"Ears to Hear"
It’s probably an understatement for me to say this morning that the lives of ordinary men and women are busier than ever. We have more commitments and obligations than the generations which precede us. We’re routinely racing from one event to the next, our minds two steps ahead of where we’re going, all the while hoping that we aren’t faced with any delays along the way. With school back for everyone now, sometimes life can feel like you’re a machine on the assembly line. That machine is precisely tuned and so long as it doesn’t suffer a midday break down, it can orchestrate the intricate dance of getting everyone to drop off on time, to work on time, to pick up on time, to practices on time, and off to bed time.
I wonder if, even in a time like a worship service like this, whether you’ve you devoted yourself fully as an offering of sacrifice and praise to the Lord? Now, I know there are things that can distract us from time to time at church, but what I’m asking about right now is whether the meditations of your heart and the thoughts of your mind have stayed tuned to what’s happening right here, or have they drifted to what awaits you after this? The oh-so many places you need to go and people you need to see, and things you need to do. Did you maybe take note of the time I was given the pulpit this morning, thinking of how long you know I usually preach for, and take a look at your watch to guess at whether I’ll get you out of here in time so as to not throw off the rest of your plans for today?
If I can be vulnerable with you, I’ve been guilty of doing exactly that sort of thing. I remember the day that we baptized siblings and at the end of the service, I called them both forward to present them with a Bible to mark the occasion of their baptism and I was ready to fast forward to pray us all out, forgetting that they had favorite verses we were going to recite together. I felt terrible for the kids. I was embarrassed. I know you’re thinking right now, “Isn’t he the one who orders all this? How could he skip passed what he put together? What in the world could Pastor Dan have been thinking about?”
I’ll tell you exactly what I was thinking about: the two meetings that had been scheduled right after worship that morning where I was expected to attend. Even though I was physically present, standing right in front of the Lord’s Supper table, my mind was a few steps down the road.
Some one might say, “Well, you’re just too busy, pastor.” In one sense, that was probably true, but we’re all busy. I’ve even heard from several of our retirees that they’re busier now than ever before! But busyness wasn’t my issue in that instance and we’ve got to be careful that we’re not too quick to run down a life that’s defined by busyness. I’m helped this morning by a pastor from the Pacific-northwest named John Mark Comer who writes in his book called, The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, that
“…there is a healthy kind of busyness where your life is full with things that matter, not wasted on empty leisure or trivial pursuits.”
In a way, that’s how we each might appropriately apply of one of the many verses in the Bible that refer to time management. Take this one, for example:
15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
We should recognize that our time is given to us by the Lord as a gift and we must be good stewards of the time that we are given, so it’s a good thing to have a healthy sort of busy to our lives that is full with things that matter. Jesus’ life is one that’s absolutely busy. Even in the brief introduction Luke’s given to us, from his temptation in the wilderness to his many healings to his teachings at church gatherings through this passage, Jesus has been a busy guy, with a life filled with things that matter. The phrase to key in on there from Comer’s quote is “things that matter.” Saying that another way, we’ve got a bazillion things that are each vying for our attention, for our time, and for our energy. They all present themselves to us as urgent and needing to be addressed right now! And frankly, not all of those bazillion things matter equally. And it’s not until we can arrive at discerning the difference between things that really matter from everything else that we can keep ourselves from becoming the victim of hurry.
See, busyness wasn’t my problem that day I’m telling you about that I blew it at the end of a service. My problem was that I got into an unhealthy busy, or saying it another way, I got into a hurry. I got into a hurry because I believed everything mattered and because everything mattered, I couldn’t keep up with everything without hurrying. In case you’re wondering what I mean by hurry as opposed to busy, here’s a description of hurry from the famous psychologist, Carl Jung:
Hurry is not of the devil; hurry is the devil.
Now, don’t take that statement to a theological extreme so as to conclude that Jung is denying the existence of the fallen angel known by the names the accuser of the brethren, the tempter, Satan, or the devil. The point of the quote is that when we have so much on our plates that the only way to keep up is to hurry through them, then the presence of hurry in our lives accomplishes the same result as the goal of the devil - hurry cuts off your connection with the Lord, it cuts off your connection to other people, and hurry even cuts off your connection to your own soul.
And we’re each tempted to add more to our plates because we tell ourselves we can just hurry through all our commitments. Maybe it’s because we have a personality that wants to please everyone. Or maybe we have bought on to the lie that our worth is related to what we can produce and so to increase our worth, we have to do more and do it ahorita! Get it done now! And as we’ve seen Jesus presented to us thus far, don’t think for a moment that he wasn’t tempted in these same ways. The Bible tells us about Jesus
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
From the constant demands, “Lord, heal me! I’m blind! I can’t walk! I am a leper!” and so on and so forth, Jesus never moved across that fine line between busy and hurry. Let’s set our aim today to pursue an answer to this question:
How can we be delivered from the devil that is hurry?
As we look to our text, we see that Jesus calls our attention to two more spiritual disciplines. Where last week we received clarification about the discipline of Sabbath, Jesus takes steps here to ensure that his focus isn’t distracted from what matters. Remembering back to last week, any Spiritual discipline is a practice that can accomplish two things in our lives. The first is spiritual growth and the second is a deeper relationship with God.
Let’s walk through the text together to see first what the situation is Luke is recording...
Our passage opens with the expression, “in these days.”
A great question to start with is a simple one, “which days?” Well, these are the days that Luke has told us about so far, where the ministry of Jesus Christ has been undeniably launched, the days wherein the hearts of men were fixed on their rules that took God’s Word in directions that had lost sight of God’s heart. Where men had confused God’s intention with matters like Sabbath.
How does that happen, you wonder? Well, I’ll tell you that it’s never a situation where the Bible is wrong. The Bible is authored by God and this a’int a situation where God’s who gets it wrong. The problem isn’t with the author, it’s with the reader. All too often, when we bring our life’s questions to the Bible, we’re not ordering those questions correctly. Here’s a tip: when you read the Bible, every time you approach it, seek to answer this question first: What does this passage tell me about God?
See, God gave us the Bible to tell us about him and his love for us, so when you read it seeking to answer this question, then the Holy Spirit will grow your love for God and others. We live in response to who God is, so if you read the Bible by trying to first answer something like, “what does this say about me?” or “what do I have to do now?” then you’re going to hate yourself and God. You’ll arrive at the same place as the scribes and Pharisees where the beauty of a life that could’ve been bound up in God’s grace and overrun by God’s mercy is replaced by rules all because the Bible’s been read wrong.
And it’s in these days where the intentional decision of Jesus is what we need to key in on. It’s how Jesus came to differentiate what matters from everything else and it’s how he lived a busy life that was never hurried. Luke tells us “he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.”
This brings us to two spiritual disciplines that Jesus intentionally pursued, Solitude and Prayer.
Solitude is beneficial to us for so many reasons and in this instance, it’s in solitude that the Son of God talks to the Father about men and the frustrations they bring. Don’t think for a moment that Jesus couldn’t have had frustration or other feelings stored up inside that came from those pesky Pharisees and their Sabbath accusations. Beyond that, he’s catching flack from one side and on the other are the moans and wails of those who begged for his healing. And it’s when the volume on the noise got most deafening that Jesus went to where it was quietest.
You know what I’m talking about…it’s when all those urgent things are crossing your desk are each crying out for your attention saying, “Look at me! Give me your time! I’m important!” that we’re overwhelmed with the noise. We can cry out and beg, “God, please tell me what to do with all of this!” but how would we ever expect to hear our Father’s answer amidst all the noise? So Jesus went out to the quiet of the mountain to pray.
So in solitude, Jesus prays. Here’s something that prayer does: it straightens our hearts out. Let me try to explain what I mean by that:
You may be familiar to one aspect of prayer and that’s where we talk to God. The Bible tells us to ask God in prayer. The Bible tells us that God is a good Father and he hears the prayers of his children. You may have heard that God loves to give and to an extent, that’s true… but what God gives is whatever is best. God only gives the best because he’s loving.
Let me put it in these terms, I’m a father of two beautiful daughters and I absolutely love it when they come to me with something they are asking for or something they’re struggling with. They know I’m a good dad and that I want the best for them. And my wanting the best for them doesn’t mean that they get everything that they want that they ask from me, but with time, their hearts are tuned to mine so that when they ask and when they share, they’re asking for better and right things.
Well, how does that come to be? How might my girls learn to ask for better things? Well, that only comes about if they listen to my answer.
Luke doesn’t tell us what Jesus specifically voiced to the Father because I don’t think that’s what we are supposed to focus on in the passage. Jesus went up to the mountain to pray and he stayed there all night in prayer with the Father. Why? Was it so he could get everything off his chest? Well, later in Luke 22, we’re told of another all night prayer where the Lord gets plenty off his chest at Gethsemane, so this night of prayer isn’t that. Jesus was quieting the noise so he could clearly hear from his Father what matters.
And as we will see, what matters for Jesus is to bring him back to the reason why John 1:14 “...the Word became flesh and dwelt among us...” Luke tells us that after that night of solitude, listening to the Father in prayer, that
Luke 6:13 (ESV)
13 And when day came, he called his disciples and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles
Think about what we know Luke has told us so far about Jesus’ life. On one side, he’s got these Bible-thumping legalists that he might be tempted to give in to the urgency of correcting all their bad interpretations. On the other side, he’s got all these physically and spiritually sick people coming to him for healing and salvation that he might be tempted to just open a clinic. Cleaning up the Jewish temple would’ve amounted to the effort it would take to clean up the mess in our capital. Where do you even start? In the parallel passage to this event in the life of Jesus that you’ll find in Mark 3, Mark says that the crowds were so thick, that Jesus didn’t have time to even eat and his family thought he was crazy to serve others so selflessly. You can imagine how easy it would’ve been for you or I to get consumed with what’s next, to get hurried, to lose sight of what is the Father’s best for us.
In that time of prayer and solitude, Jesus had intentionally retreated from the potential of hurriedness to slow down the pace of things and to quiet the noise, so that he could hear clearly those whom were to be called to serve as apostles. If you’re not familiar with these names right now, that’s OK. We’ll hear about them more and more as we work our way through this gospel. What you need to know right now is that these twelve men have been called by God to preach the gospel and their ministry will extend beyond Jesus’ cross and the resurrection. It’s through these twelve men that God will accomplish what he has willed and purposed in the advancement of the gospel.
It’s in that time of solitude on that mountain that the Father shares with Jesus those who will be ambassadors or if you prefer, those who will be preachers of the kingdom that Jesus is ushering in. These are who God is calling to preach that in death, there is life and that in surrender there is victory, that Jesus Christ died and is risen.
And if we were given the task of putting together a team of people who would have the type of skills needed to carry this type of message to people that by the end of their lifetimes would stretch across most of southern Europe into India, we wouldn’t have picked these twelve. We would’ve picked twelve who were top of their speech and rhetoric classes. People who had pristine resumes and great references. People who had the right education and experience to get the job done efficiently. We would never enlist people to become heralds of this glorious gospel who were mere fishermen, religious nuts, or tax collectors, would we? Yet those are the names that, in silence, Jesus was given. Men who, each in their own way, will testify to the fact that God’s strength is revealed in human weakness. These guys were far from perfect when Jesus called them to be apostles.
If I can say as an aside, there’s two things that we must remember when it comes to this matter of calling. The first is this: God is the one who does the calling, not you and me. And when God calls, he does so in an affirming and loving way, just like we saw the Father declare of Jesus earlier in Luke:
You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased.
For those who are sensing the Lord’s call, reject the lies of the evil one that seek to tear you down. In the silence, you’ll hear the Father’s voice that speaks love and truth.
The second thing about God’s calling is this: God is the one who does the calling, not you and me.
God does not call perfect men nor does he call perfect women to specific tasks in his kingdom. God calls imperfect people in the midst of their brokenness to reveal the light of the glory of the gospel through them as he has willed. God has not called me to be a pastor because I’ve lived a perfect life. Hang around me a while and you’ll see how sinfully imperfect I am. Or for that matter, take my wife out to coffee and she’ll give you the inside scoop on at least a few of my shortcomings. None of our existing deacons are perfect. None of the ones that God might call to serve as deacons in the future will be perfect. But he calls us all the same, as imperfect creatures, to reveal the light of the glory of the gospel.
The same is true of these twelve, whom Jesus was led to call in his time of prayer that focused him on what mattered - the kingdom of God. It’s in the kingdom where the first will be last, and the last will be first. It’s in the kingdom where wrongs are made right and King Jesus will have the final word on everything. It’s in the kingdom that in our dying to self, we are raised to life in the King, Jesus Christ.
That life we are given by Christ is bound up in God’s grace and mercy, a life that is the free gift of God to everyone who believes Jesus Christ is King of all and that he’s been raised from the dead. Jesus Christ, God’s Messiah, dies? Someone wonders, “Couldn’t the Father have warned Jesus in this solitude about what’s coming?” But therein is the beauty of the gospel: the necessity of the cross. From eternity past, Jesus was in agreement with the Father and the Holy Spirit that God would enter into time, live without any sin and be despised and rejected and betrayed by the very people he came to save.
What mattered for Jesus is accomplishing the redemption of the entire cosmos and that involved shouldering the shame and guilt we have amassed in our sin. What mattered was continuing to head towards that glorious cross, an instrument meant for torture and death, that the King of the cosmos went through in order to declare his victory over sin and death. And to get there, Judas Iscariot will play the part of the betrayer.
My prayer this morning is that in this moment of grace together, that by the enabling of the Holy Spirit, you would have ears to hear what I’m about to say to you, which is the relationship of the cross Judas Iscariot will betray Jesus to and this subject of solitude and prayer.
We’re in a series called Living Differently and as disciples of Jesus are called to live lives that show forth the transforming power of the gospel at work within us. When the Spirit applies the gospel in various aspects of our lives, the way we live is altogether different than the way that others live who have not surrendered to Jesus Christ.
And I would venture to guess that this whole idea of getting into quiet space for any period of time to speak to and hear from God doesn’t just sounds different, it sounds scary. In fact, the idea of solitude terrifies you because in it, your mind wanders to the thought that maybe you can’t hear from God and worse yet, that God isn’t there. God’s abandoned you. God’s forsaken you. It would be a terrible thing to believe in a God who was so unloving.
Hear this: God has not forsaken you, he’s promised his children that he never abandon them. He won’t do that because on the cross, Jesus took upon himself that forsakenness that we fear. In fulfilling Psalm 22, Jesus cried out,
Matthew 27:46 (ESV)
46 … “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When you’re in Christ, the last thing that you are is forsaken! You’ve been welcomed into relationship with God through Jesus Christ who was forsaken for you! And because he was,
16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
My friends, we will be delivered from the devil that is hurry when we retreat to the places of quiet to be still, where we will discover that In the silence God speaks love, truth, grace, and wisdom to help in time of need.
There was an aircraft pilot who was following a major highway and looking down at the traffic below. One particular car caught his attention. The driver was attempting to pass a large truck, but because of oncoming traffic and no-passing zones, the driver couldn’t pass safely. Over and over again, just as he would pull out, an oncoming vehicle would force him to retreat. The pilot, being able to see several miles down the highway, thought to himself, “If I could only talk to the driver, I could tell when and where it is safe to pass.”
God, of course, is the ultimate Pilot and his perfect knowledge is exactly what we need to guide our life. Prayer is how we talk to God, and as we learn to listen to his responses, we will find the guidance we seek.
I would like to leave you in a similar way as I did last week, with some guidelines for you to take as you seek to apply the disciplines of solitude and prayer. Here they are:
Prayer & Solitude Guidelines
Approach the throne of grace in full surrender.
Be still and be quiet. If quiet is not something you can obtain at home, we have a wonderful prayer chapel here at the church that is available for you to access 24x7. If you don’t know where it is, just ask any of us.
Honor the King. Acknowledge that Jesus is present. Lavish him with your adoration as he has lavished you with grace. Invite him to teach you.
Be obedient. If he’s shared love, truth, grace, or wisdom with you, go carry it out as he’s instructed you to do.
Give thanks. Remember that you don’t deserve the relationship with God that you’ve been given. Let the thanks you lift to King Jesus for the blessings you enjoy spill over into the routine of your life, and that thanks will persist even in the circumstances that drive you to prayer again.
May we have ears to hear that in the silence, God speaks. He delivers.
Have you been delivered to him?