Fervency, Urgency and Persistence
Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice, and be gracious to me and answer me. When Thou didst say, ‘Seek My face,’ my heart said to Thee, ‘Thy face, O Lord, I shall seek’ (Psalm 27:7-8).
Sarah Butin, an eighteen year old recent high school graduate on her way to Furman University in the fall, who also attended The Whitefield School as a young child (a ministry of Golden Isles Presbyterian Church where I once served) was eager to begin her job as a lifeguard at the Sea Island Resort on Sea Island, GA. She told her father the night before her first day that she hoped to be able to rescue people while doing her job. Her dad told her not to get too excited, that he had been a life guard for eight summers and never saw any action. Well, on Memorial Day, about two hours into her first day as a lifeguard, as she surveyed the pool, she saw a little, four year old boy at the bottom of it. She quickly fetched him and laid him on the side of the pool and performed CPR on the boy’s lifeless body. Wini, my wife, Carey, our daughter-in-law, and our grandchildren saw the whole thing ‘go down.’ Wini and Carey began to pray earnestly, fervently, and quite uncharacteristically as Presbyterians, with great passion, lifting their hands into the air, beseeching God to help Sarah and to spare the little boy’s life. The boy’s mother, as you can imagine, was wailing and beating her hands on the concrete deck. Sarah thought the ordeal lasted a minute and one-half. Wini thought it was much longer. At any rate, finally the boy began to cry, and Sarah handed him to his father. A few days later the boy was back at the pool, swimming and playing, as though nothing had happened.
Fervency, urgency, and persistence. Wini and Carey prayed fervently with great urgency. Wini said she had never sensed such a battle in prayer. They were not at all casual or ‘laid back’ in their prayer. They knew the issue was life and death. Sarah did not quit. She was not distracted by the mother’s wailing, nor by the scores of people crowding over her, nor was she intimidated by the five doctors watching her ‘do her thing.’
Should we not, my friends – in light of the awful reality of people you know running head-long into perdition, in light of our nation which runs with unparalleled and mindless disregard to the coming judgment, and in light of our weakness as Christians – pray with fervency, urgency, and persistence? Something far more dangerous than the physical death of a four year old boy faces people everywhere. God promises to deal out retribution to those who do not know God, to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. He says they will suffer eternal punishment away from the presence of his power and glory (2 Thess.1:8-9). He says wrath and indignation are upon every soul of man who does evil, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Rom. 2:8-9). He says that hell is a place where the fire is never quenched and the worm never dies (Mark 9:46). In other words, hell is a place of endless, conscious, torment. At the day of judgment, the worst words imaginable will be declared by the Righteous Judge of all creation on all who are not covered with the propitiating blood of Jesus. On that horrible day, as each unredeemed sinner stands before God’s tribunal, his every thought, word, and action will be judged in light of God’s perfect standard of holiness.
Those in hell, knowing that the day of reckoning is coming, would do anything possible to remain in hell another million years. That’s because they know ‘that day’ will be far worse. On ‘that day’ they will be resurrected to stand before God’s Great White Throne (Rev. 20:11-12) and be judged by their deeds in the body. They then will hear their sentence, ‘Depart from Me, you accursed ones, you who practice lawlessness, into the everlasting fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels’ (Matt. 7:23; 25:41). People mock hell all the time, and as Harry Reeder says, ‘I never refer to hell on earth. Nothing here in the world can rival the lake of fire.’ My friend, do you believe in hell? Do you pray like you believe in it?
King David, in Psalm 27, is in great difficulty. His enemies are closing in on him, and yet he trusts the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord is my light and my salvation. Whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defense of my life. Whom shall I dread? When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh, my adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell’ (Psa. 27:1-2). In his desperation David fervently called upon the name of the Lord. He promised to seek God’s face with all his strength. He urgently asks God to not abandon him nor to forsake him. Why was David so fervent? He knew his imminent danger.
So, why then, do we rarely pray with this kind of passion and fervency? Could it be that we simply do not believe God when he speaks of hell fire? At this point, you may object by saying, ‘Wait a second. God is sovereign. He chooses some to be saved and others he passes by.’ That certainly is true, but Paul, who laid down masterfully the doctrines of election (Rom. 8:28-30; 9:6-13, Eph. 1:4-5) and reprobation (Rom. 1:24-32; 9:22-23), is the same man who writes, ‘I am telling the truth in Christ. I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh’ (Rom. 9:1-3).
The greatest sin in the church of Jesus is the sin against the complementarity of truth. For example, Jesus is 100% God and he is 100% man. How can we reconcile these two apparent contradictions? We cannot. When the early church lost this balance, then she was constantly embroiled in controversy over this issue. That’s why they forged such documents as the Nicene Creed. God elects people to salvation but he also says, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’ (Rom. 10:13). Paul tells us to rejoice in the Lord always (Phil. 4:4), but James tells us to be miserable, to mourn and weep, to let our laughter be turned into sorrow and our joy into gloom (James 4:10). Well, which is it – rejoicing or mourning? The answer is both at the same time. So, the Scriptures are constantly calling us to balance. We are to trust in the Lord, we are to wait on the Lord; but at the same time we are to seek him earnestly, we are to pour out our hearts to God, we are to seek him until we find him.
How many more disasters will it take before we are driven to urgent, fervent, and persistent prayer? If you received a diagnosis that your six-year old daughter had brain cancer, then you surely would pray with fervency, urgency, and persistence. You would not be casual. You would not wait until the Wednesday night prayer meeting at your church. And you would pray until you received an answer – that either your child is healed or she dies. Will you pray with fervency, urgency, and persistence?
Rev. Allen M Baker is an evangelist with Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship, and Director of the Alabama Church Planting Network. His weekly devotional, ‘Forget None of His Benefits’, can be found here.
If you would like to respond to Pastor Baker, please contact him directly at email@example.com.
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