Luke 9:51-62 Spiritually Fit
There is a conscious effort by educational and health care leaders to encourage people in this country to get into better physical shape. The reason for this is that our country has become a sedate, overweight nation. The majority of folks are not physically fit.
Dineesh D’ Souza, a Chistian writer/speaker, in his column “What’s So Great About America?” writes: America gives a better life to the ordinary guy than does any other country. I asked an acquaintance in Bombay why he has been trying so hard to relocate to America. He replied, “I really want to move to a country where the poor people are fat. This says a lot about the condition of our nation.
The lack of physical fitness produces health problems, limits our ability to deal with stress, and produces a weakness that eventually lessens our quality of life. It is a frightening situation. However, as out of shape as our country is physically, the lack of spiritual fitness in the light of trials and tribulations that we are guaranteed to face is even more frightening. Please allow me to elaborate.
Our passage this morning begins with Jesus beginning his journey toward Jerusalem where he will be crucified. He knows hard, hurting times are ahead. He is ready for what most of us would run from. He is prepared for what would cause us to panic. He also knows that his life, his incarnation, is the ultimate revelation of the nature or God and the example of how we should then live. What he is about to do he will do for us. Jesus words and actions reveals to us key aspect of what is needed for spiritual fitness. And why would we want to be spiritually fit? Let me tell you. Whereas we are not journeying to Jerusalem to be crucified, we are going to have to deal with depressingly deep disappointments. We are going to face frightfully frustrating failures. We are going to have to go through serious sorrows, losses, and grief. This is the reality of life.
You may not have to go through a physical test of running a mile or climbing a mountain, but you will face the tests of hostile world, unpredictable circumstances and sorrowful situations. It is not a matter of if, but of when. What resources, spiritual resources do you have help you, to heal you, to give you hope? Jesus wants to be that resource. He wants to be our healing, our help and our hope.
Notice verse 51 tells us Jesus resolutely began his journey. The word translated resolutely does not indicate a blind willingness, but an established confident willingness to face what would be faced. Jesus was all about showing confidence, a confidence that was established in his relationship with God the Father and confidence in his Father’s will.
Jesus can give us this kind of confidence. How do we develop this confidence? We build it through prayer, through spending time getting to know him through the Scripture, and learning to follow the guidance he gives. Confidence comes through knowledge and experience. The more we resolutely chose to listen, learn, and let Jesus lead, the more spiritual fit we will become. (Song: Lily of the Valley)
Next Jesus in verses 52-56 Jesus does not react, but responds. There is an important difference. When we react the situation defines our behavior. When we respond we are in control of how we act. Rejection can be hurtful. It can lead to anger, embarrassment, fear, and resentment. Respond rather than reacting is a difficult skill to develop, but one that God’s Spirit will help. Reactions are often defensive actions. Jesus is not accepted by the village and the disciples react by wanting to defend the honor of Jesus. If Jesus needs defending he cannot be God. Besides, I am sure Jesus felt pity for this Samaritan village. Why, because they had brought something upon themselves worse than fire from heaven. The Samaritans had been given a witness of who Jesus was and they did not care. They reacted to him out of their hatred for the Jews. They did not just reject Jesus, they rejected God’s salvation. What those folks are most likely experiencing now would make fire from heaven a wonderful break. There is only one sin that cannot be forgiven, the sin of rejecting Jesus.
There are a lot of people today who reject Jesus. They reject him out of reaction. They reject him because of their experience with other “Christians”, because of the church, because of what others have said. They don’t like the preacher or they blame God for difficulties in their own life. They do not give Jesus a chance. If they would take the time to listen to his love, take the time to learn about what he offers and then respond rather than react they would find a life they had no idea existed. (Read Psalm 1:1-3) This is how to develop the spiritually fit way to respond rather than react.
Verses 57 through 62 reports to us a series of encounters Jesus has. Three individuals come up to Jesus and claim they want to be his followers. Folks let there be no doubt about it, even though Jesus was total a man, he was also God in the flesh. You cannot hide your motives, your intent, or your true feeling from Jesus. You can fool friends, family, and even yourself, but nothing gets past Jesus. Jesus had become famous. People were seeking him out. Many had wrong motives. In these three encounters we find things which spiritually weaken us, but in Jesus responses we can find the resources to be spiritually fit.
The first encounter teaches us about the reality of what we can expect to receive as his followers. Why does Jesus respond to the man the way he does in verse 58? Jesus is making it clear that there are no promises of stature or status, no guarantee of rewards in this world made by Jesus. Those that promise or imply health and wealth are either deeply deceived or their motives are monetary. What Jesus does promise is his presence. He promises his peace. He promises God’s pardon, and he promises a place in God’s grand plan. He offers us a purpose filled life. He promises he will provide the parameters that will keep us spiritually fit (Song: In the Garden). This is Jesus’ promise.
The second individual comes to Jesus and states is desire to follow but makes a request to delay. Jesus responds in a way that hopefully helps us to recognize the ease of our excuses. Let me bury my father. The man said. What was he doing their in the first place if his father needed to be buried. Folks I live in the world of the excuse. It is the most frustrating part of being a pastor. I am not just talking about those who are lost. I can understand why they make excuses. Those who are dead in their sins exist only for the dead. Scripture tells us: 1 Corinthians 2:14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. No, I am talking about those who say they want to be followers. Every week I am given excuses as to why people are not here. Why they do not join us to pray. Why they do not tithe or support the church. Why they will not serve. Excuses harden our spiritual heart. They clog the flow of God’s blessings. They make us senile to God’s word. When we make excuses for not doing what God has called us to do we turn churches into spiritual graveyards and the Kingdom becomes a tragic comedy. (Joke: Man did not want to get out of bed and go to church. Why, his wife asked? The folks talk bad about me, they never sing the songs I like, and they don’t listen to anything I have to say. Why should I go? Because, she replied, you are the pastor.)
Spiritual fitness does not allow excuses.
The last person that comes also states he wants to follow Jesus. He makes what would be seemingly the most reasonable of requests. Why does Jesus answer this person so harshly. Why did Jesus claim that because he wanted to say good bye to his family he wasn’t fit for the Kingdom? It was not about his family, it was about his regrets. The decision to follow Jesus is just that, a decision to follow. Jesus is heading to the cross. Jesus is going to give his life that we can enter the Kingdom of heaven. Jesus is all in and expects the same from us. If there is anything that keeps us from following the Lord, this world will use it. Jesus does not ask us for an hour on Sunday. Jesus does not ask us to join a social club. Jesus does not accept convenient Christianity, comfortable Christianity, or cultural Christianity. Jesus calls us to a committed, cross-carrying, conviction bearing, change bringing faith that will not make us say good bye to our families but bring blessings that our families so need. If we do not understand this we will never be spiritually fit for the Kingdom of God.
Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. In the parable the rich man, ends up in hell. He was a successful man, a prosperous man, but he was faith was not real. He cared for his family. How do we know? He asked Abraham to send Lazarus to them to warn them. Abraham tells him they have the Scripture. They have the word of God. If they will not follow in faith, not believe what God has revealed then even if someone came back from the dead they would not believe.
Folks, at the end of our lives all that will matter will be our relationships and ultimately, the question for which there is no excuse will be the one God asks, “What did you do with my Son? Did you follow him? Did you accept the life he gave for you?” Our spiritual fitness will determine if this will be a time of rejoicing or regret. Jesus is calling. Come you who are burdened, come you who are weary, come you who are troubled, come you whom I love and desire and I will give you rest. Will you follow Jesus or continue without resolve, reacting rather than responding, making excuses until it is too late? Or, will you make a decision, a committed focused spiritually fit decision to follow Jesus.