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Tuesday, September 8, 2015

When Jesus Isn't Enough

Is Jesus enough?

If you were to sit in a church on a Sunday morning, thinking about Scripture, singing praise songs like All in All, Knowing You and Indescribable, you might know what the “right answer” is.

"Of Course Jesus is enough. What more could we need or want? With Jesus, all things are possible. Apart from him we can do nothing."

Is Jesus enough? "Yes."

Well, that would be an awfully short blog post, and because I have been wrestling with that question for days this week, I think there might be some more to say on the subject.

I know that he is enough. I have taught others that Jesus is enough. And, I believe that Jesus is enough. But this week, I didn’t feel like Jesus was enough. In fact, I could have easily named a few things that I longed for that at the time seemed more pressing than Jesus.

Nothing earth shattering happened this week. What happened to me this week was all quite normal, but I questioned one of the central tenets of my faith. Is Jesus really enough?

I was tired, but that is often true because I am out of shape. I felt guilty and un-everything good: unworthy, unlovable, unproductive, unloving. I was lonely and felt isolated from the ones I love. I started to wallow in all of these emotions while I was reading and praying and preparing for this week's sermon which started out being about fasting.

It was still about fasting, but the focus became quite clear. Is Jesus enough?

Do you know what I needed, (or maybe "wanted" is a better word for it)? I wanted someone to put their arm around me, rub my back and ask me what was wrong. I wanted someone to listen to me sort through my thoughts and tell me it was going to be OK. I wanted a physical person to sit with me and maybe read the Bible to me or give me some godly advice. I wanted a friend.

And this was a week that I had some good habits.  I took my own advice and spent the first 5 minutes out of bed on my knees in prayer each morning this week, and I read Scripture this week, and I listened to some songs of praise, and I took a walk yesterday to think and clear my head. But, in all of that, I still didn’t feel like Jesus was enough. I still wanted a person, a friend.

My feelings are not really what this post is about though. I have spent maybe too long talking about them. I wanted to talk about them though so that you could relate to what I am saying, so we could get past the easy answer of, “Yes, of course Jesus is enough.”

In theory, Christians all know, “Yes, Jesus is enough.” But, in practice, we all feel at times that, “No, Jesus is not enough.”

That is why when we are faced with a choice between sinning and choosing righteousness, we choose sin way too often. That is why when we are faced with challenging or sometimes tragic circumstances, we ask why and doubt God’s love or wisdom or compassion. That is why when we are faced with a difficult choice, we worry and fear that we might make the wrong choice and will then be headed in the wrong direction.

These are three times when we are faced with the question, “Is Jesus enough?” and often come to the conclusion that he very certainly is not. Sin, Circumstances and Choices:

When we sin, we proclaim that Jesus is not enough.
1.      With pride, Jesus gaining glory is not enough, we want some of that glory for ourselves.
2.      With lust, Jesus’ provision for us is not enough, we want something more for ourselves.
3.      With worry, Jesus’ Lordship is not enough, we want a better god, one that does what we want.
When we sin, it shows us our true belief. We answer the question, “Is Jesus enough?” with a resounding, “No. No, he is not enough. I need more.”

Circumstances in life might pull us to believe that Jesus is not enough:

When your child is in the hospital and you’re afraid.

When you’re hoping immigration will allow you to remain in the country.

When you are wondering if you are going to lose your job.

When your health problems are beyond the understanding of the doctors.

When you don’t know if you will have enough money to pay the rent.

OR, when you are feeling lonely and isolated and in need of a friend.

The circumstances are as varied as our lives, but the question is the same, “Is Jesus enough?” And, quite often, we answer, “No. No Jesus is not enough. I need one more thing. I need this circumstance to work out the way I want it to. Just one more thing, then Jesus will be enough.”


Sometimes when we have a difficult or important choice ahead of us, we have that same question. We know that whatever we choose will redirect the course of our lives.

What college to go to or what career to pursue.

Who to marry or not marry.

Should I adopt or foster or not?

Do I move to this city or that?

Do we or don’t we? The choices could be much smaller than these of course, but the fear is the same, whatever choice I make, when I arrive on the other side of this, “Will Jesus be enough?” If I go the way I want and hopefully the way He wants me to, will Jesus be there with me and assuming He will, “Will Jesus be enough?” It’s so hard to know from this side of the choice. It sometimes feels like this choice is life or death. If I choose correctly, Jesus will be enough, but if I don’t, I’m really afraid that I will be miserable. I will have lost my chance.

Which brings us FINALLY to fasting and Scripture:

Matt 6:16-18
16 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

He will Reward you. This reward seems to be heavenly. It seems to be talking about something that we receive in the Kingdom of God. But, as we see throughout this Sermon on the Mount (Matthew chapters 5-7), the question the Sermon on the Mount is answering is how does the Kingdom of God look here on earth and how do those who are in the Kingdom of God act toward their neighbors.

So, though the reward is heavenly, it has earthly consequences. It effects us today. What we do in secret (like fasting), affects us and those around us in public.

A couple of chapters later in Matthew, Jesus is asked a question about fasting:

Matt 9:14-15
14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.
Fasting is described as an act of mourning when we have been separated from Christ.

This seems to be the key to fasting. When we are more keenly aware of our separation from Christ than we are aware of his presence and closeness to us, fasting can help us to reorient ourselves to Christ. He was with us, but now he is not. Fasting reminds us not to fear, because he will be with us again.

Fasting helps us in regards to the three things I brought up earlier: Sin, Circumstances and Choices. In regards to sin, it reminds us that our sinful desires and choices never deliver what they promise. They don’t bring us the peace and joy and love that we long for. In regards to circumstances, fasting reminds us not to worry and fear, but to trust and cling to Christ, that regardless of the outcome of the circumstances, our only peace and joy and love comes through Christ. In regards to choices that we have to make, fasting reminds us that Christ is guiding us even now, but even if we make the "wrong" choice, Christ will be with us on the other side of the choice. And, if Christ is with us, then we can answer the question, “Is Jesus Enough?” with a resounding, “Yes.”

One of the most important verses in my life is a quote of Jesus that Paul writes down in his letter to the Corinthians. This is Paul quoting something that Christ said to him:

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

(But, Paul didn't show up in the Scriptures until after Christ was crucified. He never met Christ! And, everyone knows that Paul never met Christ, so he isn't trying to trick anyone. But, Paul did meet Christ spiritually speaking. And, Christ spoke to Paul, and Paul felt confident enough in his ability to know what Christ was saying to him, to quote him.

We, too, can "hear" from Christ. We can have the confidence that he is speaking to us and guiding us and encouraging us. For more on prayer and listening to God read this post.)

God's grace is sufficient for us. Christ is sufficient for us. He is enough.

But, sometimes it takes more than reading a blog post to believe that. Fasting may be God's way of answering the question, "Is Jesus enough?"

Choosing to fast is choosing to act in Faith. Even if sin or circumstances or a looming choice has us disoriented and wondering if Jesus is enough, we can choose to take the first step in faith. We may take this first step of fasting by faith with the prayer, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" like the father who wanted Jesus to help his son (Mark 9:24).

Fasting is choosing for a relatively short amount of time (1 day to 40 days, usually) to go without something that you might otherwise be tempted to think that you "Need!" It can be food all together, a type of food or drink. It can be an activity that you perform daily. It can be a type of entertainment or media.

For example, drinking coffee is often something people say they can't live without. Well, that happens to be a lie. And, fasting coffee for a week or month could help you move closer to Christ.

Others may check Facebook multiple times throughout the day and their actual dependence upon Christ might be more evident if they fasted from Facebook.

Maybe it's your cell phone, lunches, all food (check with your doctor to see if this is safe for you), reading certain types of books or magazines. Whatever it might be that fasting from it, might encourage you in your walk with Christ, and might remind you that Jesus is enough.

Fasting is an act of Faith and an act of Hope.
I am preventing myself from having this food or drink or media, in faith, though my faith is weak, I trust that God will somehow use this to strengthen my faith. It is also a hopeful action. Our Hope is in Christ that he will meet me here in this act. That this action will have eternal impact in my life and through me to impact this world. “Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven.” 

I need to Fast.

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