God Wants to Make You Able
(Lectionary Starters)

Fifth Sunday after Epiphany, Year B
February 9, 2003
Isaiah 40:21-31; Psalms 147:1-11; Psalms 147:20, Mark 1:29-39
Jim Killen, a minister of the United Methodist Church, Beaumont, Texas

“…Those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:31). These words that the prophet Isaiah wrote to a war weary people of Israel have become some of the most popular words in the Old Testament. They promise what lots of people know they need. Life can be demanding. The new life into which God wants to lead us can be even more demanding. Those who try to live up to their highest potential are likely to be familiar with exhaustion.

God wants to respond to that need. God wants to renew our strength. God wants to make us able. It is part of the life shaping strategy of God with us that God is always demanding all that is really good for us and for all people, then making us able to do what he demands. That is an important part of what it means to be saved by grace.

I. What kind of fatigue are you experiencing?

There is a kind of fatigue that comes from running away from life, worrying about the threats and demands of life and trying to protect yourself against them, trying to keep yourself safe. There is a kind of fatigue that comes from just trying to survive. Do you know that kind of fatigue?

There is another kind of fatigue that comes from constantly trying to advance yourself, always trying to climb some ladder, trying to get all you can for yourself. That way of life is full of competition as you try to take advantage of others and to keep them from taking advantage of you – and there are few whom you are willing to trust and depend upon. You are all on your own. That is the kind of fatigue that comes from trying to “succeed”. Do you know that kind of fatigue?

There is still another kind of fatigue that comes from caring and from trying to make a difference. It comes from launching out into life and trying to live it in depth and in fullness, trying to live it in love. Part of that fatigue comes from caring deeply about all of the things that are going wrong in our world and all of the suffering that results. It is the fatigue that comes from trying to answer a higher call and to live up to your own highest potential and from trying to live a life that will make a difference for good in the world. It is the fatigue that comes from commitment. Do you know that kind of fatigue?

God wants to help us with all of these kinds of fatigue.

II. The beginning of the help comes when we catch a vision of who God is and of what God is doing

Isaiah tries to help us catch a vision of the greatness and eternity of God in contrast to our limitedness. We are like grass that withers or flowers that fade. But the word of the Lord stands forever (Isaiah 40:8). “The Lord is the everlasting God, creator of the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 40:28).

This great God provides for us and for all of his creatures. The writer of Psalms 147 tells us that the God who is the hope of the salvation for his people is the same God who sends the rain and makes the grass grow and feeds the animals. God can be trusted.

Jesus shows us that God gives us a purpose to live for. We are to participate with God in the loving work that God is doing in the world. In our reading for today, we hear of another of the healings that teaches us a lesson. Jesus healed the mother-in-law of Simon Peter so that she could serve. She was one who was dedicated to serving in her household. Jesus made her able to serve.

III. When you find your way into relationship with God, that relationship can enable us

Finding your way into relationship with God comes from, first realizing that God is real, then from discovering how God is working in the real world around you, and finally from finding your way into an intentional interaction with the God who is there and at work. These things don’t have to be imagined or invented. They are there waiting for you ro discover them.

When we discover that God is there, loving us and providing for us, we can learn to trust him and stop being anxious about our survival. That can relieve us of a great source of weariness.

When we learn the greatness of God, we will learn the futility of trying to make ourselves great. We are all little in the presence of God. But we don’t have to worry about being little because God, who is great beyond our imagination, loves us.

But if we catch a vision of the work that God is doing in the world and the role he has given us to play in it, we will be given a purpose big enough to be worthy of our commitment. There is something worth exhausting ourselves for. But we will find our strength being renewed because we do not have to serve that purpose alone. We do it in partnership with God and with all who are committed to God’s purpose. We can put our best efforts into our service and then leave everything in the hands of God, knowing that God will ultimately be victorious. Knowing that will indeed renew our strength.

The scripture lesson tells a story about how Jesus renewed his strength. The passage from Mark tells about a time very early in the ministry of Jesus in Galilee. People had just learned that Jesus could heal the sick and they were flocking around him. No doubt, many were coming just for free medical help and not for any life shaping teachings. They crowded around him all day. Jesus must have been exhausted and maybe a little frustrated. But before dawn, he got up and went out to a private place to renew his relationship with God through prayer. By the time the disciples found him, he was ready to go on to the other villages of Galilee to enlarge his ministry. God had made him able. God can make us able too.

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