No matter who we are or where we come from, we all have one thing in common: we will all be incredibly busy.
Even though busyness seems to be the International language, you can remain spiritually strong in the busyness, and you must remain spiritually strong in the busyness. You do not have to experience what the disciples did in Mark chapter 9.
My goal for today is to share some realities and observations from Mark chapter 9 about what will happen if you are spiritually powerless, followed by 10 practical action points to stay spiritually strong that I am actively applying to my own life.
The people are mocking Jesus’ disciples as Jesus walks up and are excited because they caught the disciples in a powerless situation.
- They saw the weakness of Jesus’ disciples and mocked the power of God.
- The disciples’ weakness shamed the name of Christ.
The disciples didn’t even know why they were powerless. They were doing a lot of ministry stuff and forgot what they needed in order to be spiritually powerful.
Problem: They were busy and powerless.
- What they were doing was not necessarily bad. They were just doing ministry and life, and one day they woke up and were powerless.
4 Realities/Observations from Mark 9
- Power comes only to those who intentionally engage God! (Vs. 29)
- Just like the disciples, we will be tempted to attend religious services & participate while never engaging the Holy Spirit. We’ll listen, agree and like the environment, but our hearts will never engage the Holy Spirit.
- You can do all of the perfunctory acts of liturgy, but they will be meaningless if the acts don’t mean something in your heart.
- Make the decision to engage and experience God.
- Past victories do not guarantee spiritual power today. (Matthew 10:1-
- The disciples had prayed, healed, and experienced God’s power before, but that didn’t affect today.
- God gave the disciples the capacity to heal people (and so they did, in Mark 6). However, in Mark 9 they could not.
- Capacity does not equal ability.
- Environment does not make you. You can be exposed to all sorts of opportunities to learn, grow and engage with God, but that does not guarantee spiritual strength or ability. It all comes down to a choice of the heart. You have to choose to engage God every day. Your past experiences cannot carry you today. Every day, you must constantly condition yourself to engage with God. It’s a new sermon and a new day – ask God for freshness.
- Spiritual power is most evidenced when you make your own choice to stand - aside from the crowd.
- Not all of the disciples were powerless. Only 9 of them were. Peter, James and John were not because they had gone with Jesus to the transfiguration. They took time to commune and engage with God. (Mark 9:10-14)
- Just as Peter, James & John watched their powerless friends after being with Jesus, it will be weird & disturbing when you are communing with God and walk into a crowd that is not. It will be obvious and awkward.
- You will be tempted to evidence your spiritual power as you interact with people. One gift you can give people is to say, “I love you and I hope our friendship grows, but I need you to know that I will draw the line at what God has called me to do.” Give the gift of stoic commitment to God.
- There is always somebody watching you. There is always somebody in the crowd who is saying in their heart, “I would leave this place/stand if someone else would leave/stand first.” Sometimes you find out after the fact.
- If you are weak or powerless, people will think that your God is weak or powerless! (Mark 9: 21-27)
- The father had faith at the beginning when he first brought his son, but he started doubting Jesus when he saw that His disciples were powerless. (Vs. 22-23)
- Our testimonies do not change the truth, but our conduct influences and disciples people.
So, in the middle of this busy world, how do we remain spiritually strong?
These are things I am currently doing. Let’s do these things together.
- Use your studies/convocation sermons as devotions.
- Sometimes adding on another outside Bible-study just adds to the busyness. Whatever you study, meditate on & discuss.
- Have at least one intentional spiritual discussion every day.
- Open up the topic. The more you talk, the more you will get used to it.
- This year, never pray the same way twice.
- Get rid of the routine. Commit to pray thoughtfully, wisely and intentionally.
- Engage God as you go through your day.
- Literally, every time you have to pause (waiting in line, between meetings, etc.), engage with God (read your Bible, pray, etc.) You’ll be surprised how much time adds up.
- Do whatever it takes to protect your time with God.
- You know what distracts you (i.e. TV, emails, etc.). If you know something will distract you and keep you longer than you know it should, run away from it!
- Do not rely solely on Christian leaders to feed you spiritually.
- Just like parents teach children to feed themselves, the goal of spiritual leaders is to get people to feed themselves.
- Teachers are encouragers. They are not infallible. But, as you grow spiritually strong, you can look past their mistakes and take away the truth. You have to feed yourself and grow.
- Celebrate every spiritual victory! Every single one. Even the little victories.
- For example - If you try to pray differently every day, and you pray differently tomorrow from how you prayed today, then celebrate that.
- Don’t compare yourself to other people. We grow at different speeds. Celebrate your growth, no matter how small or big. God doesn’t “dog” you about “baby-stepping” spiritual growth. He “dogs” you about stopping your spiritual growth.
- Take it one day at a time!
- Don’t try to conquer everything.
- Refresh, repent, start a new day.
- Find someone to keep you accountable - someone who will as, “Are you doing these things?”
- Always remember that God still loves you even when you fail.
- Don’t let past failures discourage you from trying again.
- God lets you get back up again.
We can and must remain spiritually strong in the busyness because when we let things slip, there can be big consequences.
Let’s commit this year, that no matter what comes our way, we will remain spiritually strong in a busy world.
Dr. Ben Gutierrez