Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Monday, 1 April 19:
Mark 10:15, 24, 28 – “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it…. Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!… With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God….”
How difficult it is to have childlike faith (not a childish faith) and to surrender our whole lives to the Lord! How difficult is it for us to cultivate a heart that truly desires to be first by being last, to be great by being a servant and slave to others? (Mark 10:31) Jesus says, that it is impossible for us to do it, only God can change our hearts. Yet, how quick we are to say, “We are able.” (Mark 10:39)
The children just wanted to touch Jesus, to encounter Him, while the disciples and rich young man wanted control, honor, success, self-sufficiency, and prominence. There was still a part of them that wanted Jesus in their lives rather than a life in Jesus.
Why can’t we let go? Why can’t we live wholeheartedly like Joshua and Caleb, rather than constantly wanting to go back into the comfortable slavery of the sinful world (Egypt)? What keeps us from stepping boldly into fiery furnaces like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego or lions’ dens like Daniel? What keeps us from stepping out of our caves to face mighty Philistines like Jonathan and his armor bearer? Why won’t we forgive? Why won’t we give?
Ultimately, we suffer from a lack of trust, the kind of trust children have in a loving father. We lack enough faith in God’s sovereignty, providence, love, mercy and grace to trust Him completely with our lives, our successes, our failures, our losses, our deaths and our eternal lives. We hold back in futile self-preservation, as if somehow, we might need to save ourselves. We don’t forgive because we don’t trust God with justice; we don’t give because we don’t trust God’s provision; and in both cases, we fall short of love because we don’t feel overwhelmed by His love and grace. We lack physical and emotional generosity and grace because we don’t have an abundance mentality which hopes (maintains complete confidence) in the immeasurable, unsearchable riches of Christ.
So, how do we overcome ourselves, master ourselves, and develop hearts of faith that truly trust God and obey Him as a natural act of love? We don’t. God does the work in us. Certainly, there are things we do, but only in and through the power of the Holy Spirit, which is a gift from God. Our faith is “not [our] doing” (Ephesians 2:8), self-control is a product of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), and love flows from God to us like sap flows from the vine to the branches (John 15). Like the disciples, we might want to be the masters of our sanctification, but Jesus says we must be more like little children who desire only to be near Him, to touch Him, to sit at His feet like Mary rather than constantly worrying like Martha. (Luke 10:38-42) Jesus says, draw near to me (James 4:8), listen to me (John 10:27), walk with me (John 8:12; John 10:27; Matthew 16:24), and learn from me (Matthew 11:29).
So how do we draw near to God, listen, learn and grow? The Bible is clear: through constant Bible study and prayer. Consider just a few verses:
– Romans 10:17 — So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
– Luke 8:11 — Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
– John 17:8, 17 – For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me…. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.
– 2 Peter 1:21 — For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.
– Matthew 4:4 — But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
– Matthew 17:5 — “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.”
– Hebrews 4:12-13 — For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
– Luke 10:39 — And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.
– John 8:47 — Whoever is of God hears the words of God.
– John 8:31 — So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples….”
– John 15:7 — If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
– Luke 21:33 — Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
– Luke 8:21 — But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”
– Philippians 4:6-7 — Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
– 1 Thessalonians 5:17 — Pray without ceasing….
– Romans 8:26 — Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.
– Luke 11:9 — And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.
– Jeremiah 33:3 — Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.
– Matthew 26:41 — Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
– Ephesians 6:18 — Praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,
– Colossians 4:2 — Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.
– 2 Chronicles 7:14 — If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
– Mark 1:35 — And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed.
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 1 Apr 19: Rather than focusing on self-mastery today, focus on the Master. Sit at the feet of Jesus in prayer and Bible study, listen, learn, grow, and be at peace.