How convinced are you by the Gospel?

19 “There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. 20 At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores 21 and longing to eat what fell from the rich man’s table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores.


22 “The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham’s side. The rich man also died and was buried. 23 In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. 24 So he called to him, ‘Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.’


25 “But Abraham replied, ‘Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in agony. 26 And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been set in place, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.’


27 “He answered, ‘Then I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, 28 for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.’


29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’


30 “‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’


31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’”

Luke 16:19-31

What follows is the text of a sermon I preached on 29th September 2019 at Southwater Community Church, West Sussex. Scroll to the bottom for an audio recording.

How convinced are you by the gospel?

Do you believe that the Bible is the word of God?

Do you read it regularly?

Does it shape your life?

Has it changed who you are?

Are you convinced that Jesus is the Son of God, that he died on the cross and rose again three days later? Are you convinced that after your earthly death you will go to be with Jesus and his Father in his new creation?

Are you convinced enough by this for it actually to change your life?

That’s what I’d like us to reflect on this morning. 

How convinced are we by the Gospel?

We’ll be looking at Luke 16:19-31, so if you have a Bible with you, do have that open in front of you.

It’s quite a memorable passage that we find ourselves considering this morning. The imagery it presents us with is particularly powerful. An unnamed rich man who finds himself in torment after his death. Lazarus, a poor man who suffered much during his life, with Abraham after his death.

Before we get into the passage too much, it’s perhaps worth looking at the context. If you have a Bible, flip back to verse 1 of chapter 16. Here we see that in this chapter, Jesus is teaching his disciples. He begins the chapter by teaching his disciples a parable about handling money. This leads into his famous statement in verse 13, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

It is at this point that we see that the Pharisees are also present. We read in verse 14 that, “the Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.” In verse 15 Jesus tells the Pharisees, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.”

This verse in particular will help us to unpack today’s reading.

What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.

God knows our hearts.

The parable that follows, the focus of our reading today, is, then, a lesson for the Pharisees. Those who love money, who are devoted to it, who seek to justify themselves in the eyes of others.

I suspect, actually, that we might be more like the Pharisees that we would like to admit.

This passage, therefore, provides a vital lesson for us too.

Our first point then, where are our hearts? 

Let’s consider the rich man in the parable. Where is his heart? What is it that he values most?

Let’s look at how he lived his life.

He seems to have had it all. Pots of cash, amazing clothes, and the very best food. He even lived in a house that was large enough to have a gateway – a gateway that provided him with security and privacy, that enabled him to enjoy his comfortable lifestyle away from the hoi polloi. He seemed to have it all. 

The man in this parable was clearly self-centred. His life was focused on getting the very best for himself. He had no time for anyone else. His hard earned cash was precisely that – his hard earned cash – so why should he even contemplate sharing what he had with anyone else?

Verse 19 sums up this man – dressed in fine linen, feasting sumptuously everyday. He received many good things during his lifetime.

And this is where his heart is set. This is what he values most. His lifestyle – rich, comfortable and secure.

But verse 20 introduces the second significant character – a poor man named Lazarus, a beggar who spent his time at the gate of the rich man. His body covered in sores, he was too weak even to attempt to stop the local dogs from coming and licking his body. He lived his life in a perpetual state of hunger. All he longed for was a few crumbs from the table of the rich man.

Lazarus was well-known to the rich man. We see in verse 24 that the rich man knew his name. 

The rich man had been so focused on himself that he had singularly failed during Lazarus’ lifetime to do anything at all to help him. He had watched Lazarus, a poor, ill, hungry man at his gate, day after day, and yet had not shown him a single ounce of compassion. He showed him no mercy, no pity. 

When these two men died, however, there was a complete reversal of their fortunes.

When the rich man died, he was buried and found himself in what the parable describes as Hades. Verse 23 tells us that the rich man was being tormented. In verse 24 the rich man announces that he is in agony, in the midst of flames. 

In contrast, Lazarus, when he died, verse 22 tells us, was “carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.”

The rich man cannot believe the reversal that has occurred.

It is now he who is asking for mercy. In verse 24, the rich man calls out, “Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue.”

He had shown no mercy to Lazarus during his life, but now asks for mercy himself.

But Abraham does not offer the rich man much hope. He tells him, “Child, remember that during your lifetime you received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in agony.”

The consequences of his earthly life finally become evident to the rich man. His heart had been in entirely the wrong place. He was selfish when he should have been selfless. He kept his wealth for himself, when he should have generously supported those less fortunate than himself.

And now it was too late.

Now he was the one begging for pity, for mercy, whilst Lazarus had a much more comfortable existence.

This was a direct challenge to the Pharisees, who, as we saw in verse 14, loved money. 

But God knew their hearts.

I wonder which of these characters we identify with the most?

Do we identify with Lazarus, who endured poverty and hardship during his lifetime, to whom no mercy was shown, but who ultimately found himself with Abraham and a merciful Father after his death?

Or do we identify with the rich man, trusting in our own good fortune, living, certainly on a global scale, a well off existence, failing to show mercy to those less fortunate than ourselves, and doomed to eternal torment after our death?

Perhaps we could put it another way.

Where is our heart?

God knows our hearts, but where are they focused?

Are they focused on ourselves, on looking after number one, of making sure that before anything else we’re alright? Are we self-centred?

Or are our hearts focused on others, on showing mercy to those less fortunate than ourselves, of loving our neighbours? Are we self-less in all that we do?

Jesus makes it clear that the way to his father is by putting others before ourselves.

Jesus makes it clear that we need to show mercy if we wish to be shown mercy.

The challenge is great, but so too is the reward.

The rich man in this parable learnt the hard way. Let us hope that that’s not the case for us. Let’s hope that, unlike the rich man in this story, we don’t leave it too late to use all that we have selflessly.

Where is your heart?

What is it that you value most?

So to our second point. Do we listen to God’s word?

There is much more to this story than simply stewardship of resources. We are called to be self-less, but being self-less alone does not open the gates of God’s kingdom to us. Lazarus was not rewarded after his death simply because he was poor during his lifetime. There’s much more to the story than this.

It’s worth looking carefully at what Jesus tells us of the background of the rich man in this parable.

Do you notice how the rich man addresses Abraham when he first encounters him? In verse 23, he sees Abraham, with Lazarus at his side. He clearly recognises him. This is reinforced when, in verse 24, he calls him, “Father Abraham.” The fact that this man recognises Abraham, and, what’s more, calls him Father, suggests that this is clearly a man with a solid Jewish background, who identified as one of the sons of Abraham, or, in other words, a Jew.

This is emphasised in verse 29, when Abraham replies to the man’s request to send Lazarus to warn his brothers. Abraham says to him, “they have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them.”

Presumably, this also applies to the rich man in the parable. Presumably he had Moses and the prophets during his lifetime too. 

Moses and the prophets refers to the scriptures of the Old Testament, the scriptures studied and followed by all good Jews. The Law and the Prophets, as they are often referred, provided Jewish people with a complete guide of how to honour God. They lay down who God is, and what he wants from his people. The rich man, as a Jew, would have studied these scriptures, at the very least in childhood, and probably into adulthood. Maybe he continued to study them until the day he died.

But how had he been changed by what he read? How had the scripture shaped his life, and moulded his character and personality? It appears that they hadn’t at all. If the prophets and the law had shaped his life then he wouldn’t have been so self-centred. He wouldn’t have neglected his moral duty to look after the poor. He wouldn’t have ignored Lazarus day, after day, after day.

This man knew the scriptures, but he chose not to be obey them.

He claimed a relationship with Abraham, calling him father, but it is a hollow relationship based on head knowledge of scripture, without the transformative presence of God in his life. His heart was hardened to God’s will for his life.

He may well have known all the answers, but he failed to live the teachings of scripture out in his own life.

In that respect, he was very much like the hypocritical Pharisees.

This is in direct contrast to Lazarus, who by virtue of his experience after his death must have followed the teachings of Moses and the prophets much more diligently than the rich man did. Lazarus’ focus was on serving God, not money. He was less interested in justifying himself in the eyes of others, and more interested in focusing his heart on God.

Lazarus clearly lived the teachings of scripture out in his own life.

I wonder if in our own lives we more closely resemble the rich man or Lazarus? 

Are we like the rich man? Do we know scripture, do we read the gospels, the epistles, the law and the prophets and nod along in agreement? Do we claim a relationship with the father of our faith, Jesus Christ, without backing that relationship up with actual substance?

Or are we more like Lazarus, trying our hardest to faithfully study the word of God and to live it out in our lives day by day?

Abraham tells the rich man that his brothers have Moses and the prophets; they should listen to them. But of course, listening must lead to action. Listening must lead to transformation. 

Paul developed this point in his letter to Timothy, which we read together this morning. He writes in chapter 6 verse 9 that “those who get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.” And here, in Luke’s gospel we see exactly that. The rich man fell into temptation. He fell into a trap that ultimately led to his destruction. Whilst Lazarus enjoys being in Abraham’s presence, the rich man finds himself in a pit of flames.

Paul urged Timothy in verse 17 to tell those who are rich not to put their hope in wealth, but instead to put their hope in God. He continues in verse 18 to tell Timothy to command the rich to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. This, he says in verse 19, will mean that they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

If only the rich man had been generous and willing to share. If only he had looked out for Lazarus. Perhaps his destiny would have been rather different. For him, though, the understanding that his faith was hollow came too late.

Jesus was warning the Pharisees here. Sort your lives out, he was telling them. You claim to know the scriptures, you claim to follow the Laws and the Prophets, but you have hearts of stone. You are self-centered, he was suggesting to them. Your focus is on making money, not serving God. Sort your lives out before it’s too late.

And that’s the message for us too. If we are living like the Pharisees, if we love money more than God, we need to sort our lives out. If we leave it too late, we’ll find ourselves in the same position as the rich man.

But it’s not too late. We can work hard to ensure that the focus of our lives is a focus that pleases God. We can learn from this rich man’s mistakes. We have the Bible, Old Testament and New. We have the words of Jesus. Do we listen to them? Do we allow the word of God to transform our lives, to direct our thoughts and our actions? 

It’s not too late. 

It’s not too late to listen to words of scripture.

It’s not too late to allow God to transform our lives. 

Do we listen to scripture? Let’s try to do that more and more each and every day.

To our third point. Are we convinced by the Gospel?

It’s funny how after his death, the rich man suddenly began to show compassion. The first time he shows an interest in anyone other than himself is in verse 27, when he says to Abraham, “I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my family, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.” 

Abraham, as we’ve already seen, tells him, “they have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.”

Whilst Abraham believes that scripture is all that is necessary to understand how to live, the rich man believes that more is necessary. He says, in verse 30, “No, father Abraham, but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.”

He finally recognises that the key to salvation is repentance. But he does not believe that the Bible provides them with enough motivation to repent.

He does believe, though, that if his brothers witnessed a miracle, specifically someone returning from the dead, then they would repent. 

Abraham makes it clear, though, that there’s sufficient in the Word of God to reveal the truth of the Gospel, to reveal God, to reveal how humans should live in response to him.

Yet as the Word of God had not transformed the rich man’s own life, he is sure that it hasn’t transformed the lives of his five brothers.

“No,” comes his response. No, that’s not enough. They haven’t been convinced by scripture.

If only they had one more sign, perhaps then they would believe. Just one big sign. Something that definitively proved that God exists. 

If only someone from the dead could go back to them, perhaps then they would repent.

The rich man believes that Lazarus returning from the dead to his brothers would be sufficient sign for them to bow the knee before God and repent.

I wonder how many of us have heard this before.

If only God could give me a sign, then I’d believe.

If only there was firm evidence, then I’d believe.

If only God performed a miracle, then I’d believe.

Maybe we were in a similar position before we repented and accepted Jesus as our saviour. Maybe we were holding out for a sign.

But what does Abraham say in response to the rich man?

In verse 31 he says, “if they do not listen to Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.”

He tells them that scripture is sufficient. If it is not, then nothing that happens will convince them of the Gospel. There is nothing that will change their minds, because their minds are too closed.

You’d think, though, that if someone rose from the dead, then that might convince them.

But just a short while after Jesus told this story, he did exactly that. He was crucified. He died. He was buried in a tomb.

But then, three very long days later, he rose from the dead! He appeared in the garden to Mary Magdalene, and then to Mary mother of James, Salome, and Joanna, then to Peter, then to two disciples, then to the rest of the disciples with the exception of Thomas, then to all of the disciples, then to the disciples on another couple of occasions, then, as Paul records in 1 Corinthians 15, to over five hundred people at once, then to James, then to the disciples again, then to Paul.

Someone literally did raise from the dead, Jesus himself!

And hundreds of people witnessed this!

And yet Abraham is right. If people’s hearts are hard, then they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.

If scripture isn’t enough to convince someone, then neither will the resurrection of Christ.

Remember who Jesus was talking to here. He was talking to the Pharisees, who, despite their religiosity had singularly failed to be transformed by the words of God in the Bible. Their hearts were hard. They were selfish and looked out only for themselves. They loved money. And I suspect that, as Abraham predicted, they were not convinced of the need for repentance even after the death and resurrection of Jesus.

So what does this all mean for us today?

There’s lots for us to think about.

Where is my heart today? Am I self-centred or self-less? Do I show mercy to those in need of mercy, just as one day I too will be in need of mercy when I face Jesus on the day of my judgement?

What about scripture? Am I convinced by the power of God’s word? Do I place my trust in what I read? Do I read and reflect on it? Do I allow it to change my life? Do I allow it to flow from my heart to my mind, transforming me in the process, making me more Christ-like?

What about the resurrection? Do I believe that Jesus Christ died on Good Friday, then rose again three days later on Easter Sunday? Do I place my trust in him?

And that brings us back to the question that I posed at the beginning.

How convinced are you by the Gospel?

Does it shape your life, mould your character, define your personality?

Are you able to say, as Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile?”

The Lord’s Prayer

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”


He said to them, “When you pray, say:


“‘Father,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins,
    for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”


Then Jesus said to them, “Suppose you have a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread; a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have no food to offer him.’ And suppose the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children and I are in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’I tell you, even though he will not get up and give you the bread because of friendship, yet because of your shameless audacity he will surely get up and give you as much as you need.


“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.


11 “Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

Luke 11:1-13

What follows is the text of a sermon I preached on 28th July 2019 at Manningtree Methodist Church, Essex. Scroll to the bottom for an audio recording.

How’s your prayer life? Do you find praying easy? Or maybe like me you know that praying is something that you should do, that you try your utmost to do, but actually find really difficult.

I don’t stand here today as someone who finds prayer easy. Probably like some of you, I find prayer really difficult. I’m fine with reading the Bible; I enjoy getting to grips with scripture. But you know what, I find prayer really hard. Committing to do it regularly is hard enough. Knowing what to say, and how to say it is another thing. I really struggle.

It’s encouraging to find the disciples in a similar position to the one in which I find myself. At the beginning of this passage, Jesus is praying, and his disciples ask him to teach them to pray. No doubt they had witnessed Jesus praying on many occasions and wanted to be able to follow his example. Perhaps they’d seen how prayer at the end of a long, busy, stressful day reinvigorated Jesus and wanted the same for themselves.

So what does Jesus teach them?

Today I plan to focus just on verses 2 to 5, which is what we know as the Lord’s Prayer – a slightly abridged version compared to the one that we usually recite, but the Lord’s Prayer nevertheless. I’d like to look at three points when considering this prayer:

One – to whom do we pray?

Two – we pray for God’s glory.

Three – we pray that God will meet our needs.

So to our first point – to whom do we pray?

Jesus tells his disciples to pray to God as Father.

This is something that we often take for granted, and indeed, we may often begin our own prayers with ‘Father’.

But just think about that for a minute. This is truly astonishing. Jesus tells us to address God as our father. The word he uses is Abba, which is how a small child might address their father, closer to daddy than any other name.

We have an almighty God, who created the earth and the heavens, king of kings and lord of lords, and yet we have the privilege of calling him father.

What a privilege that is.

One of Jesus’ disciples, John, who no doubt was present when Jesus was teaching his disciples how to pray, later wrote, “see what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” That’s John’s first letter, chapter three, verse one.

That, of course, is the same relationship that Jesus has with God – they are father and child. And we too are children of God.

With this in mind, there should of course be implications for how we pray.

When we pray, we should do so as a child speaks to their father. We shouldn’t be concerned about using the right language, or saying the right words. We should simply share what is on our minds, tell him what we are thinking about, tell him what is on our hearts.

Perhaps sometimes, maybe in group situations, we feel nervous about praying out loud, because everyone else just seems so eloquent. Well eloquence counts for naught.

If you have the gift of eloquence, good for you, but that is not what God wants. God wants to know what is on your heart.

My son, Daniel, is starting primary school in September. This year he has been attending a brilliant pre-school in our village. The pre-school uses a great little phone app called Tapestry. Each day they put a couple of photos of Daniel onto the app with some explanation of what Daniel has done on that particular day. Each evening when I get home from work, I ask Daniel, what did you do today? His stock answer is, “look on Tapestry.” Of course, I had already looked on the app. I already knew what Daniel had done that day, but as his Father, I wanted him to tell me himself, to tell me what he had done, what he had learnt, how it had made him feel.

The same is true for God. God is omniscient. He knows what we’ve done, he knows what is on our hearts, but as a loving Father, he wants us to approach him and talk to him in our own language, as his children, and to make conversation with him.

William Mason, the poet, clergyman and divine, once wrote, “prayers move God, not as an orator moves his hearers, but as the cry of a beloved child moves an affectionate father.”

I can tell you, I don’t think I find anything more gut wrenching than hearing the cry of one or other of my children. If Mason is right, and I see no reason why he wouldn’t be, then every time we pray to God, he is profoundly moved. What a truly remarkable thought.

So it is that Jesus tells us to call God Father when we pray.

So our second point – we pray for God’s glory.

Father, Jesus tells us to pray, hallowed by your name, your kingdom come.

There are, of course, two versions of the Lord’s Prayer commonly in use in this country, the traditional version, which is heavy on thous and thines, and the modern version, which uses yous, and updates trespasses for sins. What I find a little strange about the modern version is how it updates, “hallowed be thy name,” to “hallowed be Your name.”

Maybe it’s just me, but it strikes me that the difficult word in the traditional version of this prayer is not “thy” but hallowed.

What on earth does this mean?

I wonder how many people recite this prayer on a regular basis, but simply have no idea what the word hallowed actually means? It means to be set apart as sacred, consecrated or holy.

So when we pray, “hallowed be your name,” we are affirming that God’s name is holy.

When Moses encountered God at the burning bush, he says to God, “suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” In reply God said, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.”

This name is regarded as so holy that it is not generally used. Indeed, throughout the English Old Testament, the name is shown as the word Lord all in capitals. The literal name of God is holy.

But it goes far beyond that. In Biblical terms, as elsewhere, the word name is often used to refer to a person’s reputation. That’s what Jesus is getting at here; it’s not just God’s name that is holy. God is holy. God therefore is to be set apart as sacred, consecrated or holy, because that’s exactly what he is. And we almost create a loop at this point because, since God is sacred, consecrated or holy, it makes sense that his name should be too.

So when we pray hallowed be your name, we’re not just affirming that God’s name is holy, we’re affirming that God himself is holy. But we’re not just making an affirmation. We’re praying that we would hallow God’s name, that we would treat him with the reverence that he deserves. He may be our father, we may be encouraged to approach him as a child approaches their father, but we must also be aware that we must hallow God and his name. We must be respectful of him. We must speak with reverence of him to each other and to our friends, and ensure that we respect his holiness.

We also pray that God is regarded as holy in the wider world. We’re told that there will come a time when at the name of Jesus every knee should bow. That’s Philippians 2:10. But at present we live at a time when God’s name is ridiculed every day. People take his name in vain. People mock him. People refer to him as “the man upstairs.” Or, the one that really gets my goat, people call him “the sky fairy.” Could there me a more derogatory name, a less-hallowed name, than the sky fairy?

Of course, why would people who deny the existence of God hallow his name? Well this feeds into the next statement in the Lord’s Prayer, your kingdom come.

When we pray this, we’re asking for God’s rule to spread across the globe. We’re praying that people will come to know him, to trust him and to accept Jesus as the lord of their lives. We’re praying that people would come to hallow God’s name.

Ultimately God’s kingdom will come when Jesus returns to rule over the earth, to make it new again, to launch a time when there will be no sickness or death.

But throughout the gospels, Jesus makes it clear that God’s kingdom is already here, and we have a part to play in building it. It is up to us to live lives that honour and glorify Christ, and that point others towards him. It is up to us not just to sit in church on a Sunday and listen to the gospel, but to take that gospel message out into our communities, to tell our friends and neighbours that there is a God who loves them.

So when we pray to God your kingdom come, we’re praying not just the Jesus will return, but that God’s kingdom will increase and grow in the here and now, in our own towns, around the country, and across the globe.

And as is often the case, we may well be the answer to our own prayer. We have a significant role to play in furthering that kingdom.

On to our third point – we pray that God will meet our needs.

In verses three and four of this short passage, Jesus teaches his disciples to pray for three areas of their personal need. He tells them to pray that God will give them each day their daily bread, that he will forgive their sins, and that he will not lead them into temptation. Since these are the three specific areas of our lives that Jesus tells us to pray, they must all be important.

Firstly, then, give us each day our daily bread.

Our prayer here is that we trust completely in God to supply us with all that we need to survive. It can be difficult for us to grasp this as a concept. Most people are paid monthly, some weekly. When we need food we visit our local supermarket. In the UK we have such an advanced distribution system that if there is ever a shortage of one particular foodstuff, it can generally be sourced fairly quickly from elsewhere.

The disciples, though, would have been used to living hand to mouth. Many were fishermen, and if they had a day with no catch, they would have found life difficult. If a week went by with few fish being caught, life would have been extremely difficult.

Jesus told his disciples though, and through them, us, to trust that God will meet our needs day to day. We should place our trust in him to provide us with all that we need to live.

Of course, by asking God each day to meet our days on that particular day, we are able to develop a stronger relationship with God our Heavenly Father. That process of coming before him each day, asking that he will meet our needs on that particular day, means that every day we will find ourselves in conversation with him. By doing so, God also meets our spiritual needs.

Building a relationship with God should be something that we do day by day. Jesus tells us to ask God to provide our daily bread each day. There’s no spiritual equivalent of a deep freeze in which we can stash a week, a month or even a year’s supply of bread. It’s not possible to stockpile in our relationship with God.

I used to have a really close relationship with my Gran. I wouldn’t say that I saw her every day, but I did see her very often. I also had a great aunt, who I’m sure was just as lovely as my gran. We used to visit her once or twice a year. I didn’t really look forward to these visits; I didn’t really know my great aunt, and struggled to make conversation with her.

If our relationship with God is like my relationship with my great aunt, then prayer will be difficult. We won’t really know him and will struggle to speak to him.

If our relationship with God is more like the relationship I had with my gran, though, it prayer be significantly easier, because we have worked to build a relationship in which we know each other.

That easier relationship comes through spending time with each other though.

That’s why Jesus encourages us to meet with God day by day to ask him to meet our needs each day.

The second need that Jesus encourages us to pray for is our need for forgiveness. He tells us to pray, “forgive us our sins, as we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”

We must place our trust in God to meet not just our physical needs, but also our spiritual needs.

We are all sinners. We are all lost. Each and every day we do things that dishonour God, that displease him, that damage our relationship with him. Left to our own devices we are totally lost in sinfulness. There is nothing that we can do for ourselves to change this situation. Many think that provided they live a good life, they will be rewarded by a place in heaven. Many believe themselves to be fundamentally good people, and ask how God could possibly choose to punish them.

But of course, these people have a distorted view of the Christian gospel. We can’t earn our salvation by doing good deeds. We can’t earn our salvation by going to church, whether that’s just at Christmas and Easter, or every single Sunday.

There is only one way of being sure of our salvation, and that is by placing our trust in Jesus Christ, acknowledging that he died for our sins and rose to eternal life.

Jesus shows us through this prayer that it is good to acknowledge our sinfulness, and to place ourselves before God each day and ask for his forgiveness.

In our reading from the Old Testament, Psalm 32, we saw what happened to David when he failed to acknowledge his sins. He says that when he kept silent about his sin, his bones wasted away, his strength was sapped. But when he acknowledged his sin to God, when he didn’t attempt to hide his wrongdoing, he felt his burden lifted.

I wonder if there’s sin in your life which you have tried to keep hidden? I wonder if there’s some wrongdoing which you have failed to bring before the Lord? Do you feel that burden resting heavy on your soul, sapping your strength?

Take it to the Lord. Do not hide from him. Be open about your sin and ask him for forgiveness. You will no doubt feel your burden lifted, just as David felt his lifted.

There’s a second element to this section of the prayer, though. Jesus tells us to pray, “forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.”

In order to understand God’s forgiveness, we have to also forgive those who have wronged us.

It sounds so easy when we blithely recite the Lord’s Prayer. But for many, this is far from easy. I’m sure that most of us have felt incredibly wronged at one point or other in our lives. Maybe we’ve been the victims of crime, or impacted by criminal activity. Maybe we feel as if we’ve been deeply betrayed by those whom we loved, who we felt close to.

It can be incredibly hard to forgive in circumstances when we have felt deeply wronged.

But we are to forgive people who have wronged us, no matter how hard it is.

If we fail to forgive, resentment can fester inside us, resentment that fails to honour God, and can place a burden between us and him.

Forgiveness doesn’t come easy to us. But neither does it come easy to God.

God has watched generation upon generation of people turn their backs on him, reject him, and disobey him. He could have allowed resentment to build up within himself, turning his back on us. But he didn’t. Throughout history he has desperately wanted humanity to turn back to him. In order to make this possible, he sent his son, Jesus, to take our punishment and die in our place. He watched as his one beloved son was nailed to the cross, subjected to extreme torture, and a painful death, precisely to ensure that we might be forgiven.

Our forgiveness came at great cost. Maybe our forgiveness of others comes at a great cost to us too. But we are called to forgive.

Perhaps doing so gives us a better understanding of our forgiveness by God.

I am certain that by forgiving others, we also act as conduits for God’s love. By forgiving we are playing a part in bringing about God’s kingdom.

If there’s someone you have been struggling to forgive, why not endeavour to forgive them in the week ahead, maybe to have a conversation with them.

Don’t allow resentment to fester in your soul, but forgive, just as God has forgiven us.

What about that final petition? Lead us not into temptation.

When we pray this we’re asking for God to keep us on the straight and narrow, to keep us on the path that he has ordained for our lives. Temptation will inevitably come. It is all around us. Indeed, even Jesus himself was tempted in the desert. But we pray that God will strengthen us so that we will follow Jesus’ example, and not succumb to temptation. We are dependent on him to guide us through our lives, to keep us from straying, and we pray that he will equip us to lead the life that will bring maximum glory to his name, that will bring his kingdom about right here, and right now.

Jesus gives us a powerful example of how to pray in these few verses. We should pray to God as our father, speaking to him as a child speaks to their dad. Our first priority should be to proclaim God’s holiness, and to pray that his rule will impact the world. And we should make ourselves dependent on him, trusting in him to meet our daily needs, to meet our spiritual needs, and to support us as we strive to live the life he has marked out for us.

Why not try in the days and weeks ahead to work on your prayer life, to see prayer not as a religious duty but as an essential part of a loving relationship?

We don’t want this man to be our king

“But his subjects hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, ‘We don’t want this man to be our king.’”

Luke 19:14

I don’t know if you heard, but former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher died last week. Thatcher has been described as a ‘Marmite’ politician; people seem to either love her or hate her, there seems to be no middle ground. Whatever you think of her, she certainly changed life in Britain. She was one of those leaders who seemed determined to make as much of her job as she possibly could, and exceeded people’s expectations. There have been plenty of other political leaders around the world of whom people have had high hopes and expectations, but who when it came down to it did not achieve a great deal, and left their supporters feeling rather let down.

In today’s full reading we come to a very interesting – and quite difficult – parable told by Jesus. He talks about “a man of noble birth” who “went away to have himself appointed king.” He entrusted his servants with a great fortune whilst he was away. No sooner had he left, however, than his subjects, who hated him, sent a delegation after him to say that they didn’t want the man to become king. The “man of noble birth” of course represents Jesus, and through this parable he is trying to explain to his disciples what will happen to him. Jesus would go away to join his father in heaven, and to sit at his right hand, but would return to judge his servants. Just as the man in the parable was hated by his subjects, Jesus too was hated, so much so that he was sent to the cross. Indeed, he still is hated by those who choose to not to make him the lord of their lives and reject him every day. We find ourselves surrounded by people who declare, consciously or unconsciously, “we don’t want this man to be our king.”

Let’s pray today, as we think of those who have turned their backs on Christ, for all those known to us who have rejected Jesus as their king. And let’s try to be devoted servants of Jesus ourselves as we seek to make the best of all that he has given us.

He followed Jesus, praising God

Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God.

Luke 18:43

Sometimes it’s the little things that make a difference. The other Saturday morning I was sitting at my desk doing some work whilst Claire, my wife, popped out to the little Tesco Express down the road to buy something for lunch. She returned not just with lunch, but also with a bag of sweets for me. A small gesture, and one that did not cost a great deal of money, but very thoughtful of her, and it made working a little more pleasant. I’m pleased to say that on that occasion I was very grateful and thanked Claire very much. I’m ashamed to say, however, that there are plenty of times when I don’t respond appropriately to things that people do for me, sometimes because I’m busy, sometimes because I’m distracted, sometimes because I mean to but never get round to it. This is incredibly bad on my part.

In our reading today we meet a blind beggar who is given his sight by Jesus. He has complete faith that Jesus can make him see, and his faith is rewarded. He is so overcome by what Jesus has done for him that he follows him, praising God. The miracle and the blind man’s response to it lead to other people praising God too. There are no fewer than three important points here, I believe. Firstly, I wonder if we stop to show our gratitude to Jesus for all the things he has done, and continues to do, for us? Secondly, I wonder if we praise God sufficiently on recognition that all the great things we have (including the gift of sight) all come from him? And fourthly, are we aware that when we praise God this can have an enormous impact on those around us, and might lead them also to praise God?

Let’s make a point today of being thankful, giving thanks to God for his goodness, but also remembering to show our gratitude to the people who show us kindness. Let’s try to praise God throughout our day. And let’s make a point of displaying our love of God to those around us.

Sell everything you have

When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Luke 18:22

When I walked past the National Theatre today there was a full-scale fire evacuation taking place. Hundreds of people thronged the South Bank, evacuated from the building. None of them looking particularly distraught at the idea of the UK’s premier theatre being razed to the ground! Of course, it wasn’t. Having checked the BBC News website and found nothing about a catastrophe next to the Thames, I assume it was just a false alarm. It did get me thinking what I would save from my flat if a fire broke out, however. It was quite difficult to think of anything, really, but I decided I would probably attempt to lug my wife’s harp out, since it is probably the most expensive thing we have!

In today’s reading, Jesus challenges a ‘certain ruler’ about what it is that he values. The ruler has asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus replies that he must keep the commandments, to which the ruler replies he has done so. Jesus then tells him that he still lacks one thing. To get this ‘thing’ he needs to sell everything he has, give the money, and then follow him. The ruler was totally dejected when he heard this, since he was very wealthy. Clearly the thing that he valued most was his cash. Jesus could see into this man’s heart, and knew that whilst he claimed to keep the commandments, his life had not been transformed by the Gospel. When it came down to it, he would rather live a life of luxury rather than place his trust in God.

This is challenging stuff indeed. I wonder if there is anything in our lives that is holding us back from following Christ, anything that prevents our lives being totally transformed and devoted to honouring God? Perhaps like the rich ruler it is money. Could we give away everything that we have if we were asked to? Maybe its friends or family who don’t know Christ who would make our lives difficult if we acknowledged our beliefs? Maybe its our jobs, or a hobby, or the things we say and do. Let’s pray today that our lives will be totally focused on serving Christ, and that God will help us to remove anything from our lives that prevents us from genuinely following him.