Jesus said, "Come Follow Me."
Discipleship in Mark's Gospel
Jesus said, "Come Follow Me."
Discipleship in Mark's Gospel
Coping in a world of rapid change
Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, Lord, my faithful God. (Psalm 31:6)
In times of trouble, who do you seek for help? In time of difficulties who do you turn to?
Most people will first try to solve their problems themselves. Some would seek help from friends or relatives. But sometimes there is no one we can turn to. And perhaps the most painful experience would be to turn to a wrong person who later on betrays you. Also, when we are in trouble, we are tempted to use human ways to solve our problems and tend to turn away from God's truth.
Psalm 31 is believed to be written by David when King Saul sought to kill him. He was facing physical illness and even betrayed by close friends. In times of trouble David prayed that God will set him free from his enemy’s trap and able to walk on ‘spacious space’ (v.8).
In those years of escaping attacks from his enemies, David could have developed physical illness and became weak. He was in distress. His eyes grew weak with sorrow. His body and soul were with grief. Due to the afflictions, his life was consumed by anguish and his strength failed and became weak (vs.9-10).
Most vulnerably, instead of stretching their helping hands many of David’s friends deserted him (v.11). He was forgotten by his peers as though he was dead, like a broken pottery (v.12). Some even plotted to betray and kill him (v.13).
Even though David was in trouble, he had full confidence in God. Besides praying to God for protection, David praised and professed his confidence in the Lord. He took refuge in God (v.1). As a sign of trust, he committed his spirit unto him (vs.5,14). He believed that the Lord will truly hear his prayers and come to his rescue (v.2). In contrast, some people trust in their worthless idols (v.6).
Finally, David challenges the faithful to love the Lord and be strong (vs.23,24). This is like a conclusion for this psalm: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
Like Psalm 22, this psalm was prayed by Jesus. While he was hung on the cross shortly before his death, Jesus prayed, “Into your hands I commit my spirit” (v.5a, cf. Luke 23:46). Stephen the first Christian martyr said a similar prayer at his last breath, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” (Acts 7:59).
From Psalm 31, we learned to surrender ourselves totally unto God’s guidance and protection in whatever circumstances.
What would you do when facing with difficult time such as anguish and groaning? Why not refocus on God’s protection instead of the difficulties you face?
God’s goodness is stored up for those who fear him (Psalm 31:19)
Father, thank you for preserving me from harm. Help me to refocus on your promises instead of the difficulties I am facing. Amen.
Article by the Reverend David W. W. Wong, Pastor of a Chinese Anglican Church in Granville, New South Wales, Australia.
A NEW HEART – FROM PRIDE TO HUMILITY
When I felt secure, I said ‘I shall never be shaken.’ (Psalm 30:6)
Psalm 30 opens and closes on a note of thanksgiving. The emphasis is on praise to the Lord for rescuing David from a dangerous and difficult situation that included sickness (v.2), near death (vs.3,9), God’s anger (v.5), weeping (vs.5,11) and emotional turmoil (v.7).
David experienced three problems: (a) the sinking mire beneath him; (b) the enemies around him who wanted him dead; and (c) the distress within him. And God delivered him from all three! Because of his disobedience, David was in this adverse situation but the Lord lifted him up. David’s foes would have been glad to see him dead. It was David’s pride that brought the plague to the land (2 Samuel 24:10,14). And he felt the pain deeply – his convicted conscience and broken heart could have killed him. But God heard his pleas and brought him from death to life. For David, this was the dawning of a new day after a painful time of suffering in darkness. Each morning God’s mercies are new (Lamentations 3:22-23) and his help often arrives in the morning.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ brought the dawning of a new day for all who trust in him (Matthew 28:1). Weeping comes as a guest, but God’s gracious favour is with us for a lifetime (2 Corinthians 4). As Jesus explained to his disciples, God doesn’t replace sorrow with joy, he transforms sorrow into joy (John 16:20-22).
It was David’s pride that made the Lord chastened him (vs.6-10). Pride is an attitude that all people face constantly (Deuteronomy 8). Prosperity without humility can lead to adversity. David’s mountain (kingdom) seemed strong, but the Lord showed David how weak he was. Knowing he had sinned, David cried out to the Lord for mercy and even debated with him.
David was a great king with a strong kingdom but he was only one breath away from the grave. When he humbled himself and confessed his sin, the Lord mercifully forgave him and restored him. Once David knew he was forgiven and accepted, he moved from funeral to feast. He took off the sackcloth of sadness and put on the garment of gladness. In Scripture, a dramatic alteration of one’s life was often marked by a change in clothing (Luke 15:22). David was singing to the Lord from the depths of his heart. What a difference! We too have a lifetime of grace to prepare us for an eternity in glory.
And so we preach the good news of God’s mercy while honouring the reality of spiritual bleakness. We acclaim God both in times of joy and sadness; for we testify to an incarnate Lord who struggled with temptation in the desert and cried out in despair on the Cross.
(Reference: The Wiersbe Bible Commentary, Old Testament, Warren W. Wiersbe, David C. Cook publishers, 2007)
How are we tempted with pride? When we feel we are secure in our position, prosperity or health think of how we are to reflect Jesus’ words, “for even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mk. 10:45).
O Lord my God, I called to you for help and you healed me (Psalm 30:2)
Father God, may I always remember that all blessings come from you and I am here to serve you and others for the extension of your Kingdom here on earth.
Article by Mr Jaccob Thomas, a Lay Reader of Peace Community Centre, Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur.
The Voice of God in a Great Storm
The voice of the Lord is over the waters, the God of glory thunders. (Psalm 29:3)
Psalm 29 is noted as a hymn of David. Much of David’s life was spent outdoors in the midst of creation. As a shepherd boy watching the sheep, as a young soldier fleeing from King Saul, in battles against the Philistines, and later on in life, fleeing from his own son Absalom following a coup, it is not surprising that many of David’s psalms including Psalm 29 seems to have been inspired by his first-hand witnessing of God’s work through his creation.
In verses 3-9, ‘the voice of the Lord’ is mentioned seven times. That voice of the God of glory and power is manifested in acts of strength. ‘The voice of the Lord’ is upon the waters (v.3), powerful and majestic (v.4), breaks the cedars (v.5), leap like a calf (v.6), strikes with flashes of lightning (v.7), shakes the desert (v.8), twists the oaks and strips the forests bare (v.9). The voice of the Lord is heard and seen in all creation. Watch and Listen to the voice of the Lord. The people of God do not need to fear the powerful voice of the Lord. On the contrary, they see his power and take comfort that he is their God. The power of God is behind his people, not against them.
The same powerful voice of the Lord broke the silence of the first Christmas nights with a multitude of angelic hosts praising, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14). What a glorious, holy and powerful night!
In the Gospel of Mark, the voice of the Lord spoke, “Peace, be still” and the raging storm and thunderous storm subsided immediately. The disciples said to one another, "What sort of man is this (Jesus)? Even the wind and the sea obey him" (Mark 4:37-41). We are invigorated when we sing this familiar chorus, “Are you discouraged and are you blue? Are clouds obscuring the sun from view? Keep trusting Jesus though storms assail. You have his promise, he will not fail! It’s always darkest before the dawn. Don’t be discouraged but carry on. He’ll not forsake you, the sun will break through. It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
We worship a God who is Lord of the storms, and, therefore, Lord of life. This God exercises power over life’s turbulent aspects. This strong and blessed God offers the attributes of strength and blessing to the people. Our response naturally is, “Glory to God” and we worship him!
O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made. I see the stars. I hear the mighty thunder thy power throughout the universe displayed. Then sings my soul, my Saviour God to thee - how great thou art! How great thou art!” (Hymn: “How Great Thou Art,” a Swedish traditional melody and a poem written by Carl Gustav Boberg. 1859–1940.)
The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace (Psalm 29:11).
May this eternal truth be always in our hearts that the God who breathed this world into being, placed stars into the heavens and designed a butterfly's wing,
is the God who entrusted his Son to the care of ordinary people, became vulnerable that we might know how strong is the wonder of Love. A mystery so deep it is impossible to grasp. A mystery so beautiful it is impossible to ignore. Amen. (Source: John Birch, 2016. Faith and Worship)
Article by Mr Tan Joon Chee is a Lay Reader and People’s Warden at St Paul’s Church, Petaling Jaya.