Psalm 142:7 ” Set me free from my prison, that I may praise Your Name.”

In this Psalm we find David hold up in a cave after fleeing for his life from Saul. The prison he writes about here isn’t just the dark, dank hiding place he’s in, but the prison of his soul caused by stress, anxiety, exhaustion, & hopelessness. And so he cries out to God to set him free from his emotional suffering… in order that he might regain God’s vision & standpoint. God is our refuge when we find ourselves in that emotional prison…for anxiety & fear cannot stop death…they only stop life, and worrying & stressing will never take away tomorrow’s trouble…they only take away today’s peace. God is the only One that can set us free from our emotional prison.

John 9:6 ” He spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes.”

Obviously, Jesus didn’t need to resort to a physical prop in order to heal this man. For instance, in Matthew 15:28 and Luke 17:12-14, Jesus simply spoke healing into the person. But nor was this occurrence of spreading saliva laced mud on someone unique to just this particular man…Jesus healed the deaf & mute man in Mark 7:33 and the blind man in Mark 8:23 in a similar manner. So why did Jesus choose to heal this way? One idea is that in the day both Roman writers & Jewish Rabbis considered saliva to hold “healing properties”…and so Jesus may have used it to communicate His intention to heal the man’s blindness before He actually did it. The other consideration of why Jesus healed this way comes from Genesis 2:7 which says that the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground & breathed life into him…thus Jesus was paralleling His Heavenly Father’s original creation of man. Whatever the reason, Jesus anointed the blind man’s eyes with mud & his sight, both physical & spiritual, were made new.

John 9:1-3 ” As He went along, He saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ Jesus said, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’ “

When the disciples questioned Jesus, they were falling back on their Hebrew studies and the only two possible reasons that this man had been born blind. The first came from the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:5) which said that God would judge sin to the 3rd or 4th generation, (which usually represented the longest span within any given household living under one roof together.) The other was the old familiar proverb, “The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?” (Which was the Jewish exiles way of blaming the previous generation’s sins for all their current problems.) But Jesus instead offers a 3rd and extraordinary option…that this man had been born with a congenital defect in order that God’s glory might be shown through him that very day…a miraculous healing that no one who knew him could ever deny.

II Corinthians 1:3-4 ” The God of all comfort, Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

All consolation & encouragement in the world has its origin in God. And God’s sovereign purpose of this is that in our times of trouble, He comforts us, so that the compassion & mercy we’ve experienced in Him we can in turn console & encourage others in their times of trouble. In other words, we take what we’ve encountered & exhibit it to those who need it most.

Psalm 94:19 “When anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul.”

The bottom line is…anxiety accomplishes nothing. It won’t stop what’s going to happen tomorrow, it only empties the joy out of today. Jesus warns us in Luke 12: 22-34 to worry about only one thing…our relationship with Him. But still we stress over temporal things. Yet the Lord KNOWS our circumstances even better than we do. But the real danger to us lies in our anxiety becoming the primary concern of our life…and thus directly opposing our relationship with Him (and what He warned us about.) Anxious thoughts do us no good…but God’s Words can console & comfort our soul… or as Jesus said in Luke 12, “Don’t worry, I will take care of you, just as I care for the birds of the air & the flowers of the field, I will take care of you.”

Philippians 3:12 ” But I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”

We should always be striving towards the goal set before us, or as Paul exhorted the young pastor Timothy, “Fight the good fight of faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” (I Timothy 6:12) Here Paul was invoking the imagery of the Panhellenic Games (The Ancient Greek Olympic Games) with the prize being Salvation in its fullness as we await our glorification when our Lord removes the presence of sin permanently. Meanwhile, we are to persevere…firmly grasping our call and the plan & purpose God has laid out for us.

Proverbs 12:25 ” An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.”

Anxiety…even the ancient writers recognized the link between mental & physical health. For in Proverbs 15:13 says, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” That’s because when we are chronically fearful, worried, & stressed, our bodies react with symptoms such as difficultly concentrating, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, stomach & G.I. problems, headaches, insomnia, & panic attacks. Unfortunately, for many of us, (myself included) anxiety has been part of our lives for years…and having someone come up, pat our hand, and say, “Just don’t worry honey!” doesn’t help much . That’s because the Ministry of Encouragement needs concrete substance using the Word of God to effectively care one for another. Words like, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Philippians 4:6) Or Jesus’ discourse on worrying in Matthew 6:25-34 where He shows that our uncertainty & distrust reveals faltering faith in God’s ability to take care of our physical needs. Both Scriptures illustrate how anxiety is incompatible with trust in God…and in both, the antidote is the same…prayer & supplication. The practice of prayer provides an outlet for our built up anxiety…our focus shifting off ourselves to the One Who’s in control & can change things. And in the end, “The peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

Romans 1:15-17 ” That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are at Rome. I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…”

Telling people about the Good News of the Kingdom of God and the precious gift of salvation through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection should be constantly on our minds. We should be, as Paul writes, eager to share with anyone we come in contact with the way to eternal life. So why do we freeze up & stumble about…not wanting to offend anyone with this wonderful news? In Psalm 40:9-10 David boldly proclaims that he will declare righteousness to the assembly & will not hide it nor conceal God’s love & truth to them. Just think about it, anytime we stop short of testifying about our Lord…we are doing that person a huge disservice & possibly even denying them the opportunity to make a decision for Christ. Jesus addressed the graveness of these mis-actions in Mark 8:38 when He warned, ” If anyone is ashamed of Me and My Words…I will be ashamed of him.”

John 8:58 ” ‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ “

No wonder the Jews tried to stone Jesus for blasphemy after He made this incredible statement. It clearly referenced Jesus to being eternally preexistent, or in other words, “I have always been!” But the crowd was incapable of comprehending that this man Jesus standing before them could have possibly been there at the beginning of time. But in Revelation 1:8 we read, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come, the Almighty.” By using the first & last letter of the Greek alphabet here, John illustrates that the Lord God is both Creator (Alpha) & the One Who will usher in the new heaven & new earth. (Omega) So when Jesus declared this, He was simply stating that He is the Lord of all…past, present, & future.

Mark 10:32 “They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid.”

Jesus was purposefully walking towards Jerusalem…”His face set like a flint.” Isaiah 50:7 tells us…and His disciples were stunned, shocked, & stupefied. Didn’t Jesus realize how determined the Jewish leaders were to kill Him? And now here He was leading them back into the city and a likely ambush? No wonder they were terrified & fearful. Even though the Lord had explained what was to happen…the disciples couldn’t comprehend it, let alone put all the pieces of the puzzle together to get the big picture. All they could do was follow Him. Many times in our life we’ll find our self in the same place…nothing makes sense…we’re frightened out of of mind…and all we can physically muster is to slowly plod behind Him as Jesus leads the way.

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