The first miracle of Jesus is found in John chapter two. While many won’t give much thought to the servants in this account, let’s place the focus on them here.
“On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come. His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.
When Jesus refers to His mother as “woman” He was using a term of respect in that day and age. John writes that the hour of His death had not come because that is an underlying narrative of his book.
“Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.”
Now, notice the response of the servants.
“So they filled themup to the brim.”
They never questioned why they should fill these jars with water. This was no simple task and it was no doubt a time consuming chore. The jars held anywhere from one hundred and twenty to one hundred and eighty gallons of water. They likely drew the water out of a well— one bucket at time.
Jesus then tells the servants,
“Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”
Once again, notice the response of the servants.
“So they took it.”
The servants didn’t ask why they should draw the water out or even why they should take it to the master of the feast. They don’t seem to hesitate even though it could have been a humiliating experience to serve water to the head of the wedding feast. They just took it! They simply listened to what Jesus told them to do.
The servants and their unquestioning obedience is praiseworthy. As servants of Christ, we should do whatever He tells us. We shouldn’t do the bare minimum but we should, in a spiritual sense, fill our jars to the brim. We should live our lives completely dedicated to fulfilling His commands, even if it’s difficult or when it doesn’t make much sense to us.
It takes a special individual of both breed and brand to truly impact the world. The fact is, many will live their lives comfortable and content to never break any molds or “step outside the box,” as they say. Most believers understand that God has called us out of this world to be lights and to be different, but that means being uncomfortable (James 1:2-4). We don’t like that aspect of faithful walking and at times the fire inside us and the will to go on is at the verge of being snuffed out. On every side we are surrounded by a raging current of mainstream ideologies and beliefs that drown the masses sweeping them closer towards eternity—unprepared. That familiar and depressing reality can discourage and frustrate us to the point of tears. Preachers, elders, and leaders are constantly fighting these feelings as they huff and puff under the weight of it all. Christian fathers and mothers anxiously worry about that painfully uncertain future their children will battle. Young people are plagued with convincing thoughts that a faithful life is all but impossible today. How can we make an impact? You may wonder what difference you could possibly make as you observe such a powerful and evil force. Here is the bad news, it’s hard. But here is the wonderful news; it’s worth it! God has given us an instruction manual on how to become mighty misfits in a culture that rejects righteousness. There are permanent footprints left by the feet of godly men throughout history, and their tracks lead to victory for those that choose to follow them.
For example, there is the trailblazer and zealous disciple, Paul. He serves as an inspiring nonconformist when he abandons his previous life of riches, respect, and comfort. His courage, faith, and determination can produce a powerful stirring in our spirits. If that man with the thorn can overcome fear and defeat the devil’s endeavors, despite his own weakness, then by the grace of God we can too. Our lives can leave an impact and they can serve as beacon of light for generations to come.
Notice how Jabez demonstrates this point in 1 Chronicles 4:9-10. Within a lengthy list of family lines that make up the sons of Judah, Jabez breaks the mold. While numerous names are given, there is something more to be said of Jabez. He stands out as one who was “more honorable” than those who were before him in verse 9. Though his name means “son of my sorrow,” a label associated with affliction, he refuses to let this name define his future.
The key to his success is given in the following verse which says,
“Jabez called upon the Lord saying, ‘oh that you would bless me, your hand be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not give me pain!’ And God granted what he asked.”
That verse is loaded with valuable lessons for this age and every age to follow.
Don’t interpret your future by looking at your past.
It doesn’t matter what family you were born into or how you were raised. We all have been given at least three common blessings. If you are made in the image of God, and you are, then that means you have talent, opportunity, and a life. The amount of talent, number of opportunities, and quality of that life is irrelevant. You have everything you need to succeed which is precisely what our Father desires.
Lesson number two:
Only God can grant you gainful glory.
Jabez established his lasting legacy and was victorious because he understood one thing. God is the God of impartiality. He offers a heavenly hand to help the stereotypically weak and sinful human break the stereotype. The cards of life you hold in your hand mean little to the God who owns the deck. Jabez, Paul, and many faithful others understood the weakness of humanity. Their lives are a statement and a confession— God can help anyone rise above the crowd. He can help you achieve the only recognition that counts and give you the precious gift of a future with certainty. The path to victory is a narrow one according to Matthew 7:14. Few have found it and few have finished it, but with the right Guide it can definitely be done. Are you unsure of your current location? Look down at the tracks you are following, and the guide walking with you. If you are holding the hand of the Savior— you can be sure you’re going in the right direction. Allow that comfort to strengthen you and break out of whatever mold you are in. Let God use your weakness and failures to leave an eternal mark on a world that needs it. There is no congregation that can’t grow, no Christian that can’t improve, and no unsaved person that doesn’t deserve the chance to hear that life changing message of the cross. There’s a great day coming, and that should provoke some excitement as well as motivate us all to diligently and fearlessly work until then.
Luke moves from a sample of Jesus’ teaching and work in the synagogues to His teaching and work among the common people in Luke 5:1-11. For the first time, in Luke five, we see individuals responding to His teaching by following Him. Though Luke only identifies one of the men at this point, the three other gospel writers mention that Simon Peter’s brother, Andrew, was also in that number. Matthew and Mark tell us that the men in the other boat were James and John. These four fishermen would soon “be catching men” (10). Luke seems to focus his attention on the reaction these men had to Jesus, His teaching, and the impact the miracle with the fish had on them. Their reaction to Jesus mirrors the reaction we need to have when called by His Word to follow Him.
DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES EXPOSURE TO JESUS’ WORD (1-4).
Luke shows us Jesus teaching in close proximity to the fishermen, but gives no clear indication of how much or if they are listening to Him. He does show how compelling Jesus’ teaching is and how the people were listening (1). John tells us, though, that Andrew had already been listening to Jesus and was trying to persuade Simon to follow Him (1:40-42). Paul’s teaching that faith comes by hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17) will be apparent in the lives of these followers, as Luke will demonstrate in this gospel and the book of Acts. We cannot follow one whose ideas, instruction, and incentives we do not know or believe.
This is not a one-time act. Submission is a process that must be practiced continually. But, no one can choose to follow who does not surrender his or her own will to Christ’s (cf. 9:23-26). Jesus, the carpenter, tells these fishermen how to fish. Despite their all-night total failure at their craft, they trust Jesus’ word. Simon says, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets” (5). Success followed submission, something they would see in greater, more important ways as they continued to follow Him. Jesus asks us to do difficult and perplexing things. Our task is not to question, but simply to surrender.
DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES A HUMILITY TO SEE OUR SINFUL SELVES (8).
Simon will show traits which prove him to be a work in progress, from impetuousness to inconsistency. Yet, Jesus could see his heart and the inspired Luke sheds light on it, too. When Peter sees the power of His Lord, he says, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” (8). All of us will disappoint Jesus in our walk with Him, but He loves a heart that harbors no stubborn pride. This is the man Jesus will choose as a leader and spokesman, one who does not try to project perfection and superiority. So it is today (1 Pet. 5:5-6).
Exposure to Jesus left these fishermen “seized” (enclosed, completely taken hold of) with “amazement” (9). It made them “fear” (10). Others felt emotion like this who were exposed to Jesus’ power and preaching, and they audaciously reject Him (4:22-30; 8:26-39). These four men, amazed and afraid, will be prompted by this to make the life-changing (and life-giving) choice to follow Him. I have seen people in Bible studies and in their pew who realize the truth of the gospel, showing (and even telling of) remorse, dread, and anxiety over their lostness, but who just cannot make the decision to deny self and follow Jesus. I cannot think of a greater tragedy. In my own life, it is not simply enough to feel sorrow over my sin. I must allow this to move me to obedience (2 Cor. 7:9-11).
DISCIPLESHIP REQUIRES RADICAL CHANGE (11).
Luke will record several positive examples of people whose encounter with Jesus is transformational! Think the sinful woman (7:36-50), the demoniac (8:26-39), the grateful leper (17:11-21), and Zaccheus (19:1-10). Some, though, were just not willing (18:18-27). Luke records multiple occasions where Jesus warns that discipleship requires radical change (cf. 9:57-62). Other writers will contrast it as putting off the old man and putting on the new man (Eph. 4:22-32; Col. 3:5-17; Heb. 12:1; 1 Pet. 2:1ff). Here, Luke simply relates how that they immediately left everything and followed Him. While that may not be a literal necessity today, we cannot hope to have eternal life while holding onto this life so much that we are not following His will.
These men were about to see things they could not have imagined, experience highs and lows they did not know existed, and be given opportunities they could not have anticipated. It wasn’t going to be an easy life; in fact, it would demand everything they had. But it gave them something only Jesus could give them. This hasn’t changed. If we want what they received, we must do what they did!
It hurts and it’s hard to become attached to anyone who isn’t living faithfully because they’re lost. That means they’re not going to heaven. Sometimes lost people pretend like that’s not their reality by distracting themselves with things that make them feel like they’re not lost (Ecc. 2.24-25).
There’s a good chance that you know people who aren’t going to heaven and many of you love people who aren’t and we’ve got to convince them to hear Jesus out.
What can we do?
We can simplify spiritual concepts so that people can understand a message that they desperately need to hear.
Please don’t let anything get in your way of going home. If you think something might be in your way, God can use us to help you. There are more things to fear than Covid, vaccines, tornados, elections, and riots.
Everybody responds to the invitation that Jesus extends. Many choose to say no— but nobody ever regrets saying yes.
To you, responding might be a personal resolve and commitment to christ.
“For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
In the lead up to the College Football Playoff National Championship, I have read a few articles about tonight’s game. More than once, the players and coaches have talked about the need to “trust the process.” That idea applies to the entire program, to the season, to preparing for every game including this last one, to both sides of the ball, down to the individual player’s preparation for this game. “The process” is comprised of every fundamental principle intended to bring about the highest success. There will be trying moments and setbacks, even failures. But when the tendency to doubt is the greatest, it is then that you most need to “trust the process.”
They say that athletics are a metaphor for life. The inspired apostle Paul thought so. Long before Nick Saban or Kirby Smart and their players used the mantra, the first-century native of Tarsus was teaching the idea in the Bible. Here is how he put it, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops” (2 Tim. 2:3-6). No, he does not say, “Trust the process.” He gives it instead: Endure, focus, follow the rules, and work hard. Just as coaches use metaphors, making comparisons to chopping wood, flying the plane, rowing the boat, etc., Paul refers to the soldier, the athlete, and the farmer to illustrate principles in the process of living the Christian life.
Our goal is the enjoy ultimate success. The Bible defines that as overcoming the world (Jn. 16:33; 1 Jn. 4:4; 5:4; Re. 2:7,11,17, etc.). There are times this is very difficult, but at all times we must “trust the process.” Trust the process…
When you are encountering various trials (Js. 1:2ff).
When you are aiming at church growth (Acts 2:42-47).
When you are combatting temptation (Js. 4:7-8).
When you are offended or have offended (Mt. 5:23-24; 18:15-17).
When you are trying to win back a fallen brother (Gal. 6:1-2).
When you are seeking to follow Jesus (Lk. 9:23-26).
When you are working on your marriage (Eph. 5:22-33).
When you are running the marathon of childrearing (Eph. 6:1-4; Dt. 6:4-9).
When you are building your relationship with God (Ps. 1; Col. 3:1ff).
When you are shepherding the flock (1 Pt. 5:1-4; Acts 20:28).
When you are dealing with prosperity (1 Ti. 6:17-19) or poverty (Js. 1:9-12).
When you are struggling with sins of the tongue (Js. 3:1-12).
When you are wondering if it’s worth it to keep going (2 Tim. 4:1-8).
When you are being persecuted for your faith or for no good reason at all (Mt. 5:38-48).
In other words, whatever our specific struggle, problem, difficulty, or trial, God has given us a proven process. How many, through the ages, have overcome and won simply because they trusted it? As a loyal, long-suffering fan of the guys in red and black, I am hoping their overall process ends a 41-year drought. If it doesn’t, life will go on. As you follow Jesus, I am hoping that by trusting the process found throughout Scripture you win the crown of eternal life (Js. 1:12). When all is said and done, that is all that matters!
Some people’s sin struggles are evident. If they wrestle with foul language or lying, you can hear it. If they wrestle with immodesty or drunkenness, you can see it. Some spiritual weaknesses, though, are insidiously difficult to see–especially in ourselves. In Luke 9:46-56, in events that follow each other in very short order, the disciples’ struggle with pride is exposed by Jesus. We can understand why they struggled with pride. They were walking with the Messiah! He was training them for a special mission. Now, the only matter for them to settle was how they ranked among each other. Jesus exposes that very mindset in these verses.
PRIDE SEEKS PREEMINENCE (46-48). The disciples argue among themselves about who might be the greatest. Not only is this childish, but it reflects their short memory. They just displayed a deficiency of faith that prevented them from casting out the unclean spirit. Perhaps Peter, James, and John, given privy to the transfiguration, might have felt that if they had been among these other disciples they would have been able to cast it out. We don’t know. All we know is that Jesus rebukes the very idea of the arguing by placing a child in their midst. Children were barely noticed among first-century adults, but Jesus makes paying attention to and ministering to the least of people the mark of greatness. Discipleship is not about glory and visibility. It’s about having our eyes open to the humble and our hearts open to serving them.
PRIDE SHOWS PREJUDICE (49-50). While some have tried to use these verses to say that there are saved Christians in religious groups outside of the New Testament church, they totally misunderstand Jesus’ point (not to mention, miss the teaching of a great many passages). What was John’s bone of contention? There was a disciple of Jesus who was doing works in His name (acting by His authority; recognizing His identity). They tried to prevent him “because he does not follow along with us” (49). They concluded this person couldn’t be acceptable because he wasn’t accompanying them. Jesus knows this man is on His side, but the disciples’ needed to hear this: “Do not hinder him; for he who is not against you is for you” (50). This territorial mentality can creep into our thinking. We should hold hands with all those who are on the Lord’s side, doing the Lord’s work. This is true if it regards the good works of others in the local congregation or if it is area congregations.
PRIDE SEEKS PUNISHMENT (51-56). Pride shows itself in a very different way shortly after this. Jesus sends some followers on a mission, but they were rejected. James and John’s solution was to exact vengeance on them. They were anxious to call down fire from heaven and consume them. Whatever they expected as Jesus’ reaction, they had to be surprised at His rebuke. He corrects their thinking, saying that He came to this earth to save rather than destroy men’s lives. Jesus’ solution was simply to move on to more receptive hearts (56). Sometimes our impatience with others or disappointment in their displays of unbelief can make us trigger happy. Whether we are indignant on the Lord’s behalf or we feel personally slighted, we need to remember the patient, charitable response Jesus makes to those who, in the moment, refused to receive Him. That patience and kindness may or may not ultimately reach their hearts, but it is the best route to success in trying to both be a disciple and win disciples for Jesus.
Do a Bible search and see what God says about pride. It’s at the top of the list in those deadly sins of Proverbs 6:16-19, things God says He hates! Both Testaments say that it leads to our downfall (Prov. 3:34; Jas. 4:6; 1 Pet. 5:5). So often, we see it as a struggle for those who are already in the body of Christ. I must constantly watch for this self-centered behavior, keeping my focus on other disciples, the lost, the less fortunate and weak, and especially the Lord. Let me remember that it’s all about Him and them, and say with John the Baptist, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30).
In Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables (1987), loosely based on historical events, Elliot Ness must stop gangster Al Capone. Ness, portrayed by Kevin Costner, is recruiting capable men to help him accomplish his task. One of the men he selects is an Irish beat cop, Jimmy Malone. Malone, played by Sean Connery, asks Ness what he is prepared to do to stop Al Capone. Ness replies he is willing to do anything within the law. However, Malone reminds him that Capone doesn’t play by those rules, implying that Ness will have to dirty his hands to bring Capone to justice. Sadly, one of Capone’s cronies mortally wounds Malone later in the movie. As he lay dying, he again asks Ness what he is prepared to do. Malone’s death finally causes Ness to take his gloves off and give Capone a hard fight.
Obviously, our devotional thoughts are just as loosely based on The Untouchables as the said movie was on the actual events occurring during Prohibition. Thus, I am primarily focusing on Malone’s question of what one is prepared to do. This question strikes me as pertinent to two parables spoken by Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 13.44-45. There are seven parables in Matthew 13, but Jesus gave only four of those to the assembled masses. The remaining three he spoke to the disciples alone. Of those three parables, two deal with people making an incredible discovery and the lengths they go to secure it. The Pearl of Great Price and the Hidden Treasure is parables requiring sacrifice from those wishing to obtain what Jesus equates to the kingdom of heaven.
Wait a minute. Are these not disciples to whom He addresses these parables? Yes. So, have they not already found the treasure, having decided to follow Jesus? Indeed, they have. However, there remains something even they must do. Even though they have acknowledged that there is something special about Jesus, that He is the Messiah, there is still a price to be paid. If they wish to complete their faithfulness, they must be willing to forfeit all to secure God’s precious promises. In the case of some, this knowledge came because of a diligent search. For the others, they had chanced upon the Messiah. Regardless of the circumstances, though, both groups had to surrender everything to receive the kingdom.
Recalling Matthew’s original audience, we note Matthew’s message is Jesus is the Messiah. Thus, he wrote primarily for the benefit of the Jews looking for the Messiah. They had to recognize that Jesus of Nazareth was He about whom the prophets had spoken, even Moses. Yet, they had to do more than mentally assent to Jesus’ identity. The believer’s conviction would cause them even to forfeit their former spiritual wealth obtained under the Law of Moses since God’s kingdom is invaluable in comparison. Elsewhere in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells those who would follow Him that they had to remove all stumbling blocks from obedience, even if that were a foot or an eye (Matthew 18.7-9). Jesus was using this language figuratively, of course, as He was not advocating self-mutilation. But the message is the same as that of the Pearl of Great Price and the Hidden Treasure. You must remove absolutely everything coming between you and the acquisition of the kingdom of heaven without prejudice.
That is a sober message for those of us reading Matthew’s Gospel today. We may have satisfied ourselves with the knowledge that we have grasped the identity of Christ. Perhaps, we have even taken steps to become Christians. We are His disciples. But even to us, Jesus asks, “What are you prepared to do?” If the answer is not the equivalent of forfeiting all for the sake of the kingdom, then we have not yet done enough. As those to whom the Hebrews’ writer wrote, “You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding blood in your striving against sin” (Hebrews 12.4 NASB1995). The implication, of course, is Christians elsewhere in the first century were shedding their blood for their faith. Hence, the road taken by the recipients of the Hebrews letter was calmer in comparison. Thus, as I read those parables of the Pearl of Great Price and the Hidden Treasure, I must ask myself if I likewise will give my all to receive the kingdom of heaven. So then, when the situation calls for it, I must do whatever it takes to receive the kingdom of heaven. Only then will I have obtained the Pearl of Great Price and the Hidden Treasure.
“Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, brother of James, Joses, and Judas and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us? And they took offense at Him. Then Jesus said ‘a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown among relatives and those of his household.” – Mark6:4
“Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenters son?” – Matthew13:54
Factor1 – LOCATION: Nazareth was located 3 miles fromSepphoris which at the time was developing quickly as part of Herod Antipas beautification project. It would eventually be known as “The Jewel Of All Galilee.” Jesus would have witnessed and perhaps helped his father cut stone in the quarry that was half way between Nazarethand the developing city.
Factor2 – DEMAND – In the days of Jesus there weren’t many trees in the area, and there still aren’t many today. To try and make a living working with a material that wasn’t readily available or even used much would be difficult.
– Factor3 LANGUAGE – “Tekton” simply means “builder” The Messiah was a handyman, and the spiritual connections in yourmind mayalready be forming.
Factor4 – SCRIPTURE – Luke 20:17ff – Jesus tells the parable about the wicked tenants, after Jesus is questioned about His authority in thetemple by the scribes/chief priests, He looks at them and says “The STONE the builders rejected has become the cornerstone?” quoting from Psalm 118.
Again quoted by Peter as he defends himself in front of religious leaders in Acts 4 “This Jesus is the stone that was rejected byyou the builders.” It was a reference to David’s lineage to theMessiah and it would have been familiar to Jewish stone builders.
The employees complained that they couldn’t control the temperature in office buildings. A simple and effective solution was set in place by corporate when they secretly placed dummy thermostats in the work area. They were then able to give all the unsuspecting workers the illusion that they were in control at last.
Today there are many that believe they can control more than they really can in their lives. Some have even managed to give others the illusion that they have some kind of supernatural ability to change the nation and world. This entirely false reality takes place on the very planet held in the hands of the One who really has all the control.
In the Old Testament we find that people thought a lot of David— once he proved his worth as a warrior. As he rose in fame he continued to bring positive change for God’s people but all along the way David understood that he was making a difference only because God allowed him to.
So many are worried about controlling every aspect of their lives and the lives of others, but I’m thankful that I’m not in control. As a human, I’m prone to make mistakes— God knows that. He provides for His faithful exactly what we need.
What is God’s will for your life?
He wants you to recognize His power, His control, His compassion, and His desire for all to be saved. I hope that today this served as a simple reminder to let Jehovah take the lead and that we don’t actually want the control that we may think we do.
It has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember, going to northern Montana to see Glacier National Park. Though I lived only a long day’s drive from it for 13 years, it took moving across the country before we made the trip. Sometimes, the event cannot live up to the hype, but that was not the case with this experience. The beauty is as diverse as it is breathtaking. While there is so much to see, some of the most memorable sights are to be found along a route in the park known as the Going-To-The-Sun Road.
It has to be 50 of the most beautiful miles on the planet, with diverse wonders. You’ll see mountain streams cutting through the landscape.
There are breathtaking views of the northern Rocky Mountains throughout the length of this iconic road.
And, of course, there are the lakes that dot this God-kissed path.
There may be some impressive, enjoyable creations of man, but no one can outdo the Master Creator for displays of beauty. I’m glad I took some pictures, but there is no way I could ever forget what I saw.
I could not help thinking about how such an experience reinforces my faith in the existence of God or how it shows me what kind of God He is. How could anyone see what is on display in places like that park, then come away denying Him or concluding that mere random chance produced it?
But, given the name of this road, I also could not help but think about an analogy Jesus used when He walked the earth. He referred to the path of discipleship, following Him, as the narrow way (Mat. 7:14). It is a one-lane road, a singular path (“the way,” John 14:6). It can be an uphill climb (Acts 14:22; 1 Pet. 2:21). But, not only is there much beauty to be found along the journey (John 10:10), the payoff is without rival (Mat. 10:22; Rev. 21:1ff).
The Going-to-the-Sun Road is open only for a season and, though park officials can estimate when it will close each year (mid-to-late October), this cannot be precisely predicted. The road that leads to the Son is likewise open only for a season (Heb. 9:27), but no one knows when that road will forever be closed (Mat. 24:36; 25:10).
It breaks my heart to realize that most people are not on the “Going-to-the Son” road. They have charted a path that may bring them pleasure for a season (Heb. 11:25), but it will end in their eternal destruction (Mat. 25:46). Jesus has His disciples here to show others the way to Him (Mat. 28:19). He is preparing a place far superior to this world (John 14:2-3), a place we should be looking for (2 Pet. 3:13) and longing for (Heb. 11:16).
For all its tears and sorrows, the road of life is full of so much beauty, too. There is never a regret in taking the path of the Savior. But, there are lost and weary travelers who need our help to find it, too. May we find someone today to introduce to the “Going-to-the-Son Road.”