August 18, 2014

Heart and Soul: Devotional

Jesus’ first miracle—changing water into wine—is usually referred to as a wondrous display of Christ’s divinity, but it also provides some timeless truths for everyday living. At the outset we may note that Jesus changed ordinary water into extraordinary wine. This defines the ministry of Jesus—changing the ordinary into the extraordinary, as He did with the fishermen by transforming them into fishers of men (Matt. 4:19). Jesus’ wedding miracle left us with more than a good story; it provided us with practical lessons for our journey with Jesus. It is, in a way, the gospel in a nutshell.

We will have problems even when Jesus is with us.

Popular gospel says, “Accept Jesus as your Savior, and you will have no problems.” Well, Jesus was present at the wedding, yet there was a problem—no wine. “The problem-free Christianity” teaching many of us have come to learn is not only unbiblical but also antibiblical. It is contrary to the teaching of Jesus, who cautioned, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33).

Throughout Jesus’ life on earth we see problems. Jesus was on a small boat in the middle of a huge storm with His disciples, who were all terrified that they would perish. There were two problems: the terror of the storm, and the terror of their fear (Mark 4:37, 38). Again, Jesus and His disciples were continually persecuted (John 15:20). That was another problem. The Bible consistently shows that those who decide to follow God will always encounter problems.

Our problems will not trouble us when we present them to Jesus.

Mary, Jesus’ mother, may not have clearly understood the mission of Christ,* but she was certain that He would solve the problem presented. As soon as she discovered that there was no more wine, she informed Jesus.

Again and again the Bible shows that God is in the problem-solving business. The children of Israel were hungry: manna fell from the heavens (Ex. 16). They were thirsty: water gushed from the rocks (Ex. 17:1-6). They were pursued: the Red Sea parted (Ex. 14). Likewise, while on earth Jesus showed that His ministry was all about delivering people from their problems. The blind saw, the lame walked, the mute spoke, the deaf heard, and the dead rose to life. Jesus Himself says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). By casting our anxiety upon Him, we find deliverance and peace (1 Peter 5:7). The devil can try to trouble the godly, but if they present their problems to Jesus, their problems will not trouble them.

When we obey God, miracles happen.

Mary told the servants, “Do whatever [Jesus] tells you” (John 2:5). At Jesus’ instruction the servants filled the jars to the brim with water and took some to the master of the banquet. To his amazement, they brought him a beverage superior to the good wine served earlier.

The Scriptures consistently show
that obedience to God’s Word is a blessing to humanity. Those who meditate on the law of God will be blessed of God (1 Kings 2:2-4). Their prayers will be answered (1 John 3:21, 22), they will enjoy great peace (Ps. 119:165), and they will inherit eternal life (Matt. 19:17). Truthfully, obedience to God’s laws is the whole duty of humanity (Eccl. 12:13). Jesus’ miracles showed the importance and reward of obedience: He instructed the blind man to wash his eyes in the Pool of Siloam (John 9:7), the paralytic to take up his bed and walk (Mark 2:11), and the stone on Lazarus’ tomb to be rolled away (John 11:39).

The Scripture clarifies that the servants filled the jars to the brim, meaning obedience was total. Partial obedience is the same as no obedience at all (James 2:10). God rejected Cain and Saul for that very reason (Gen. 4; 1 Sam. 15:1-26). God invites us to fully obey His voice and be His special treasure—a holy nation and a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:8, 9).

Our problems are God’s opportunities to perform miracles—to glorify His name.

Undoubtedly God gives us opportunities to know Him, trust Him, and serve Him. However, we too give God opportunities to reveal Himself, His power, and His love. We do not know how the story would have ended if Mary had not approached Jesus. But Mary did take the problem to Jesus, and He used it as an opportunity to perform a miracle. Our God waits with open arms for us to come to Him with our problems so that He might perform miracles for us, in us, and through us.

The devil, for all his raging, is a defeated foe whose power is insignificant in comparison to God’s. God is all-powerful. The devil can trouble anyone only to the extent that God allows him (1 Cor. 10:13). Without God’s permission, the devil cannot pluck even a hair from our head (Luke 21:18).

Small problem, small miracle. Big problem, big miracle. No problem, no miracle.

Guests were coming to the wedding, and the wine was gone. Small problem or big problem? In the Palestinian culture, the problem was big, so the miracle was big. All were amazed; in fact, many began to believe in Jesus (John 2:11).

Shadrach and friends were thrown into the fiery furnace because they would not worship Nebuchadnezzar’s image. It was a big problem, so there was a big miracle. The Son of God walked with them in the fire (Dan. 3). Daniel was thrown into the lions’ den: big problem, big miracle. The Angel of the Lord was with him the entire night (Dan. 6).

If there is no problem, there will be no miracle. If we have no problems, we may need to examine our relationship with God. It is possible that the devil is keeping our problems at bay because he is afraid to lose us when we see the power of God in our lives, or lose others because of our testimony.

This wedding story is clearly about problems and miracles. What is our greatest problem? What is the greatest miracle that God desires to perform in our lives? Our greatest problem may be that we delight in sin and do not want to leave it. Even for that problem Jesus has a remedy. In fact, He is an expert at changing our desires and our behavior. This is the greatest miracle that God desires to perform in our lives: the transformation of our character. He promises to take away our stubborn hearts and give us obedient hearts (Eze. 36:26); to change us into the likeness of Jesus (2 Cor. 5:17); to make us like Him (1 John 3:2); and to have us reign with Him (Rev. 20:6). It is our privilege to place our problems at His feet and receive miracles from the throne of His grace.

* Mary hoped that Jesus would reveal that He was indeed the Son of God. After all, she had waited for 30 years after the angel Gabriel had appeared to her. Jesus politely told her that it wasn’t time for that yet. (See Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages [Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898], pp. 145-147.)