These seven men did not volunteer -- they were chosen. They were selected based upon spiritual criteria. Well respected, full of wisdom, full of the Spirit. God selected them. So what are you saying preacher? If I have needs that are unfilled, what am I supposed to do with them? We all need to take a step back and evaluate through prayer what was arranged by God and what was arranged by our flesh. Whose vision are we carrying out? Because the truth is that God will never abandon the provision of resources for a vision He has truly cast. We must be led by God and God alone. We must not be led by our passions and desires, pastors and clergy, family and friends if they are not aligned directly with God and His Word -- period.
Hand in hand with this goes the complimentary present of a teachable spirit. Nothing can protect the heart better than remaining teachable. From the usher all the way up to the Pastor. God is not done instructing us yet and He will not be done until He comes back to take us home. Yet too often the longer we go through the process of churchianity, we begin to think we are all that and a bag of chips (as my Pastor is fond of saying). Have enough people whisper in a pastor's ear about how great he is and see if it is not a dangerous temptation of pride for him to resist. Have you ever dealt with a Christian that cannot be taught anything more? They know all the Scriptures, been on all the missionary trips, and done all the ministries. The "church experience" has grown stale for them because they replaced their intimacy with God with their service to the church. Instruction comes and it is summarily dismissed because they know better! The Bible however tells us differently:
Poverty and disgrace come to him who ignores instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is honored -- Proverbs 13: 18 (ESV)
No one in the Bible better displays the unteachable spirit better than the Pharisees. These were the people who were largely considered the experts of the law. They held the highest places of esteem in their society. They were so sure in their inability to be corrected that they failed to notice when God Himself walked among them and then they killed Him. The telling point for me was in the aftermath of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. Certainly no miracle performed could have been grander than this. Lazarus was dead already four days. Everyone in town knew that he was dead, wrapped in burial clothes and entombed. Jesus came to town and uttered those words -- Lazarus come forth! Out walks the previously dead man to the astonishment of all. I am sure many had seen the healings. The blind have their sight restored. The lepers cleansed. The lame walk again. I am sure many saw the miraculous feeding of thousands with a schoolboy's lunch -- twice! But can any of that really compare to the genuine raising of a man dead four days? Think about it! This is what the Bible says the reaction of the crowd was:
Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. -- John 11: 45 (NLT)
Finally! The hardened hearts of many had no choice but to believe that Jesus was who He said He was. Unfortunately when the word got back to the Pharisees they had a different reaction:
So from that time on, the Jewish leaders began to plot Jesus' death. -- John 11: 53 (NLT)
Huh? The man just raised someone from the dead! Yet it was from that point forward that they started conspiring in earnest to kill Him. He represented a threat to their power. He represented a threat to their position. He represented a threat to their religiosity. If you can see someone raise another from the dead and your conclusion is to figure out how to kill him, I would say you have moved beyond unteachable to unreachable. We must be vigilant against developing a religious spirit that becomes unteachable. We do not know it all and God will be willing to teach us until the day we go home to be with Him. Will we be willing students however? Give me a teachable spirit and an eye to follow You alone this Christmas Father.
Lastly beloved we see the key to all the gifts from God -- patience. The Psalmist cries "for you I wait all day long." One of the fruits of the Spirit, patience is often one of the hardest to harvest in our lives. We live in a microwave society where waiting is simply not tolerated. God however not only has all the gifts but He knows what the best time to bestow them is. What parent would give their eight year old child a car for Christmas? How about your 15 year old their own house? Let's face it; we are not always ready for what we are demanding from God. We ask for knowledge when we have not the wisdom to apply it. We ask for relationships God already knows will not work out in the long run. We ask for His blessing upon things He has not approved. We can then become petulant like children who don't like what they find under the tree. Here is today's deep theology -- sometimes what God chooses to not give us is more of a gift than we will ever know. He is the one who sees all time! He is the giver of all perfect gifts! He is the one working all things out for my good! Lord develop the fruit of patience in my life this season.
So as we reflect this Christmas season, let us pause to remember the birth of our Savior. The God of our salvation as the key verses says. The giver of all perfect gifts in our lives. What I want to unwrap in my life this season is to have a deeper relationship with the Spirit of the Living God inside of me so that He can lead me deeper into the ways of God. I want to open the box with the pretty bow on it and see the right path God wants me to take inside. I want a matching set of following Jesus as my leadership principle and developing a more teachable spirit. I want to harvest the fruit of patience in my life realizing that what God chooses to withhold from me might be the best present of them all. That is all I want for Christmas.
Reverend Anthony Wade -- December 13, 2012