Saturday, June 11, 2011

Does Difficulty Mean We're "Outside" God's Will?

16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

Matthew 3:16-4:1

After reading Carl Medearis’ new book (Speaking of Jesus), I’ve committed myself to investing in the four Gospel books this summer.  I need to be re-immersed in the stories of Jesus, and the stories Jesus tells.

There’s an important insight here that helps us understand God’s design for ministry. 

Jesus is baptized by his cousin John, then receives a special baptism of the Holy Spirit at the start of his three-year public ministry which will result in salvation for us.  (We don’t have time to go into it here, but we must think carefully about this baptism – the Holy Spirit was always with Jesus.  Here is a special recognition service of Jesus’ submission to the Father’s will, not some evidence of a 2nd baptism as some would say.) 

The Father says “I love Jesus and with him I am well pleased.”  He’s pleased with His son!  And what does He do?

The Father who is pleased with His Son sends Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted!  Right here at the start of the public ministry is a huge challenge, which could threaten the whole effort. 

We could talk more about fasting – which is how Jesus successfully prepares for the temptations that come at the end of 40 days – but today I just want you to see that the loving Father sends Jesus into a terrible struggle at the start of ministry.

Many great ministry efforts in history have started the same way. In retrospect we see how God was pleased with His servants, and then launched them with temptations and challenges.  The fact that we face ministry struggles may have nothing to do with God’s displeasure with us!  Early adversity does not mean that we’ve failed to follow God’s direction or made a mistake (the Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness).  Difficulty and adversity does not necessarily mean we’re outside God’s will – which should encourage us!

One of our most important roles as leaders is to encourage and teach others about this truth.  They can persevere in the strength of Christ!

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