.
Just as no fisherman ever catches all the fish in the sea, there will be many who will not listen to the call that we put out for them. Still, there will be many others who will and it is for these that you have sent us.
Remind us continually that this is our first priority. We are to go and make disciples of all the nations. Help us to no longer live for ourselves, but for you. Let the Holy Spirit advise us now just as Jesus did those tired disciples. Let us see souls won for Christ and disciples multiplied. Let us not only see converts but see those won to you who will then make disciples of others.
And we ask this in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, believing that this is your will for us.
Your Son reminded us that sometimes the best we can expect out of this world is trouble.
His disciples often faced difficulty, opposition and persecution and they endured. Give us that same kind of strength.
From Christ’s instruction we learn that our worst enemies and betrayers might be those we would expect to be our closest friends. Those who should love us and those we love may respond with hatred and rejection. We thank you that Jesus experienced all of this first. We are certainly no greater than he is.
Help us, Father, to remain steadfast, to be faithful and to endure. We may desire happiness, comfort, approval and blessings, but they may not be ours at this time. Just as Jesus endured to the end and was glorified, help us to stand firm knowing that his story did not end at the cross and neither will ours.
If we experience no glory or honor in this world, may our lives still bring glory to him, for Christ is worthy.
Thank you that like these wise men, I was once distant from you, but you led me to Jesus. When I think of the effort these wise men put forth to find him, I have to admit that I did a lot less and found Jesus all the same. Teach me to put forth more effort now as I seek to know Christ better than I do.
These wise men clearly offered gifts from among the best things that they had — gold, frankincense and myrrh. Teach me also to give all that I have which is valuable to me in the worship of my Savior.
The wise men were also very aware of your leading them: first from a far land to Jerusalem, then to a specific house in Bethlehem and then back to their own country by another way. Teach me also to be aware of your leading in my own life.
Deep down I want to serve you well, follow Jesus and be led by the Spirit in all that I do. Please make my life a more accurate reflection of your will for me. Help me to make it an offering to you and an act of complete worship.
And I ask this for the glory of the name of Jesus Christ.
We thank you that you did not send Jesus only to the prominent and lovable people of this world or for their sake only. Thank you that our Savior has the variety of people that he has in his family line. We see the lost, the lonely, the unloved and the despised there giving his genealogy a fair representation of the human race. The adulterer and immigrant are found alongside the kings and counselors. In some cases they are the same people.
You knew who we were and what kind of Savior we needed. Therefore, you sent us Jesus Christ, your unique, your only-begotten Son, in a way and to a people that would require him to identify with us in all of our sin and shame. Thank you furthermore for the cross and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It through him and because of his work that we live.
36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few;38 therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
Christ had compassion on the shepherdless crowds who were harassed and helpless. In response he asked us to pray, and so this is what we are doing. He alone is their true Shepherd, their Good Shepherd and Chief Shepherd.
There are multitudes who need to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of who he is and what he has done. There are multitudes more who need to hear it again, who need to be reminded or given one more opportunity to respond.
None of us can accomplish this task alone. Please, heavenly Father, send out laborers. As Jesus pointed out, the harvest is truly plentiful and the laborers few. Send out laborers into this great harvest field. Let their labors lead to the increase of your church. Let their labors be used to build your church. Let eternity be filled with more people brought into your family as a result of the laborers that you send out in response to our prayers. Let disciples be multiplied and the knowledge of your word be increased. And let your name be glorified throughout all ages as a result.
Christ’s death for our sins is sometimes referred to as vicarious atonement. He took responsibility for us when we were incapable of atoning for ourselves. That is a wonderful fact and an essential concept that is basic to the Christian faith. If you want, you can read more about it here.
Now we are going to talk about something else — vicarious faith — an idea central to the Christian life. Needy people are not always in a position to believe. They may need us to step in for them and take the responsibility upon ourselves to believe. Our faith can stand in for their faith, our prayers for their prayers. Matthew 9 shows us an extreme case.
18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.”19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples. … 23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion,24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.”And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose.26 And the report of this went through all that district.
The ruler came to Jesus on behalf of his daughter. She was dead. In the house was a lifeless, breathless and certainly faithless corpse. Her father reached out in faith when she was unable to believe for herself. The mourners were no help. Their expressions of grief were interrupted by their laughing at Jesus. But Jesus did what Jesus does and the girl arose. I want to exercise that kind of faith on behalf of others.