WHEN JESUS SAYS ‘NO’ Luke 8: 26-39

Isn’t it the pits when your prayer receives ‘no’ for its answer?  After all, you’re so sincere and needy.  Maybe it’s concern for someone else that brings you to Jesus in prayer.  Would He deny us anything?  Can’t imagine that.  But He does.  Though we know His will is best, yet we bristle and gripe at the seeming insensitivity.

Spending time in Luke 8, we discover a man in distress.  He’s possessed with many evil maladies.  Disturbed being an understatement.  Rips off his clothes, breaks the chains that bind him while he roams around in caves and tombs.  A desperate character.

As Jesus walks by, this troubled man shouts out– ‘…Jesus, Son of the Most High God’ (Luke 8: 28).  You know what happens.  Jesus casts out those legion demons into hillside pigs, who stampede down a steep bank into a lake, drowning all.

People come running to see what’s happened.  Oh, no!  Cash crops float away.  Livelihoods destroyed.  Fear engulfs the populace.  Their world crumbles.  So they tell Jesus and His cohorts to ‘get out of Dodge’ before they ‘tar and feather’ them!

But before they sail away, this newly restored man begs Jesus to allow him to tag along.  Why wouldn’t he?  After all, everyone who knows him probably will still make fun of him and always see him as he used to be.  Plus, blaming him for the economic mess they now find themselves in.  He’s trouble before and no better after.  No wonder he wants to flee.

But Jesus says ‘no’.  Of course, He wants this man to experience fullness of life (John 10:10).  Yet, Jesus also knows that no better work can be done for God’s Kingdom than for this man to go back home, tough it out, stand his ground, sound of mind and body, and tell others about Jesus’ healing him, seeing his own family, friends and neighbors come to know the Healer and Savior for themselves!

When Jesus says ‘no’ to our prayers, know that following Him will not always be easy.  We don’t invariably get our way, even though we accept that His ways are best.  Whether I can see it or not.  Like it or not.  Or if it makes any sense to my ‘pea brain’ or anyone else’s.

Trust Jesus.  Repeat that phrase as often as it takes.  Trust…Jesus.  Make yours a ‘no matter what’, ‘nevertheless’ faith!  I’m not there yet.  Not by a long-stretch.  But He’s not done with me…or you.  Hang on!  Hold on!  Trust…Jesus!

 

Lord, thank you that we can always trust you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

PERHAPS Zephaniah 2: 1-3

Always ruffles my feathers when preachers promise more than they can produce.  Wild assurances way beyond what God’s Word teaches.  Know what I mean?  I try to stick with the Bible, plain and simple.  Keeping within its boundaries.  That should be enough, shouldn’t it?

As a believer in Jesus Christ, I’ve seen the differences He’s made in my life… and for others.  Creating new people.  But let’s not get carried away.  For then I’d have to do a good cover-up job.  Make myself look  better than I am.  Being careful what I disclose, not allowing others to get too close.  The cover-up becomes a snow job.

That’s where Scripture is helpful.  Honest, but never to a fault.  Transparent, even showing scars and welts.  Some may think that being a Christian exempts them from life’s inevitable troubles.  Or overconfident and cocky as if God will only bless us now that we’re on His team.  Receiving special treatment, guaranteeing all His goodies.  Wouldn’t that be nice?  Not going to happen.

Of course, the Lord blesses us.  In more ways than we realize.  But Jesus alerts us– ‘In this world you will have trouble’ (John 16:33).  We will?  St. Paul gives an almost endless list of hardships he endures from following Jesus (1 Cor. 6:3ff).  Not all candy and roses.  What about the persecuted church today?  They know about punishing times.  I haven’t the foggiest.  Not even a clue.

Why reference Zephaniah, this obscure Old Testament prophet?  Well, he’s from God with a word we need to hear.  Zephaniah warns ancient Israel about judgement to come.  The Day of the Lord with accompanying destruction due to unrelenting sin by people who should have known better and acted accordingly.

However, glimmers of hope flicker in Zephaniah 2: 3–‘Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what He commands.  Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger’.

Seek the Lord.  Come to Him.  Humble yourself.  Sit at His feet.  Obey Him.  And then what?  ‘…perhaps…’

Perhaps… you’ll be sheltered and survive.  Perhaps.  No money-back guarantees.  No false promises.  No 10-year drivetrain warranties, either.  Life may not always work out as we want it to.  Perhaps… it doesn’t.  Then what?  Here’s where God’s promises overrule any of this perhaps-business.

They may kill the body, but the soul is secure with the Lord!  May lose it here, but never there.  His promise.  Good enough?  Is for me.  All we’ll ever need.  His Word.  Even facing all of life’s uncertainties?  Yes!  Especially there.

Thank you, Lord, for confidence in Jesus, our Lord and Savior.  Amen.