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Displaying items by tag: Christ
Monday, 06 September 2010 08:28

Side-Stepping Popularity

John chapter 6 contains the well known account of Jesus feeding the 5000. This amazing story demonstrates that Jesus as God has the ability to create something from nothing. In other, more fancy words, Jesus has the power to create ex nihilo. He has the ability to bring atoms into existence and fashion them together to form real objects. All without touching them. His command, His will, His word is enough that nature follows.

Likewise, just after the account of the Feeding of the 5000, John's Gospel then provides the account of Jesus walking on water. This is another example of His divine capabilities as His will causes nature to be rearranged so that normal properties of water are changed and He is able to walk upon it.

While these are amazing feats of awesome command, I want to highlight a side comment made my John in 6:15--"So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone."

What I find convicting about this verse is the clear principle that not all popularity is good, right or rightly motivated. In this situation, the people wanted to make Jesus their King. To my fleshly mind that sounds like a complete success for His objectives--finally, He's demonstrated His truth and power and the people have seen and believed. They have turned to Him in droves. They are ready for their King Messiah. Quite possibly, His number of supporters has now outweighed His detractors. You would think that Jesus is ready to take Airforce One and land on the aircraft carrier triumphantly declaring "Mission Accomplished!"

But that's not what Jesus did. Instead, He withdrew from them and went to the mountains to be alone. Fascinating. What did He do? Well, we can gather from other passages that at times such as this, Jesus withdrew to be alone to pray. To be alone to seek God, to commune with Him, to maintain fellowship with Him and His divine will. Had Jesus not done this, the whole atonement/redemption of humanity would have been lost. God's divine plan and purpose for the life of Christ did not include of brief hiatus of kingship on that side of the cross.

You see, there are times when popularity is not a good thing. There are times when God's will is not that we are well received or well regarded by the general populous. There are times that accolades and praises are actually put in the hearts and mouths of people as a tool of Satan to tempt and deceive us. There are times that giving into to the will of the people is turning away from the will of God. Yikes, that is shuddering, especially for pastors.

I often wonder why God grants success to some pastors and not to others. I think these principles about popularity have something to do with it. On the one hand, there are charlatans who have so manufactured success that they are far from the will and blessing of God. And on the other hand, there are pastors who have followed Christ so purely that they have kept away from people-pleasing and thus their ministries are relatively small. But in between these two groups is (what I suspect) the largest group. This middle group is full of pastors like me--pastors who are still learning these principles of popularity and success.

I think that the pastorate is rife with men who need to learn when success is valid or when it is invalid and I have a hunch that one of the most pivotal reasons why God has not given them success is because they are still developing the proper wisdom and discernment to know when to walk away from the crowds. Because their own convictions and reasoning is so easily led astray, and not yet fully and steadily trained on the absolute will of God, God has not (indeed CANNOT) grant them success, for success would lead them away from the work He has called them to do. 

Now of course, I'm not saying this as one who has mastered it, but rather one who is still learning to not interpret the applause as synonymous with success, to break away from the people and to meet with God and be sure that His will is being done, rather than the people's will.

Just some thoughts, I'd love to hear some of yours...

Blessings to you!
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