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Isaiah 11:9
Mark 9:30-37
2 Timothy 2:7

The theme of our service this morning is part of our continued effort to better understand how God encourages our Christian growth.

But at the same time, we are going to take a look at why we don't always listen to, or understand, what we are being taught.

In recent years, our society has become more spiritual in many respects; but letís think about the ways people react.

Many seek spiritual answers in Eastern philosophy.

Many have picked up or follow many of the so-called New Age ideas, which are, for the most part, not really new ideas.

Some people put their hope in the power of a crystal, rather than in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Even most people who consider themselves to be Christians don't really read or study their Bibles for their spiritual answers, but instead rely upon what other people say or write, never knowing whether or not what they hear or read is really true.

We have a greater tendency to turn to other people for advice, than we have to turn to God for our answers.

And even when people do turn to God, most of the time they don't really listen to the answer.

They want the answer to be what they are hoping for, and not necessarily what God wants for them.

We must learn to wait patiently for our answers; not trying to force the results, but joyfully accepting whatever answer we receive, simply because God cares enough for us, individually, to give us an answer.

That's what Isaiah was telling us in 40:31.

31. Yet those who wait for the Lord

Will gain new strength;

They will mount up with wings like eagles,

They will run and not get tired,

They will walk and not become weary.

I try very hard to wait upon the Lord, and perhaps that's why I am able to do so much, a fact about which many of you have asked me.

But even I don't fully listen to everything God tells me, so I continue to wonder about how much could really be accomplished if I fully listened and understood.

And I'm nothing special.

Whatever God has given me, I know He has even more for each of you.

This is what Paul was telling Timothy in His second epistle, which is our preparation verse for this morning (2 Timothy 2:7).

7. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

This is true and it's good advice, if we follow it.

But even the apostles and disciples, who were part of Jesus' ministry for three and one-half years, didn't always understand.

A case in point is our Scripture lesson for this morning, Mark 9:30-37.

30. And from there they went out and began to go through Galilee, and He was unwilling for anyone to know about it.

31. For He was teaching His disciples and telling them, "The Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill Him; and when He has been killed, He will rise three days later."

32. But they did not understand this statement, and they were afraid to ask Him.

Jesus perceived their lack of understanding.

If they, who had been with Him almost continuously during His ministry, who had eaten with Him and slept in the same places, didn't understand, how would the multitudes, who were not as committed, come to understand?

So, Jesus taught them as privately as possible, for it was their job to carry on the ministry.

If I tell you that one day I will die, don't you understand that what I'm saying is true?

Of course you do, for you all realize that you are going to die, too.

But if I said to you that shortly I was going to be killed by some religious leaders and members of our government, I doubt if you would believe me.

The disciples understood, or at least hoped, that Jesus was the Messiah, and they saw the Messiah as being the Savior of the world, which He is; but they saw Him as One who would reign as King in the world at that time.

And if Jesus was going to reign forever, then He wouldn't die or have to rise from the dead.

So, because what they were hoping for was not in God's plan for them, they couldn't understand what Jesus was telling them.

They wanted their plan of salvation to be the truth, not God's plan.

Thus, they didn't want to hear the truth.

They were so upset about what Jesus was telling them that they didn't even want to talk about it.

My own mother recently said to me, as I was answering one of her questions, "Stop talking to me about what the Bible says, for it is causing me to lose my faith, and I like what I believe."

Most people want to believe what they believe, and not necessarily what the Lord wants us to believe.

And I'm not talking about some special doctrinal issues, but about the basic truths.

The disciples failed to understand the spiritual significance of what Jesus was saying.

He had to die to pay the price of their sins, if He was going to be able to save them.

They failed to understand; that is, until after Jesus' resurrection, when the Holy Spirit came upon them; then they understood.

But what about us, today?

All believers are given the Holy Spirit.

Then why do so many not understand and have empathy and love and compassion for the whole of creation?

Could it be that very few who say they believe, really do?

A scary thought, isn't it?

But as a way of better understanding our spiritual condition today, look at what the disciples were doing:

33. And they came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them,

"What were you discussing on the way?"

34. But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.

35. And sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, "If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all."

People seek to be first, when they are not satisfied with their position or when they are uncertain of the one in authority over them.

But with Christians, this should never be.

When we are saved, we are adopted as sons and daughters of God, as joint heirs with Jesus Christ, not as the first born, but as equals behind Him.

Thus, the only One who has authority over us is God; and He is always consistent in His love.

If we truly believed in our salvation, we would serve one another and feel for every other being created by God.

We would understand how they feel as they understand how we feel; and in this empathy, we would love and protect one another, and there would be no more hurting or destroying in all of God's holy mountain, as Isaiah tells us in 11:9.

9. They will not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,

For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord

As the waters cover the sea.

So Jesus tries to explain what He is saying by giving them an example (Mark 9:36-37):

36. And taking a child, He set him before them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them,

37. "Whoever receives one child like this in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me does not receive Me, but Him who sent Me."

Now, Jesus isn't just talking about children; He's simply using the child as an example of every being whom we are to receive in His name.

A child, in many ways, comes forth innocent and ignorant of the ways of either good or evil; thus, we are responsible for the way they turn out.

So, that means we must serve them and all those who cannot speak for themselves, which includes every animal.

And in doing this, we also must retain our child-like faith; so that if we do as the Lord teaches us, things will indeed get better.

This is not a quick-fix method, but it always works.

The problem with the disciples and with many of us today is that we believe in part, and not fully; we trust in part, but not completely; and we accept the things of God some or most of the time, but not all the time.

We do this because we don't see the kingdom of heaven clearly.

Relax, and wait upon the Lord, and let Him show you clearly the glory to come, for it is only in this realm that our spiritual understanding comes.

With physical things, we always have to consider the cost, and whether or not we can afford to pay for what we want.

With spiritual things, it's like being let loose in the largest supermarket or shopping center, and being able to have whatever we want, for it is all free.

All we have to do is treat whatever we take with care and respect, and promise to use it and share it with others.

Do we understand?

I pray so!


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