Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Six Ways God’s at Work in You — At Work

Part 1

Article by Keith Welton
You showed up to work today, but it feels like God didn’t. He feels remote and absent from what you do all day long. There are temptations all around, opportunities for cutting corners. No one else cares one wit about serving God. Conversations are all banal. And yet you believe God is sovereign over all things, and that means sovereign over putting you in this job in the first place.
You grow doubtful about yourself and wonder what it must be like for businessmen who are giants in the faith, and who sail through meetings and private work carried along by the joy of serving God. And here you stand in a job where God feels so far away.
In reality, the workforce is not only how God works through you; it is a place where God works inside of you, conforming you to the image of Christ. He may feel distant, but he’s not. He is using the difficulties and pressures in your job right now to focus you in at least six areas.

1. God is using your workplace to focus your faith.

There are no meaningless moments when life is contemplated in light of the glory of God. God created us to live for him and his glory. It is our chief calling in life. Whatever we do, we are to do for his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). We don’t ultimately work for our own pleasure, entertainment, self-improvement, or gain. We work for God and his glory, and we are to glorify him in all that we do.
It’s not just for those moments of singing a solo on Sunday morning or when we hoist the Super Bowl trophy. We glorify him in all things, even the mundane and difficult parts of life. The great saints of the Bible got this. They glorified him while shipwrecked at sea, sitting in jail, and herding sheep! God’s glory motivates us to do great things, and it reminds us of our ultimate reward. Yes, our trials in life are hard, but the greatness of God’s reward makes them appear light and momentary (2 Corinthians 4:17). Reflecting on the glory of God transforms all facets of our day at the office. 
2. God is using your workplace to focus your heart.
Paul was compelled and controlled by the love of Christ. Christ’s love set him in motion to do great things. It should also move us. Gospel change starts inward in the deepest parts of our souls and works outward.
When we are listless in our work. When we are beaten down and uninspired. When we are tempted to give up. When we are tempted to reward the abrasiveness of our boss with subpar work, this is when we remember, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men” (Colossians 3:23). Our work is not ultimately done for the people around us, but for the glory of our heavenly Father. If you’re uninspired because of hardship, consider him “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

Monday, February 27, 2017

The Hour of Unusual Threat

If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. (1 Peter 4:14)
Many Christians in the world today do not know the life-threatening danger that comes with believing in Christ. We have gotten used to being free from such persecution. It seems like the way things must be.
So, our first reaction to the threat that things might be otherwise is often anger. But that anger may be a sign that we have lost our sense of being sojourners and exiles (“Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles . . .” 1 Peter 2:11).
Perhaps we have settled too much into this world. We don’t feel as homesick for Christ as Paul did: “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).
Many of us need the reminder, “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12). It isn’t strange.
Have you ever wondered how you will do in the hour of final trial? The gunman has you in his sights and asks, “Are you a Christian?” Here is a strong word to give you hope that you may do better than you think.
Peter says, “If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (1 Peter 4:14). This encouragement from Peter says that in the hour of unusual threat (whether insult or death) there will be “a Spirit of glory and of God resting on us.” Doesn’t that mean that God gives special help in the hour of crisis to those who suffer because they are Christians?
I don’t mean he is absent from our other sufferings. I just mean that Peter went out of his way to say that those who suffer “for the name of Christ” will experience a special “resting” on them of “the Spirit of glory and of God.”
Pray that this would be your experience when the trial comes. There will be resources of endurance in that moment that we do not have any other time. Take heart.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Satan Wants to Blackmail You

Article by Tony Reinke
Senior writer, desiringGod.org

Until he got himself shot and killed, Charles Augustus Milverton may have been the most despicable human being on the planet. He was certainly the foulest man in London.

According to Sherlock Holmes, Milverton took the infamous designation: “King of all the blackmailers.” Inspired by a real blackmailer (Charles Augustus Howell), Milverton became the unforgettable villain in Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1904 short story.

And Milverton was devilish.

“Do you feel a creeping, shrinking sensation,” Sherlock asks Watson, “when you stand before the serpents in the zoo, and see the slithery, gliding, venomous creatures, with their deadly eyes and wicked, flattened faces? Well, that’s how Milverton impresses me. I’ve had to deal with fifty murderers in my career, but the worst of them never gave me the repulsion which I have for this fellow.”

Milverton’s work was sly and subtle and sustained. Over many years his reach stretched out in a network of maids and valets and spies of any sort with access to letters or notes, or within proximity of undercover eavesdropping on the town blabbermouths. Milverton paid top dollar for dirt, and everyone knew it. If there was dirt to be had, he would have it at any price necessary. “Hundreds in this great city turn white at his name.” He was dirt-rich, and patently patient with his secrets. “He will hold a card back for years,” says Sherlock, “in order to play it at the moment when the stake is best worth winning.”

That is why, compared to a murderer who lunges and kills with one swing of a blunt bat, this man is more coldblooded, “who methodically and at his leisure tortures the soul and wrings the nerves in order to add to his already swollen money-bags.”

“That little secret you try to keep hidden from everyone, even from God. Satan knows about it.”

With a growing storehouse of vile secrets, and a heart set on endless wealth, Milverton waited for the right moment to pounce on the wealthy, and “with a smiling face and a heart of marble,” and just like a snake, “he will squeeze and squeeze until he has drained them dry.”

“He is,” says Sherlock, “as cunning as the Evil One.”
The Deal

To this day the great extortionist Milverton sporadically appears in books and movies and television shows. He’s iconic. Using our past debaucheries to extort is devilish, as Arthur Conan Doyle seemed to understand.

Satan is your accuser. He has all the dirt on you. He knows what you did. And what if he told your church or your friends what you’ve done? That little secret you try to keep hidden from everyone, even from God. Satan knows about it. Satan has a dirt-file on you, and he will not let you forget the fact.

Sinclair Ferguson exposes this devilish intent in his new book Devoted to God: Blueprints for Sanctification (159–160).

As the masters of the spiritual life have believed, there may be times in our pilgrimage when Satan engages in blackmailing us. We have secretly given in to sin. He whispers that we have failed; we are unworthy. He will keep our secret — so long as we keep it a secret too, and hide or disguise it. No one else must be told.

In this offer, what’s he doing?

We are already ashamed, but now in addition we fear what others will think and say. The result? We become isolated within ourselves; we feel there is a secret nobody else must know, we fail to deal biblically with our sin; we develop habits of despair about it. We thus hide our sin; we do not admit it even to God.

This, insinuates the evil one, is the only safe way.

All very subtly we have begun to lose sight of the fact that there is forgiveness. Satan will make sure that we continue to feel our guilt and shame. What would others in the church think of us?

In our unrepentant guilt and isolation, Satan slowly tightens his grip around us until we begin to spiritually suffocate.
Keep Calm, Stop Running

Ever since Adam’s first sin, we have shielded our shame behind a veil of shrubs from The Great Eye of God (Genesis 3:8–9).

“In our unrepentant guilt and isolation, Satan tightens his grip around us until we begin to spiritually suffocate.”
But such a theology is deadly wrong, and for it, we pay a dear price at the hand of a patient and persistent blackmailer. Christians don’t know God as a sovereign searchlight of vengeance scanning back and forth, looking to pick off escaping prisoners with a rifle. No, we have a merciful Father, coming after us, calling out, “Adam, where are you?”

There’s no point in hiding our sin from God — he already knows it and is eager to forgive (Psalm 86:5); and no need to hide our sin from one another.

Until we get this theology right, we are easily played by Satanic extortion.

If we are able to share our failure, our sense of guilt and bondage with a fellow Christian whom we can trust absolutely, and to whom we can open our heart — then we break the power of the blackmail, the truth is out in the presence of God, we are able to pray together honestly, and forgiveness once again flows into our hearts. Yes, there may be shame, and sorrow, and tears — but there is also pardon, forgiveness, a new beginning, and the blessing of stronger bonds of fellowship.

Chains of Spiritual Bondage

In our repentance, in God’s open forgiveness, and in our forgiving of one another, we are delivered from Satan’s ploy (Matthew 6:12–13).

“Part of the reason Satan manages to keep us in such a bondage state spiritually is because he convinces us that he alone knows our secret. It is a lie,” Ferguson writes. This is the demonic, self-destroying slavery of silent sin. “The heavenly Father has long known it.”

God knows, and because God knows our sin, “whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy” (Proverbs 28:13).
Freedom at the Foot of the Cross

Your heavenly Father is calling out to you, by name: “Where are you?”

“Until we repent, Satan methodically, and at his leisure, tortures our soul and wrings our nerves.”

Until we call back in repentance, Satan methodically, and at his leisure, tortures the soul and wrings our nerves. But while our sin is kept inside, silently, the body crumbles. Our joy in God is extinguished. Freedom and joy will only flourish in acknowledged sin (Psalm 32:1–5).

We have a way of escape from this demonic, self-destroying slavery of concealed sin. And Satan knows it. He knows our freedom is in repentance. He knows our freedom is not found in isolation, but at the foot of the cross of Calvary.

In Christ we walk in the light of freedom that repels back into the shadow the greatest blackmailer this world has ever seen (1 John 1:5–10).

Tony Reinke (@tonyreinke) is senior writer for Desiring God and author of three books: 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You (2017), Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (2015), and Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (2011). He hosts the Ask Pastor John podcast and lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and three children.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Amusement at the Expense of Others

Judges 16:25


Unsurprisingly, much of the world’s amusement seems to be driven by demeaning, mocking, or humiliating others. In other words, one man’s pain is another man’s pleasure. Samson had been a thorn in the flesh of the Philistines for quite some time, but now he was a sightless, weak prisoner. As the Philistines gathered to celebrate his capture and humiliation, they called for Samson so that they could take pleasure in his suffering. One would think that it takes a heartless people to find satisfaction in the humiliation of others, but unfortunately far too many people take pleasure in such events. Far too frequently, men receive the greatest satisfaction when others are abused for their enjoyment. This ought not so to be!


  • (For children): Jesus’ enemies took pleasure in His suffering (Mark 15:15). King Herod had James killed, and because that pleased the Jews, he took Peter also (Acts 12:1-7). God is definitely against taking pleasure in the suffering of others (Proverbs 17:5b).
  • (For everyone): How often as a child did you laugh at jokes that demeaned others? Have you continued to do the same as an adult? Why do we laugh when others are destroyed?
  • Have you ever been the subject of a hurtful statement? How did it make you feel? How can that experience keep you from being guilty of doing the same to others?


  • Ask the Lord to keep you from hurting others.
  • Ask God to show you the nature of your heart.

Friday, February 24, 2017


“For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2 NKJV).
On what or who do you base your faith? This is a question that one should answer meditatively. Many people base their faith on their ancestral culture or tradition. Many people base their faith on one creed or the other. Many people base their faith on a hero. Many people base their faith on an idol or god. Many people base their faith on the Supreme Being called God. Even many people prefer to relate with the Supreme Being through other lesser gods or angels. Interestingly, many people would claim that they do not believe in anything or any Being. 

For Eliza Edmunds Hewitt (pseudonym: Lidie H. Edmunds) (1851-1920), she believed in no other thing or person, but in “the ever living One” who died not only for her, but also for the whole humanity. This “ever living One” is no other person than Jesus Christ. She expressly stated in one of her hymns that she needed no other argument or plea. Faith based on any other thing or person is useless because, “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12 NKJV) except through the name of Jesus Christ (see verses 10-11). Apostle Paul simply said, “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2 NKJV).
In the hymn “I NEED NO OTHER ARGUMENT” (known also as “MY FAITH HAS FOUND A RESTING PLACE”), Eliza E. Hewitt really found a resting place in Jesus Christ because Jesus Christ has died for her to save her, and this has put an end to her fear and doubt. Our faith can only find a resting place in Jesus Christ because He offers us rest (see Matthew 11:28-30; Hebrews 4:3). There can be no other means to find such a rest. Jesus Christ declared: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27 NKJV). Jesus Christ demonstrated this, as Eliza E. Hewitt rightly noted in her hymn, by healing the sick, by saving the lost, and by never casting away anyone that comes to Him. Who among religious leaders of this world can do these things? Indeed, there is no other argument!
Base your faith on Jesus Christ if you want a resting place from all the confusion in the world. He has said, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NKJV).

In His service,
Bayo Afolaranmi (Pastor).

Prayer Point: Pray that you will wholeheartedly accept the efficacy of the death of Jesus Christ over your life, and willingly come to Him for the lasting rest.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Vanity of Pleasure

- Ecclesiastes 2:1


Man views pleasure as offering some type of lasting joys; however, it generally delivers nothing more than a temporary happiness. More often, those who seek pleasures are left emptier than if they had never sought the pleasures in the first place. James’ understanding of this truth is reflected by his declaration: “Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton” (James 5:5). Paul joined the chorus when he admonished the widows: “she that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (1 Timothy 5:6). Seeking and living in pleasure offers no lasting fulfillment. In John 4:13, the Lord said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again” and so it is with pleasure. Satisfaction, fulfillment, joy, and life only come through a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.


  • (For children): The worldly pleasures we see, hear, do, or have, never satisfy the recipients. They are never enough (Ecclesiastes 1:8; Ecclesiastes 5:10; Ecclesiastes 6:7). Only the Lord can meet our need for any type of lasting satisfaction (Psalm 16:11; Psalm 107:9).
  • (For everyone): Has there ever been a pleasurable event you were looking forward to that afterwards left you unfulfilled? Why is it that pleasure offers no lasting satisfaction in the long term?
  • With pleasure, man must continually seek the latest and greatest. How is this different from a personal relationship with the Lord?


  • Ask the Lord to help you see the vanity of pleasure.
  • Ask God for the lasting joys that come only from Him.



Wednesday, February 22, 2017

All Pleasure, No Grief

- Amos 6:1-7


Men seek pleasures for various reasons, but sometimes they simply desire to escape sorrows and grief. In the days of Amos, the people were at ease in their “beds of ivory,” feasting upon “the lambs out of the flock, and the calves out of the midst of the stall,” listening with anticipation to their new “instruments of musick,” and indulging themselves by drinking “wine in bowls.” In other words, they pampered their flesh “with the chief ointments.” In the midst of all these pleasures, the people of God had no heart to grieve for others who were suffering. Similar to Israel, the church spends so much of its time seeking pleasure that it devotes no time to grieve for their fellow brethren in suffering.


  • (For children): It is natural for us to want someone to care when we need help. But when things are going well, do we truly care for others during their times of need (Luke 6:31)? God was not pleased with how the pastors were treating His people who needed help (Ezekiel 34:1-4).
  • (For everyone): What forms of pleasure do men seek out today that are comparable to those sought for in the days of Amos? Do any of these pleasures bring lasting joys?
  • What do you do in order to forget your sorrows? How does this keep you from being able to grieve for others and for yourself? What benefits could be found in being able to grieve?


  • Ask the Lord to help you see when pleasures are hurting you.
  • Ask God to show you why you cannot grieve for others.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Evil Shall Hunt the Violent Man

- Psalm 140:11


David prayed that the Lord would watch over his safety but also prayed that the Lord would hinder the efforts of the wicked. He asked God to refuse to grant the desires of the wicked and return their mischief upon their own heads. Within this context, he also prayed that the evil conceived by the wicked might “hunt the violent man to overthrow him.” He spoke of a similar theme when he sang of the wicked, “His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate” (Psalm 7:16) or crown of his head. David knew the reward eventually yielded by violence was the return of violence upon the offender.


  • (For children): Read what the Bible has to say about the wicked (Proverbs 11:5b; Proverbs 26:27). Consider the following examples: Adoni-bezek (Judges 1:5-7); Ahab (1 Kings 21:19; 1 Kings 22:34-35, 38); Haman (Esther 5:14; Esther 7:10).
  • (For everyone): Have you ever heard the statement, “What goes around, comes around”? How is that similar to “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7)? How is the principle confirmed in the issue of violence?
  • Have you been violent with others? How could this bring violence into your own life? What should you do to stop the cycle?


  • Ask God to forgive you for times of violence.
  • Ask the Lord to help you apologize if you have wronged others.



Monday, February 20, 2017

When Violence Is No More

- Isaiah 60:18


Though violence rages today, the saint of God can find great comfort in knowing that violence is only a temporary attribute of living. There is coming a day when violence will no longer find place amongst mankind. Isaiah relayed this truth to his people when he stated that there would come a time when “Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders; but thou shalt call thy walls Salvation, and thy gates Praise.” Although the conditions and timing may vary for the Jews and the church of God, the reality of a future void of violence remains constant. One day, hopefully soon, each believer will find himself in the presence of the very God who will cause all violence to cease.


  • (For children): One day saved people will forever be with the Lord (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). Isaiah 9:6 calls the Lord the Prince of Peace. We will have real fulness of joy (Psalm 16:11). There will be no violence (Revelation 21:3-4).
  • (For everyone): Has your life been filled with violence? Have you lost loved ones because of war or some other act that included violence? Do you look forward to a time when violence is no more?
  • How is the truth that violence is temporary a blessing for the Jewish people? How is it a blessing for the church of God? What have both had in common in their histories?


  • Thank the Lord that violence is temporary.
  • Ask the Lord to keep you safe until the violence passes.



Sunday, February 19, 2017

Choked with Cares, Riches, and Pleasures

Luke 8:14


We are promised that the word of God works effectually in those that believe (1 Thessalonians 2:13). Yet, the Devil works hard to choke out the fruitfulness of the word. In order to achieve his ultimate objective, the Devil uses any means within his arsenal. Pleasure-seeking serves as one of his choicest weapons. In order to convince people that they do not need the Lord or His word, the Devil convinces people that they have everything they could possibly ever want or need without Him. The Devil convinces them that they are happy or satisfied and there is nothing better than their lot in life. He keeps them preoccupied so that they do not take time to reflect and recognize that they are “wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17) apart from the Lord.


  • (For children): God warned His people when things were going well not to forget Him (Deuteronomy 8:11-14; Proverbs 30:8b-9a). Yet, their happiness and self-satisfaction caused them to become blind to their disobedience toward the Lord (Hosea 13:6-8; Amos 6:1-7).
  • (For everyone): How has the desire for pleasure personally choked out the fruitfulness of the word in your life? What are you willing to do to insure that this attack on the word stops?
  • Does pleasure ever keep you from reading, studying, memorizing, or hearing the word of God? How has this harmed you spiritually?


  • Ask the Lord to get you to a place where His word can work in your heart.
  • Ask God to show you when the pleasures of this life have taken precedence.



Saturday, February 18, 2017

Loving Pleasures More than God

2 Timothy 3:1-4


According to the apostle Paul, the last days would be marked by an ever greater love for pleasure than a love for the Lord. This lack of love for the Lord might manifest itself in various ways but ultimately results from a heart problem. For instance, an individual might forsake Bible reading or prayer in order to enjoy some form of amusement. He might choose not to take part in his church’s outreach because he is instead consumed with pleasure-seeking. He might forsake the assembling together with the saints of God in a worship service because he is consumed by seeking out worldly entertainment. Though men justify these things, this is an open manifestation that men choose pleasures over the God who sent His Son to die for their sins.


  • (For children): The rich young ruler was sure he sufficiently loved God until he found out what was really in his heart (Luke 18:20-23). Many times we know what we should do, but our desires get in the way (Ezekiel 33:31). God must always come first (Matthew 22:37-38).
  • (For everyone): Do you ever allow pleasure to get in the way of your devotion to the Lord? Does it ever keep you from your Bible study, prayer, witnessing, or church attendance?
  • When you choose the pleasures of this world over the Lord, what does this suggest to the Lord? What can you do to ensure that this does not happen?


  • Ask God to give you a stronger love for Him.
  • Ask the Lord to help you choose Him over pleasures.



Friday, February 17, 2017

Such a Time as This

by Os Hillman

"On the third day Esther put on her royal robes and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king's hall." - Esther 5:1a

Esther was a woman who lived for a cause greater than herself. God used this woman to save the entire Jewish people from extermination. However, before God could use her, she had to come to a place of death in herself. It was not an easy decision. Her uncle Mordecai was the instrument God used to challenge her to measure up to the task.
Do not think that because you are in the king's house you alone of all the Jews will escape. For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this? (Esther 4:13b-14)

Mordecai was telling it straight. For her to speak up meant great risks if the king did not receive her. It was automatic death if the king did not extend his scepter, which meant acceptance of her approach to the throne. It was also a time to realize that God may have brought her to this place and time for this specific purpose. However, if she did not respond in faith, God would use another instrument to deliver the people. What would she do?

Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish (Esther 4:16).

On the third day of the fast she came and stood in the inner court of the palace, in front of the king's hall. She was like Jesus who stood in the inner court of Heaven on that third, resurrection day. She gave up her life, but God raised it up on that day and delivered an entire people from destruction because of one woman's willingness to give up her life for a greater cause. God has called each of us to a purpose greater than ourselves. Know that it will require death before life can be given to this purpose. It must be His life that lives, not ours.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Out in the Open

The man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed. Genesis 2:25 
Being "naked" but "not ashamed." This is why we get married—not just to have sex, but also to become emotionally intimate with another person. We want someone we can be openly transparent with, someone who accepts us, even when we're being our real selves.
Yet although this is what our souls long for, many couples—especially young couples—hide this need behind the mere act of sexual togetherness. They find having sex easier than opening up to each other spiritually, where the potential for hypocrisy and awkwardness always exists. Sex can be easier than opening up emotionally, letting someone else in on their fears and worries and dreams and deepest feelings.
That's why, even when the level of sexual intimacy is high in a marriage, the level of real transparency can still be surprisingly low... and subtly debilitating.
I recall a young single man stopping by Barbara's and my table at Wendy's one evening. He had heard us speak at a recent singles event at church and wanted to thank us for helping him see again why keeping the sexual element out of a budding romance gives a young man and woman the chance to really develop their relationship. It helps them do the authentic work of getting to know each other, not just settling for what comes naturally and without thinking.
But you know what? The same thing can happen inside marriage. We can let sex become a substitute for real relationship—even as husband and wife!
We can be together but not be transparent.
Certainly, transparency isn't something we achieve overnight. It's a process—a lifelong process of growing increasingly comfortable being honest with each other without fear of rejection. But it's what makes marriage a continually richer blessing.
To be in love is good. To be in love and perfectly transparent is as good as it gets.
What have been your greatest obstacles to true transparency? Talk about one of the following: your greatest fear, your most courageous act or your biggest doubt.
Pray for your love to grow into one that more readily reveals and never rejects. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

What I Never Noticed About Jesus

“Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” Mark 6:51-52 (NIV)
I ran my hand over the large rock and closed my eyes. What an incredible moment it was for me to stand where Jesus once stood in the Holy Land. I opened my Bible and let the full reality of all He was facing fall fresh on me.
I wanted to read the Scriptures leading up to this moment where He sat on Mt. Arbel and prayed and watched the disciples, just before walking on water.
But I cautioned myself to read the uncommon sentences. Too many times I highlight verses telling of Jesus’ miracles but skim right past those telling of deeply human realities.
In Mark chapter 5, we see Jesus interacting with a woman desperate to be healed from her bleeding disorder. He frees her from her suffering and gives her peace. And we find Him healing the young daughter of a synagogue ruler.
But we also find in verse 40a, “But they laughed at him.”
In Mark chapter 6 we see Jesus sending out the 12 disciples and as they preached, “They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them,” (v. 13.)
But we also find earlier in verse 3b, “… And they took offense at him.”
We find Him having great compassion on the people who followed Him in the feeding of the 5,000. They all ate and were satisfied by five loaves and two fish.
But we also see that Jesus and His disciples were physically depleted, “because so many were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat,” (v. 31a).
Messy realities tucked in the midst of miracles.
And isn’t it so like us to miss this about Jesus’ everyday life? We hyper-focus on the lines of Scripture containing the miracles so much that we miss the detail of the mess.
Jesus had people laugh at Him and reject Him and misunderstand Him. We know this in theory, but as I sat on that rock that day I suddenly realized what an everyday reality this was for Him.
Now, here’s what happens to me in my life: I get so focused on the mess, I miss the miracles.
And that’s the very thing that happens to the disciples right after the feeding of the 5,000. They got in a boat and strong winds caused the water to get very rough. The disciples were straining at the oars as the realities of life beat against them.
Jesus was on the mountainside praying. From Mt. Arbel, Jesus could see the middle of the lake where the disciples were. Mark 6:47-48a, “Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them” (NIV).
Jesus saw them. He went down to them. And they missed the miracle in the midst of the mess.
The same miracle worker that multiplied the fish and the loaves was now walking on the water near them and they thought He was a ghost. They were terrified and then were amazed, but they didn’t understand, for the Scriptures say, “their hearts were hardened,” (v. 52b).
It seems to me Jesus has a pattern of performing miraculous acts in the setting of messes.
This revelation led me to a gut-honest prayer, Oh Lord, let me see this. Please don’t let the messes of life harden my heart and blind me to Your presence. Instead of being so terrified in the midst of the mess, might I keep the picture of You, watching me, always watching me. And might I find courage in the assurance that You will come to me with Your miraculous presence.
Yes, I need to spend a whole lot less time trying to fix the messes in my life … and a whole lot more time keeping my heart soft in the process.
Then I won’t miss the miraculous work of Jesus in the midst of my mess.
Dear Lord, You are so good. Help me see Your hand working even in the midst of things that seem to be messes. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.