In Mark 1 and Luke 4, we are told about a man who had an unclean or evil spirit. He wasn’t at home or hanging out in the streets. He was at church. I don’t know if this was his first time going to the synagogue or if he was a faithful churchgoer. Why was he there? Was he looking for answers? Was he looking for help?
Like a lot of Christians today, he probably looked like he had it altogether on the outside. I say this because he wasn’t described like the demon possessed man who wore no clothes, cut himself and lived in the tombs (Mark 5). The church members and the teachers probably didn’t know what this man was dealing with inwardly. Every Sabbath, scribes would teach the law, but none of their words gave life. No one was healed. No one was raised from the dead. No one was delivered from yokes, burdens, devils or oppression in these meetings.
The spirit that was in this man was like the serpent that was hiding in the cold until Paul laid a bundle of sticks on the fire (Acts 28). No one was ministering to this man the way Jesus had ministered to the woman at the well. He told me all that ever I did (John 4:39). This man sat quietly in a cold synagogue until the word came in the form of a burning fire.
Can you imagine the looks on their faces when they heard what was speaking through this man? Those who knew him knew that it was not him speaking. Can you also imagine how they felt when this man was set free? Well, it didn’t take long for the news to spread. When Jesus left the synagogue, he went to Peter’s house and healed his mother-in-law who was sick with a fever. Mark 1:33 tells us that “all the city” was waiting at the front door to be healed of something.
Jesus was different. He wasn’t like the scribes who just preached a good word and sent everyone home. He spoke with power and authority. He demonstrated what he preached. Signs and wonders followed. He just didn’t say what He heard his Father say, but He did what his Father did (John 5:19).
I grew up going to church because I didn’t have a choice. I had to go, but now as an adult, have you ever asked yourself, Why do I go to church? Some of us go to hear a good word and to be encouraged for the week and that’s good, but what about the person who sits beside you, in front of you or behind you? There is someone in church hurting, but you can’t see their wounds. There is someone crying, but you can’t see their tears.
Thank God for pastors, but they can’t do everything. Just like how you expect the pastor to show up when you are in the hospital or show up to the funeral when your loved one has passed away or show up to preach on Sundays, the pastor needs us to show up. Every gift is needed. Some of us are like the man at the pool who was waiting for someone to put him in the pool when we should be walking by now and helping others to get in the pool.
God wants what we hear in church to be demonstrated outside of the church. But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only (James 1:22). I don’t think we realize how much people are watching us – at work, at home, while you’re driving your car. They see your attitude. They see how you treat your spouse and your children. They are following our lives – and not just on social media.
The writer of Hebrews warns us to not stop meeting with other believers (Hebrews 10:25). Go to church. You don’t know who needs strength or encouragement. If you only look at church as a building to go to when you need something, you’ve got it all wrong. Your presence is very important. We need you to be present and functioning. As I said in my last blog, if Elijah hadn’t showed up – if he hadn’t done what God told him to do, the widow and her son would have died.
I think about the times I struggled to get out of bed to go to church. Now, don’t get me wrong. I sometimes struggle to go to work too, but I get up because I want that paycheck. Unless you are self-employed, most of us don’t show up to work when we want to because we would be fired, yet we show up to church when we want to. I’ve learned that those times I didn’t want to go church was when I really needed to go the most.
The next time you attend church, go with an expectation – not just to get something, but to give something. Give a hug. Give a smile. Let someone know that God hasn’t forgotten them. Let them know that God still loves them. You don’t know what people are dealing with. Let them know that God is not punishing them or that He’s disappointed in them. Sometimes as Christians, we act like the disciples, who when they saw a boy that was blind from birth, they immediately assumed it was because either the boy sinned or his parents sinned, but it was so that God could show others what He could do for this boy as well as for them.
I haven’t always treated everybody right. At times, I’ve been judgmental and hypocritical, but I’m learning to give to others what God has given me. I’ve decided that I don’t want to be the reason why someone falls, but I want to be the reason why they get back up again.
Going to church was a ritual for me. It was something to do, but now I see it as an opportunity to be.
Don’t just go to church. Be the church.
I know this woman who always talks about not having enough money. Well, one day I decided to give her a gift. It wasn’t much, but something is better than nothing, right? Do you know what she said when I handed the money to her? I don’t need it. Trust me. This woman wanted that money and had someone else offered it, she would have taken it, but because it was coming from me, she rejected it.
How sad it is to ask God to send you help only to reject it because it is coming from a person that you don’t like or from a person that you don’t want to receive help from. I’m realizing now that God has answered many of our prayers, but because it didn’t come in the form or in the person that we wanted it to, we rejected it. Sometimes pride is the thing that keeps us from receiving ‘answered prayers’. Pride says, I know what’s best for me. My plan is better. I can do it better than God. Too many me’s, my’s and I’s will lead to trouble.
Do you remember the widow woman from Zarephath? She needed help. There was a famine and her husband was dead. She was a single mother preparing their last meal. Not only did she lose a husband, but she lost hope. She wasn’t just preparing a meal, but she was preparing to die. God heard, He saw and now He was sending help, but in the meantime He was dealing with her. Before the answer had arrived, God had already commanded the woman to do something (1 Kings 17:9).
The widow didn’t know Elijah. To her, he was a stranger – and I think that was a good thing because sometimes we become too familiar with those who have rule over us and instead of honoring them as prophets of God, we treat them as mere men. Jesus didn’t just give men or women, but he gave gifts to the church (Ephesians 4:8). According to Luke 4:24-26, there were many widows in Israel during the famine, but God didn’t choose them. He chose a widow from Zarephath. He sent Elijah to a woman who was not his ‘own people’. Had it been another widow, she may have been like the woman at the well. Jesus answered, “You don’t know what God can give you. And you don’t know who I am, the one who asked you for a drink. If you knew, you would have asked me and I would have given you living water” (John 4:10, ERV). But that wasn’t the case with the widow of Zarephath. She recognized the gift of God.
It was the same with the Pharisees. They knew the Old Testament scriptures. They read about the coming of the Messiah, but when He came, they didn’t recognize Him. He came unto His own and His own received him not (John 1:1). He didn’t look like what they were waiting for. He has no stately form or majestic splendor that we would look at Him, nor [handsome] appearance that we would be attracted to Him (Isaiah 53:2, AMP). He was called Beelzebub. Some thought he was John the Baptist, Elias or one of the old prophets. To them, He wasn’t the Son of God. He wasn’t the Savior of the world. He was just the carpenter’s son. And sometimes we are just like the Pharisees. When God sends us what we need or what we’ve been praying for or what we’ve been waiting for, we miss it.
While the widow was gathering sticks, Elijah asked for a little water in a vessel. That wasn’t a problem. She could do that, but as soon as he asked for a morsel of bread – now that was a problem. First, she told him what she didn’t have. Then, she told him what she did have. I have not a cake, but a handful of meal in a barrel, and a little oil in a cruse. I’m sure Elijah knew she felt uneasy and unsure about giving him what he had just asked for so he told her to not be afraid. Fear not. Go and do as you have said, but make me a little cake first.
It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know and this is one of the reasons why Christians struggle with trusting God. We really don’t know Him the way He wants us to know Him. Just because you grew up in church and you’ve read the bible from Genesis to Revelation, doesn’t mean that you know Him. If you knew Him, you would trust Him and if you trusted Him, then you would obey Him.
The thing God is asking you to do (or give) is little, but it will bring about something big in your life – if you will trust Him. Elijah assured the widow that she would not run out, but that she would run over – but first, she had to believe. She trusted God with her last and gave it to the man of God first. Let each one give thoughtfully and with purpose just as he has decided in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver and delights in the one whose heart is in his gift (2 Corinthians 9:7). As a result of her giving, faith, patience and obedience, she, Elijah and her house ate for many days (1 Kings 17:15).
Look closely at the picture above. You can recognize what those gifts are right away because of their shape and form, but if they were disguised in a box covered with wrapping paper, you couldn’t easily recognize them. Many of us have rejected and walked away from blessings, breakthroughs and answered prayers because of the wrapping, but the gift isn’t the wrapping. That’s just the covering. That’s just flesh. The gift is inside of the wrapping.
Prayer: One version of Isaiah 53:3 tells us that Jesus was looked down on and passed over. We admit today that there are still areas of our lives where we look down on Him and pass Him over because our evil desires and lusts look more attractive than Him. Create in us a clean heart and renew a right spirit within us. We repent of pride, self-sufficiency and self-righteousness. Father, help us to recognize the gift of God and help us to recognize You at work in our lives. Give us understanding where we lack it, in Jesus’ name. Amen.