All of us have been guilty of this. We encounter someone with a urgent physical need…we can’t help but see it and understand the gravity. But what do we do? We walk away, but not before sanctimoniously announcing, “I’ll pray for you.” I can almost see Jesus shaking His head in disappointment. We have blown a chance to show His love through our good deeds. For our faith manifests itself in these good works…demonstrating to the person we’re helping in very tangible ways that God loves them. We are called to be the hands and feet of Jesus…and by our actions His caring is shown to others.
There were many times throughout the Gospels Jesus repeated these words, “Follow Me.” At times it was to call specific people such as Peter and Andrew, or Phillip and Matthew. There were other times, when people approached Him, announcing they were going to “follow Him”,…some with good intentions, some not so much. And then there was the crowds that only occasionally followed Him…but they were most times merely looking for dinner and a show. So what does it really mean to “Follow Me.” It starts with what is called believing trust…I believe that Jesus died for my sins and thus I will trust in Him. And as I trust in Him, I grow more and more like in Him everyday, following His example as how I should live. Finally, “Follow Me” grows into a life-long relationship with Jesus…a fellowship of faith and life… filled with love, peace, and hope.
Our journey with the Lord is not a one and done event. Ours is not to be a stagnant life once we say “Yes!” to Jesus Christ. No, our Christian walk is suppose to be a always advancing, ever increasing effort to become more Christ-like. This progressive sanctification is simply growing in the knowledge of God, (Ephesians 3:17) and applying the truths of the Gospel into our everyday life. And as we continue to live in Him, He is faithful to continue to fill us…for our walk with God will never be fully realized until that day we walk through those Heavenly gates.
Peter sent the mourners and doubters out of the room much like Jesus did when He brought the dead little girl back to life in Matthew 9:25. Both didn’t allow negativity and unbelief to remain in the room. Nor did either permit skepticism and scoffing to change their confidence in what God could do. So what can we take from this when praying for someone seriously ill? First is to get rid of all distractions and those who can’t believe for a miracle. Instead, gather around those who have faith for a healing, (remember, it can be as small as a mustard seed). Next speak life and not death into the person and ask God to heal them. Finally, continue to speak life into the person and watch God work.
This story about the boy and the evil spirit was important enough to be in three of the four New Testament accounts by the disciples. Matthew, Mark and Luke all give slightly different takes on this event, but the main thought rang true throughout all three…the disciples couldn’t heal the boy on their own. But instead of admitting defeat, giving up, or walking away, they came to Jesus searching for answers. In Matthew 21:21 Jesus replied to their inquiry by telling them, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt…” Doubt is being double-minded or having a divided mind. So when we doubt, we sway back and forth between faith and fear…never achieving full confidence and trust in what God can do. But just like the disciples, if we will go to Jesus admitting our shortcomings, He will speak truth in order to dispel our doubt. And if, like the boy’s father we ask Jesus to, ” Help me overcome my unbelief!” He will show us the way.
It tells us in Genesis 5:22-24 that Enoch lived for 365 years…faithfully walking with God…and then he was no more, because God took him away. The word used here is “translated”, or conveyed to heaven without tasting death. The only other person to experience this was the Old Testament prophet Elijah. But unlike Enoch, Elijah’s departure was witnessed as he was carried off by a whirlwind. (II Kings 2:11) What these two men did have in common though was their unshakable faith in desperate times, godliness in the face of persecution, and the boldness to speak the truth no matter what.
Our Heavenly Father is both benevolent and altruistic when it comes to blessing us. But we usually take that graciousness and turn it into prideful thinking. “Look what gifts the Lord has given me!” I Peter 4: 10-11 reminds us that we are to use those gifts to serve others, not flaunt them in front of people as trophies. The Apostle Paul warns us here that’s it’s all about our state of mind when regarding our giftings… it’s all about gratitude, not attitude and humility, not vanity.
I listened to a song the other day…its title a declaration that a lot of us might not say with any conviction…”I am ready for the Storm.” Now I realize that it’s not if but when trials will come into my life…but to proclaim that I’m ready for them gives me pause. So how can I prepare? The Psalmist here shows us that it’s the daily renewing of our heart and mind that will enable us to do this. Our faith is renewed and given new life daily…ever-deepening, ever-increasing, as we put more and more of our trust in the Lord. This divine restoration is spoken of in Isaiah 40:31, ” But those who put their hope in the Lord will renew their strength.” So I may not like it, but I can now say with certainty… Yes Lord, with Your help, I’m ready for the storm.
Admitting we’re wrong and asking forgiveness is hard to do. And when it comes to acknowledging our sin before God it gets even tougher. It’s not that we’re deliberately rebelling against Him…of blatantly and conspicuously sinning for all to see. No, it’s rather sins by omission that really mess us up. These are secret sins that are easy to hide…things that only we may know about. These sins of omission are things neglected and left undone in our lives…like regular time in the Word, or prayer. Or they’re things we chose to turn a blind eye to…knowing the Lord wants us to act, but choosing to be apathetic instead. These sins of omission are disobedience at its best and need to be dealt with, for as time goes on, it becomes easier and easier to allow these sins to hide in our sub-conscience and justify them rather than admit they are wrong.