Last week in church I talked about some of the revelations that I received in attending the Global Leadership Summit. Bill Hybels said there were 5 important points that made for good leaders – they had grit and determination to see their vision achieved; they were resourceful and inventive to find their way around problems; they had a self-sacrificing love for others; they knew how to create vision and meaning for others and they were self-aware. By self-aware, I mean, they knew their weaknesses and trusted others to help them discover their blind spots.
Blind spots – we all have them. When you try to change lanes in your car you need to be aware of your blind spots or you could have an accident. But blind spots are not just physical – blind spots are areas of our life where others can see our failings, but we can’t. Often, without the assistance of trusted friends, we can go through life blissfully unaware that we have a problem. Jesus came to give sight to the blind! Today’s story from Mark 10:46-52 gives us a glimpse of who was really blind and who really saw Jesus for who he was.
Bartimaeus was a blind man who wouldn’t be denied. When Jesus came down his road he knew that he was the only hope that he had to live a normal life again. But Jesus’ disciples tried to stop him from coming to Jesus. You would have thought that they would have learnt by now…stopping the little children from coming and being rebuked by Jesus – fighting about who would be the greatest….and being rebuked by Jesus…and now, they were trying to silence the cries of the blind for sight. Didn’t Jesus come ‘to bring sight to the blind’? (Luke 4:18) So what were they missing? Why were they blind and what did the blind man see that they didn’t?
Bartimaeus recognised Jesus as the Messiah (the son of David). He saw Jesus for who he is and he cried out for help. In response to this insight – Jesus gave him back what he asked for, but also much, much more. For in the moment of revelation – in seeing and being touched by Jesus, Bartimaeus becomes a follower along the way. He picks himself up and follows Jesus. The early church believers were called followers of the way…but what Bartimaues found was that Jesus was not only the way; but the truth and the life. His clear revelation of who Jesus is was in stark contrast to the blind spots of his other disciples. Yet, ultimately, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight – after the cross and resurrection – they too saw Jesus and worshipped him for who he is, not for what he can do.
So, when you look to Jesus, what do you see? Do you see Jesus the teacher; the social advocate; the rebel; or the prophet? Or do you truly recognise Jesus as the Messiah – the one who God sent to help you see what God sees. Ask Jesus to reveal your blind spots – but in doing so, be willing to make some changes and step up and follow Jesus along the way.
What is leadership? One definition is to exercise influence over others – if that is the case, then we all have the potential to be leaders to greater or lesser degrees in all areas of our lives. So that makes most of us a leader – for good or for bad – as we influence those around us. Jesus certainly influenced those around him, but he said very little about the topic of leadership, but what he did do and say cut against the very understanding of power and authority that dominated secular thinking of his day.
What Jesus did and said emphasised that the foundation of Godly leadership was servanthood. John 13:5 shows Jesus dressing himself as a servant and washing the dust of his disciple’s feet, and then telling his disciples to follow his example. However, the worldly paradigm of leadership was hard for his disciples to shake. Their expectations of rewards and power continually clashed with God’s way. They even argued among themselves as to who should have the best seat in the coming kingdom (Mark 10:41).
Jesus regularly used the concept of servanthood to realign their thinking – that the greatest was the servant of all and first would be the last (Mark 10:43-44). The Greek word that Jesus used for servant was ‘diakonos’. Diakonos comes from two words, ‘dia’ mean ‘through or across’ (like the diametre of a circle) and ‘konos’ which can be translated as ‘dust, dirt or earth’. Thus, diakonos literally means, through the dust! So, when Jesus’ disciples had disputes about leadership he refused to dignify their discussions with direct answers, preferring instead to demonstrate servanthood.
Jesus also said, that he came into this world not to be served, but to serve (Mark 10:35). His intention was always to give his life as a ransom for many. He never forced his will upon anyone – but rather showed them the way that lead to life. We look at success in the short-term – we consider how many come to church; our income or the number of ministries as the measure of our success. Yet, Jesus shows us that real rewards in the kingdom of God come from humility, obedience and a servant heart towards the needs of others – so that in so doing they will see Jesus.
We have a lot of people in the church who quietly serve – exercising Jesus style leadership…quietly going about the things that help the wheels turn. Without their willingness to serve we would be very limited. It is always good to thank and acknowledge those whose efforts often go unnoticed, but it is also important to remember that Jesus went through the dust on our behalf and desires us to follow his example in all of our dealing with others.
A couple of weeks ago I was talking with one of our church members about the potential answer to prayer that we have in receiving a grant from a ‘work for the dole’ to do maintenance and development work around our property. It is no secret that we have been struggling financially over the last few years as a congregation – but the last twelve months has pushed us to a place where we are unable to manage without help. So many of us prayed! And in answer to that prayer, along came this project money…that we didn’t go searching for. On the surface it appears to be coming to us without any (financial) cost. But rest assured there is a cost! All journeys of faith and discipleship have a cost!
But what will it cost us? Time, effort, commitment, freedom, comfort…God is wanting to see more than our building painted and a few sheds built – this is the first step towards new ministries; new levels of faith; new relationships; new people entering into our community…God is wanting us to embrace these changes and in the process expect that they will transform us from where we are today – to where God wants us to be in the future.
It’s amazing that when we are stretched financially and the church prays and responds using God’s financial principles then we often get much more than we expect. Today we listened to the story of the ‘rich young ruler’ (Mark 10:17-22) who had a heart to serve God, but his great wealth got in the way of what God wanted to do in his life. He was faced with a choice – follow Jesus or hang onto his comforts and his wealth. How we handle money – whether we have a lot or a little – gives a pretty clear indication of our relationship with God. It can be a source of blessing for those who are fully committed to God; but it can also be a deadly trap to those who think that their future and happiness will be secured because of it.
Money – or the lack of it, is one thing that Satan uses to separate people from God. Millions of people, and sadly many Christians, live in miserable financial bondage because of greed, fear, discontent, debt, materialism and selfishness. True financial freedom only comes when we yield our finances to our heavenly father. Jesus said, ‘No one can serve two masters…you cannot serve both God and money’ (Matthew 6:24). More importantly – God knows our heart!
When it comes to money, the Bible presents the concept of stewardship. We are entrusted with our masters (God’s) wealth and we are expected to use it wisely (and prayerfully) for God’s purposes. The motives of God’s financial principles are very different to those of the world’s system. Acts of sowing and reaping; buying and selling; giving and receiving are common to both. However, God’s system is driven by integrity, generosity, stewardship and faith – while the world’s system is often driven by selfishness, greed and materialism. Jesus warned his followers not to trust in earthly riches – because they will fail. Instead he challenges us to live a life that seeks first the kingdom of God (Matthew 6:33) and promotes his character and ways in all our actions and relationships. It is then that we can have a peace that God will provide for our needs.
What does your family mean to you? For some it brings happy memories and for others distress and turmoil. Families are important to God. Psalm 68:6 says, ‘God places the lonely in families; he sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.’ Most of us need to be surrounded by ‘family’ to flourish and without people who love and care for us, life can be a battle.
I have often said that the Bible is about relationships. In today’s gospel reading, when challenged about the validity of divorce, Jesus reiterates his belief in Genesis 1:27, that a man and a woman are designed to join together as one. Sadly, in today’s age many people who start down that road of marriage do not find the fairy-tale ending, but rather pain, distress and discontent. The current (ABS) divorce statistics suggest that 43% of marriages end in separation and breakdown in the first 30 years of marriage.
This is not God’s heart for us. I am not saying that there are not valid grounds for divorce – and sometimes the differences are irreconcilable. But God has designed us to be in relationships and broken relationships contradict the foundations of our existence. God is a relational God. The Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit are the perfect model of an intimate and flexible relationship. Genesis 1 tells us that we are made in God’s image – we have an eternal spirit; we have free will; we are creative and we are made for relationships, with God and with each other. This is a key to the gospel message; we were made for intimate relationships with God; but through our sin we are separated from God and have no way to restore that relationship without accepting what Jesus did on our behalf. When we accept God reconciliation plan, then we are restored into the family of God as brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:12).
We have been brought out of despair and desolation to a place of honour (glory)…restored and given a renewed sense of purpose. God is the God of second chances. When we marry God wants us to make every effort to stay committed to each other for life; but when we find our lives torn apart by relational break downs – God is there to draw us into his arms and hold us tight and help us rebuild our lives. Without an opportunity to forgive and be forgiven we would be carrying around burdens that are almost impossible to bear. But Jesus invites us to hand over the burdens (Matthew 11:30) because he is willing and able to carry them for us.
It’s not a coincidence that God has created a family that we call church! We are all in the same boat: all rescued sinners who have found a second chance. We are all reflections of the creator who has made us and has given us the gifts to build each other up. Christ has made us new and given us a purpose – to be bearers of the good news of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17). The underlying message of the church is to preach (and live) reconciliation – with God with others, to see others through God’s eyes and desire God’s best for them. Sometimes this means putting the needs of others above your own. But then, isn’t that what Jesus did? And we, as followers of Jesus should expect to do nothing less. That’s what it means to be (God’s) family.