It’s not easy to be a Christian today. It never has been. But is it getting harder?
In observing the times, there appears to be an increasing tension between those of the Christian faith and those who want to smother any expression of that faith. However, it’s absolutely crucial in this tension for us to focus on the right things. It all boils down to heart issues like faith, fear, trust, and discernment on how to live according to the Holy Spirit. As a pastor, I have felt the tension and fear of speaking up or acting out in anticipation of back lash.
A Trusting Faith
This week I took comfort in the book of Mark, specifically from a man named Bartimaeus. In chapter 10 of the Gospel, we see Jesus and his disciples coming to Jericho. This was a city between Jesus’ home town of Galilee and the city of Jerusalem, a three-day walk for most. Jericho was a great city with lots of historical events to its name, and was also a very wealthy city due to its location and opportunity for trade.
When our focus is on Jesus, fear flees and freedom comes.
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One day, a great crowd was with Jesus. His amazing teaching, followed by miraculous signs which affirmed the truths he taught, made for quite the public spectacle. Among this great crowd was a blind beggar—Bartimaeus. His life was marked by darkness and the desperation of depending on others’ generosity to provide for his needs.
Bartimaeus had probably heard stories of Jesus and knew the great things God was doing. Knowing these stories, and knowing Jesus was close by, caused him to cry out. In his desperation, Bartimaeus cried out to Jesus and asked for mercy to be given: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:47).
A Focused Faith
Bartimaeus’ focus and trust were on Jesus and Jesus alone. He was simultaneously desperate and hopeful, needy and confident. Bartimaeus knew Jesus possessed everything he was lacking. Despite Bartimaeus’ confidence, he faced a problem: The crowd did not welcome his actions and, in fact, attempted to silence him. The Bible says,
And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” (Mark 10:48)
The crowd assumed Jesus didn’t have time for the beggar. Maybe they saw Bartimaeus as a nuisance, or were against what he was shouting. But that didn’t stop him. Even in his physical darkness, spiritually Bartimaeus saw the light of Jesus, the Savior. What a contrast to the spiritual blindness of some of these people who could physically see! This beggar’s focus wasn’t on other people; it was right where it needed to be, on the person of Jesus.
Faith Greater Than Fear
When my focus is on other people, fear can drive me. It can paralyze me. It can even feel suffocating, like I’m trapped in a room with no doors. My emotions are heightened, and my sensitivity level is on high alert when my fear is greater than my faith. I don’t respond well, and I question everything. But when my focus is on the right thing, the main thing—God himself—freedom comes. The other voices quiet. My emotions become steady, and self-control sets in. The highs and lows of life seem to stabilize, and my hope grows.
When my focus is rightly on Jesus, faith in God pushes me forward. His confidence rises in me, and there’s clarity in what lies ahead. I’m more sensitive to the needs of others, and I see Jesus for who he is—the One who brings life, hope, healing, and joy.
Jesus did in fact respond to this beggar. He called him to come. Bartimaeus’ sight was restored, and he began to follow Jesus along with the other disciples. He gained complete trust and a new trajectory. We know why: His focus was where it needed to be.
May ours be also.
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