Monthly Archives: October 2012
Reading: Mark 2-3
Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Mark 3:4-6 (NIV)
You can almost read the Pharisees' minds: “Hey, this guy isn't obeying the rules!” But how long had it been since they had pondered the purposes of God and understood his heart for the sabbath? Jesus asked them a rhetorical question, yet to offer the answer would be to admit that their own take on the rule book was missing the point. It could have been a moment of profound learning, but the humility required was absent. Instead, both parties became angry, Jesus at their stubborn hearts, and the Pharisees like dogs who had been backed into a corner. Jesus is described as being “deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts.”
Is there any stubbornness in my heart? I would like to think not, but more likely the conditions that might provoke stubbornness are just not currently presenting themselves. It's easy to feel smug when times are good, but who knows how I might respond in a squeeze. What can I do now so that in the time of testing I will respond with humility instead of stubbornness?
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. Matthew 11:29
Jesus, I want to be humble, and to find a place of peace away from the need to perform and be right, away from the need to cling to worthless principles instead of learning. Though I hesitate to ask, may I have moments of profound learning that I too may become gentle and humble in heart.
Reading: Ephesians 6:10-24
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armour of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood… Ephesians 6:10-12 (NIV)
Every so often, we all need a good pep talk to sharpen us up and renew our confidence. Here Paul is doing exactly that. He focuses on two things:
Firstly, he urges me to stand firm with my eyes wide open. I'm in a battle! I have an adversary, and need to be ready and alert to his schemes. Secondly, Paul does everything he can to instil confidence in me by reminding me that I already have everything I need to fight this battle. I can stand firm because I know the truth. I have been saved and made righteous by what Jesus has done for me. My faith allows me to fend off Satan's attacks whilst at the same time sharing the good news with others not yet saved.
The Word of God is not only transforming my own heart and mind, but is a weapon I can use myself in my struggle against evil, to attack and to defend. And, I have been given state of the art communication capabilities now that the Holy Spirit is living in me. I can truly get things done through prayer because of my position in Christ.
It's really about confidence, and knowing who I am in Christ. Everything is there. God's incomparably great power is at work in me (Eph 1:19 ), and all the things I need to help me stand firm and strong in my faith have been given to me already.
It's as I stand in this position of confidence and God-given strength that I am truly able to love, to be joyful always, to enjoy peace that surpasses all understanding, to be patient and kind and good, to be gentle with others and trustworthy, and to enjoy the security of having self control. These aren't the sort of things I imagined on a battlefield, but the Spirit of the Lord isn't here to bring death and destruction, but rather, life and freedom. No wonder Paul urges me elsewhere, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21
Thank you Jesus for the victory you won at the cross. Help me now to stand firm, in confidence, and to bring your love to the world in which I live. And for all those who face persecution and hardship as they serve you, please strengthen them, fill them anew with confidence, and release joy in their spirits as they hold fast to you.