In Matthew 18 the disciples had just asked Jesus who would be the greatest person in heaven. They were hoping that he would choose one of them but verse 4 says, The greatest person in the kingdom of heaven is the one who makes himself humble like this child. This is another example of God's upside down economy. You need to be humble to be great. Little children are humble by nature. They are teachable and completely reliant on others. We should trust in, and rely on God, just like a little child relies on its parents for everything it needs. If you live like a little child with complete trust in God, you will be great in the kingdom of heaven.
In Matthew 17 the disciples had tried to cast an evil spirit from a demon-possessed boy, but it wouldn't come out. When they asked Jesus why, he told them it was because of their lack of faith. In fact, he got quite frustrated with them and said, You people have no faith. Your lives are all wrong. How long must I stay with you? How long must I continue to be patient with you? In verse 20 he explained, You were not able to drive out the demon because your faith is too small. I tell you the truth. If your faith is as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there.’ And the mountain will move. All things will be possible for you (ICB).
So, what is faith? According to Hebrews 11:1, Faith means being sure of the things we hope for. And faith means knowing that something is real even if we do not see it. Visualising your goals has become very popular in secular thinking recently. It's a bit like faith except that visualising is believing in your own abilities and faith is believing in God's ability.
Have big faith - the God you serve is the same God who created the universe, parted the sea so that the Israelites could escape the Egyptians, tore down the wall of Jericho, saved Daniel in the lion's den and saved Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the furnace.
Towards the end of Jesus' ministry he told his disciples, If any of you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, carry your cross, and follow me. Our human nature wants us to please ourselves, not deny ourselves. Once again, God's kingdom is the complete opposite of the world. You don't literally have to carry a cross but you have to sacrifice your own desires to do what Jesus would do instead. For example, instead of selfishly spending all of your money on yourself, you need to help those in need and share it with others. Instead of using bad language like many others at school, you need to speak things that are holy, good and uplifting. These are not really big sacrifices considering that Jesus sacrificed his like for you.
When someone was crucified in New Testament times, part of the sentence was to carry their cross through the town. Not only was this difficult, it was also shameful. Often we feel ashamed or embarrassed about being a Christian because it means we don't fit in with our non-christian friends. Hebrews 12:2 says, But he accepted the shame of the cross as if it were nothing. He did this because of the joy that God put before him. We should accept any shame for being a follower of Jesus because of the joy we will experience when we spend eternity with him.
For more information on the 'follow me' part of this verse, see the devotion on 18th May 2021.
Jesus said this several times to the disciples but on this occasion in Matthew 14 it was when Jesus walked on the water. When the disciples saw him they were terrified because they thought he was a ghost. Then Peter asked if he could walk on water too. Jesus said "sure, come on," so Peter got out of the boat and started walking on water too. He was doing great until he took his eyes off Jesus and looked at the wind and the waves then started sinking. Jesus said, "Your faith is small. Why did you doubt?" I found it interesting that Jesus never told Peter to get out of the boat, it was Peter's idea. Initially he had faith, then he got distracted and started to doubt and fear.
What is your walking on water experience? What did you want to do for him until you thought about the logistics? What passion did you have until you were crippled by self doubt and fear of failure? What project has God put on your heart that you forgot about because you got busy and distracted? It doesn't have to be something big - it could be a weekly prayer meeting with some Christian friends, a blog sharing your faith journey, volunteering at kids church, writing some music for God...
I started this blog nearly five years ago because God put it on my heart. I had feelings of self-doubt, a bad case of imposter syndrome and was afraid of failing. But I kept my eyes on Jesus and not on the doubts and fears. I have just finished writing a book that will hopefully be printed by October this year. I have constantly had to keep my eyes on Jesus though that process. The waves of insecurity, self-doubt and fear of failure continue to roll around me but I'm keeping my eyes on him!
This might seem a random verse to pick, but let me explain. Thousands of people had followed Jesus to hear his teaching. When it was getting late the disciples told Jesus to send the people away so they could go to the surrounding towns to get some food (they were in the countryside). Instead, Jesus told the disciples to feed the crowd. They found five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus told the disciples to bring the food to him. Spoiler alert - Jesus said grace, divided the bread and fish up and fed more than 5000 people with it. Then the disciples collected twelve baskets of leftovers.
I chose verse 18 to reflect on this week because I believe that Jesus asks us to give him what we have, just like he asked the disciples to give him what they had. This works on several levels:
CHALLENGE: What gifts and talents could you use for Jesus?
Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees in Matthew 12. Verses 34-37 he told them, You snakes! You are evil people! How can you say anything good? The mouth speaks the things that are in the heart. A good person has good things in his heart. And so he speaks the good things that come from his heart. But an evil person has evil in his heart. So he speaks the evil things that come from his heart. And I tell you that people will have to explain about every careless thing they have said. This will happen on the Judgment Day. The words you have said will be used to judge you. Some of your words will prove you right, but some of your words will prove you guilty.
This is a sobering thought. On judgement day when Jesus comes again, we will be judged on the words we have said. I don’t know about you, but I have said some things I’ve regretted in my lifetime. The reason God judges our words is because they come from our heart. So our words are evidence of whether our hearts are good or bad.
The good news is, that if we confess our sin to God, he forgives us. Even better than that, he forgets about it. We need to ask God to forgive us for when we have said things that are:
What things have you said recently that you need to ask forgiveness for?
Is your heart good or bad? In Psalm 51 King David asked God to "create a clean heart in me" - perhaps you need to ask God to do the same for you.
Living in the 21st Century can make you tired and worn out.
Some of the struggles or burdens include:
We were never designed to live like this. Matthew 11:28-29 says, If you are tired from carrying heavy burdens, come to me and I will give you rest. Take the yoke I give you. Put it on your shoulders and learn from me. I am gentle and humble, and you will find rest. According to the Collins dictionary, a yoke is "a long piece of wood which is tied across the necks of two animals such as oxen, in order to make them walk close together when they are pulling a plough." Jesus was telling us that he will help carry our burdens if we walk closely to him. Life is hard if we try to do it in our own strength, but if we walk in step with Jesus, we will find rest. We find this rest by reading his Word (the Bible) and meditating on it, and talking to him in prayer.
If you are struggling, go to Jesus and he will give you rest.
In Matthew 10:42 Jesus said, if you give even a cup of cold water to one of the least of my followers, you will surely be rewarded. When you do something good or kind to one of Jesus' followers, it is as though you are doing it for Jesus. I think this applies to everyone because Jesus loves everyone. We shouldn't just be kind to the people we like, we should be kind to "the least," the unpopular, difficult, and prickly people.
Giving someone a drink of water is a small gesture - it doesn't really cost you anything. Jesus is implying that if the smallest act of kindness doesn't go unnoticed, how much more will the generous acts of kindness be rewarded. You might not have the resources to give generously but Jesus said the small acts of kindness are important too.
What random acts of kindness can you perform today?
In Matthew 10:32 Jesus said, Those who declare publicly that they belong to me, I will do the same for them before my Father in heaven. In verse 33 he went on to say, but those who reject me publicly, I will reject before my Father in heaven. That's pretty heavy stuff. When you read these verses in context you see that Jesus had just spent the previous 31 verses sending the disciples out to spread the Good News and warning them that they would be persecuted, sometimes even by family members. Verse 22 says, Everyone will hate you because of me.
The early church faced huge persecution from the Jews and Romans. Christians were beaten, imprisoned and killed for their faith. In Australia you might be ridiculed for your faith but you're not likely to lose your life for it. There are countries around the world where it is illegal to become a Christian. Ironically, the church is growing in these countries at an astounding rate.
It's not all doom and gloom though - Jesus also encouraged the disciples with these statements in Chapter ten:
If you ask God to show you opportunities to share his Good News, you will find that there are people around you who have questions and are interested in hearing more about your faith. Don't stress about not having all the answers - if they ask a curly question you don't know the answer to you can tell them you'll get back to them when you have more information. God will also help you to know what to say.
Short and sweet inspirations for Christian teen girls.