I find it hard to see, and remember, some important truths. I find that others do too. They seem so obvious in the moment, but later, it seems I must learn them all over again. Jesus’ disciples wrestled with this trait. They ministered alongside Jesus, but often failed to see the bigger picture Jesus taught them.
Once, while traveling in a boat, Jesus taught his disciples to beware of the yeast of the religious leaders. Jesus wanted them to be cautious of what they allowed to grow within their spirits, their thoughts, and their actions. It was a simple lesson, but one that quickly became much more significant, for the disciples heard a different focus in Jesus’ words. Instead of being concerned with the spiritual issue at hand, they began to discuss with one one another their belief that Jesus was concerned that they only brought one loaf of bread with them.
The situation is only amplified by the fact that the disciples watched earlier, as Jesus took a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish and used them to feed thousands of people. He did this in two separate occasions, yet the disciples were still arguing over bread in the boat, believing Jesus was concerned about what they would eat. They were unable to lift their vision to see the larger truths of Jesus’ spiritual message, and God’s provision through Jesus himself. These precious followers of the Savior struggled to see the miraculous gift that was right in front of them.
Hearing their conversation, Jesus interrupts them to address the situation. The Gospel of Mark tells the conversation this way: Jesus said, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” (Mark 8:17-21)
I wonder how much frustration Jesus felt at this point. I am sure Jesus’ compassion far exceeds mine, but I know how disheartening it can be when the people you love and minister with seem to keep missing the point. A few instances come to mind:
After preaching a strong sermon on why gossip is so destructive and should not be a part of Christian conversation, I walked into the entryway to find several people who only moments ago were shouting, “Amen!” deep in a personal gossip festival.
I frequently preach on the power of words, encouraging people to watch the negativity of their tongue. Many times, these services conclude with conversations where people pour out the litany of everything wrong in their lives and the world.
A personal favorite is the ubiquitous, “It’s too bad the people who needed to hear that weren’t here to hear it, pastor.” Of course, this is usually spoke by people who really needed to hear it themselves.
There is a long list of similar situations, but these are not the concerns that truly affect and concern me. What really challenges me is that I do the same thing, and I do it repeatedly. Lessons of faith and trust learned in experiences with Jesus along my journey, seem quickly forgotten in the face of a new problem, or difficult season.
When I look back over all of the compassion and provision God demonstrated in my life, it is hard not to believe that I am cared for in my current circumstances, and that God is not planning provision for my future. The problem is, frequently, I don’t look back. I become so focused on the issue I am facing at the moment that I forget to remember what I learned along the way. So, when faced with a financial concern, I tend to focus on my immediate need and neglect all of the times God miraculously met my need in the past. When faced with a difficult message to craft, I fail to remember the inspiration I previously received. You get the picture.
This kind of selective memory weakens our faith and inhibits our actions. It applies to disciples in the boat with Jesus, to me when I face challenging circumstances, and to all of us when we forget the places the power of God blessed us in the past. When we lose sight of where we’ve been and who goes with us, we lose the vision that propels us forward through our difficulties.
Jesus asked the disciples, “Do you not yet understand?” When I say it to myself, I usually ask, “Are you slow to see?” However the question is asked, it is a necessary challenge to our vision. When we look back and remember the power of God at work in our lives, we find the faith to look forward believing that God is, “able to exceedingly, abundantly beyond all we can ask or imagine,” through his power that is at work within us. It is in this knowledge that trust, vision, and hope are found. We may be slow to see, but once we do, we capture a vision that knows no boundaries!
I challenge you to join me in a quest to remember the powerful lessons we learned. We have been taught by God along the way. If we remember those valuable lessons, the future will be more exciting, more amazing than we we can imagine, and it will be filled will a host of new, more wonderful lessons to learn. May we all have eyes to see.