Rev’d Jonathan Gale
Mark 9: 2-92
Corinthians 4: 3-6
2 Kings 2: 1-12
Don’t think that progressing in your walk with Jesus will cause the crowds to applaud you. The only applause you might get is of the Donald Trump kind – at the State of the Nation address he kept applauding himself.
Encouraging yourself (not praising yourself) is important. I’ve quoted this before but in 1 Samuel 30: 6 we read 6David was in great danger; for the people spoke of stoning him, because all the people were bitter in spirit for their sons and daughters. But David strengthened himself in the Lord his God.
We are part and parcel of that organic thing called the Body of Christ (the church) but there are times when even the church will not encourage us as we determine grow in Christ.
Elisha did his best to stick to Elijah in order to receive a blessing from him before he was taken up into heaven but it seems as though everyone else, including the school of the prophets, were out to discourage him. But what was his response?
5The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him, ‘Do you know that today the Lord will take your master away from you?’ And he answered, ‘Yes, I know; be silent.’
Now that takes courage when fifty hyper-spiritual men of God discourage you and you say, “Be silent!” Elisha was determined to receive a blessing so that he could be more effective in his ministry.
Paul also never took no for an answer. Frequently the response to his preaching went something like this: “What is this drivel you’re talking about Paul? A crucified man raised from the dead!? What is it we need saving from? “
To the Corinthians he responds with, 3And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. 4In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
Paul’s advice to Timothy? Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage–with great patience and careful instruction. (2 Timothy 4: 2)
As we approach Lent we will often have good intentions of making use of this time to draw closer to God. After all, thinking about it, what could be better for any human being than drawing closer to his or her creator?
But subtle opposition comes, especially if a change is noticed in us. The better amongst us will not be deterred. We will gird our loins (as they used to say) and determine to use Lent as a time of self-denial, prayer and almsgiving so that we can please God.
Now here’s the little warning I’d like to sound today.
Sticking to our determination to follow through with God takes courage. Courage is a good thing. But without wisdom it can be problematic.
Peter was a man of courage and we see him on a number of occasions leaping in and getting rebuked by Jesus for his haste and lack of sensitivity – for example when he chopped off the High Priest’s servant’s ear.
During the Transfiguration Peter is so terrified he responds to it all with courage but no wisdom: 5Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings,* one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’ And the verse following 6He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.
Jesus is more attuned to God and doesn’t respond. Perhaps because he sensed God was about to speak, 7Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved;* listen to him!’
So many voices come at us today. In the next verse in that passage from Paul’s letter to Timothy he says 3For the time will come when men will not tolerate sound doctrine, but with itching ears they will gather around themselves teachers to suit their own desires
The scripture tells us that The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs (9: 10 ) and Psalm 119: 105 tells us 105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.
I’d like to suggest to us today that in our enthusiasm (and my goodness we need enthusiasm in the spiritual life) – that in our enthusiasm we ensure that we are guided by God’s voice. If we are to Listen to him (i.e. Jesus) as God the Father boomed out on the Mount of Transfiguration, there is no better place to learn to discern God’s voice than in God’s word. The scriptures form and guide our thinking in a remarkably instructive way. It just seems that God has watched over their formation and uses them in a special way to communicate with us.
May Lent be a time of spiritual growth for you as you determine to engage more with God in the scriptures so that both wisdom and courage may be yours. We need them both if we are to hear God’s voice and grow in effective Christian service.