What Do I Do Now?

The Lord and the Holy Spirit teach us spiritual truths, with verbal words and physical events. Chapters 4 and 5 of Mark provide the same strong lesson for us today as they must have for the disciples many years ago. In Chapter 4, Jesus teaches the crowds and the disciples, with a string of parables, including the Parable of the Sower, the Parable of the Growing Seed, and the Parable of the Mustard Seed.  At the end of Chapter 4 he switches from the verbal to the physical, with the first of a string of amazing miracles. Mark 4:35-41 speaks of a serious storm in which the disciples found themselves embroiled.  The Amplified Bible gives a very vivid description of their situation.

Mark 4:37  And a furious storm of wind [of hurricane proportions] arose, and the waves kept beating into the boat, so that it was already becoming filled.

The disciples spent their life on the water as professional fishermen.  They had seen many storms over the years, but none like this.  They were in a life threatening situation and had no idea what to do.  How did they get in this mess in the first place? Were they really to have met the savior, sat under his teaching, just to die in a row boat near-term?  The reality of their predicament is they were following Jesus’s words, “Let’s go over to the other side”. They heard the voice of the Lord, said “Yes”, and took the necessary steps to move in the appropriate direction.  Jesus said go, they went.  But as it often is with being obedient, there is opposition both spiritual and physical. What should we do when we encounter great opposition in the pursuit of the goals the Lord sets before us and we find ourselves facing ‘What do I do now?”   There was nothing they could do in the natural.  Should they spend their time trying to bail or row harder?  These are their natural options, but neither choice is going to do anything to solve the problem.  The problem is simply out of their control and no amount of their effort will make any difference.

The step they do take is both good and bad.  It’s good they go to Jesus.  That is ALWAYS a good move.  But they approach him asking the very thing He had just taught them NOT to do in the parable of the sower. They were allowing Satan to use the ‘cares of the world’ to kill their building faith.  Anxiety, concern, solicitude and worry.  These are the things Satan uses to attack us whenever we start believing God and moving in the direction of obedience.  Asking Jesus if He ‘cared’ that they were perishing shows that they, not unlike we often do, had missed the message of who He truly was.
The disciples faced a very important decision.  What do we do when we are obedient and as a result of our obedience we face very difficult life conditions?

Let’s make this situation personal.  You believe The Lord has told you to change Jobs and move to a new town.  You have multiple confirmations that is indeed the Lord’s will.  You take the new job, put your house on the market and move.  But suddenly the skies darken and the sun disappears behind a bevy of thunderstorms and lightening.  The man who hired you was terminated after you had been on the job only 2 weeks.  There is great confusion and dissension among your new coworkers and uncertainty about your job grows.  The contract on your old house falls through.  You’ve already closed on your new home.  As your wife is taking the kids to school, her car is sideswiped by a hit and run driver. Do you get the picture?  This is a storm of ‘hurricane proportions’.  What do you do now?

In the trying times like this, we wait and we believe, seeking to be found faithful. Otherwise, we hear the words of Christ, like he said them to the disciple there years ago, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”   This is a time for endurance.  As James 1:3-4 puts it:

Be assured and understand that the trial and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience.  But let endurance and steadfastness and patience have full play and do a thorough work, so that you may be [people] perfectly and fully developed [with no defects], lacking in nothing.

There are times in the Hurricanes of life we simply must hang on to what we know The Lord has told us to do.  Like in Chapters 4 and 5 of Mark, the verbal and physical teaching are followed by the spiritual miracles.  What hurricane are you in? What miracles are in front of you if you but remain steadfast and believe?

Andy Hines

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Jars of Clay

For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.  But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. -2 Corinthians 4:6-7

How are we as Christ-followers to interpret these verses? The Christian life is a journey and over time, Christ-followers often grow in their appreciation and understanding of God’s Word. Just when we feel we have some Bible verses down and there’s nothing more to learn, God has a way of teaching us something new. I think the average Christian progresses in his or her understanding of the above mentioned verses in three stages.

In stage one, the verse centers around us or the jar and not the treasure. We are the center of God’s universe. Isn’t the jar beautiful? It is so useful! The jar is so great that the light fills the jar and spills out from the top, producing an effervescent glow that can be seen from miles away. Almost like finding gold in a pot at the end of a rainbow. The jar lights up anything it comes into contact with. After all, didn’t Jesus say he was the light of the world and that we too are to be a light in a dark place.
In stage two, we come to realize the verse isn’t about the beauty of the jar at all. After all, a clay pot was just an ordinary vessel used to carry water and other day-to-day objects around (I think about a Dixie cup today). We begin to understand the jar has cracks in it and that those cracks represent our weaknesses, imperfections, and faults. We understand this verse applies to our post-conversion and that we are both broken vessels before and after we meet Christ. We typically see Christ’s light shining through all of our cracks. After all, when we are weak, He is strong. Christ makes up for where we are lacking! The image that comes to mind is something like:

jar1 It took me a long time to get to stage two, but it has taken me even longer to get to stage three. In stage three, a jar with light rays shining brightly through all of its cracks doesn’t make much sense. It sounds great and the premise is true. But if the jar is such an ordinary item, why wouldn’t you just use a new jar instead of one filled with cracks.

jar2 I think the best illustration for a jar of clay is:

Jars of clay break easily. And when they shatter, they break into multiple fragmented units. In all of our brokenness, God still chooses to shine the glorious light of the gospel of Jesus Christ through our earthly vessels. In fact, as you read on in the passage, you notice that the Christian takes on a different outlook for life. The Christian faces many troubles and heartache but does not lose heart. This act in itself is a witness to a watching world, as the hope that lives within us, Christ out shines all of our broken pieces. This all-surpassing power is not from ourselves but from God!

I’m not saying I fully understand these verses. Perhaps there is a stage four? And maybe you started out with the understanding of stage three as opposed to stage one. What I do know is God’s Word is a mine to be dug, full of gold nuggets awaiting to be extracted. What is God teaching you?

Aaron Dougherty

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Dropping the Weight

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.  — Hebrews 12:1 New International Version

We all know men who are obsessed with staying in shape.  We often say, or remember the days when we could say, “I am in the best shape of my life”.  This is a good feeling and a good time, where we can work and play and physically accomplish a lot and physically succeed. Alternatively, when we aren’t as focused or disciplined in what we do or what we eat, the weight begins to add on and our productivity goes down.  We lose the edge we had.  Our saying then becomes, “I’m not as good as I once was, but I am as good once….right? But the truth is we can’t run the basketball court as well. We can’t hold up playing soccer with kids.  We can’t physically carry the job materials as well or we get overheat more easily when working.  We can’t do what we could do when we were fit and it affects our level of achievement.   In Hebrews 11, the author tells the stories of the great ones of the bible.  The biblical figures of great faith who stayed focused and believed in the Lord and moved the faith forward.  In the first verse of Chapter 12, he turns the focus back to us, and says now let us throw off the spiritual weight.   Basically he is saying, ‘Men, let us drop the spiritual weight, so that we can run and push forward as hard as we can to do that thing the Lord has called us to do’.  But he puts it in the context of, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses…”    In other words, there is a great group of faith leaders that have gone before us and now it is our turn.  It is our turn to push on and push forward, through perseverance and trial.  If you go back and read Chapter 11, the author tells of the great faith leaders and then he tells of the trials they pushed through.  We also know of the ‘weight’ that tripped the great men and women up.  The weight was sin.  It was adultery, murder, prostitution, disbelief, and others.  So how do we run our best race?  Drop the spiritual weight  — the sin.  When you get bogged down in sin, whether it be hate, or pornography, or gambling, or a long list of other sins, you can’t do for the Lord what you could do unburdened.  The Truth is, that like the people in Hebrews 11, you may still, even in this sinful shape, be used to accomplish something for the Lord, but you will not run the great race that you are capable of running.  When burdened by great sin and realizing it, King David repented and still was used in a mighty way for the kingdom, but he was still at times certainly constrained.  In comparison, consider Jesus on this earth, who unburdened by sin, remained focused on the Father’s will and became the Son of Man, even dying on this world’s cross, so that we might become Sons of God.  What will you do for the Father?  Like a wrestler does, trying to make his assigned weight class so he can compete, drop the spiritual weight so you can compete today. Stay focused on the goal of Christ, and push forward unhindered by sin to accomplish God’s great desired purposes through you.

Derek Dougherty

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