Greater Than John

“Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he” (Matthew 11:11, NIV).

If belonging to the Kingdom puts us in spiritual leadership positions on par (or even greater, as Jesus says) with men like John the Baptist, then I’d say we’re in good company!  But let’s be humble (like John was) and remember that we still have much work to do, and that we need the Spirit of God to empower and enable us to do it.  That brings to mind Hebrews 12:1-2a:

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.

Prayer for this week: that we follow in the footsteps of great spiritual leaders in the Church while keeping our eyes on Christ, so that we may be filled with the Spirit to accomplish our calling.

Focus On Your Calling

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”

Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogueso and driving out demons. (Mark 1:35-38)

At the end of the first chapter of the Gospel of Mark, we find the surprising little story above. Jesus had spent the entire day preaching and teaching, healing the sick, casting out demons, and doing amazing ministry to help people in need. He must have been exhausted! But, he didn’t sleep in. He got up before the sun and found a quiet place to pray.

You can imagine, after performing the kinds of miracles he did and helping the numbers of people he helped, that Jesus was becoming pretty popular in the area. People heard all about his ministry and they came out in mass numbers to get a glimpse of Jesus and see if he could fix their problems. It’s no wonder when Jesus’ disciples woke up and found him gone, they immediately went to look for him; and when they found him were likely a little annoyed! “Where have you been? Everyone is looking for you! It’s showtime!”

What is startling is Jesus’ response: “Let us go somewhere else…” Why would he say that? Jesus had the power to heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, feed the hungry, give sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf… He could do anything to help people! And, there were plenty of people who needed helping right where he was. Jesus knew about all the people and all their needs, but instead of staying to meet those needs, he decided to move on. Why?

We can only surmise that Jesus’ solitary morning of prayer had something to do with his decision. He knew there were many needs and many hurting people right where he was. But, rather than stay and meet every need, he understood what his calling at that time was – namely, to travel throughout Galilee, preaching and healing. Rather than stay in one place and get bogged down with all the needs and pain there, he chose to follow his calling, focusing his energy and ministry where God the Father directed him.

What can we learn from this? I think one simple lesson stands out: what is your calling? There are many things you could do, but are they things you should do? Just because something is a good thing doesn’t mean it’s a God-thing. We should seek to meet the needs of the poor, the hungry, the hurting and broken. But we should also seek God’s specific calling and mission in our lives. If we try to do every good thing that crosses our path, we’ll end up spreading ourselves too thin, “Like too little butter scraped over too much bread,” as Bilbo Baggins once said.

Be ready and available to use what God has given you to bless others and meet needs. But, be willing to focus on the specific mission God created you to fulfill. Sometimes that means you have to say no, even when it’s something good! The key is this: do you know what God is calling you to accomplish? If no, seek guidance from a local pastor or church. If yes, pursue that calling with all you have!