READ : 1 Timothy 2:1-4
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:1-4 nrsv)
A few years ago I attended a convention in Washington D.C. at which the president of the United States gave an address. It was an exciting occasion: heavy security, a buildup of suspense, then the strains of “Hail to the Chief.” The president held forth, interrupted a number of times by riotous applause. Regardless of our political views, all of us there were impressed. We had just heard a message from our national leader.
After the president had left, a preacher from California was introduced. As you might expect, he made some whimsical remarks about what it was like to follow a speech by the president. But then he began to speak in earnest. He had no reticence, he said, about bringing his message, no apologies for what he was about to say. You see, he had a message from the King of Kings, the Sovereign Lord of all that is. He appealed for our careful attention, not because of himself as an important personage, but because he spoke the Word of God.
Every herald of the gospel can resonate with that. I surely can. I don’t ask or expect you to heed what I say today because of who I am. Even if I were internationally famous, superbly eloquent, and of sterling character, that would lend no additional weight to what I’m about to share. What I’m going to communicate in these next few moments may well be the most significant news you have ever heard. But that won’t be because of anything about me as the speaker, nor will it be because a majority of experts happen to agree that it is so. This has so much weight and so much personal relevance for you because it’s a word from the Creator of this universe, and your Creator. And it has to do with how God feels about you.
Here it is in a nutshell: God wants the best for you. Listen to some words from the Bible that lead me to say that with full confidence. They come from Paul’s first letter to Timothy in the New Testament, Chapter 2, beginning at verse 1:
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone, for kings and all who are in high positions, so that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and dignity. This is right and is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
HE WANTS YOU TO BE SAVED
Did you hear that? God desires everyone to be saved. Let me personalize that for a moment. God desires that Bill Brownson (that’s my name) be saved. God desires you, whatever your name is, to be saved. You can say it and celebrate it right now, whoever, wherever, whatever kind of person you are: “God desires me to be saved.”
Now realize what it is you’re saying. We were talking the other day about what salvation means in the Bible. It means to be delivered out of danger and distress. God wants that for you. He wants to free you from the things that really imperil your life. And from His perspective, the most deadly danger of all for us is sin. He wants to save you from the guilt, the bondage, the defilement of your sin. Yes, He wants to see you forgiven, set free.
But there’s a positive side too. He wants to see you restored. He created you in His likeness, to know Him and live in fellowship with Him, but that image has been marred and distorted by your disobedience, by your wandering away from Him. That’s what has happened for me, too, and everyone else in this world. God wants to see us recover our lost fullness, to be brought back into fellowship with Him again, to become the persons we are meant to be. All that is involved in your and my being saved.
In the light of that, wouldn’t you say it’s true that God wants the best for you? What could be better than to be rescued from the things that can harm us most and to be recreated for an abundant life? What could compare with being welcomed as beloved children of our heavenly Father and having a place forever in His house and His heart? Oh, God really does want the best for you and me.
HARD TO BELIEVE?
Perhaps you find that hard to believe. Maybe you’re of a scientific bent. You’re impressed by the vastness of the universe. You know that the sun around which the planets revolve is thousands of times bigger than the earth. And you know that the sun is only one of perhaps a hundred billion stars in this galaxy. And you know that this galaxy is one among billions of others. You know that the distances that separate these stars from each other are truly colossal. And you ask me, “You mean to say that this speck of dust we call earth is important to the One who made all that? And that He cares about tiny earthlings, creatures of a day, in the midst of a cosmos said to be fifteen to twenty billion years old?”
Maybe you have trouble with this idea of God wanting the best for you for a different reason. You know too much about what happens in this world. You’ve seen the horrors of human history. Your own life, perhaps, has been shattered by pain. So much suffering, so much sorrow, so many meaningless tragedies. “You say God wants the best for us all, huh? Then why does He let so many people be ravaged and ruined? Why the famines, the earthquakes, the fires, the floods? God has a funny way of showing that He cares about us so much!” There has been heartbreak in your own family perhaps, agony in your own life that makes believing very difficult.
I don’t want for a moment to make light of all that. I’ve known what it is to feel tiny under a wind-swept sky full of stars. And I’ve known about family sorrow and bitter disappointment too. I reel, just as you do, at the spectacle of the evil in the world and how badly people get hurt. Why do I believe that God wants the best for us? Because He’s said so in His faithful Word. That’s a big part of it.
But He said it with more than words. He said it most poignantly and powerfully in the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. God so loved the world, God so loved you and me, that He gave His only begotten, His well- beloved Son. He gave Him to be born among us and share our life. He gave Him to live out a real human obedience in the arena where we have failed. He gave Him to take upon His own heart our sins and sorrows and finally to die in our place so that we could have true life. And then to assure us that the sin question had been settled and death defeated, God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day and exalted Him to the throne of the universe. Yes, at heart it’s because of Jesus Christ crucified and risen for us that I say to you with deep assurance today, God wants the best for you. God wants you to be saved.
That’s what the Bible is seeking to say all the way through. That’s what the church exists to proclaim. That’s what preachers like me are called to announce. God loves you. Christ died for you. Believe that and rejoice.
Here’s another indication. God through His apostles urges Christians that supplications, prayers, intercessions and thanksgivings be made for everyone. That’s a sign that God wants the best for you. He urges His people to pray for you. He wants them to be concerned for your welfare, to long for your salvation, and to bring those yearnings for your good into the presence of God in grateful prayer. And do you know there are people all across the world at this very moment who are doing that? They’re praying. They’re pleading with God for others to become Christians, for others to experience salvation. Perhaps someone right now is praying for you by name.
Believers are urged to pray for kings and for all who are in high positions. They’re not only to care about them as persons, to pray that they individually may know salvation. They are to pray also that God will so work in their hearts and so direct their ways that these people in authority will make for a just, orderly, and peaceable world. And the goal of that is that people everywhere will realize their human dignity and live their lives in the fear of the Lord.
But it’s not only kings and presidents and prime ministers that are important to God. Prayer is to be focused on them because their influence has much to do with the genuine happiness of their citizens, and God cares about the least and most unnoticed of these. He wants the best even for those despised by others, the refugees and rejects of our society. Wherever you are on the social ladder, in whatever group you see yourself as belonging, God wants the best for you.
A PRACTICAL PROVISION
Here is one more sign: God desires everyone to be saved and “to come to the knowledge of the truth.” That, according to the united witness of the biblical writers, is how people are saved. Someone brings the good news of salvation to their attention. Perhaps someone translates the Bible into their language and puts a copy of the Scriptures in their hands. Someone preaches to them in a church service or a Bible study or over a back fence. They hear the Christian message perhaps by radio, or on television, by a cassette tape, or on a movie screen. They need to believe the Good News to be saved by it. And in order to believe they need to hear. Paul says it just like that: “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the message of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).
Have you ever thought of why there are so many congregations of Christians in the world, so many mission agencies, so many efforts large and small to communicate the Christian gospel? The reason behind all the other reasons is this: God wants the best for you. God wants you to be saved. And He’s called into existence all these bodies of believers, all these gospel ministries, to bear witness to His grace, to His loving intention. The very existence of a congregation of Christians in your area, of a Bible within your reach, of someone who endeavors to tell you the Good News, is a sign of God’s persistent love for you. He wants you, oh, believe that, to come to the knowledge of His way. He wants you to know the truth that can make you genuinely free.
And I’m not talking generalities now. I’m saying to you that this program to which you are listening right now is a sign, nothing spectacular, nothing grandiose, but a real sign of how much God cares about you and how much He wants to communicate to you the wonderful fact of His saving love. I hope you can take it in today that God does want the best for you, that He wants for you to be saved.
“But aren’t there a lot of mysteries about this?” someone objects. “You make it all sound so simple. What about predestination and election? Doesn’t God plan to save some and not others? What about God’s sovereignty? Doesn’t everything depend on Him? What good is hearing all this if it turns out that I’m not one of the chosen anyway?” Let me say to you there are indeed mysteries here. Salvation is of the Lord, of His almighty power and grace. And it springs from a purpose far beyond our power to fathom. Thank God we aren’t required to figure it all out! God hasn’t said, “Understand fore-ordination and you will be saved.” He hasn’t said, “Figure out if you’re among the chosen and you will have eternal life.” He’s made it very simple for us. He’s given us His Son, Jesus, to be our Savior and our life. He said to us, “There, look at Him and see how great is the measure of God’s love . . . There, trust Him as the One who died for you and rose again. There, receive from Him the gift of forgiveness and a new life.” He’s saying to all of us: Turn to Christ from all your sins and wanderings and yield up your life to His lordship, and then you will know in your experience of life, you will prove, as it were, for the rest of your days and for all the ages to come how true it really is – God wants the best for you.
Prayer: Father, let this marvelous reality dawn upon the minds and hearts of all who share this message, that each may know himself or herself loved by You, that You want the best for them, and that trusting Jesus Christ, they may enter into fullness of life. In the name of Christ we pray. Amen.