Monday, July 09, 2007

The Importance of Being Earnest

I'm not going to write about Oscar Wilde, plays or anything of the sort. Rather, I have been inspired by my recent Bible reading and preaching. Last night, I was preaching in Dromore Cathedral on 1 Peter 1:13-25, on the new life in Christ. The particular verse that struck me was 22: 'Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart.'

Peter calls for loving one another earnestly. Earnestly. What does it mean to love earnestly? I suggested last night that it was about loving deeply, fully. Not a cold formality, or a half-hearted feeling for those around us. It was the same word that is used of Jesus' prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, according to Luke 22:44.

So then this morning, in my Explore daily reading schedule, I was reading Matthew 9:35-38. There I encountered that word 'earnestly' again! Jesus says to his disciples, 'The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.'

Jesus identifies the great need of labourers in the field, true shepherds. The reason these shepherds were needed was because the crowds were like sheep without shepherds. So to remedy the situation, Jesus calls for earnest prayer for labourers.

When was the last time that we prayed for more labourers? As I meet people around the place, they always want to know how college is going. One of the next questions is usually, and how many students are there now? Is our interest solely in numbers (and especially the seeming decline in numbers over the past twenty years)? Are we earnest in prayer that God will raise up a new generation of gospel preachers? *

Having encountered the word 'earnestly' twice in two days, I decided to have a search for the word throughout the Bible. 1 Corinthians 12:31 tells us to 'earnestly desire the higher (spiritual) gifts'. And in another text, we find the earnest desire for God expressed: 'O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.' (Psalm 63:1)

So, in seeking God, in prayer, and in love for the family of God, are you in earnest?


* In order to facilitate the earnest prayer for more labourers, the 9:38 group seeks to train up gospel preachers for the 21st Century. Vaughan Roberts and David Jackman are on the committee, and their resources and website looks to be very interesting. They also operate an Apprenticeship training scheme similar to the MTS apprenticeship scheme which came out of Sydney and is in place in some churches in Northern Ireland.


  1. Speaking of Oscar Wilde, I'd love to know bow you would respond to this video by a Christian?

    I'm intrigued how you feel about the more extreme christians and what they are doing to your religion.

    PS, it's Michael again, still can't sign in :)

  2. Michael, thanks for your comments, and for the emerging discussions. I think the problem with the video you posted was that the guy didn't define what he meant by tolerance. It seemed to me that he took a buzz word and tried to latch onto it.