The demon possessed man of the Gadarenes roamed around naked and was uncontrollable and when confronted, the evil spirits in him cried out to Lord Jesus not to send them ‘into the abyss” – their final destination after judgement. The man, after the legion of demons had departed, was healed, clothed and in his right mind. He “begged the Lord to permit him to be with Him” but was commanded to return to his own house and ‘tell others what great things God had done’. Before the sun had come up on that day none except the Lord was aware of this man’s future and after healing him Lord Jesus set an entirely different role for him. Today we shall discuss the ways of setting goals for our lives in conformity with the will of God.
Multitudes were blessed yet deserted Lord Jesus – The Messiah reveals the purpose of His becoming man to bless mankind with ‘abundant life’ in direct contrast to the evil one who steals our peace and joy, kills and destroys families (John 10:10). But what is this promised abundant life? At the time of creation God separated light from darkness and created a unique place – Garden of Eden – in the east and filled it with all types of fruit bearing trees and herbs for food for mankind. All the different species of animals, birds, beasts and fish were created and man given right of control over all this. For their pleasure and joy God also provided the best of gold and rare ornamental stones in the same region with four rivers flowing through the land to provide water (Genesis 1 & 2). Along with all these earthly pleasures, God blessed them with His Divine presence everyday to ensure that they grow spiritually as well as physically and in material wealth. This was the promised abundant life available to mankind that the Savior Lord came to restore. Man was made ruler over all of created things as a representative of God and the three aspects of abundance cannot be enjoyed fully in isolation but in relation to each other only.
Large crowds brought their sick for healing to Lord Jesus, chasing Him everywhere that He went and “He healed them” of their afflictions (Matthew 15:30). The leper cried out Lord if You are willing, You can make me clean (Matthew 8:2) while the Greek woman accepted His mild rebuke of love to be called ‘kynarios’ a pet dog to receive healing for her daughter (Mark 7:25-30). Mother of Zebedee’s two sons prayed to Him to allow her two sons to sit on His right and left, after He establishes His kingdom, to be told “You do not know what you ask” (Matthew 20:21-22). Lord Jesus took compassion on those 5,000 men and their family members who had followed Him to feed them well by multiplying the 5 loaves of barley bread and two small fish. They in return wanted to take Him by force and make Him king of Israel forcing Him to withdraw “to a mountain by Himself alone” (John 6:1-15). Lazarus and Martha’s sister Mary was rebuked by Judas Iscariot for wasting such expensive perfume of ‘spikenard’ by pouring it on the Savior’s head to anoint Him. The apparent reason for this reprimand was that the money could be used for the welfare of poor people while the hidden cause was to get more into “the bag” for Judas Iscariot “was a thief” (
John12:1-7). Judas’ focus was on material benefits from the Lord and when not sure of these rewards he sold out to the Chief Priests and despite his repentance committed suicide for he had not really known the compassionate heart of the Lord.
The multitudes sought the Lord not to be saved from sin and for salvation but to get their material and physical needs met. Even the disciples and their relatives had similar intentions despite having been with the Lord for the long period of more than three years. The difference between the disciples and the masses was, that the later deserted Him after losing faith in Him while the chosen eleven and the women, did not lose faith despite running away in fear. The masses readily followed whoever was in a position to fulfill these basic needs and preferred to side with the persecutors than the one being wrongly persecuted. The clout of the Jewish elders was displayed in their dealing with the guards deployed on the tomb for they were paid a large sum to tell lies and even assured of protection from Pontius Pilate in case of being charged by the authorities for losing the body of the crucified Lord (Matthew 28:12-15). The Scripture classifies mankind as sheep for the obvious reason that there is no logic in many of the acts of mankind who simply follow one another like sheep who then deserted their Messiah and do so even today for the lure of lucre and flashy displays.
Is it wrong to seek heaven or other blessings? – Man has inherited the curse of hard labor and death after expulsion from the Garden of Eden and separation from God. Disease also is a result of the fall and there is eternal quest in man to seek that same union with God. Seeking these blessings are not wrong per se but one must first understand the process of healing. Peter was advised by Lord Jesus to cast the net again after the Lord had used his boat for delivering His message to the crowd on the sea shore. On receiving a large unexpected catch of fish, the experienced fisherman cried out “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” and was blessed to become ‘fisher of men’ (Luke 5:1- 10). The Roman Centurion sought the Lord for healing his servant, recognized His authority and classified himself unfit to host the Lord in his house. He prayed to the Lord to just command and healing will take place and the Savior praised his faith (Matthew 8:5-13). Apostle Peter committed to follow Lord Jesus even to death but denied and deserted Him a little later (Matthew 26:35).
We seek heaven without probably realizing the realty of heaven – for heaven is where the LORD is. Adam and Eve were warned about the forbidden tree for the moment they would eat of it, they would die. Yet the two did not die physically for many years thereafter. Death is separation from God and this happened immediately on eating the fruit and they hid from God. Lord Jesus, the Redeemer, declared “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6) for He came to lead us to the Father and became the only way. As Living Word, He reveals the truth about God and His creation and since He is God and after ascension is seated at the right hand of God in His eternal glory, union with Him gives new birth and spiritual life.
We desire the fruit but want to receive it without finding the tree and even our prayer and worship is focused on this only. Apostle Paul discloses the secret of running the race that is set before us – the race towards eternal union with God – by “looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith” (Hebrews 12:1-2). Looking unto Him is to remain focused on Him alone for strength, endurance, guidance and reward. The Roman Centurion, in faith, sought The Tree and the fruit of healing was automatic for “without faith it is difficult to please God” (Hebrews 11:6) and without His pleasure no blessings can come. God is Omnipresent and the only difference between heaven and hell is the presence of God – the fire of guilt, self loathing and separation burns eternally when one is away from God and that is hell – whether here on earth or after death. Apostle John witnessed the future establishment of God’s kingdom on earth when “there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it and His servants shall serve Him”. Those in His presence will see His face and shall carry His name on their foreheads – the seat of thinking and reasoning – and shall worship Him all the time (Revelation 22:3-4). Heaven will then be here on earth and God’s Son will provide the light from His Divine glory and there shall be no more night, for darkness would be vanquished forever.
In a state of union with God all believers shall neither live nor die for themselves but for the Lord for our life then is in and for Him (Romans 14:7-8). On the day of Pentecost with the coming of the Holy Spirit who now dwells in us, this oneness with God was established and we operate not in our own but in the power of God to do His will. Even while living in the body and on the earth, we become citizens of heaven filled with the peace of the Lamb. The Holy Spirit endows us with gifts to work healing and miracles in our and others lives in His power and authority – a life of heaven on earth with the body, soul and spirit in surrender and obedience to His Divine will.
What should be our life goals? – The twelve disciples before crucifixion and even after resurrection were concerned with only one question “Will You restore the kingdom to Israel?” This however changed after Pentecost and the same Simon Peter’s sermon cut “all listeners to the heart” to make them cry out – what should we do? After repentance three thousand accepted the Lord as their Savior on that day and their numbers kept increasing exponentially. Lord Jesus has commanded all believers to ‘seek first the kingdom of God’ and all material blessings will be added on automatically (Luke 12:31). Simon Peter made his boat available to the Lord and received the large catch of fish but still larger blessing of becoming His disciple. It is generally said by many that the prayers of the followers in the beginning are answered immediately but in later days there is long wait. Apostle Paul provides the answer – the early believer, like a child, is fed milk or liquid food but he/she has to mature to eat solid food and turn from a carnal to the spiritual nature (1 Corinthians 3:1-3). As we meditate on His Word we understand and are filled with God’s love to the overflowing of it towards others through our righteous deeds.
We are required to be transformed into the image and likeness of God in which we were created and which is revealed by the Son of God, doing what He did. The demon controlled man of the Gerasenes received his healing and wanted to remain with the Lord, setting that as his life goal – a situation about which neither he nor anyone else, except the Lord was aware of that morning. But the role assigned to him by the Redeemer, was to remain with his people “and tell them what great things God has done for you”, and he did exactly that (Luke 8:38-39). The Scripture reveals the love of God in His Son and His redeeming sacrifice and our goal should be to readily “lay down our lives for the brethren” (1John 3:16). This can only be done in obedience to His command to love one another and through our deeds of love towards others the unseen God is revealed and His presence in us and our unity with Him in His Spirit becomes visible (1 john 4:11-13).
How do we set and achieve these life goals? – When Israel had no king and the Judges were guiding them “everyone did according to his own choice” (Judges 21:25). Jesse had a different idea about the capabilities of his sons and did not consider the youngest, David, as suitable and did not even call him. The same David was given all plans and resources for building the Temple but his son Solomon was tasked to build it. Too often our goals are in great variance to the will of God and until we reconcile we can never achieve anything in life. The disciples had already met the risen Lord, He had breathed on them the Holy Spirit, yet Apostle Peter and others with him decided to go fishing for want of anything else to do. Probably they had become disheartened that the expected kingdom was not coming through and thus decided to resume their old profession. Lord Jesus had decided their roles before anything came into being and with each question “Simon son of Jonah, do you love Me, more than these” and later the end part was removed, a new role was assigned (John 21:3; 15-17). Apostle Thomas had set his goal to believe only after checking the wounds on the body of the risen Lord but in His presence cried out “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Saul, the fire breathing Pharisee, received letters of authority from the Chief Priests and was on his way to Damascus to arrest the believers for punishment, but was met by the Lord in His glory on the way. His role was drastically changed by Lord Jesus and it was revealed to Ananias, “He is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:1-3 and 15-16).
The specific command to the Priests was “They shall be holy to their God and not profane the name of their God” (Leviticus 21:6). But how can the priests’ sinful action profane God’s name? The priests were chosen and appointed by God to worship Him. As the selector of a team gets blamed for continuous poor performance of a player, in like manner God’s name will be profaned by the sinful life of a priest. We have also been chosen by God “to be a royal priesthood” as children of God and our lives must reflect God’s love and righteousness. Abraham and Isaac’s lives were counted as “the days of his life” to be 175 and 180 years respectively(Genesis 25:7 & 35:28) for both had served God in faith and could account for each day of their lives.
Apostle John in his Gospel repeatedly calls himself as the disciple whom the Lord loved, yet on seeing the loving Lord in the judge’s role with “eyes like flames of fire” and His countenance like the sun shining in its strength, fell down as dead (Revelation 1:14-17). Central message contained in the letters to the seven churches is ‘repent or else’ be prepared for judgement – removal of lamp stand from its place to the final rejection of being spit out (Revelation 2 & 3). There are great rewards for those who overcome but punishment for sinful living is also severe and this is for believers.
We generally take most decisions of our life without ever bringing in the consent of the Lord into the decision. Do we ever try and find out what does He desire or what is His plan/will for our lives – what type of a house, a car or study pattern of our children does He want? A few days I learnt about a man whom I had not met for the past 13 years and immediately rushed to meet him. He was busy and did not care to spare time for us for more than a minute despite the fact that we had wasted a day for him – travelling for more than two hours each way. My Lord’s question to me later was “Did you seek My will before rushing out?” I maintain that He is my Sovereign God but I do not concede any control to Him.
Aligning our goals of life with His will would save us the pain of suffering that is surely likely to follow due to failure and great loss of resources. His promise is “Seek and you will find” but we have to take the first step and then He is ever willing to guide, help and empower.