Luke 9:12-13 (NIV)
Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, "Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here." He replied, "You give them something to eat."
When the needs are great, what can you do? That’s a lesson the disciples had to learn after some tough love from Jesus at the feeding of the 5,000.
They asked Him to dismiss the crowd to the “surrounding villages and countryside” because they were in the middle of nowhere. Jesus told them He wasn’t letting them out of their work as disciples, which is a concept I’m not sure they understood at that point.
You see, He wanted them to think higher than “here’s a big need we can’t meet.” He wanted them to stop thinking in terms of “let’s get this party wrapped up and get back to being disciples.” I’m sure they wanted to rest and eat and talk to Him on the personal level they were used to, but Jesus was preparing them for something else. He was preparing the disciples to grow their faith practically.
The people following Him around all day didn’t just want to engage with Him on a spiritual level. They had physical and emotional needs too, and that’s what Jesus is saying here. He wants your spiritual incarnation to become ministry engagement. Let’s look at how he did that.
Step in when it’s inconvenient. Jesus responded to their request with a directive to accept that the crowd’s spiritual transformation is His doing, but their care, comfort, and connection must be the disciples’ concern. He could intervene in this situation very easily, miraculously providing provision, but in this case, He didn’t do that—yet.
Look at how He’s blessed you. He says, “I’m going to push you today. I’m not sending this crowd away. You feed them. We don’t send people away to search for the solution since we are the solution they need.”
So, the disciples look around for what resources they have. They locate a basket filled with two fish and five loaves of bread. That’s enough to feed maybe two people. They bring it to Jesus, He blesses it, and the entire crowd of 5,000 men and their families are fed and the disciples collect 12 baskets of “leftovers.”
Jesus used their “offering” to pour the blessing.
Remember who lives inside you. He’s given us His Holy Spirit. And the Spirit’s gifts are discerning need and sensing threats. Jesus is telling us we don’t get to just sit in the observation tower and grow spiritually. We must walk beside those in need to grow ourselves spiritually. Walking with Jesus makes you observe and when you see need, you are its first solution.
In what ways are you asking Jesus to dismiss what He’s asked you to address?
Luke 18:35-42 (AMP)
Jesus said to him, “Regain your sight; your [personal trust and confident] faith [in Me] has made you well.”
I’m learning to live according to the power of my faith. Are you doing the same?
Here we are at the end of August, the temperature beginning to change and our lives about to go through another cycle of change. Our children are about to be rushed off to school with lunchboxes in hand while our young adults have been dropped off in their dorms, facing transitions of their own. Isn’t this the best time to address where we stand and where we’re going? Longer days are ahead of us—our vacations on the beach have ended, the slow drip of time gone until summer rolls around again. Now is the time to reassess what we have accomplished this year and put a plan in place for goals we would like to fulfill throughout the second half of the year.
I want to reflect on a passage in Luke Chapter 18. Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem, and on His way, He passes through Jericho. Crowds form with mixed reactions—some of adoration and some of spiritual suspicion. A blind man begins to cry louder and louder until he gains Jesus’ attention. Jesus singles him out and asks him what he wants. The man wants to regain his sight; he wants to regain something that was once lost—something he once had, something he holds faith in Jesus to restore. And as the text says, the man receives his sight because his faith made him well. Jesus performs the miracle.
Now let’s go back to the part where the blind man is crying for Jesus’ attention in a crowd full of some who do not share his faith in Jesus. He stood true to his convictions. He stood strong in his faith. He did not let the people around him that did not share the size of his faith stop him from a God-sized opportunity. While it may have been impossible for others, the blind man believes that despite how many keys didn’t work in the past, God said he was going to open a door, and this was going to be the key that opened it. He cried and cried, and he cried louder. And when he shouted and praised God, it made everyone do the same. The man’s faith is rewarded.
Developing and maintaining your faith may not be easy, but the more we begin to trust God with the details of our lives, the simpler it becomes. Spiritual opportunities will always be afforded to us when we maintain our faith. The power of faith is how you get God’s attention. Don’t use a seasonal or situational faith. Don’t lean on God every now and then. Live as an expression of faith, and you will see your goals reached and your prayers answered.
Follow your path, no matter the people around you trying to shut you up while you’re shouting out. Ignore their limited faith, and keep crying like the blind man. There will be people around you that may not understand your faith and may not understand your goals, but do not allow them to discourage you from fulfilling the aspirations you have set. Imagine a life so powerful, effective, and purposeful that it takes God to make it happen, and don’t let anyone stop you.
2 Samuel 15:23 (AMP)
While all the country was weeping with a loud voice, all the people crossed over. The King also crossed the Brook Kidron, and all the people went on toward the way of the wilderness [that lies between Jerusalem and the Jordan River].
This passage of scripture recounts the start of Absalom’s rebellion. David has just found out about the betrayal of his own flesh and blood and he is panicked. He’s about to cross the Kidron, fleeing his own city, vacating the throne. Not only has he been deceived by his family, he is watching those close to him being charmed by the lies spewed from his son. Here we see how low David has sunk. He is literally crossing a river with his remaining loyal people, walking into the wilderness to escape his current situation.
Let’s take it back for a second.
In Hebrew, Kidron means to be dark and to mourn. How representative of the trying state that David is in! He is emotionally and spiritually in a dark place; he’s grieving, he’s lost his stride. Rock bottom.
Down, but not defeated. He will overcome and lead the people. He has more songs, more wisdom, more prayers inside of him. His purpose does not end in this valley. God has sent him there for his own spiritual enlightenment.
Have you walked in that same valley? Have you had to walk through those tough moments in life where the things surrounding us are anything put pure? Perhaps you’re in that season of your life right now, or maybe you’re yet to arrive.
You can’t get to your purpose without going through the valley, without crossing your own Kidron Valley barefoot and distressed. You’re not going to want to embrace this season. Maybe you’ll get mad, shift the blame, question God.
None of us get to design a path that skips the valley. The victory you seek requires you to go through the Kidron Valley.
You don’t learn everything you know about God because your journey was without struggle. You learn how to pray and love God because he pushed you and developed you. You learn to love Him more and pray harder. Sometimes by being turned upside down and turned inside out, you end up landing the right way.
Maybe you’re grumbling to yourself, talking about God’s plan, talking about how this is God’s “Plan B” for your life because “Plan A” didn’t work out.
Some of us think that God responds to our detours as if they take Him by surprise. Is God not forgiving? Full of grace? A protector? A healer? You are not God’s Plan B. Every struggle thrown your way is all part of His plan for you.
Now, you might not know why you’re in this season, but you need to think about what God is trying to teach you. Don’t ever forget how closely anointing and affliction are tied together. Think of the Kidron Valley as a bridge between anointing and affliction. If you live with a heavy anointing, you are going to have to navigate severe affliction. Your spiritual gifts—your anointing—is not a shield; it’s a magnet. Every issue that searches out your gift is going to act out in your presence. Being greatly used by God means being greatly pained by life.
Jesus absorbed and embraced the shame of the cross. You should too. Life can be dark. Stop blaming everyone else and accept that it is your time. You don’t get out of the valley because you shift blame. Like David, you get out because you embrace, you endure, and you reemerge better.
In an earlier post, I go into quite a bit of detail on the definition of “Stewardship.” Most directly, I feel the part that applies to us Christians during this holiday season of need and charity is that stewardship is the “responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving” (Dictionary.com, 2015). I believe that our faith is such a thing. In the same way that we think about caring for other people at the holidays—making sure the homeless are clothed and fed or our own loved ones know that we care for them on a daily basis—we need to think about and attend to our faith.
During the holidays, it is easy to look back and take stock of what we feel are blessings and what we feel are challenges that were overcome with our faith or the strength of those around us. After all, this is the time of year we often reflect. This is when we deliberately take stock of where we need to improve in the coming year and what we did in the past year that worked. We thank God for His blessings, and we ask Him for help with new challenges.
In our busy lives, it is difficult to set aside time to spend on these reflections of faith and calmly re-evaluate our ways of handling stress or in praying for ourselves and others. It is even more difficult to acknowledge that, aside from weekly church attendance and attention to our loved ones in life, we might need to focus more deeply in our faith and in our trust and relationships with God. Many times, we think we know the answers when it comes to how we should handle certain situations or how we look at ourselves, when in fact, we should acknowledge God and His plan for us more often. Should we change certain pathways in life or improve on certain situations? Can we honestly ask God how to approach all of that when we think we know best all the time?
By giving in to our faith and trusting that our relationship with God is the only one equipped to help us get through life’s challenges and adequately give thanks for His assistance in all that is good, we let go of our ego and our own bad habits to listen solely to God and to His Divine Inspiration. In this way, we are stewards of our own faith and can hope to eventually be there in faith for others. We forget about putting ourselves first, and we understand our commitments to others and to God.
In light of recent ongoing events in the world that sometimes leave us speechless and feeling helpless and angry, remember that our stewardship of our faith and to others helps in ways that we can't always fully understand until we see the aftermath when people are banding together and thankful for the help they do receive. It is imperative that we maintain our sense of service to others and our stewardship of the Christian way of life with prayer and good will to others in all cultures and countries. This is our contribution to making the world a better place.
Of course, most of our environments are physical. Aside from what we create in our minds, we exist in a variety of physical environments. We have our own personal space and that which we share with others. When we are out more often, as is the case in seasons of warm weather, we have to engage ourselves with people on a regular basis and we should certainly take advantage of the fellowship that this blessed season of summer can afford us—picnics, swimming, having dinner with friends, attending outings in parks and at beaches, and more. During these times, we need to always remember that our spiritual well-being should always be a priority in our lives, no matter how busy we get or how distracted we are. It is the core of who we are and how strong we stay in the face of any challenges.
In my last post, I invited everyone to make lists about changes, improvements, and priorities, and I want you to keep those lists close to you these next few summer months. I also want you to give some attention to personal improvements and understand that uncluttering your life can result in renewed energy and room for more direct spiritual enlightenment. When we make the effort to organize and improve, and we consciously decide to take steps to change things in our lives, our minds open and become freer, and we become more directed and disciplined, even if just for a short time (until the next renewal episode).
At the core of any strong human being is a strong sense of spirituality. We look to great leaders and captains of industry like President Obama, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, and others—all of who had or have a strong sense of self and of a higher power. God can do this for us. He can help us to stay strong in the face of whatever challenges us. We watch these people of faith who have also had tremendous success in life, and we wonder how they do it all. And, to me, that is no secret. They have their faith and their sense of spirituality first, then the other successes come to them. How? Why? Because they have the ability to see what they want and to take steps to get what they want—the proverbial “eye on the prize,”. Part of getting what they want entails applying discipline to their other areas of life.
It is imperative that we all do a spring-cleaning of the self, home, office, soul, and more every year. This time of the year provides the perfect opportunity for that. Once we make our “to do” lists, we need to decide what needs to be improved and make it all a constant way of life. Then we are freed up to handle our spirituality—our place of contemplation and time with Jesus in prayer or repose or introspection—so that we can cleanse our minds and walk with God as our partner in everyday life. Only then can we experience the “joie de vivre”—the joy of life that these people in high positions experience. Before we have the yacht and the caviar, we have to have the prayer and a solace that provides us daily fortitude. Before we can have the beach vacation or the dinner on the deck with the family, or the trip overseas, or the season tickets to the baseball games all summer, we have to have the spirituality in place so that it guides us in all that we do.
Find this place while your mood is good and the sun is shining more days than it is not. Find time to pray and reflect on your blessings and on your challenges. Take control of your life and live strong in all that you do, everyday, all summer long.