The most attractive and often retold stories of Jesus are the miracles. We like the idea that Jesus did amazing things for people, and we would like to be on the receiving end. However, “The feeding of the five thousand illustrates why Jesus, with all the supernatural powers at his command, showed such ambivalence toward miracles. They attracted crowds and applause, yes, but rarely encouraged repentance and long-term faith. He was bringing a hard message of obedience and sacrifice, not a sideshow for gawkers and sensation-seekers.”* Over the years we've spent time and money on outreach events that attract crowds of people, but do they get the right message?
The past few weeks in the Beatitudes have brought up some of the major challenges of the Christian life. They are meant to be a challenge, to point us in directions that we can't get to on our own strength. In our everyday world, we can be our own worst enemy. We think we know what we want, but do we know why we want it? How influenced are we by the values and pressures of the world? Are we driven by the benefits to ourselves? Do we think, much less pray, before we act?
One of the classic examples of impulsive action was the apostle Peter. He had to learn to think first, and think rightly. This is what he learned: “Since Jesus went through everything you're going through and more, learn to think like Him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you'll be able to live out your days free to pursue what He wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.”**
This can sound kind of difficult and dreary. If we get hung up on trying to do it on our own, it is tough. God can be tough when He needs to work on our priorities. God's logic is not ours; it sounds odd to say that obedience, sacrifice and even suffering can lead to His strength and comfort, and even to the joy that He wants to give us.
*Philip Yancey,"The Jesus I Never Knew", p.228** I Peter 4:1-2, The Message