J.I. Packer has already stated that when people truly know God, they are not worried about their losses in life. They also do not bear their burdens like crosses, feeling their plight is unpleasant and trudging on, like loyal soldiers wearing their maladies like badges of honor. No, people who truly know God are focused on gains so much that “losses and crosses” are banished from their minds.
But are there more signs that a person knows God?
Packer says yes and one sign has to do with “energy.”
An energy that is centered around God.
That energy is concentrated around the need to pray.
Let’s look for an example of this kind of person in Scripture. The most obvious example of a devout man of God is found in Daniel. Daniel was strong and he made a public stand for his God, a public stand centered on his need for prayer. Daniel and three of his friends were carried off to Babylon following the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon. They were chosen for their attractiveness and intellect, the idea being that they would be incorporated into Babylonian culture, providing an obvious sign to Israel that the intermingling of cultures was a good thing.
Packer points to Daniel 11: 32, the Scripture that states that “people that do know their God shall be strong, and do exploits.” Certainly Daniel and his friends knew the strength of God in the midst of an ungodly environment. Time and time again, they stood for their God, despite Nebuchadnezzar’s effort to change them. The king wanted them to eat “palace” food but Daniel insisted on a vegetarian diet. This was a simple protest, but it made a clear statement about their devout lifestyle.
Eventually the king realized that Daniel received wisdom from God, wisdom that surpassed the court magicians and enchanters. Instead of turning to his usual people for interpretation of his dreams, the King turned to Daniel for interpretation.
Daniel began to find favor in this new environment, being appointed to a position of high authority by a succeeding king Darius. The more Daniel was asked to turn away from God, the more he made it very clear that he was not going to do that. When all the people in the kingdom were asked to suspend prayer for one month, Daniel went to an open window to pray so all could see that he was defying the king’s edict. Darius has no choice but to condemn Daniel to death and we see that God stands by Daniel in the lion’s den and the fiery furnace. He was true to his God, so God is true to him.
Many of us know of Daniel’s exploits and we admire Daniel’s courage in the face of adversity. He knew that God’s truth and honor were being challenged and he did not let this pass. He made a public stand despite his own great personal risk.
How many of us would make such a stand?
Packer is realistic. He states that few Christians are ever in such a public position as Daniel, a position where others would look at our actions and be inspired by the choices we would make, but he does not let the rest of us “off the hook.” He states that there is fruit from a true knowledge of God and that fruit is the “energy to pray for God’s cause…energy that can only find an outlet and relief of inner tension when channeled into such prayer—the more knowledge, the more energy.”
Our culture might be as ungodly as the Babylonian culture. Let’s be honest; it is more ungodly. It is obvious that instead of following God’s commandments, many in our culture have gone their own way, revealing that God is not very high on their list of priorities if on their list at all. Christians live in the midst of this culture and what do they do to change it? Do I daresay that many of us do nothing.
My Sunday school class has embarked on an extensive study of prayer and we have an extensive list of excuses not to pray. “I don’t know the words.” “I am too busy.” “The preacher does all my praying for me.” “I have a few sin burdens that keep me from feeling close enough to God to pray.” The list can go on and on. There are many many reasons why we don’t pray.
There is one reason that we must…
We know God and we have to.
Packer says “perhaps we are old, or ill or otherwise limited by our physical situation. But we can all pray about the ungodliness and apostasy which we see in everyday life around us.”
Even though most of us won’t want to read the next statement, Packer indicts all of us “Christians” who just can’t find the time to pray. Maybe the truth hurts.
Maybe it should.
He says “If however, there is in us little energy for such prayer, and little consequent practice of it, this is a sure sign that as yet we scarcely know our God.”
“A sure sign that … we scarcely know our God.”