Prayer and Purpose

Recently I’ve been slowly making my way through Luke, very slowly mind you.
But I read something last week from Luke 4 that has been on my mind quite often.  It’s a pretty big chapter– a lot happens.  In the beginning there’s the story of the temptation of Jesus and His time in prayer and fasting over 40 days.  Then you see Him at the Temple, reading from the scroll in Isaiah where He basically states His mission,  then a lot of miracles and then His moving on.
Ok?  So…?
WELL.  It’s interesting how at the beginning of the chapter in the temptation, Jesus is tempted to use His position and authority for His own benefit.  He’s even tempted to show off or prove to “another” His own identity.  I wonder how many of us have been in the same situation.  For example, the devil says, “If you are the Son of God,” (italics mine)… I remember those kinds of situations as a kid– “well, if you really are the best, then show me!”  It’s a dare to prove ourselves and secure the pride of our position.  It becomes more subtle as an adult.  But Jesus didn’t give in.
How was Jesus tempted exactly? Mind you that I can’t fully take credit for everything that I am about to share with you, as I learned much of it from a message.  The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy right?  Temptation is an attempt to do just that to you.  In each of these cases, it would have been a stolen opportunity that God had planned to fulfil in a bigger way later; and ultimately it would have destroyed the plan of God for Jesus.  I learned how Jesus was tempted to provide bread for Himself when He would later become “the Bread of Life.”  He was tempted to take the authority of the nations for Him, when He would later become the Ruler of the Nations– it would be given to Him as the Son.  He was tempted to go out and recklessly “prove God’s Word”.  This time, the devil used Scripture in his temptation– so it sounded more legit maybe (he includes Jesus’ identity again).
But Jesus had stored up God’s Word in His heart, that He might not sin against Him (Ps. 119:11).  It says in verse 13, “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.”  This last temptation would later be echoed at the crucifixion, where they challenged Jesus to save Himself if He was indeed the Messiah (Luke 23:35).  But Jesus did not use His glory, power, position or identity for Himself– He saved others.
Then we have Jesus at the Temple.  Here He basically states His mission as He reads from Isaiah:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
He later proceeds to do exactly what He told them His purpose was: heal and set free others as He moves along.
Finally, in verses 42-44, we see Jesus out praying again.  The people are searching for Him– He’s had a very successful ministry in Capernaum and Galilee.  The people loved Him.  They didn’t want to go, they wanted to keep Him for themselves.  That’s a tendency of ours, isn’t it?  To keep the blessings for ourselves, to want more of it, and not to share it with others….
But Jesus remembered His purpose, and He was guided by God, who reminded Him of His purpose.  Jesus replied to them in verse 43: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.”
It’s easy and for me, extremely tempting, to become comfortable where I find myself.  Successful ministry can easily lend to that.  But we must hold onto the purpose that God has given us.  Is that ministry where God is calling us to remain?  Then we must stay.  But perhaps it’s easy not to bother to pray about further direction and if we should be moving along– because after all, the people love us and we’re being successful where we are.
There have been times for me that I’ve found myself lulled by the beautiful valleys God has placed me in.  I remember last year reflecting on that and sharing it with Vicente.  I was comfortable in southern California– I enjoyed my job; I had established friends and relationships at my home church where I was being fed; I had a home with my husband in a state with wonderful weather year round!
Those things may sound silly, but I recognized the precarious position of my heart.  I knew God was calling us to move toward Japan.  I would, of course, move forward.  But I didn’t want to have any sense of… regret… in doing so.  It was a heart condition.  These things could easily become a hindrance for me fulfilling the purpose of God in my life, and having joy while doing so.
I am so impressed in this chapter to see Jesus choosing not to use anything about His identity and calling for Himself.  It enabled Him to fulfill it in God’s bigger better way later.  I am inspired by His purpose and mission which He was clear to state.  And He didn’t let success, love from people or circumstances keep Him from moving forward to accomplish that purpose and mission.
It all came from direction from God.  It’s important to keep seeking God so that we can effectively follow Him.  We are to glorify God, and He has purposes that are different for each of us.
“If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also.  If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.” John 12:26

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