Midweek Fellowship – July 20, 2016
Fr. Gary W. Thurman
Last week, Bishop Ariel shared on preparation – getting prepared on what the Lord is about to do; His imminent move. One of the things that he said was, “One way to prepare is to simply continue what you are doing. Continue serving and ministering to the Lord.” The verse that he quoted was: “Occupy until I come,” which is in the King James Version, in the Parable of the Minas where the servants were given different amounts. After the king gave the minas, he told them, “Occupy until I come.” In modern translations, it says, “Do business with these minas until I come.” This helps us better understand: what business? It is Kingdom business; God’s business. In other words: serve the Lord; do business until He comes.
The best way to prepare is fulfilling our ministry, doing our role in ministry in the kingdom of God for the work which God has given us; and in that, there is rest. Rest is not lack of activity. The more inactive you are, the more tired you get. There are chemicals in your body that are released and that provide energy, but they are only released when you are in action. The best way to stay energetic is to be doing something. When you stop doing things, you get bored and lazy; and you just lose all your energy. It is in doing things that we prepare and that we are at rest.
We receive rest through serving the Lord. As we serve the Lord with the peace of the Lord in our hearts, there is preparation that is involved. When we are anxious and worried about things, there is no peace and rest and we lack preparation. True preparation comes in peace and in rest.
When I heard from Bishop Ariel about these two words – preparation and peace – the Scripture that came into my mind was Ephesians 6:15 where Paul was describing the picture of the spiritual armor. He said, “Shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” In the New International Version, it says, “Have your feet fitted with the preparation that comes from the gospel of peace.” Preparation comes through the gospel of peace. Through the gospel of peace, we can prepare for the works of service. We can be prepared even for the ministry that will come. St. Paul says that this is a defence for you. When you prepare for the gospel of peace, it becomes a defence for your very feet.
In Luke 10, both Martha and Mary were preparing. Martha was preparing, but her preparation was in anxiety. She was very busy with the coming of Jesus, and when Jesus came, she was still preparing. She was preparing for something that already happened. In her busyness, there was no peace but anxiety. She was anxious that the Lord would be happy with her service. She was anxious that the Lord would be satisfied and would receive the works she was doing. In that anxiety, she lost her peace.
Mary was sitting there very quiet and very peaceful, but she was also preparing. In Matthew 26, this was the same Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet with the costly perfume. Jesus said, “She has prepared My body for burial.” In Mary’s preparation, there was peace – not anxious, not worried and not fearful. It was in her preparation and lack of striving that she was able to receive peace.
There are a lot of ways to serve the Lord and there are a lot of ways to encounter the Lord. Sometimes, we visit God. Tonight, we have come to God’s house to visit Him and there is a certain amount of preparation that is involved. On Sundays, we even prepare further. On the 31st of July, there will be a big Diocesan event and there is already a lot of preparation going into it.
Sometimes, we visit God; and sometimes, God visits us. When God visits us, we need to learn to relax and let it happen. Let God come and share with us and relax in us. This is where we prepare in peace and prepare in rest. The Lord is there and in that, there is peace. Every day is a daily encounter with the Divine, with God. Christianity is not a one day a week thing. It is not a one day in one week a night thing. Christianity is a daily thing. As God comes and interacts with us, sometimes, we visit Him, but at far more times, He comes and visits us. In those times, there is a divine encounter and daily ministry. Whether we minister to the Lord with our song in our hearts or in our devotion time, or as moved upon by the Holy Spirit, we minister to others and we share His life, His love, His wisdom, His comfort and His encouragement.
In all of these times of service and daily encounters with the Lord, we must be prepared. As Bishop Ariel shared, not all of these encounters and these opportunities for service are spectacular. Sometimes, they are low-key; quiet; but there is still God at work in our lives and Him working through us to minister His life to the world.
Paul told us in Ephesians, “We must shod our feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” What is the purpose for a shoe? Today, you might say it is to get attention, but getting by all that, supposedly, the purpose of the shoe is to facilitate you in your walking and to protect your feet from elements. Your feet are there for the preparation of the gospel of peace. The shoes are there to help you walk in your service of God. Scripture says, “Walk in a manner worthy…” “Walk in obedience to the gospel and to the Lord. “ When St. Paul mentions shoes, he is saying that these are things that will help in your ministry, in your daily encounters with God. What is it that he says is like that shoe? What is that prepares and empowers you for that walk? It is preparation; it is what which gives you the ability to serve the Lord.
The preparation comes from the gospel of peace. In peace, we prepare for those encounters with God. In peace, we prepare for those works of service. The gospel of peace is preparation for ministry. The gospel of peace is the good news that we have peace with God. From Colossians, it says that Christ has reconciled us to God. We are no longer odds with the Lord. We are no longer separated from Him by sin. But now, there is reconciliation and in this, there is peace.
The gospel of peace tells us who God is. We don’t have to be fearful of bad reports. We don’t have to be worried that His kingdom is not going to fail because the gospel of peace tells us that God cannot and will not fail. The gospel of peace tells us that His kingdom is an everlasting Kingdom. The gospel of peace tells us that God is All-powerful and nothing can stand against Him and nothing can separate us from His love. The gospel of peace tells us that God is not angry at us and He has not left us comfortless and He has empowered us to fulfil His purpose in our lives. The gospel of peace tells us that through Him, we shall overwhelmingly conquer. We don’t need to be worried or anxious anymore.
The gospel of peace sets our focus on the right place. It defeats anxiety in our lives if we are going to please Him and be able to serve Him well. When we meditate on the gospel of peace, understand that we are not weak, we are not powerless, but we have been given everything necessary for life and godliness. We have been given exceedingly, abundantly all that we can ask or think for the purpose of serving the Lord and fulfilling His purpose for us.
In God’s rest, we are not striving; we are still working and serving. Psalm 46 says, “Cease striving (be still) and know that I am God.” When we know that He is God, all the negative voices, all the bad reports, all the things that we see with our eyes that disturb us will not affect us anymore. We can cease striving; we can have peace; but these things take some preparation. In peace, we are still and we listen to the Lord.
This is very important in our lives; and as we approach our ministry to the Lord, we prepare through serving God and we continue doing business until He comes. It is in that quietness, in that peace that we are able to prepare. There is no substitute for just being quiet with the Lord, being peaceful and listening to Him. We may want to jump, to shout and to praise the Lord, but the preparation for this is silence, quietness and focus upon the peace of God which passes all understanding.
Not a lot of people understand this today. In society today, we prepare in different ways. A profession football player prepares for intense action for a game not just sitting on the locker room, but by beating their heads against the wall with or without the helmet. They also scream and shout. We prepare for service for God by preparation of peace. It is learning to relax before the Lord and in this time that we set aside our worries and our anxieties and concerns, this is when the Lord speaks to us and sets us free. The best way to relax is to find a nice, lonely place and empty our thoughts and letting the Lord speak to us. We need to relax in the Spirit.
Some people say that their way of relaxing is playing video games. In my observation, it is otherwise. They scream and shout and holler and if this is the way they are relaxed, I hate to see them uptight. It is hard to prepare for peace in this situation. One practical 101 tip, the best way in preparing whether it is for your ministry at work, sharing with your officemates, or when it is ministry for Wednesday nights in the band, choir or the movement, is to be in peace.
Isaiah 30:15 is the basis for the song, “Still”. Actually, when the song “Still” came out, I publicly said that I don’t like this song because the first verse says about hiding under God’s wings. I said, “Why should we hide?” The Church has been hiding for too long already and the Church should come out. In the second verse, why should we ask the Lord to cover us as we have been undercovered already more than James Bond? When I passed those two lines, I said that song is really nice. It is Scripture and what is wrong with it? It is talking about being still and knowing that the Lord is God. In that, we can soar above the storm, be the storm be loud and boisterous and dangerous and be still.
Isaiah 30:15 says, “For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel said, ‘In repentance and rest, you shall be saved; in quietness and trust, is your strength.’” Rest is being active in the work of the ministry. It is not being anxious over things but finding rest in that private place with God. “In quietness and trust is your strength.” More and more public buses have either television or radios and sometimes, both are going on at the same time. I usually ride these going to Church very early in the morning and it is very difficult for me to find the quietness that I so look for. It is getting harder and harder for me to be find quietness anywhere in the world, and yet the Lord says, “In quietness and trust, you find your strength.”
It is in that quiet, private place with God that you can really find your focus and His heart for you for that moment. You can find the direction for the ministry which you are preparing for the gospel of peace. You can tell people who have spent time in peace and in quietness and in trust before the Lord because they are focused on the Lord when they minister. Their heart says, “Lord, You brought me to that secret place. I want to share with You. I want to fellowship with You.”
In the Church that I grew up, there was a young couple in their early twenties and what they did was the strangest thing that I have ever seen. Whenever there was worship in the Church, they wouldn’t face the front or close their eyes or raise their hands. They would face each other and they would sing to each other. Literally, they were each other’s focus and that was the creepiest thing that I have each seen. After two or three months, the couple disappeared and we didn’t see them anymore.
When we are prepared, our focus is where it belongs – to the Lord and in that we hear His voice. In that, we receive His direction. In that, we are prepared for works of service. In that, we are prepared for the great things that the Lord is bringing to us.
Don’t neglect the quiet time with the Lord. Don’t neglect the gospel of peace. Don’t neglect listening to the Lord and reminding yourself to focus on all of His benefits and all that He has done for you. In that quietness and in that peace, prepare for the ministry that God would do through you that very day that He spoke to you.