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Weekly Word

Entries in Jesus (131)

Tuesday
Feb192019

Jesus Begins to Minister

Mark 1:14-20.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 17, 2019.

Last week, we saw Jesus preparing to minister to the people of Israel.  In the passage before us today, he begins. 

The preaching of Jesus

The first thing that we see is not miracles and wondrous signs.  Rather, we see Jesus proclaiming or preaching to the people.  Mark focuses on the natural transition point of John the Baptist being imprisoned as when Jesus entered Galilee to minister.

It is important to recognize that throughout the Bible we see that people generally resist a true prophet of the Lord who comes speaking the truth of God.  This general resistance can be overcome.  However, we should recognize its prevalence.  An underlying theme throughout all of this is that God’s Word/Voice cannot be silenced.  If one is imprisoned then another will speak forth.  If one is killed then another will take their place.  It is not just a secular thing.  This world, both secular and religious, often operates in a way to try and silence what the Spirit of God is doing through those who listen to Him.  It hates the fact that they march to the beat of a different drummer.  It hates the message that there is something wrong with it.  It hates the message that people need to turn back to the ways of God because they already feel that they have the truth.  This silencing is sometimes with brute force, imprisonments, and violence.  However, it is sometimes with propaganda, narrative-control, disinformation, and manipulative and seductive memes.

In whatever way this world tries to marginalize the true work of the Spirit of God, it cannot stop what the Spirit is doing.  Those imprisoned just preach to their captives and demonstrate the value of God.  Those who are killed are replaced by others who may be even more powerful than they.  God’s Word cannot be silenced because it is empowered by God Himself.  In another way we can say that it cannot be silenced because it represents real reality, which no one can run from very long without running smack into its stubborn existence.

We must understand this about Christianity.  It is not the institutional trappings that Christ is promoting.  Though it may look like the world is winning, we must understand that we are on the side of the God of the universe.  He will not fail, and I must do my part, whatever it may come to be.  John the Baptist probably did not envision imprisonment and later death (Mark 6), but that is what was asked of Him by the Lord.

Thus the preaching of Jesus comes on the heels of one of the greatest preachers/prophets that Israel had seen in a long time.  Now let’s look at what this preaching proclaimed.

Jesus proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom of God.  All of the Gospels emphasize several things about the teaching of Jesus.  At its core, He was proclaiming the good news that the Kingdom of God was drawing close.  This had been the hope of Israel for over 1400 years, obtaining more and more information from God’s prophets regarding what that would look like along the way.  For the previous 500 years they had specifically suffered under the imperial rule of the kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, which still ruled over them in the days of Jesus.  The faithful still waited and hoped for God’s Anointed man (Messiah is the Hebrew word for Anointed One) who would judge the nations and rule over the world from Jerusalem.  When would this wait ever end?  John the Baptist had shocked the nation with his insistence that he was a forerunner to the Messiah.  He told them to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord.  Thus Jesus tells them the good news that the Kingdom was drawing close.  The long wait was coming to an end!

In fact, Jesus uses a phrase that the time was fulfilled or completed.  God had determined a particular time in history for the Anointed One to come forth.  Their long wait was done and the transition time was upon them.  Of course, things did not go the direction they all hoped it would go.  We now know that there are two phases to this Kingdom’s arrival on earth.  The first phase focused on spiritually changing those who would be its citizens.  It is a time of invitation and grace.  In this phase Christ rules from heaven over the hearts of those who believe in Him as the number of believers/citizens increases.  The second phase, which will occur at the Second Coming of Christ, is taking up of political control of the earth and removing the wicked leadership of the nations (which will only grow worse and worse).  This is often referred to as the Day of the Lord and as the Judgment of the Nations by the God of heaven.

Believers today live in this strange period where the Kingdom of God is now, but also not yet.  Though we may long for the coming of Christ and His rule upon the earth, we are still in the day of God’s invitation and grace to the people of this world.  Anyone, who so desires, can become a part of God’s Kingdom.  Thus it is important for current believers to keep their hands on the plow and keep working to share the invitation while there is still time.

Like any kingdom, the king has rules as to how one becomes a citizen.  Yes, any who so desired could come forward, but they were called upon to repent and believe in the gospel.  The need for a person to repent literally means to change your mind, or your way of thinking.  In so many personal ways, each person of that day was following the dictates of their own heart and mind.  Some in complete rejection of God’s Word and others with a partial rejection (sound familiar?).  The Spirit of God calls us to change the way that we are thinking, but also in a specific way.  Another metaphor that is used of repentance is turning.  We, who have turned away from God’s Ways into other ways of our own choosing, need to turn back to God in our hearts and minds, and follow His ways.

Repentance is always needed in our lives because we live in a world and a body that continually questions and rejects the ways of the Lord. Christians are not those who repented long ago, but are those who continue to be a repentant people.

So it begins with repentance, but then it moves to faith.  They needed to believe what Jesus was telling them.  Even though Mark emphasizes believing in the good news, Jesus Himself is the good news!  To believe in the Gospel is to believe in Jesus.  God had joined mankind in order to lift us up out of the horrible fate we were plunging towards.  Thus to believe in the Gospel is to believe that God has not abandoned us, and instead He has stepped into the muck and mire with us in order to save us.  This is good news indeed, for who can stop the Lord Almighty!

The disciples of Jesus

In verse 16 Jesus begins to call certain people to follow Him everywhere.  The term disciple is not used here, but they were called to learn from, be students of, Jesus.  In the New Testament, Jesus called 12 disciples to a special task.  They would become his apostles, sent-ones, who would go to the nations and lay the foundation for His Church.  They actually lived and ate with Jesus as they helped Him in His ministry.  Many other people were students and believers of Jesus.  However, they did not live with Jesus day to day.  So we should recognize that even though the outward form may be somewhat different, all of these disciples had one thing in common.  They were now following and listening to Jesus as their master and teacher.

Let’s explore the passage.  Notice that Jesus stands on the shore and calls 2 fishermen to follow him here, and then 2 more fishermen to follow Him there.  These would be the core of the 12 disciples: Peter and Andrew, James and John.  Though Jesus is no longer physically on the earth, he still approaches people through his disciples and calls people to believe upon Him and to follow Him.  None of us today pack up our bags and follow a physical Jesus to Jesus-ville.  However, we do these things spiritually.  To follow Jesus is to quit listening to those things you did before and to start listening to His Words and those of His Apostles.  It is to follow them.  It is to reject the mindset of this world that marginalizes Christ and His teachings, or even hijacks His teachings and twists them to other ends.  To follow Jesus is to have a spiritual journey every day where the Spirit of God leads us, much as Jesus led The Twelve 2,000 years ago.  We must ask ourselves this question each day.  Who am I following?  Am I following a favorite religious leader or philosopher?  Or am I following Jesus and the Spirit of God?

 The second thing about being a disciple of Jesus is that they were called to draw others to Christ.  These men had lived their lives catching fish and thus Jesus uses their life experience as a metaphor for what He was calling them to do.  They would fish for people.  Ultimately their lives would become about drawing people to Christ.

As in any analogy, fishing is a crude one.  God does not use tricks to hook people and drag them to shore in order to eat them.  Thus the metaphor is intended only so far.  God will work with people to live with and speak into the lives of others in order to draw them to Christ, to join His Kingdom.  Part of God’s call on your life is to be a light to the world around you.  You are to be a drawing influence through your life and the worlds you speak.  However, we are not to be drawing people to ourselves, but rather to Christ.

We are told that they dropped their nets and left their father in order to follow Jesus.  This recognizes the sacrifice that is made by all who follow Jesus.  Not every disciple was called to physically leave their families behind in order to follow Jesus.  However, we are all called to spiritually leave our old life behind and the attachments it has made upon us.  If I was a business man before I met Christ, He may call me to become a missionary or a pastor and I would literally leave that life behind.  However, He may simply call me to quit being the old business man that I was and to become a new creation in Christ who runs a business in a whole new way.  Regardless, the point is that if we are truly listening to and following the leadership of Christ, we will leave the old life behind.  I cannot hold on to the old way of living and survive.  I will either be pulled in two, or I will let go of one and cling to the other.  What am I clinging to today?

Let me close by recognizing just who Jesus chose to follow Him.  He was not in Jerusalem picking the top rabbis of the day.  He wasn’t even picking those Pharisees who would even one day believe on Him.  He was in the rural back country of Israel.  He was picking from among the lowly of society.  I do not mean they were lowly in a moral way, though we are all sinners.  1 Corinthians 1:26-29 says it this way, “Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

We must quit looking at ourselves and our lives, becoming discouraged, and letting the enemy draw us away from Christ.  Rather we must rejoice that God loves to use the weak and lowly because then it is clear that it is His power working in us and not our own!  Yes, a rich man can be saved and even a powerful politician.  However, they will have to die to their riches and to their power before they can become a disciple of Christ.  Drop your nets (that which hold you back) and follow Jesus today!

Jesus Ministers audio

Tuesday
Jan292019

When Our Tank Is Empty

Matthew 11:27-30.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on January 27, 2019.

Running on empty is a metaphor that uses the image of a vehicle that is nearly out of fuel.  It can be picturing a physical aspect of a person who is not eating right and or sleeping enough.  However, it also can picture something that happens spiritually in our life, regardless of how much good food and quality sleep we get.  Christians can find themselves feeling empty even though they still have faith in Jesus and are trying to live for Him. 

Part of this is just our humanity.  We are frail and will have such moments, but we are not intended to remain stuck in that situation.  God has provided a way for us to fill up our tank, so to speak.  I don’t want to make this a crass and simplistic answer.  However, it is true that we can lose sight of where our strength lies.

So let’s look at our passage today.

We need the rest that only Jesus can give

In many ways the call of Jesus to come unto him is the call to sinners who haven’t heard the truth, or who have, but haven’t yet responded in faith towards Christ.  He is calling to those who are harassed and beaten down, without strength to go on, and offering hope.  His way is much easier on our soul than the ways of our own making and the world around us.

However, believers can never think that this call is no longer to us, since we have responded in faith towards Christ.  This same call is the echo of the Holy Spirit in the heart of God’s people every day and everywhere.  It is an echo of that first call to which we responded, reminding us not to go it alone and forge our own way.  If we “soldier on” trying to be a good Christian in the strength of our initial salvation then we are going to burn out spiritually.

So let’s talk about our salvation.

Understanding the salvation that Jesus is offering and taking hold of it is compared to resting.  It clearly means a rest for your inner self.  Be careful that you do not let the Gospel become some version of this.  Come join our group, follow this list of do’s and don’ts, and God will be happy with you.  Such an offer is not that of Christ’s.  The true Gospel is that the Son of God has joined our group (humanity).  He has satisfied all the requirements of God the Father and has paid the price for our sin and rebellion.  If we will simply yield to him as our Lord by putting our faith in Him (His actions and His teachings) then we have eternal life welling up within us.  The true Gospel removes the focus from me trying to measure up enough in order to be acceptable and it places it upon staying close to Jesus.  I don’t need to measure up, I just need to keep clinging to Jesus by faith.  Good News, He also holds onto us.  Faith in Christ is how we overcome this world and its temptations that pull us away from our Father in Heaven.

Thus, Jesus uses the image of a yoke.  Here we see that He is offering far more than just knowing that we are eternally safe.  It is very much about changing masters and the expectations that cling to our hearts and minds.  The yokes that the world puts upon us and the ones that we put on ourselves are all the obligations and expectations that connect us to the world.  They become very heavy.  In fact, they are impossibly heavy.  Thus the phrase, “I can’t breathe,” could be a metaphorical statement of life in this world.  It can become so heavy that you can’t even draw a spiritual breath. 

Some in this world believe that the answer is to toss off all yokes including Christ’s.  However, this is impossible.  Our flesh is a creature of servitude by nature (cue Bob Dylan song, “You’re gonna have to serve somebody”).  It is the default setting of humanity.  Even if we manage to break off all attachments to people and society outside of ourselves, we will still end up serving our own fleshly desires.  Believe me, they can be the worst of task masters.  The only way to be freed from it is to get a stronger master who is not interested in making you a slave.  Yes, we serve Christ and are His servants.  However, in so doing we are made free because He wants us to be free.

So does this mean a Christian should ignore any obligations they may have in this world?  No, it doesn’t.  You see, Jesus told His disciples to pay their taxes and be good citizens of the world.  However, they were to do so to please Him, not the government.  When we quit trying to please everyone, self included, and only serve Jesus, our soul is finally allowed to breathe and the breath it takes in is life itself. Yet, He helps us to truly serve the world around us without the insufferable, crushing weight of their expectations.

This is not intended to be a onetime thing.  We need to come back to Jesus continually and find the rest of simply serving Him.  When we lose focus of this truth, we become harassed by all the obligations that we feel.  Just as you need sleep every night in order to be any good the next day, so we need to rest in Jesus continually in order to have any hope of accomplishing something.  This is His gift to us, rest.  Let us take hold of it.  It is one of the reasons why many believers feel like their tank is empty.

We need the food and water that only Jesus can give us

The phrase in verse 29, “learn from me,” involves us receiving from Christ.  This receiving is not just a mystical, intuitive recharge.  Rather, it is a rational, informing of our heart and mind of the Truth of God.  We can’t just learn about Jesus, we must truly learn from Him.  There are things that only He can teach you.  At best a good, spiritual teacher can only point us to the truth, but we must come into relationship with that truth in order for it to truly be ours.  It is the Spirit of Christ that helps this to happen. 

So how does this spiritual learning happen?  In 1 Corinthians 10:3-4 the Apostle Paul compares Christ to Spiritual Food and Spiritual Drink.  Just as we need to rest daily, so we need food and water daily.  This is where we get down to earth in our walk with Christ.  How do I learn from Christ?  It starts with the Word of God.  It gives us food for our spirit.  The Bible compares the Word to food, calling some parts of it milk and other parts of it solid food (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12).  We cannot ignore God’s Word and think that we will be mystically fed by Christ.  Yet, we cannot rely only on spiritual teachers to be our only source of hearing the Word of God.  As a spiritual baby we may need help to know which parts of the word will be easier for us to digest, but at some point we have to take ownership of this need of our to feed spiritually upon the Truth of God (Which is only a literal form of our Lord Himself).  Believers need to be in the Word and seeking Christ for wisdom through it.  When we don’t understand something, it is fine to talk with other people, but ultimately we will only learn it from Christ Himself. 

Of course your flesh will be resistant to spending time in the Word, meditating on it, and conversing with the Lord about it.  However, we need it nonetheless.  Without this in our lives, we will find ourselves trying to run on an empty tank.

It also involves more than just reading the Word or spending X amount of minutes asking God for things.  Fellowship with God through prayer enables the Word to strengthen us spiritually.  It is easy to let our prayers remain at a level of simply asking God to do things for us.  However, the Holy Spirit uses the difficulties of life to call us up to a higher interaction with God (this does not mean we quit praying for His help in matters).  Just as you would spend time talking about your day with a spouse, or friend, even more so we need to talk with the Lord.  This spiritual interaction, fueled by spending time in God’s Word and trying to live life as He has shown us, gives us a place where God teaches us.  In that holy place He gives us strength and vitality that we need. 

We all need spiritual replenishment and spiritual refreshing, and that every day.  Yet, God has provided Himself as the means to that end.  Don’t settle for only having knowledge about Jesus and carrying Him around like a lucky rabbit’s foot.  Instead take time this week to rest in Christ and draw strength from His Word through the holy fellowship He calls you into, instead of telling yourself that you don’t have time for it.  He is there for you, waiting to fill you with Him strength and His life.

Empty Tank audio

Friday
Dec282018

The Mind behind the Incarnation

Philippians 2:5-11.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 23, 2018.

It is easy for Christmas to be taken over by the things that our flesh likes.  We can become far too excited about the latest technological gadget that we are getting, or similar things.  We can bask in the nostalgia of family, big meals, and “magical moments.”  However, Jesus did not come to make us feel good about life and ourselves, although we will have those things from time to time.  Rather, Jesus came to save us.

Yes, God wants to save us from oppressive governance that sees itself as god.  Yes, God wants even to save us from those fellow citizens who seek to take advantage of us like a wolf does a chicken.   Yes, God wants even to save us from our own lower motivations and mistakes.  Yet, ultimately Jesus came to save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21). 

Our sins affect our heart and our mind to the point that we can never feel or think our way out of their effects.  Yet, God so loved the world filled with humans that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes on him should not perish, but have eternal life.  Today we are going to focus on the mind of Christ and the mind of God the Father who sent him to earth.  We are going to talk about the kind of thinking that can save us from all those things I mentioned earlier. 

Let’s look at Philippians 2.

The mind of Christ

In verses 1-4, Paul describes several issues that go to the heart of how we tend to think.  In verse 3 he says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or deceit.”  In verse 4 he states, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests.”  Later he emphasizes this more in verse 14, “Do all things without complaining and disputing.”  Also he says in verse 21, “They all seek their own interests.”  All of these descriptions flow from a heart and mind that is twisted towards self.  This is every single person who has ever lived besides Jesus.  If it was not for him coming to earth and demonstrating a different heart, a different mind, we would still be lost and without hope.

So, when we think about the baby in the manger, let us also think about the mind, or the thinking, that was behind what was happening that day.  Let’s remember that Jesus represented not just a clash of thinking between God and 1st century Jewish religion and philosophy.  Rather, he represents a clash of thinking between God and every generation who has ever lived, including ours today.

Thus starting in verse 5 Paul tells us that we need to have the same mind or thinking that Jesus had when he left the throne of heaven to be born in a lowly stable.  We should question ourselves this morning.  What mind have I been using and living by?  Have I lived by the mind of Christ or the mind and rationale that comes naturally to me?

So what is it about the mind of Christ that we need?  First Jesus did not cling to being in the form of God (vs. 6).  The KJV and the NKJV translate this verse to say that Jesus didn’t think it robbery to be equal with God.  However, the flow of the argument is not towards Jesus being equal with God, but rather away from that state.  He is leaving heaven in order to take on that which is lesser than God.  Thus the point is not that he didn’t think that he had robbed God to be equal with Him, but that His equality with God was not something to cling to or snatch at.  Jesus was willing to lay that amazing, incredible place with the Father aside in order to come down and save us.  So what am I clinging to that I need to let go of in order to experience what God has for me and others in my life?  Jesus wasn’t climbing the ladder and clinging to his place.  He was descending the ladder in order to help us.

Another part about this mind of Christ is that he was willing to “empty himself” in order to become a servant, in human form.  We are not told exactly of what Christ emptied himself.  However, we know that at the very least he emptied himself of his position and the rights or privileges that go along with it.  His mind, which is the same mind as that of the Father, does not cling to power and position, but rather lays it aside in order to serve others, at least if need be.  For you and I, we only have to descend out of the high and loft position of our inflated ego in order to be of service to God, but for Jesus it was truly a humbling of epic proportions.  We should ask ourselves today.  What do I need to empty myself of in order to serve those that God has put in my life?

Lastly in verse 8, we are told that Jesus laid down his human life in order to obey God’s will.  It is easy to focus on the sacrifice of Christ and the love for us that compelled him, and yet overlook his love for God the Father.  He chooses to obey the Father’s will by laying down his life.  Our impulse is to throw God’s commands and plans back in his face and shout, “You expect too much!”  Yet, Jesus trusted the plan of the Father, even when it led him to become a servant to serve mankind, and even to be crucified on a cross.

It is not easy to trust God, but Jesus did.  He also asks us to trust him, pick up our own cross, and follow him.  Do I trust him that much?  Am I refusing to follow Jesus because it costs me something, even my life?

After Paul shows us the mind of Christ that we need in order to be what God wants us to be in each other’s life, he then turns to the effects of this selfless obedience to God the Father.

The reward of God the Father

In verses 9-11, we are shown the response of God the Father to the selfless actions of Jesus. 

First of all God highly exalts Jesus and, I will add here, at the proper time.  The actions of Jesus are all the opposite of self interest and exaltation.  Jesus actually is humbling himself and doing a humbling work that leads to death.  Nothing he does is about trying to lift himself.  We can get so consumed with trying to get ahead, whether secularly or spiritually, that we neglect to think about what we may be risking.  What will God think of my thinking and the actions that it led me to do in this life?  Were they all about self promotion and seeking to be higher?  Or were they similar to those of Christ?

We are told that Jesus is currently at the right hand of the Father awaiting the signal to come back to earth and take control of the governance of this world.  However, that is his experience after the Father chose to exalt him.  Before this exaltation, Jesus is humbling himself and rejecting the temptation to make those things happen on his own.  Even now Jesus is not exalting himself.  He only accepts the exaltation that the Father has given him. 

1 Peter 5:5-7 says, “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders.  Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for ‘God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.’  Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”  Notice that God opposes the proud.  When we humble ourselves, we put ourselves in a position for God to exalt us at the proper time.  I would put before you today that this life is not the time for exaltation.  Our flesh can’t handle it.

Verse 7 highlights the big problem.  When we are humble we get worried and anxious about all that we aren’t getting.  We are counseled to trust God and his care for us.  Our flesh doesn’t like such an answer, but God does.  You can exalt yourself in this life and be humbled by God at its end, or you can humble yourself in this life and be exalted by him at its end.

Part of Christ’s exaltation is that he is given a name above all others.  The emphasis is not on some new name that is really cool.  A person’s “name” is equivalent to their reputation and standing among others.  Jesus is given a reputation and standing that is above all others, both on earth and in heaven.  This position is similar to that which he had before because it is once again at the Father’s side, but now he has an even greater honor and standing.  He is now the Redeemer and Savior of humanity.  He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.  If we will take on the same mind that Jesus had, and if we will live out this life as the Holy Spirit leads, we will also join him in attaining great honors and standing at his side.

We are told that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, whether in heaven, or on earth, or in the grave.  This is not just about the physical position of bowing, but about the submission it represents.  Eventually even the enemies of Christ will have to recognize his true standing.

In that moment we are told that they will also confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.  What Jesus lost by not seeking his own selfish interests, is given back to him in even greater portion by the Father.  What the religious leaders of his day gained through their self seeking actions, was taken away from them by the Father. 

Knowing that God is bringing all beings of creation to a place where they will confess that Jesus is Lord, what should we do?  To double down on being a rebel only ensures that we would die in our sins and stand before God, confessing that Jesus is Lord, but to no avail for our future.  However, if we will confess him as Lord in this life, and take on the mind of Christ, if we will humble ourselves and live in obedience to his commands, then our confession will lead to the reward of God the Father, who gives us a place at the side of Jesus forever.

So let us contemplate this Christmas season.  Am I following the thinking of this world, the thinking of the devil, or am I letting the mind of Christ lead me?  Let’s live according to the mind of Christ and truly find life!

The Mind behind the Incarnation audio

Tuesday
Dec182018

Exercising your Faith

Luke 8:22-25.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on December 16, 2018.

Today we are going to talk about the nature of faith.  Faith is such that it can be strengthened through its use.  Much like a muscle that is not used, our faith can atrophy to a point of spiritual danger.

This is not an attempt to inflate our egos with images of a spiritual Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Some people too easily think far more of themselves than they should and others too easily think far less of themselves than they should.  We must not err in either direction. 

No, this is recognition that God does want believers to become stronger in trusting Him.  He uses the difficulties of this life to strengthen our faith and accomplish the good work that He has for us to do.  In today’s story we are going to see a day in the life of The Twelve disciples, and how Jesus used it to strengthen their faith.

We must learn to trust the leading of Jesus

By the time we get to Luke 8:22, the disciples have followed Jesus for a while.  In verses 1-2 of the same passage we are told that they had already passed through every city and village “preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the Kingdom of God.  And The Twelve were with Him, and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities.”  I say this because it shows us that they had a certain level of faith already.  They had come to see Jesus as a wise teacher with the knowledge of God, and a powerful healer who could set people free from the worst of diseases and even evil spirits.  However, they did not yet understand completely who Jesus was.  Even when we know the stories of the Bible and what God can do, we did not walk through those times.  Thus we have to learn to trust God for ourselves in the things that we experience.

In this passage the disciples will be tested with a new set of circumstances.  Jesus tells them to get in boats and go across the Sea of Galilee towards the eastern side.  Now, several of them were experienced fisherman, but not all of them were.  Even then, this storm that they would encounter was the worst that they had ever encountered while in a boat.  

This highlights an issue in the area of faith.  We must resist the temptation to believe that if we are following God the way will be easy and without difficulty.  The devil can undermine your faith by getting you first to believe that you are not where God wants you to be and second that God has abandoned you there.  Even if the first part is true, God will not abandon the repentant.  Remember the prodigal son.  Jesus is always as close as the mention of His name.  So our faith is going to be tested whether we like it or not.  It is the only way to strengthen our faith and accomplish what God wants to accomplish in our lives.

However remember 1 Corinthians 10:12-13.  “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.  No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”  Notice that in verse 12 we are warned to watch out lest we fall.  God does not want us to become proud and arrogant in our abilities.  We can fall at any time, period.  However, verse 13 is the encouragement.  We can trust God’s leading.  He is faithful and it is His help that will enable us to deal with the trial.

Though this verse speaks of an escape, it also speaks of being able to bear our trials.  There is always a way through every test when Jesus is with us, but we should never see avoiding the test as God’s way of escape.  His way always leads right through the trial and out the other side.  The temptation is to treat Jesus like training wheels for the disciples.  Later the wheels will come off and they will be just like Jesus.  In truth, they would only do what they did later by continuing to follow Jesus by faith, and allowing Him to do what He wanted to do through them.  It was still God’s power that enabled them to do anything and the same will be true for us.  There will never be a time in this life that we do not need Jesus.  However, the key is that Jesus is with us, just as real as He was with those disciples that day on the boat when the storm threatened to destroy them.

He picks the best way for us

So let’s follow up on the idea that God has a way through our trial.  The idea to boat across the sea came from Jesus and He was not ignorant to what was going to happen.  He could have had them walk around.  God always has options, and yet he chose this one that lead to this difficult place.

It was imperative for the disciples that they come to the knowledge that Jesus was the Son of God, that in Him the fullness of the Godhead dwelt completely.  They needed to know that He was much more than a wise teacher, and powerful healer.  He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God.

Though the situation looks like they are going to die, God is always watchful to the end that our faith is not overwhelmed.  Much like Israel pinned in against the Red Sea by Pharaoh’s army, they had nowhere to go.  Let me remind us of a verse in Exodus 13:17-18.  It says, “Then it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, ‘Lest perhaps the people change their minds when they see war, and return to Egypt.’  So God led the people around by way of the wilderness of the Red Sea.”  God is always aware of what would be too much, what would overwhelm us.  Just as He was watching out for Israel, so He was watching out for The Twelve, and so He is watching out for you and me.

The truth is not that we can’t go through what is in front of us, but that we don’t want to do it.  We are capable of going through far greater things than we want to do and to be tested at levels far above our comfort zones.  It is not that we can’t follow the Lord, but that our flesh doesn’t want us to do so.  So the question is not can you follow the Lord, but will you?

Notice that God picked the easier way, but not an easy way.  We always think we have the toughest road, but the truth is that it could have been tougher.  The tests that Israel went through in the wilderness were tough, but they were also preparing them.  God taught them that they could trust Him for provision, healing, leading, and defense.  All these things were preparing them for the day when they would enter the Promised Land and have to fight giants.  It was all God’s preparation for Israel and in our story today, God’s preparation for the disciples.  They would face far greater storms than the one they faced on the Sea of Galilee that day.  Israel left Egypt unready for war against Egyptians, much less giants.  In the beginning God completely fought for them.  Moses told them, “Stand still and see the salvation of the Lord!”  In the wilderness God had them assist in the miracles of the desert by going out and gathering the manna and the birds, but in obedience to God’s commands about how much.  He had them break camp and make camp, marching dutifully along, at the direction of the cloud that led them.  When they reach the Promised Land, they are ready to go to war against giants, not by themselves, but with the Lord working with them.  This is the careful preparation of God in all of our lives, helping us to grow in our ability to exercise our faith in Him.

If there is an impossible situation in your path, know this.  God has led you to this day.  If you haven’t been living for Him then repent and ask Him to help you.  If you have been living for Him, then reach out to Him to teach you how to come through even this impossible situation.  It may be, “stand still and watch me.”  It may be “Go up and fight and I will be with you.”  Regardless, we can know that He has picked the best way for us to become stronger in Him, to become more like Him.

Jesus is powerful enough for my situation

This brings us full circle to the story in Luke 8.  The Twelve are faced with a situation that is beyond them in the natural, but it is also beyond their faith.  Yet, in their time of need they turn to Jesus and this is always the right answer.  Satan can use fear and doubt to get you to question God’s love.  He does so to get you to walk away from Jesus instead of exercising your faith in Him by calling out to Him.  We may not have Jesus physically beside us, but He is just as close by the presence of the Holy Spirit and just as powerful.

How we turn to Jesus is important.  When we turn to Jesus, we do need to turn to Him in faith rather than in fear and accusation.  In the story the disciples are fearful and their statement to Jesus has a tinge of accusation to it.  Perhaps they waited longer than they should have to turn to Jesus, while bailing water and trying to keep the boat together.  Perhaps they resented the serene look on the face of Jesus as He slept.  Doesn’t He know that we are perishing?  Yet, Jesus was only asleep as long as they did not wake Him.  Why do we delay turning to Christ in our trials?  Don’t do that.  We don’t always get an answer right away, but the answer doesn’t start until we turn to Him. 

The good news is that we don’t have to be perfect to have God’s help.  However, we should learn and do better next time.  Learn to turn to Christ in expectant hope.  Lord, what would you have me/us do?  Is there anything?  I trust in You, Lord!  Clearly this is easier said than done, and none of us do it without error.  Yet, we can learn to become stronger in this area as we walk with the Lord Jesus.

Let us end with the obvious lesson of this story.  Jesus can handle the material world and the supernatural world in our lives.  In this situation the disciples recognize that Jesus is more than a man.  “He commands even winds and water, and they obey Him!”  When they hit the shore only one event happens before they get in their boats and go back, and that is meeting the Gadarene demoniac.  This guy was not just possessed with an evil spirit.  He had a legion of spirits within him.  He represents a satanic stronghold that only God could break down.  Christ demonstrates to His disciples (and us by the way) in back to back situations that He can handle both the natural creation and the supernatural creation.  He truly is Lord over all things. 

May God help us all to exercise our faith in Him by following Him today.  Whatever situation you are in, and whether you arrived there by following Jesus or running your own way, turn to Him today and let Him lead you into a place of stronger faith and victorious living.

Exercising Faith Audio