Monday, April 14, 2014

Passion Week: Ask, Believe, Receive

This is Passion Week, the last days before Jesus' crucifixion. This is the most important week in the Christian calendar, a week of sober thought and reflection. It is also a point in the gospel narrative where we should realize that Jesus was not wasting time. He spent these last few precious days teaching the valuable things he wanted his followers to retain. It is good to take extra time this week just to plumb the depths of what Jesus did and what he said during these final days.There is something incredibly powerful about the intensity of this last week.

The first morning after his great entrance into Jerusalem and the clearing of the temple court, we find Jesus entering into Jerusalem again. He had spent the night in Bethany, probably with his friends Lazarus, Martha, and Mary. 

So it was early morning and he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree in full leaf Jesus went to pick some figs:

Early in the morning, as he was on his way back to the city, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!”Immediately the tree withered. (Matthew 21:18-19)

As a child I always had a problem with this story as it seemed unfair to me. What had the tree done? Now, being older I can understand that the tree was a disappointment to Jesus. The leafs gave the appearance of promised fruit but it had none; it was a non-bearing fruit tree, useless to anyone. However, Jesus saw here an opportunity to teach one of the most important lessons these disciples, and those to follow, could learn. He spoke to the tree and it immediately withered. Mark states that they didn't notice it had withered until later but regardless of when they noticed, the fact was that Jesus spoke to the tree and it reacted to his words.

It was Peter who spoke up:

“Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!” (Mark 11:21)

After all they had witnessed this withered tree still surprised them? They had witnessed Lazarus coming out of his tomb, alive, simply because Jesus spoke to his dead body. What is a tree withering at the command of this same voice compared to a dead man being called out alive? Regardless, Jesus showed his usual patience and taught them concerning faith:

“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. (Mark 11:22-23)

This was a lesson the disciples would have to rely on for the rest of their lives. It is a lesson most of us have let go. Let's be honest with each other: When you pray do you believe or do you simply hope? Many people pray without believing; it is more a thing of desperation, like throwing dice and hoping you come up with a seven. It is not a certainty but there is always a chance. That isn't faith.

Jesus said that we would do even greater things than what he did but it would require a people who live by the same faith as Jesus. When Jesus spoke to that tree he knew that his words would cause a reaction. When he told that tree to wither he expected it to wither. He told his disciples that if they spoke and did not doubt but actually expected it to happen, it would be done for them. In other words the power behind your prayer is not you but our heavenly Father. However, lack of faith, lack of trust, lack of belief, blocks our Father from doing anything.

Compared to what we should be, we live such empty lives, and it is our own failing. Because of our relationship with Jesus we are suppose to be the most powerful beings on this planet; all of nature must respond to us because of the authority that Jesus has given to us. He told us that our words would cause things to happen because of the authority that is behind those words. He told us to speak to the "mountains" and they would have to respond. Read this carefully and try to understand:

Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)

Believe; not hope, not chance, but believe that you have received and it will be yours. What did James have to say about this?

You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:2-3)

We think we are spiritually minded but we are so off the mark I doubt Jesus can even recognize us. What we accomplish we do with our own hands. The world can't see Jesus because we present our own accomplishments, not what the Spirit is doing through us. So many Christians do not believe in this kind of spiritual authority and power any more. It is like they believe we have been left as orphans and we have to make our own way in the world, as if our Father no longer looks after us, meets our needs or even responds to us. We are living like the Sadducees who believed that Yahweh did not intervene in daily life and we were left to do the best we can. In contrast, Jesus said: ask, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.

Speak to the fruitless trees in your life and tell them to die. Stop wasting your time and get rid of those things that are bearing no fruit. Speak to the "mountains", those things that are blocking your progress, the addictions, the things that are standing in your way to a greater walk. Speak to these things and expect them to move out of the way. Speak, believe and receive. Ask whatever you need, make sure it is not from selfish desires, believe that you have received it and it is yours. Understand the authority you have to speak to diseases in people's lives, to speak to addictions, to speak to poverty, to speak to barrenness, to speak to anything that is contrary to God's will and it must obey, coming back into alignment with God's heart.

Some may ask, what if it is not God's will? Let me tell you, if it is not God's will he will tell you just as he told Paul when Paul was praying about some affliction he had. God's response to Paul in that matter was, "My grace is sufficient". Ask and God will not answer with silence as some people teach. Ask and believe and you will receive an answer and there will be times when we have asked out of ignorance, not understanding his will, but he will answer. The longer you operate in faith the more you are able to understand his will.

We need to shake ourselves out of this spirit of doubt. It's crazy. We have Jesus' words right here in front of us and one thing I know is that Jesus is not a liar. He said it. I believe it. AMEN! We are a powerful nation, the Kingdom of God. The power is not found in our effort but in the will of our Father. Jonathan stated to his armour bearer that, whether by many or by few, salvation belongs to God. When we speak we have all of his authority backing up our words. So this morning, speak to those barren trees and believe you have received. Speak to the mountains and believe you have received. Speak to your needs and the needs of others and believe you have received. It will be given to you. Jesus said so, and he is no liar. Yes and Amen!

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