"It's almost as if Jesus doesn't care!" she said as we paused to reflect on verse 14 of Mark chapter one.
This year our Wednesday night Ladies Bible study is an inductive study through the book of Mark, and I have been hearing from God as we have examined and pondered each verse and passage of scripture.
On this day, a lady at my table stopped on Mark 1:14
John goes to prison, and Jesus just leaves!
She commented on how calloused it sounded. Our table talked for a while about how John even felt that way about it himself after he had been languishing in prison for a while, and he sent his followers to ask Jesus if He was really the Messiah, or if they should be expecting someone else (Matt. 11 and Luke 7).
I thought about John the Baptist all week, and kept looking up other passages about him.
I was amazed how his life suddenly felt connected to mine. I started to see him as a real person with real struggles and a real destiny that he was compelled to fulfil.
One day I picked up a book written by my uncle Ken Spilger in which he describes the circumstances surrounding a plane crash of which he was the only survivor, and writes about the struggles he faced and the faithfulness of God. This is what I read:
I felt extreme guilt because the other pastors had died, and I had not. Why had God spared my life and not those of Pastor Spurgeon, Pastor Lombard, and Pastor Thompson? ...I sat on the edge of the bed looking at a picture of the three men who had perished in the crash.
"Lord," I prayed, "help me to finish their ministries."
This was not the first time I had prayed this prayer: in fact, I prayed it every night before I went to bed.
That night,, however, was different. As I sat there, God spoke to my heart.
"Their work IS finished, Ken." came His still, small voice. "Concern yourself only with the work I have for you to do."
A peace which I had not experienced for a long time flooded over me in that moment. I was solely responsible for what God had called me to do. Awareness of that fact brought a new confidence which only could have come from God. My Heavenly Father's comfort to my hurting soul was overwhelming and gave me a sense of freedom, encouragement, and hope. I could receive God's purpose for my life, not theirs.
Several years later, I was talking with a nationally known speaker about the plane crash.
Well," he stated seriously, "now you have the ministry of three other pastors to finish."
"No," I told him confidently, "Their work is finished. God will hold me accountable for mine alone."
All of the guilt I had once felt was gone. (Excerpt from chapter 18)
Suddenly, I saw John the Baptist's situation a completely different way.
He had been sent to Prepare the Way of the LORD.
That was his purpose -
his destiny -
and he had done it with excellence!
The verse that came to mind when my Dad had a stroke came into my mind again:
I thought about what John the Baptist had said about himself long before that day...
John’s disciples came to him and said, “Rabbi, the man you met on the other side of the Jordan River, the one you identified as the Messiah, is also baptizing people. And everybody is going to him instead of coming to us.”
The Father loves his Son and has put everything into his hands. And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life. Anyone who doesn’t obey the Son will never experience eternal life but remains under God’s angry judgment.”
I thought back to the verse that made us pause:
"After John the Baptist was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God."
Then I looked again at the very next verse:
""The time has come," [Jesus] said, "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the Good News!"
John's ministry was complete.
Now it was all about Jesus. He did not callously leave John to rot in prison, He had simply been waiting for John's ministry to come to completion and for His own ministry to begin. - - A ministry which would also end in death, but would bring about the salvation of millions of souls. He knew the whole story from beginning to end.
I thought about me. I am always feeling (and saying) that I want more Jesus.
More of His presence in my life....
More of His Word in my heart...
More filling of the Holy Spirit...
...But in order for that to happen, something else must take place first - I must shrink.
You see, there is not room for both of us to be large and in charge. Only one of us can be in that place in my heart. The truth of the matter is that if I truly want more of Him, then I must have less of me!
Less of my own way...
Less of my own will...
Less of my pride - of my self righteousness....
...And all of HIS righteousness, His will, and His way.
The wonderful thing is that this is a process that perpetuates itself!
The more time I spend in His Word, the more familiar I become with His will and His way.
As I spend time in the presence of God, the more I see the difference between his righteous and mine (and what a remarkable distinction it is!)
This cycle flows over into more and more filling of the Holy Spirit.
More of Him, and less of me!
How have you seen this happening in your life? I'd love to hear your stories...