It Never Looks Like You Thought It Would (Message from Pastor Shian)
A Year of Change
This year has been nothing short of a year of change for me and my family. As I often do, I look back to what we were doing one year ago and do my best to remember what I was doing, what I was going through, and what I considered important and priority. One year ago I knew we were leaving Borger, Texas in the year 2013, but I didn’t know exactly when. I knew that God had called me to step down, but I didn’t know how it was going to happen. I knew that our new home would no longer be in West Texas, but I didn’t know where it would be. This time last year we had some intense meetings going on with our Christian school. I had also given the final word that our daycare would officially close before the Christmas holidays. Those were some tough days; change was definitely in the air. I felt as though certain church members had drawn closer to me than ever before, yet at the same time I sensed mutiny in the ranks. It was definitely a time of self encouragement, knowing in my heart separation was coming.
In the midst of all this, I went over a message I had preached a few years back about change. At the height of John the Baptist’s ministry he was imprisoned for his straight forward – tell it like it is – approach in ministry. He called a spade a spade, and it angered the Roman hierarchy. He called people to repentance, and lambasted the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. There were crowds and crowds of people coming to the river to see this guy clothed in camel skin eating a bush-man’s diet, preach with conviction the need for people to change their hearts towards God. It was compelling. It was convincing. It was what John was called to do.
After Jesus had finished instructing his twelve disciples, he went on from there to teach and preach in the towns of Galilee When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?"
Have you ever wondered what would possess John the Baptist to ask such a thing of Jesus? When you think of it, John was the one to baptize Jesus and that he himself heard the words of God the Father when Jesus came out of the water. So obviously something happened within Jesus’ ministry that caused John to doubt the validity of Jesus. It was John’s assignment to be the forerunner to Jesus so maybe in John’s mind, the term ‘forerunner’ meant that John was setting the stage with a message that was coming…a message that had words like, ‘God’s wrath is around the corner!’
12 He's going to clean house — make a clean sweep of your lives. He'll place everything true in its proper place before God; everything false he'll put out with the trash to be burned."
If John really believed that Jesus was coming to ‘clean up and dump the trash’, that God’s wrath was coming with the unveiling of this Messiah, then John’s perspective would have been 100% bent towards seeing that happen!
Things Didn’t Look or Sound Right
But unfortunately for John, it wasn’t happening like that. Instead, other things were…like the reports of Jesus hanging out eating and drinking with sinners. Stories started surfacing of Jesus showing up to a wedding party and instead of crashing it and calling everyone to repentance, He provides a first class wine for all the attendees. Not to mention when Jesus did baptize, his crowds immediately outsized John’s. He brought people to the mountainside, taught people how to relate to each other and God, and even fed them for free. Who wouldn’t want to follow Jesus?
But surely Jesus preached repentance…right? No.
The Spirit of God, the Master, is on me because God anointed me. He sent me to preach good news to the poor, heal the heartbroken, Announce freedom to all captives, pardon all prisoners. 2 God sent me to announce the year of his grace — a celebration of God's destruction of our enemies — and to comfort all who mourn, 3 To care for the needs of all who mourn in Zion, give them bouquets of roses instead of ashes, Messages of joy instead of news of doom, a praising heart instead of a languid spirit.
The gospel of Mark records that when Jesus entered the synagogue this verse was the center of His message. His message was one of joy instead of gloom. Take a glance at this verse again and think of Jesus preaching it everywhere He went. Everything He said backed it up. Everyone He healed; it backed the message up. Everyone He fed; it backed the message up. When you look over that verse it’s really phenomenal. Jesus came to preach hope. He came to give people another chance. He came to set people free, and to love them the way they were. His messages were ‘bouquets of roses’, not about how God’s going to ‘toast’ you. He saw mankind in desperate need of love…a humanity imprisoned by sin.
Isn’t that awesome?! But that didn’t sit well with John. In Matthew 4 it states that Jesus never preached a message of repentance until John was imprisoned. So up to this point, Jesus’ ministry looked nothing like John thought.
Change Never Comes in the Form We Think It Will
John knew what he was supposed to preach, and he did it well. Everything John preached about Jesus was true. Jesus really was everything John said the coming Messiah was to be. It’s just that Jesus didn’t come in the packaging John thought…thank God!
But this is true for all of us. The transformation from one season to another, one way of thinking to another…the answers…never come in the form we thought. I believe the reason it doesn’t is because when God does something He uses His resources, not ours. I mean that change, the new season, the answer is never going to look like our comfort zone or our thinking wants it to look. John was a voice crying in the wilderness. It was his assignment to be that voice crying out, ‘get ready for God!’ But when what he cried for came, Jesus didn’t look anything like John thought He would. As for John, that was amazingly tough on him.
Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me."
It would have been a lot easier on John if his disciples could have come back reporting that Jesus was indeed preaching repentance. Instead Jesus told them in so many words, “Tell John what you hear happening and what you’re seeing. I’m fulfilling my mandate, just as scripture says!” In modern day English, Jesus basically said, “No I’m not fulfilling John’s expectation, I’m fulfilling the scriptures. How I’m doing that isn’t what John expected.”
Methods Offend People
The kicker is what Jesus says to them at the end. “You’re blessed if you don’t get offended at how I do things.” I’ve studied that statement out and there’s just no other way to interpret it other than Jesus’ methods are going to offend people – and you’ll be a lot happier if you don’t get offended!
Yes…Christians get offended over methods, and we get jealous too. We like our formulas. We want to figure out what works and then stick with it. That’s not a bad thing…but it becomes a bad thing when we think that’s the only way it works – especially if that’s how we think God sees it. The principles don’t change, but the methods do. Jesus has a way of getting into your boat after you’ve put up your nets and fished all night long. Other times He enjoys a good rest while your waves are high. Sometimes following Jesus means you jumping outside your boat and walking on water for awhile. He may even pick up your oars and do the rowing Himself so that you can sleep and enjoy the sunshine! (Imagine that?!) Or maybe you’ve been Martha in the kitchen. You’re phenomenal at serving – but what if Jesus wants you to chill out this round? Can you?
Could He tell you to keep rowing and tell your sister to stop serving? That’s offensive. Could He tell you to reach your neighbor and tell your brother to take a holiday? Ouch.
John heard rumors of Jesus’ methods and formed his opinion of Jesus by comparing his ministry of repentance to that of Jesus’ ministry…and it caused offense. So what was Jesus’ instruction to John? You’ll be much happier if you don’t let it offend you.
Trade Your Offense for Happiness
That starts with believing the best in people. I think that’s a big factor to Jesus’ success in His earthly ministry. The kids loved Him. People wanted to be near Him. He believed the best in people and sought them out…like He did us. Jesus went to where they were at, so he showed up at wedding receptions. He went to tax collectors homes and ate with sinners because that’s where the lost were. It didn’t go well for Him when He showed up at the synagogue’s; that’s where the religious were. Lost people needed healing 7 days a week; so He healed people, Sabbath or not. It all worked better for Him hanging out by the lake. John did better staying by the river; two different ministries; two different methods; but the same dream – saving the lost.
My encouragement for you is this. Don’t get offended with others, believe the best in them. Be careful to not get so caught up with the pressure of doing things and the pressures of life that you forget about being you…the one God called.
What’s your dream? Take some time for yourself and time to sit at Jesus’ feet. If He has been unusually silent in your prayer life maybe He’s enjoying your journey more than you are – so take His cue!
2 Corinthians 2:14
In the Messiah, in Christ, God leads us from place to place in one perpetual victory parade.
Have a blessed week! A happy one, free of offense!
Scriptures used from:
New International Version
THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson.