I've been to Israel many times and will be sponsoring a pilgrimage again from March 12-20, 2024. I invite you to be a part of that journey, which I promise will change your life and the way you read the Bible. One of the things that impressed me in my initial visits to Israel is the fact that people walked for days, then sat for days, then had to walk home for days, just for the chance to listen to Jesus teach. They had to endure travel through desert-like conditions and then sit in a large crowd, straining to hear Him speak without the aid of modern amplification.
They didn't make plans for what they would eat, as evidenced by the need for Jesus to multiply the loaves and fish on several occasions to feed the hungry throngs. Where were the toilet facilities? Where did they sleep? None of that seemed to matter. They just wanted a chance to hear the man who they called Rabbi or Teacher. Mark gives us a short example of why people went to such great lengths to hear Him:
While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared: “‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with delight (Mark 12:35-37, emphasis added).
Did you notice the last phrase? "They listened to him with delight." They paid a high price to get close to Him and their efforts were not in vain. The pilgrims were rewarded with teaching and insight that gave them "delight." What can we learn from the Master so we can live an abundant life and impact those around us? I'm glad you asked; for the answers, you will have to read on.
When Jesus taught, He was in His purpose and He quite literally took people's breath away. When you read through Mark's gospel, you constantly run into words like 'amazed,' 'astonished,' 'terrified,' or 'frightened.' An encounter with Jesus was like riding a roller coaster. It was exhilarating but scary. He said things people had never heard or even considered, and He challenged all their preconceived notions about God and His Messiah. And now He says that we are to pick up our crosses and follow after Him. In most cases, we hear that in negative terms and assume we are going to be doing a lot of things we don't want to do.
But what if that's not the full meaning? What if we have short-changed or been too narrow-minded concerning what it means to pick up our cross? After all, Hebrews 12:1 tells us "For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). Jesus embraced His cross because there was joy on both sides of it—before He took it and after He carried it. And because His life purpose was wrapped and immersed in joy—because He delighted to do the Father's will—others were able to partake in that same joy. It was contagious. When Jesus flowed in His purpose, it wasn't only a delight for Him but also for all those who encountered Him.
When you are in your purpose, people should delight in you as you express it just like they did with Jesus. For the eleven years when I was an associate pastor but only spoke from the pulpit twice, I would pray, "God, if You ever release me to speak, give me something to say and teach me how to say it. I want people to lose track of time when I speak. I want them to shake their heads and say 'Wow' because they heard something about You that took their collective breath away." Today when I speak or write and people smile or give me positive feedback, I pray, "Thank You, God, for helping to bring joy to the hearts of Your people, just like Jesus did."
Now it's your turn. When you draw, care for kids or the elderly, speak, teach, lead, or counsel, are you bringing delight to those whose lives you touch? Is your cross all grief and no joy? Are you willing to do what's necessary not just to give people an ordinary experience but an extraordinary one when they touch you in your purposeful and creative gifts? A summary of this week's PowerPoint for Living is as follows:
Your goal should be to give people an unforgettable experience when they encounter you in your life purpose. Just like Jesus, you should be working toward giving people delight in their God when they encounter His goodness in and through you.
Make it your aim to spread the joy of purpose by living and expressing a purposeful life, and as you do, I know you will have a blessed week in the coming seven days and for the rest of your life.