When Jesus heard what had happened to John, he left in a boat and went to a lonely place by himself. But the crowds heard about it and followed him on foot from the towns.When he arrived, he saw a great crowd waiting. He felt sorry for them and healed those who were sick.
When it was evening, his followers came to him and said, “No one lives in this place, and it is already late. Send the people away so they can go to the towns and buy food for themselves.”
But Jesus answered, “They don’t need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
During my quiet time this morning I read this story of the feeding of the five thousand, and I was struck my what Jesus said to his disciples. The disciples, as we often do, focused on what we do not have and had grown weary of the crowds of people following Jesus. The crowds had a hunger and desire to be with Jesus and instead of encouraging that by providing for their physical needs, the disciples instead told the crowds to “go home!”
I wonder if we do not feel the same way at times. Ministry is hard and people can be a handful to deal with at times. If the people are cleaned up and have their lives together, then they would have no need for Jesus. But the reality is that people’s lives are messy and when we get into their lives it will require a commitment on our part which will take time and sacrifice. We cannot send them away when ministry becomes difficult.
Jesus’ words to the disciples echo those of what was spoke to Peter, “feed my sheep.” We have a responsibility to feed the people that come to Jesus. Every morning I feed our pets and at times it is a burden and a pain in the #%*! But they are my responsibility and if I do not feed them they will starve. Preaching, teaching, coaching, and leading people who come to Jesus takes a lot out of us as leaders, but we must rise to the task and not waiver in our responsibilities.
In my Bible reading today, I came across a passage of scripture that I had not heard in sometime and when I read a certain OT professor of mine came racing into the forefront of my memory.
Rend your heart
and not your garments.
Return to the LORD your God,
for he is gracious and compassionate,
slow to anger and abounding in love,
and he relents from sending calamity. (Joel 1:13)
Dr James Smith would say this verse with such gusto that it has stuck in my mind ever since. Anyone who has ever had a class with Doc Smith knows how fired up he gets about the OT. This verse says something that we often forget today. God wants us to be broken and contrite and to approach him as such. He does not want us to make an outward display of repentance that only the masses can see. He wants our hearts to be broken and to return to him to mend them. Thank you to Doc Smith for teaching me and many of my former classmates and alumni of Florida Christian College to love the OT and to not be afraid to preach from it.
“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
When I was in college I can remember having a “roommate meeting” with the guys that I shared an apartment with and one of them (could of been me but memory is a little foggy) brought this verse up as we talked about some things that were bothering all of us. Since that time this verse has always stuck with me as one of those pet verses that we like to bring up when people says things to us that challenge or rebuke us. So what was Paul saying in this verse?
I believe that we need to use words that build each other up and not intentionally tear each other down. I can remember that their was a time in my life when I enjoyed making fun of others and saying things to people that were mean-spirited. The funny thing is that the older that we get in the faith we still continue to speak to and about others in the same way mean-spirited way but we have learned to “cover” ourselves with spiritual sounding language and intent.
I know that we all can be challenged by this verse as Paul wrote earlier in this chapter,
“17 So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. 18 They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. 19 Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.20 That, however, is not the way of life you learned 21 when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. 22 You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
We live in a time when everything has to be measured, studied, calculated, and analyzed. There is a great deal of advantages to this but it also begs the question, “what is the measure being used?” The other question that is being asked is, “How do I measure up to the standard?”In ministry it is often difficult to ask these questions and get an answer.
In my reading this morning, the prophet Isaiah writes, “I will make justice the measuring line
and righteousness the plumb line…” The of God, Isaiah says were to be measured by their sense of justice and their righteousness. In Isiah’s time, most people did not excel in either of those areas. I wonder what he would say about us? Are we showing justice by meeting the needs of people who can not often help themselves (i.e. the widows, orphans, poor, crippled)? Is our righteousness being conformed into the image of Christ? Are we taking the steps necessary to become more Godly?
Many people look to the pastors of the church to help them to become more righteous by increasing their knowledge of scripture and offering them programs to demonstrate justice. Is this really what we are called to do as pastors? I would offer the suggestion that we are not called to this, but what we are called to is a life of service and of leadership. So how are we to become righteous and practice justice? Simple, we must look to our relationship with Jesus and begin to allow him to work in our lives to become more Godly. It is then we will see through his eyes injustice and be broken and moved to fight it!
As we prepare to launch Velocity, I find myself drawn to this very fact: God is going to build his church and all that I can do is to pray and to serve and lead the people that he sends to us. It is my hope and prayer that these people will become more Godly not because of what I have done on my own but because they have fallen in love with Jesus Christ and he is leading and teaching them to be righteous and practice justice. How do we measure up? Let’s ask that question again in six months and yet again in another six months and again until we are put to the ultimate test on the other side of the world. Amen