He [Jesus] entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. Luke 19:1-6
Call me crazy. I know I am at times! But there’s been a stirring in my heart lately that I believe reflects what is going on around us as Christians. 2023 has been a trying year. Sometimes I can’t put my finger on just exactly why it has been tough. At times I think it is simply the heaviness of what many are experiencing and going through. I’m a worship leader and elder in my church. From Sunday to Sunday, I can sense the weight of what people are going through. Of what they are carrying. It burdens my own heart.
In addition, I have this ministry of blogs, devotionals, and podcasts (AS BOLD AS LIONS) and my music (DEREK CHARLES JOHNSON). I stay connected with many people throughout the week because of these platforms. Some I have a loose association with. Some are dear brothers and sisters in the Lord. And many are complete strangers. But in interactions, prayer requests, and the like, I sense that same heaviness across the board lately. People are weighed down by many cares.
But let’s go back to that stirring I mentioned.
For some reason, I have this sense that for once in my life people are desperate enough for Jesus (this was the phrase I couldn’t let go of). They are willing to try Him. Willing to say “I’m sick of being sick, I just want hope.” Much like Zaccheaus, they are climbing the trees and getting up high enough to catch a glimpse of him. They so much want to see Him, that they’ll go to great lengths.
Today’s blog isn’t so much about the desperation itself or even trying to figure why things are like this right now. I believe today is an opportunity to seize the moment. To say as brothers and sisters, how do we make the most of our faith in this time? I’ve put together some bullet points and some thoughts. It’s a simple roadmap I believe we can take. And from there, we pray that God moves in a way like we haven’t experienced before. Because people are hungry. They just want to see Jesus. Let’s jump in again!
1.Allow your ears to hear and eyes to see the need around you
For she said to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I will be made well.” Matthew 9:2
It has been so easy over the past few years to turn more and more inward. Our phones and social media apps do us no favors. Everything is online. Everyone interacts with everyone else from behind a screen. Sadly, we miss a lot because we don’t have a presence (a living breathing relationship) with other human beings. I believe that if we are going to seize moments, we have to be listening and watching people; understanding what they are going through. And inserting Christ into each conversation.
I love people like Zacchaeus, the Roman Centurion (Luke 7), and the woman with the issue of blood. Why? Because they were desperate enough to say, “I’ve got to get to Him.” If we’re paying attention to the heart cries around us, people are saying the same thing, in essence. They just don’t know how to get to Jesus or that He is the answer their soul longs for. Yes, Christ can move without us. Yes, it’s the Holy Spirit that does the convicting. But He chooses to use US. He partners with US. We are the conduits and vessels through which He speaks truth. Are we listening? Are we seeing? Many are almost there…so many just want to see Jesus.
2.Make Biblical study a priority in order to be “fully armed”
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:10-11,17
At the beginning of 2023, I sensed the Lord wanted me to share a study on the Full Armor of God. It’s a podcast series I did and you can back and find it on my website (and streaming platforms like Spotify, Apple Podcasts, etc). I don’t know if I fully developed this point as much as I could have, but this is an opportunity to expound further: we must be fully clothed with the Armor so that we can effectively share the Gospel. I think we always assume (for good reason), the sword of the Spirit means defending and fighting against the enemy with the word of God. Yes. But it also means having a knowledge of truth in order to be ready for open doors and opportunities.
I’ve shared this verse many times (1 Peter 3:15): But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect. To me, this is the verse reminding us of our call to know God’s word (be prepared) so that we can share it (evangelize; lead others to Christ). Last month, I spoke of spiritual apathy (Finding The Cure For Spiritual Apathy). If I’m not in a place where I’m hearing from the Lord and receiving His truth (i.e. growing in faith), I have no way to be fully armed. We have to take this seriously because lives hang in the balance.
3.Pray for hearts to receive Christ and be ready to share Him
Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. Romans 10:1
My last point is simple and straightforward: pray for people to accept Jesus. I believe it is absolutely a calling we have in these days of evil (see our AS BOLD AS LIONS theme verse below). The ground of many hearts is soft and ready for the word to be planted. There is a window of time that we have in which I believe the word will go forth with special conviction and anointing when it is preached. For many of us that simply means we have to be willing to open our mouths and the Holy Spirit will insert the words. How amazing!
Are we praying for these opportunities? Are we looking for them? This is the hour in which I believe we must earnestly ask and seek. I wonder how many of us would see conversions for Christ if we simply stepped out in obedience? Pray and have your “spiritual antennae” up looking for where and when God would put these situations before you. Perhaps they are right under your own roof. Perhaps at a job or in a classroom. Maybe it is online on a post or message.
I’m closing with one final charge and it’s something I am borrowing from my church I attend here in Spring Hill, Tennessee. Every week our closing benediction is Matthew 9:36-38: When He [Jesus] saw the crowds, He felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dejected, like sheep without a shepherd. Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”
This closing benediction has become our “sending” verse and our commissioning each week to go out and labor in the harvest fields. I sense that it is appropriate for this discussion because those who are desperate enough for Jesus are most likely also “distressed and dejected.” Aimlessly wandering. Hoping beyond hope for something more. But needing to see it from someone.
Guys, we are that someone who can show the hope of Jesus. We are the ones who can point the Zacchaeuses in our lives to Him. The ones who just need that glimpse of Him and they will believe. I pray for open doors and opportunities in your life this week and month. I pray that you feel the urgency of why we must share. Time is short. Days are evil. Jesus is coming back.
I love you much and love this journey we’re on together! Until next time.
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Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Ephesians 5:15-17