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Do You Know Where to Take Your Suffering Friends?

To escape the pressures of busyness, Christ often retreated to a secret place so that He might be refreshed and discover God's will anew. It's an example we all should follow. Do you know where to take your suffering friends? If Jesus Christ is the great physician, He knows how to respond to those who are suffering.

Todd WagnerApr 9, 2000
Mark 1:29-34

Messages In This Series (10)
Jesus was Known for His Friendships with Sinners: What are You Known For?
Todd WagnerJul 16, 2000
Jesus, Two Groups and a Guy: The Danger of Lame Living
Todd WagnerJun 25, 2000
Baptism: What It Is and Is It for You? The Leper Revisited
Todd WagnerMay 14, 2000
The Leper Who Talked & the People Who Don't: How Disobedience Affects God's Purposes
Todd WagnerMay 7, 2000
If Busyness is Killing Your Heart, the Secret Place is the Solution
Todd WagnerApr 16, 2000
Do You Know Where to Take Your Suffering Friends?
Todd WagnerApr 9, 2000
The Testimony of an Unclean Spirit: Are Words & Information Enough?
Todd WagnerApr 1, 2000
Spirit Directed Fishing: Get Near Water, Get Your Line Wet, and Bait Your Hook
Todd WagnerMar 25, 2000
The Day All Heaven Broke Out
Todd WagnerMar 18, 2000
The Great Forerunner of the Great Servant: A Look at John the Baptist
Todd WagnerMar 12, 2000

Last week, we looked at how it's important to not just have the words right as you start to find out who this person Jesus the Messiah is but to have an attitude that is correct, to not just profess that he is Lord but to possess a spirit which is confirmation that in fact we are his sons and his daughters. The key to knowing him is faith, to believe in him, which is the idea of trust biblically.

Look at Mark, chapter 1, verse 29. This is still the middle of a long day, and we're not even going to get through this day, but we're going to look at a piece of it tonight. It says, "…immediately…" A word that Mark uses some 41 times, as he establishes that this Jesus is Great Servant who gets things done quickly and gets them done completely, fully straightforward, forthwith.

"And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately…" There it is again. "…they spoke to Jesus about her. And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them.

When evening came, after the sun had set, they began bringing to Him all who were ill and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city had gathered at the door. And He healed many who were ill with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and He was not permitting the demons to speak, because they knew who He was."

We mentioned earlier in the service the purpose of information is transformation. What I want to show you today is one of the things you'll learn how to do in one of our equipping classes called Base Camp. It will teach you how to read a text and how to get it in context and how to make some observations which you can then extrapolate into timeless principles, which we call interpretation.

That will allow you to have great timeless truths that you can base your life on, things that you can say, "God, I want to be more like this because this is you, in fact, intend for me to be." Then, after you observe and you interpret, then you want to apply it specifically to your life. It's not enough to just be believers who love with word or with tongue, but in deed and in truth is the way God wants us to respond.

He wants this information, not just to allow us to beat other churches in town or less spiritually oriented people in some Bible Bowl, but he wants us to be conformed into the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn of many like him…Christ in you, the hope of glory. An amazing statement that this Christ made, this Jesus made, when he was here… He said, "It's better for you that I go away," and the disciples said, "How can that be? We love being around you, learning from you."

He says, "Because, if I go away, the Father will send you the Helper, the same one who has, in fact as a man, fully man, fully God, who depended upon the Father in order to live in a way that honored him through the fellowship with the Spirit of God, which has been inside of me and empowering me and the means through which I live a life that is pure, holy, and blameless before him. You too can live that life as you are continually yielded to and obedient to the power of God inside of you, which the Father will send to you when I go to be with him. I will not leave you here as orphans."

He had been a father to the disciples, a father to the multitudes. He had healed them from all sorts of errant thoughts and at times even errant kings that reigned inside of them, demons, and now he was leaving, this father figure. They said, "Are you going to leave us as orphans?" He said, "Never will I do that. I will be with you always, even to the end of the age."

Right at the beginning of what we call the church period, he told them to go and to wait, and he said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the Spirit of truth, also called in the Scriptures the Spirit of Christ. The Helper, the Counselor will come upon you, and you will receive… The Greek word is dunamis, where we get the English word dynamite.

What do you think of when you think of dynamite? You think of power, explosive, something that's able to take down the kingdom. "You will receive dunamis. You will receive the ability to be the people who I want you to be. The power of my love, the power of my presence will transform you, and greater things than I have done you will do.

Not in scope or not in impressiveness of miracles but in terms of width, in terms of the fact that it won't just now be one Spirit-directed man walking on this earth fully dependent upon the Father, fully glorifying his name, but all of you who follow after me will have this gift, this dunamis, which I have given you momentarily and temporarily as people up until this time, but now as many as received him…" He gave them the right to become children of God.

Then Romans 8 we looked at last week says that the Spirit testifies to your spirt, that he is in fact your Father and your inner man. Do you not know that your body is the temple of God, and the Spirit of God dwells in you?As we study this life of Jesus, it is more than holding him up. We see a picture of who God is, and we also see a picture of who he intends for us to be, Spirit-directed men and women.

Paul says it this way in the book of Colossians, chapter 1. "…Christ in you, the hope of glory." What is glory? Glory is the revelation of who God is. In fact, glory is not an attribute of God. It is like holy. Holy is not an attribute of God. It is an adjective which describes everything about who he is. The love if God is holy. It is pure. It is without blemish. It is complete. There is nothing lacking in the love of God. The grace of God is holy. Or it is glorious.

Glory and holy are two words which describe everything about God, and they speak to the fact that there is nothing missing or lacking in him. It says in the Scripture that Christ in you is the hope of glory.It's the hope of the revelation of God? Is that your experience as you meet those who are followers of Christ?

Do you see folks who are so fully devoted to him that they learn to walk in humility before God as he did, and you see such an expression of God and what he must be like at the hands of those who greet you as you arrive at Watermark, at the hands of those who serve you throughout the week because they're fellow members of the community of faith? Do you see evidence that God is there, and is his love manifest to you?

Just this last Friday, there was a friend of mine, a friend of Karen Lane and of Bo Towns, members of this body, named Steve Baber. It was his birthday on Friday, and Steve three weeks ago had gone into the hospital because he was having some pain in his prostate. Through a series of operations and procedures that continued to get more and more complicated, last Friday, this man my age, father of two children about the age of mine, went to be with the Lord on his birthday.

One of the things that happened in the midst of this tragedy at this church over in the west side of Dallas-Fort Worth… Bo was over there trying to minister to Steve and his wife and their family as they came into town, but Bo said, "It's just been amazing to me to watch the way this community has ministered to this family. Everybody who comes in town has a place to stay. There's never a meal that's missing. I mean, the people at the hospital are in awe at the way this family is being cared for and loved and the people who share life with Steve and Diana."

He said it's just a testimony of the glory and the presence of God. If God looks like anything, he looks like what this family has experienced this last three weeks. Even in the midst of this man dying, there was a testimony of the goodness of God. The love of God was made manifest or made known. Has that been your experience? Do you see that? Does the world see that when they look at us? Christ in us, the hope of glory. Not our glory…his glory.

As we learn to walk with him and to be little Christs, literally is the idea, not ever becoming gods but becoming conformed into the image of our God, it will be a testimony to the world that Jesus is who he claimed to be, and the primary mark of a disciple of Christ is his love, his care. "…even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.** By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."** We hope you experience that here. We hope you experience that when you run into followers of Christ.

This little of section of Scriptures right here, I want to tell you what we're going to do with it. You don't need to turn there, but I'm going to read to you a section that really ought to happen every time we study the Word. Ezra 7:10: "For Ezra had set his heart to study the law of the Lord and to practice it, and to teach His statutes and ordinances in Israel."

Now watch this progression. There are three things. That's what we're going to do this morning. The purpose of information is transformation. The purpose of the equipping class is so that you might manifest that in your life.

Ezra, it says, set his heart, not some external action but his inward focus, to study, and after he studied it for a while, he practiced it. As he practiced it, then he felt like he was ready and able to teach it…not empty words, not some man standing up front telling others what to do when he fails to do it himself. You've heard the expression that your life speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you're saying, and there are too many of us whose words of truth are blinded because people do not see lives like Jesus' manifested in us, so the church has become powerless in its testimony.

You talk of a God who transforms? Where is the transformation in your life? That's why we call you to be fully devoted followers or Christ; not faithful, regular attenders but people conformed in his image. Today, we shall study, and we shall purpose to practice that we might be fit to teach. Let's look at the study.

Now this little section right here… We were going to go farther, and I'm going to tell you in a little bit why we're not today, but this section of Mark that we are looking at is what I would call the most confusing section of the book of Mark. We talked about the most amazing part earlier, when Jesus walked up to the four guys who were fishing and called them away from fishing to go work. We said this was the most amazing miracle.

Anybody who can go up to four guys who are fishing and say, "Let's cut the fishing out. Let's go work," tongue in cheek, we said, is a powerful man, and you should be amazed by that. This is a confusing section right here because the miracle is the miracle of a man wanting his mother-in-law to be healed, which is really an interesting fact.

I did a series a while back called, The Most, and I did the most quoted, the most misquoted, the most misunderstood. Had I had the courage, I would've called this the most confusing section of Scripture. Why would Peter want his mother-in-law healed? It is foreign to us. We all laugh about our mothers-in-law. Let me tell you a few things I've heard lately about mothers-in-law.

A guy received a call and they said, "Hello, this is the zoo. Your mother-in-law was in our reptile house today, and she fell into the crocodile exhibit." "So," came the reply. "They're your crocodiles. You save them!" the guy said. How about this? A lawyer called his client overseas and said, "Sir, your mother-in-law has just passed away in her sleep. Shall we order that she be buried, embalmed, or cremated?" Back came the reply, "Take no chances. Do all three" All right? Get 'em done.

There's more, but you get the idea. All right? We laugh at the idea of mothers-in-law. I will tell you (this is true), I have a great mother-in-law. She wanted my dog involved in my wedding. She forever won my heart when she said, "You can't have my daughter unless that dog of yours is best man or in the wedding at least," so we worked him in. That was her idea, at least I continue to state that in the presence of my wife.

To give you an idea about how my mother-in-law is blinded by her love for her daughter and, therefore, for me, Texas Monthly, a while ago, did a story on Todd Wagner of Broadcast.com, which you should see the mail and the phone calls I get on a regular basis.

This guy was in the Dallas Morning News yesterday. His net worth is over half a billion dollars. In fact, we got two calls yesterday from folks trying to track him down wanting to talk to me, which is great because I offer them a different kind of riches whenever I get the opportunity. But my mother-in-law was in Albertsons down in San Antonio, and she was checking out. There was the Texas Monthly, and they were talking about some famous Texans.

One of them was Todd Wagner, and she snatched that sucker up and was so excited to get home and to read it. She truly thought that there was a story about what we were doing here at Watermark in Texas Monthly. Not only did she do that, but she had the courage to tell us that she did that. So…my sweet mother-in-law.

Some people don't have such a great experience, but this man, Peter, did. He cared for his mother-in-law, which is interesting that the pope had a mother-in-law. We'll let that problem be out there and let others who have certain beliefs figure that out. Not an idea that's biblical… Am I right? You see Mary the mother of Jesus needing a Savior and calling Christ, "Lord." You see the first pope free to marry and have a mother-in-law.

We have to make sure that the Bible alone is our authority. We stand firm where it stands firm and flexible where it's flexible. Here we go! Let's see if we can't study and observe and then learn to practice and then learn to teach. Okay? This section of Scripture right here…let's read it one more time. We read it once.

"And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately [again] they spoke to Jesus about her. And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them."

Let's just make some observations. This is going to be very straightforward, plain and simple today. As you read this little text, that section right there, you see that they come onto a house, and they are made aware Peter and John and Andrew and James have been away. Peter's wife's mother was very sick. If you'll read Luke, who was a doctor, his account of this episode, you'll find out that he talks about the height of the fever. It was a fever that had some major effect to it. In fact, in the verb tense is it was a chronic ailment.

This is not just a flu that's making its way around, but this woman apparently suffered rather regularly from some form of migraine, and Luke was impressed with both the depth of her suffering and also the continuing aspect of it. Peter knew this of his mother-in-law and, when they got there, was reminded of it, and where did he go right away? Right to this Jesus.

See, he had learned something where he just was with Jesus, unlike many of us. Right? How many times do we have to be around God doing amazing things, seeing him transform lives, which is by the way one of the reasons that, if churches lose their hearts for the lost and lose their hearts for the sick and the hurting and the hopeless in the world, that you'll forget how powerful God is.

He is able to take corrupt, selfish, sin-oriented lives and redirect them and take people who are far from God and have them be transformed and being transformed by the renewing of their minds so that they might become, not evildoers but people of the light, people who do what is good and acceptable and perfect.

When you see is that… When you see folks who are far from God draw near to him, you will again be reminded of the great love God has showered out on you, and you will be reminded of the great power that is at the hands of the King who you worship. Churches that don't have conversion growth don't see consistently testimonies of what God can do.

When you see consistently God transform lives, what's it going to make you want to do? "Hey, let's go get another life. Let's go develop an authentic friendship with somebody else who is far from God and offer to them what I just saw again miraculously happen." Maybe it was for you two decades ago, but you just saw a testimony not just weeks ago of a life that was transformed by the power of Christ. That will give you the same confidence that Peter had.

What did he just see? He saw a guy who was a lunatic, a guy who was at the time possessed with a spirit, thrown into convulsions, but this Jesus could deal with that. So he had a problem, and what did he do? "Let's go to the guy who can make a difference," and he went straight toward him. Let me give you the first application. That's an observation I made. What did Peter do? He went to Jesus the first time he saw somebody sick and hurting. Why did he do that? I'm saying it's because he just the saw the power of Christ. Now here is a timeless principle I think you can apply.

Are you ready? The first place to take your friends when they're suffering is to Jesus. The first place to take your friends when they're suffering is to Jesus. You know, as a parent, I have to learn to do this in medical issues and in emotional issues. I don't want to be a dad who has more Indiana Jones than Jesus in him, and when my little kids have a problem at school, I don't want to grab a whip first to go take care of the problem. I want to reach for my Bible, and I want to speak words of truth and comfort into their lives more than just be the hero who comes riding.

I want to take them to the Word of God and talk about solutions that are there. When my kids have a headache, I don't want to just get the Motrin out right away. I want to be a guy, a dad, who takes them in my lap and says, "You know what, sweetie? Your mom and dad are going to use everything that modern science gives to us to help you, but I want to let you know that I'm under no illusions about ultimately you being a child of God and that he cares for you more than even your daddy does, so come here, get in my lap.

'Father, I want you to know that I know you love Kirby, and I know that her little headache right now is a problem to her; therefore, because you love her, it's a problem to you. Would you just bring some relief to that headache? Father, thank you that you've given her a daddy and mommy who love her and can read what medicines are good for her and doctors who have committed their lives to study how to help this body that you've given us. Lord, we're going to give her this Motrin or this Tylenol, but we're trusting you.'"

I want to take her to Christ first. I want her to see that I believe that Jesus is real and that Jesus cares. When her little heart is hurt, I don't want to give her bunch of solutions at school on how to deal with that bully. I want to go to her and say, "You know what? Let's tell God about this. 'Lord, you know my little girl's feelings were hurt today. You know her friend said something that was sad to her, and I know you care about her.

I thank you that you're teaching her right now that she can make it through wicked people in her life, and I pray she will learn to endure hardship because, in the future when she begins to live a life of surrender before you, she's going to have the world hate her just like the world hated you. Would you teach her what she needs to learn in this, and would you also bring some relief to her tender little 7-year-old heart?'

See, I want to take them to Jesus first. My friends and neighbors that don't know Christ, those folks that I meet, and they share with me their heartache and their problems, do I have the courage…have I seen Christ be so real, and powerful, and active…that my first response is, "How can I get them to meet Christ? How can get them in his presence?" Some of you go, "Well, that was easy for Peter and Andrew. It was easy for James and John. What'd they have to do? They grabbed his hand and said, "Come here. Come here. Look at this woman. She's hurting, and you can do something about that."

Well, how do you get people in the presence of Christ? Let me tell you, the priorities and the intentions of a disciple are forever the same. The way you get in the way of Jesus (that's all that Peter and Andrew did here) is… Today, you can't go to his physical person, but you can go to him in prayer. You can go to him by having the body of Christ manifest the love of God, and you can introduce them to others who will love them and care for them, who have been through similar struggles.

Can I tell you one of my visions for what our website's going to be? Sweet Staci Friedel is working on this first with us. All the testimonies that folks turn in when they become a member of Watermark Community Church, when it's appropriate, as we read through them, we're going to get ahold of some of you and just say, "Hey, listen. We think a lot of people have been through life experiences like yours." Like Staci, who very humbly talks about some of the choices she made before she knew Christ and how they hurt her.

She talks in a very different sense now as she writes her testimony in a way that says… She puts a little header over it. "Made bad decisions about relationships in the past? Feel like you've been so far from God, so repulsive in his sight that he could care for you no longer? Click here." And they can click there as they visit our website, and they can read Staci's testimony. They go, "I can identify with that person, and I can see what the power of God has done in them."

You bring them around and let them meet the Staci Friedels. You let them meet the Monica Baileys, the Robin Rices. You let them meet the Tawney Macfarlans…the people who have had testimonies, how God's worked in their lives in their own unique way. Every single person in this room has a story of grace, and one of your stories of grace is going to be like the grace that somebody else needs.

I look back and I see my friend Lulie. Boy, has she got a story of grace, and don't some people out there need to know there's a God who loves and forgives no matter what choices you've made in your past? I want them to meet. You know how I get them in the presence of Jesus? I get them in the presence of those who the Spirit of Christ dwells in them and let them testify of what God has done in their lives.

I bring them around the Word. That's one of the reasons that you hide God's Word in your heart. It's one of the reasons that you get equipped to share the gospel. So you can tell them the truths of the Scripture. Do you know how to do that? If not, we want to build into you so you can take people there.

The intentions and the priorities of a disciple are forever the same. You get in the way of Jesus, just like the blind man cried out, "Son of David, Son of David have mercy on me!" just like Zacchaeus climbed the tree. Why? Because he wanted to get in the way of Christ, and I'm going to tell you something, you have friends and neighbors who want to get in the way of Jesus. For them, that means they have to get in the way of you, so you have to help them. You have to be ready. Are you already to take them there, or are you too embarrassed to speak about your Lord?

Application? Write out this principle. I will take my hurting friends, family, and children. I will go first to Jesus myself, and I will take my friends there. I will offer no other solution to them. Can I offer you this? If you're getting some counsel right now and somebody is turning your eyes and your hearts to any other place than the person of Christ, get a different counselor…get a different counselor.

Look what happens in this little section of Scripture. It says, "And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon's mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever; and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her." In verse 31. "And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her…" Notice this. There's no wobbly road to health. This is an immediate healing.

Also, just as an aside, what did Peter's mother-in-law exhibit for this to happen? Did she express faith? No. Christ, just in mercy and grace, healed her, not as a result of her faith but as a result of his love and concern for her. Faith was not the powerful force here; Jesus Christ was, and always is. He spoke into her life, and it doesn't say there was slowly, you know, a sense of feeling better that came about her. This is not Alka-Seltzer working its way through her body. This is the power of God which brought about immediate healing.

This is the Great Physician who is a Great Servant who can do great things the moment that he wants to, and you need to offer that to people. You need to tell them, "His forgiveness is complete and immediate and great, and he can deliver you out of darkness immediately into the light, out of condemnation immediately into a place of acceptance and holiness and righteousness in his eyes." They say, "How can he do that?" and you take them into the presence of Christ and his Word, the written Word, and let them know. Do you know where to take them for that truth to be brought?

You have to learn it. Application, so you can take them there. Here's the second one. What did she do after this immediate healing from Jesus? Read it, right there in verse 31. She got up and ministered or served or waited, depending on your translation, on them. Serving is the natural response when you are grateful for God's work on your behalf. What did she do? She said, "Unbelievable!"

Now she didn't just go out and catch up, you know, with some of the errands she had to run. She was absolutely thrilled to now be hospitable towards, to be gracious towards, to serve the one who had just done a gracious work for her. Look what it says in Romans 12:1. "Therefore I urge you, brethren…" Really, that "urge you" comes in light of all he has done for you, a sinner, Romans 1 through Romans 11.

In light of his great healing presence and influence in your life, "…I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God…" Or as it says in the NIV "…in view of God's mercy…" That you were sick and lying on your back and full of chronic rebellion and habits that you were powerless over and that were giving you a headache and fever. In view of the mercy that he spoking healing into your life by the power of his blood, that you've trusted him.

Then "…offer your bodies…" Or "…present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." Or your spiritual act of worship. Or another translation would say it yet this way, "…which is a reasonable response to what he has done for you." Here is a timeless truth and principle. Serving is the natural response when you are grateful for God's work on your behalf.

One of the things a fully devoted follower of Christ does is contribute your gifts. Each of you, it says, has received a gift. Employ that gift as good stewards who will use it to serve one another "…as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." Employ that gift that he has given you because of his gracious provision through Jesus Christ. See, all of us, if you haven't been healed from the headache, you've been healed, as I have, from the life of sin, a life of self-will. Do I still choose to go and give myself headaches sometimes by living a life of self-will? You can be sure.

You can be sure there are times that my tone fails, my attitude weakness, and I don't live like Christ, and I'm grateful for his provision, forgiveness, that's available to me, but I purpose to get back on course and say, "Father, I want to live my life, not now based on what's easy for me or right for me but based on what is glorifying to you and, therefore, good for others. It is my only right response. It is my reasonable response to what you have done for me."

Do you realize what this is saying is there is no response…there is no sacrifice…that is irresponsible? There is no commitment that is too great for what he has done for you. You can't out-return his gift of love for you. That's the principle here. A guy named C.T. Studd, who was probably the biggest stud of his day in England, a great cricket player (he would make a Mark McGwire or Ken Griffey Jr. look small in terms of his fame), left all his greatness on the cricket field to go and serve the Lord, and it just confounded the English press.

They said, "What are doing? Why are doing that? He basically said these words, which are his application of this principle truth. "If it is true that Christ is God and he died for me, he also delivered me from the headache of sin and rebellion and a life of eternal judgment. If it is true that Christ is God and he died for me, then there is no sacrifice which is unreasonable, or which is too great." Do you have that attitude? Do I have that attitude? Are we increasingly praying, "God make me more like that? Would you increasingly burden me to follow you with more zeal than I ever did before?"

Let me give you another one. One of the things that happened when you looked at Peter's mother-in-law… It was a very bad thing in that culture to be able to receive people into your house and, when they're there, to not be able to serve them. There was, I'm sure, in Peter's mother-in-law and in his wife a great deal of consternation and hurt in their souls that they could not receive this great King who had come into their presence. One of the things that sickness can do is sickness can be used to teach us what to do with our health.

See, when you see a life that is incapable of loving, when you see a friend at work who is letting his marriage dissolve, who is letting his wife drift further and further from him emotionally, who is being absolutely sucked into the current of materialism and fame and fortune through his work path and you see him become a slave to that, you can go, "You know what? I'm no longer a slave to that kind of attitude. I don't have to be. I see the sickness in this guy's life and how he's losing his kids, how he's losing his wife, and I don't have to live like that."

You can be reminded as you see others who are living in a life of sickness what you should not do and what you can do with your health that you've received, and this works so many different ways. You know, over these last three weeks, as I've prayed for the Baber family faithfully and I've thought about how Steve had been in a comatose state from two days after he went into the hospital, unable to ever hold his kids again…

I've thought about every time that I was sick and tired and not wanting to tie another shoe, to help another child, to help my wife with a bath when I'm there. (Oh, I always want to do that; what I mean is help the kids with a bath. I'm not going to impress you with that act of service, am I?) To help serve my kids when I'd like to, you know, get somewhere else and do something else…

I think about, you know, "What if I was sick and I couldn't do this?" My friend, Keith Harrell, who fell asleep on his way home from the University of Texas one time, and now is classified as a quadriplegic, who many of you know, is sitting in a wheelchair. When it's a hot day and I don't want to mow my lawn, I think about how much Keith Harrell would love to mow his lawn.

Every time I drive to a mall and it's all crowded and there is nothing but handicap spaces available, I want to tell you, I drive by them, and I praise God that I cannot park there. Do you? Or do you resent that? "Man, why all the handicap spaces up here? I just might want to park there." You know what? I drive by those things, and I say, "God, thank you that that is not for me, and would you remind me that you've given me a body that is strong and virile while I rejoice in every step that I get to take across this parking lot."

Is that your attitude? When you see those who are sick and infirm, it ought to remind you of what to do with your health. You know, the first time I broke my ankle playing basketball, I was free from having to shovel the driveway that winter…my junior year in high school. I thought to myself, "Well, not only can I not shovel the driveway or am I out of that job, but I can't play ball anymore. I can't do these things that I desperately want to do," and I said, "I'll never complain about shoveling that driveway again."

Do you think that stuck my senior season? Nope. So I needed to break my ankle again my freshman year and try and learn that lesson again. When you are sick and when you are hurt, it is a reminder of what to do with your health. Hey, right now, you know, walking with Christ, are you free from some sin in your life and some habitual slavery to some activity that's disturbing you within? Praise God! Use your affections for Christ right now to fully serve him.

There are some in this body who would love nothing more than to have a life that they feel like right now is useful to the Master. I want to tell you, if you're sick right now, you can go to this Christ, and you can find forgiveness for your sin, and he can put you back in a place of usefulness. It says, "Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from these things , he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work." How do you cleanse yourself?

You cleanse yourself from your sickness of sin and self-will by confessing them and going to him. Do you know somebody who is sick? Let it be a lesson to you. Let it be used to teach you what to do with your health. It's really amazing what we were planning on doing today when I got to this one, this next application. Here's a man who left all to follow Christ. Peter laid down his nets, right? Then he gets home, and he is reminded that, even though he's made some great sacrifice for the King, for God, there's still sorrow in his household.

What's an application or what's an interpretation we can make out of that? Simply this. Being a follower of Christ does not exempt us or our families from sickness. As I was thinking about this last night, as I've been preparing for this all week long, I was reminded of how true this was. Last night at about 7 o'clock, my friend James Skinner called me, and he says, "Hey, Todd." He goes, "I'm going to the hospital. Kelli's been having tingling in her feet these last couple of days, and today, that tingling worked its way up to her legs and that tingling worked its way up to her fingers.

She called a friend, and the friend said, 'You know what? You really ought to go to the emergency room just to check that out?'" I said, "Skin, why don't you call me when you find out what they're going to do." He called me back and said, "She's going to have an MRI," and then last night at 9 o'clock, he gives me a call. I said, "How are you doing?" The two words that came out of his mouth were, "Multiple sclerosis."

I drove up the hospital, and we sat there until late last night talking to the doctor, the neurologist who came in, talking to sweet little Kelli about her multiple sclerosis, and we sat and we looked at this, and we just said, "You know, you guys know that tomorrow I'm talking about Peter's mother-in-law, and one of the applications, one of the interpretations, is that, just because we're a follower of Christ, doesn't mean that we get to escape every kind of sorrow or our families are protected from some kind of sickness."

Skin goes, "Man, you'll do anything for an illustration, won't you?" I said, "No." We just rested in some truth together, and we talked about how we'd go ahead, how we'd handle this sickness in her life. One of the other things to get out of this passage is that not every form of sickness is a result of sin…clearly. Anyway, with sweet little Kelli, we just looked at this and talked about this and a number of other things, and we rejoiced ultimately in this last one.

We rejoiced in the fact that the work of Christ and the cross is what guarantees our eternal health. You know, all of us are going to eventually die. We talked about this, and I'll tell you in a minute. Multiple sclerosis is not the worst of diseases to have, and Kelli has a lot of things going for her. She's a female, which is good, the doctor said. She's a young female, which is good, and that her symptoms are sensory and not motor driven, which is also good.

She encouraged her that this doesn't affect necessarily life span. It doesn't necessarily affect her ability to hold sweet Aubrey in her arms, but there are going to be some struggles and trials ahead. We rejoice together in the fact that, no matter what happens, no matter what befalls our body…no matter what happens on Steve's birthday in his 30s on Friday, the Great Physician's sacrifice is what guarantees our eternal health, and in that, we rest. In that, we take great joy. In that, we find our great hope.

Do you have that confidence this morning? Do you have the hope that, no matter what befalls you, you are guaranteed that the Great Physician will deal with that ailment in your life? Now there are folks in our body who are very sick, and one of the reasons that, when they go to be with the Lord at some point, we're not going to have just a room full of weeping but an honest expression of what we'll miss in this person's life and a sense of peace and joy…

In two weeks, we're about to celebrate Easter. We're about to celebrate the fact that the work of Christ and the cross is what guarantees our eternal health, that he goes to prepare a home for us. Well, here's what I want to do now. We're going to just apply this right away. I told James and Kelli that we'd pray for this morning, and as we do, just very still and very quietly, I want you to pray for friends and family who you know you need to take to Jesus.

We're going to take Kelli Skinner there. We're going to take James there because she has an ailment apparently in her body, a lesion on her spinal cord which is diagnosed as multiple sclerosis, and we're going to pray that Christ does something miraculous, but there are others in this room who also need to be taken to the Lord. There are other people, surely, we know (if not, that in itself is a problem and a sickness) who are far from God and have a different disease, a disease of their heart, and they need to be taken to Jesus.

We need to pray that God would do a work in their lives and that he would use us as instruments of healing as we express the words of hope and as we say, "God, let my health be a reminder of the great privilege that I have and the sickness of others be a reminder of what I can do with my strong body." Okay? Here's some observations. Here's some interpretations, and let's just apply it. Let's read it and study it. Let's practice it now, and then let's go teach others the same.

What I want to do is just ask you to be still for about two minutes and just ask God to bring to mind folks that you know who are far from God and who need healing from the Great Physician. Then I want you to pray for James and Kelli and pray for others who are physically sick. Then go back and, again, pray that God would help you go to him and find healing from the spiritual diseases that are in your life right now.

Thank him that he is willing to heal you from your rebellion and your turning from him. Then we'll spend some time just worshiping the Lord and being thankful that Jesus is the answer for the world today and that we can take people to him and that he alone is worthy of our praise. Just be still and apply this text. Take your friends who are suffering to Jesus.

Father, would you just do some amazing works of grace around us. I pray that there would be testimonies of conversion in our midst consistently and constantly so we would have the confidence of Peter to go, "Oh yeah, hey, the guy who brings healing and hope is here," and that we would be glad to grab the hands of our friends and bring them before your Word and bring them before truths that are declared about you.

I pray that, with our children, with our neighbors, with our friends, in their spiritual sickness that the first place we would take them is to you. I pray in their physical sickness that the first place we would take them is to you. We thank you, Father, for the provision of medicine and all the sciences we can use with the minds that you've given us, but ultimately, Lord, we see you as the Great Healer. We know that you can deliver us from whatever ailment strikes.

I pray specifically for Kelli who is one of many now among us who are, for different reasons, sick. We thank you that, really, we are a pretty healthy body. I think of others who struggle with breast cancer, others with MS here, some with children they look at with disabilities, and Father, we bring those families before you. We pray that you would be so inclined to do what you did that day with Peter's mother-in-law. We thank that we believe that you are fully able.

We pray, Lord, that the news would continue to be increasingly good with Kelli and that the MRI today on her brain would not show other lesions, and we pray that her symptoms would increasingly decrease and that, in fact, the doctors would come back so far as to say, "You know what? It doesn't look like we said the right thing because it's apparently not that anymore," and we would know better. I pray for James, as he tries to love and serve his wife, that you would give him strength and sensitivity and compassion that can be only attributed to Christ.

I pray for us as a body, with all who are sick and hurting among us, that the love of Christ would be made known, even as it was these last three weeks in Arlington and will continue to be to the Baber family. Father, would you increase our faith, that we can believe that doing what we're doing now is worth our time and not just some wishful thinking but that we are interceding before the Powerful One, who can speak his Word and immediately it will be done?

Father, give us the faith to live lives of continued obedience even when, for some reason, you choose to not immediately bring healing in every circumstance. Let us always be individuals who rejoice, not in outcomes that we like but in the fact that your work on the cross that we celebrate here in these coming days is what guarantees our ultimate peace, hope, and joy…our eternal health.

I pray that we would be a people who sing in the face of death and that rejoice in the face of mourning, and that it is a fact that confounds the world and that we could proclaim Easter yearlong, that we would know and live by the truth that, what is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable, what is sown in dishonor is raised in glory, what is sown in weakness you will raise in power, what is sown as a natural body will be raised as a spiritual body.

I pray that the testimony of our hope would go out through this land and others would be drawn here and that they would find the same freedom from hopelessness and fear that we have. Lord, might we have faith that you alone are what our neighbors, friends, and family need, and may we have the confidence and the courage to even be ridiculed to suggest that they turn to you. May our lives speak of you in a way that they would know that, if they decide to come, it will indeed bring healing to a hopeless heart.

Would you do that? For your glory and for our good that we might fall down and lay our crowns at the feet of Jesus. We thank you that that's our great hope and expectation, that we can worship you with the fruits of our obedience some great and glorious day. Do a work spiritually and physically in our midst that demands that people acknowledge the truth of Easter. We pray it in Christ's name, amen.


About 'Gospel According to Mark, Volume 1'

The most influential person in history is also the most misunderstood and misrepresented. Two thousand years after He walked the earth, Jesus of Nazareth is still a mystery to many people. Whether you admire Him, worship Him, despise him or simply don't know about him, it's difficult to deny that any other single person has had more influence on our world than Jesus has. But how do we come to understand a man who is so commonly misunderstood? Join Todd Wagner for a walk through the Gospel of Mark and look into the life of one man who changed the entire course of human history. See Jesus for who He truly is and learn how He can change the course of every individual life that understands, responds to and trusts in Him. This volume covers Mark 1:1 through Mark 2:17.