86. And when He had come into the house, His disciples asked Him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” So He said to them, “This kind can come out by nothing but prayer and fasting.” -Mark 9:28-29 Context: Mark 9:14-29
Christian, as much as you and I want to help others, there are going to be situations that we will not be able to fix by our own efforts. Of course God always can heal and fix broken situations, so we always need to make our main ministry for people that of intense prayer. This is not a cop out. An example would be for parents of a young adult who see their child making all the wrong decisions despite the parent’s warnings. But in hardness of heart the young person goes right on sinning, and for the parent to constantly bring it up may mean the loss of the relationship, In such a situation the parent should keep on loving the child and keep the relationship going, all the while intensely praying and fasting for their child. Jesus can heal when all of our efforts have failed!
87. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” -Mark 9:35 Context: Mark 9:33-37
Being a faithful disciple of Jesus Christ means viewing yourself as His servant and the servant of a world in need. People who refuse to meet needs they see are not committed servants but immature Christians, if they are Christians at all. But servanthood takes humility. As I was writing this I was interrupted by a call from a Christian brother of mine who is in a wheelchair. He needed somebody to come and empty his bag and prepare his lunch because his help had failed to show up. My first thought was to grumble about this assignment, but it is exactly what God wants me to do right now, at this very point of the day. So I’ll be back in a while because the Master has given me an opportunity to practice what I preach! Jesus redirected His disciples that day. They were arguing about which was the greatest. He told them what Heaven thinks – the greatest disciples are the ones who serve in Jesus’ name!
Postscript – I originally wrote that many years ago, and that dear brother is now in Heaven. There were many opportunities over the years to minister to him as unto Christ, like Jesus said in Matthew 25, “In as much as you’ve done it unto the least of these my brethren, you’ve done it unto Me.” Funny thing though, I know I received more in prayer support from my dear brother over the years than any physical support I gave him.
88. “Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.” -Mark 9:37 Context: Mark 9:33-37
I had a wonderful time serving my friend in the wheelchair that day. I always got more out of our times together than I gave. He had so much wisdom to share and loves to share it with boneheads like me. Jesus made thing so simple. To Him it was always about people. We are to do what He did – love and serve people. Here Jesus says believers should always receive children in His name. All around us families are asking for help, and wild children are looking for guidance. Let’s commit to looking after all the ones we can for Jesus’ glory, okay? As a Pastor I have noticed the most unhappy people in the church are often people who don’t have any connection to children in the church. Their own kids and grandkids either don’t go to church or go elsewhere, and they have not found ways to interact with children at the church. I have seen some of these grumpy people transformed into more joyful people when they found ways to interact with children in the church or one of the children’s outreach ministries. In a very real way, being involved with the next generation helps us receive Heaven’s smile, as Jesus indicates here!
89. “For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Christ, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward. But whoever causes one of these little ones to stumble, it would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck, and he were thrown into the sea.” -Mark 9:41-42 Context: Mark 9:38-42
Brothers and sisters in Christ, always be on the lookout for opportunities to bless other Christians. The key here is to help meet their pressing needs. And even as you meet their physical needs give them spiritual encouragement. How sad it is that some young people only receive negative words and looks from some churchgoers. Here Jesus says you will receive a reward for building up others in the body of Christ! But He also says you’ll be in real trouble with Heaven if you make the little ones stumble! Little ones here includes not only children, but is also clearly a reference to growing disciples of all ages who have a need. Paul later gives the weaker brother principle in Romans 14. He anticipates that mature believers will not be easily offended or guarding their turf in the church, but will be looking for ways to minister to weaker brothers in the church. Sometimes that involves ministry to children, others times to new Christians, other times helping those who have an overwhelming temporary need, such as those experiencing loss or persecution. Make sure your actions will be rewarded by Heaven!
90. “Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.” -Mark 9:50 Context: Mark 9:43-50
While you are watching out for others, be reminded that you will lose all your credibility and people will mock you if you are not a living example of the difference that Jesus makes. Be careful little eyes what you see. Be careful little ears what you hear. Be careful little feet where you go. Some visual media needs to remain off limits for you as a believer. Some music needs to be off limits for you as a believer. Some places you used to go need to be shunned now, especially if you would go by yourself and not with other believers. The Proverb is as necessary today as it was 3,000 years ago: “Guard your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” But it’s not just what you keep out of your head and heart, but what you put in. A recent study showed young people spend 200 minutes a day on their phone, but only 3% read the Bible daily. Many times those of us who are older don’ fare much better. Let me challenge you to “salt up your life” by getting back into the Bible yourself and with others!