Show Us A Sign

Thousands upon thousands of people had just been fed with five loaves and two fish. Every man, woman, and child had had their physical appetite met by a miraculous act of God the Father’s provision through His Son Jesus (John 6:1-14). They were hungry, away from home, listening to and learning from the man who did miracles all throughout their region. Then, God provided. Miraculously provided.

The crowds crossed the sea to Capernaum in order to continue following Jesus. Scripture says that they knew Jesus did not cross the sea with the disciples (John 6:22), yet they found him outside of Capernaum when they crossed the sea. The disciples even saw Jesus walk upon the water.

The miracle-worker was still at work. Thousands fed with one boy’s lunch. A sea crossed on foot.

Jesus sees the crowds and makes the bold proclamation that He is in fact the one who brings eternal life, and that the miracles He has been doing are to point the crowds to God (John 6:29).

Then comes the craziest verse ever.

So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?” – John 6:30

This is not a new crowd of people who say this to him. These are the people who were just fed miraculously, and who just deduced that Jesus did not take a boat to cross the sea yet still made it to the other side. This crowd had seen something amazing. We read the Bible with a background in church and this stuff doesn’t awe us or terrify us anymore. But think about it! JESUS FED THOUSANDS WITH ONE LITTLE MEAL. That would be like me going to the middle of Vernon with a Lunchable and calling everyone in town to come be fed, feeding everyone in town with my ham and cheese cracker stacks. Preposterous. Amazing.

Yet with this having happened just the day before, the crowds asked for a sign that Jesus was from heaven.

Doofuses.

Yet, if we’re being honest, we can be doofuses too.

I saw God miraculously move in the lives of so many students this week, drawing them to salvation and renewed commitment to Him. Here I sit just three days later and I can feel the icy tentacles on my mind trying to convince me that God’s power stayed at Camp Chaparral. God did the miraculous and yet here I am asking for a sign.

This theme of questioning God despite the miraculous is all over Scripture.

This afternoon on my day off I was reading through part of Genesis. In Genesis 14, Lot (Abram’s nephew) is captured by a coalition of five kings. Abram brings 318 men with him, fighting back and overcoming these kings, rescuing Lot, and achieving the spoils of war.

After this miraculous victory, Abram says the following:

I have sworn to the Lord God Most High, possessor of heaven and earth – Genesis 14:22b

Abram is swearing about something in this verse that isn’t all that important to the point I’m trying to make, what I want you to notice is that Abram is acknowledging that the God who appeared to him two chapters prior is the Lord God Most High, the possessor of heaven and earth. Abram knows that victory came at the hand of God, not at the hand of Abram.

Fast-forward one chapter.

I’m not an Old Testament scholar so I don’t know exactly how much time has passed between the two chapters, but God here appears to Abram and promises him a son, an heir.

Then comes the crazy stuff.

And He (God) said to him, “I am the Lord who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess it.” He said, “O Lord God, how may I know that I will possess it?” – Genesis 15:7-8

God promises him a son and land to possess.

Abram responds by questioning how he will know this will take place.

Maybe I’m reaching, I acknowledge that I could be wrong here. But it fascinates me nonetheless that Abram asks God more or less for a sign that He will be faithful.

Wouldn’t the military victory brought about in the previous chapter be that sign? Five kings against 318 men, and God gave victory to Abram.

Regardless of whether or not I’m reading too much into the story, the principle is true in my life.

I question God’s ability to provide and protect, right on the heels of Him showing me the miraculous.

Do you believe the promises of God? Have you seen the miraculous? If you have, are you all in with the Lord? Have you abandoned your own desires for the cause of Christ? Or are you asking for another sign?

If you are a follower of Jesus, then God has done the miraculous in your life.

Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins. – John 8:24

Here Jesus is saying to the crowds that if they don’t believe that He is the Messiah they will die in their sins. This doesn’t sound miraculous. But think about it inversely.

The fact that you have put your faith in Jesus, and thus have life instead of the death you deserve, is MIRACULOUS.

Acts 17:25 says that God supplies us with life, breath, and everything else.

Each day is a miracle.

Are you trusting in the character of God or are you coming off a miracle asking for a sign?

In His Name,

Nate Roach

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Malnourished

Fast_food_meal.jpgI’m not the most healthy or disciplined guy. Those who know me are not surprised by that statement. My fiancé Jamie (that’s the first time I’ve been able to say that. So cool.) has been encouraging me to do better in that department. The girl has this well-oiled evening routine every night as she gets ready for bed. I just watch TV or read until I can’t stay awake and just conk out. I do run from time to time, and I’m making progress (albeit very slow) towards eating better than I used to. Jamie encourages me to cook my own meals instead of purchasing fast food or something like that.

When I’ve followed her advice, I have felt so much better. There’s something about cooking your own meal and going for a run that relieves stress and makes you feel better about your life. There’s something far more restful about going to sleep devoid of screens and distractions, instead thinking about the Lord and what He has been doing.

There is benefit to discipline. There is usefulness to exercise, eating healthy, a bedtime routine, and periods of screen-less time. But there is a type of discipline that is even greater, a type of discipline that yields even greater rewards. Look with me at a passage from 1 Timothy.

For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come. This is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance. That is why we labor and strive, because we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of all people, and especially of those who believe. – 1 Timothy 4:8-10

Rewind to my time at OBU, and this is a topic I taught on at OBU’s Men’s Ministry. Now, I definitely did teach it with my heart in the right place, but there was an aspect of me that felt like I had it made in this department of my life already. I took this passage to the extreme and felt that as long as I was studying the Bible and learning more about His Word, then I was a disciplined man. I was wrong on two accounts.

First, Paul tells Timothy that physical training does indeed have value. I knew I needed to eat better and exercise more, but I traded those things in for Bible study and the like. I neglected physical discipline. I neglected fighting the sin of slothfulness. I neglected fighting the sins of gluttony and laziness. I’m not saying that not exercising or not eating healthy is explicitly sinful. Rather, I’m saying that for me those were a neglect of God’s gift of my life and health.

The second way I was wrong about my state of self-discipline is in the fact that my spiritual health was focused on one thing: the study of Scripture. To this day my favorite thing to do is to study God’s Word via commentaries, books on theology, Bible studies, or podcasts. That being said however, I have noticed recently how unhealthy my spiritual life has become due to that fact. Now I’m not a big weightlifter, but if you work just one type of muscle every single day you’re in the gym, neglecting the other muscle types, you’re going to likely be a bit unhealthy. And you’ll likely look really weird too.

The same goes for me in my walk with God. I’m prone to dive into studying Scripture, but if I’m not worshipping, praying, fasting, communing with others, or serving, I’m going to be one unhealthy Christian. My mind will be full of great truth, Biblical knowledge, deep understanding of Scripture, but I won’t know how to commune with God or others. That’s deeply problematic. I need every discipline to have a healthy spiritual life, a healthy walk with God, and a healthy walk with my church community.

I was wrong back then about my discipline.

I am not naive to my areas of spiritual malnourishment in the present day either.

I want to focus on one more aspect of this passage.

Paul describes this process with the language of laboring and striving. It takes effort. It takes dedication. This is true of any discipline. That’s why I’ve never actually made it to a half-marathon. At least once a year I fall short in this goal and this desire because I’m just simply not dedicated enough to keep getting up in the morning to run before work. It takes more effort to make food at home then to pick up some Chick-Fil-A. It takes more effort to follow an evening routing and put up our phones rather than just watch TV till our eyes born.

Effort. Laboring. Striving.

The same is true of our spiritual discipline. Here’s where it gets super cool to me though. Paul says that we labor and strive because we have put our hope in the Savior of our souls.

For me, partaking in spiritual disciplines reminds me that I don’t have the strength to do that very thing without the grace of God at work in my life. Every time I spend time studying God’s Word, or in prayer, or in church community, or in rest, I am reminded of God’s grace and I give thanks that God would lead me closer to Himself. The only way I’m able to labor and strive after Jesus is because Jesus has given me the grace to labor and strive.

I’ll close with this great quote by Richard Foster.

A spiritual discipline is an intentionally directed action which places us in a position to receive from God the power to do what we cannot accomplish on our own. 

It takes effort to be healthy, active, and properly nourished physically.

It takes effort to chase after Christ through the practice of spiritual disciplines. But it is worth it.

What are some of the reasons you grow undisciplined spiritually?

What spiritual discipline do you need to focus more on this week, and what can you do practically to grow in it?

Labor and strive, secure in the hope of Jesus.

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In His Name,

Nathan Roach.