257. TAKING ADVANTAGE OF GOD-GIVEN OPPORTUNITIES. [Sermon on Mark 1:29-39] [For Sunday 4th Feb 2018]

Isn’t it sad to think that something was available for you and you missed out on receiving it? It can happen in every area of life.

It can happen in relationships

Many years ago I was having lunch with two older folk who were very good friends. Just the three of us sharing stories together as we ate. As we finished the meal, the woman suddenly said to the man, “Did you know when we were much younger I was hoping you might marry me one day?”  The man was taken aback and after some moments said with some obvious feeling of regret in his voice “Why didn’t you ever tell me that you might be interested in me? I might have done something about it.” There was silence for what seemed a long time. I felt it was time for me to leave, which I did soon after.

They obviously had had great admiration for each other for decades. She had become a widow early in life. Much later she married someone else who was now confined to a bed in an aged care facility. He never married.

One wonders how their lives might have been different if they had known how they felt about each other and expressed it sooner. There had been appropriate opportunities in the past for sharing their feelings but they hadn’t taken advantage of the opportunities. The sad part was that it seemed they could have been so well suited and perhaps enjoyed decades of a loving marriage.

However, it doesn’t help to dwell on what might have been! Nor does it help to fail to take advantage of opportunities!

It can happen in the spiritual areas of life when we fail to take advantage of the opportunities before us

We can miss out on God’s blessings and healings. James wrote, “You have not because you ask not.” He then states a general principle that God wants us to ask Him for what we need. He respects our free-will and will not force on us what we are not ready to receive.

The hymn writer saw it in terms of missing out on peace by not bringing all our concerns to God in prayer. The hymn has these words, “O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.” We sometimes take some concerns to the Lord. He wants us to take ALL our concerns to Him. We need to act on all the opportunities we have to open ourselves to receive the grace of God in its many forms.

In this passage there are 2 accounts of opportunities being taken to receive healing from Jesus.

1).        HEALING FOR A WOMAN WITH A FEVER. (PETER’S MOTHER IN LAW)

Jesus had returned from the synagogue in Capernaum to Peter’s house where they found Peter’s mother in law ill with a fever. She may have been delirious and not have been in a fit condition to reach out to Jesus for healing. However whether she asked for healing or whether Peter and the others brought her need to Jesus, Jesus was invited to heal her. We read how Jesus took her by the hand and healed her so that she was able to get up immediately, and make them “a nice hot cuppa”.

Did you notice the immediacy of the healing? Very often those ill with a fever take ages to get up and get going. Peter’s mother in law was up and serving them in no time at all.

It doesn’t always happen as quickly as that, but it can. You and I have to be willing to receive God’s healing whether it comes in one week or in one minute.

A true personal story. A woman had been confined to bed for several days with severe back pain and the doctors had not be able to find its cause. I was called to go to her home on a farm and pray with her. I took her female neighbour in with me. It took several [obviously painful] minutes for her to turn on her side to face us. What happened? As we finished praying she burst into tears. Then she suddenly twisted and flopped back on her back. Then she immediately sat up and embraced us. Her words, “The pain has gone!” astonished all of us. The healing had been immediate and complete. I thought of this passage and cheekily said to the woman, “Would you like to get up and get us a cup of tea?”  [knowing that she could now do so.] She replied, “NO, do you mind if I stay here and just enjoy reading my Bible for a while.” Next day she was up driving her utility vehicle over the rough roads on her farm. She had no more pain for the next few years we had contact with her.)

The doctors had no answer for her but God did as she reached out to Him for what she needed. She asked for help in prayer from the elders. We prayed. The Lord healed!

At a Healing Service, one has an opportunity to reach out to Jesus for healing or blessing with the confidence He is present to heal and to bless.

I would often encourage attendees at the Healing Services in St Andrew’s Cathedral in Sydney with words like these,

  • “We love to pray for God’s blessing and healing on those with needs. So please take advantage of this opportunity to receive prayer for healing.”
  • “It may be that you’re here to receive prayer for someone who is unable to be present because of distance, or because they are too ill to come to the service. It’s our privilege to join our faith with yours and to pray with you for God’s blessing on that other person.”
  • “In the service we simply join together to tell Jesus about the one who is sick, and leave it to Him to reach out to them in His love, in His way and in His time.”
  • “Healing may come instantly, progressively or at a later time as it did in the ministry of Jesus. You and I have to be willing to receive God’s healing whether it comes in one week or in one minute or progressively.“

2).        THE SICK OF CAPERNAUM

When they knew that Jesus was present to heal, people came to the home where Jesus was, bringing all their sick and those with evil spirits. In fact the whole town was outside to see what was going to happen.  They witnessed many being healed and delivered of evil spirits.

We’re not told whether it was the people who brought the sick who had faith, or whether it was the sick folk themselves.

It would appear that those who were sick and were able to make it on their own, got there, whilst those who weren’t well enough to make it, were brought by others.

What is true, is that all the people who came to take advantage of the opportunity to be healed by Jesus, were healed.

Canon Henry Twells was right to describe this incident in the words of the hymn,

At even when the sun was set, the sick O Lord around Thee lay, in divers pains they met, with what joy they went away.”

(Many of us who have been involved in a Healing Ministry have seen these things happen.

  • A sick person manages to come for prayer, and prayer and the laying on of hands is ministered, and the person receives a healing from God. Even at the service! Or later!
  • Or it may be that someone has come and asked for prayer for another person who was too ill to be present. Hands were laid on the person who brought the request, and prayer offered for the other person. Later the first person came back to thank God for the healing that flowed in the life of that other person at the time of the prayer or sometime later.
  • Whichever way it happens, it is still the same God who has brought the healing.
  • The risen Christ is the Healer, and He can heal the person who is present, or the person who is geographically distant. The reason is, that though you and I can only ever be in one place at one time, the Risen Christ isn’t limited geographically like we are.

3).        THE SECRET OF JESUS’ MINISTRY

Let’s notice what happened just a few hours after Jesus ministered in Capernaum. Mark says that He went out in the early hours of the morning to a deserted place to pray.

Here was the secret of His ministry on earth. It was the time He spent in prayer with His Heavenly Father.

You see it here and at other significant times in His ministry

  • After the feeding of the 5,000. (Mat 14:23) After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone,
  • After He had healed a leper. (Luke 5:16) But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
  • Before he chose the 12 apostles. (Luke 6:12) One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.
  • His prayer life touched His disciples who wanted to be able to pray like He did. Luke 11:1, He was praying in a certain place and after he had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord teach us to pray as John taught His disciples”.
  • On the road to Caesarea Philippi as Jesus prayed on the Mount of transfiguration, waiting for God to reveal to the disciples who He really was as the Son of God, and the Messiah. (Luke 9:18) Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, “Who do the crowds say I am?” Only then did Peter come out with the revelation of God, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
  • On the Mount of transfiguration, they saw Who He was for those moments as the veil was lifted and they saw His pre-existent glory. (Luke 9:28)  About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. 29)  As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.
  • At Gethsemane as He faced the choice of going on to suffer on the cross for our sins, or whether to turn from the cross. (Luke 22:41) He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, “Father if You are willing, take this cup from Me. Yet not my will but yours be done.”

At all the significant moments of His life, He prayed. Or had been in prayer.   It could be said that every moment of His life was spent in fellowship with His Heavenly Father, but there were times when He obviously felt the need to confirm His future by more intensive prayer.   [Thereby setting an example for all other humans in doing so.]

4).        JESUS WAS FOCUSSED ON THE WILL OF GOD NOT JUST ON PRAYER

In Mark 1, Jesus was praying to His Father when suddenly He was interrupted. His disciples who followed Him told Him that everyone was looking for Him.

  • His response may seem surprising. Instead of returning to Capernaum and continuing His teaching and healing ministry there, He told His disciples that it was now time for Him to leave there to go to minister in other towns. Mark 1:38) Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else–to the nearby villages–so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39) So he travelled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
  • His prayer had opened the will of God to Him. His prayer had shown that it was time for Him to move on to other places in fulfilment of His mission.

A REFLECTION

The opportunity to receive the Lord’s healing had only been offered for a short time in Capernaum.  Then the opportunity was gone. But praise God, many took advantage of it and knew the Lord’s touch on their lives.

What if, what if there had been some in Capernaum who heard that Jesus had the power to heal but didn’t act upon it? They would have missed out on their healing at that time.

What about people where we live?

  • The opportunity to receive healing has been offered in many churches for many years.
  • Some have notice boards that advertise that a healing service is on at a certain time. It is inviting people to come and to ask God for healing for themselves or for their family and friends.
  • Some have come to such churches and have known marvellous healing.
  • Others obviously have chosen not to come for help.
  • The opportunity was being offered but not everyone takes advantage of God-given opportunities.

What do we need to receive healing or blessing from God? (In the teaching of Jesus and in the experience of many who took advantage of God-given opportunities.)

a).        Faith that Jesus is present amongst us as we pray, Mat 18:20  Jesus said, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (The Promise Of His Presence.)

b).        Faith that the Promise of Jesus is true. Mat 18:19 “Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven”.  (The Promise of His Provision.)

c).        Humility to ask for God’s help. 1Jn 5:14 “And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”  (The Promise that if we are in the will of God, the following is true. “We ask! He hears! We have!”)

Only a fool would fail to take hold of a God-given opportunity to receive blessing and healing from the Lord! May every person recognise a God-given opportunity and take advantage of it! To their advantage and to His glory!

Blog No.257. Posted on jimholbeck.blog on Friday 26th January 2018. (Australia Day)

About Jim Holbeck

Once an Industrial Chemist working for the Queensland Government but later an Anglican minister in Brisbane, Armidale and Sydney. Last position for eighteen years before retirement in 2006 was as the Leader of the Healing Ministry at St Andrew's Cathedral Sydney.
This entry was posted in BIBLE PASSAGE OUTLINES, Bible verses. Comments, Forgiveness, Healing, Prayer, Sermons and articles on the Gospel of Mark and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to 257. TAKING ADVANTAGE OF GOD-GIVEN OPPORTUNITIES. [Sermon on Mark 1:29-39] [For Sunday 4th Feb 2018]

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