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I didn’t come from heaven to do what I want! I came to do what the Father wants me to do. He sent me, John 6:38 (CEV)

Jesus had just fed over 5,000 people from a few pieces of fish and a couple loaves of bread. His miraculous actions caught the attention of the people. They wanted more bread. They wanted to have their needs met. The wanted to make this man, who obviously had the power to accomplish anything, their King.

John chapter six is an interesting transition in Jesus ministry. It begins with the feeding of the 5,000 and ends with him asking the few that remained with him if they too would abandon him.

What was the difference? What caused the many that flocked to see Jesus to leave disillusioned and disappointed? It was the realization that Jesus was intent on doing his father’s will, not his own.

Whether you are in ministry, business or just doing your best at raising your family, it’s always hard to stay on task; to choose a direction and move that way; to keep from missing your personal goals because of distractions.

When that happens, when it’s apparent things aren’t going the way we hoped it can lead to frustration, anger and a sense of failure. Even though Jesus was rejected by many people, we see no sense of disappointment or failure in his reactions. Why? Because the things Jesus sought to do weren’t his own desires but the desires of his Father.

Those of us in ministry may struggle with this the most. We have a desire to see God’s work done in mighty and powerful ways. We have an idea of what God’s church may look like. We set goals for ourselves that we call spiritual/ministry goals but are in reality personal and professional goals.

The result? Disappointed ministry leaders; frustrated ministry recipients and people who need Jesus abandoning the church. Jesus was able to handle the ebb and flow of ministry because his goal wasn’t to build his own ministry. His goal was to do the Father’s will.

What is the Father’s will? Jesus answers it himself. To bring people to a relationship with him built on forgiveness, mercy and grace. Notice Jesus makes no reference to rules and regulations. He makes not promises of physical provision although this most certainly was proven to be important to him. But the defining characteristic of Jesus’ ministry was doing the Father’s will, not catering to the wants and desires of society.

Whether you are in a full-time ministry, a lay minister or simply a person seeking to share what you have found in Jesus Christ, remember our goal is not to add numbers to our ‘salvation/ministry’ ledger. It’s to seek the Father’s will for our lives and pursue it.

PRAYER: Father, I confess that often my energy is distracted to my own will and desires. Empower me with your Spirit to seek your will and allow you to do it in my life so others will see Jesus, not me. Amen.

Accept instruction from his mouth and lay up his words in your heart. Job 22:22 (NIV)

Job was perhaps the most spiritual man on earth during his time. There is no other place in the Bible where God seems to give a man such a stunning recommendation as he does Job. Job is known for his godliness, his patience and his lack of good friends.

In the midst of Job’s trials, Eliphaz steps in and pleads with Job to see the light. His wealth was gone. His family was gone. His health left him as well and he ended up sitting in a pile of ashes scraping boils with a broken dinner plate. To top it off, his wife had lost heart and wished he’d just die so he’d be out of his suffering. Talk about a downer!

When things go dreadfully wrong in our lives there always seem to be a generous supply of people willing to step in and tell us exactly why we are in that predicament and offer solutions to getting out.

Eliphaz was just the man for the task. He pleads with Job to come to his senses. “All this can be over if you will just turn your life over to God! Listen to him. Return to him. Quit being so evil and greedy and he’ll restore you!” (My paraphrase)

Maybe you have an Eliphaz in your life. Someone who scrutinizes every move you make and are ready in a heartbeat to point out why your way is wrong and their way is best. Eliphaz’s seem to have experienced every illness, every legal situation and every relational issue known to man. Their profound experience allows them the opportunity to share with the world the way to happiness.

Only one problem with Eliphaz. He didn’t have a clue as to why Job was suffering. Job didn’t either. The only one that did was God and he wasn’t talking. Give him credit though. Eliphaz was following a misconception that began in the Garden of Eden and will continue until the end of time. It’s the notion that God only speaks to us in certain ways and at certain times.

Eliphaz (and all his ancestors to this day) would have done well to practice what he preached to Job. His words in Job 22:22 are words each of us needs to follow. Rather than listening to all the ‘Eliphaz’s’ in the world, we need to learn to listen to God himself.

Does God use people to speak his word? Certainly, but not always. He would much rather speak directly to us individually through prayer and reading his word than to speak through a translator.

Calamity doesn’t always come as result of sin. Disaster isn’t always Gods way of punishing us. Sometimes God allows the bad things in our lives to bring us closer to him, but not always. The next time an ‘Eliphaz’ steps forward with all the answers to your problems, listen respectfully and then go to the Father and see if what Eliphaz says matches up with your Heavenly Father.

PRAYER: Father, I thank you for the Eliphaz’s in my life for they teach me patience. Give me wisdom to follow you even when they try to convince me their way is best. Amen.

Although he was abused, he never tried to get even. And when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he had faith in God, who judges fairly. 1 Peter 2:23 (CEV)

“Although he was abused, he never tried to get even.”

What a statement of strength, love and faith about Jesus Christ! When abuse happens, those who suffer the abuse may withdraw into a shell and lose themselves in the pain of the wound. Others may strike back at the abuser or become an abuser themselves using their victims as a way of ‘getting even’ with the offender in their own lives. 

Abuse, by definition is the improper treatment of someone else. Physical abuse brings harm to one’s physical body, but bruises heal. Emotional abuse is harder to diagnose. Emotional abuse leaves much deeper scars; the bruises are not seen by the human eye; the pain can last a lifetime.

Jesus Christ was abused for us. He suffered emotionally, physically and spiritually on our behalf. That is refreshing to me for two reasons. First of all, when I’m treated unfairly he completely understands my pain. He’s felt the pain of rejection. He’s heard the voices of insult and false accusation. He was misrepresented and misunderstood. If you are a victim of abuse, you have someone who knows how you feel.

The fact that Jesus was abused also helps me realize how I can best handle abuse. Jesus didn’t get angry at his abusers. As God in the flesh he could have wiped them out with a single word, but he made no threats. Why? How was he able to endure the words and actions of evil people against his body and emotions?

It was faith. Faith gave Jesus Christ the power to endure the abuse leveled against him. Most of us put our faith in ourselves ultimately. We rely on our own power to endure, our own power to plow through the wilderness. When we are mistreated and abused the biggest damage is done to our identity. We believe we are worthless. We blame ourselves. We become angry and bitter.

On the other hand, when our identity is placed in the hands of a loving, all-powerful and forgiving God, we endure the attacks because our value is secure as a result of his power. If today, you are a victim of abuse, not matter how harsh and how unfair, remember this. The God of Heaven sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to live among us. He was abused and beaten on your behalf so you could experience the love of His father.

The wounds you bear may never heal completely, but a relationship with him is like soothing oil that heals to the very depth of your soul. Come to him. He knows how you feel.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I pray today for those who are the victims of evil acts that have destroyed their lives. I ask that they may find the relief that comes from a relationship with you. Thank you for enduring all you did for me. Thank you Father for making me who I am. Amen.

And now he can help those who are tempted, because he himself suffered and was tempted. Hebrews 2:18 (NCV)

In his book “From Values to Action” author Harry M. Jansen Kraemer Jr. states it is important for each of us to ‘remember the cube.’ His statement is in reference to the importance of leaders to remember what it was like in their career journey. To be reminded of the long days working in the small 4’ X 6’ cubicle where there was little room and no privacy.

A leader who ‘remembers the cube’ will be more likely to understand the struggles of those who they work with. They will be more sensitive to the mistakes, the failures, and the insecurity of the new people on staff.

One of the blessings of our walk with Jesus is that he ‘remembers the cube’ in relation to our own spiritual journey. We are told in several places in the Bible that Jesus was tempted ‘just as we are’. Does that mean that Jesus was tempted to visit inappropriate websites? Of course not, but he was fully God and fully man. That means that, although we don’t like to think of it, he was tempted with feelings of lust. Those temptations didn’t lead to sin, but because he was tempted in that way, he knows our struggle.

It’s easy for those of us that have experienced victory in certain areas of our lives to look down our noses at those who still struggle with the walk. “They’ve been to church; I had a Bible Study with them once. They should know better” isn’t a statement of understanding but of judgment. Jesus didn’t come to judge the world, but to set us free.

While Jansen’s remarks are directed mainly towards those in leadership positions, his words have spiritual merit as well. If we remember our own weaknesses it will be far easier to extend God’s grace to those who continue to fail, continue to struggle and continue to make harmful choices for themselves and others. Does that mean we agree, condone or enable them to continue down their destructive path? Certainly not. But basing our attitude towards their failure on our own weaknesses does much to direct our approach in a more merciful direction.

Jesus Christ was tempted to sin. His temptation wasn’t confined to the wilderness. It was a daily occurrence for him, just as it is for us. Even though he never gave into that temptation, he knows its power and its pull.

Because of that, he understands your struggle, and how easy it could be to fail. He understands mine as well. Temptation isn’t failure, it’s an opportunity for us to grow our character. Every time we resist temptation in our lives our character grows stronger. We can help others grow a stronger, deeper character when we ‘remember the cube.’

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I thank you that you endured the same types of temptation I do so you can better understand my struggle. Empower me to resist the temptations I face through the power of your Holy Spirit. When others harm me, help me to ‘remember the cube.’ In your name, Amen.

Pray that our Lord will make us strong and give us peace. Psalm 29:11 (CEV)

Psalm 29 speaks to us, to remind us that storms will come into our lives. Sometimes those storms are the result of our own sin and rebellion. Sometimes the winds of the hurricanes that block our paths are the evil actions of abusive people. Whatever their cause we are assured that it’s not a question of ‘if’ storms come, but ‘when’ and how often.

Storms can be physical such as illness, financial ruin, and destruction of our homes, careers or relationships. Perhaps the toughest, scariest storms are the storms within. Those flashes of lightning that remind us of our failures. Those life-shaking claps of thunder that make us question our ability to go on; that make us question our faith. These are the storms that can make us suffer in silence, or force us away from those who love us most.

Read back through Psalm 29 once more. Take time to reflect on the words of power seen in the words of the Psalmist. Your heavenly Father is pictured as being the most powerful storm ‘nature’ can muster. He shakes the foundation of the world; no one can escape or deny his mighty works.

Then, remember his great love for you today. There will be storms. Ask him to give you strength and courage to weather them. There will be times when life seems to jostle you about like a small boat on a great and windy see. Pray that in the very midst of the storm he will give you peace.

The great preacher/author Charles Spurgeon writes: Dear reader, is not this a noble Psalm to be sung in stormy weather? Can you sing amid the thunder? Will you be able to sing when the last thunders are let loose, and Jesus judges quick and dead? If you are a believer, the last verse is your heritage, and surely that will set you singing.

You oftentimes have no choice as to the storms that will enter your life, but because of Jesus you can choose how they will affect who you are and how you come out on the other side. Jesus Christ came, not only to give you forgiveness and eternal life; he came so that when the storms come you can rely on him to see you through.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I thank you for your grace. I praise you for your forgiveness. But most of all, right now I pray for us as your children. I ask that during this present stormy time of our lives you would grant us the strength and peace we need to endure. In your name, Amen.

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August 2012
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