Tag Archives: abundant life

One word for the hopeless – Luke 8:40-56

19 Aug

Do you feel hopeless, discouraged or powerless?

This past Sunday we looked at two people who seemed to be powerless and hopeless.  But with one word their lives changed radically.  What one word could make such a difference?

Jesus calmed the storm with a word. He defeated demons with a word.  In our next section studying through the Gospel of Luke 8:40-56, we see that he has power over death…with just a word.

There is no one else like him. If that truth has become old hat for you, if you’ve heard it a million times since you were in Sunday School as a three year old, and the amazement of Jesus has become boring, please hear it again for the first time.

There is no one like him. He is unique and powerful. With Jesus the hopeless still have hope!

As you read the story, did you note the one word that is central for the two people who were healed by Jesus.  Know what that one word is?

Faith.

To the lady with bleeding, he said “Your faith has healed you.”

To Jairus whose daughter was dead, he said “Believe.”

It is the same word in the original language: faith.

There are two elements to faith, and this is why the NIV is correct to use both the word “faith” and “belief” when translating the word “faith”.  The faith element relates to actions of trusting in and depending on God. The belief element relates to what we know in our minds to be true about God. Both of these elements are present in the biblical concept of faith. And both must be present in our faith in God. We believe and we trust, and we show that by the choices we make.

Like the lady who touched his robe, she believed Jesus could heal, and she showed faith by reaching out to touch him. Like Jairus, he believed Jesus could heal, so he sought out Jesus.  Even after hearing that his daughter was dead, Jairus let Jesus guide the way to his house, into the room where the girl lay dead.

A full-fledged conception of faith starts with belief of heart and mind, but it does not stop there. It is not enough to say “I believe in Jesus”.  Full-fledged faith does something about it!

Faith is belief that results in faithful action. Belief in the God of hope, leads to faithful action that shows we have hope.

But what about the many times when full-fledged faith doesn’t make everything better?  Obviously Jesus didn’t heal every sick person or bring every dead person to life.  The lady with the bleeding problem would have other ailments.  Jairus’ 12-year old daughter, even if she grew up to have a long life, would one day die. The purpose of Jesus’ miracles was not so that he could become the star doctor of Capernaum General Hospital. Instead, his miracles were signposts pointing in the direction of the Kingdom of God. You see him calm a storm, you see him cast out demons, and you see him heal the sick and raise the dead. All are signposts saying “God’s Kingdom is here. There is hope in the world!”

But what is that hope?  Is it a hope that those who have the right kind of faith will be blessed by God with perfect, easy, comfortable lives with no pain or misfortune?  Not at all.  The Lord never promised that.  As the twelve disciples would find out in their own lives, and as many faithful Christians through the years have likewise found out, we are all prone to the many forms of brokenness in our world.

So what is the benefit of pursuing faithfulness as a disciple of Jesus?  First, there is the hope of eternal life.  The miracles of Jesus are signposts to another reality, the reality of his Kingdom, the Kingdom of Heaven.  By full-fledged faith in him, we can have hope that we are participants in his Kingdom, which includes life after death.  We will be with him in heaven.  Second, we can access what he called the abundant life.  The abundant life points to the reality that we can be participants in his Kingdom now!  It is his life flowing through and changing our lives so that we learn more and more to live now like he did.

A vital question, then, is what does it mean to live faithfully in God’s Kingdom now? Your situation might have similarities or many differences from the lady or from Jairus. But would you ask the question: “How do I show faith in Christ in the midst of my unique situation?” I would encourage you not to assume that you know how to answer that question. But instead ask that question to someone older and wiser, someone who shows faithfulness, who shows they know how to live in God’s Kingdom.

90 days to a new you! – 1st Corinthians 15:35-50

1 Oct

90 days

Wish you could change your life? Get a new body?  Fix a relationship?  Stabilize your finances?  Quit smoking?  I found the banner above claiming that it takes 30 days to change a habit, and 60 more to change your life.  I also saw lots of pictures for workout programs, classes, diets, and the like.  A number of friends have tried P90X, and I hear it is very good.  I would actually like to try it sometime!  I am convinced a lot can happen in 90 days.  This banner raises a question I had as I studied for the sermon this past week.  As I have been preaching through the book of 1st Corinthians, we came to chapter 15:35-50, which is all about new bodies.

If we want to be in the eternal Kingdom of God, Paul says, we have to have a new body!  I agree with the author of the article I mentioned last week, that this one earthly body is all we get…here! But to experience the eternal Kingdom of God, Paul says we absolutely need a new spiritual body: “flesh and blood (natural body) cannot inherit kingdom of God, the perishable cannot inherit imperishable.” (1 Cor. 15:50)

That’s great, but it led to the question I had: What does that mean for our current bodies?

Do we just hang on trying to stave off aging, watching our bodies slowly deteriorate for 80-90 years, dealing with the aches and pains and sickness and sagging?  Then we die and get the new body?

Is Paul basically saying that heaven is when it gets good?

NO, we have hope, and that hope begins now, because the Lord tells us that he is making all things new.

When we start a relationship with Jesus, there is a real sense in which eternity starts now. We can experience a taste, and definitely a growing taste, of the new life of Christ now.

I’m not saying that we will get those new spiritual bodies now. As Paul said, that only comes after death to those who are in Christ. What I am saying is that Jesus does want to change us now. With our new bodies we will experience eternal life, but right now we can experience what he called abundant life.

The problem is that many of us have actually become pretty comfortable with our junk, not just the physical aches and pains, but also the emotional, relational junk.  What we fear is that actually dealing with it, opening up about it, putting it out there, or maybe even going to counseling might not feel like abundant life. In fact dealing with our junk make life more uncomfortable, not less.

You may be wondering how this kind of life is more abundant.  Isn’t it easier to just avoid it?  Act like everything is fine?  Hope the pain will go away?  I would argue, no.  Though it may be initially difficult, receiving the abundant life of Christ now, is the best way to live.

One of the major roadblocks, though, is that people have to want to be changed. They have to desire the abundant life, or they likely aren’t going to choose it. If you are scared or hesitant to step toward the abundant life of Christ, pray for God to open your eyes to see the hope and power of his abundant life. It is a prayer that could be something like: “Lord, I don’t know if I even want to be changed, so help me want to be changed”.

Flowing from that prayer, get ready for the Lord to answer it!  And as he works in you, also embrace the part you have to do as well. We should be choosing and experiencing the abundant life of Christ now.

I think Paul describes it best in Ephesians 1:17ff “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead.”

Do you realize that God wants to change you? Yes you can have a new powerful body that will not age or hurt or get sick or die when he rises you to new life after death.

But he also wants to change you now, so that more and more of his life is flowing through yours. Would you make it a matter of serious prayer: “Lord, change me!”

Would you consider professional counseling if you know there is an area of persistent struggle you are not overcoming? Habits, vices, bad priorities, unhealthy relationships, etc. I don’t want you to tune out thinking “Well, yeah, I’m sure I need to change something but I don’t even know where to begin…”

Where it begins is talking about it with people. Admitting it. We call that confession. Four simple words can open a door to new life, and those four simple words are “I have a problem.” But so many of us rarely open up enough to talk about our problems.

Would you consider having people hold you accountable?

God wants more of the fruit of the Spirit to flow out of you, and it could be that the people has placed in your life are a means grace to help the fruit of the Spirit grow in you.

Start with prayer. Then enter into a total life audit. Many of you are already doing this in an ongoing way, as you have a teachable humble approach to life. But some of you are not doing this. You need to sit down perhaps with a spiritual advisor and say “I have a problem. I don’t believe I am experiencing the abundant life of Jesus, I need help. What do you want me to do?” Be willing to do things that feel like they are out of your comfort zone.

Too often we get stuck in a rut, never experiencing the new life of Christ, because we don’t ever live in such a way that we need his new life! But when we step out of our comfort zone, perhaps going on a mission trip, perhaps serving in a new way in the church, perhaps turning off our devices and inviting a neighbor over for a cookout, perhaps talking to a friend about what Jesus is doing in your life, you’ll see how you need to depend on him for strength, for the words to say, and you will be amazed at how he gives you his new life flowing through you.

As we hope for the new life of resurrected bodies after death, let us live the new abundant life of Christ now!