This entry is a little longer than the usual, but I felt led to post a message offered earlier in the week to a group of professional men in transition. It was received well and thus could be encouraging to others.
When asked to speak, I actually think that I love the preparation process more than delivery.
The search process for the word which the Lord would have me deliver is always a wonder. First mental, wondering why I would be asked, then what I might have to offer, knowing that in many cases so few are able to figure out what I really do for a living.
Actually, I have been in transition since I came to Christ in 1973, and whether you have known it or not, you like wise. I am no longer at home in this world, but a pilgrim, an alien. Now you are getting nervous? Teacher, bi-vocational pastor, community relations professional, community advocate city-seeker, full-time associate at WS First, consultant, commercial and residential broker…actually, my life has been a marvelous journey of dependency on Christ. I simply show up where a door opens. Not that I don’t have to secure and support credentials, continue my education, personal development like any other, but my dependency is on Christ and when any situation distracts from that, I move on.
Back to my preparation, often the word I am to deliver comes out of the routine spiritual habits that have developed in my life. My days are not rigid but fairly predictable. As my night winds down, I check my PDA for the schedule of the next day, head for bed (my least favorite of routines), then get up early, and turn on the coffee my sweet wife pre-sets each night. I walk out the driveway and pick up the now diminishing journal, look at what is happening in our community, then read Oswald Chambers, several chapters of the Bible, during which time am often struck within just a few verses, with an insight from the Lord. For the last year, I have journald electronically on a personal blog, as a means of capturing these gifts from my Father. I then pray and receive the word for my life for that day. Often in those moments, what I am to supposed to share with others then comes to me. Such was the case with this preparation.
Transition Tuesdays to my knowledge was a means of networking and encouraging those “unfavorably” affected by this economy. Actually we all were, it’s just that for some, how they spent the majority of their day changed. Maybe, all of us were impacted, at least economically if not spiritually, through this limitation placed on our materialistic American lifestyle?
Putting food on the table seems a preoccupation with many, especially men. Of course Jesus spoke to that in Matt. 6:25…essentially that we not worry, give thought to nor be preoccupied with what you would eat, drink or wear. Is this real?
Think about how freeing that would be, how much more valuable you would be to your employment and to the work of God. Life is not about your personal needs, but about the work of the kingdom. In fact, your being in this room may have little to do with being unemployed, but in fact being chosen; entrusted providentially and thus lifted out of the distraction that has so captured the minds and spirits of many in our country.
Worrying will not add one inch to your stature, once dollar to your purse nor one hour to your life. These are all energy leaks. Yet that’s hard to resist when your house is in foreclosure, your child’s tuition is due or your lights are turned off!
This message was birthed in my heart as I read John 6, where we find Jesus testing his disciples.
He always seemed to ask questions that exposed where men were in their inner walk with him.
Verse 5: He asks Phillip: “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Let me remind you, that they were standing in a field surrounded by 5000 people and this was way before Burger King or the 7-11 convenience stores.
John goes on to inform his readers, “He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.”
Jesus already knew the outcome of your life challenge before your entered it, the beginning from the end…He is the Alpha and the Omega. That may be the message behind this entire economic crisis. I believe our country has become distracted spiritually by rank materialism; the danger of free market capitalism and the wealth that often comes to just a few. We soon forget our mission, ministry to the multitudes for whom Christ died.
When asked, Phillip quickly does the math, and clueless to where Jesus was headed with this inquiry, he responds, not to the question of where, but how much? His reply, “Eight months of wages would not be enough.”
The source was in front of him and he was still assessing the cost, as if he were responsible.
Christ is our source, not we. A huge message here!
Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother and a team player speaks up, trying to help Phillip with the Lord’s challenge. He points out, “here is a boy with five loaves and a couple fish.” Again, the human perspective of what we have to work with. If I based my life on what I have to offer, I am automatically in a deficit if not deep depression. I am not the source of my provision. My job, as a man, is not the creation of means for my family, but rather obedience to Him in front of them!
I love the personality types that Jesus chose to hang with, Phillip, Andrew, Peter…notice how John mentions Peter, this strong-willed, impulsive man who always added dynamic to ever situation. Even their difference in approach was a set up for the solution. That’s the benefit of networking. If you are not afraid of community, God will surround you with those who hold the solutions to your problems.
Phillip was about math, Andrew, was about possibilities. Yet, the only thing they had plenty of were places to sit, as John points out: “There was plenty of grass in that place,” but that was a part of the adventure. Jesus had awaited this strategic moment, pre-selecting both the people and the setting. As well, a little boy…can’t help but believe there is an intentional connection here with children and dependency, and probably a Mother in there somewhere that God could speak to, thus setting up the miracle? Life for us is a lot simpler than we want to believe, leave the complexities to Him!
According to John, Jesus asks the disciples to have the people sit down, about 5000. Again, imagine managing 5000 people at your church or business. Just having them find a seat in an orderly fashion, given they did not know what was going on, and all were apparently hungry! I think that Jesus even had control of the people in the crowd, though they were unaware. Remember, he is God in the flesh. He also has control of the people in your life, if you will allow him.
He then breaks the bread and the fishes, feeds this massive crowd and asks the disciples to pick up what was left…don’t just blow over this…this was a massive undertaking, yet He had more than enough left over! Think about that, relative to your situation.
This journey is a faith thing and it will not make sense to you. When you stop demanding that and just sit down on the grass in that unknown place in your life, he will break bread for you and your family!
Interesting that after the miracle, rather than being thankful, submissive or responsive to what Jesus’ needs might be as a man, they shifted to other needs of their own…so much like us, in this case their desire for a king. The word says that Jesus knew that they intended to make him King by force…a coup apparently was in the making, so he went to the mountain by himself.
People are interesting in their motives, we hardly know our own hearts. In fact adversity is the only way we can know our hearts, thus the blessing that has come to many during this economic dilemma.
As if the multiplying of the loaves and fishes were not enough, he stays back from the disciples for a while, though he apparently had given them a time and instructions about arrival in Capernaum by boat. When he does not show, they launch out on their own! Get it?
Too often, his not showing up, or his silence is simply setting the stage for your next miracle. Silence, and the sense of Him being absent from your circumstance should be exciting. He said he would never leave us nor forsake us. So when it seems that He has, you know He is up to something Big in your life! That’s why we call it a faith walk.
Again, Jesus had set them up. A strong wind just happens to blow up and the waters grew rough, 3 and one half miles into the trip…remember this is a row-boat. Just about the time they are about to go under, these weary and apparently leaderless men see Jesus approaching on the water. The word says they were terrified, possibly more by the approaching solution to their problem, than their real situation. We can often over manage our situation (they knew how to row frantically at least you would think Peter did)? So there they were, rowing and bailing water…staying busy just trying to find a way out, yet leaving little room in their activity for the true solution, Jesus!
Vs. 21, holds the last word: “Then, they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately they reached the shore.” Just take Him into your boat!
As an aside, Jesus may have been preparing Philip for the day when he would be caught up after his ministry to the Ethiopian; who knows without the learning of this storm, he might have been ill prepared for his sudden trip to Azodus (a place that means to miss the mark, to deviate from the truth…no coincidence that God would send this now seasoned prophet first to a city that had lost its way). Could this season of stormy transition simply be a staging for your sudden transport to a significant place in your kingdom journey?
Lastly, John 6:26, “Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.”
Don’t just seek your immediate need in this gift of adversity that has selectively pulled you out of life’s distractions. In this season of economic shift, seize the moment by the throat and choke every spiritual blessing out of it for you and your family. Cultivate a testimony to the miraculous intervention of God for the sake of your family and your legacy.
I am no more comfortable with transition than you are, but I love the stores they allow me to tell!