The following is an excerpt from “Do Not Grow Weary in Prayer and Fasting,” written faithfully each week for nearly 10 years by Jerry Hale, Spiritual Emphasis Committee Chair for the Growing and Building Campaign.
I hope you had a good week in spite of the winter weather that has covered most of the country and looks to stay for awhile. I have always wanted a job where things shut down for a few weeks at the end of the year. I guess I could just retire and shut down totally, but for now I am blessed to be paid to work in ministry to the next generation of leaders in a military school setting. My school has students from 31 states and 26 countries, giving me the opportunity to have an impact on the world without traveling more than a mile from our home. The school setting does give me time off while the students are away for Christmas. The end of the year break is always a great time to spend with family, and also to evaluate the past year and seek God’s direction for what’s ahead in the months and years ahead.
Reading two familiar passages in the book of Mark this past week, I was struck with a simple, but profound truth that I hope will have a significant impact on my own life and ministry going forward. In Mark, Chapter 10 Jesus uses two encounters to speak to an issue that is common to us all.
The Rich Young Man
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter said to him, “We have left everything to follow you!” 29 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields–and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
The Request of James and John
35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.” 36 “What do you want me to do for you?” he asked. 37 They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.” 38 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said. “Can you drink the cup I drink or be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with?” 39 “We can,” they answered. Jesus said to them, “You will drink the cup I drink and be baptized with the baptism I am baptized with, 40 but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” 41 When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. 42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
To boil all this down in a few words, most of us would like to be first and most of us don’t want to be either last or a slave to anyone. Yet Jesus says the attitude of putting others first is the key to the Kingdom. Deep down many of us want to be the rich young man and still be assured of heaven. Like James and John many of us want to be well thought of by others and get upset when we aren’t.
I worked at a company one time where things weren’t going very well. On occasion some of the lower level employees didn’t treat me very well. I recall laughing to myself, “They don’t know I’m a captain!” While most of us would rather be treated “like a captain,” Jesus clearly teaches the importance of humility towards others and trusting in God’s ultimate plan for each of us. We often hear the metaphor of living our lives for an “audience of one, “the one being Jesus Christ. We are to live to please him, not trying to build ourselves up in the eyes of others.
So my hope for 2015 is for you and I to take these words of Jesus to heart. Doing so I hope we might find ourselves more patient with others, less concerned that others think highly of us, less concerned about the problems of the day, trusting God for answers to daily issues, and most of all truly striving to live for an “audience of one.”