In the eighth chapter of Mark we read about a large crowd of people which had gathered to hear the Lord Jesus but had hungered and there was no food to eat. The Lord felt compassion. “They have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat…if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way” he said (v.2). When the disciples heard what the Lord said, they reasoned and answered back as carnal men of the world: “from whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?” (v.4). The eyes of the disciples could only see the few number of loaves and fish available. Spiritually they were blind to what the power of God could do.
The Lord gave thanks for the food and a miracle occurred. Not only was everyone fed but there were baskets of left-over food! Notice what happened next:
The Lord entered a ship and with his disciples they went to another place. When they reached a place called Dalmanutha some Pharisees came forth and began to question him, asking him to perform a sign. These were carnal men. Did they think God’s power of signs could be wrought for mere amusement? Remember God multiplied the fish and bread because there was a need and the Lord felt compassion for the people. Well, the Lord left them and entered in the ship again to proceed to another place. Surely, where there is unbelief Jesus has no business or work to do there!
Now as they proceeded with the journey “the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one load” (v.14). How did the disciples handle this situation of hunger again? Did they learn anything from what had happened in the meetings they were from? Did they remember what the power of God had done?
Remembering the Works of God
The psalmist said, “I will remember the works of the Lord” (Psa.77:11). There is power in remembering testimonies. It can ignite your faith and let God move you to higher heights in the exploits of faith! But this was not so with the disciples. As they reasoned about the lack of bread in the ship the Lord said something: “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod” (v.15). Did the disciples understand that statement? No. Their minds were so occupied with the lack of bread and fish that when they heard the words of the Lord they thought the Lord was referring to their present worry of bread: “And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread” (v.16). When the Lord knew about their reasonings he rebuked them for being blind: “And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? … Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?” (v.17-18). The Lord went further to remind them about the miracle of food which had multiplied. He asked how much food had remained after the 4000 people were fed: “how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven. And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?” (Mar.8:19-20).
It is always a great challenge to try to lead a person or people who are carnal because they can only live and reason as men of the world. They can never look heavenward when in trouble; they can only look up to systems of man to sustain them. Let us look at the event that happened next as the Lord travelled to illustrate more on faith in God.
God can only make a person receive sight if he or she has a desire or intent to see. Like the psalmist prayed, “Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law. I am a stranger in the earth, hide not thy commandments from me” (Psa.119:18). Yes, God can only draw near to us when we first express a desire to draw near to him (Jam.4:8). Where there is steadfastness, focus, or intent, God reveals himself more. Where there is no steadfastness, focus, or intent, people will only have scanty ideas about God, his Word or his counsel. The voice of God will be too faint for them to hear. The revelation of his Word or doctrine will be too foggy for them to see distinctly.
When a person develops a closer walk with God he or she will experience the privilege of knowing God’s counsel over things that happen around him or that may happen in other people’s lives. God can then use such a person to minister or to pray for persons in need. Remember how God revealed to Abraham about what he was about to do to Sodom and Gomorrah (Gen.18:17-19).
When the Lord arrived in Bethsaida we read that, “they [brought] a blind man unto him, and besought him to touch him” (v.22). Did this blind man have a desire and the faith to get healed or he only moved along with “they” who brought him to Jesus, hoping that maybe something could happen to him? Well, the people who may have sought the Lord Jesus may have had the desire and the faith for the healing of the blind man but it was important for him to believe too! However, in our journey of faith, God can use people to help us get to a place where we can see. The good thing about this blind man is that he was willing to be led: “And he took the blind man by the hand, and led him out of the town”(v.23a).
When the Lord touched the eyes of the blind man something happened: “he had spit on his eyes, and put his hands upon him, he asked him if he saw ought” (v.23b). The poor man looked up and said “I see men as trees walking”. Although he didn’t see perfectly what had happened to his eyes must have amazed him and ignited his faith! He now had a personal experience of what the power of God could do.
When the Lord put his hands upon him again and made him to look up the Scripture says, “he was restored and saw every man clearly” (v.25). That is how it is worded in the King James Version Bible, but let us see a little interesting detail in other versions. In the New American Standard it says, “again he laid his hands upon his eyes, and he looked intently and was restored, and began to see everything clearly”. In the Numeric English New Testament it says, “again he laid hands upon his eyes and he looked steadfastly and was restored, and saw all things clearly”. The Amplified version puts it this way: “he put his hands on his eyes again, and the man looked intently…and he was restored, and saw everything distinctly”.
The words “steadfastly” or “intently” makes a big difference for what we want to illustrate in this message. With what had happened to his once dead eyes when the Lord first touched him, when he was touched the second time the man certainly had a higher expectation and no wonder he was steadfast as he looked intently, hoping to now see clearly.
See, there are many people with a distant relationship with God. They can skip prayer meetings and that doesn’t bother them much. The only time they pray much is when they are in a church gathering; they simply have no personal walk with God. Although such a person may believe the truth of the word they received, what they have is a casual relationship with God. God may have done something in their lives but yet they have never lived in a manner that glorifies God. They are like those lepers who had desired healing from the Lord (Luk.17:12-19). When he commanded them to go and show themselves to the priests, as they went one of them noticed that he had been cleansed. He turned back and excitedly went to praise the Lord. “Were there not ten cleansed? But were are the nine?” the Lord asked.
It is important to know that the true body of Christ around the world consists of people who are steadfast in their walk with God. “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Act.2:42).
His Word, a lamp onto our feet
Living life as a spiritually blind person is a dangerous thing. One gropes in the dark wherein evil spirits lurk privily waiting on whom to devour. But when the Lord opens a person’s eyes, he or she will begin to walk in the knowledge provided by the lamp of God’s Word. Like the psalmist the person can testify saying, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psa.119:105).
In this dark world there are so many paths that will call for your attention. If you are blind you will find yourself on any path that seems appealing. And the way of any path that is not of God is false and ultimately leads to death. Like the Scripture admonishes us, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Pro.16:25). It is only when you are guided by the light of God that you will find yourself on the way of truth which leads to life. For born again children of God the light of God opens their eyes to the revelation of his Word and his will for their lives.
When our eyes get opened to his Word, we realize how far away we were from the truth of Scriptures, or how we would have been in danger had we made a certain decision.
Testimony of seeing hidden truth of Scripture
One day after praying I sat on a sofa which was near a door. There was a dog leaning against the door. It was crying. In a moment I went into a trance in which the cry of the dog turned into a voice that I could hear clearly. It was a speech of complaining. Few moments later my normal sense of hearing returned and there it was again, the normal cry of the dog! Many years passed and I kept this bizarre experience to myself, wondering what it meant.
One day a Jehovah Witness challenged me concerning the speaking of the serpent recorded in the third chapter of Genesis. The person said that the serpent was not a talking-animal. He reasoned that it was able to talk with Eve because it got possessed by Satan. He argued that the serpent talked in the same manner a donkey once spoke to Balaam. What the man explained seemed logical and making good sense but not when your eyes are opened to the truth of Scripture. I tried to reason with the person to show him that Genesis 3 opens with words that introduce the serpent as the most intelligent beast that was in the Garden of Eden. All my words were to no avail. But, what about the man’s belief that the donkey of Balaam had spoken? Is that true?
One day whilst preaching on the Serpent-seed doctrine, like a torch lighting up a dark room and bringing to light all that was obscure, my eyes got opened to see what happened to Balaam’s donkey and I understood the purpose of the experience I had of hearing a dog talk.
We read in Numbers 22:28-30 that “the LORD opened the mouth of the ass…and the ass said unto Balaam, Am not I thine ass, upon which thou hast ridden ever since I was thine unto this day? was I ever wont to do so unto thee? And he said, Nay.” Just how did the Lord open the mouth of the ass? Did it really speak as humans normally do? Not so! Believe it or not, if you were with Balaam on that day, all you would have heard would be the normal cry of the poor animal! But Balaam, to whom the message of the donkey was directed, heard it speak as clear as human speech! The experience I had with the dog was no different from what Balaam experienced. If there would have been another person with me by the door side, they would have only heard the cry of the dog! That is what happened one day when God spoke to the Lord Jesus; others only heard a roll of a thunder but he heard the voice of God’s words clearly (Joh.12:28-29).
Testimony of God’s protection
In Job 33:14 we read that “God speaketh once, yea twice, yet man perceiveth it not.” Yes, we often don’t perceive what God is trying to speak to us because of the worldly noise that often clusters our minds. A mind of a person can be so congested with voices of cares of this life that God’s voice only becomes a blurry shadowy thought in his mind. At a time when the Spirit would want them to pray a person may start doing something else. That prayer could have been an intercession for someone in need, or for your own safety.
One day, around 02:00 AM I was in deep sleep when a hand touched me on a shoulder to wake me up. I got up and got scared of what happened. I looked at my wife and she was sound asleep. I didn’t bother to wake her up to tell her what had happened. I could still feel the impact of the heavy hand on my shoulder. The house was all quite and it seemed everything was fine. But the strange feeling on my heart lingered. Without thinking over it, I got up and quietly went straight to the other empty bedroom. Without turning on the lights I opened the door and right in front of the window was a burglar who was trying to break into the house!
The heavy-set man, covered in a black head-sock, was so immersed in what he was doing that he didn’t see me standing and looking straight at him. Again without giving it a thought I raised my hand and spoke out loud, “What are you doing there?” The man shook in fear and staggered from the window and ran away. It is because of such moments that I have come to believe that there are so many things that happen without our knowledge but yet God is always there to protect us from harm. An experience like this one I had may never occur again but it strengthened my faith to know that even when I am so deeply unconscious, God is there!
I hope we can see the danger of not perceiving what God is speaking. It is important to know that God may give a dream, vision, or word of knowledge in order to keep us away from our will, which often is blind and leads to destruction. Here are the words of Elihu, a man who was sent by God to speak to Job: “In a dream, in a vision of the night, when deep sleep falleth upon men, in slumberings upon the bed; Then he openeth the ears of men, and sealeth their instruction, That he may withdraw man from his purpose, and hide pride from man. He keepeth back his soul from the pit, and his life from perishing by the sword” (Job 33:15-17).
Seeking God’s counsel
One day we had a strange case during a prayer meeting. A brother who used to fellowship in our congregation but had never shown up at church for some years showed up. He came with a strange prayer request. He said he was now a mental patient and would often become violent. He narrated how many times he had been admitted at a mental institution. This was a shock to all of us as we never expected such to happen to a believer. However, in a church there can be people we may regard as believers but yet they are just a face in the crowd and not yet truly converted. The man pleaded for prayer and we could see his desperation. We prayed for him but nothing happened. After some days he showed up again and complained that he still experienced the terrible episodes of losing his mind. We prayed but again nothing happened!
It was about the fourth time when the man came during an evening prayer meeting. I requested him to stand in the centre and I asked other believers to be quite as I prayed: “Lord, we have prayed all we know how to and yet this man isn’t getting delivered. Please open our eyes that we may see why the evil spirit is still following him. Speak to us Lord, by vision or dream. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ we pray, Amen.”
I dismissed the gathering after the short prayer and I kept wondering if the Lord would be merciful to open our eyes concerning the man’s situation. That night one sister had a dream. In the dream some people appeared to her asking, “Why do you want to help this man. He stole our things!” The sister then saw electrical appliances, radios, and other stolen goods. The following day she narrated the dream to me. It sounded odd but the man had to be told the dream.
I remember the evening he came home to hear the dream the sister had. He seemed comfortable as he sat in the sofa until the dream was narrated. I can’t forget the sight of his shivering cheeks as he struggled to explain his predicament. “But pastor, if I reveal this to the person I stole from I will be arrested…what can I do?” A family member had further confirmed that the man had stolen electrical goods from a certain shop. The shop owner consulted a witchdoctor and that is how the evil spell was cast upon him! That evening I told him that what to do next was all up to him. We didn’t see him for some time, for about two or three years, until one day when he showed up at home looking so happy. He testified how he cried and agonised to God in repentance, had made things right, and that’s how the madness left him. He was now spending much of his time on the streets sharing the Gospel. Now think about how we would have still kept on casting the evil spirit out of the man to no avail had our eyes not been opened to see what the devils were holding on to. Dear friend, spiritual warfare requires that you see and know what you are fighting! And sometimes to know the will of the Lord may require that you pray and fast.
Seeking God through fasting
We read about how Daniel once fasted for 21 days after which an angel came to speak to him. Surprisingly, the angel told him that the answer to his prayer had been granted the first day he had begun his fast; the angel had been held up from reaching Daniel in time because of a warfare that had occurred with evil angels. Dearly beloved, we may not understand everything about how the spiritual world operates but one lesson should be clear to us when we read about Daniel’s vision: as human beings we live in the flesh and may not know forces which are warring against us. There may be need for us to get away from the noisy busy world and sit still to seek the Lord in prayer.
There are times when one just has to fast to seek God’s will over a matter. Remember when the disciples failed to cast out a demon and he told them that “this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Mat.17:21). Now let us understand this: we fast not because we want God to feel sorry for our hungry stomachs but because we want to cast down “imaginations” and bring “every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor.10:3-5). We fast to keep our minds away from the noisy thoughts of the cares of this world which often hinder us from grasping what God may want us to hear. We fast to subdue our flesh. Many times our spirits may be willing to be in the presence of God but the flesh which often prefers pleasure may be standing in the way (Mat.26:41).
Continued in Part 8