Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.
These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. (Mark 6:6b-9)
Isn’t it crazy that Jesus sent out his disciples without any food or money! It’s something that is hard to imitate today. I can’t imagine going somewhere and not having a way to get myself food, not having a place to sleep, not having something clean to change into.
But that’s how Jesus sent out his disciples to spread the word. This challenges me. Why would he do that? I think the reason has to be because he wanted them to be totally reliant on God. In order for them to be successful, they would need to totally look to God, and not to their own resources and power.
In one of my last blogs, I talked about how I’ve been envisioning myself taking a road trip with God. I realized yesterday why picturing this has been so helpful to me. It’s because when I picture myself on a road trip with God, I’m not longer the sole driver. I have to take my hands off of the wheel. Before, it was about my agenda. I decided the destination and got bent out of shape if anything got in the way of my getting there. Now, God’s riding with me, and he has power over our journey. And I trust him, so if there is an obstacle, we deal with it together.
And that is what Jesus was trying to get his disciples to see when he sent them out. They were taking a trip, they were performing a mission with God. If Jesus had given them provisions, they might have been tempted to rely on them. In a sense, they would have had their hands on the wheel.
Does this sound far fetched? Just last night I was talking to a friend who is fasting one day a week. That is hard! But she told me it keeps her from getting comfortable, and she knows when she is comfortable, she is dragged down spiritually.
Comfort can keep us from relying on God. Yesterday, Ken told me about a sermon he heard about the verse, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” Ken said that one reason this message really struck him is that the speaker talked about how we don’t realize what poverty is. In many parts of the world there are starving emaciated people begging on the street corners. They are desperate, entirely dependent on whether someone will provide for their next mouthful of food.
And Jesus says people who are spiritually poor like this are blessed? Yes! They are blessed because they are just as needy as the beggars, and when they see their need, they will rely on God.
We all need to realize how much we are beggars, how emaciated we are, how much we need God to fill our needs and take care of our future. And as I was thinking of my life and the things around me, I began to see how true this is. I have goals I want to accomplish, people I want to help, but there are so many obstacles in the way. We want our church to grow, and our satellite ministries to grow, but so much needs to take place for this to happen. We are going to lose three of our singles, and our singles ministry will need a shot in the arm. Our Auburn campus ministry has dwindled. My children have some challenging situations going on. I have health challenges. I need so much wisdom, and guidance and strength and divine intervention!
I am totally poor in spirit!
When we realize that the goal is being poor in spirit, it makes sense to take away some of our crutches and comforts so we will rely on God more.
Ken and I have been watching this reality series, “Pioneer Quest: A Year in the Real West.” It’s about two couples who live for a year like 1970’s settlers in Canada. They travel to a remote location in a wagon. They have to grow crops and break up the ground with horses and an antique plow. They have to cut down trees and build their own houses with the same tools the settlers used. They are not allowed to have or use anything from our modern time.
This would not be me! But these couples wanted to get away from the world and return to a more simple life. They recognized the value of giving up comfort. And they were willing to do this at the price of undergoing great challenges. And believe me, there were great challenges!
And do you know what it reminds me of, in a way? How Ken and I moved to Auburn, to this small church here. We left our big comfortable church and came down to a place where we would have to work, but we felt that the value of going back to simply and totally serving God would be worth it! And there have been great challenges, but it has been worth it many times over.
We’ve been poor in spirit, and we’ve had to rely on God many times. And each time he has gotten us through, and provided for us. That fills my heart to overflowing.
Going back to the passage about Jesus sending out the disciples, as I thought about it, it occurred to me that Jesus did give the disciples one thing to take with them. He gave them a partner. He didn’t send them out alone.
The same is true for us. God gives us spiritual partners, people who are there to keep us strong on the journey. He doesn’t send us out alone.
In The Pioneers, I think that the success of the endeavor was due, more than anything else, to their strong marriages. They relied on each other. They laughed when there were hardships. They helped each other instead of tearing each other down.
We need each other so much to have success in our endeavors. We need them for strength through the journey. That’s the way we’re going to make it through.
This past Sunday we had a time of encouragement at the beginning of our worship service. People shared about someone they appreciate. One young man who has been visiting church told about how some other young people had fed him dinner, build a friendship with him and really encouraged him. My friend Antoinette shared how an older couple had reached out to her and had her into their house, and when she talked about how much it meant to her, that touched the woman she was sharing about so much that she started to cry.
And then one of our members in Montgomery, Tre, started to share about me. I wondered what he could have to say. But then he started talking about a a working mom in his group who had been going through some challenging times, and how I had gone out to babysit, and been a support to her. He was so grateful.
That really impacted me. I think I just do a little serving here and there. But I see that our acts of service impact others in a huge way. They help people know that they’re not going through things alone.
So let’s be pioneers for Christ! Jesus is sending us out. Let us become poor and needy before God, and rely on him to build our lives and our ministry. Let us set aside comfort and do the hard work that is worth it!
God will give us what we need, and a good part of that is in one another.