The Spiritual Blur

Sunday January 24, 2021 The Third Sunday Ordinary Time (Cycle B)

The tie in between today’s verses: It’s All How We Answer.

Psalm 25:4-9, Jonah 3:1-5;10, 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, Mark 1:14-20

The Christian life is messy. The Lord wants us to walk by faith, not by sight; that’s easier said than done. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak. We have the immediate demands of our physical needs. Not to mention, the Devil and our lust bear down on our decisions. Anticipating the unknown future distracts our focus from the Lord. You get the feeling that being a disciple of Christ is very akin to a spawning salmon fighting its way upriver. Efforts to divorce ourselves from our familiar life patterns in order to replace them with ethereal heavenly perspectives are clumsy and uncertain. Progress is hard to define. It’s not like you check off the right boxes in your religious life and you get a report card promoting you to the next grade. We blur through the process of spiritual growth like paper chromatography, showing up better in some areas than others. When the Lord challenges us out of our comfort zones—and let’s face it, that’s where headway in faith lies—we struggle with our answers. “I don’t want to.” “I want to, but not now.” “I want to, but I don’t know how.” Today’s readings explore these reactions.

Probably, the most famous example of “I don’t want to” comes from the Prophet Jonah, and the Lord’s call for him to go to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. Assyria was not the best neighborhood for a nice Jewish boy. They were the brutally cruel arch enemy of Israel. Hatred ran deep between them. So, when God directs him to go there, Jonah naturally runs in the other direction. Our Old Testament reading in Jonah 3:1-5;10 picks up after the Almighty’s big “Oh no, you didn’t” where He sends the whale to swallow our recalcitrant prophet and vomit him on the Assyrian shoreline. Jonah treks the hundreds of miles inland, and reaching Nineveh, the reluctant prophet gives his dire proclamation from the Lord, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be destroyed.”  It was killing Jonah to even give them the forty day’s reprieve. During that time, the city repents, and God forgives them. It is the greatest revival of all time and Jonah is livid! During the aftermath of the story, Jonah learns some valuable insights from the Lord and becomes a changed man. We like to think that if Jesus walked through our living room door and gave us an assignment that we would jump at the chance to serve the Master. Truth be told, whenever we excuse our consistent sin, hold a grudge, or take advantage of another, we are actually giving our Lord a big fat NO! If that’s the case with you today, realize that you are only hurting yourself. Take a cue from our reading in Psalm 25 and confess:

Remember, Lord, Your compassion and Your faithfulness,
For they have bee from of old.
Do not remember the sins of my youth or my wrongdoings;
Remember me according to Your faithfulness,
For Your goodness’ sake, Lord

The Lord is good and upright;
Therefore He instructs sinners in the way.
He leads the humble in justice,
And He teaches the humble His way.

Don’t be a Jonah. Spare yourself from the school of hard knocks. Work with God. Give up your own way. He wants to give you something special.

Today’s epistle in 1 Corinthians 7:29-31, the Apostle Paul counters our “Yes, but not now” answer to God with his comeback, “You just don’t have that kind of time.” From the Bible’s point of view, the New Testament marks the beginning of the “Last Days” (Acts 2:16-18). We are closer now to the Second Coming than ever. Paul argues that we, as disciples, need to change our priorities to match this expectation. There is an urgency about this. We must align our lives with heaven in mind. Even Jesus dismissed the excuses of would-be followers by saying, “Let the dead bury their dead…If you put your hand to the plow there’s no looking back” (Luke 9:59-62). The two-thousand-year delay should not blunt our enthusiasm. The Lord will appear at the proper time like a thief in the night. If He waits a little longer, it doesn’t matter! Because when you die…it’s the end of the world for you. Then it’s over. So, if the Holy Spirit is leading you to take on a task, work it into your duties and responsibilities. Don’t wait! Don’t put it off! You just don’t have that kind of time!

You’ve got your priorities straight. You want to obey, but you don’t know how. Our gospel in Mark 1:14-20 shows us that the Lord will teach us. John the Baptist’s time on the world stage is finished. Thrown into prison, the new chapter of Jesus must increase while he decreases has begun. The kingdom of God is at hand and Jesus recruits a pair of fishermen brothers: Peter and Andrew, James and John for the job. They left their nets to follow Him and learn how to be fishers of men.  It’s important to note that this was not their first encounter with Jesus. They had a history with Him and already knew that this day was coming. They had prepared for this so no one was left in the lurch. This is the all-important concept waiting on the Lord. Some people think that waiting on God is like my kids waiting for me to make their beds. Waiting on the Lord is doing your due diligence in anticipation of God’s call to task. That’s the first step. When He tells you it’s time, like the Apostles, you’re ready to go and start your amazing journey of learning and doing as you walk with your King. As it says in another section of our reading in Psalm 25:

Make me know Your ways, Lord;
Teach me Your paths.
Lead me in Your truth and teach me,
For You are the God of my salvation;
For You I wait.

So, if you feel God leading and you want to go, but you don’t know what to do: prepare, be aware, and He’ll take you there!

The Christian life is messy, but you don’t have to be a mess. Remember that it’s a growing process. Some things will come easy, while others not so much. There will be ups and downs, successes and failures as you mature into the image of Christ. You are a unique child of God and The Lord loves you, understands you, and will help you carry your cross, but remember the basic principles in the undertaking. Confess and repent your sins. Make His Kingdom your priority. Develop your God-given spiritual gifts and be ready to use them. Jesus wants to make you fishers of men, so climb aboard.

One thought on “The Spiritual Blur

  1. Pingback: Mark 1 – The Nazarene’s Commentary: Mark 1:16-21 – Becoming Fishers of Men | Belgian Biblestudents - Belgische Bijbelstudenten

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