300 words reflections on this note.
Dallas Willard in Spirit of the Disciplines speaks to one of the most important issues facing individual Christians, ministers, and churches in our time: “How does one live the Spirit-filled life promised in the New Testament?” How does the believer experience the promise that Jesus made in Matthew 11:29-30: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”?
I do not want to minimize the “doing” part of ministry and Christian service (because it is important), but in reality we need the exercise of spiritual disciplines (such as prayer, meditation, reading, etc.) as much as the world and church needs our “efforts.” There is definitely something we have to learn in ministry about “being.” Have you heard it said, it is not “what you do” it is “who you are” that makes a difference in ministry, in your family, and in our communities.
In Luke 4:1-12, the context is Jesus being led by the Spirit into the desert, where for forty days He was tempted by Satan. Matthew suggests that it was for the purpose of being tempted that Jesus was led to the desert. While Matthew, Mark, or Luke say nothing about Jesus praying during this time, it is safe to assume that this was a high priority of Jesus since He gave Himself to fasting for forty days (Matthew 4:2). Since Jesus admonishes the disciples later in His ministry that the revelation of the power of God does not come except through prayer and fasting, then we can be assured that Jesus was deep in prayer in these forty days of “desert experience.”
Let me share three observations about this experience in Jesus life:
1. “DESERT EXPERIENCES” OCCUR DESPITE OUR SPIRITUALITY.
In Matthew’s Gospel the preceding chapter ends with the baptism of Jesus and the voice from heaven saying of Jesus, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.” Yet, in the wilderness, Jesus did experience a “dark night of the soul” or at least an extreme desert experience.
2. TEMPTATIONS OFTEN COME AS A RESULT OF PRAYER AND INTERCESSION.
Luke suggests that Jesus was tempted throughout the forty days of prayer and fasting. Matthew indicates that at the end of this time the “tempter” came to Jesus. Both are probably wholly accurate. Satan most likely worked on Jesus the entire time in the desert, concluding his challenges with the famous temptations record for us in the Gospels. It is easy to forget that prayer actually brings on “temptations and tests.” It would seem the other way, around, but that does not appear to be the case.
3. BUT THERE IS POWER IN PRAYER!
Jesus, as fully human as we are, must have been in a weakened physical condition that left His physical faculties depleted of all resource. Emotional and mental strength is highly dependent upon rest and food. The subtle trickery of Satan, to say nothing of the fierce frontal attack on Jesus had to be monumental in light of His condition. Where did Jesus get the power to confront Satan, respond with wisdom, and keep His focus on the Father and the mission to which He was called? There is only one source of power like that: the power of God. How did Jesus come to have this power at that time? PRAYER.
It sounds like I am preaching, but the truth be told those called to the ministry (whether a pastor, staff person, or a community ministry leader), are very susceptible to “burn-out” and dry periods in a dessert. How do we keep the “soul” fresh, alive, vibrant, sharp, and up to date? The spiritual disciplines are gifts of God to us. Prayer is one to be certain, but there are other disciplines that we need to embrace. Note Jesus periodically “getting away” by Himself. Have you thought much about that discipline? I know there are challenges we all face to our schedules. But unless we make some personal changes in our lives, we are susceptible to running on our own energy and missing the power of the resurrected Lord in our lives and ministries.
It is more important to “be the church” than “do church.” It is also more important “to be disciples of Jesus” than just “do ministry.”
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