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want to talk about something that I believe is written deep within the heart of
God. It is this: God wants us to thrive. God really wants us as human beings to
thrive. In fact Jesus said, “I have come
that you might have life and have it to the full.”-(John 10:10b). This morning I want us to see
more clearly the plan that God has for us.
I don’t know about you but I have some days where it
seems like the sun is shining, there is a bounce in my step, and it feels like
I am on top of the world. But there are other days, days when I feel the weight
of the world upon my shoulders. I don’t feel like I am thriving – in fact I
feel lucky to be just surviving.
That is why I am so glad we have God’s word. God’s word
reveals God’s heart for our lives. The best view of God’s heart comes when you
look at his son Jesus. Jesus said of himself, “If you have seen me, you have
seen the father”. When you see Jesus’ attitude toward things, you can see God’s
attitude towards things.
With that in mind I want to take a Jesus story found in Mark chapter 3. I am reading it from the
3: 1Jesus went into the
synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. 2 Since
it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s
hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.
said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” 4 Then
he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the
Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to
destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.
looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts.
Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand,
and it was restored! 6 At once the Pharisees went away and met
with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.
Remember if you have seen Jesus you have seen the father.
Jesus walks into the synagogue and he noticed the man
with the deformed hand. The easiest thing would have been to pretend to not
notice the man. Or at least not to make this man’s business his business.
He knows what was going on in the heart of his enemies.
They wanted to accuse him of working on the Sabbath. They want to accuse him of
being a law breaker.
But Jesus doesn’t take the easy way. He seldom will let
sleeping dogs lie. In fact he shines a light on them. He says to the man, come
and stand in front of everyone.
Now the clash of values is profound, Jesus cares about
the man with the withered hand, his enemies care about keeping the law – or at
least their interpretation of the law.
Watch how Jesus frames the argument. “Does the law permit good deeds on
the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? In
Jesus mind, healing this man would be good, doing nothing for this man on this
day would be doing evil. He goes on to
frame the argument a little further. Is this a day to save life or to destroy it? In Jesus’ mind healing this man’s hand was
saving his life, leaving it as it was, was destroying it.
Now step back for a
moment. It was a deformed hand. Of all the miracles Jesus did, maybe this was,
in the natural, the least consequential. Leprosy, blindness, paralysis these
are the big one. This guy has one hand that doesn’t work. Sure that is
problematic, but it seems like Jesus is saying, if I don’t heal this man today,
that would be doing evil. If I don’t heal this man today I would be destroying
life rather than saving it.
It is in the heart of God to save life. It is in the heart of God to
give fullness of life. Jesus is showing us God’s heart.
God’s heart is that we
would know the fullness of goodness. God’s heart is that we would know the fullness
of life – body soul and spirit.
So Jesus asks his
questions. “Does the law permit good deeds on
the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to
destroy it?” But the people would not answer him.
Now catch this next
verse. 5 He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by
their hard hearts. Remember Jesus is exposing the heart of God.
Why was Jesus angry?
Jesus was angry because they were using a law that was intended for good to
thwart good and actually promote evil. They were using a law to destroy life
rather than to save it. They were using a law to promote death and thwart life.
All of that made him angry.
The bottom line was
they were trying to get in the way of Jesus doing good – and in Jesus mind that
was really problematic. Jesus wanted this man to thrive – and they were getting
in the way.
If you were this man’s
mother, or best friend, and you saw the dynamics going on here you would be
angry too. Things that get in the way of people thriving make Jesus angry. Why?
Well if you really love people, then of course you are going to be angry when
things get in the way of them thriving.
Remember, Jesus is
exposing the heart of God.
What are the things
that make you fail to thrive? Now I recognize that when I ask that question
that it becomes very easy to blame others. If my boss was better, if my
finances were better, if my marriage was better – those may all be valid
things. I also recognize that many times
when I am tempted to blame others, I am failing to thrive, not so much because
of what was done to me, as it was my response of what was done to me. So I want to encourage you not to go there too
Some times it is my handling
of money, my attitude towards what is going wrong, my stuff that gets in the
way of relationship.
I also realize that
many of things that cause us to fail to thrive are past messages and past
hurts. The messages you tell yourself about yourself. “I’m a failure. I can
never do anything right, I am so stupid and the messages go on. –Some of you
have been caught by legalism and you are stymied by messages that you heard
Some of you have been hurt by the church. Some of you
have been hurt by clergy. What do you think Jesus would think of those things.
Those things that get in the way of you thriving.
Back to verse 5
5 He looked around at them angrily
and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts.
Now please hear this,
Jesus is not angry at you, but he is angry at the things that get in the way of
at his enemies, and was deeply saddened.
He was angry at what they were doing, he was saddened for them. He was
saddened at the hardness of their hearts. He was saddened that they couldn’t
see what God’s plans and purposes were, and so they were stuck in this trap of
promoting death rather than life.
You would think, these
people are his enemies, why should he care. But if your son or daughter were to
astray, and were doing stuff that brought them death, you would be deeply
saddened. If your enemies were doing something that were poisoning them, you
might be secretly glad. Jesus was not glad. Jesus, exposing the heart of God, loves
those who stand opposed to him. They are his enemies, he is not their enemy.
Think about this, all
life comes from God and is sustained by God. So God is actively sustain the
lives of those who are doing their best to thwart his purposes. That is grace.
In this vignette of
Jesus‘ life, Jesus really loves and cares for the man with the deformed hand
but he also really loves his enemies. His heart is that they would both thrive.
Jesus said in John 10:10
The thief comes only to kill steal and destroy, but I have come that you might
have life and have it to the full.
Jesus wants you to have
full abundant life. God cares about the diet I am on right now. God cares about
what you watch and listen too. God cares about how you deal with your money.
God cares about how you use your free time. God cares about you having great
times with friends. God cares about your career and how you do in it—and how
fulfilled you are in it. God wants you at a level that you can really thrive –
He wants you in the sweet spot.
I believe that many of
us fail to see many of those parts of our lives as only tangential to the
purposes of God. Going to church is spiritual – going to a good party where
there is celebration and joy – that is not. – that is not scriptural thinking.
And you know what? I
think God is deeply grieved over the hardness of our hearts and mediocrity of
our lives. He wants so much more for us.
But here is what you
need to know about becoming really alive, about thriving. The opposite to
thriving is sin. The bible says that sin brings death. The reason why God hates
sin so much is that sin brings death – and death is against everything that God
The reason why Jesus
came and died on the cross is to take your sin and my sin, so that we could
I know that sometimes
we think that if were just to indulge in sin, that that would be real living. Sin will never get you to where you want to
go. Don’t get me wrong, sin is tempting – and some sins are more tempting for
you than they are for me – and some sins are more tempting to me than they are
for you. The temptation is always, if I indulge I will thrive more.
If I could get hook up
or misuse power or get unearned money; If I could indulge in pornography, or
drunkenness, or overeating; If I could manipulate that person, or that
situation, or blow my stack – it will feel better. I will thrive, at least in
the short term. Some sin does allow you to thrive in the short term. But sin
has a shelf life--- some a shelf life of moments, others has a shelf life of a
few years. But sin always leads to a failure to thrive.
Many of you now are failing to thrive now. You know your
heart is burdened down. But remember God’s heart. God’s heart is that you would
Some of you are thinking that if sin brings death, that I
must really be dying. I have done a lot of bad things. The reality is that sin
disconnects your with God – and whenever you are disconnected from God your
soul will shrivel and it will die.
The bad news is this, you can’t do anything about your
sin. Some people try to make their good deeds outweigh their bad deeds. Some
people try to earn they way into God’s good graces. It doesn’t work like that.
The only way to deal with you sin is through Jesus.
Remember his heart. He wants you to thrive. Sin will block you from thriving.
Jesus came to take away your sin, and give you real life. All you have to do is
ask. Tell Jesus that you want his plan for your life. Tell him you want to
really thrive. Ask him to take your sin away. Tell him that you will follow
him, because he knows the way of life. When you do that you are on the path way
I know that there are many of you who are on the pathway
already. Some of you see God’s heart, and you see your life and you see the
road blocks to thriving. I know some of you have some really difficult situations
God does not promise to change your circumstances, but
God does want to give you life where you are. He is able to give peace in the
middle of turmoil. He is able to give a sense of well being even in the middle
of grief. He is able to give you joy, peace, love. God wants you to thrive.
I want to invite you just to pray this simple prayer along
Dear Jesus, I see there are areas in my life where I am failing to
I need you to come into my life, forgive me of my sin and to put me on
this pathway to life, full and abundant. That is what you promised and that is
what I want.
God, help me to follow you into the life that is really life.
I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen
- Rev. Brent Russett
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