He said to them, "Where is your faith?" (Luke 8:25)
Anytime Jesus asks a question in his interactions it's helpful to think of his as posing that very question you personally. Your circumstances are obviously quite different than the disciple, but like them, you are experiencing fear, doubt, uncertainty, anger, anxiety, panic, restlessness, disorientation, weariness, provoked by the frailty inside you and the situations surrounding you.
Underneath Jesus' question is an interesting assumption. Jesus is taking for granted that they do in fact have faith. Their doubt and fear and uncertainty, we might think of as a lack of faith, but Jesus doesn't see it that way. He seems to see it as faith in something, just not in him.
Our thoughts that inflate the power or importance of other things, or which diminish Jesus in our own minds, as well as the negative emotions which swell from within are really clues to misplaced faith. Jesus' question to the disciples here is like an invitation for us to interrogate our own distracted thoughts and negative emotions, asking of them and ourselves, "where is your faith?"
Unbelief in Jesus isn't unbelief in general. It's belief in something other than him. We do well to wrestle with this question any time we're experiencing internal unrest.
A Prayer for Personal Honesty:
Father, I love to convince myself that I'm okay. I instinctively assume the best of my own state. But the truth is, I have struggle to trust you every day. Help me to slow down, identify my thoughts and emotions, and be honest with myself and you about what they reveal. Give me a willingness to acknowledge that my faith gets misplaced, and that when I stop trusting you it's because I'm trusting or hoping in something else instead. Thank you for your patience toward me as I learn to lean on you, and draw my heart to trust your word and obey your voice, in faith. Amen.
"...they came to Jesus and found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid." (Luke 8:35)
Jesus will either drive you mad or make you sane. A man's life is being ravaged by demonic forces that are controlling him. Everybody is scared of him and they keep their distance from him but Jesus draws near. And after casting the demons out, we get this picture of a man who had gone crazy, "sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed in his right mind." That's what being close to Jesus will do for you and me to. If we open ourselves up to him and receive him as he is, he will restore our sanity, which is something we wall need.
We go through life trusting our own thoughts, leaning into our own instincts, internalizing the ideas of culture, consulting the wisdom of our age, and it's all insanity. We ignore and live outside the reality of God and what is ultimately true in Jesus. We've all lost our minds. And Jesus has come to restore us to our right mind... a mind that acknowledges our own foolishness, guilt, need and limitations.
The man who started visibly "mad" in this story ends up close to Jesus and clothed in his right mind. While the people who seemed sane are shown to be "mad" in the end. They calmly, confidently, and unquestioningly run Jesus off. Here they have in their presence one who heals the demonized man so that he is clear headed and fully functioning, and rather than embrace Jesus, they distance themselves from him. The "sane" ones are controlled by an irrational fear of Jesus, and that directs their steps.
This is the impact Jesus will have on every one of us... he will either help us recover our right mind so that we can see eerything as it really is, or he will drive us to the madness of continuing to build our lives on our own thoughts and ideas while we have nothing to do with him.
A Prayer for Sanity:
Heavenly Father, my thoughts and feelings take me to crazy places. I'm so gullible and easily manipulated, distracted and deceived. Clothe me in a sound mind, the very mind of Christ, to discern between what's true and what's counterfeit... I'm a know-it-all who knows nothing. Help me admit that to myself so that I might know you. I want to live alive to you and what's real and true so that I can order my life in a sane way, a rid myself of this self-destructive dysfunction. Help me to think your thoughts and mute my own. Amen.
“Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” (Luke 8:50)
Luke 8 already displayed Jesus' power over the spiritual forces of demons. Now, we see his power over the natural forces of disease and death. In the woman, we see that just a touch from Jesus is enough to bring healing. In the daughter we see that just a word from is enough to bring life. His presence and power are sufficient to overwhelm those things that most overwhelm us.
What we need most, in our brokenness and frailty, is a real personal encounter with Jesus, where he touches us, speaks to us, and embraces us. And if we really believe his power to minister to our deepest needs, than we'll push through our crowded lives just to get close like the woman. We'll leave everything behind to desperately pursue Jesus and plead with him for the miracle of his touch in the places of where death is closing in. We'll push past every barrier keeping us from Jesus because only Jesus can bring the healing and life that our sin sick lives need.
Let's not settle for anything less than Jesus' touch for our most delicate wounds and Jesus' word for our most deadened places!
A Prayer for Persistence:
Father, I want the life and healing that only Jesus can bring to me. But I get so easily discouraged and distracted. I don't want to push through obstacles and I don't want to leave things behind. I want to hold on to everything and get Jesus as an add-on. Give me the faith and persistence to leave behind things that don't give life, in order to push toward him who creates, sustains, and resurrects life. Help me settle for nothing less personal reality with Jesus. Amen.
And they all ate and were satisfied. (Luke 9:17)
In the beginning of Luke 9, Jesus sends out the 12 apostles in his power and authority to do ministry and proclaim the kingdom of God. But he sends them with little else, because his power in them was sufficient for the task he called them to.
Then we see Jesus take a meager sampling of food and multiply it far beyond the need of 5,000 people so that the disciples could fulfill his command to them, to give the people something to eat.
In both cases the disciples are sent to do something far beyond their natural capacity, something utterly impossible. And in one case Jesus sent them with little and made them reliant on him and others to meet their needs. In the other case he provided abundantly so they could meet the needs of others. In both cases, in lack and in abundance, Jesus was personally involved and more than enough.
Our circumstances and surrounding are always shifting and changing, but when Jesus is with us, we have all we need. And sometimes he positions us to receive from others His provision, and other times he positions us to give to others His provision... in either case, we are joined to his work, living in his grace and beholding his glory.
A Prayer for Contentment:
I'm so discontent and entitled. I overlook and take for granted so much of your gracious provision materially as well as spiritually. Help me to see your abundant kindness and generosity for what it is. That you have called me to yourself and commissioned me to be your ambassador is an incredible grace. Let me be satisfied and nourished by your provision, your very presence and the glorious purposes you have invited me into. Amen.
For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Luke 9:24)
"Who do the crowds say that I am?"
It's a question worth considering. Who do people say Jesus is? Who do the important people in your life say Jesus is? Who do people in the larger social circle of your life say Jesus is? Who do people in the broader culture whom you respect say Jesus is? Everybody believes something about Jesus. It's worth asking them and hearing people's different thoughts and ideas. But far more important is Jesus' second question, and that's...
"Who do you say that I am?"
A shrug of the shoulders won't suffice here. Jesus' own claim is that how you answer this question will determine the course of your whole life and eternity. So, either that's nuts and you can dismiss it, which indicates what you think about Jesus. Or, he's on to something and none of us can afford to have no answer to the question. Who do you say Jesus is? What do you believe about him? About his identity? His character? His life? His work?
If Jesus is who he says he is... if he is God in the flesh... if he is Savior of the World... King of the universe... the one through whom, by whom and for whom all things were made and hold together, then something of our lives should be ordered by that. If that's all true than we can't live as though it's a lie. And Jesus tells us that to live into those claims - as followers of Christ, those who trust him and are submitted to him - will cost us.
Jesus is not selling us an emotionally easy, physically comfortable, or materially affluent life. Jesus is selling us a turbulent, conflicted, selfless life, that willingly and knowingly anticipates difficulty and suffering precisely because we're identified with him. Whatever life of ease we associate with or expect from Jesus has nothing to do with the life Jesus invites us into...
But the life we naturally fight so hard to preserve, Jesus is suggesting, is no life at all. While the struggle and uphill climb he beckons us to join, he says is real life. Jesus is telling us something about life and reality that we have to pay attention to... that no matter how stimulating or even over stimulating life is, if it is without the real Jesus, it's illusory. He's saying that you can gain friends, wealth, accomplishments, pleasures, significance, and much more, but if it is detached from him, than it is only an elaborate distraction from the life you were created for.
On the other hand, if you lose any or all of those things, but are united to the real Jesus, than you have everything. Life contains so many compelling experiences, as well as both competing pleasures or even complimentary pleasures, but Jesus is saying real life is only in him, and any life we're chasing apart from him is fraudulent... it's a ruse. You're either finding life in Jesus or you're settling for non-life.
A Prayer for Knowing the Real Jesus:
Lord, I have all kinds of thoughts and ideas about you and your Son. I have hopes and doubts about who he is. But I ask that you would give me the grace to know Jesus as he really is... not the Jesus other people fashion with their lofty speculations; not the Jesus our culture customizes to fit their sensibiltiies; not the Jesus well-intentioned but steril church culture as framed for me. I don't want a fake life, with a fake god, or fake religion, or a fake faith... I want what is real... the real Jesus, for the real me, and my real need, with a real faith to enter into real life... even if it costs me, would you graciously awaken me to what's real. Amen