Jump Start # 1971
James 5:16 “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.”
Now that the initial shock of the church shooting in Texas has been felt, the media discussion now turns to how this should have been prevented. Fingers are being pointed and there is plenty of blame to pass around. And out of all places, a shooting that took place during a Sunday worship in a church building, some are wondering what good prayers did. Some have even mocked that there has been enough prayers and now it’s time for action.
It’s hard for a secular and atheistic media to understand praying to God. I guess some thought that praying would provide magical body armor and no one would have been injured. Behind most of this thinking lies a deeper and troubling thought, If God allows a person to be killed while worshipping Him, where is He? And, Does He care? Or, deeper yet, ‘Does He really exist?’ If a person isn’t safe in a house of God, then what presence, power or even hope do we have in God? If we are on our own, why even bother with God if He is not going to come through and protect us?
Those that have little room for God in their thinking, will use this shooting as case in point that God doesn’t help us. What little spiritual thinking they have, will be consumed with the thought of children being killed in a church shooting. Some will mock God for this. Some will give up on prayer because of this. Some will be satisfied with their atheistic beliefs because of this. “If God allows worshippers to killed in church, then is there even a God?”
There are layers and layers of unrealistic expectations, misinformed minds, and a complete missing of what the Bible teaches. Luke 13 tells of the Galileans who were murdered while sacrificing to God. These same questions could have been and may have been asked back then.
So, let’s walk through some basic principles that we know.
First, God as given us a free will. This began in the garden of Eden. Adam and Eve had choices. God told them what to do to live. He warned them about the wrong choices. Free will allows a heart to follow what it wants. Had God stopped Adam from eating the forbidden fruit, God would have also shut down Adam’s free will. God wants us to follow Him by faith, not force. God wants us to love Him by choice, and not because we have no other choice.
So, Adam took the wrong fruit and ate. God allowed that. Cain picked up a rock and threw it at his brother, Abel and it killed him. God allowed that. God allowed the people in Noah’s day to think evil continually. God allowed the first century world to crucify His Son. And God allowed an evil person to enter a church building last Sunday with a gun and kill people. Why didn’t God stop Him? The world expects that. Would the world expect God to stop people from drinking alcohol at the ballgame on the Saturday before the shooting? Would the world expect God to stop people from telling a lie to cover up the wrong that they have done? Would the world expect God to get them out of bed and get them down to a church building on Sunday when they don’t want to be there? Just how much of our free will do we want God to take away? Do we want to be able to say anything we feel like? That’s free will. Do we want to be able to do what we want? That’s free will. Removing choices and forcing people to do what they may not want to do, sounds more like slavery than it does devotion and commitment. Do you want God to force you to apologize or forgive? Do you want God to force you to be obedient? Do you want God to make you do what is right?
Second, the thought is mockingly made that prayers didn’t help the people in the Texas church. Do we know that prayers didn’t help? Not everyone was killed. Do we know that prayers were offered? Things happened so fast and so violently that maybe prayers weren’t offered. Our passage today reminds us that the prayers of a righteous man accomplishes much. Prayer works. It is the prayer of a righteous man. Praying after things have happened can’t alter what has been done. Praying just when I am in a desperate need and then forgetting God the rest of the time, won’t do much. The righteous man is one who knows, believes and walks with God. He is right with God. His thoughts surround pleasing God. He is one who understands God and loves God. Unrighteous people praying may not move God. God may wonder why are you crying out in the storms when you are not thankful for the sunshine? We don’t know what Heaven heard that day. We don’t know what all God did that day.
Third, a lack of Bible knowledge leads some to think that God ought to and still works through miracles. This misguided thinking has led them to the impression that God has a shield around His people and no harm can touch them. Some have just enough Bible knowledge to be dangerous to their own good. Miracles served a purpose. They were to prove Jesus and His word. That’s been done. It’s accomplished. We don’t need miracles when we have a verse! A walk through the Scriptures reminds us that it was God’s people who were in lion’s dens, fiery furnaces and prisons. It was God’s people who were killed by the sword and beheaded. God never promised that His people would not be touched by harm. In fact, Jesus told His followers that they would be hated because of Him. Parents, Jesus warned, would turn their own kids in to the authorities for arrest and punishment because they believed in Jesus. Look at the Scriptures, these things are there.
Fourth, this will never be Heaven. This world is broken by sin. This world is caving in. Why are we continually shocked by sinful behavior when sin dominates this world. When told about the Galileans who were murdered, Jesus told the audience to repent. He didn’t say that the Galileans should repent, but those talking to Jesus should. Our sins contribute to the brokenness of this world. We need to be walking with God. We need to be righteous.
Finally, it’s hard for a secular and atheistic world to blame a mass killer. Isn’t this just the consequences of living without any rules? Isn’t this survival of the fittest? If we are nothing more than evolved animals, what makes any of this wrong? It’s hard to point fingers at a Hitler whose government wanted to eliminate certain people. It was what his society wanted. Without God. Without accountability. Without a higher standard. Without being anything more than a animal, why is this wrong? Animals kill fellow animals all the time. That’s what they do. If that’s all that we are, why is any of this wrong? In the atheistic world, this is as good as it will ever get. There is nothing beyond death, in their minds. There is nothing to hope for outside of what we now see. A violent, selfish world is what atheism gives us. This is not the way God intended life to be. God made us separate from animals. We are not a part of the animal kingdom. We are made in the image of God. We have a conscience and a soul. We can rise up and do better. We can control our thoughts, words and actions. We can walk righteously with God. It’s choices. Animals run on instinct. We run on conscience. Atheism has fried the conscience of unbelievers. This is why the world can say anything offensive, wear anything offensive and do anything offensive and they do not understand why people are upset. We are upset because we can do better. We are connected to one another.
The shooter in Texas preached atheism. He lived and he died without God. His choices reflected that. This morning, he now sees what a fool he was and that God is. He wasted his life believing something that isn’t true. He now understands that death didn’t end his life. He lives and now he has no free will, no choices and no hope.
Psalms 14 begins with, “The fool says that there is no God.” He can say it. Free will allows that. He can die believing that. But he will immediately understand why he is a fool. Facing God who he has denied and blasphemed all his life, knowing that his future is an eternity without God.
Does prayer work? Yes. Prayer is not getting what I want, but what God wants. I continue to pray for those families in Texas. I also pray for those who want to give up on God because of this. May they take a serious look at what the Bible really says. God prepares us for an eternity with Him, not an eternity without Him, doing what we want here.
There is hope in troubled times!