Celestial vending machine?

Do we go to Jesus for what we can get?

“My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”

Mark 5:23

Healing came when Jesus touched. This man wanted it for his dying daughter- understandable, but inappropriate. Jesus in compassion agrees but before arriving, he sees something to develop his understanding.

A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years. … she came up behind [Jesus] … and touched his robe. She thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” Immediately the bleeding stopped.

Mark 5:25-29

A woman came to Jesus thinking he provided healing through touch, a commodity to be used.

Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”

Mark 5:30

The woman had taken something from Jesus. He challenged her, and when she confessed, said,

“Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”

Mark 5:34

Taking had been wrong because the healing needed them both together. Her inappropriate taking would have left her with guilt, but now having humbled herself and confessed, she is sent in peace.

Do I treat Jesus as someone to be used, to get things from?

Awake! Awake!

Cathedral in ruins

Many of those who made commitments as children have abandoned any sense of faith.

The Lord will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make … her wastelands like the garden of the Lord. Joy and gladness will be found in her.

Isaiah 51:3

If God’s people are Zion, then Zion is currently in ruins. However, we sense that the Lord has begun a new work. This can seem little comfort when we look at where we have come from.

look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was only one man, and I blessed him and made him many.

Isaiah 51:2

Our culture believes that to build, you need a large base. Our Lord specialises in building from the least.

My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way …. The islands will look to me and wait in hope for my arm.

Isaiah 51:5

Our restoration does not begin by discovering the right formula, but through putting our trust and hope in Jesus.

Awake, awake, arm of the Lord, clothe yourself with strength!

Isaiah 51:9

We begin with people calling on the Lord to awake. That sounds a little strange, that we would need to awaken him who never slumbers, but this is the cry of a desperate people who are desperate to see the Lord working.

Embrace Trials

I have a bad habit when in difficulty of giving myself permission to behave badly. Paul underwent far greater difficulties. His account of ship wrecks, beatings, facing wild animals and the like make anything I face seem trivial.

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. [2 Corinthians 4:8-9NIV]

Yet Paul, instead of using them to excuse bad behaviour saw them as an opportunity to discover the amazing extent of God’s grace.

we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. [2 Corinthians 4:7NIV]

Paul recognises he is not up to the trials, but he does not give up and make everyone else suffer. He prays and looks forward to how God will carry him through.

We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, [2 Corinthians 4:10NIV]

Paul understood these trials as a participation in the death of Christ. As we are joined with Jesus in his suffering, we are also joined with him in God’s power.

so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.

Jesus does not give immunity from trials but hope in himself. Can we seek him and faithfully endure as we wait for him to intervene? At the far end, looking back, we will realise that we were not up to it, but that he brought us through.

Sharing in Heavenly Glory

We discover Glory through seeing Jesus’ return to heaven.

How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord! … For you have … withheld nothing he requested. (Psalm 21:1-2NLT)

Following his crucifixion, Jesus returns with joy at God’s victory.  All has been done, not by superman Jesus but, in divine partnership with God.

You have endowed him with eternal blessings and given him the joy of your presence. For the king trusts in the Lord. (Psalm 21:6-7NLT)

This glorious life of faith, hope and love is beyond anyone but for his eternal blessings of grace given to those who trust him.

You welcomed him back … You placed a crown of finest gold on his head. (Psalm 21:3NLT)

Like Jesus, we receive the victor’s crown after faithfully running the race set before us. Faith meets our weakness!

He asked you to preserve his life, and you granted his request. The days of his life stretch on forever. (Psalm 21:4NLT)

Hope looks above the crisis to a sovereign Lord- the adventure of an eternal exploration of the infinite God.

Your victory brings him great honor, and you have clothed him with splendor and majesty. (Psalm 21:5NLT)

God clothes us with the fruit of the Spirit; a love which exudes splendour and honour.

Glory in service

The last of three avenues that Jesus says lead to glory-

Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honour the one who serves me. [John 12:26]

When the Lord of the universe honours us, there is glory, like in the parable of the talents where the kings says,

“Well done good and faithful servant.” [Matthew 25:21]

Many love praise and personal achievement. The Father honours those who set aside personal ambition and follow Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve, into the service he has for them.

Whom do we really serve? Jesus, at times tests our motives by leading us away from the service we have invested in. Do we love the ministry or Jesus who gave it? From whom are we looking for honour? It takes faith to follow Jesus away from apparently good things.

Jesus uses service to test faith. Do we really believe that he will resource the work he has set before us? If the task ahead is beyond us then knowing our limitations, we wrestle with the challenge. It takes faith to follow.

Sometimes we are perplexed. Are we able to rest assured that he has said,

“Where I am, my servant also will be.”

If our heart is set on serving Jesus, we can trust him that he has us in the right place.

So, Jesus encourages us to follow him into faith filled service and promises that the Father’s honour will follow.

Living in hope

God’s promises inspire hope. Do we have faith until he fulfils?

We live in two worlds- embracing current reality and simultaneously being prepared.

When they were but few in number, few indeed, and strangers in it, they wandered from nation to nation, from one kingdom to another. [Psalm 105:12-13NIV]

The patriarchs wandered Palestine holding to a promise that they would be a great nation, all the while while having nothing to show for it. How did they achieve it? They believed God.

He allowed no one to oppress them; for their sake he rebuked kings: … [Psalm 105:14-15NIV]

God was faithful. He protected them from abusive kings even when they succumbed to fear in their doubts.

He called down famine on the land  and destroyed all their supplies of food and he sent a man before them – Joseph, sold as a slave. [Psalm 105:16-17NIV]

Things seemed to go backwards. The son Isaac hoped in was sold as a slave.

Famine tests our resolve we look for consolations elsewhere, sometimes good things, sometimes not so good. It is good to live in current reality, but not to let go of what God has promised.

It is hard to appreciate that God might be manoeuvring his servant into the optimum position.

… till what he foretold came to pass, till the word of the Lord proved him true. The king sent and released him, the ruler of peoples set him free. [Psalm 105:19-20NIV]

What has he promised you?  Can you faithfully wait for him?

Freedom through salvation

What are the knock on effects from God rescuing us?  Psalm 116 shows God’s rescue begins a process for developing trust in God. The Psalmist begins with the anguish that overcame him and the joy when the Lord heard and saved him.  What follows?

Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the Lord has been good to you. v7

When anxiety comes he chooses to settle his heart to be at peace as he reflects on how the Lord has shown goodness.

… that I may walk before the Lord …. I believed; therefore I said, “I am greatly afflicted.” And in my dismay I said, “All men are liars.” v8-11

Life looks out of control but he chooses to walk with God. This needs faith that God is greater than what is seen brings courage to acknowledge how challenging his reality is.

How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord. v12

How does his life honour the Lord who took a risk with him? Letting go of the false security he clings to, he chooses God’s cup (often representing suffering) of salvation.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. …  you have freed me from my chains. v15-16

This cup can look like death, and yet beyond such death is freedom! When we have faced death with God, we are free to do what is right.

For a more detailed view of this follow the link – ‘Trust in the light of rescue’

What do we value?

Our culture has only one question to determine value – “Does it work?” Jesus takes a different view. After feeding the 5000 He leaves.  Most would have continued the ministry. When the people find Him, He challenges their motives –

  ‘… you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.  (John 6:26)

What is the difference between eating bread that came as a miracle and seeing signs? The difference is in the focus. If I look for Jesus because I ate, then I am looking for myself and the focus is on me. If I look because I saw miraculous signs my focus is on Christ and I am looking to worship Him.

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.’ (John 6:27)

This focus is seen in our relationship with God. If the focus of my spirituality is on what works, then it is subject to men’s evaluation which inevitably is temporary and ultimately spoils. The fruit Jesus is looking for is the fruit of lives changed by faith. Faith is proven through trust even when things don’t seem to be working –

‘The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.’ (John 6:29)

Are we able to trust Jesus in how He directs rather than try to use Him to get what we want? This is food that endures to eternal life.

 

A fuller study

Live for eternity

Jesus’ unearths His followers’ motives following the feeding of the 5000 because it is here that the eternal value of what someone does is seen.

‘Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. John 6:26

What is the difference between eating bread that came to people as a miracle and seeing signs? They were the same event! The difference is in the focus. If I am looking for Jesus because I ate the bread and had my fill, then the focus is on me. If the focus is on Jesus, then I am looking for Him in order to worship Him. Jesus’ statement asks questions about my direction and focus in life –

Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.’ John 6:27

In our materialistic age I can be caught up with what is ultimately material, even if it seems spiritual. Paul identified Faith, hope and love as the three that persist. (1 Corinthians 13:13) Jesus asks questions of our motives too. Seeing our lives through the lens of ‘faith, hope and love’ helps us see if we are trying to use Him to get what we want out of life or whether we are working for the food that endures to eternal life.

 

See a more complete study 

Life in trials

Life circumstances push faith to the limit. We wonder why our ‘faithful God’ has abandoned us. Such trials expose the extent of our faithfulness to God’s word.

If your law had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. (Ps 119:92)

We can be so angry with God for allowing affliction that spiritual death takes hold. Affliction exposes how much we learned to delight in the Lord and His law in the easy times.

I will never forget your precepts, for by them you have preserved my life. (Ps 119:93)

Those who have been through trials with God can testify that His Word preserved their lives. Through His Word they had an inner strength to face impossible odds.

Save me, for I am yours; I have sought out your precepts. (Ps 119:94)

From this place of having proved God’s Word, God’s servant calls out for salvation to the only one worth calling to.

The wicked are waiting to destroy me, but I will ponder your statutes. (Ps 119:95)

The fruit of this proving ground is that there is a confident hope of God’s salvation, and so sufficient peace to ponder God’s work while most at this point would struggle with anxiety.
96 To all perfection I see a limit, but your commands are boundless.

Perfection is limited in that it is predictable. God’s Word is boundless because when the Lord fulfils His Word we are always surprised by the twists with which He does it.

 

The original Bible study is found at this link – Faithful Word