Finding Life in the Midst of Tragedy

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

INTRODUCTION

I’m going to be sharing with you a story from the Old Testament tonight. A story that involves one of the major prophets of the Bible – his name is Elijah. We’re going to peek in on Elijah as recorded in 1 Kings 17. As the chapter opens we learn that Elijah has just declared to King Ahab (the current king of Israel) that there will be no dew or rain in Israel until Elijah gave the word. King Ahab is described only a few verses earlier as one who did evil in the sight of the Lord (even more than the other kings before him) and the nation of Israel followed the example of their king. This message from Elijah comes as a judgment from the Lord in response to the nation turning away from Him.

Shortly after that Elijah is led by the Lord to a place called Kerith Brook which is a small creek emptying into the Jordan river and there he is fed by ravens. There’s whole message that can be given on this time in Elijah’s life but that’s not where we’re going to camp this evening.

Eventually the brook dries up because of the drought on the land and God sends Elijah to a village named Zarephath where, God says, He has instructed a widow to feed Elijah.

As Elijah arrives at this village he sees a widow gathering sticks and asks her to bring him water in a cup and as she heads to get it Elijah calls after her for her to bring him a bite of bread as well. Keep in mind that by this time water is extremely valuable because of the drought and this women is a widow. She turns to Elijah and says,

“I swear by the LORD your God that I don’t have a single piece of bread in the house. And I have only a handful of flour left in the jar and a little cooking oil in the bottom of the jug. I was just gathering a few sticks to cook this last meal, and then my son and I will die” (v12)

Elijah’s response is for her not to be afraid but to go ahead and cook the meal BUT to bring him a little bread first then use what is left to prepare a meal for herself and her son. Elijah assures her that God has promised there will always be a little flour and olive oil left in her containers until the time when the God sends the rain again.

So the woman did as Elijah had said and the three of them continue to eat because of the miraculous provision of God for many days.

Again, I could share a message on this incident in Elijah’s life but today I’m just using it to give you some background. We’re not going to camp here either.

However, I want you to observe something so far in what I’ve shared with you. Things have been pretty tough so far in Elijah’s life. They were pretty tough in the widow’s life and for her son as well (in fact they were about to have their last meal before Elijah showed up). Yet, even though things were tough, God has miraculously provided. Everything seems to be okay, food is plenty, things are getting better and then “bam!” tragedy hits!

ILLUSTRATION: A new kind of plane was on its first flight. It was full of reporters and journalists. A little while after takeoff, the captain’s voice was heard over the speakers. “Ladies and gentlemen, I’m delighted to be your pilot for this plane’s historic first flight. I can tell you the flight is going well. Nevertheless, I have to tell you about a minor inconvenience that has occurred . The passengers on the right side can, if they look out their window, see that the closest engine is slightly vibrating. That shouldn’t worry you, because this plane is equipped with four engines and we are flying along smoothly at an acceptable altitude. As long as you are looking out the right side, you might as well look at the other engine on that side. You will notice that it is glowing, or more precisely one should say, burning. That shouldn’t worry you either, since this plane is designed to fly with just two engines if necessary, and we are maintaining an acceptable altitude and speed. As long as we are looking out the plane, those of you on the left side shouldn’t worry if you look out your side of the plane and notice that one engine that is supposed to be there is missing. It fell off about ten minutes ago. Let me tell you that we are amazed that the plane is doing so well without it. However, I will call your attention to something a little more serious. Along the center aisle all the way down the plane a crack has appeared. Some of you are, I suppose, able to look through the crack and may even notice the waves of the Atlantic Ocean below. In fact, those of you with very good eyesight may be able to notice a small lifeboat that was thrown from the plane. Well, ladies and gentlemen, you will be happy to know that your captain is keeping an eye on the progress of the plane from that lifeboat below.

Sometimes we find ourselves in situations very similar to that plane flight. Everything around us seems to be falling apart and the person in charge seems to be as remote as the captain in the raft on the ocean far below.

Everyone faces tragedy and it usually catches us unawares. In today’s text, we’re going to learn the truth about tragedy, and crises in our life. You see, tragedy can either make you bitter or better – it can result in life or death – it can kill us or it can grow us. The difference lies in what your perspective of the tragedy is, the difference lies in how you respond to the tragedy, ultimately the difference lies in what you choose as the outcome of the tragedy. Tragedy can turn you to mush, it can make you sour, it can make your world seem bleak, it can turn the things you like into things you hate, it can change your brightest days into the darkest nights, it can squash incredible potential into dismal failure, it can take a beautiful smile and turn it into a woeful frown, it can turn an angelic face into a prune face. Tragedy can do all these things but it doesn’t have to!! Nobody likes tragedy, nobody likes it when a crisis strikes, and nobody likes it when all of a sudden something bad happens. But the truth is – and I don’t know if you’ve discovered or not – but we cannot and will not go through life tragedy free! Tragedy for some of you may be…(start to describe different tragic incidences that occur in peoples lives) No matter what the crisis, or tragedy is that you face in life you do have a choice in how you will respond and your response will determine the effect tragedy has on your life!! Let’s pick up Elijah’s story again…

Read 1 Kings 17:17-24

1 Kings 17:17-24 (NIV)
17 Some time later the son of the woman who owned the house became ill. He grew worse and worse, and finally stopped breathing. 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” 19 “Give me your son,” Elijah replied. He took him from her arms, carried him to the upper room where he was staying, and laid him on his bed. 20 Then he cried out to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” 22 The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. 23 Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” 24 Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.”

The crisis (vs. 17-24)

The widow and her family (along with Elijah) were living in plenty amidst the dreadful drought around them and were enjoying the blessings and provision of God when…

The widow’s son becomes ill and grew (gradually) worse and worse until he finally stopped breathing
Isn’t it odd that the widow only went to Elijah when her son died? Why didn’t she go to Elijah when he first became ill?

The widow’s response to the tragedy (vs. 18) (she complains – choosing the path of bitterness)

The widow goes to Elijah (with her son in her arms [suggesting that the boy is fairly young]) and complains.

In her complaint:

a. She accuses Elijah of having something against her
b. She acknowledges there is sin in her life.
c. She assumes her son’s death is to remind her of her sin.

Three things are happening here in her response that result in becoming a bitter person…

a. Looking for someone or something else to blame
b. Beginning to blame yourself.
c. Trying to explain why it happened and making assumptions for the cause “There has to be a reason!!”

Elijah’s response (v. 19-21) (takes the tragedy to God)

a. Requests the widow to give him her son.
b. He took her son (from her arms) up to the upper room (where Elijah was staying) and laid the boy onto his bed.
c. Elijah first cried out to the Lord (vs 20)
i. Acknowledged the Lord as His God.
ii. Asked God whether it was Him who brought this tragedy on the widow.
“Poor Elijah must be getting a complex by now! Everywhere he goes tragedy seems to follow!”
d. Then Elijah stretched himself out on the boy 3 times and CRIED out to the Lord “O Lord MY God, let this boys life return to him.

What are the lessons learned from here?


a. Sometimes you have to give up in order to get up

• The widow had to give up her boy in order for God to do his work.
• Elijah had to give up the boy to God and His will.
• Stop trying to explain it, stop placing the blame on others and yourself but give up your crisis and your tragedy to God so that He can accomplish His work in spite of the tragedy!!
• Giving up does not mean quitting! I’m not saying that when a financial crisis hits that you quit your business. I’m not saying when you’re having marital problems that you quit your relationship. I’m not saying that when you lose a loved one you quit living and loving. I’m not saying that when you experience a miscarriage that you quit trying to have a baby. I’m not saying that when you are betrayed you quit trusting!!

What I am saying is that when tragic things happen don’t complain, don’t gripe, don’t wallow in self-pity and despair, don’t blame others for what has happened, don’t try to explain what happened, don’t choose all those things but instead choose to give your tragedy over to God and say, ” O Lord my God I don’t understand it, I don’t comprehend it, I don’t like it, and I certainly didn’t want this to happen but I’m making the choice to give this tragedy over to you, I’m choosing to let go of the hurt, the pain, the sorrow, and the anguish it has caused me, this tragedy is going to make me better not bitter!!”
• Elijah didn’t wail and moan with the woman and become bitter about what happened to the boy. Elijah didn’t go off and start blaming himself and others for what happened. Elijah simply said, “Give the boy to me” and then gave the boy to God.
• Here’s an important question…If you don’t believe in God, In Jesus, in the Holy Spirit then whom are you going to give your tragedy to?

b. You give up your tragedy to God through faith filled, persistent prayer that invites God to have the last say in your crisis.

– Elijah invited God to have the last say in this tragic circumstance and was persistent in his invitation.
– How often do you invite God to have the last say in the midst of your tragedies and crises?

• What was God’s response?

c. The Lord’s Response (vs.22-23)

a. The Lord heard Elijah’s cry
NOTE: The Lord’s response hinged on Elijah’s reaction to the tragedy!!

b. The boy’s life returned to him AND he lived.
Two miracles occurred here:
i. He was resurrected from the dead
ii. His original sickness that had caused his death was healed!

c. Elijah picked up the child and returned him to his mother.
i. She was consoled and declared, “Now I know you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.”
What will be the Lord’s Response to your tragedy? I don’t know exactly what he will do in your case but I do know this…
a. He will respond to your cry!
– His response will hinge on your reaction to your tragedy! Are you going to give it up to Him so that He can have the last word?

b. He will return life to you and you will grow and minister to others!!
John 10:9-10 (NIV)
9 I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

– Those who have made the choice of tragedy making them better are those who have learned to see things from an eternal perspective. They have grown through their tragedy and their life has become more fuller and richer. But that’s not all – they now are able to be agents of God’s grace when someone else faces a crisis or tragedy and they can say like Elijah – “Give it to me and we’ll give it to God!”

c. God will be glorified by His response!
John 9:1-3 (NIV)
1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

John 9:24-25 (NIV)
24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.” 25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

The over-comer says…
“My marriage was failing, I was almost bankrupt, my loved one died of cancer, my wife got really sick, I lost my best friend, I failed my exam, my son ran away but I will not quit, I will not creep around in the depths of bitterness, I’m not blaming and I’m not explaining I simply give it over to God and trust Him and believe in Him and hope in Him, and persist in my prayers to Him and this tragedy will not make me bitter but make me better, it will not defeat me but instead complete me, because God will have the last say in my marriage, in my finances, in my health and the health of my loved ones, in my relationships, in my school, in my workplace, in my home, in my family – I once was blind – but NOW I SEE!” Give glory to the Lamb of God, and the Lord of Hosts for He is glorified in His response to our tragedies!!!

CONCLUSION

A daughter complained to her father about her life and how things were so hard for her. She did not know how she was going to make it and wanted to give up. She was tired of fighting and struggling. It seemed like every time one problem was solved a new one arose.

Her father, a chef, took her to the kitchen. He filled three pots with water and placed each on a high fire. Soon the pots came to a boil. In one he placed carrots, in the second he placed eggs, and the last he placed ground coffee beans. He let them sit and boil, without saying a word. The daughter impatiently waited, wondering what he was doing. In about 20 minutes he turned off the burners. He fished the carrots out and placed them in a bowl. He pulled the eggs out and placed them in a bowl. Then he ladled the coffee out and placed it in a bowl.

Turning to her he asked, “Darling, what do you see?”

“Carrots, eggs, and coffee,” she replied.

He brought her closer and asked her to feel the carrots. She did and noted that they were soft. He then asked her to take an egg and break it. After pulling off the shell, she observed the hard-boiled egg. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. She smiled as she tasted it and smelled its rich aroma.

She humbly asked, “What does it mean Father?”

He explained that each of them had faced the same adversity, boiling water, but each reacted differently. The carrot went in strong, hard, and unrelenting. But after being subjected to the boiling water, it softened and became weak.

The egg had been fragile. Its thin outer shell had protected its liquid interior. But after sitting through the boiling water, its insides became hardened.

The ground coffee beans were unique, however. After they were in the boiling water, they had changed the water.
“Which are you,” he asked his daughter? “When adversity knocks on your door, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?” (I received this in an email from a friend with no given source)

How about you? Are you the carrot that seems hard, but with pain and adversity do you wilt and become soft and lose your strength? Are you the egg, which starts off with a malleable heart? Were you a fluid spirit, but after a death, a breakup, a divorce, or a layoff, have you become hardened and stiff? Your shell looks the same, but are you bitter and tough with a stiff spirit and heart?

Or are you like the coffee bean? The bean changes the hot water, the thing that is bringing the pain. When the water gets the hottest, it just tastes better. If you are like the bean, when things are at their worst, you get better and make things better around you. How do you handle adversity? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?

Do you give your tragedy, your crisis, your trial over to God and surrender to what his last say will be? Do you give God the opportunity to make you better through tragedy. Do you receive the life that only He can bring?

The apostle Paul writes in his letter to the Corinthian church…

2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)
8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

And near the end of the same letter…

2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)
9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Today, I have no doubt that there are some of you who are sitting here who are bitter because of something tragic that has happened or is happening in your life – maybe you are facing a crisis that seems like it will be the last straw – the thing that is going to break you. Perhaps you’ve been blaming others, or blaming yourself. Maybe you’ve been trying to explain why this awful thing happened or looking for an explanation from someone else. Friends, if that is you tonight then I want to tell you that you do have a choice. Yes the tragedy has hit, the crisis has exploded in your face but you DO HAVE A CHOICE in how you will respond. And I want to invite you tonight to choose better rather than bitter. Choose life rather than death. I invite you this morning to say, “O Lord my God, I give up this awful tragedy, this crisis to you – I am no longer going play the blaming or explaining game, but I am going to give this crisis over to you and I want you to have the last say!” If that is you tonight will you raise your hand…

Posted in Podcast, Sermons, Sunday PM SErvice | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Presence of Worship

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

INTRODUCTION

Last week Pastor Marshall began a series on worship, entitled “Worship is Essential”. He began with the first message in the series dealing with the Priority of Worship if you didn’t get a chance to hear the first message in this series then I encourage you to get a copy of this message either online via our website or you can request a CD a the welcome desk on your way out.

Today I’m going to be sharing the second message in this series.

Looking in Webster’s dictionary you’ll find this first definition for worship, “reverence, homage or honor paid to God” Then it goes on to say that the word is also used to refer to a place where this reverence, homage, etc. paid to God is given.

If you were to ask people what the word worship meant you would get a large variety of responses. Some might agree with Webster, some might say it is when you sing songs to God, some might say it is going to church, some might say it is when you place money in the offering plate. The reason why you would get such a large number of different answers is because the word “worship” is used in so many different contexts. While preparing this message I tried to think of all the ways in which I’ve used worship. I’ve said, “Let’s worship God together now” (in reference to singing praises); “Let’s worship God with our tithes and offerings”; “I worship you Lord”; “Why don’t you come and worship God with us” (while inviting someone to our church).

While looking closely at the contexts in which the word worship is often used I found that we often use this word to refer to an action we do – whether it is singing a chorus, going to church, placing money in an offering plate, raising our hands – etc. However I believe that scripture teaches us that worship is so much more than these things. In fact, you can be doing all these things and still not be entering into the place of true worship

I like what Robert Webber wrote about worship,

ILLUSTRATION:
We need to let go of our intellectual idea of worship and realize there is more to worship than a sermon; we have to let go of our evangelistic notion of worship and reckon with the fact that worship is not primarily directed toward the sinners who need to be converted; we must let go of our entertainment expectations and remind ourselves that we are not in church to watch a Christian variety show. We have gathered together in worship to be met by God the Almighty. God, the Creator of the universe, the One who sustains our lives, our Redeemer and King, is present through proclamation and remembrance. He wants to communicate to us, to penetrate our inner self, to take up residence within us. And, as we go through the experience of meeting with him in this mystical moment of public worship, we are to respond. But response is not just singing a hymn, not just saying a creed, not just saying a prayer. Response, from the very beginning of worship to the end, must be a powerful inner experience of actually being in the presence of God. When we sing a hymn or say a confession or prayer, we are not singing or saying words, but expressing a feeling, bringing our souls, truly responding and communicating to the living and active presence of a loving and merciful God. (Worship is a Verb, by Robert Webber, pg.114)

Today I want to talk about the presence of Worship. Worship really is about presence.

WORSHIP IS ABOUT PRESENCE

 acknowledging and reverent of the presence of God (Worship recognizes God’s presence)
 your presence before Him…. (Worship itself is a presence…)

For our text today I want to take another close look at a scripture that Pastor Marshall referenced last week. I believe we have here a story that has much to teach us about the presence of worship.

36 Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, 38 and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. 39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is–that she is a sinner.” 40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. 41 “Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. 44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven–for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little.” 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” 49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”
Luke 7:36-50 (NIV)

PRAY

The presence of worship is BIRTHED from the RECOGNITION OF who JESUS is (who the Father is, who the Holy Spirit is).

There is an incredible contrast in this Luke’s account of this event in Jesus’ life. A contrast between a guy named Simon (who happened to be a religious leader) and this unnamed woman (who is described as “immoral” a “sinner”).

• Something interesting: The Pharisee is said to have invited Jesus to his house for dinner…
 He didn’t wash Jesus feet (a basic form of hospitality)
 He didn’t anoint Jesus’ head with oil (a basic form of hospitality)
 He considered that Jesus’ may be a prophet or at most a teacher…but certainly not who Jesus claimed to be. Evidence is in how the Pharisee received Jesus.
• The woman was uninvited yet…
 She washed Jesus feet with her own hair
 She anointed his feet with not any oil but a COSTLY oil.
 She considered Jesus her Saviour. Evidence is in how Jesus received her.

When first looking at this scene, it’s easy to ask, why did the woman come to Jesus? Sure, she heard about him being at the Pharisee’s house and so she made the effort to go there and do her act of worship….but what really prompted her decision to make that effort? A clue is the story of two debtors that Jesus shared with Simon. Something had happened in this woman’s life, or she had witnessed something that opened her eyes to who Jesus is and she believed it. This faith, this understanding birthed the presence of Worship in her heart which resulted in this extravagant expression of her worship.

Listen to me, the presence of true worship is birthed in the recognition of who Jesus is – everything else is idolatry or pseudo-worship. True worship is all about Him. Idolatry or pseudo worship is all about what we can get out of it. True worship is all about God, all about recognizing who Christ is, the God of love, the God of mercy, the majestic God, God of grace, God of justice.

This presence of worship can be expressed in many different ways because it’s based in the heart of recognizing who God is. But remember, that whatever the expression of worship is it always, always, always points to Him!

Here in this story we have Simon inviting Jesus’ with the goal of discovering what this Jesus might be able to do for him, or perhaps what kind of danger this Jesus’ might pose to his position. The Pharisee was more concerned about what Jesus might do then who He is. Contrast the response of Jesus to this uninvited woman who is extravagant in washing Jesus with her hair her tears and anointing Him with the expensive perfume. An expression of what was birthed in her heart, true worship – because she saw who Jesus is! Friends, when you understand, recognize who Jesus is – you can’t help but worship Him!

{show “That’s My King” video)

Listen to me, sometimes, most times, worship isn’t really about ushering the presence of God into the sanctuary or the place where we are but more about ushering us into the presence of God…the woman, she didn’t usher Jesus’ into her presence via the expression of her worship…in honoring Him she was ushered into His presence.

The presence of worship COMPELS us to GIVE SOMETHING of OURSELVES

Worship always involves to some degree the giving of something as an expression of worship – a contribution of who you are, your life for the one you worship. What is significant in reading this story is that when this woman came to express her love for Christ, she not only poured out this expensive perfume but she had also come into this hostile territory, the home of a religious leader who knew her background, who knew her immorality and no doubt had reminded her of her failings many times. This woman faced the risk of being shut out, the risk of being rejected to humble herself and not only wash the feet of Jesus (and bring honor to Him who had been dishonored), but she humbled herself in washing His feet with her own hair, with her own tears. What an INCREDIBLE picture of the sacrifice made in Worship.

The thing about this giving in worship is that is not something giving unwillingly, or begrudgingly, or in agony. It is a willing gift because of the recognition of WHO you are giving to and what He has already given.

This means then, that the expression of our Worship isn’t confined to place or position. We may express this worship when we give…

• in singing praise to Him on Sunday’s
• in praying for someone in need
• in doing our job through the week to the best of our ability as if we were working for the King
• in the giving of our time to serve where He gives us passion to serve.
• In loving our spouse, our kids, our family as He loves us.
• In directing our resources where we see the need (because He has shown us that need)
• In being a friend to someone who doesn’t have a friend.

Really, every day presents us with opportunities to worship our king. It is entirely possible for our lives to be an expression of worship to Him. And it is when we truly recognize who God is. In fact, this is exactly what Paul (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) wrote to the church in Rome in Romans 12:1,

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice-the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
Romans 12:1 (NLT)

You know what’s interesting? Paul chose to introduce himself to the Roman church at the beginning of this letter as “a slave of Christ”. This follower of Jesus wasn’t just preaching to the church He was living what He taught.

The other thing we learn about the presence of worship from this woman at the feet of Jesus is…

The Presence of true worship brings a TRANSFORMATION

Among the transformation that happens in one worshipping is ….

…a transformation of perspective
True worship transforms your perspective on who Jesus is. It transforms your perspective on who you are (this woman knew she was a sinner, she realized what wasn’t right in her life but she also knew the only one who could do something about that was Christ)
• transforms your perspective on the future
• transforms your perspective of your problems.
• transforms your perspective of your pleasures.

...a transformation of position.
• the presence of worship changes your position from being someone far from God to being someone close to God.
• Interesting that Jesus said, “Your faith has saved you, go in peace”. Her position was changed from being someone outside the kingdom, to being a citizen of the Kingdom of God – from being ungodly, to a daughter of the King.
• What I said earlier about worship doesn’t usher the presence of God into the sanctuary or where we are but rather we are ushered into His presence!

…a transformation of purpose (from death to life).
• not concerned about what you get out it, but the Glory He gets.
• Your very life becomes an instrument of worship. There is purpose to everything you do.
• Invest in His kingdom rather than Your kingdom.

Sometimes this transformation in the life of a worshipper of Jesus occurs over a period of time, sometimes it is instantaneous – complete in that moment. But here’s the cool thing, sometimes the transformation brought about by the presence of worship happens even to those not worshipping! This is one of the reasons why I believe corporate worship is so incredible…when the presence of worship is birthed in our hearts and it is expressed in the gathering of God’s people – those who are present, who don’t know who God His, who are not yet Christ-followers, may be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the midst of worshippers! That is so AWESOME!!

Why does this transformation take place? Because true worshippers are ushered into the presence of God and sometimes a few people will get brought along with them…

(If time reference the story of Paul and Silas in Jail – Acts 16)

CONCLUSION

So why are we teaching on worship? Why this focus on worship? Because I think sometimes we get trapped in this wrong idea of what worship is all about and stuck in the routine and familiarity of tradition and behavior where we’ve allowed our “worship’ to become nothing but a cheerleading club. The only way we break free from that mentality and that behavior is to be reminded, to open our eyes, to unlock our hearts and RECOGNIZE who Jesus is, to ACKNOWLEDGE who He is! To respond with the gift of ourselves and allow His life and His presence to transform us!

I think it’s awesome how things have worked out so that we are having communion this morning. Communion serves as a great reminder of who CHRIST IS! Those distributing the emblems of communion can make they’re way up to the front now to do so. As the emblems of communion are being passed out I want us to watch this video clip called, “the gift of Worship”

PRAY

BLESSING (from Hebrews 13:20-21)
20 May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, 21 equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21 (NIV)

Posted in Podcast, Sermons, Sunday Morning Service | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Cultivating Holy Desperation

INTRODUCTION

This morning I spoke about holy desperation. I believe that very few of us know what it’s like to be desperate for something. The truth is, we have so many “things” readily available that for many of us true desperation is not experienced.

Is there anybody here who likes country music? If there’s anything that comes close to desperate, that’s it. Now, I hope I don’t make any enemies picking on country music tonight…well let me just say that I’m one of those people who won’t actively seek out country music to listen too but I will confess that if it happens to be playing I don’t exactly wanna run away either. But listen, for the most part, country music is filled with “desperate” lyrics…that typically revolve around sad love stories. Some of these titles I’ve found give it away,

1. If You Can’t Live Without Me, Why Aren’t You Dead?
2. I Went Back to My Fourth Wife for the Third Time and Gave Her a Second Chance to Make a First Class Fool Out of Me
3. You’re the Reason Our Kids are Ugly
4. I’m Ashamed to Be Here, but Not Ashamed Enough to Leave
5. If My Nose Was Running Money, Honey, I’d Blow It All On You
6. You Were Only a Splinter As I Slid Down The Banister Of Life
7. You Ain’t Much Fun Since I Quit Drinkin’
8. I Would Kiss You Through the Screendoor but It’d Strain Our Love
9. I Wouldn’t Take Her to a Dogfight, Even if I thought She Could Win
(contributed by Davon Huss @ www.sermoncentral.com illustration database)

In truth I think some of the writers of these titles are desperately looking for something original don’t you think?

Why is understanding desperation so important? Jesus said that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled. That is, those who are desperate for him will know His presence in their lives.

I firmly believe that God moves in a powerful way in the place of Holy Desperation. In the place where He alone matters and is sought after. Is it no wonder that the writer of proverbs wrote,

Proverbs 15:9 (NIV)
9 The LORD detests the way of the wicked but he loves those who pursue righteousness.

Proverbs 21:21 (NIV)
21 He who pursues righteousness and love finds life, prosperity and honor.

The kind of desperation that Jesus is talking about is like the story of the…

… little boy about five years old once tried to pick a small snail from a rock, but the creature’s hold was stronger than his tiny fingers, and he could not get if off. When he prayed that evening he thought of the snail and said:–

“O God, grant that I may stick to thee as the snail stuck to the rock today, and couldn’t be got off.”-(sermoncentral.com, Fred Ampara)

This morning I spent some time explaining what happens when we are desperate and in the process revealed why God wants us to hunger and thirst after Him. Really though, the key to holy desperation lies first in know how much you need Him. I am grateful to God because there were [more than?] a few of you who this morning stood and affirmed your desire to have the desperation in your life. You recognized that there’s something missing in your relationship with God and that hunger and thirst was awakened.

Tonight I want to hopefully give some practical tools to cultivating that desperation. I believe that God has given us some great insight through His word into how to nurture Holy Desperation in our lives so that we are in pursuit of Christ and His righteousness daily. The truth is, a lot of people’s spiritual journeys resemble a roller coaster ride. It’s up and down, twisting all around. There are the “highs” where they’ve had a life-changing encounter with God and then there are the lows where you wonder where the life change has gone. You know what I mean? Well, I believe it’s possible, over time, to develop a character of Holy Desperation. Not desperate in the sense of wild-eyed hopelessness – but desperate in the sense of wide-eyed pursuit. Remember Jesus’ promise – those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled.

So will you allow me a few minutes to give some teaching on cultivating this Holy Desperation?

1. Pray

This may be the most often quoted, obvious and encouraged spiritual discipline but it can’t be left unsaid.

There’s lots of reasons why prayer is so important in cultivating Holy Desperation but the two I want to emphasize are:

a. We pray to invite intimacy.
b. We pray to build belonging.

Psalm 42:1-11 is a wonderful example of how prayer both initiates and sustains Holy Desperation. In this psalm, King David describes the agony he’s going through as he wrestles with feeling like God’s forgotten Him and the knowledge that He hasn’t. He paints a wonderful picture of his desperation for God in describing it like a deer panting for water.

There was a man named Nicholas Herman who worked in the food service industry. He was a short-order cook and bottle-washer. Nick became deeply dissatisfied with his life; he worried chronically about himself, even whether or not he was saved.

One day, Nick was looking at a tree, and the same truth struck him that struck the psalmist so long ago: the secret of the life of a tree is that it remains rooted in something other and deeper than itself. He decided to make his life an experiment in what he called a “habitual, silent, secret conversation of the soul with God.”

He is known today by the new name given to him by his friends: Brother Lawrence. He remained obscure throughout his life. He never got voted pope. He never got close to becoming the CEO of his organization. He stayed in the kitchen. But the people around him found that rivers of living water flowed out of him that made them want to know God the way he did.

“The good brother found God everywhere,” one of them wrote, “as much while he was repairing shoes as while he was praying with the community.” After Lawrence died, his friends put together a book of his letters and conversations. It is called Practicing the Presence of God and is thought, apart from the Bible, to be the most widely read book of the last four centuries. (quoted in Ed Sasnett’s message, “Happy are the Starved”)

His one ambition was to know the presence of Christ and his primary means of cultivating his pursuit was continual conversation with God.

Really folks, that’s all prayer is. It’s conversing with God. Probably the most important way to cultivate a hunger and thirst for him is to pray that God’s spirit will continually remind you of your need for Him.

Another side-effect of praying consistently and regularly is that you start to realize how important it becomes to your life. In fact you will miss when you are not praying.

Matthew 7:7-11 (NIV)
7 “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. 9 “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

2. Practice “Giving Up”

When I say practice giving up I’m not talking about quitting but rather about surrendering things that mean something for a season or for good. This practice can help to teach desperation and can lead to recognizing and learning to be dependent on God.

Try giving up something dear to you for a while to gain a taste for desperation. This is the principle of fasting. Fasting is the process of denying something dear to ourselves in order to hone holy desperation for the source of life, God. One of the major obstacles to holy desperation is the frank fact that many of us really don’t know what it is to be desperate! This practice will help to give you that understanding.

So, try this. For the next week, choose one of your desires and systematically deny it. For instance, if you love meat, be a vegetarian. If you love to get places quickly, drive the speed limit, stopping at yellow lights you would normally have sped through. If you like to work while you eat lunch, do nothing while you eat. If you like watching the news before going to bed every night – try reading your Bible instead. Get the picture? Friends, fasting doesn’t always have to be about giving up food (although that is the primary practice!). Fasting is really about giving up something we normally depend on and learning to depend on Him.

Interestingly enough, this practice of “giving up” also has the side-effect of helping you to hone your understanding of what’s really important in your life. When you give up things that you think you absolutely have to have in your life – after a while you may realize that you can get along just fine without them. That’s why it’s a good practice to regularly “give up” what you consider dear to cultivate Holy Desperation in your life.

“Giving Up” also refers to the practice of “giving away”. Let’s face it – a lot of us have things or “stuff” in our life that either we don’t need or that we have more than what we need. Our society teaches us that the path through life is all about accumulation. You know what I mean? I remember when I first went to college I was able to fit all my “stuff” into the trunk of my parent’s Cavalier – my Mom, Dad and sister were able to come and see me off to school. The next year only my Dad was able to take me to college because my “stuff” took up the trunk and the back seat of the car. The following year I was fortunate because my parents had a bought a mini-van so there was more room to bring my stuff — still…only my Dad and I could fit! Then in my final year of college we had to load up all my stuff in the van and trailer. I’m not even going to go into after I got married…I don’t’ think it’d be safe hehe.

My point is I think every single one of us can identify with the fact that we accumulate a lot of “stuff” going through life. Part of the reason is because we live in such a blessed country where we have the luxury of doing so. I mean garage sales were invented to be glorified stuff exchangers. Oh sure the excuse for a garage sale is to get rid of things you don’t use anymore and hopefully make a bit of money…but the real reason is so that we can make room for more stuff!

Folks, try this. Pick a room in your house this month and go through it and determine what you’re going to get rid of and what you’re going to give away. Get rid of the stuff that is truly garbage – you know the things that if someone gave you, you wouldn’t keep if your life depended on it. Mark for giving away things that are still in good shape and are usable. Here’s where the toughest part comes. So many of us can readily identify things that we could give away that are truly junk – but is what about giving away something that you still find useable. Or better yet, it’s easy for us to take things and drop them off someplace and say “Here, take this and give it to someone who needs it” What about making some effort to find out if there is a neighbor or a co-worker or someone at church, or a family member and actually delivering it to them in person?

Once you’ve done that for one room – move on to the next room in your house and so on. You know what? You could even make this a family activity! Then, make a point that for every new thing you obtain you have to give away something else.

Friends, doing this will help to cultivate Holy Desperation in your life. Listen to these words from scripture and you’ll see why,

Proverbs 11:24-28 (NIV)
24 One man gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. 25 A generous man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. 26 People curse the man who hoards grain, but blessing crowns him who is willing to sell. 27 He who seeks good finds goodwill, but evil comes to him who searches for it. 28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will thrive like a green leaf.

Proverbs 18:16 (NIV)
16 A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.

3. Spend time with desperate people.

Holy desperation is contagious. When you associate with people who are desperate for Jesus eventually you will “catch” it. Truthfully, every single one of us is born with this innate need for God. It is a spiritual vacuum that can only be filled with a relationship with Christ. Spending time with people who are fully aware of this vacuum and are desperate in their pursuit for Him helps to awaken our own awareness of our need for Him.

The problem is, when we spend too much time with people who are falsely satisfied with imaginary springs of water – then we become blind to our own need as well. That is the strategy of Satan. He’s doing everything he can to convince us to attempt to fill that most basic of needs with everything but righteousness.

2 Corinthians 4:4 (NIV)
4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

I’m not saying to run away from relationships with people who don’t believe as you do – in fact many of you already have wonderful friendships and connections with people who may not believe in Jesus Christ – who haven’t experienced springs of living water running in their life. That’s great! What I am saying is in order to cultivate Holy Desperation in your life make some effort to include in your closest relationships people who are desperate for Christ. How do you recognize these individuals? I like a quote I came across… it gives a clue,

Would you know who is the greatest saint in the world? It is not he who prays most or fasts most; it is not he who gives most alms or is most eminent for temperance, chastity, or justice; but it is he who is always thankful to God, who wills everything that God wills, who receives everything as an instance of God’s goodness and has a heart always ready to praise God for it.
— William Law

Do you know any such people in your life? Get to know them, learn from their life. By the way, this is one of the reasons we come together as a big group on Sunday’s. It’s an opportunity for this to happen. It’s also one of the reasons why I believe small groups are important. All a church needs is a few desperate people and a few more wanting that desperation and something will happen. All a small group needs is one or two people with Holy Desperation and something will happen.

Another way to cultivate Holy Desperation is to…

4. Recognize and allow difficulty to notch up your desperation for Him.

I like what C.S. Lewis wrote,

Pain insists upon being attended to, God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pains: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.
— C.S. Lewis

Aptly put and I believe the idea is true but the reality is that many of us, when we experience trouble or problems in life, we just want the pain to go away as quickly as possible. The thing is, it is when troubles come and when we experience pain that the greatest opportunity for fueling Holy Desperation appears.

Have you ever noticed that God is not in a hurry? It took 40 years for Moses to receive his commission to lead the people out of Egypt. It took 17 years of preparation before Joseph was delivered from slavery and imprisonment. It took 20 years before Jacob was released from his uncle Laban’s control. Abraham and Sarah were in their old age when they finally received the son of promise, Isaac. So why isn’t God in a hurry?

God called each of these servants to accomplish a certain task in His Kingdom, yet He was in no hurry to bring their mission into fulfillment. First, He accomplished what He wanted to do in them – then He was able to do what He wanted to do through them. We are often more focused on outcome than the process to get there. When we experience His presence daily, one day we wake up and realize that God has done something special in and through our lives. However, the accomplishment is no longer what excites us. Instead, what excites us is knowing Him. Through the tough times in life, we can become more acquainted with His love, grace, and power in our lives. When this happens, we are no longer focused on the outcome because the outcome is a result of our walk with Him. It is not the goal of our walk, but the by-product.

Look at Joseph, when he came to power in Egypt, he probably couldn’t have cared less. He had come to a place of complete surrender so that he was not anxious about tomorrow or his circumstances. His pursuit was not for power but for presence. More specifically the presence of the true King in His life!

Friends, when tough times come – as they always do. Allow them to be the crucible that refines and fuels your desperation for Christ. Cling to Him in those times. Don’t let defeat, disappointment, and disaster knock you down and keep you down. Instead let these things propel you into greater intimacy with He who is greater than anything that comes your way.

A man named Jerry Vines made this astute observation,

A defeat that leaves you humble is better than a victory that leaves you proud.
(Interviews with Jesus, published by Broadman Press, Nashville, Tennessee; pg. 25)

Finally, another help in cultivating Holy Desperation is…

5. Fresh, Pervasive Worship.

There are many perspectives on what worship is. Listen to these two examples,

A young Christian went to his local church usually, but one weekend attended a small town church.
He came home and his wife asked him how it was.
“Well,” said the young man, “It was good. They did something different however. They sang hymns instead of regular songs.”
“Hymns,” said his wife, “what are those?”
“Oh, they’re okay. They’re sort of like regular songs, only different,” said the young man.
“Well, what’s the difference? Asked his wife.
The young man said, “Well it’s like this: If I were to say to you, ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a regular song. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you: ‘Oh Martha, dear Martha, hear thou my cry. Inclinest thine ear to the words of my mouth. Turn thou thy whole wondrous ear by and by, To the righteous, inimitable, glorious truth. For the way of the animals who can explain? There in their heads is no shadow of sense, Harkenest they in God’s sun or his rain Unless from the mild, tempting corn they are fenced. Yea those cows in glad bovine, rebellious delight, Have broke free their shackles, their warm pens eschewed. Then goaded by minions of darkness and night They all my mild Chilliwack sweet corn have chewed. So look to that bright shining day by and by, Where all foul corruptions of earth are reborn. Where no vicious animal makes my soul cry, and I no longer see those foul cows in the corn. AMEN!
“Then, if I were to do only verses one, two, and four and do a key change on the last verse, well that would be a hymn.”..

That’s one perspective but here’s another…

An old farmer went to the city one weekend and attended the big city church.
He came home and his wife asked him how it was.
“Well,” said the farmer, “it was good. They did something different, however. They sang praise choruses instead of hymns.”
“Praise choruses?” said his wife, “What are those?”
“Oh they’re okay. They’re sort of like hymns, only different,” said the farmer.
“Well, what’s the difference?” asked the wife.
The farmer said, “Well it’s like this – If I were to say to you: ‘Martha, the cows are in the corn,’ well that would be a hymn. If, on the other hand, I were to say to you: ‘Martha, Martha, Martha, Oh, Martha, Martha, MARTHA MARTHA, the cows, the big cows, the brown cows, the black cows, the white cows, the black and white cows, the COWS, COWS, COWS are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, are in the corn, the CORN, CORN, CORN’!!! ‘Oh, Oh, Ooooooooh, yes, it’s true, the whole herd is in the awesome corn, yes, it’s true, the whole herd is in the awesome corn, — weeell, it’s true, the whole herd is in the awesome corn!!! Alleluia! – That would be a praise chorus.”…

Now obviously theses are some pretty extreme perspectives. But I share them to make a point. Worship isn’t about whether we sing a hymn or a praise chorus. Singing praises to Him who made us is a manifestation of worship but worship is something that is not limited to certain times or places or even specific methods.

John 4:24 (NIV)
24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

God is looking for people who will worship Him in “spirit and truth” Who does that refer to? I like how Dallas Willard describes it. He says,

It refers to people who have free-hearted and wholehearted admiration of, respect for, and commitment to God as the highest being of all. They never try to conceal anything from him and always rely completely on him. (from Revolution of Character by Dallas Willard with Don Simpson)

In other words worship isn’t so much an act we do as it is a state of being and a relational response. It is possible to be worshipful in everything we do.

Now I say a way to cultivate Holy Desperation is through fresh pervasive worship because for far too many people worship is limited to routine and place. When our worship is fresh – that is when we are creative in how we show our affection, admiration and respect for God – and when our worship is pervasive – that is we see it as a state of being and relational response rather than just what we do, when worship is enabled and welcomed in every area of our life – then it fuels a Holy Desperation for Him.

In some ways worship is like marriage. I’ve been married to my wife Kerryanne, well it will be 13 years this coming August. There’s something I’ve noticed in this time we’ve been married. The more routine and predictable we allow our marriage to become, the more we begin to take our relationship for granted. But if every day we share together some new expression, gift, act of love, or experience, our relationship will keep growing.

Similarly, when worship becomes predictable, it can become ordinary and lose its impact. When worship is fresh and pervasive in our lives it can enliven our relationship with Christ and increase our desire for Him.

CONCLUSION

Well, there you have it – five ways in which you can cultivate Holy Desperation in your life.

1. Pray
2. Practice “Giving Up”
3. Spend time with Desperate People
4. Recognize and allow difficulty to “notch up” your desperation for Him
5. Fresh and pervasive worship.

I’m convinced that there is a battle going on in the world today for the hearts and minds of every person. If there’s one thing Satan, the enemy of God, dreads more – it’s the pulse of someone who’s got Holy Desperation. He is doing everything in His power to keep people from realizing their need for God and keep them in trapped in their satisfaction with temporary things. Half the battle is realizing that we need God, the other half is cultivating our continued dependence on Him. And friends, that is a hard battle when you think of all the things we are blessed with in our lives today.

But friends take heart with the word of God – for it says,

2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV)
9 For the eyes of the LORD range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.

If you recognize your need for God tonight, if you were one of the ones this morning that stood and said, “I want that Holy Desperation in my life”, if you’ve realized that gnawing sense of dissatisfaction with the temporary things in your life – then I invite you to allow the seed of desperation for Him to flourish and consume your being. God is looking for people like you, He’s looking for the committed, the willing, the desperate.

Posted in Sermons, Sunday PM SErvice | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Holy Desperation

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

INTRODUCTION

Today I want to talk about desperation. Do you know what it’s like to be desperate? Have you ever been in the place where you could say you are really desperate for something?

Let’s play the “what if?” game…

What if…

…You didn’t have any food and were starving? Would you be desperate?

  • Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of hunger and ¾ are children under the age of 5.
  • It is estimated that some 854 million people in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
  • About one third of all children in the world under five suffer from malnutrition.

…You didn’t have a job and were penniless? Would you be desperate?

  • Statistics Canada reports the unemployment rate for January of this year at 7.2%. That means roughly 7 out of every 100 people are without a job. Of course the safety net in Canada helps a lot of those people out. With welfare and employment insurance a lot of the unemployed don’t have reason to be desperate.
  • Still what if you were in the place where you had absolutely no income coming in would you be desperate?
  • Nearly one in four people, 1.3 billion – a majority of humanity – live on less than $1 per day, while the world’s 358 billionaires have assets exceeding the combined annual incomes of countries with 45 percent of the world’s people. UNICEF

…You didn’t have clean water and were thirsty? Would you be desperate?

…Your child got accidentally locked in your car along with the keys with all the windows up on a hot day? Would you be desperate?

This “what if?” game helps to put a bit of a picture on what leads to desperation. Desperate people display an extreme urgency or intensity because of great need or desire.

I wonder how many of us have experienced desperation? The reason why I’m talking about desperation today is because I think it helps us to understanding something Jesus said while delivering what’s known as the Sermon on the Mount.

Jesus understood the power of an image connected with an idea. The cross, a mustard seed, a lamp on a stand, a pearl are powerful images that reveal something even greater about Christ and His purposes for our life.

One day, early in His ministry, there was a crowd of people following Jesus around and Jesus went up on a nearby mountain. As his disciples gathered around, Jesus spoke and began to teach – delivering what is commonly known as the “be-attitudes” because they are things Jesus encourages His hearers to “be”. I want to focus in on a particular saying of Jesus that Matthew records,

Matthew 5:6 (NIV)
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Unless we know what it is to be desperate – I don’t think we’d understand this verse. Friend’s I want to present to you today my belief that to truly walk in the full blessing of God there must be a holy desperation for Him. Jesus attaches the image of someone who is hungry and thirsty for righteousness to the reward of God’s presence and blessing.

The one that God rewards hungers and thirsts for righteousness. It is not that he wants to be a little more righteous. The intensity with which Jesus states this pictures desperation. Jesus is saying such a person can’t get along without righteousness; it is as important to him as food and water. He is describing the kind of hunger we have when we say we are starving – the problem is few of us really know what that is. We really don’t know what it is to be desperately hungry or desperately thirsty. For many of us the food we eat and the water we drink is so readily available and so easily obtainable that we take it for granted. Sadly, that’s exactly how we approach our relationship with God and righteousness. If that’s the case then how are we going to cultivate this holy desperation? We need a picture of what that looks like.

What about Moses? Moses’ first encounter with God was at a bush that was on fire, but it wasn’t consumed. He took off his shoes and got on his face before God. Later he sees God perform ten plagues on Egypt, and Moses leads the Hebrews out of bondage without a single arrow being fired. Moses raised the rod of God into the air and saw the Red Sea split and a million plus people crossover on dry land. He saw the glory of God’s presence represented in a pillar of fire at night and a cloud during the day. He drank water that came from a rock and ate manna that came from heaven’s ovens. After all that, do you know what Moses said to the Lord? “Lord, I know I’ve seen all those miracles but would you show me Your glory?” (Exodus 33:18) Now wait a minute, Moses? I think you’ve seen enough, haven’t you? Not for Moses. His hunger and thirst for God were insatiable.

Then there’s the story of the prodigal son that Jesus shared one day. A son who got his inheritance from his father and squandered it away until he had nothing. In the lowest of lows when the Prodigal Son was hungry he sought to satisfy his hunger with the husks fed to the hogs. But it wasn’t until he began to starve that he decided to go back to his father.

Desperation is birthed from desire – the more empty the need the more desire to fill it.

The prodigal son remembered what it was like to eat at his father’s table. In fact he specifically remembered that the servants at his father’s house were a whole lot better off than he was at that moment.

The starting point in all achievement is desire. Weak desire brings weak results, just as a small amount of fire makes a small amount of heat. The key to will power is want power. People who want something badly enough can usually find the will power to achieve it. Apathy isn’t a state of mind; it is a state of the heart. Just look at the word. It’s formed with the prefix “a,” which means “without.” The root word is pathos, passion. No love. Apathetic people are not people who don’t know; they are people who don’t care. They have lost their hunger and thirst. The desperation is just not there.

But here’s another important point. Desperation is multiplied when something we want is something we need but don’t have.

Jesus said we are to be desperate for righteousness. The Bible speaks of righteousness in three ways. There is positional, public and pure righteousness.

Positional righteousness.

Refers to our relationship to God based on our relationship with Jesus Christ. When a sinner repents of his sin and surrenders to Jesus as his God he goes from being separated from God to being a child of God. Everything has been made right between him and God because of the saving work of Jesus Christ.

Public Righteousness

Refers to the will and standards of God being practiced in society. God wants society to be just and merciful. God wants people to live at peace with one another. Christians work to see that laws and social standards reflect God’s will. That’s public righteousness.

Pure righteousness

Refers to the individual Christian living a holy life, a life of purity. This is to live a life being set free from the power of sin. They want to be set free from selfishness and empowered to live selflessly like Jesus. They want to be free from revenge taking and be big-hearted people of forgiveness like Jesus. They want to stop disbelieving God and start growing in faith in god. Sin and its consequences are progressively being removed from their lives.

Is Jesus telling us in this beatitude we are to be parched for positional, public and purity of righteousness? I think that is part of it. But one way to understand what Jesus means is to see how He used the word in the context of the rest of His message. Look at v. 10-11.

Matthew 5:10-11 (NIV)
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.

Jesus is saying, the reason Christian’s are persecuted is because of righteous living and identification with Him.

This reminds me of the distinction between Christianity and all other religions. At the heart of every religion there is a major figure. With Buddhism it is Buddha. With Islam there is Mohammed. With Hinduism it is Krishna. And with Christianity it is Jesus Christ. That’s where the comparison ends. If you ask adherents of these other faiths where you find salvation, they point to a way of living. A Muslim will not point you to Mohammed. He will point you to the Koran. It is not Buddha who delivers you, it is his “noble Truths” that instruct you.

By contrast, Jesus not only taught the truth, He said He is the Truth. He didn’t just point the way to salvation; He said He is the Way. That’s why for a Christian it is not a way of living, it is Him living in and through us!

Ultimately, the Bible teaches that Jesus is righteousness. So Jesus is saying that a blessed life is found when we are desperate for HIM. This is holy desperation.

When people are desperate:

Masks are shattered – there’s no time for pretense.

We live in a world where people wear masks. Now I’m not talking about actual physical masks that cover your face – I’m talking about the invisible masks we place between people and who we really are. We wear masks to promote who we want to be, or we wear masks to protect us from pain, or we wear masks because we are ashamed of something in who we are. But whatever the reason, all of us wear masks to some degree. The purpose of masks is present something different than what’s really present.

Now there are different situations where some of those masks come off. One example is when we learn to trust someone enough and they see us without our mask. A time of trial or difficulty will sometimes lead to the mask slipping off. Then there’s the desperate. When someone is desperate – their masks are shattered.

Desperate people don’t worry about what other people think. They don’t worry about how they look and a lot of times they aren’t even really thinking about what they are doing. There’s no pretending when someone is desperate.

That’s why Jesus wants us to hunger and thirst for Him. The masks have to come off – the pretense needs to disappear. The artificial behaviour and halfhearted apathetic conduct has got to go. Holy Desperation helps us to come to Christ on the most intimate level – heart to heart, spirit to spirit. It prompts us to cry, “Abba Father”.

When people are desperate…

True character is shown – their foundation is exposed.

The core of a person’s being is revealed when they are desperate. Because the mask is shattered and there’s no time for pretense the character of who you really are is painted on the outside. The truth is, desperation is the crucible of your inner being. It brings out the best and worst of people.

Take for example the “what if” scenario I posed at the beginning of the message with your child accidentally locked in the car. Desperation will bring out the best and worst of the loving mother wanting to get her child out of the car. The best is she will do everything she can to get those doors open. The worst is she might scream at a few people in the process.

That’s just a small example but friends, the core of who you are is revealed by desperation.

There’s a cyclical quality to holy desperation. Those who are desperate for Christ (hunger and thirst after righteousness) have their true character exposed – in the midst of their pursuit after Him all kinds of character flaws, and rotten behaviour will be revealed. As this happens it can fuel an increasing awareness of our lostness and depravity without Christ. This in turn fires the furnace of Holy Desperation for the only one who can build the solid foundation of life in our being.

It’s interesting that Jesus concluded His Sermon on the Mount with a parable about a man who built his house on rock vs. the man who built his house on sand. The point of the parable is that hearing the words of Christ and putting them into practice is like building your house on rock vs. those who hear but don’t put into practice which is like building a house on sand. The wind, rain, and floods slamming against the construction will reveal the foundation. The difference between those who hear and put into practice and those who hear and don’t is this – holy desperation. That’s why Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled!”

When people are desperate

Focus is sharpened – thoughts and activity are pinpointed.

Things begin to take on incredible clarity with desperate people. Desperation crowds out the irrelevant and the insignificant. The desperate person’s world becomes defined by what they are desperate for. Priorities, timetables, and resources are funneled towards the object of their desperation.

Those who are hunger and thirst after righteousness are marked by lives of purity, purpose, and power. Prayer isn’t an option – its connection. Reading the Word of God isn’t a chore, it’s feasting. Worship isn’t a song – it’s living. Witnessing isn’t sharing – it’s infecting.

There’s nothing that brings clarity of purpose, and focuses your priorities more than when you are desperate for something. That’s why I believe Jesus said that those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled. Why? Because the desperate lose the baggage and pursue the things that help them reach the object of their desire.

Finally, when people are desperate…

Obstacles are shrunk – the truly desperate will look for and push away any obstacle in their way.

When the object of a person’s desperation is before them the obstacle that appear in front of them are endangered. You don’t want to get in the way of a desperate person! A desperately hungry person looking at a full-course dinner across a crocodile infested river will eventually cross that river (or be eaten on the attempt across). Seemingly superhuman feats are often accomplished by the desperate.

Yet, on the other side of the coin is the fact that incredibly foolish things have been done as well. The point is, however, that a desperate person weighs the consequences of not obtaining their need or desire greater than the obstacles in their path to obtain it.

When it comes to this be-attitude – the greatest obstacle to the pursuit of Christ is ourselves.

C.S. Lewis pictured this craving for God and our resistance to it in an episode from The Silver Chair. The lion is symbolic of Christ and Jill is a picture of us.

When Jill stopped, she found she was dreadfully thirsty…She listened carefully and felt almost sure she heard the sound of running water. Jill…looked around her very carefully. There was no sign of the Lion; so she plucked up her courage to …look for running water.

…she came to an open glade and saw the stream, bright as glass…[A]lthough the sight of the water made her feel ten times thirstier than before, she didn’t rush forward and drink. She stood still as if she had been turned to stone, with her mouth wide open. And she had a very good reason: just this side of the stream lay the Lion…

“Are you thirsty?” said the Lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the Lion.
“May I – could I – would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.

The Lion answered this only by a look and a very low growl. And as Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized that she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience.

The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.

“Will you promise not to – do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.

“I make no promise,” said the Lion.

Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer.

“Do you eat girls?” she said.

“I have swallowed up girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the Lion.

“I dare not come and drink,” said Jill.

“Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion.

“Oh, dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”

“There is no other stream,” said the Lion.

CONCLUSION

There is no other stream. And yet the world is full of thirsty people looking for water to quench their thirst – but are either unaware of the stream that will quench it or refusing to drink out of fear or pride.

Then there may be some of you who are here today who are thirsty for God. Maybe you are not interested in just a sip. You want the whole glass. What grace He has bestowed on you this morning. This passage beckons you to come to Him and to be filled. Don’t let fear turn you away. You will only go away thirsty.

Jesus says those who hunger and thirst after righteousness will be filled. It means completely. You don’t just get a taste of bread but the whole loaf. You don’t just get a sip of water you get the whole bucket.

This is written in the passive voice, which means it is not something we do. It is something that God does. It is limited to those who hunger and thirst for Christ. Our responsibility is not to pursue satisfaction but the Saviour. Jesus reinforced this later in this message to the people gathered around Him on the mountain when He said,

Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

One other thing – hunger and thirst are written in the present tense, which describes a continuing, on-going activity. Just like physical hunger and thirst can be satisfied, if you are healthy it will break out anew. In fact, as in the example of Moses and the Prodigal son it will break out with greater intensity. As long as you feed it, it will grow until it is fully met in God’s presence (tonight I’m going to spend some more time talking about cultivating Holy Desperation).

Folks, our community needs individuals with holy desperation, a church with holy desperation. Our country needs a church with holy desperation. Our world needs a church with holy desperation!

Are you desperate? Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled”. This offer was made on a hillside in the backwater country of Judea. It’s the same offer made her this morning, today in this church in Waterloo. A mother raising small children can know this filling. Working folks and retired folks can know this filling. It can happen to anyone, anywhere and at anytime. The offer is good today. If you are hungry or thirsty that’s good. If you’re desperate that’s good. You can be filled. You can know Him. Come to Jesus.

This Book (point to Bible) is not primarily about the desire of people to be with God. The Bible is about God’s desire to be with you. The most frequent promise in the Bible is not “I forgive you”. It is “I will be with you”

God so wanted to be with you that He left heaven to come to earth as a man. He so wanted you to be with Him He died on the cross for your sin and rose from the dead as proof that you can be forgiven – that He has conquered sin, satan, and death. But you must desire and repent of sin. You must accept Him as your God. If you want to be with Him, know that He already wants to be with you!

Let’s get desperate folks! PRAY

Posted in Podcast, Sermons, Sunday Morning Service | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Wilderness Wastelands of Doubt

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

INTRODUCTION

One of the “poster” scripture for the purpose of Mission in every believer’s life and in the church we belong to is the Great Commission which we find in Matthew 28.

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
Matthew 28:19 (NIV)

I was reading this scripture and there was something that stood out -that really caught my attention…turn with me if you will to Matthew 28 – I’m going to be reading beginning at verse 16,

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
Matthew 28:16-17 (NIV)

Circle that phrase, “but some doubted”. That phrase kind of struck me as kind of odd. After all the events that had happened in the past few weeks….Jesus being crucified and buried and then rising from the dead – Visiting many of them in different places and different circumstances – Performing miracles as He did before His death – Sitting with them and talking with them and even eating with them. After all this, the Bible records that on that mountain they worshipped Him before He was about to ascend BUT SOME DOUBTED!! That floored me. Why would they doubt? What were they doubting? Were they doubting that this was indeed Jesus? Were they doubting that He had died in the first place? Were they doubting that what they were seeing was actually real? Or maybe they were simply doubting that they could carry on the work that Jesus wanted them to do?

The Bible doesn’t really tell us what they doubted or why they doubted but it was significant enough to be included in its pages – and even more astounding it’s included right before Jesus spoke some of His final words to them. Perhaps it was those words that finally erased some of those lingering doubts. Especially as he declared, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

But seeing this phrase kind of stirred something in my thoughts. It probably leapt out at me because I don’t know about you but there are times when I have doubted. I hope I didn’t shock anyone…But really, I think some of us, perhaps a few of us identify with that statement? But some doubted.

WHAT IS DOUBT?

The dictionary defines doubt as a feeling of uncertainty, or misgivings. That is when doubt is used as a noun. When doubt is used as a verb it is defined as “to disbelieve, or to distrust”.

How many of you can honestly say that you’ve gone through life without ever doubting? You know you’ve never had an uncertain feeling…you’ve never had misgivings about something…you’ve never disbelieved or distrusted something” I didn’t think so – in fact I highly doubt it! Every single one of us has had our doubts about something at one time or another in life. We’ve had our doubts with career choices…our marriage…our friends…the car we bought…or the house we live in…and even the things we believe in. The list could go on and on. The truth is, doubt comes up just about every day of our life. We can have doubts about so many things that sometimes our lives are defined more by what we doubt (or what we’re uncertain about) than what we believe.

But I want to know what the Bible says about doubt ?

i. Jesus said that it is foolishness.

After Jesus’ resurrection there were two men traveling on the road between Jerusalem and Emmaus. As they were walking along they were discussing the events that had happened in the past few days. They were talking about Jesus death and burial and then the unsettling reports that they had heard about His resurrection. A man joined them and unbeknownst to them it was Jesus. Jesus probes a little and asks them what they were discussing. The men stopped and sorrowfully began to retell the tale of what had happened to Jesus. A couple things stand out in this tale that I’m sure Jesus picked up on…

1. They described Jesus as a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people.
2. They divulged the depth of their disillusionment when they stated Him as one they had hoped would be the Messiah.
3. Then they expressed their doubt over the story that Jesus was alive but simply explained that His body was missing.

Jesus quickly narrowed in on their doubt and said,

He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!
Luke 24:25 (NIV)

I like how Jesus labels doubt…”slow of heart”

These men had the records of what was going to happen to Jesus (in fact, prior to the crucifixion Jesus had mentioned numerous times about His impending death and resurrection) and yet they still did not believe!

These men even admitted that they had heard the story from the women visiting the tomb and others seeing Jesus was alive. But they refused to believe it!

Friends what Jesus said here teaches us that having doubts about something is one thing….but living in doubt is foolish – especially when the opportunity for dealing with that doubt is right before you. I’ll pick up on this a little bit later.

Why is doubt foolishness? Because… the Bible teaches us…

ii. it is a stubborn refusal to believe

Mark records Jesus’ encounter with the disciples shortly after this when they were eating together. Listen to what He said when He appeared in their midst,

Later Jesus appeared to the Eleven as they were eating; he rebuked them for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe those who had seen him after he had risen.
Mark 16:14 (NIV)

Whenever you doubt something then you are refusing to believe in something. If you doubt that God is real then you will never believe God is real. If you doubt your marriage will ever be healthy then guess what? Your marriage will never be healthy. If you have doubts about your friendship then you are refusing to believe to believe in that friendship. You may still want to believe, or even say you believe but the truth is doubt breaks the certainty of that belief….

iii. is uncertainty

If you aren’t certain about something then you doubt it. There’s something that’s holding you back from saying yes, or saying no, or saying I believe, or saying I’m ready. It is when all the “Yeah, but…”‘s come into play! Uncertainty can come from many things but most often it’s because of a previous experience we’ve had in our life that will give us doubts about our present circumstance…whatever that may be.

Mark records the story of a man who had a demon-possessed son. This man brought the boy to see Jesus so that the boy could be healed. In the retelling of his story to Jesus it is clear that when he first came he believed that Jesus could heal his son. But when he arrived Jesus wasn’t available (he was up on the mountain talking with Elijah and Moses) and so the man asked Jesus’ disciples to cast the demon out. But they couldn’t do it. When Jesus instructs the man to bring the boy to him, the evil spirit saw Jesus and threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. Then Jesus asked the father how long this had been happening. The man replies,

21 Jesus asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” “From childhood,” he answered. 22 “It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”
Mark 9:21-22 (NIV)

Notice the man said…”if you can…” What happened to his belief that Jesus could heal his son? The disciples failed in the task and doubt crept into the picture…maybe Jesus couldn’t heal his son after all. Doubt is uncertainty.

Okay now that we have a bit of a grasp on what doubt is I want to pick up a bit on why Jesus would say that doubt is foolishness. In doing so we discover the answer to the question,

What does doubt do?

Friends, one of the first things doubt does is,

1. It messes with your mind.

A person who lives in doubt about something is a person who has a chaotic mind. How does it do this?

a. It whittles away at hope.
Going back to the story of the two men on the road to Emmaus,

We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel… — Luke 24:21 (NLT)

These men HAD hoped that Jesus was the Messiah that had come to rescue Israel…hope as in past tense. Their doubt about the truth of the resurrection and the words Jesus had spoken and the writings of the prophets whittled away at their hope until there was no hope.

Doubt does that. When you doubt that your finances will ever get any better, or that your child will ever mature, or that your parents will ever understand, or that you’ll ever drive a car or own a home or see a loved one saved. When you carry that doubt day in and day out it will whittle away at your hope for those things until there is no hope left.

b. it troubles you
Luke records the risen Christ appearing suddenly in a room that all of his disciples had hid themselves in as they were eating.

Luke 24:38 (NIV)
38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?

A person with doubts carries with them a troubled mind. This is especially true when you think someone has said something behind your back or when you think you forgot to make that bill payment – or when you can’t remember if today is your spouse’s birthday or your anniversary. Those doubts will trouble you until they are resolved.

c. it causes fear
What characterized the disciples behavior after Jesus’ death and burial?

John 20:19 (NIV)
19 On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”

What a contrast to the bravado and “courage” that the disciples announced to Jesus when He declared at the Last Supper that they would all desert Him. They said that they would never leave him – that they would die with him even. And Peter! Peter denied Jesus three times when apprehended as one of Christ’s disciples. Why? Because of doubt…

Perhaps more than anything else, fear is caused by doubt. Why? Because doubt is uncertainty and whenever there is something we’re uncertain about it often leads to fear. This messes up our minds.

d. It causes indecisiveness

James 1:5-8 (NIV)
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Circle, “he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind”. Doubt results in indecisiveness. A person who lives with doubts always has a hard time making a decision. Why would God not give anything to such a person? Because such a person won’t apply what they receive. In this example, when you ask God for wisdom and believe he will give it to you (remember – no doubting!) then you will be a person who makes wise decisions and stable in what you do.? Because James said God will grant your prayer. But if you doubt that God would give you wisdom (or insert anything else) then it’s not going to happen and your life will be marked by bad decisions, and an indecisive lifestyle.

Do you ever feel that things never get accomplished in your life? Or that you have a pile of incomplete tasks that keeps getting bigger and bigger? If so, then I would venture to say that you are a person who doubts. You doubt you have the time to do things, or that you can do a good job, or fill in the blank…you have doubts. It’s time to choose to believe God at His word and ask for His wisdom and stop doubting. Then believe that the decisions you make and the actions you take are with the wisdom of God. Until you deal with the doubt you will not only be uncertain but you will also be indecisive and both mess up your mind.

e. It magnifies your obstacles
Going back to the story of the father with the demon-possessed boy. The obstacle in his case was the prior experience of the disciples not being able to cast out the demon. The obstacle was magnified through his doubt until it became justification for saying that perhaps Jesus wouldn’t be able to heal the boy either.

A person with doubt will always have obstacles that become roadblocks to believing something can happen. The obstacle can be something you worry about, something your mad about, an experience that hurt you, a person that opposes you, a closed door that stops you – whatever the obstacle if you have doubts that roadblock will loom large in front of you and will consume your thoughts and will keep you doubting.

Because doubt messes with your mind it will also…

ii. Rob you of your life.

Doubt will cause you to miss out of the best things in life

Hebrews 3:16-19 (NIV)
16 Who were they who heard and rebelled? Were they not all those Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And with whom was he angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the desert? 18 And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.

Note that it was because of the Israelites unbelief (their doubt) that they wandered in the desert for 40 years and never entered the promised land. God had told them He would go with them. He had told them He would give them the promised land. He told them He would conquer their enemies. They had witnessed the miracles of God in the desert. And yet when the spies came back from searching out the land and said, “Yeah the land is fruitful and a pretty nice place and all but there are giants and there’s no hope in conquering them” – then the people doubted and their doubt led to disbelief in the promises of God. The only ones who entered into the promise land out of that group of people 40 years later was Joshua and Caleb because they did not doubt.

When you live with doubt in your life and you don’t do anything about it you will miss out on the best things in life. But perhaps the saddest thing that doubt does is..

iii. It hinders and can even prevent the work of God and His purposes in your life.

Two scriptures…

Matthew 13:58 (NIV)
58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Mark 6:5-6 (NIV)
5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 And he was amazed at their lack of faith.

It is significant that Jesus didn’t do many miracles in these two places because of their lack of faith or the presence of doubt!! In fact in the second scripture we find one of the few instances in the Bible where it records Jesus being amazed! Usually it’s the other way around – people are amazed with Him or His work through His disciples. But here Jesus is startled or amazed at the doubt these people have. And because of this lack of faith, because of doubt God’s work was hindered in those communities.

Oh friends how much is God hindered in our homes, in our families, in our church, in our workplaces, in our schools, in our community because of doubt?

In Matthew 21 Jesus says,

Matthew 21:21-22 (NIV)
21 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22 If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”

Notice that Jesus emphasized the qualifier here…if you have faith and do not doubt. Doubt will erode faith until it is no longer present. The principle Jesus is teaching here is this, With faith anything is possible but with doubt everything can fail.

So doubt messes with your mind, it robs you of your life, and it hinders and can even prevent the work of God and His purposes in Your life –

How do we overcome doubt?

i. Remember that God wants you to be free of doubt!
Even though the disciples locked themselves away in fear and doubt – Jesus appeared and revealed himself to them – letting them see his hands and feet and side. He did the same for Thomas who said,

John 20:25 (NIV)
… “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.”

…when the disciples told him they had seen Jesus alive. Then Jesus came…

John 20:27 (NIV)
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

When Peter started sinking into the waves and cried out “Lord, Save Me” The scriptures record that immediately Jesus reached out and grabbed his hand. One of the most important principles to overcoming doubt is to remember that God wants you free from it.

ii. Doubt is conquered by the truth
The only way to overcome doubt is by discovering the truth. If you doubt something let it be a prompt to finding out the truth – deal with it right away and don’t dwell in it. Are you doubting someone’s intentions towards you? Then go and ask them – are you mad at me? Is there something I did wrong? Find out the truth. Do you doubt your marriage is healthy? Then spend some time finding out what a healthy marriage is and start living out what you discover! Do you doubt that you’ll ever get out of debt? Well maybe the truth is you need to reign in your spending a bit – or you need to get some financial help.

Seeking the truth…
Out of all the disciples on the boat in the midst of the storm only Peter got out because He said, “If it is really you Lord then tell me to come to you walking on the water.” The rest were terrified with fear thinking that Jesus was a ghost. They doubted what their eyes were seeing could be true. But only Peter sought to verify what his eyes were seeing. Truth casts aside doubt – but you’ve got to seek it.

Believe it…
Seeking the truth is fine and dandy…but once you discover it you’ve got to believe it. Too many people continue to live in doubt because they refuse to believe the truth that is right before them. Or even worse they won’t seek out the truth because they are afraid to find out that their doubts false. They’ve become comfortable with their doubts.
Jesus said to Thomas, “Stop doubting and believe” He had just proven to Thomas that He was really alive…now it was up to Thomas to believe.

Friends for many things in our life the only way doubt will be conquered is by truth…and not just any truth – but the truth of God’s Words, of God’s promises, of God’s principles. And the only way to discover this truth is in the scriptures. You want to have more faith and less doubt in your life? Then become a student of God’s word. Listen to what Hebrews 4:12 says,

God means what he says. What he says goes. His powerful Word is sharp as a surgeon’s scalpel, cutting through everything, whether doubt or defense, laying us open to listen and obey. [MSG]

iii. Doubt is subdued by choice
Jesus said…

Mark 11:23-25 (NIV)
23 “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”

Circle or underline “he who does not doubt in his heart but believe that what he says will happen.” The word “but” indicates that doubt is contrary to belief. It is an antonym and antithesis to belief. You either believe or you don’t. Doubt is subdued by choice. Maybe you have wishful thinking about some things in your life. You’d like to believe something but there’s just a little bit of doubt there. Until you cast your lot, swing your vote, and set in stone and CHOOSE to believe then doubt will rule the day and everything can fail.

Is it possible to have faith and doubt at the same time? Yes and no. A person can’t truly believe in something if there is doubt in their heart. However, every person of faith or who believes in something will entertain doubts at one time or another – we all experience the test of doubt. And in those instances your faith, your belief comes under fire. But here’s where the crunch comes – it is in those moments that doubts serve their only useful purpose – and that is to solidify and to cement the choice we make in faith. If we remember that God wants us to be free of doubt – if we seek out the truth and choose to believe it then the doubt is rejected and our faith emerges stronger and more concrete. If we succumb to the doubt then our faith erodes and eventually withers to unbelief.

Frederick Buechner in his book: Wishful Thinking says,

Whether your faith is that there is a God or that there is not a God, if you don’t have any doubts you are either kidding yourself or asleep. Doubts are the ants in the pants of faith. They keep it awake and moving.

I would qualify that a bit and say that doubts can keep faith awake and growing. But only when you overcome them.

CONCLUSION

What are the results of defeating doubt in your life?

John 20:29 (NIV)
29 Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Those who overcome and believe the promises of God even when you can’t see them are BLESSED. How are we blessed?

1. Sound mind
– sure of the truth
– full of hope
– full of certainty
– free from fear
– wise decisions
– see obstacles/problems as opportunities rather than roadblocks

2. Full Life
– your life is more complete and more exciting and on more solid ground – namely because of a sound mind and because…

3. God’s purposes and power are at work in and through your life.
– with faith anything is possible but with doubt everything can fail.
– Your faith will grow and mature

Posted in Podcast, Sermons, Sunday PM SErvice | Tagged | Leave a comment