Tim Hamilton - Walking the Second Mile - Cape Town Special Meeting

Matthew 5:41, “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” There is a lot of depth in these chapters, and also in this verse.

I understand in the Roman law the common people were under obligation to carry the pack of a Roman soldier if the soldier asks them to do so. According to this law they would then have to carry this pack for a mile. Then, after this mile they would be relieved of this obligation. Jesus is saying if you are asked to do one mile, do two miles; do the extra mile.

In our service to God the first mile is a mile of duty, obligation. The second mile is a mile of willingness, liberty. The second mile would put the soldier in debt. Imagine the soldier’s reaction when at the end of the mile you say, "No, let me take it another mile." If he has any conscience he would start to feel uncomfortable; what kind of person is this?  This has never happened before! If he asks another person to carried it the first mile they would walk away once they’ve done what they were obliged to. Something about this person is different to these other people.

The more I look at this verse the more I realise I have spent too much of my life walking the first mile. I’ve been shown the second mile, but now I have to start walking.

In the context of sport, take for instance a hockey team or rugby team. The field on which they play is divided into two halves. A team begins to play in their own territory. They don’t want to stay in this territory. If the action of the game remains in their territory, they’ll be losing. There are no scoring opportunities in our own territory. Generally, a team playing in their own territory is defending.

If they can play in the opposition’s territory, they have scoring opportunities. When I am in the first mile, I’m using my own strength; all the time defending and justifying myself; not making any progress. The more time I spend in the first mile I’m not getting the true blessing from God; I’m not free; I don’t have the joy I could have. I’m self-centred; I’m thinking about myself and what it costs me; I’m seeing it as an inconvenience to go further.

But if I can break past this human nature and get into the second mile, there will be scoring opportunities. There are opportunities and privileges; opportunities that could change our lives. Our lives are only changed when we walk in the second mile.

I don't want to criticize the disciples in any way and I know that what I am about to say I will be tested on. When the disciples were with Jesus, they heard the call and to a degree they obeyed that call. But, as Jesus said, the Bridegroom is with them so they don’t need to fast. They had Jesus so they did not really have to pray. Jesus taught them how to pray, but prayer had a lot more meaning after Jesus have left the earth. While Jesus was with them, they could ask Him. When Jesus was with them, they were in first mile. They were squabbling who were the greatest; they wanted to bring down fire from heaven to destroy the unbelievers. They were a bit too human.

When Jesus was raised from the dead, they began to walk the second mile; they began to change. Judas had taken the purse, someone had a sword with him – they were a bit feeble and Jesus was about to leave them behind. Jesus must've felt that they weren't  believing in Him. Here were problems:

John 16:13, “Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth.”

What does it mean to live in the Spirit; to worship in the Spirit? I like to think of that as walking the second mile! When we worship in the Spirit, we are free. I can remember a number of times I have been going to a meeting but I was still in the first mile. I have gone to a meeting out of duty, obligation. I spoke words which I had no intention to do it. Stuck in the first mile. But, if I could go to a meeting with a desire to be close to God, to be in the Spirit; to worship in the Spirit, then I’m beginning to learn life in the second mile.

When I’m in the second mile, I’m in God’s hand and there is the absence of self. We rise above self which is always looking to pull us down; it is always trying to attack us. When we give in to self, we justify ourselves, our words and our unforgiveness. All this belongs to the first mile, but forgiveness belongs to the second mile. Taking the blame for something we haven’t done. The power we need to take the blame for something we haven’t done is power only God can give.

Jesus took the blame for things He never did. Jesus lived His whole life in the second mile. He left us an example of what life can be like when we break through into the new territory of the second mile.

In Genesis 32, we read of the struggle of Jacob before Esau met him with four hundred men. The Lord says to him to return to his homeland. He obeys, he leaves Laban and he returns home. He’s on this journey and the message comes that Esau is coming with four hundred men, and Jacob is distressed.

He is expecting a blood bath, a slaughter; he is expecting revenge. He divides his family and animals in half, in case. He wonders what can he do to save all that belong to him. In verses 9 and 10, Jacob made a desperate prayer; a short prayer, but I’m sure the Lord heard him.

He made up a present for his brother which he thought would help soften Esau. The gift he gave was no small gift. I tried to put some value on this gift and it could be worth $200,000 (R1,5 million).

Jacob prays to God, and he still has no peace. He makes up this gift and he sends it to Esau and he still doesn’t have peace. Jacob is in the first mile; he is stuck in the first mile. He is in his own territory and he’s doing it in his own way. He’s trying to soften up Esau in his way. Whatever he does, it gives him no peace.

He sends his men ahead and he spends the night fighting with the angel. In this struggle, Jacob is breaking through into the second mile. He is finding new depths in his heart; a very personal struggle between Jacob and God.

Jacob is looking for a blessing; he is looking for peace. He will not let the angel go until he has been blessed; there has to be some remedy. I’ve divided my family, I’ve prayed to God, I’ve sent my brother a gift but the fear remains. We could say fear belongs to the first mile, but “perfect love will cast out fear.” (1 John 4:18). Perfect love belongs to the second mile. Jacob breaks through to the second mile.

The angel puts Jacob’s thigh out of joint. He is weaker now than he has ever been; he is not going to be the same again. The struggle has made him weaker; it means he can’t walk properly or like he used to walk. This whole struggle means he is leaning on a staff more than he has ever been before. The staff is like his faith. He had the staff with him; he had his faith but he wasn’t leaning and depending on it; he was standing and walking on his own two feet. He was in the first mile but now he is breaking through. He is weaker in himself now; he is not depending on his own ways any more.

Jacob has been changed by this struggle, and the Lord changed his name. In Bible times, this was very significant because the name was a reflection of the nature. The Lord was blessing him. It says in verse 28, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men and hast prevailed.”

From a human perspective there was no evidence that Jacob was prevailing, but the next chapter show us that he did prevail. When he met his brother, he bowed himself to the ground seven times. God filled his life with humility. In God's eyes, he prevailed.

Have you ever tried to fight with a humble person? Humble people don’t defend themselves; they don’t justify themselves. He doesn’t make a fist with his hand; he doesn’t strike. A fighter wants to fight a fighter; he wants someone to fight back because it does something to him. It gives him the opportunity to prove himself. This all belongs to the first mile.

In the second mile is where God’s power is displayed. Because of the humility of Jacob, the ill-will and feeling there was between them evaporated; it was diffused, like it was never there. Jacob got the power to humble himself before his brother. There was no more fear. He approached Esau with no fear. Fear had been conquered.

From a spiritual point of view, Esau wasn’t the problem; the problem was that Jacob was afraid. Fear will control us when we live in the first mile. We need to break through into the second mile where fear can’t live; where problems are resolved. If I concern myself more with how to serve God more in the second mile, I won’t be causing any problems in the fellowship and in the ministry.

I need to concern myself with looking for scoring opportunities, the favour and blessing of God. God is looking to bless us, but He cannot bless us when we still serve Him under obligation. If I serve God under obligation and under the law, there is no blessing; there is no joy, no peace. Human reasoning lives in the first mile, but praying and fasting can lead us into the second mile.

The second mile is where the Spirit can lead us in all truth. After the resurrection, the disciples had this wonderful revelation of the risen Christ, and the Spirit is now able to lead them in all truth. Now in the Acts of the apostles we don’t read about the purse, the sword, or who is going to be the greatest. But now we read the Holy Spirit coming and guiding them. The birth of the New Testament church comes from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was their teacher.

In Acts 13 we read the church in Antioch was gathered together; fasting and praying.

Verse 2, “As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, 'Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them.'”

Verse 3, “And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.”

I often wondered what were they doing here. I can relate to the praying, but the fasting; what were they doing in the fasting. Natural fasting is when we deny our body the food it needs. The body gets a cleansing benefit, we give the digestive system a rest. We have been feeding it all different things; some maybe hard to digest. We drink water and our kidneys are cleaned.

What does fasting spiritually means? We’re bound to this earth with a carnal mind, we’re inclined to the things of this world. We’re processing stuff and information all the time. With technology as it is now, we’re processing a whole lot of information in our lifetime more than maybe all mankind has ever had. Our system goes into over-load. Spiritual fasting is giving our soul a rest from this.

Graham Barnes told us about the Falklands war. When Argentina invaded the Falklands Islands, it was a real dent on the British pride. Margaret Thatcher, then prime minister, sends in a task force to put Argentina in its place and to retake their territory. The first thing the British did they established an exclusion zone. I don’t know how big it was, maybe 200 miles or maybe 100.

On the sea, in the air, and on land they prohibited all enemy to go in. With their navy, they controlled it. With this exclusion zone established, they could go in little by little and push back the enemy because they had complete control.

Spiritual fasting is when we establish an exclusion zone where we say no to the world, we say no to ourselves. We want to have time with God. Often our exclusion zone is being broken. It gets broken by technology; it gets broken by a lack of self-denial, lack of commitment.

Here in Acts 13, the church, we could say established an exclusion zone. They were giving special time to God. They weren’t concerning themselves with all sorts of matters. They were saying no to all else so they could be shut in with God. It says while they were in that condition of praying and fasting, the Holy Spirit came. The Holy Spirit spoke and they heard the message from the Spirit and the need of the harvest field was met. The Holy Spirit laid claim on two lives and the church sent those two lives out into the harvest field.

I must admit, I have never seen the need of the harvest field, could we say, so raw as I have seen this year. The need is great. How is this need being met? We could say the need is met by lives who are willing to go, but in this verse we read of a united church; a church who was praying and fasting, and in tune with God; a church that lived and worshipped in the second mile. Then the Holy Spirit was able to work. When the exclusion zone is not properly established and enforced, the needs will remain unmet. God wants to meet the needs, but He needs our commitment to work.

Spiritual fasting is like an endorsement of our prayer life; it supports our prayers; proving to God that we mean what we say. We were saying it with our words and now we’re saying it with our life. We need to have this more established, so we can live in the second mile. When we walk in the second mile, the Holy Spirit can be active.

Walking in the second mile is if everything we say, walk, do, live, etc. is according to the Spirit.

The human element has a big impact on our lives; maybe it has a big impact in the church, or in the ministry. If I’m willing to lay down my life and live in the second mile, the human element is diminished immensely. It is present, but it’s not active because it is being denied. So many problems are caused and remain unsolved because we live in the first mile.

In Genesis 42, Jacob sends his sons down to Egypt, just a simple task, to buy wheat and come back. But, this is a spiritual story and there is much more to it because God is working. These brothers of Joseph are all in the first mile; the human element is reigning and controlling. In His wisdom God is drawing them, through Joseph, into the second mile.

They go down, and Joseph recognises them, talks roughly to them, gives them some wheat but he takes Simeon into prison so he can keep contact with the family. He sends them away with money in their sacks. When they found the money, they were afraid. In verse 21 it says, “We are verily guilty concerning our brother.”

They became conscious of a deeper power working in their lives; they were aware of unresolved issues in their lives. This is the work of the Gospel; it desires to help us to sort out these issues that were being covered up; ignored. The purpose of the Gospel is to bring us to repentance where we can start to taste what it is like to walk in the second mile.

In Psalm 51, David says two things that were a re-affirmation to him of the second mile. A problem came about because he was in the first mile.

Verse 6, “Thou desirest truth in the inward parts.” This is a revelation. We must have truth in the inside so we can live in the second mile.

Verse 16, “Thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering.”

Verse 17, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” This is another revelation that belongs to the second mile. The sacrifice of a broken and contrite heart is a true sacrifice, which leads to true worship.

Joseph said to his brothers that they would not see his face again unless they bring Benjamin. They went home knowing what they have to do. They told Jacob, but he ignores them. When they needed more food, he says to Judah to go buy some more. But Judah says, "We can’t unless we take Benjamin with us." Jacob starts to feel the heat on him; he has to make a decision.

He says to them, "Why did they tell this man in Egypt they had a younger brother?" They said, "No, how were they to know he was going to ask them?" There was this little argument, but Judah starts to see that, if they are going to stay there, they are going to die.

In Genesis 43:8, Judah says, “Send the lad with me and we will arise and go so that we might live and not die.”

Verse 9, “I will be surety for him; of my hand shalt thou require him: if I bring him not unto thee, and set him before thee, then let me bear the blame for ever.”

Judah was starting to understand life in the second mile; he was taking responsibility. He wasn’t willing for it before; he was selfish and just living for himself. Now, he has a will to live and that means that Benjamin will have to come with him.

Who is Benjamin? Not just the son of Jacob. We all have a little Benjamin in our lives; a little precious something that is the core of our life. It is so dear to us that we want to hold on to it. It might be a young life that is troubled about the work. It might be something we justify in our life in order to retain it. But if we have a will to live, we will be willing to let it go. If we have a desire to be truly blessed by God, we will let it go.

Jacob is struggling because he lost Joseph, and he recently also lost Simeon. Now, all he can see is he is going to lose Benjamin. Jacob realises he has no choice. He tells them to go and says, “If I be bereaved of my children, I am bereaved. Take him a gift and go."

There probably could be no better gift to Joseph than fruit of the homeland. Joseph would have known where they came from, he would have walked through those trees, he would have collected of that honey. It gave him a taste of the homeland; he could picture the homeland.

When we come before the Father and we bring this gift of a humble repentant spirit, willingness, and obedience; we get the taste of the Lord Jesus when He was willing to come to the earth to be a sacrifice, to lay down His life

Joseph recognises Benjamin and he is overcome with emotion; he gives them a meal and food to take home; he smuggles his cup into Benjamin’s sack and he sends them away. He chases them and accuses them of stealing his cup, and he says, "The man who has my cup will be my servant forever." They looked for the cup and found it in Benjamin’s sack. They hang their heads in shame and return to Egypt.

Now Judah stands up; he is in the second mile. In Genesis 44:18, he speaks and he is willing to lay down his life and be a servant in the place of Benjamin forever, but please don’t bring this grieve upon his father. Judah had a care for his father and also his brother. He was willing to be a servant because the Lord had worked in his life and humbled him and brought him to this place where he was completely surrendered and his life was being laid down. He was in the second mile, and willing to be going all the way.

It was then that Joseph revealed himself to his brethren. How much revelation have I missed out on because I haven’t gone far enough? We may be on the right way, but there is more to go. There is more God wants to show and teach us. There is more blessing we can receive, but not while we are still in the first mile.

Judah’s willing spirit breathes life back into the family; it opens a door and Joseph can reveal himself.

Little did Jacob know when he was willing to let Benjamin go, that he would get Joseph back again. Benjamin is like our will; our own personal ambitions; what we want for ourselves. If we’re willing to let that go, we’ll get Joseph. Who is Joseph? He is like the resurrection. When we are willing to let Benjamin go, the Lord will fill our lives in such a way that is too wonderful to comprehend.

So much can happen when we’re willing to break through into the second mile.

Hannah spent many years in the first mile. She was resenting the affliction that was poured into her life, but one day she broke through. She laid down her life and she made a vow. It changed her life; God could change the situation and blessing could come into the kingdom in the form of Samuel.

May the Lord help us to obey His word; may He give us the grace to break through to walk and live in the second mile.