Summary: Ever feel like a Jack in the Box? Ever feel crammed or pressured by people or problems in life? God never designed you to be stuck in a box that limits you. Discover how to escape the the box that you find yourself in.
Take a stroll down memory lane with me for brief minute. I want you to think back to your childhood and all the toys you played with as a little girl or a little boy. Maybe you had an Etch N Sketch or a Simon Says. My favorite was Lego’s. I loved building things. But there is one toy that comes to mind that has probably stood the test of time. And until recently I did not know that it was still in production. Even if you didn’t have one you knew someone who did. It’s the famous and historical Jack-n-the-Box. And just in case you have no earthly idea what a Jack-n-the-Box is let me describe it for you. It is a Jack in a box. It is a colorful, tin box shaped toy with a handle on one side. Stuffed inside the box was a clown like figure, usually with a painted face and a jester’s hat. The idea of the toy was to get the Jack who was stuffed, squeezed and crammed into this little biddy box out. This was done by winding the handle on the side which played a circus tone that went something like this. (sing tone) The fun was in the element of surprise because as you were winding the handle and the music was playing, you didn’t know when the Jack would suddenly pop out and make its appearance. Although I experienced the excitement of this toy as child I see now that it demonstrates an alarming reality in many of our lives. Often times we are like this Jack in the box, pressured, influenced and sometimes forced by the circumstances of life or the people around us into a box that was never made for us. Have you ever been in a place where you said “this is just not me, I don’t seem to fit.” Maybe you have put yourself in that box by limiting God and what he wants to do in and through your life. What do we do when that happens? How do we break out of the box people try to place us in? Well, Jesus presents a great example for us in the gospel of Luke. I want us to see what he did and hopefully his example will encourage us when we experience the pressure to meet everyone’s expectations.
The story begins with Jesus entering the city of Capernaum, a city central to the ministry of Jesus. He is teaching in the synagogue. The people respond in amazement at the authority with which teaches and cast out demons. Before long the news about him begins to spread throughout the city and by sunset the people are bringing all the sick and demon-possessed to Jesus to be healed. And although he does heal those that were brought to him and demons are cast by now there is this building expectation of Jesus to continue to heal more and perform more exorcisms. The people are amazed but they lack true knowledge of who he is. They have yet to realize that he is the Messiah, the Anointed one of God, the one sent as the Savior of the world. And all their limited eyes can see at this point is a man who has miraculous power to heal and cast demons. An accurate view of God will always lead us to an accurate response in the midst of life’s circumstances. What is your view of God? So what does Jesus do as the pressure starts to build from the people to heal more and more of the sick? What does he do when the people expect him to do the miraculous? How does he respond to the Jack in the box syndrome?
The first response we see from Jesus is that he connects with the Father. He spends intimate time alone with the one who sent him. Read verse 42a. The parallel passage in Mark 1 makes it clear that his purpose for leaving early in the morning and leaving the crowd behind was to pray. His purpose was to commune with his Father. It is very significant that we find Jesus in prayer at this particular time. It is early on in his ministry and how he responds here in this situation will set the precedence for similar encounters. It also demonstrates that he is not operating independent of the Father. His source of authority, strength and power come from God alone. I believe it would be safe to say that his time alone in prayer with the father included interceding for those whom he had just healed and for the disciples that were with him at the time. But not only that, this prayer also included seeking the Father for wisdom, direction and guidance. I believe he received fresh revelation and reminder of his purpose, his ministry, what he was sent to do. By the time Jesus got off his knees he was clear about his mission, he was sure of his purpose and there was no doubt as to what the Father sent him to do. If we are ever going to break out of the box, move past the pressure to conform and release the limits that have held us bound there first must be an intimate connection we have with the Father. This is a personal relationship that you have as a result of the work of Christ Jesus. Because of Christ death on the cross we now have direct access to the Father. We can come boldly to the throne of grace to find grace and mercy to help in the time of need. As important as it is that we can come together corporately to agree on certain things and intercede for one another, to receive vision and revelation from God as it pertains to entire body, there are times when you must enter into your own prayer closet to have intimate fellowship with the Father. Prayer should be a spiritual discipline that we cultivate in our lives on a daily basis. In his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney outlines several disciplines that should be cultivated by believers on a daily basis for the purpose of godliness. He places prayer as one of those disciplines second only to the intake of the Word of God. We see it in Jesus throughout his ministry. He breaks away from the crowd and the multitude that was competing for his attention and connects with the Father. Whether you do it in the morning, in the afternoon, or in the evening there should be time spent alone with the prayer. You cannot take it for granted. As a matter of fact it is a privilege that we have to come before the Father. He wants us in communion with him. During the 1980’s, more than 17,000 members of a major evangelical denomination were surveyed about their prayer habits while attending seminars on prayer for spiritual awakening. Because they attended this kind of seminar, we can assume these people are above average in their interest in prayer. And yet, the surveys revealed that they prayed an average of less than 5 minutes each day. There were 2,000 pastors and wives at these same seminars. By their own admission, they prayed less than 7 minutes a day. Our prayers have got to be more than simply “now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” It is in these solitary, alone times, away from the pressure of people, away from weight of expectation, away from the demands to conform that we receive understanding and clarity as to our call. God grants us wisdom and guidance for our lives. We become sure of our purpose. We have a certainty about what ministry to move into, about what profession to pursue. What are you connected with? Who are you connected to? This connection with the Father that Jesus had is the first part of breaking out of that box.