Now and Later | The Inconvenience of Obedience
Monday— A large crowd followed Him because they saw the signs He was performing on the sick. John 6:2
“I follow Jesus at Somber Face Church because the reverent atmosphere makes me feel spiritual.”
“I follow Jesus at Holy Spirit Church because the music is exciting!”
“I follow Jesus because a TV preacher said if I have faith, God will make me healthy and wealthy!”
The crowd followed Jesus for the same shallow reasons many of us do. They were sensation-seekers just like we are. They wanted what Jesus offered but they didn’t really want Jesus. This chapter also includes one of the saddest verses in the Bible. Verse 66 says, “From that time on many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” A few verses earlier, they were all in. They had the wristbands, the trading cards, and a Hillsong ringtone. As long as Jesus was healing the sick and feeding the hungry, they’d gladly be His disciples. But when obedience to the hard truths became inconvenient, the fun disappeared and so did they. They had never truly followed Jesus; they’d only followed their own desires.
Final Thought: Why do you follow Jesus? Do you only obey when it’s convenient??
Prayer: Jesus, examine my heart. Would I have been one of those who turned away when the path got bumpy? I don’t want to be a false disciple. Purify my motives. You are God and no matter the cost, there is nothing else worth following. Amen.
Tuesday— Jesus saw a large crowd coming toward Him and said, “Where can we buy bread for these people?” John 6:5
The gleaming jet sparkled in the background as the Reverend-Apostle Clark beamed his most benevolent smile at the scantily-clad natives welcoming him to their country. “My beloved ones,” he boomed through the portable mic. “Just have faith and you too can own one of these magnificent jets. God wants you prosperous and that begins by sending seed money to the address on the cards my assistant is passing out. You can be rich like me if you will pray the prayer printed at the bottom and send donations to my ministry. Farewell!” He sidestepped a legless beggar and dodged the groping fingers of a blind child to re-enter his jet. There! He’d evangelized the natives. He smiled to himself, imagining his reward in heaven. As the jet taxied to the end of the short runway, he pulled the shade to block the disturbing view of gaunt faces and starving bodies.
Jesus didn’t do that. When he saw the pitiful crowd of spiritually starving people, His first thought was about their immediate physical needs. It was inconvenient to interrupt His mesmerizing messages to make lunch. But before He uttered a word of teaching, He fed them. He knew they couldn’t receive spiritual food until they’d been physically fed. In doing so, He demonstrated God’s attentiveness to human need. He also gave His followers a model for reaching people. Instead of over-spiritualizing physical problems, God wants us to meet people right where they are. Are they drunk? Hungry? Addicted? Lonely? We must help meet whatever pressing need is before them, like Jesus did. It may be inconvenient, but our minds can’t think straight when our bodies are thirsty, starving, or suffering. Jesus’ Ministry Plan: Feed the body, then feed the soul.
Final Thought: In what ways are you helping meet the physical needs of people to prepare them to receive spiritual food?
Prayer: Father, open my eyes to the needs of the world. May I not grow callous to the cries for help. Show me where you want me to invest myself to help prepare hearts to receive your truth, even when it’s inconvenient. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Wednesday— “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” John 6:9
Andrew was right. A sack lunch was nothing compared to the need in front of them. It seemed barely worth mentioning, but he did, maybe expecting a rebuke. Instead Jesus said, “Bring it to me.” And that was the key. Bring it to me. Notice what Jesus did NOT say. He didn’t tell the disciples, “You guys figure out how to make this Lunchable feed a stadium full of people.” He did NOT shame Andrew for having so little to offer, and He did NOT tell them to try harder. But isn’t that what we think He will say to us when we’re facing inadequacy? “You’re on your own with this one,” we imagine He says. “Knuckle down and try harder to live like a Christian. Do better. Work harder. Keep score. You have to figure out how to obey me and still pay your bills.”
The secret to a successful Christian life is NOT trying harder. The key is in those four little words: Bring it to me. A sack lunch was just a sack lunch in anyone’s hands but Jesus. And our lives are just ordinary lives in anyone’s hands but Jesus. Our meager talents, embarrassing bank balances, and over-stressed schedules are not much of an offering. We see the needs around us, read about the miraculous achievements of others, and shrug. “What am I among such need? Who am I to think I could live a godly life after the past I’ve created?” And we’re right. We are totally inadequate to accomplish anything of eternal significance on our own. But if we’ll stay humble and broken in the hands of Jesus, He’ll use us to do the impossible.
Final Thought: Living as a Christian does not mean trying harder; it means surrendering more.
Prayer: Father, I get discouraged feeling so insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I feel like a sack lunch that must feed a crowd. But admitting my inadequacy is the first step to great things. The second step is surrender. So here is all of me. Amen.
Thursday— “Have the people sit down,” Jesus said. John 6:10
Look at those words again. Why didn’t Jesus Himself ask the crowd to sit down? He’d been speaking to them all day, why did He ask the disciples to do it? It may have been for the same reason He gives us instructions. He wants to work in harmony with us to fulfil God’s plan on earth. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel” (Mk 16:15). Why doesn’t He miraculously infuse the world with His gospel? “Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed” (Ps. 82:3). Why doesn’t He defend them Himself, wipe out the bad guys? Because He wants us to be involved in His work.
“That’s great and all,” we think, “but it’s very inconvenient to step out of my comfort zone to follow those instructions. I’d prefer Jesus did it Himself and leave me to pursue my own passions.” And that’s the problem. Without direct commands to love and serve others, we wouldn’t do it. We would be so self-obsessed we’d have no room for God at all unless He was only there to bless us. So rather than doing Himself what He could easily have done, Jesus told His followers to do it. He didn’t expect them to perform the miracle. He’d do that. But because He involved them, they got to be a part of it.
Final Thought: Any inconvenience we welcome in the name of Jesus makes us part of His miracle.
Prayer: Father, thank you for choosing to use people like me to accomplish your miracles. You could have made a world full of robots, but you didn’t. You want me to choose you, to choose to love and serve you. I do. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Friday— “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Revelation 3:20
That first night in Bethlehem was not the only time Jesus was left outside. In the last book of the Bible, Jesus is still imploring people to invite Him in, and most still have no room. Many of us have good intentions, but we’re so busy. We’re so stressed. We’re having such fun right now and Jesus might mess that up. It’s too inconvenient to open the door to all Jesus might require, so we’ll pass this time. Maybe next year. After the job promotion. After the kids are gone. When we’re in trouble.
But lest we think Jesus is a lonely beggar hoping for a scrap of attention, we need to read the rest of the Book. He is not knocking on our hearts’ doors out of loneliness or desperation. He knocks the way a fireman knocks when your house is on fire. He wants us to invite Him in as a Friend before He must break the door down as a Judge. He first spoke those words to the church at Laodicea who thought they were just fine but they weren’t. They’d gotten the whole Christian thing down pat and decided they could have Jesus and everything else too. What they didn’t understand was that “everything else” was actually their real god. They’d invented their own, more convenient, brand of religion that let them pursue worldliness while feeling spiritual. But have you ever wondered why Jesus was on the outside knocking? True followers have Jesus on the inside. He doesn’t have to knock. If He’s knocking at your heart’s door, He’s giving you a chance to know Him as a Friend.
Final Thought: We will all meet Jesus. But our decisions now determine whether we know Him as Friend or Judge.
Prayer: Jesus, quiet my heart so I can hear whether or not you are knocking. Have I opened the door? Do I live like you are my Friend? I open it now and invite you to take over my life. Teach me how to enjoy your presence. Amen.