Always Learning

Mark 8:1-4  In those days, the multitude being very great and having nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said to them, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And if I send them away hungry to their own houses, they will faint on the way; for some of them have come from afar.” Then His disciples answered Him, “How can one satisfy these people with bread here in the wilderness?”

This is the second time this has happened.  How remarkable is it that once again a multitude is with Jesus, but nobody has brought food … and how much more remarkable the reaction of the disciples? How could they have not learned from the first time when Jesus fed the thousands with a few loaves of bread and a few fish? Were they just that dense? Or could it be that they thought they had it all figured out? It was probably a combination of those things. And we should be honest with ourselves. We cannot point fingers at the disciples without a few pointing back at us. Each of us has moments where we choose to rely on what we can understand and our understanding of a situation is usually based on our own abilities.

My wife handed me a jar of pickles that she wanted open. I wanted to prove my manhood by cracking that jar open with one quick twist of the lid. It didn’t happen that way.  In fact, after a few minutes of red-faced straining, I gave up and declared, “This jar will never open. It’s impossible.” Was that true? Of course not. Someone bigger and buffer, could have opened that jar.

Maybe an illustration using a jar of pickles falls short, but the point is this … those life situations where you feel it would take a miracle? It’s a good thing our God is bigger … right on?

Philippians 4:13 (NLT) For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.

It’s so hard for us to, as the saying goes, “Let go and let God.” But the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Faith is like a muscle that becomes stronger the more you exercise it. The first time you take a step of faith, you might look over your shoulder and expect it all to crash. But God proves Himself strong. The next time you take a step of faith your not as tentative about it. Finally, after many times, it’s second nature.

I think of Moses and the first time he threw down his rod and it became a serpent. I’m sure he was thinking, okay God, I’m going to look pretty stupid here if You don’t make this happen. Then over and over he went before the Pharaoh talking about – not plagues that God had sent – but plagues that God would send. Those steps of faith finally culminated with Israel trapped between the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army.

That’s when Moses said to the congregation of Israel:

Exodus 14:13 (NKJV) “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever.

And God divided that sea so that Israel crossed on dry ground, but when Pharaoh and his armies pursued them, the sea fell in and destroyed them.

Over and over God had proven Himself faithful and so Moses had the faith to claim that God would do the impossible. But what if Moses had given in to his own understanding of how things work? Everyone knows that seas don’t divide themselves. Yet God works outside of what we consider possible and impossible … He’s not contained or constrained by the boundaries we set. Had Moses allowed his own understanding of how things work to trump what God told Him would happen, things would have turned out much differently. In our current study of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus has been doing a lot with the faith of people.

The thing is that if we think we have it all figured out, then when Jesus wants to stretch our faith … we’ll probably shrug it off and walk away. Remain teachable.

In the latter days of his life, Michelangelo scribbled this phrase into the margin of one of his drawings … Ancora Imparo, which means “I am still learning.” As creative and skillful as this man was, his art was so masterful because he remained open to learning.

There are Christians out there who have convinced themselves that they know how everything works, and they are not growing because their faith in what they understand and not what God can do. The inability to be taught or refusal to learn will become a weight that will drag you down and frustrate your Christian walk.

Remain teachable.

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