Edited SPEECH BY SENATOR THE HON. ERIC ABETZ
to the Illawarra Prayer Breakfast
Friday 25th May 2018 – Salvation Army Hall – WOLLONGONG
Brothers and sisters – God calls us to pray – pray often, pray earnestly bringing everything before Him. And what a great privilege that is for us as Christians – to lay all our concerns before the Throne of Grace. That’s why I enjoy prayer breakfasts and find them so encouraging.
To come together with a body of men and women knowing that with all our differences the one thing we share is the most important thing – despite all our faults we know our eternal destiny – is always uplifting.
It truly is a blessing to be able to unburden ourselves to the Greater Authority. To tell Him about our concerns – health of a loved one, children, work, guidance for decisions we need to make [insert your issue of the day].
Prayer is the greatest stress reliever and worry killer available.
Prayer is a wonderful act of acknowledging our vulnerability, our weakness; of acknowledging that God is ultimately in control in circumstances where we are often at a loss to understand.
It’s an acknowledgement as the Psalmist says – if the Almighty doesn’t bless our endeavours we labour in vain.
So it is right and proper we should seek God’s blessing upon our labours, medical treatments, job applications, travels – again, insert activity of your choice.
Let’s remember the promise in the Good Book in the KJV which so forcefully and poignantly reminds us “The prayer of a righteous man availeth much”.
There is power in prayer.
Butseeking God’s blessing on our labours without getting out of bed, or for medical treatments without taking your tablets, or job applications without submitting your resume, is not the message of the Bible.
We are called to pray and do.
That’s why I hope today’s prayer breakfast actually becomes a prayer and do breakfast.
As Martin Luther said,
“Pray as though it all depends on God.
Work as though it all depends on you.”
What a great admonition.
“Pray as though it all depends on God.
Work as though it all depends on you.”
So, today can I ask when you pray (and I hope you do) for our nation, its leaders, its decision makers, do you think you’ve done enough?
Have you absolved yourself of further responsibility?
We may be concerned about the moral direction of our Nation, for example about the mis-named Safe Schools programme corrupting our children and pray about it every day.
But what are we doing about it? Or, more correctly ask, what am I doing about it?
Am I prepared to be an advocate for my beliefs, for my faith – amongst family, friends, work mates or the public generally.
Will I even tell my workmates in an hour’s time I was at a prayer breakfast this morning?
Will I encourage Godly men and women in public office or seeking public office by advocating for them, putting up a poster or even campaigning or letter writing? Or do I sit quietly and say a prayer and leave out any “action” or “doing”.
The life of Christ, of the apostles, of Paul, of Church leaders throughout the ages has been one of praying and doing.
So this morning I encourage you to maintain your faithfulness in prayer and take your concern for the welfare of your community, State, Nation, indeed the world to the next level by putting your knees to the ground whilst also putting your shoulder to the wheel.
And there is an urgency in the message. We need prayer sustained action. Prayer sustained doing. And if you need a local example – look no further than Warwick and Allison Marsh.
We live in a blessed country.
Our country is blessed not only by natural beauty and boundless resources. Australia is also blessed in its institutional and societal foundations.
And I believe we are so blessed today because there were many men and women who prayed for our colony’s success and then our Nation’s success as they toiled to establish a new society.
We have a rich Christian heritage. Outlined beautifully in our national treasure Professor Geoffrey Blainey’s book “A Short History of Christianity”.
The framers of our Constitution devoted themselves to prayer. They acknowledged in forming the Commonwealth of Australia that they were “humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God” in the very opening sentence of our Constitution.
We start Parliament with a prayer – acknowledging there is a greater authority than the Queen, the Governor General, the Prime Minister, the Parliament, the Party Room or the latest opinion poll.
The Party of which I’m a member has among its 17 foundational statements of principles one which commences with the words,
“We Believe that under the blessing of Divine Providence … there is no task which Australia cannot perform and no difficulty which she cannot overcome.”
Many a trade union leader of old was motivated by the gospel calling of a labourer being worthy of his hire.
Our first bank was established by Christian men.
Let’s fast forward to today – how many Christian leaders, trade union officials or bankers are there? Do we have enough men and women of faith seasoning and leavening our society? – especially in leadership roles.
Are too many leaders too anxious to please the crowd by being “politically correct” and allegedly “tolerant” rather than serving with commitment.
Today in Australia more people still go to Church than to the football of a weekend.
Do we actively tell people we were at Church on Sunday? I’m sure we talk about the footy when we go. What about Church?
Do we talk about and promote the Christian values that have made our Nation great and indeed the envy of the world?
Are we willing to defend and positively compliment people who expose themselves to attack for standing up for Gospel values or do we pretend not to hear and simply remain silent or find lame excuses like “I wouldn’t have said it like that”. ?
How many of us have failed to interpose in a conversation to defend Israel Folau?
If that’s you, or somewhat you – you are contributing to the undermining of our national well-being – not deliberately I’m sure, but nonetheless you are. And as forces seek to diminish the Christian influence and frog march God out of the public square in the double speak name of “tolerance”, we need to be emboldened and be advocates to protect our heritage for the next generations.
We need revival and renewal. Each generation needs to renew the spiritual capital of their society and we’ve not only failed to renew but we are currently eroding and spending our inherited spiritual capital, and history tells, us that never ends well.
So hence the urgency in my message. We are, for the first time in two hundred years, deciding whether the Christian gospel is allowed to be freely expressed. Ask yourself: Does that worry me? If so, what am I doing about it?
In these times I encourage you to be bold in your witness. And you don’t have to be an Israel Folau or a parliamentarian.
No matter where you are in life God has a purpose for you. Are we fulfilling that purpose to its maximum? I’m sure if we all were our society would be so much better off in public policy, in our work places and in our homes.
Two quick stories –
In a village in Holland a young pastor was introduced to his first congregation – a pastor by occupation – not by calling, it would seem.
Two women in the congregation were critical of him for this and the one said to the other she wouldn’t bother having an introductory coffee with him because he wasn’t committed.
The other lady – willing to risk getting her friend off side challenged her – “who knows God might use the meeting over the coffee to challenge the new pastor.”
Long story short, the woman accepted the challenge and was willing to risk a relationship with the young pastor by challenging him.
Yes, the pastor became a committed Christian, pastor, writer, academic, newspaper editor and Prime Minister of his country.
All 3 in completely different ways had a powerful impact on the destiny of their nation – two of them by being bold, risking friendship and putting duty before personal comfort. Are we prepared to do the same?
We need to.
We are called to do so.
Another story that inspires – is the one of the atheist professor who decided to go to Church. Given the professor’s presence the local preacher honed his sermon into intellectually rigorous treatises to convince the professor.
Finally, after a particular service the professor said to the preacher, “I’ve decided to become a Christian.”
Puffing himself up the preacher enquired “Which one of my sermons convinced you?”
“None” came the unexpected reply.
“It was the lady who quietly and unassumingly with a soft welcoming smile hands out the Bible and Hymnal each service. I want to be like her.”
The lady’s life of service was a greater and more powerful a sermon than the preacher could deliver.
Oh – that people would come to know Christ through our quiet, unassuming Christian service.
Now there is a challenge for all of us!
As you pray and walk the Christian life can I encourage you to become more active in public life – be it on the local Parents and Friends, as a union representative, as a local Councillor, as a political party member, remembering that public service, if done from a servant heart, is not only a noble and worthy activity but an opportunity to redress the current imbalance and inject the transformational Gospel message back into our culture and public life so we might in Australia continue to reap the blessings we are promised.