I like Mark because his is a gospel of action. Mark opens with the words, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” He then hits the ground running with the account of all Jesus did. The passing of time in Mark is unimportant. He goes from event to event as if everything happening on top of each other. Jesus is presented as a man on the move.
I like that. I am a man of action. I don’t want to wait. You have an idea lets get on it. Delays interrupt what I want to get accomplish. Ministry is a series of tasks to be accomplished.
The other thing you see in Mark is that the needs of the people are great. View Mark 1 as a day in the life of Jesus and the end you feel out of breath. Jesus enters Capernaum on the Sabbath and he teaches in the synagogue and delivers a demoniac. He goes to Peter’s house and heals his mother-in-law. Word gets out and by evening the whole town has come out bringing the sick and oppressed to Jesus,
This is good ministry. The needy hear of Jesus and come. He heals them and they go and tell others. The crowds grow and good things are done for many, a pastor’s dream. Multitudes of people were coming and being set free from their sin and oppression in the name of Jesus.
What did this feel like for the disciples? Here they have left all to follow Jesus. They had no idea what lay in store for them. In The Cost of Discipleship, Bonhoeffer argues, “only he who believes is obedient, and only he who is obedient believes.” The disciples have left everything to follow Jesus and they believe in him and are seeing Jesus do great and mighty things. This is faith in action. They have to be overcome with excitement. Wouldn’t you? Multitudes coming to Jesus and Jesus is healing and delivering them; wow!
The day wears on into the night and finally everyone goes home. Weariness sets in and everyone falls asleep content in a day well spent. This mission thing is exciting.
I love days that are full of activity and much ministry is accomplished. They leave me with a feeling of satisfaction, a feeling of accomplishment. After all isn’t that what we are here for? A successful Stoop Concert where afterwards I get to talk to a lot of people and tell them about the church’s mission and what we are trying to do makes me feel that all the work was worth it. A successful Coffee Chat where a good number of internationals show up and engage in the conversation is great. Praying with people who come into the church during the week is what it is all about for me. The disciples had to be ecstatic about the ministry in Capernaum.
Peter and the disciples awaken to the noise of the crowd outside the house. The city had returned. The sick and oppressed that missed out on the night before had come to be healed and delivered. We call this revival. This is what it is all about. Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, give sight to the blind, set the captives free and announce the coming of the kingdom. By all earthly standards this would be called success.
Peter jumps out of bed seeing the crowd goes to get Jesus, but he is nowhere to be found. Doesn’t he know the crowd has returned and that its time to get to work. Peter’s response would have been mine. Where is Jesus?
Jesus got up before the sun and went off to a desolate place to pray. I like that word desolate. He didn’t go to a nice quiet place, not a tranquil place to pray. We are told he went to a desolate place to pray, a place where no one would look for him. Jesus wasn’t look for a calm place to relax and be alone with God he wanted a place where no one would bother him because he had business to do with God.
Remember what Bonhoeffer said about faith. “Only he who believes is obedient and only he who is obedient believes.” Jesus has been sent by the Father for only one purpose and that is to save us from our sins. The healings and the deliverance are side benefits. The disciples are in awe of what was happening but Jesus was about his Father’s business. The crowds, with their needs were not going to dictate to Jesus the path he was going to walk down. Jesus wanted to know what the Father had for him to do. In the midst of success Jesus rose up early to pray. For what reason? Jesus needed to hear from the Father next steps.
Prayer is one of those things we talk about but rarely do. We think prayer is important but few people engage in it as a serious disciple. Throughout the scriptures we are exhorted to pray. Jesus prays often. Paul tells us to pray without ceasing and yet few people take serious the discipline of prayer.
If faith is about obedience to Jesus and his word how do we know what God would have us to do if we never go to him in prayer? Tasks and crisis dominate our lives. We either are running from responsibility to responsibility or we are moving from crisis to crisis. We are told that we are to “be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be known to God.” Do we believe it? Do we really think prayer matters?
We are anxious about our situations because we don’t believe there is a way out. We fret and worry because we feel hopeless and helpless. We confess an all powerful, all knowing God who is control of all things and yet we don’t turn to him in prayer because in reality we don’t believe he can do anything for us.
Prayer is an act of obedience and obedience is an act of faith. We don’t pray because we don’t believe. We don’t believe because we don’t pray.
Since we don’t pray we have no confidence that God is with us in our struggles. That being what we really believe causes us to panic. When you panic bad things happen. Decisions are made that are not based on the Word of God but on our best judgments. We see through a glass darkly. “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” So prayer is laying hold of the solution to our situation with conviction that God is in control.
We are going to meet today to talk about our situation as a congregation. We have an expensive building to maintain, salaries to pay and work to be done. We are a small congregation with a big mission. Truth be told we are anxious about our future. Anxious, exactly what Jesus told us not to be. When we are anxious about the situations we find ourselves in personally and corporately we are in direct disobedience to the word of God, we are saying in the face of God we don’t believe you, we have no faith.
What has God done for us? He gave us this building. He planted a worshiping community here. He has set before us a harvest field ripe for gathering. He has brought together talented people and invited us into his mission.
We don’t pray as we aught. Prayer results in action. If we were praying more people would be involved in what is happening at the church. You see you were saved to serve. You were given your gifts and talents to work for the kingdom of God.
We don’t pray. If we did there would see the hand of God on the mission here. When the church prayed in Acts the needs of the community were met and their numbers grew because people were involved in the things of God. Church is more than Sunday morning. Church is about living our faith out loud in the places where Jesus has called us.
Ask yourself when was the last time you really prayed. Not a quick grace before meals but a crying out to God. When is the last time you prayed for the church that God would intervene and move on our behalf. When was the last time you asked God what was your role in the work of the kingdom.
Ask yourself when was the last time you told someone about Jesus. We have been left here for one reason and one reason only, to spread the kingdom of God. We will worship God forever in eternity. We will enjoy his fellowship forever. We are here to spread the kingdom. Your time is not your own. Your money is not your own. Your very life is not your own.
But all that is just talk that you can pass over and avoid unless you spend time with God. You can make excuses to the members of the church about how busy you are. You can make excused to the pastor to justify yourself. But in prayer you stand before God and there no excuses can be made.
The Lord has been speaking to me about prayer a lot recently. My hope is built on the blood sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for me. But for what reason did Jesus die? He died so that I could be in relationship to him. He purchased for me the right to enter into the presence of God and ask what I will. James says we don’t have because we don’t ask. I have the right to enter the presence of my heavenly Father and bring before him my needs and struggles and too often I deem it more appropriate to be filled with anxiety.
If we are going to go forward as a church we need to pray. If we are going to resolve our situation regarding this building and the mission here we need to pray. It is time to take serious the truth that we confess, that Jesus’ death gives us access to the Father, Jesus’ last word give us our mission and purpose in life, to make disciples and Jesus’ promise that the coming of the Holy Spirit would give us power and begin to walk in faith.
I am excited about the opportunities that God has set before us, but if we don’t pray nothing will happen.