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Focus & Persist With Urgency

February 4, 2012

Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, `A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, `Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened
. (Luke 11:5-10 NLT)

Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre and Sidon. A Gentile woman who lived there came to him, pleading, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! For my daughter is possessed by a demon that torments her severely.”
But Jesus gave her no reply, not even a word. Then his disciples urged him to send her away. “Tell her to go away,” they said. “She is bothering us with all her begging.”
Then Jesus said to the woman, “I was sent only to help God’s lost sheep—the people of Israel.”
But she came and worshiped him, pleading again, “Lord, help me!”
Jesus responded, “It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”
She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even dogs are allowed to eat the scraps that fall beneath their masters’ table.”
“Dear woman,” Jesus said to her, “your faith is great. Your request is granted.” And her daughter was instantly healed.
(Matthew 15:21-28 NLT)

Persist with a sense of urgency. The parable denotes how we should persist in prayer. The real life event describes a woman who wouldn’t take no for an answer from The One who could heal her daughter.

I find that I either drop the subject with Jesus too soon, or I never start the conversation with Him at all. And, when I do converse with Him it is not with the sense of urgency that either of these above installments describe. What does that say about me? What does that say about my belief in Him? I guess it is selective at best – which frustrates me about myself. I have watched Jesus do amazing, life changing things in my life and those around me as well. However, I am quick to forget…which mainly just makes me human. But now, I’m empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit – and I shouldn’t forget so easily!

I’m reminded again this morning that:

  •  I must focus on Him – fix my eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of my faith; strip away all that easily entangles me so that I might run the race of life well. This race is not a sprint and then done…with rest/relaxation at the end. It is a ultra-marathon that I am both training for and running at the same time (It is all on the job training!!).
  • I am weak, but He is strong. Again, where is my focus? Is it on my weakness? Or is it on Him? When focused on Him, my weaknesses don’t go away, but they are no longer my focus. AND, His strength is made perfect in (my) weakness. Bonus!!
  • Apart from Him, I can do nothing.

Both of the passages above deal with relationship strength. The parable says that the asker and the askee are friends. The real event describes Jesus coming (initially) for the Jews not the Gentiles, so…sorry, no healing for you. But – the friend and the woman both were fixed on the fact that they knew they were talking to the right person who could help their present situation. They are not deterred in the slightest. They don’t go somewhere else to find a “band-aid” solution to tide them over. They need the maximum help and they need it now. They do not stop until they are eventually satisfied…but it is not right away.

So, this leaves me wondering…Brain blowing up here…

They both felt as if they knew exactly what they needed. Were they focused on the outcome they needed/wanted or on the One who could give them the outcome they “needed”/wanted?

I assume that I know what I need and when I need it. I get frustrated when I don’t get what I think I need, and immediately look for ways to get myself what I think I need. I manipulate people, places, things to affect the outcome I want/think I need. This is my immediate default reaction. Almost always. As my friend Robin would say, I’m “too invested in the outcome.”

When I do this – how does it make me feel? Accomplished? Justified (maybe this is what sets me down the above manipulation path in the first place)? I think probably, it makes me feel a little hollow?

Instead, let’s say that I drop everything, turn and focus on Him – pray like my very life, or the life of my wife, daughter or son depended on it. Am I guaranteed the outcome I think I need? In the above passages, those who asked were not guaranteed the outcomes they thought they needed and did eventually receive. They just knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that they were asking the right Person. The One who could – if He so chose to – could right the wrong that they were experiencing.

The Apostle Paul denotes yet another example of the asker petitioning the Askee and the answer being no:

even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud.
Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me
. (2 Corinthians 12:7-9 NLT)

Paul was a very persistent guy. He was a zealot! This was a character trait that God wanted/needed in the person He would use to spread the Gospel to the Gentiles. However, He finally does the “spiritual judo” thing here, and takes his “no” answer he receives (to the outcome he needed/wanted) and then thanks God for the thorn he wanted removed! We don’t see that he pouts or gives God the preverbal finger because he didn’t get the outcome he wanted. But here is the similarity to the first two examples: Paul went to the One who he knew could change his outcome. He was not guaranteed that he would get what he came and asked for, but he begged the One who could right the wrong he was experiencing. In that time conversing with God, Jesus spoke to him in a way that changed Paul’s outlook on the whole situation.

So – my takeaway?

Jesus.

He’s it. The time focusing on Him, begging Him, crying out to Him, doggedly pursuing Him like He’s the only One or thing that can right the wrong I may be currently experiencing will not come back void. He will either change the outcome to be what I came asking for OR…he will change my outlook on the situation. Either way, He’s the right Person to go to. Faith in Jesus requires action (faith without works is dead).

Lord Jesus, please create in me a desire to put my self to death and come to You first. Seek You first. You’ve made me very capable in many ways but this can be my thorn/obstacle in seeing that You are my Answer to every question, every time. I will get this wrong some more, but thank You for accepting me as I am and loving me enough to shape and mold me (even thru problems and circumstances I hate!) into the child of God you see me to be. You see me as the perfected and finished work already! The rest of life is just chipping away the pieces that aren’t necessary. Please help me to not cling to those pieces like grim death. I choose Life!!

Your bumbling & weak friend,
Jason

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