“Don’t be Afraid. Just Trust Me”

But Jesus ignored their comments and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me” (Mark 5:36).

There are times in one’s life when we must simply trust our Father. This can be difficult when we are going through a trying situation. Sometimes it means ignoring everything but His words in the midst of a storm.

I remember a time when I was working as a commercial fisherman with my father on his fishing boat. We were on a long journey south to our home port of Harwich, Essex, England. It was past midnight and it was his turn to sleep. Before he lay down on the daybed, there in the wheelhouse alongside me, he wanted to give me some instructions for our passing three miles off of the coast of Lowestoft, Suffolk.  He instructed me to avoid the two sandbanks that ran three miles off the shore and parallel with the coast. I was to go close to the shore, away from the sandbanks, and escape the tide that would be turning against us by the time we got there.

Two miles ahead of us, I could see two other fishing boats from our home port. Dad had been asleep about an hour when I came up to the Scroby Sands, the Outer and Inner banks, that ran parallel and opposite the coast of Lowestoft. I reasoned to myself that, instead of following my father’s commands, I could just follow the lights of the other boats. To make matters worse, we were in a force 9 severe gale with the waves breaking over the bow of the boat. I was afraid that if I took the advice of my father, staying close to the shore, I would not see Lowestoft Pier that stuck out a few hundred yards.  As I entered the channel, I saw the red buoy to my left, and the green buoy on my right, so I knew I was at the start of the channel. What I didn’t realize, though, was that after the other boats had gone through the channel in between the sands, they had now turned course and were heading inshore so that they, too, could evade the fast-flowing tide against all of us.

Following the other boats and not listening to my dad was a big mistake! My course had changed from going down the channel to following them inshore. But I hadn’t come to the end of the channel yet. Our boat hit the Inner Scroby Sands going full speed.  My dad woke with a start as the keel stuck fast on the Inner Scroby Sand in a severe gale.  Worst of all, the tide was going down and every minute diminished our chances of survival.  My father told me to put the engine in reverse and give maximum thrust on the engine.  When I did so, the boat leaned severely over on the port (left) side and we nearly capsized. In fear, I took the engine out of gear. Scared of death, I asked dad to take the controls. He quickly took over the helm. “We’ve got to do it, son!” he said. Our very lives were at stake. If we’d have capsized, we would never have been found and both of us could not swim and we had no life raft at the time. In any case, it was three miles to Lowestoft in mid-winter, in the dark.  With the tide going down and the water level dropping the boat would not remain vertical–we would capsize. We faced certain death. Dad put the boat in reverse gear and rammed the throttle on the engine full speed. The boat again nearly capsized and shook violently as the rear end of the keel hit the sand. The propeller thrashed the water while I prayed like mad, crying, “help Lord!” In two minutes of dad taking the helm, our boat came off the sands.

When we were safely on our way again, the Lord spoke to me very clearly, saying, “If you would just listen to your Father’s voice, you would be safe.” God often has a way of speaking on two different levels to us. I knew He was referring to my relationship with Him and that I was to trust His voice even when it seemed like an illogical thing to do. Father knows best! Thank God that when we feel incapable, He is there to take the controls! Can you give Him the controls of your life? Or are you still following the other boats?

Can I challenge you to trust your Father’s voice? When the situation looks bleak, hear His voice, saying, “Don’t be afraid. Just trust me” (Mark 5:36).

Please, Father, help me to know your voice and obey it. Keith Thomas

Are You a Disciple?

24Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.25“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it (Matthew 16:24-25).

In the late 1800’s Ernest Shackleton, the famous British explorer, when he was about to set out on an expedition to the South Pole, put an ad in the London Times, “Men wanted for a hazardous journey to the South Pole. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger. Safe return doubtful. Honor and recognition in case of success.” How many people do you think responded to the ad? (Scrolling further down to the end of the next paragraph will give you the answer).

Pastors of the Western church of Jesus Christ have a tendency to want to make it easier for people. We’re afraid that the message of the pure gospel and Christ’s call to commitment will put some people off. We put coffee cup holders at the back of the seats and only brew premium coffee. We make the room warm, but not too warm in case we put people to sleep. The music has to be just right, with perfect sound reproduction. The children’s classrooms have to have enough toys, with no hint of a stain or blemish on any of them. Our Western culture has permeated our church culture. As a result, we have a marketing mentality. People in the West are used to this.

The churches in Asia are not bound by such marketing strategies; they have grown strong by a deep commitment to the cause of Christ. When we think of Shackleton’s advertisement, why would this draw anyone? When calling for a commitment, Earnest Shackleton told them that this would not be easy, and only those who were ready to give up their lives for the cause should apply. He wrote, “Safe return doubtful.” This would be a trip of great hardship with a small wage, bitter cold, and long months of darkness. What would move anyone, we would think, to desire to go with Shackleton? In speaking of it afterward he said that so overwhelming was the response to his appeal that it seemed as though all the men of Great Britain were determined to accompany him. In fact, Shackleton had over 5000 replies to his ad.[1]

Why do you think 5000 men responded to such an advertisement? I think many are looking for something to give themselves to that would live on after their deaths. Men need a challenge. Even though there was a possibility of death, the response was overwhelming and surprising. However, out of those 5000 people only 27 were chosen for the trip. Advertisements for young men to join the American Marines play on this desire for challenge, commitment, hardship, honor, and recognition. I would think that if we could have questioned the 5000 responders their main motive would have been the same as those that join the Marines, that of the challenge, glory, hardship, and the desire to be part of something that will make a difference. The most inspiring thing you can ever say to somebody is that they have made a difference through what they have done. Many are aware that the future does not look bright for anyone who has a mind to look at what is happening in the world. It will become increasingly dangerous to be a Christian as we approach the end times, yes, even here in America. There will be increasing pressure to compromise your faith and your values.

 

Without a deep commitment to the cause of Christ and an intimate love for the King of Love, we will be swept away from the centrality of Christ and obedience to His Word. We are called to not only believe but to be a disciple, a disciplined one. Let me ask you this question if it were illegal to be a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you? Your answer to that question may shed light on whether you are a nominal believer or a disciple. I pray today that these words today may find an opening in your heart to desire to be a disciple rather than just a believer.

Read more on this study by scrolling down to the Becoming a DiscipleSeries and click on the second study, “A Revolution of the Committed.” Keith Thomas

[1]Quit You like Men, Carl Hopkins Elmore (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1944).

What Limits has Man Put on You?

2The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished. They asked, “Where did he get all his wisdom and the power to perform such miracles? 3He’s just the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him (Mark 6:2-3 NLT).

Have you ever felt that someone has put a limit on you as to what they think you can do? You, as well as I, have heard things like “he’ll never amount to much” or words such as “she has always been like that and always will be.”

We must be careful with our words. Words have great power to create and build up, but also have the power to destroy. I always remember how hurt I was at the tender age of 11 to be referred to as the ugliest kid in a school of over a thousand kids. It took me a long time to break out of that self-image of being ugly. What words have you had spoken over you that still limit you today? The people referred to in our passage of Scripture above were offended at Jesus because he was just a carpenter. He didn’t have the right stock, he’s never been to Bible school or seminary, he’s just a carpenter, he’s only good for woodwork, and he has no place in ministry! People can place limits on us with their words. We should no longer look at those that have given their lives to Christ in the same way as we once did. If you are in Christ, there is an awesome potential that has been given to you by the Spirit of God. Let the lid that has held you down be taken off! Paul, in his second letter to the Corinthian Church, told them toregard no one from a worldly point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16). What did he mean? I believe he is talking about taking off the limits that we place on one another. Trust God to do that for others too!

Prayer: Lord, I may not be everything you want me to be yet, but please help me to break free from every box that has limited me in my growth to be like Christ. Let the lid be taken off.  Keith Thomas

Is the Kingdom of God Within You or in Your Midst?

20Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the Kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, 21nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:20-21).

It could be that the Pharisees were asking Christ in a derogatory way as to when the Kingdom of God would come, i.e. with a sneer on their lips. They were aware that Jesus had taught from the beginning that the Kingdom of God was near (Matthew 4:17). In their minds, if it was coming, where was it? Of course, they didn’t believe that He was the Messiah. He did not fit their picture of the Messiah. Jesus replied by telling them, “The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation.” The Greek word that is translated “careful observation” is parateresis, which means to watch with hostility or to keep an eye on something close. The Pharisees were looking for spectacular signs in the sky that would hail the coming of the Kingdom, but Jesus refutes that thinking by saying that the Kingdom does not come visibly at that time; it contains elements that cannot be observed with the natural eye like a mustard seed that becomes a tree (Matthew 13:32) and leaven that permeates through the whole bread (Matthew 13:33). The second coming of Christ will not come until the Gospel has permeated throughout the whole world (Matthew 24:14)

King Jesus, when He is invited, comes and takes up residence upon the throne of our hearts, the temple of God according to Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:16. Jesus Himself was and is the seed of the Kingdom. Nicodemus was told by Jesus, “No one can see the Kingdom of God unless he is born again” (John 3:3). In case we didn’t catch the importance of this, the Lord says it again more emphatically in verse 7, “You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again’” (John 3:7 Emphasis mine). There must be an inward manifestation of the kingdom in our hearts, the central part of our very being, i.e. our spirit; otherwise, we will never have a part in the outward, physical manifestation and the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. When a person receives Christ as Savior, something happens in the core of his being, also described by the Apostle Peter as being “born again.” He writes:

For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God (1 Peter 1:23).

We are alive to the physical world because we have been born into it. In the same way, we become alive spiritually by receiving the germinating seed of spiritual life from the Lord Jesus. He said: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). The Greek word that is translated into the English word life is Zōē. The Key Word Study Bible goes into the root of the word itself, saying:

Zōē is a somewhat metaphysical term which denotes the very life-force itself, the vital principle, which animates living beings. It is used most often in connection with eternal life. This life is the very life of God of which believers are made partakers.[1]

Until this experience of being born again happens within us, the inner state of our spirit is that of being dead in our transgressions and sins (Ephesians 2:1, 5). We cannot know God apart from receiving this life from Jesus. You cannot become a Christian by behaving Christianly; it doesn’t work like that. You must be born again or born from above into the Kingdom of God. There is a new-life principle that is imparted to us when we repent (repentance means a change of mind and direction) and receive the Lord Jesus as Lord and Savior of our lives. This is why Paul the Apostle writes, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The very kingdom for which they supposedly were searching was right under their noses in the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ, and they were not aware of it. Sometimes, the answers to our questions are right there in front of us, but we do not have the spiritual sensitivity to see them. Keith Thomas

[1]Spiros Zodhiates, Key Word Study Bible, AMG Publishers, Page 1630.

The Rich Ruler

18A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19″Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 20You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.”21″All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. 22When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 23When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth (Luke 18:18-23).

Few of the religious rulers had any time for Christ, yet this man seems compelled to get an interview with Jesus. He is so passionate about finding eternal life that Mark tells us that he runs up to Jesus and falls on his knees before Him (Mark 10:17). His rich robes are all muddied in the dirt while he is on his knees blurting out, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” One of Satan’s schemes to deceive a man from turning to Christ is to have him look for things he can do to please God. People hope that God will see how hard they are trying to please Him and reward our work by opening the door of the kingdom to us. Satan enjoys watching people work hard at trying to please God with their good works. He is the master of deception. The rich ruler had a serious question going on in his inner man— “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (v. 18). This man had no assurance of salvation even though he thought that he had worked hard all his young life to gain peace with God.

Before a man can receive the Kingdom of God, he must first see how far short of the kind of life God requires. The standard that God demands is perfection:

Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48).

Our problem is that we are sinners by nature and fall far short of the standard God requires. We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. It is in our very nature to sin. No matter how good a person thinks he is, just one sin makes us fall short of perfection and needful of God’s grace and mercy.

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10).

The Law and Commandments were given as a means for us to see how far we have transgressed over the line into sin. How would we have known what sin was without the Ten Commandments? Paul the apostle wrote: “no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law, rather through the law, we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:20). The importance of the law cannot be overstated. How can one have need of a Savior if he has never been convinced of his need? Presenting the gospel with no accompanying message of how a person has fallen short of God’s glory seriously minimizes the message to a person’s heart. A person loves much when he sees just how much he has been forgiven. Jesus stated it like this: “He who has been forgiven little loves little” (Luke 7:47). The greater our perception of our personal sin to a holy God, the greater our love response when we are forgiven our sin. God is looking for a love relationship with His bride, the Church, you and me. We are given an inner conscience that tells us before we sin, that what we are about to do is wrong. It punishes us as a judge if we do not listen to that inner voice and continue in sin. The Internal Revenue Service (Tax Dept) received the following letter from a conscience-stricken taxpayer:

“Dear Sir: My conscience bothered me. Here is $175.00, which I owe in back taxes.” There was a P.S. at the bottom that read: “If my conscience still bothers me, I’ll send in the rest.”[1]

This rich young man’s conscience was bothering him. John Trapp said: “Conscience is God’s spy and man’s overseer.” Jesus pointed the rich ruler back to the commandments so that he could see how far short he fell. Shrugging off his conscience he claimed to have kept the commandments since he was a boy, but still, something was missing. The Lord saw his heart as only God can and told him to sell all he had and give it to the poor.

This rich young ruler’s problem was that he loved things more than he loved God. The Lord considered his soul and saw that he was holding something back and that it was keeping him from surrendering his life to God. Whatever crutch we lean on in life, God wants to kick away until we totally lean on the finished work of Christ. Christianity is not a crutch; it is a wheelchair—we lean our total trust on Him alone. The rich man walked away, shoulders slumped, face downcast, because the one thing that he was holding on to kept him from enjoying the spiritual rest of Christ. There is a rest for our souls when nothing is held back or kept in reserve or leaned upon. Don’t let anything hold you back from total abandonment to Christ. He will be there to support you. That is the essence of faith. Keith Thomas

[1]1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, Michael P. Green, Page 79.