Alone, unaided and filled with passion, the man pressed on to bring the message of Christ to those under the power of the enemy. His name is unknown—he is the anonymous servant of Christ. He never sought recognition and never clamored for fame.
This man faced opposition. There were men who possessed positions of prominence and demanded that the man stop his activity. He was a rogue, an outsider. He didn’t have the sanction of their group and they demanded he “cease and desist.” You may be surprised at who demanded that he stop.
You may be thinking that I’m speaking of someone today. That in some remote region of the world a solitary figure is striking a blow at the gates of hell and paving the way for the Kingdom of Christ into the hearts of all who hear him.
“Teacher," said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us” (Mark 9:38).
This is the anonymous servant – and it was the disciples who tried to stop him!
I wonder if there are anonymous servants today – men or women who strive to serve the Lord Jesus and defeat the enemy of Christ, bringing hope and the gospel to those who need it, all the while being told by those who are “in” that they need to stop! How many men or women are told that “God wouldn’t use you… you’re not one of us?” I fear that there are many.
Here was this man, outside the circle of the disciples, going rogue in Christ and sharing in the power of God. How dare he! How dare he think that he could do something for the Lord Jesus without being a part of the twelve.
We all must hear the words of our Lord Jesus:
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us” (Mark 9:39-40).
I think it’s time we stop determining who can and cannot be a servant of Christ Jesus. God’s word alone sets the parameters for service in the Kingdom and we will do well to adhere to them. Determining that a man or woman cannot serve the Lord Jesus simply because they fail to make the grade with us is ludicrous. Get over it. Jesus calls His own servants – and He never seeks our approval.
You might be one of those anonymous servants. Press on! Don’t let others tell you that you have no right to serve Jesus Christ. The man the disciples tried to stop is living proof that God can and will use anyone who has an open heart to Christ. Simply follow Jesus – be obedient to His word – and let God have the final say in who can or cannot be a trusted vessel of the Gospel.
I looked around me and saw towering skyscrapers that reached toward the heavens. Beneath my feet I walked upon asphalt streets and paved thoroughfares. Everywhere I turned was the concrete structures of man’s design and I began to understand – I began to see that I stood in the midst of manmade Christianity.
Yet as I looked I remembered a wide open field, a panorama of life and light with the gentle blowing wind of the Spirit of God that caressed the air and touched my soul. I remembered the faith of Christ. The life that He promised to those who believe is more like the open field than the concrete city. God is calling and His voice beckons me back to the freedom and life of Christ.
But I have grown accustomed to the city. I am habituated to the order and the restrictions set by men, the concrete towers all lined up like soldiers at attention. I know the city – I know the parameters of men – and I know how to live within the walls created to maintain the illusion of structure and stability. But deep inside, somewhere in that place where the echoed whisper of God is still heard, I remember… I remember!
In that moment of revelation my heart is enraged and I want freedom – I want liberation – I want out of this concrete captivity! The walls of men surround me, but they no longer support… they suffocate. Man’s order is not God’s and I want to break free, to feel again God’s breath of life like the morning breeze and to walk in the vale of God’s ever-present love.
Behind me I hear a voice whisper, “Give it time.”
When I look, I see a small blade of grass, a simple growing thing breaking through the asphalt and tearing down the concrete walls of man’s design. My heart leaps in delight! God’s life cannot be held back, it is stronger than all of man’s efforts to contain it.
As you read this, know that the order of God is filled with beauty and life, rich in love and abounding in grace. The order of man is a prison, no matter how well constructed it might be.
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Okay… that’s not actually true. There is no “miracle cure” that will enliven and uplift your life. In fact, just the opposite is too often true. Men and women searching for that rush of euphoria end up becoming slaves to whatever it is that has captivated them. The cravings for drugs, alcohol, sex, money, power, etc. have a downward spiral that leads to destruction and leaves a crater where once a life used to be.
How do we do it then? How do we find that power to live when life falls apart and our world is failing? You’re not alone in the search. The Apostle Paul had the same struggle. Do you know what God told him? It’s the same thing He will tell us – you need to be empowered by grace. Read 2 Corinthians 12:7-10 and then follow along these next few moments as we explore this text.
First - you must see your present affliction. How is a person afflicted? Often through trials and temptations, with the constant reminder of the failings of the past, will come the enemy of our souls. There are some who think that Paul's "thorn" was his bad eyesight. However, that doesn't agree with the reality that his "thorn" was a messenger of Satan. What does Satan come to do? He is the accuser of the brothers, the tempter, the one who comes to "steal, kill and destroy." This "thorn," by my speculation, was the constant reminder of Paul's failings - his sins. All are afflicted in a similar way and in the midst of it must be empowered by grace.
Second - there is always a plea for deliverance. The afflictions in our lives cause us to cry out – to seek God’s rescue from pain. Jesus did in the garden, Paul does here, and we all want to find deliverance. God's answer, however, may not be deliverance from affliction, but deliverance through affliction. And, ultimately, our cry must be "not my will, but Yours be done."
Third - you come in contact with the power of grace. When you truly know the Grace of Christ and have received it in its abundance, the thorns inflicted upon you will become the points where God’s strength dominates. Instead of finding destruction and despair you will see how much God has done for you, even as the enemy himself stands to accuse you. His accusations will fail because the true Judge has already issued you a pardon through the shed blood of Jesus Christ.
Fourth - this leads to the promotion of humility. In what do you boast? In this world people often boast over the arrogant successes of men. But God has a higher place for us – and that is the place of humility. When you are empowered by the grace of God you will have no room to boast except in the Lord Jesus Christ. His ways become yours, His life is yours, and His power is your source for all that you are. There is no room for self-boasting in a heart empowered by grace.
Fifth - this brings your pronouncement of faith. It is a declaration of faith to say that you can delight in the sufferings that come as you walk with Christ Jesus. From the inward turmoil to the outward attacks, all things must be seen through the eyes of faith. You will take every experience and tie it together with your relationship to Christ, declaring with certainty that even your afflictions have been God's tools to shape you, until Christ's power, and His power alone, rests on you.