Different Pursuits

two points of view

Earlier this week I attended a prayer rally with one of the elders of our local church and two of my children. It was a great event at the capitol of our state. There were thousands of people there. We all prayed for our nation. Our prayer followed the pattern Nehemiah prayed in Nehemiah 1.

We started by confessing the sins of our nation. There are many.

We then moved to a time of confessing our own sins. These, too, are many.

Then we confessed the sins of our fathers. You guessed it. Many.

We were seeking the grace and favor of the living God in obedience to His commandment to His people to pray for our leaders.

First of all, then, I urge that requests, prayers, intercessions, and thanks be offered on behalf of all people, even for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Timothy 2:1-2 NET)

In the midst of praying for this it struck me that while many of us were praying the same things we were not necessarily praying in unity. Our prayers were on the same topic. They were not necessarily for the same pursuit.

There is a huge difference between being an American Christian and being a Christian American. They are worlds apart.

The American Christian emphasizes their earthly citizenship first. They prioritize American values over biblical values. The American Christian lives under the idea that everyone has the God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Christian American emphasizes their heavenly citizenship first. They prioritize biblical values over American ones. The Christian American lives under the idea that every Christian is commanded to prioritize the pursuit of God’s kingdom and righteousness.

Happiness never enters the equation for the Christian American. They know that whether times of peace or persecution come they are promised joy, not happiness. Regardless of the circumstances, Christians are commanded to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Jesus said:

 But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. (Matthew 6:33 NET)

As we pray for our country and our leaders are we united in our purpose? Are we united in our pursuit? Sober reflection on our lives and lifestyles may demonstrate that there is a whole lot of pursuit of happiness going on. The Bible describes the pursuit of happiness as pursuing the lusts and impulses of our flesh. The Bible commands us to flee from these pursuits.

Are we prioritizing the pursuit of God’s kingdom and righteousness? Do we need to hear the words of the prophet in our own day?

Wash! Cleanse yourselves! Remove your sinful deeds from my sight. Stop sinning! Learn to do what is right! Promote justice! Give the oppressed reason to celebrate! Take up the cause of the orphan! Defend the rights of the widow! (Isaiah 1:16-17 NET)

Praying for our leaders is a command from the living God. We are supposed to pray for them so that we can lead peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and dignity. This is not so that we can pursue happiness in peace. The passage continues with the true purpose of our prayers:

Such prayer for all is good and welcomed before God our Savior, since he wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one intermediary between God and humanity, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as a ransom for all, revealing God’s purpose at his appointed time. For this I was appointed a preacher and apostle– I am telling the truth; I am not lying– and a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth. So I want the men to pray in every place, lifting up holy hands without anger or dispute. (1 Timothy 2:3-8 NET)

We don’t pray so the economy will improve. We don’t pray so that our pet legislation will be passed. We pray because our God and Savior wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

We pray so that we can live peaceful lives as ambassadors for Christ. We pray so that we can pursue the expansion of God’s kingdom and righteousness through living and preaching the gospel in all spheres of life. We pray so that the world may come to know Jesus and be known by Him.

Are you living as an American Christian or as a Christian American? The pursuits are worlds apart. May we be unified in our pursuit so that the whole world may know and see the glory of our God!

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