In my Bible study I have come to the end of the four Gospels. Along with Scripture I have been reading The Fourfold Gospel by J.W. McGarvey, recommended with the chronological reading plan I found. McGarvey combines the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and, as much as possible, puts all the events of Jesus’s life and resurrection in the order they happened. It’s enlightening to read how Jesus’s teaching progressed and how the apostles’ understanding of His purpose here fluctuates. Just when I think they understand His kingdom is not an earthly one, they start asking which of them is greater and request they be allowed to sit next to Him in His kingdom. I am at the point where Judas has betrayed Jesus. Soon I know His apostles will flee from Him in fear of being punished by the Jewish leaders and the Roman government. As I learn new things about these events from McGarvey’s commentary, the story of Jesus’s arrest and crucifixion intensifies my emotions about the world’s rejection of God’s Son.
Matthew 26:40: “And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?”
I moved away from God this past week. I didn’t read my Bible most days, had some minor health issues that sidelined me and spent too much time in deep thought about too many things. The days when I did pick up His Word, I was reading about the Jewish leaders building their case against Jesus, Judas carrying out his plan to betray Christ, and followers of Jesus leaving Him. The reading material and my physical and emotional condition were not a good mix. I felt hopeless about leading others to Jesus. It’s a tall order and we generally have more failures than successes. Of course, the mood of the week insured the failures were foremost in my mind.
I spent little time in prayer. I talk to God constantly but this week I just didn’t know what to say to Him. I felt angry at Him for not doing more to prepare others to hear His word and be more receptive to Him; angry that He asks us to do such a difficult thing. I was angry at my friends and family who haven’t accepted Him; for being blind to the truth and not willing to learn about Jesus. I understand that I may not be the one to lead them to Him and that increased my anger and frustration. Because of the life I lived before finding Christ, I have little credibility with them and I wondered how God could possibly ever use me. I know I have to keep listening to God and what He is trying to do in my life and be open to it, but this week I had little fight in me; I simply refused to call on the power of the Holy Spirit. I spent the week in a valley and instead of moving closer to God, I kept moving farther away.
As I read about the end of Christ’s time on earth, it became clear that nothing has really changed. People continue to misinterpret Jesus and His teachings, they crucify Him over and over and over, and few make Him the priority in their life. I’m surrounded by too many people who dismiss God and all that He’s done in their lives. They’re not thankful for the blessings they have received from Him, they live believing their answers to life’s problems are better than God’s ways. They blame God for all the bad stuff yet call on Him for help when tragedies occur. Much like David’s lament about enemies who prosper, I tired this week of seeing prideful, arrogant, worldly people experience great blessings and comfort in this world.
I fled from my Savior this week. While I didn’t flee in fear of being punished, I fled from living as He has directed me to live. I shifted my focus from Him to me. The apostles fell asleep even though Jesus asked them to stay awake should He need them as He faced the suffering He would soon have to endure. I failed Christ, too, as I gave in to weariness of living in a world I just don’t fit into.
John 15:16: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit,”
When the apostles learned of Christ’s resurrection, they looked back at the things Jesus had done and the things He had told them and they were able to put the pieces together. They went from hiding in fear to boldly proclaiming the news to the world. As I struggle to move forward in my Christian life, looking back at what God has done builds my faith and trust. I see how He has kept every single promise He has ever made. Today I will spend time in His Word and in prayer in order to feel His presence and remind myself how good God is and that His plan for me is a good one. I’ll be reminded that no matter how small my role is in His Kingdom, it is an important one. Jesus chose those twelve men to be His apostles because He knew they could do the things He needed them to do to fulfill His plan. I must know that He chose me, too, and I can be confident that He chose me because I have something He can use to build His kingdom, even when I cannot fathom what that is.
James 4:8: “Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.”
Living away from God is agonizing. Spending the last week there reminds me how desperately I want to help others avoid eternity separated from Him. I will continue to trust that He uses me to plant seeds and I must be about His business. I cannot let my doubts and frustration tear down my faith in Him.
I know how the Gospel story ends and because of the things Jesus told His apostles during their three years together, they were able to put the pieces together and come to a full understanding of who Jesus really is, what He was here to do, and how they were to carry on with His purpose. Despite living in a world with no mass communication, twelve followers spread the news of Jesus throughout the civilized world so that all people could receive God’s plan for their salvation. As hopeless as I feel sometimes, their mission must have seemed infinitely more impossible. I also know that Jesus warned us of the immensity of the task and that few would believe. As we work to lead others to Him, we have to remember how far apart His ways are from the world’s ways. Planting seeds is never a waste of time and it is all we do in the process of leading others to Him. Even though we may never see what we have accomplished for Him, it is in faith we keep on doing what He calls us to do.
John 15:19: “If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you.”
One of my favorite songs is about the fact that this world is not my home: “All I know is I’m not home yet, this is not where I belong.” Sometimes the reality of those words has a great impact on me and I long to be where all people love God as He deserves to be loved. The closer I get to Jesus and realize how much God loves us, the more I struggle to live in a world that rejects Him more and more each day.
This week won’t be my last struggle, but I pray I’ll handle the next one better! The down times remind me how great the spiritual warfare is that I’m involved in and the worse thing I can do is flee from the One who can ease my pain. I’m thankful God has given us what we need to have an abundant life here. Now I gotta go spend some time with my Father!
John 16:33: “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”