Scripture: John 4:5-42
There probably is not a better scripture to contemplate and meditate on today than this passage. Several things have been happening this week that have caused us stress. Most of it has to do with how we respond to people with alternative views or understandings than us. If we were to look at the rest of this year the stress even compounds and looking forward into the future our finite minds see only continued division in our nation and our world. This week I have had my eyes opened in ways I never thought I had been blinded, I had to examine my own thoughts and actions and try them against my understanding of the Gospel to see where I am lining up, and frankly I realized that I have often treated others out of ideological, nationalistic, or stereotypical ways instead of honoring and encouraging the humanity of those around me.
This realization, or opening as the more ancient Quakers would have called it, rattled me deeply. I thought I was living my life as God would like me to live, but all to often my responses to current events have become jaded. How should a follower of Christ, a Friend of Jesus, respond to the death of an infamous protester? How should a Friend respond to acts of violence and brutality in nations and communities? How should a disciple of Jesus respond to speeches given by political leaders that reveal the weaknesses and abuses of the nation I love?
Have we ever really asked those types of questions in full honesty? I do not mean just asking the questions, but really taking the time to slow down to meditate and converse with the Spirit of God about it. This is a difficult discipline to consider. The answers opened up to us may require a response that we are not prepared to give, it may require something of us that we are not ready to release from our control. It may mean that we need to repent, turn from our current path and begin walking into a valley cast in the shadows of unknowing.
Jesus, in today’s passage, is found tired sitting by a well in need of a drink. It is such a comfort to know that Jesus gets tired. Often times in scripture we see Jesus just moving from one place to another and it is easy to forget that Jesus was fully human as we are. He was on a journey from Judea to Galilee. It was a long journey, covering steep terrain, on foot, and Jesus was tired. It was noon so the sun was high in the sky and the temperatures were on the rise. Jesus sits to relax and a woman walks up carrying a water jug, so he asks if she would give him a drink.
Jesus is not in Judea or Galilee but Samaria. There is a reason for the distinction, because this area is settled by a group of people unlike Jesus. Jesus is a Jew; the people of Samaria were of a different culture. The people of these two cultures have a shared history but were often found on opposite sides of the issues. Samaria was the name of the capital city of the northern kingdom of Israel, and the Jews were the remnant or the descendants of the southern kingdom of Judea, so within that one portion of history there is tension. There was tension that dates back to the very origins of the northern kingdom, which really date back to the building of the temple under King Solomon. The temple was located in the capital of Judea so when the kingdoms split the leaders of the northern kingdom were afraid that the people would be turned away from them because the place of sacrifice and worship was centered in the heart of the nation they fled, so they build alternate places of worship. Prior to this time they were one people, one nation, one faith. They became a divided people, divided nations, but the faith was still in one God lead by priests of the one religion.
If we were to read on through the history of the kingdoms we would find that the two nations both eventually turned from this one religion and were found in exile consumed by another empire. Again two paths were taken, the southern kingdom held true to the faith of their ancestors as much as they could, where the northern kingdom was integrated into culture of the conquers. The people of Samaria were seen as a people that compromised their faith, incorporating and blending aspects of other religions into their own. It was impure in the eyes of the descendants of Judah, so when the Jews returned from exile they would have nothing to do with the remnant of the northern tribes. Why we might ask, they shared a history and faith, although there are claims that people of Samaria compromised their faith as they were occupied, it has been found that the religion still practiced even to this day, was not far from the practices of those of Judea.
Nationalism, pride, and ideology were the root of the discrimination and persecution. It is the very same issues that cause so much tension even in our world today. For me to be right then everyone that has an alternative view must be wrong. The Jews had the temple, the temple conceived in the mind of David, built by Solomon, and allowed by God. In their minds since they were the remnant of this line they were right. This divide is not all to different from the schism between the Eastern and Western Churches, one was established by St. Peter, the one that holds the keys to the kingdom, so they must be the right Church, and all others against that idea are wrong. Of course we do not have that problem because we are Protestants, we believe in scripture not the ancient traditions of man. But that very name, Protestant, is derived from the same root as the word protester, so by latching onto the name protestant we are engaging in the very same division as the Jews and Samaritans.
This woman lived in a culture filled with discrimination and persecution. The Jews rejected her because she was born to a family descended from the wrong heritage. They rejected her, treated her as a subhuman because of something she had absolutely no control over. Discrimination in any form is wrong because it dehumanizes people. Those of the discriminated group are seen as subhuman, not worthy of the same rights as those of the elite class of people. Discrimination leads to even inhumane behavior seen throughout history, the holocaust, the gulags, apartheid, or Jim Crow laws. Each instance the discrimination stems from a form of pride.
This Samaritan woman was of the wrong tribe, but she also participated in a lifestyle contrary to the cultural norms. She traveled to the well at noon; this was not the normal routine of the ancient cultures of that era. Women would generally gather water early in the morning, and use that water for the various tasks of the day. They would walk together to the common well, talking with each other; the drawing of water was a social time. But this woman came at noon, avoiding the crowds. Jesus asks her for a drink and she highlights the discrimination between their people. Jesus does not get involved in that debate, but begins to speak about the gifts available to her from God, offering her living water. There was a reason this woman was walking to the well at noon, she was not accepted by the people of the town, she was an outcast, and Jesus spoke to her condition. He spoke of living water because she desired relief from the constant shame and disgrace she received from those of her community. She wanted to withdraw completely, and if she could have an opportunity to avoid the constant judgment of the community she wanted it. “Sir, give me this water…” she proclaims.
How often do we shun, and judge those in our communities? This woman had a line of failed marriages, we do not know how or why they failed only that she had five prior husbands. Even today this is a lifestyle most of us would deem unacceptable. After failures she decided to give up on marriage and was involved in a relationship outside of marriage. This is why she was considered an outcast. Jesus knew her, and he showed her that the living water she sought was not found where she was looking. It was not in the physical but what she needed was a refreshed soul.
Jesus knew her, before he spoke of her social condition, he accepted her. He accepted her humanity by not engaging in the discrimination, but instead honoring her humanity. He himself was tired and thirsty, just like her. He needed refreshment as much as she did. At that moment she knew that what Jesus offered her was something desirable and that He was more than a mere thirsty man. She then engaged him in conversation as to how they should worship. Already she was drawn to Jesus, now she wanted to know where she needed to go to develop the spring beginning to well up in her soul. The Jews say Jerusalem, her people say the mountain, like so many before her she is asking, “what must I do?”
“[T]he hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth…” Though many believe they know exactly what this passage says, I feel that often we fail to understand it completely. I stand here before you as a minister, a teacher and pastor, and admitted openly that this week I found myself missing trapped in some form of discrimination rooted in some form of ideology. I have studied theology, I know the differences and have my own opinions of which version of theology I believe is correct. I could stand and debate those issues, but what good will that do? My mind has grasped onto theological ideas that seem correct in my own mind, what matters is if that theological stance is both correct in spirit and in truth. Many believe they have the truth, but fail to grasp the spirit behind the truth, and in all the fervent dedication to truth have been left behind. Others may have the correct spirit or application of something; yet fail to find the truth. Both sides fail because in their seeking of God they often ask incorrect questions. They will look at the law and see things and act accordingly but fail to ask why would God command such a thing. Why would God command that a rape victim be married to the predator? Why is it that Paul says prostitutes will not inherit the kingdom of Heaven, yet say nothing about those that exploit the conditions leading to the business?
What is the spirit? The spirit in this case is that God loves all people. All people: Jew, Samaritan, and Gentile. The spirit is that no one can be separated from that love of God. The spirit is that God loves the world and wishes that not one person should perish so he provided a way to redeem and restore people into the right relationship with him. The spirit is that all people has salvation offered to them, their sins are forgive even if they choose to reject that forgiveness. The spirit is that God wants everyone to live in relationship with Him. The spirit is that God wishes to prevent exploitation of all forms and restore dignity to all humanity.
The truth is that not everyone will accept that gift. The truth is that many will leave the gift unopened and un-experienced before them. The truth is that many will live so tied up in preferences and ideologies that they will place them before God and even though they think they are following Him, they are instead bowing before Idols made by human hands. The Truth is that there is only one way to experience the living water; the Sabbath rest offered by God and that is in Jesus.
As we enter into this time of open worship, this time of holy expectancy and communion with God. I want us to consider this story more fully. Have we been living a life of discrimination? Have we been living a life rejecting others? Or have we been accepting and encouraging those around us? And then let us each go just a bit deeper and ask God if our answers are based in true worship in His Spirit and in His truth or have we been living a hypocritical faith?
Scripture: John 3:1-17
There are not many days that go by that I do not spend some time speaking about faith in some way. If it is not here in the Meeting House, someone at work or random people I meet just walking around that take the time to talk with me, words about my faith are usually coming up. It is not something that I plan, or even something that is awkward in the conversation. Little things are being discussed and somehow there Jesus is right in the middle of the conversation.
I have been on a mission trip where we were told to bring faith into the discussion as often as we could, but when it was required it always seemed awkward. I had the four spiritual laws memorized and we would sit around rooms brainstorming how to introduce these in just about every conversation we would have. The problems is my conversations are random, I will be talking about one thing one moment and the next will take some trail down a totally different path until neither of us remembered what was being said. Trying to fit a scripted evangelism technique into my normal conversation is not something that would go well, I remember several times feeling obligated to try with the same result a look of shock and disgust.
For many people that is what speaking of faith is all about, forcing a canned presentation into a conversation at an awkward time. Many people have been turned away from this vital ministry because of embarrassment. On the other hand many have rejected Christ because all too often their only exposure to God has been a manipulative conversation where those they were speaking with were only listening for an opening to present something without actually caring about the conversation. The image of a salesman jumps into our minds and that is exactly how I felt. I never made a good salesman, because canned presentations are not the way I think or converse.
I mention this only because not everyone is gifted in this area, and not everyone responds to these. There are some people that can honestly present things like this in a natural way, but not me. There are people that can be very genuine in the conversation and naturally bring that conversation into presenting the gospel in a way that people respond to. That is great! That is a very important ministry. Do not get me wrong even though I could not do it well, groups like Campus Crusade for Christ and others have done incredible outreach to people that have not heard the Gospel.
But not everyone is wired that way. I mentioned before that nearly every day my faith is brought into a conversation, but it is very different than what I had attempted before. For me the process is much slower, step-by-step, moment-by-moment, encouraging those around me. As the relationship grows the conversations begin to have movement, gradually getting deeper and then going back out to something less spiritual. Letting the conversation just be what it is.
When I was in Ukraine as hard as I tried to present the four spiritual laws, I never once saw one person come to Christ through the presentation I had made. It was not because I didn’t try. But I did see over one hundred student’s lives change, they changed dramatically before my very eyes. I saw people take steps closer to God, and I saw people totally change the very course their lives were on. That is what started the journey that I have been on.
Today’s conversation between Nicodemus and Jesus remind me of those days I spent in Ukraine. Ukraine is filled with people that call themselves Christian. In fact, the largest Christian nations of the world are areas like Russia and Ukraine. Often we do not remember this when we think of that part of the world, our minds here in America tend to think first of enemies instead of Christian when we talk about then nations that made up the former Soviet Union.
The people that I spoke with in Ukraine where religious, many of them were more devoted to their faith than I was to mine. But often their faith was compartmentalized or just something they did out of rout. In the course of my conversations I would see the students eyes get wide and one of the most common statements I heard was, “so that’s why we do that.” At the time I knew very little about any expression of faith outside of the protestant branch of Christianity.
But this is similar to this conversation with Nicodemus. Nicodemus was a very religious man, he was a Pharisee, and was a leader among this group. Often Jesus speaks negatively about the Pharisees but these men were very religious men. Over the course of Jesus’ ministry Nicodemus heard and saw many things from Jesus. Enough so that he wanted to know more. So we have Nicodemus and Jesus talking at night.
Many people have focused on the time of this conversation. That Nicodemus was seeking Jesus out at night often leads people to believe that Nicodemus was hiding. That very well may be the case, when the gospel writes mention terms around time it usually means that there was an important reason. Lets just say this, Nicodemus was a very busy man, a leader among the people, it could be that this was the only time that he could really talk with Jesus about the things that really mattered.
Nicodemus starts by praising the work that Jesus was doing and Jesus seems to interrupt. We do not know why this is, but seeming out of the blue Jesus say, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” Many speculate that Jesus did this to hurry the conversation along, knowing that Nicodemus was going to ask something along the lines of, “what must I do to enter the Kingdom.” The answer there is we don’t know why Jesus the conversation went this way, but I would say that this probably was not the first conversation that happened between Jesus and Nicodemus.
“[N]o one can see the Kingdom of God without being born from above.” I want us all to clear our minds of the years of evangelical theology that we have heard in our lives about being born again and just contemplate this statement as if we heard it for the first time. The first thing that pops out to me is the word see. This is an active word, something that we do, it could also be translated as pay attention to, understand, visit, experience, or to learn about. In your minds replace the word see with one of those other possible translations. “No one can experience the kingdom, no one can understand, or visit, or experience the kingdom, without being born from above.”
Understanding was the number one things that I saw as I conversed with the students in Ukraine, they were hungry for something and were very open to talk about faith but they often times did not understand the very faith they claimed. They could not see, even though they had faith. But see is not the only word, Jesus says you no on can see without, that means that there is something that someone needs to be able to have the understanding or experience. That is where the words born from above come in.
You all know that six months ago Albert was added to our family. So the word born comes into mind, born from above though is something else entirely. What does that mean? When a child is being born only one person really did the work of giving birth, that person is the mother. The fathers of the child at best can only be encouragers. This observation is something I think I had missed for so many years; we do not save anyone and we do not give new life to anyone. We are at best like a father speaking words of encouragement through the process. The one that really does all the work is the one from above.
All the words I speak to you today are nothing more than words of encouragement; I do not have the power in myself to do more than speak. I cannot even show you the kingdom, but the Spirit of God can use those words of encouragement to push out new life within you.
Nicodemus did not understand. He was a leader among the most actively religious group of the Jewish people, yet he did not understand. Jesus then goes on to speak about the Spirit of God. He likens the Spirit to wind blowing. Wind is a force that cannot be seen in and of itself. We may see the force result of wind as dust particles are lifted into the air, but the wind itself is not something we can see. We can however sense the wind by other means like the sensation we get as the breeze blows across our skin, or we can hear the movement as it presses upon our ears. We only sense the movement. From that movement we can determine things, like at that moment it is blowing in a certain direction. We do not know how long it has been blowing, or how far that same movement will last, only that general direction. Of course with our technology today we can study the wind and gain greater understanding of it, but ultimately we do not know fully what the wind will do. That is like that spirit, and that is like the kingdom of God. It is something that we must learn about, experience, and pay attention to.
Nicodemus says, “We know you are a teacher who has come from God.” How does he know this? Because he was paying attention to what Jesus had said and done. He observed and studied and recognized that Jesus was not just some untrained speaker, but someone that was clearly sent from God, yet Nicodemus still sought Jesus to engage in conversation. Nicodemus was beginning to sense the wind, but in doing so the foundations of his faith were being shaken. They were required to do certain things, act certain ways, speak certain words, but Nicodemus was beginning to sense that that was not the total story; Nicodemus was beginning to sense that the wind was blowing a different direction than they were accustomed to.
Then Jesus speaks the most known words. “For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” The wind was acting on Nicodemus’ life, something from above was beginning to act on his life that was changing the very course of faith. “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”
Jesus came to love, Jesus came to save, and He came to do this for all people, the world system. The world is a pretty interesting word as well. This word is kosmos, which could be seen as universe, earth, world system, or people. He came to save the world system, the people, the earth and the universe. He did not come to condemn, but save. That is the kingdom. We cannot see that redemptive plan unless we are born from above, unless we are paying attention to the movement of the spirit of God in our lives and willing to provide encouragement to those the Spirit moves us to. But condemnation and salvation are not our jobs. That is God’s job. Our job is to hold a hand, walk the path with, to explain and build a relationship with those people the Spirit moves us to interact with. We do this through practicing the rhythm of life that Jesus showed his disciples, through making it our customer to Love God in worship, in embracing the Spirit in prayer, and in living the love of Christ with others as we provide encouragement and service to others. When we begin to see our place in this we will begin to see the kingdom of God around us, we will also begin to see small things happening within the lives of the people we meet, we begin to see new life being birth.
I started today by saying that nearly every day I share my faith with others, nearly every day conversations that I have are turned to topics of faith. I also mentioned that I am not comfortable with canned presentations but these do have their place. God loves each of us; He loves us right now, even though we may not be perfect. He loves us even though we may lie at times, even though we may get drunk on occasion, He loves us even though we may not be faithful in our relationships. He loves us so much that he sent his son, not to condemn us, but to save us, to redeem us, and the entire world system we live in. He did this by taking on our humanity for us, living for us, taking on the condemnation himself as he died on that cross, and proving to us that their really is hope by raising from the grave after laying in the depths of the earth for three days. He did this because it brought him joy, because through Jesus humanity was restored to where we should be in relationship with our creator. And our joy can be made complete if we turn from ourselves and believe in Him.
Scripture: Matthew 4:1-11
There are some days where there it seems as if the sun is moving in fast forward. You know those days, the ones where you have a doctor appointment, an interview, a paper to write along with a book to read, and about when you think you have gotten caught up you have three reports to run and five last minute clients that need your attention immediately. Then after work just when you might think you could catch a break you have supper to cook, laundry to wash, and a toilet to fix at home. So I just explained your typical Tuesday, I won’t mention the typical Monday because that would be too traumatic for us. The point is we are busy. From the fifth time we hit the snooze button until we finally get to bed around midnight we are running. Busy is the term most of us would use to describe the way we feel any given day. Even those of us that are retired seem to be busy.
We are stretched as a culture, stretched between our jobs and family, stretched between school activities and community events, and stretched between various tasks at home. We feel stretched thin, nearly to our breaking points, and then just one more thing happens and we snap. We yell at a child when all they wanted was a cup of water, we refuse service to a client and let them know what we really think, and our spouses see the side of our personality that we try so hard to keep hidden. Usually the breaking point is able to be mended, but there are times when real damage is done, words are said that cannot be taken back, and sometimes someone ends up with a frozen steak resting against an eye.
These days where we are stretched to the breaking point and beyond are the days where our disciplines kick in and our true character is shown to those around us. How we respond during the trials of our lives are the things people remember the most. That is why today’s passage is so encouraging. Jesus was tested, He was tempted just like we are, and He had to face trials as we do every single day of our lives. I find that little bit of information quite refreshing, knowing that God understands what a bad day feels like and there is a way to move forward. Scripture even says in Hebrews 4:15. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who in every respect has been tested a we are, yet without sin.” Jesus understands that we have bad days; He understands being stretched, and being brought to a point where we just want to scream. He was tested or tempted in every respect as we are.
After John baptized Jesus, Jesus was lead by the Spirit to the desert, where he fasted for forty days and nights. While out in that deserted placed the tempter came to test Jesus, after forty days it says that Jesus was famished. Jesus has a real need, he has not eaten for an extended amount of time and there are rocks just sitting there. They are shaped in such a way that they look like loaves of bread and the very thought makes one’s mouth water and stomach to growl. “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” Just think about that for a while. This temptation is one that we are faced with all the time. It is the temptation to satisfy our needs quickly. It is only bread you might say. It is not a big deal, but the tempter is encouraging Jesus to use a means to gaining what he wants and needs illegitimately.
This temptation is the most common temptation. There is a hierarchy of needs as humans. Food, water, shelter, and others some are greater needs some are lesser but if one is missing we tend to do whatever we can to obtain it. Now most of us could not turn the stones into bread, but we do have other means. We have little cards in our wallets that can magically give us whatever we want. With just a swipe we can have a steak, or new shoes. The temptation of using credit to obtain what we need could lead into a temptation for us to use it to gain what we want, illegitimately. Eventually the bill will come and we will be faced with reality. You are hungry and you don’t have cash, just swipe the card and you will have what you need.
So many people in our community have become victims to this vicious cycle, I know it all to well myself. What we once thought of as a safety net has become a snare that keeps us from really being free. You might say that Jesus using his divine power and you using a credit card are not the same thing but they are similar. With every action there is a reaction, this applies not only in physics but also in relationships and life. If we try to get what we need through illegitimate means, there are consequences.
“Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down…’” This second temptation we may have a hard time relating to, because not too often do we find ourselves standing on a pinnacle contemplating a jump. Many of us have gotten involved in risky behaviors though. How many times have we woken up late and sped to work praying earnestly, “Please don’t let there be a cop.” Or have you ever written a check and hoping that you had just enough time to make a deposit before the check cleared? We tend to proceed with actions expecting God to bless us, when maybe true obedience was something else. “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” We have each tried to reason with God, “If you do this then I will do that.” This is a temptation that we easily fall into and often it is the very thing that causes us to lose faith in God. We pray for something and it doesn’t work out the way we hoped, so we assume God either doesn’t care or that he doesn’t exist. But in reality when we enter into those types of activities we are not trusting God, but instead we are jumping off a building expecting nothing bad to happen.
Jesus is then taken to a high mountain and shown all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. The devil says to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” This temptation is one that we so often face especially in the corporate world. Power and wealth are very attractive. If only I were to do this I could move up a step. If only I turn a blind eye to this action, I could gain more money. If only I vote this way I could have it all. Power and wealth have tempted us all at some point. We may not have been tempted to the same degree we may not even know that we have been tempted. We may think this is only a problem for politicians or company executives but it can happen to us all. When I worked in the lawn care business we had to meet certain production goals to have the weekend off. The temptation was to cut corners to get more lawns done in less time, many would just spread fertilizer on the lawns and neglect to go back over the lawn to spray the weeds, but the customer paid for both. This is similar to the first temptation but instead of our needs it focuses on our desires.
Jesus was tempted by needs, desires, and our methods. He needed food and all he had to do was say a word and the stones would turn to bread. He had the power to fulfill his need but to do so would be an illegitimate use of the power. He was tempted to force his acceptance as messiah by jumping from the roof of the temple testing that God would protect him and the people would be amazed, but to do so would be unethical and an illegitimate use of his power. He was tempted to gain become the King of Kings and Lord of Lords at that very moment if only he would bow a knee, but to do so would not truly satisfy the mission set before him. Every day we are stretched thin and are tempted in these very same ways. Each is focused on our own selfish needs and desires at the expense of someone or something else. If we were to succumb to the temptations there would be a consequence to the actions, consequences that we did not intend but they happen just the same. But when we are stretched thin we are not always thinking clearly and that is when unlike Jesus we miss the mark and sin.
This passage reassures us that God understands our condition but it also tells us how to combat the temptation and train our bodies and spirits to face the various trials of life. We now need to hit the rewind button and go back to the beginning of today’s passage. What was Jesus doing in the desert? He was fasting. A fast is something that many people do not understand. In simple terms it is abstaining from something for a time, to focus on something else. Many see a fast a way to convince God to do their wills, but that is putting God to the test. I want us to look at it in a different way.
Let us remember back to the days when we were first developing our relationship with our spouse, I apologize for those that are not married but I hope you can follow along. Remember the activities you would do together? The time spent with each other? You would sacrifice an evening out with your friends at the drop of a hat, just to spend time with the one you hoped to marry. You would spend your last dollar to give them a gift that would express your devotion to them. You may skip a meal so that you could get off work earlier so you could spend more time with the one you love. You would stop doing some activities so that you could afford to invest in them. You sacrificed something and invested that into a relationship. We sacrifice without any question, because they are more important.
That is a fast; it is sacrificing something to build the relationship. It is giving up a meal so we can spend that time nourishing our relationship with God. It is giving up something that brings us pleasure for the moment so that we can instead gain that pleasure from God. Is it difficult yes, but it is worth it. The sacrifice does not force God into doing something, but it instead opens our spirits to hear from Him in a deeper way.
Now let us look again at the passage. Jesus went out into the desert and fasted for forty days and nights. Many will say that there is special power in this number, citing that Moses was on the mountain with God forty days while he received the law from God. Or that Elijah spent forty days in the cave, or that it rained for forty days on Noah and his family in the ark. I will not dispute or confirm the special-ness of the number forty. That it occurs so often in scripture is important enough, but what is forty days? It is over a month. It is a significant amount of time. Time is the key word. In our culture where time is in short supply this is significant. Waiting and listening, conversing with God and listening for the inner voice to speak is a discipline that we so often neglect. This unhurried ability to wait is what causes us so often to fall into the snares of the temptations around us. We feel there are pressing matters and we must act now! But what if we were to just wait, listen and seek for the right timing. Many very bad decisions could have been avoided if only we would have waited. Wait. For many of us in our busy culture wait is one of those four letter words that we do not use. We are a people of action, and to wait is just not in our make up. But Jesus spent forty days waiting, fasting, and praying. In the waiting he was tested; obtain your needs, your desires, and take matters into your own hands. Through the waiting Jesus was able to confront those tests with wisdom and integrity. “Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God… Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test… Worship the Lord you God, and serve only Him.”
For many followers of Jesus, we no longer understand what it means to fast. For many of us we do not know how to wait. For many of us we pervert the fast into methods of control and means of power. But a fast is to wait, to sacrifice, and to give oneself for the benefit of others. It is disciplining ourselves so that when the trials come we can face them without sin, not because we are that good, but because we love God and know that he loves us. It is in this waiting, meditation, contemplation, fasting, and listen that we find the answers we seek the wisdom and light springing from the very spirit of God. It is in that place we can find acceptance of the situations around us, and the strength to face the challenges that threaten to break our stretched lives apart. Jesus knows the trials we face because He has faced them. He knows the pains we feel because He too has felt them. He knows and is the way through and forward. Let us now wait with Him as he waits with us during His own fast. Let us draw on His strength as he faces his trials and as we face our own. And let us know that God does know us, He knows our pain and our weaknesses, He knows our desires and our needs, and He loves us. Let us rest in His love and accept that through our relationship with Him we will find all that we truly need.