Let us pray: Dear Savior, because You’re always there to help us, too often we take You for granted. Too often we neglect talking to You in prayer until something awful occurs. And then we beat a path to Your door. Lord, You tell us to pray without ceasing. To talk to You both in good times and in bad. Today, remind us of the joy that occurs in our lives when we do exactly that. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, WHO HELPS THE HELPLESS
TEXT: Mark 1: 40-45
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
Greetings from sunny, warm Florida! That’s what one of our members who is vacationing there told me to tell you. I called her last Thursday to get an update on her life without snow. Our talk ranged from the weather (naturally) to church news to personal updates and finally we got around to discussing the gyrations of the stock market. This lady is especially interested in the markets as she worked in that field for many years. She knows many big names in the investment industry. And when she told me, “A lot of these people who have had no time for God have been praying lately,” well, I couldn’t help but remark, “I guess they think God is a “bear!” We had a good laugh over that comment.
Is God a “bear” or a “bull?” Is He grouchy and vindictive ushering in tough times, or is He kind and gracious, bringing happiness into people’s lives? The Bible tells us that “God is love.” And in our lesson, we see exactly that as God in the person of Jesus Christ, heals this poor fellow afflicted with leprosy.
Well, all of this got me thinking. And I want to ponder this question today:
IS CHRIST THE LAST RESORT ONLY?
One of the sad facts of our existence is that we take good times for granted. When we’re healthy, gainfully employed, the children are doing well in school, and we can afford that vacation or that new car we get complacent. We start thinking, “I deserve all this. I’ve earned it!” And then naturally our prayer life falls off because we take such blessings for granted. Then, too, why bother to thank God for things that you think you caused via hard work? But, then life catches up. A lengthy illness, a job layoff, out-of-control kids, international terror, or a contraction in the stock market strip away our self-confidence. Suddenly our helplessness is exposed. We don’t know where to turn for help or comfort. And so, people turn to God during such tough times. They pray. They ask Him for help. Or, perhaps they simply ask Christians they know, like you, to put a “good word in with the Big Man up above.”
Does God want us to talk to Him, to pray, when problems abound? Of course! He’s a God for all seasons! In Psalm 50 God says: “Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you and you will glorify Me!” But, we’re also told in the Bible: “Pray without ceasing.” That is, don’t view God as that “bear” who is only important during times of anguish. No, remember Him all the time! Talk to Him all the time. Give thanks for blessings all the time. Of course, because of human pride and apathy, this is easier said than done.
In our lesson Christ has begun His public ministry, His public work of saving souls and helping the helpless—us. He has just finished His famous “Sermon on the Mount” alongside the Sea of Galilee. He has already cast out demons, healed various diseases and generally given people a reason to hope. He has shown them that the spiritual plane of our existence is more vital and important than the physical plane of our existence. He has given them Godly forgiveness and pointed them toward heaven through faith in Him alone.
Right after all this occurs, we’re told: “A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, ‘If you are willing, you can make me clean.’” Leprosy was a vile disease for which there was no cure at that time. It ate away at the body and disfigured horribly until eventually the person would die. Lepers were outcasts of society. They were banned from coming with 50 feet of anyone for fear of spreading their disease. This poor fellow knows he is helpless. And in his day of trouble he risks taunts, anger, and even being stoned to death to fall at Christ’s feet and beg Him, pray to Him, to cleanse his body of leprosy.
Note well the words he uses: “If you are willing, you can make me clean.” From those words it is clear this leper knew Christ had the power to heal. He knows Jesus is either God’s Son or has a special pipeline to the Almighty. Now he begs for Christ to summon up the will to do a miracle. Jesus never turns anyone away. No matter how tired He was, no matter how busy He is, Jesus cares for hurting souls. We see that clearly in our lesson, too. “Filled with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. (See the leper was within arm’s reach, not 50 ft. away.) ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cured.”
For this man Jesus was his last resort. Jesus was his only hope to have a normal life. Jesus was his only hope of ever seeing his family again, since lepers were immediately shunned by all at the unset of their disease. So, yes, Jesus is the Savior of last resort. He’s always there to turn to when things get totally out-of-control in our lives. But, is that all Christ is? Isn’t He also the Savior of first resort? Isn’t He worth knowing and talking to when our lives progress smoothly, too? Doesn’t He deserve thanks for health, wealth, family, friends, and every other blessing? Shouldn’t we “praise God from whom all blessings flow” all the time?
God invested His entire heart, the totality of His love, in Christ His Son. And Jesus took that investment and invested it in us on the cross. He gave His life for ours. He made His love ours. He freely gave us the forgiveness for all sins and the sure promise of heaven when we embrace Him in faith—just as this man did. And in the process, Jesus also gave us the ability to appreciate all those physical blessings like job, good health, loving family and friends, and that whole host of modern gadgets that make life easier today, too. The fellow in our lesson wasn’t an ingrate. He didn’t take this miracle for granted. I seriously doubt that he let apathy rule his later life. In fact, I doubt whether a day went by until his death that he didn’t thank God for his cleansing.
But, what about you? Is Christ only the Savior of last resort for you? Or, is He the Savior of first resort?
We’re told that Christ sent this leper away with a strong warning not to trumpet this miracle. That’s because Jesus didn’t want people to view Him as a mere rabbit’s foot and flock to Him and trample each other over a hand-out. But, or course, the man’s joy knew no bounds. He told everyone anyway. And “as a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.”
You and I don’t have to run around looking for Christ to help us. All we have to do is pray. All we have to do is ask Him. So, just do it! But don’t forget to talk to Him every day when you’re basking in His blessings, too. Don’t forget to say: “thanks!” In short, give Him daily dividends on His investment in you! Yes, Christ is our Savior for all seasons! Amen