Luke 5:27-32 (AMP)
After this Jesus went out and noticed a tax collector named Levi (Matthew) sitting at the tax booth; and He said to him, “Follow Me [as My disciple, accepting Me as your Master and Teacher and walking the same path of life that I walk].” And he left everything behind and got up and began to follow Jesus [as His disciple].
Levi (Matthew) gave a great banquet for Him at his house; and there was a large crowd of tax collectors and others who were reclining at the table with them. The Pharisees and their scribes [seeing those with whom He was associating] began murmuring in discontent to His disciples, asking, “Why are you eating and drinking with the tax collectors and sinners [including non-observant Jews]?” And Jesus replied to them, “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but [only] those who are sick. I did not come to call the [self-proclaimed] righteous [who see no need to repent], but sinners to repentance [to change their old way of thinking, to turn from sin and to seek God and His righteousness].”
Matthew possesses one of the best qualities in ministry. In my estimation, it is second only to faith itself. He develops a passion that Jesus knows will make him a great vessel for kingdom effectiveness.
What is passion? Let’s define passion as the capacity or the Christ-provided privilege to feel so strongly about something/someone that you are willing to leave everything in pursuit of it or in pursuit of Him. When considering passions, we need to remember two things:
1. Passion is produced by God providing grace to edit one’s “life script.”
2. Passion is produced when the Lord taps into our “secret desperations.”
In Luke Chapter 5, Jesus walks right up to Matthew and offers him a chance to change his life and follow Jesus. Without a second thought, without asking others for advice, he takes that opportunity to have his passion transformed. Jesus knows that Matthew’s passion is fixed to the very fabric of his being. He just needs his vision expanded, mistakes outlived, loyalties redirected, mind transformed, and tools resharpened. Matthew closes up shop, leaves, and starts following Jesus. Then, he coordinates a banquet, and invites the collectors to come meet Jesus. It’s that passion to take it one step further that makes Matthew a worthy choice.
What in your relationship with God are you passionate about? Find it, pray to discover it, ask God to discern it, and stop ignoring it. Everything He wants to do for your life is connected to your passion. When you find your sense of passion, you won’t feel like you’re wasting time. It will make hard work manageable. Don’t settle for good as long as great is out there.
Don’t ask God to take your passion—ask Him to transform it. Just like He transformed Matthew’s passion and Apostle Paul’s passion, He can transform yours. He doesn’t care about your previous mistakes and sins. In fact, the Bible can be summed up in one big human announcement:
Child of God, it’s not too late to edit a script gone bad.
How you are living now is not how you have to live forever. What has been does not have to be. Following Jesus does not give you the privilege to go back to Chapter 1 and start over. It gives you the privilege to start a new chapter and move from there. If you don’t like how any of the previous chapters were written, decide that you’re going to write a better second half because your story isn’t over. Yes, it may include chapters you don’t want included, but it’s your story. All of it serves to make you who you have become. Own it—the good, the bad, the ugly.
Start right now. Start editing from the place you are in at this very moment. Don’t rewrite what you have lived through. Turn the page, redirect your passion, and make your story from this point forward read better than the story that has previously been told.
Edit your script. God’s grace has allowed you to do so.
Jesus may have to tap our secret desperations to produce passion; it’s how He helped Matthew. It’s how He can help you too. Maybe you want to transfer your passions, but a flurry of excuses prevents you from changing—the pay is too much, the power is too addicting, the position is too addicting, too many compromises and promises have been made. Don’t give up your secret aspirations. Don’t sit in the same place day after day and wish it were different. Jesus is the way out of a stuck, trapped life. He will keep the promises He has made to you. Don’t become frustrated because your urgency doesn’t align with His timing.
It’s time to decide: are you going to let your story end, or are you and God going to write the rest of it? I promise if you and God write the rest of your story together, the next chapter will read:
And your later days shall be greater than your former days.
Well done, good and faithful servant…
Matthew 19:16-26 (AMP)
And someone came to Him and said, “Teacher, what [essentially] good thing shall I do to obtain eternal life [that is, eternal salvation in the Messiah’s kingdom]?” Jesus answered, “Why are you asking Me about what is [essentially] good? There is only One who is [essentially] good; but if you wish to enter into eternal life, keep the commandments.” He said to Jesus, “Which commandments?” And Jesus answered, “You shall not commit murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not give false testimony; Honor your father and mother; and love your neighbor as yourself” [that is, unselfishly seek the best or higher good for others]. The young man said to Him, “I have kept all these things [from my youth]; what do I still lack?” Jesus answered him, “If you wish to be perfect [that is, have the spiritual maturity that accompanies godly character with no moral or ethical deficiencies], go and sell what you have and give [the money] to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me [becoming My disciple, believing and trusting in Me and walking the same path of life that I walk].” But when the young man heard this, he left grieving and distressed, for he owned much property and had many possessions [which he treasured more than his relationship with God].
Jesus said to His disciples, “I assure you and most solemnly say to you, it is difficult for a rich man [who clings to possessions and status as security] to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man [who places his faith in wealth and status] to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were completely astonished and bewildered, saying, “Then who can be saved [from the wrath of God]?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With people [as far as it depends on them] it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
Many of us are probably walking around wondering what we need to do to gain eternal life, much like the rich young ruler that goes to Jesus in this passage from Matthew. Often, we have that one thing—call it a vice, a bad habit—that holds us back from totally surrendering to God. Instead of having the willingness to fight that thing inside us, we want to negotiate for eternity.
When the rich young ruler is told by Jesus that he needs to let go of the things that hold him back—that he should let go of the possessions he holds so tightly—the man is crestfallen and walks away from Jesus. He wanted to be spiritually secure and had worked on it since his youth, but he could not break free from the grip his possessions had on him.
I wanted to be mad at the ruler for walking away from Jesus—I really did—but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Do you know why? Because I suffer from the same problem. Every one of us has that one thing that we wouldn’t be ready to turn over to the Lord if we were asked right now. But you want to be free, and you want eternal life. So, the question then becomes, what has you so gripped that you’d rather stay with it than go with Him?
If you stand in front of the Lord and want to be free, know that He won’t let you settle in spiritual competitive contradiction. In other words, He won’t let you be satisfied in getting it almost right. Or being almost holy or almost committed. He loves you too much and wants abundant life for you, which is why He won’t let you avoid the thing that prevents you from being free. He loves you, but He’s going to be in your face about that part of you that pushes away from Him.
What do you need to do? First, you need to be thankful for the grace God places over your life that gives you the opportunity to face the things that restrict you. Love God because He pushes you to be better. Then, you need to figure out what it is that is controlling you and face it head on. It isn’t going to be easy. It may even get perilously close to utter chaos and confusion. But your relationship to Him is about obedience at all costs because the Lord is willing to lose you over the truth but He’s not willing to keep you over a lie.
You might not want to face it, but I can guarantee you that it will be worth it. I don’t care how hard that thing in your life is or how tight its grip is—we serve a God who can do it, who can overcome. Don’t walk away when you have that first taste of failure. Remember: with man it may be impossible, but with God, anything is possible.
Luke 21:13-19 (AMP)
This will be a time and an opportunity for you to testify [about Me]. So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you [skillful] words and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute. But you will be betrayed and handed over even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death, and you will be continually hated by everyone because of [your association with] My name. But not a hair of your head will perish. By your [patient] endurance [empowered by the Holy Spirit] you will gain your souls.
How often do you pause in the middle of a hard season in life and thank God? Do you ask, “Why, God?” or do you say, “Thank you, God. I’m honored to endure this and carry this burden for You.” When you’re under unrelenting attack—unbelievable pressure—in unalterable conditions, what do you do when you want to quit? Before we received this guidance from Luke, thousands of Christians under persecution were wondering this very thing. They’re trying to be faithful to Jesus, knowing that in doing so, they will be tried and possibly put to death.
Don’t we face this same dilemma today? We whine and complain and think that God has lost track of us despite knowing that God always rewards His children with an unfailing promise. He will gift each of us with survival. Every detail of our body and souls—right down to the hairs on our heads—are in His care. It’s just as Isaiah 40:31 says: “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength” (NIV).
I’m excited about His promise. The hard part for me is the offering He wants in return. His gift is survival. Our offering is to endure. I like the fact that I’m going to survive, but I struggle with the fact that I have to endure; I’m not so sure that I won’t get shaky on my side of this covenant. Before we pass on to Heaven, we have to go through some things that won’t be easy. We have to sit right in the middle of the tough season we’re going through and be steadfast with our faith.
It’s one of the hardest disciplines to develop—to look into the arrogant eyes of our current realities and be hit with problems that bring us to our knees and yet still smile knowing that every detail of our body and souls are in His care. It requires patience and hope. We often associate patience with lying down—nonactivity. People can view that as weak and docile and to be frank, a cop-out. But British hymn writer George Mathison writes that patience shouldn’t consist of lying down. Rather, it should be an active response: “To lie down in a time of grief or to be quiet under the stroke of adverse fortune, that implies some strength, but I know something that implies a strength greater still,” he says. “Patience is the power to work under stress. Patience is to have a great weight on your heart and still run. Patience is to have deep anguish in your heart, and still perform your daily task. It is a Christ-like thing.”
Patience means struggling and still doing the best job we can do with the best attitude we can manage. Patience means when we want to cry and quit, we still show up and shout, “I am HONORED to endure this!” rather than, “Oh God, when will it end?” Patience means having enough faith maturation that we understand that there is no sense in battling stress when God has already ordered our steps and planned our destinies.
Let me leave you with this golf analogy, because you all know how much I love golf. Have you ever looked at a golf ball and noticed all the indentations? At some point, the manufacturers of the first golf balls realized that a smooth golf ball would not fly far. A golf ball with indentations, however, has a much better trajectory. Now imagine yourself as a golf ball. God, our manufacturer, knows just how many indentations we need to have a high trajectory. We may be hit, but that indentation is a reminder that His grace is sufficient.
Don’t be discouraged. Each indentation is shaping you and making you better.
Matthew 18:23-35 (AMP)
Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the accounting, one who owed him 10,000 talents was brought to him. But because he could not repay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and his children and everything that he possessed, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees and begged him, saying, “Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.” And his master’s heart was moved with compassion and he released him and forgave him [canceling] the debt. But that same slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began choking him, saying, “Pay what you owe!” So his fellow slave fell on his knees and begged him earnestly, “Have patience with me and I will repay you.” But he was unwilling and he went and had him thrown in prison until he paid back the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and they went and reported to their master [with clarity and in detail] everything that had taken place. Then his master called him and said to him, “You wicked and contemptible slave, I forgave all that [great] debt of yours because you begged me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave [who owed you little by comparison], as I had mercy on you?” And in wrath his master turned him over to the torturers (jailers) until he paid all that he owed. My heavenly Father will also do the same to [every one of] you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.
Understanding forgiveness is difficult. It is so difficult to grasp, in fact, that Jesus puts it in a parable because the straight dosage of its truth is too much to swallow. In today’s text, we see a servant indebted to a king for an amount that would be about $10,000 in today’s standards. We don’t know any details of the debt—there is no mention of when the original debt was due or how far past the deadline the servant was. We have no details other than the debt itself.
The pain of potentially losing his family made the servant fall to his knees to beg. The king is moved with compassion and cancels the entire debt. Perhaps that is why we don’t know the details of the debt. The power is not in the size of the debt, but the size of the forgiveness. That is what makes this next move for the servant shocking, offensive, and spiritually twisted. The same servant who was just forgiven this huge debt walks away with the gift of grace, compassion, restoration, and life. He seeks out his fellow servant who owes him money—in today’s standards, about $20—and he demands repayment. He has his fellow servant thrown in prison until he can pay back what he owes.
All of us are living with the spiritual forgiveness that freed our lives and restored our chance to live life to the fullest. With that forgiveness from God, we are also expected to honor forgiveness by indiscriminately giving forgiveness to someone who needs to be forgiven. Gift to others what God has gifted to you. Give grace, give mercy, give generosity—as God does. Since God has given love to us, we in turn ought to give love to one another. God never wants you to withhold from extending the grace He has given you to another’s life.
I can’t find it in me to be critical and cruel to others because every day I must live with the reminder of how much debt God swallowed to keep me alive. I can’t understand how some can be mean and judgmental when God wiped out our debt with the blood of His only son. However, I do suspect that some of us have misinterpreted, misapplied, mismanaged, or misappropriated the power of God’s forgiveness until some of us are meaner Christians than we were sinners. The irony is astounding.
Perhaps the servant was so confused, so traumatized, so twisted with emotion that his regret for needing forgiveness in the first place overcame him. His resentment at having to be helped caused him to act with wickedness. He resented that he had to beg for forgiveness, so he shifted the resentment onto someone else.
We struggle with being able to absorb God’s grace. We are good at celebrating His grace, but we are not always great at stewarding His grace. We want to get where we are going in life with our beauty, brains, and brawn. We don’t want to recognize that we are where we are because of God’s grace and mercy. Do not practice resentment and act out because you are embarrassed to be living under the canopy of grace. Don’t apologize for grace; let it shape you. Let it change you. You wouldn’t be here without it.
Thoughts to remember this week:
• It’s all grace.
• Life doesn’t get better by chance, it gets better by change.
• Every day that God wakes you up, be thankful for the different stops He provides for you along the way.
• Forgive others, for you have been shown mercy and God has wiped your debt clean.
1 Samuel 30:1-6 (NKJV)
Now it happened, when David and his men came to Ziklag, on the third day, that the Amalekites had invaded the South and Ziklag, attacked Ziklag and burned it with fire, and had taken captive the women and those who were there, from small to great; they did not kill anyone, but carried them away and went their way. So David and his men came to the city, and there it was, burned with fire; and their wives, their sons, and their daughters had been taken captive. Then David and the people who were with him lifted up their voices and wept, until they had no more power to weep. And David’s two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite, had been taken captive. Now David was greatly distressed, for the people spoke of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and his daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.
This passage finds David and his men standing in a city of ruins. Not only is David an outcast of King Saul, he has just been rejected by the Philistine King, Achish. The fear and trauma David and his men are experiencing as they enter Ziklag is astounding. There is no sound of adult voices speaking. No children’s laughter. No sound of pots clanking as the evening meal is being prepared. Instead, they hear only the sound of wood cracking as the city burns. There is no human presence left in the city. David’s men speak of stoning him. Two of his wives have been taken. He’s stuck between kings, between armies—between pain and loyalty, hatred and distrust, love and hurt. David is enduring more than any man should.
Yet, verse 6 reads, “But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.” He finds enough internal spiritual strength to encourage himself. He knows that in order to speak to his men who are also enduring great pain, he must first speak to his own hurting condition. So, as he sees the smoke rising—his eyes clouded from standing in burning rubble—he hears God telling him that he is not alone, that God is still watching over him. This empowering exchange David has with God makes David reassess his spiritual convictions. He remembers that God is his light, defense, shepherd, provider, and sustainer. David realizes he is hurt, but not forsaken. In this moment, time stands still for David. Instead of hearing the men around him plotting to kill him, he hones in on the internal voice of God. Instead of sinking, David gets stronger and his soul is refreshed.
I feel David’s pain in this passage. I’m sure you do, too. Most of you probably have felt stuck like David felt stuck. Maybe you’re living in the consequences of a decision you thought was best. Now the spiritual, emotional, and physical comfort you felt is gone and you feel stuck. Stuck is a lonely place. But David’s story teaches us that God never intends for a stuck place to be a permanent place. You might have to endure a stuck season, but that doesn’t mean you need to endure a stuck destiny. It might be a day, a week, a year, a circumstance—but it will not last because God walks with you. We just have to find the strength to keep on walking with Him.
Philippians 2:13 states: “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (NKJV). God may be working for you, but you have to find the strength to work too. Even if you can’t find strength in your relationships with anyone else, find strength in your relationship with God. Preach this to yourself when you are feeling stuck: I believe God is still at work. That is how you get unstuck. Believe that no matter what, God is still working and that nothing can stop His work in your life. You haven’t gone through anything that God hasn’t planned and put a blessing over.
The best answer to getting unstuck is movement. Affirm your relationship with God. Practice prayer. Read scripture. Fellowship with other Christians. Be committed to your church attendance. Move closer to God in times of trouble. When David is stuck, he begins to make a plan. He recognizes that the people of the city were taken, not killed. He recognizes that his men were severed from the army, not slaughtered. He recognizes that his men are talking of stoning him but have not acted yet. When you are hopeful and faithful, you will see that God is not absent.
Lessons to remember when you’re feeling stuck:
• No matter what, God is still working.
• Even though God is working, you should work too.
• The best answer to getting unstuck is movement.