Scripture: from verse 17
See that you complete the task you were given in the Lord.
Observation: This is a reminder that Paul addresses to a specific person, but it applies to all of us. We are set a task. We have to complete it.
It’s easy to leave spiritual work half-done. If our work is to pray or to love or something like that, we may not see concrete results from our work. There may not be a physical sign that we are finished. So we tend to assume that we have finished as soon as we’ve done anything, when God may be calling us to keep going.
All we can do is wait for God’s peace to release us. If we are to pray, we keep praying. If we are to love, we keep loving. If we are to write or dance or eat or talk, we keep going until we are finished. We are accomplishing a great deal in the spiritual world as we do His will, and He can see it even when we cannot.
Application: Have patience and keep going. Wait for God to tell you what to do.
Prayer: Yeshua, thank you for giving me tasks to complete for you. Help me to be patient and persevering and accomplish what you want me to accomplish. Amen.
Scripture: verse 6
Let your conversation always be gracious and interesting, so that you will know how to respond to any particular individual.
Observation: I don’t know why we say the rules in Leviticus are strict. The most God ever said about our speech there was that we shouldn’t lie or curse each other. Here, everything we say has to be gracious and interesting and take into account the needs of the hearer.
I would say that I have interesting all taken care of, except it turns out not everyone is interested in detailed descriptions of our recent experiments with henna body art, or whatever it is that I want to talk about. I can’t exactly blame them, either.
Gracious is maybe a little easier, since it means being generous towards others and making allowances for their mistakes, and I’m usually sufficiently conscious of my own mistakes to not get too worked up about theirs. But sooner or later someone says something I disagree with, and then it turns out I’m not as good at gracious as I’d like to be either.
It has always been easier to follow the Law than to actually love people. I can avoid lying and cursing and even gossip and boasting (usually), but unless I’m genuinely paying attention to other people and taking an interest in what is important to them, I’m not doing God’s will. It takes thought, and patience, and God’s supernatural love to actually live the way He wants us to live.
Application: Rely on His love to help you love other people.
Prayer: Holy Spirit, I’m not as good at loving people as you want me to be. But no one is. Thank you for covering over my faults, so that I can be confident in your love anyway. Help me to be interesting and gracious and responsive to others’ needs. Amen.
Scripture: verse 2
Keep persisting in prayer, staying alert in it and being thankful.
Observation: The Bible tells us to keep praying over and over again. Which isn’t unreasonable, given that it is our main form of communication with the Maker or the Universe.
But staying alert in prayer seems a little different. I’m not certain what it means, to be honest. It implies activity and arousal and expectation. That nor only should we constantly be praying, but we should also be constantly paying attention to our prayers. Constantly looking for things to pray about, and constantly listening carefully for God to speak or guide or point His finger.
I’ve found I can learn a lot by praying. As I pray, God prompts me to pray in a specific way or over a specific aspect. Usually I can’t get it out of my head until I’ve prayed for it. After I’m done, half the time I realize that I hadn’t considered that element important before, or hadn’t even realized it was there. I didn’t know my friend was worried about an upcoming wedding until I prayed for her to be at peace. (I don’t think she did either!) I didn’t realize how jealous I was of my sister until I was praying about it. God uses our prayers to give us new information, if we’re willing to let Him.
I’m still learning about this. Sometimes I push too hard and fool myself, or I get scared and get stuck. But I keep going. God is good.
Application: Pray about everything, especially whatever you’re thinking about. Let God push your prayers around.
Prayer: Father, thank you for hearing my prayers. Thank you for giving me a line of open communication. Help me to listen to your prompting as I pray, and to use the knowledge I gain to better love people. Amen.