The Pharisees and Sadducees approached, and as a test, asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. He answered them: “When evening comes you say, ‘It will be good weather because the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘Today will be stormy because the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to read the appearance of the sky, but you can’t read the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation demands a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” Then He left them and went away. (Matthew 16:1-4)
We need to be able to discern when people approach us with authentic curiosity and when they are only testing to find fault.
But notice how Jesus called them out. Here were people who were ready to recognize signs in nature, but look past the truth of Jesus right in front of them. That’s often the case today. People are willing to accept certain prophecies and signs and ideas that line up with their beliefs but can’t see truth in front of them. I suppose we’re all like that a bit. Our filters can get mixed up and clogged.
Hence, the need for discernment, which is sort of like keeping our filters clean and ready to sift through everything that comes our way.
Then Peter replied to Him, “Explain this parable to us.”
“Are even you still lacking in understanding?,” (Jesus) asked. (Matthew 15:15-16)
Even Jesus got frustrated and exhausted with discipleship. It’s a persistent process. Of course, Jesus stayed engaged. He worked through the difficult moments, because He knew how important the process was.
How committed are we to discipleship? How often do we walk away because of disinterest, misunderstandings, or frustrations? How ready and willing are we to explain, wrestle with, and listen to people as they grow?
It takes effort, patience, and humility.
And it is necessary and worthwhile.
I tell you that on the day of judgment people will have to account for every careless word they speak. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:36-37)
Careless words get us into trouble.
What exactly qualifies a word as careless? Anything we speak without giving sufficient attention or thought to avoiding harm or errors. It’s the words we speak without enough concern. And that concern involves so many aspects. Concern for truth. Concern for impact. Concern for motivation.
Just a few verses before, we find, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit. Brood of vipers! How can you speak good things when you are evil? For the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” (Matthew 12:33-34)
Careless describes our words and our motivations. It also describes us.
Just then, a woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years approached from behind and touched the tassel on His robe, for she said to herself, “If I can just touch His robe, I’ll be made well!” But Jesus turned and saw her. “Have courage, daughter,” He said. “Your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that moment. (Matthew 9:20-22)
A women who was vulnerable, weak, and devastated from a chronic health condition pursued Jesus with strength and faith. She trusted Him and leaned forward toward Him. She reached with everything she had.
I think of her often as I pursue God. No matter how I feel, do I pursue Him with a similar strength and faith? Do I stretch with everything I have to reach Him?
Jesus responds to the woman with power and sensitivity. He encourages her.
He knows our pursuit and our faith, which encourages me. I can’t physically reach out and touch Him, but I can reach Him. And He responds with power and sensitivity. Every single time.
But perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts? (Matthew 9:4)
This might seem like an unsettling Scripture, but to me, it’s comforting. It reminds me that God knows my thoughts. And it challenges me, too, that He knows my thoughts!
No matter what you’re going through, no matter what you’re thinking about, God is well aware, and He’s interested. He always wants more and better for you. You can trust Him to guide. Let Him filter everything in your life, including your thoughts. You might be challenged, but you won’t be disappointed.
Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them. Otherwise, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So whenever you give to the poor, don’t sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be applauded by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:1-4)
It’s difficult to walk the line of being an example for others without calling attention to yourself. We want to encourage and challenge others, but we need to do so humbly. And that’s difficult in today’s social media-saturated culture. There are so many voices screaming for everyone’s attention.
But maybe that’s not all that different from the past. Sure, the method of delivery, speed, and availability might be different, but the inundation of voices have probably been challenging in different ways through the years.
And no matter the specific challenges, humility will always be in style. Well, perhaps not in style, but a good goal to have.
Look at the nations and observe—be utterly astounded! For something is taking place in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it. (Habakkuk 1:5, HCSB)
When I first glanced at this, I thought “Isn’t this the case?” I thought of all the junk that goes on in our world today. It’s nothing new. Nations and people have had issues and struggles pretty much since forever. And we’re not going to solve it all.
But setting this aside for a moment, I glanced at the verse again.
You see, Habakkuk isn’t groaning about all the junk in the world. That’s not what is astounding. Another translation says, “Look among the nations! Observe!
Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days—You would not believe if you were told.” (NASB)
The reason for the astonishment and wonder isn’t negative, it’s positive! And what we can’t believe isn’t what people are doing but what God is doing.
Well, that changes things.
Sometimes we need to look at something again. Look at people again. Look at a situation again. Look at God again.