Praying In God’s Will

Scripture

I John 5:14-15

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

Luke 22:41-44

And He was withdrawn from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and prayed,  saying, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”  Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.  And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.

Introduction

When God breathed into Adam’s nostrils, Adam became a living soul. A part of man’s soul is his emotions [what he feels], his mind [what he thinks] and his volitional will [what he chooses to do]. As C.S. Lewis says, “We don’t have a soul, we are a soul.” Take the will for example; every person has a will. The will is one of the aspects of the soul that makes us persons. My 9 month old grand daughter Chloe has a will because she is a person, not a puppet. At some point, her will needs to be broken but never crushed. No soul needs to be absorbed in another soul. One soul should never totally dominate another to the point that the dominated soul has no will at all. Jesus had a will and it was not the same as His Fathers. Don’t ask me to explain this mystery, no one can explain but we see in his prayer is His prayer in Gethsemane that he prayed, “Not My will but Yours be done.” Jesus had a will and it seems obvious that He did not want to die an ignominious death but He chose to do the Father’s will. It is God’s will that we choose His will, that is what makes us persons. God does not want to destroy your personality, He wants you to learn to choose His will.

Let me give you an illustration which comes from Luke 5: When He had stopped speaking, He said to Simon, “Launch out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” But Simon answered and said to Him, “Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing; nevertheless at Your word I will let down the net.” Did Peter have a will? Did he not choose to disregard his will in order to please Jesus? Why would he do such a thing? Perhaps it was because of the confidence he had in Jesus. Perhaps it was because he loved Jesus and wanted to please Him. The point is, Peter had a will and he choose without force to do the will of Christ. Did he later regret doing Christ will instead of his? Of course he didn’t: he experienced something that was truly incredible and became a defining moment in Peter’s life.

TONIGHT WE ARE GOING TO TALK ABOUT LEARNING TO PRAY IN GOD’S WILL

  1. The first issue that each of us must settle is: What is God’s will for my life? Some may even question whether or not God has a will for them. Jesus said in His High Priestly prayer John 17:4, “I have finished the work which You gave Me to do.” You probably don’t have any trouble believing that God had a plan for Jesus which of course He did but do you believe that God has a plan for your life? The first step to praying in God’s will is to submit personally to His plan for your life. A lot of folks are like Moses who prayed for God to send someone to Egypt but God did not answer Moses prayer. The someone God wanted to send was Moses and Moses was unwilling to go. You cannot pray in God’s will until you get in God’s will yourself. As long as you are living in rebellion against God’s will for your life you will find it very difficult to pray in His will. This is why I question the effectiveness of the “Hearers Only” when they pray. They pray for the lost but they have no intention of going and seeking out the lost and sharing the gospel. They pray about every and never do anything. They read books, listen to tapes, go to conference after conference but never put anything they learn into practice. They are like the folks James describes who pray “Be ye warm and filled” when they have two coats and plenty of food in their pantry. It is God’s will for you and I to share our coat and food. It is hypocritical for us to pray for God to send someone to help our neighbor when we have what they need.
  2. The second key to praying in God’s will is to pray for God’s direction daily. Proverbs 3:5-6 come to mind when we think about daily guidance. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. I love Jeremiah 10:23-24… I know, O Lord, that a man’s way is not in himself, Nor is it in a man who walks to direct his steps.  Correct me, O Lord, but with justice;Not with Your anger, or You will bring me to nothing. I have flown in and out of Atlanta Airport many times. It is the busiest airport in the world. They have four active run ways with a plan landing every 17 seconds. I would hate to know that my pilot refused to check with the tower before taking off. What if he had the attitude that most of us have; “I can see what’s out there, I done this before, I know what I’m doing, I don’t need any help.” Before you start your days flight, check in with the Tower. Get some guidance from above. If you are not willing to allow the LORD to direct your steps, you cannot pray in God’s will.
  3. The third key to praying in God’s will is to pray scripture. God cannot lie. He will never contradict His word. I think of praying in God’s will as a baseball field. You have to keep your request in fair territory, between the two foul lines. Anything out side the lines [God’s will] is foul. I had a seminary professor who said it was not biblical to pray for lost people. He said there is no scripture and verse that tells us to pray for lost people. There is no verse that says, “Thou shalt pray for lost folks,” but Jesus prayed while on the cross, “Father, forgive them because they do not know what they are doing.” It is my opinion that the folks who crucified Jesus, the ones He was praying for were lost. Paul said in I Timothy 2:3-4…This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,  who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. In 2 Peter 3:9…Peter says…The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. If it is God’s will for all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of truth or as Peter said to come to repentance, can we not with confidence pray for the lost. Sure we can and only the devil himself would persuade us otherwise. John said…Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.  And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
  4. The fourth key to praying in God’s will is to pray in the Spirit. Paul said to the Ephesians, With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,  and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel. The Holy Spirit is the originator and the energy of our prayers. There is a world of difference between a pray said and a pray prayed in the Spirit. The Spirit will never contradict the word. There are things you can count on from the Holy Spirit. [1] He will always agree with God’s word [2] He will always glorify Jesus [3] He will always make intercession for the saints when they cannot verbalize a prayer. He can interpret groanings.

Conclusion

I want to close with a couple of stories. The first comes from Charles Allen’s book ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE THROUGH PRAYER. An elderly woman became a widow and her husband had not left a will. This widow continued to take care of business with confidence and without hesitation. She told Dr. Allen who was her pastor, “I lived with him for forty years. I knew him so well, I know exactly what he would have done and I doing it.” I think the woman probably knew what she was talking about. I have been married over 40 years and I am pretty sure I know the will of my wife. It would be pretty simple: take care of the kids and grand kids. Don’t do anything that would hurt or disappoint them. Do not spend her life insurance on another woman: I am sure, that would not be her will. Do not open her casket at the COLS and no preaching at the service: singing only. She would want Joe Fitzgerald, Tom Sellick, Mark Richt, Gregg Holladay, Jason Marbut and Felton Cooper to be her pall bearers. I know the woman. Seriously, we you spend a lot of time with a person, you get to know them. Praying in God’s will is easy if you know Him well.

George Muller was a Prussian born in Germany. He moved to England at age 24 where he had become a member of a mission society but that relationship did not hold up. Muller would eventually settle in Bristol England where he spent the rest of his life except for his mission and evangelistic travels. He raised 10,024 children in four different homes. Besides the orphanages, he started 117 schools, most of them for children. I am not clear about this but if I understood right, he raised over 2.5 million dollars for his orphanages and schools and he never excepted any help from the government and he never solicited funds from anyone, he prayed about the needs and the funds were always available. If I have a supposed need and I pray about but also mention it to the congregation, I will never know if it was my prayer or my solicitation.

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Friends Who Let You Down

TEXT: Matthew 9:1-8

Jesus climbed into a boat and went back across the lake to his own town. Some people brought to him a paralyzed man on a mat. Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, my child! Your sins are forgiven.” But some of the teachers of religious law said to themselves, “That’s blasphemy! Does he think he’s God?” Jesus knew what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you have such evil thoughts in your hearts? Is it easier to say ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up and walk’?  6 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!” And the man jumped up and went home! Fear swept through the crowd as they saw this happen. And they praised God for sending a man with such great authority.

Mark gives us more introduction to this story. He tells us that Jesus was in a house preaching and the house was packed.  While Jesus was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. Tonight message is centered around this story and I want to plant four words in your mind…

I. THE FIRST WORD IS DEDICATION

This story begins with the four friends who brought their friend to Jesus. Sometimes it takes a team to bring a man to Jesus and as you see in this story, sometimes getting a person to Jesus is not an easy task. I don’t know what these four guys names were but I do know that it takes four things to get a man to Jesus. Understanding that the Spirit of God is the primary agent but I’m talking about four things you and I must do to get people to Christ.

  1. The first thing is INTERCESSION. We don’t have the power to forgive sins and people certainly can’t save themselves. Jesus is our only hope of salvation and the new birth is a spiritual phenomenon that cannot happen a part from divine intervention which brings us to prayer. I don’t understand prayer; no human understands prayer but God’s word teaches us to pray. Jesus taught us to pray. He commanded us to ask and he taught us to ask like children. Our problem is that we have stopped praying for lost people. I am as guilty as anyone. I grew up the Sardis Springs Baptist Church. I don’t really remember who inspired it but when I was around 17 or so, they started a men’s prayer breakfast. They had it every Sunday morning at 8:00 a.m and our pastor always had a list of lost people that we prayed for by name. One of the joys of that group would be to get to move a name from the lost category to the new believer category. The Grahams and MY HOPE put a lot of emphasis on praying for the lost which seems to be a lost art.
  2. It also takes COMPASSION to get a person to Jesus. We are going to reach many people from a distance. To reach people, we have to establish a relationship and to do that we have to care and that may be our main problem. Do we even care where our neighbor spends eternity? Once upon a time there were two brothers. Like Cain and Abel, they were raised by the same parents with the same conditioning. One of them stayed in church and became a preacher. He graduated college and seminary and became the pastor of a very large congregation. The other brother also graduated college and became a very successful lawyer. He stopped attending church the day he moved to college. He was attracted to the liberal views of higher education and became an agnostic. He denied the inspiration of scripture, the blood atonement and questioned the goodness of God or if there was a God. These boys grew up and grew a part. After their parent departed, they went for years without seeing each other or communicating. Mysteriously, they both had an inclination to get together and so they rented a cabin on a lake and spent the week together. It went great. They talked about their boyhood days and their grandparents and parents. On the last day, the unbelieving brother said to the preacher brother, “They tell me you are a preacher.” His brother said, “Yes, that is correct.” “What do you preach?” said the unbelieving brother. “Why”, said the preacher, “I preach the word of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ.” “So,” said the agnostic, “You believe all that stuff about heaven and hell.” “Yes I do,” said the preacher. “No you don’t,” said his brother, “you are a hypocrite like all the rest.” Frustrated and shaken, the preacher said, “What to you mean by saying I don’t believe what I preach?” “Well” said his brother, “if you believed that I was going to hell, how could you spend a week with me and never once talk to me about it.”
  3. Thirdly, to get people to Jesus, it takes ACTION. There is a black preacher that has a sermon on YouTube called “Watch Them Dogs.” It is a good sermon and I think you will enjoy listening. He compares the different kind of church folk to different kinds of dogs. We happen to have a lot of “Setters”. The Setter is a bird dog. They sit and point.

    Illustration

    Andrew was one of the quiet disciples. He never says much but every time you see him in scripture, he is bringing someone to Jesus. You’ve heard me say this many times before but I had rather have a soul winner than a bible scholar. We all know people that go from conference to conference, listen to tape after tape and yet they never make one single effort to bring anyone to Jesus. As the Unappreciated Pastor on Twitter says, “They think the great commission says, “Go ye therefore and get other churches members and staff.” What ever happened to knocking on doors, to seeking the lost? Oh, that will not work, they say but the folks who say that have never knocked on any doors. I don’t know if anyone has noticed or not but churches don’t attract lost people anymore than jails attract criminals. I getting to the point that I agree with Billy Graham and Joe David: our churches are filled with lost people but they don’t acknowledge that they are lost. It is hard to find a professing lost person and even harder to get them in church. To win people to Christ, we have to work: we have to get off of our seats and get into the streets. What would have happened to this paralyzed man had his friends not cared. We need the DEDICATION of these four friends.

    The fourth man must have been DETERMINATION. It is not always easy to get people to Jesus. Unfortunately for these guys it was other people who got in the way and made it difficult. When they got to the house there was no way it; they had to improvise, go to plan B but the key is that they did not give up. It takes determination to bring people to Christ.

II. THE SECOND WORD IS DECLARTION

Jesus saw the faith of the four friends and he said to the man on the mat, “Son, be of good cheer, your sins are forgiven.” When Jesus said this, the religious crowd got tore up; they were fit to be tied. How dare Him “Declare a man forgiven.” We will get to their flawed thinking in minute, right now we want to focus on power of Jesus to declare us forgiven, healed, righteous and anything else He wishes to declare in our behalf.

III. THE THIRD WORD IS INDIGNATION

The religious crowd was upset. Jesus accused them of having evil thoughts and He should know. This crowd of religious Jews made several mistakes, [1] They refused to except that Jesus was God’s Son. This is why they accused Him of blasphemy. “Only God can forgive sin” they said and He is not God. They were wrong, dead wrong. [2] They also rejected Grace. A big part of their religion was to earn forgiveness by ones works. They were offended by what Jesus did: he gave a man perfect standing that had never done a tenth of the good deeds they had done. You spell religion “Do” but you spell Christianity “Done” and Jesus done it, without any help. The problem with religion is that it produces pride and pride causes us to condescend and to despise others. A man was healed and these hypocrites didn’t care. People who get into religion get absorbed with themselves and they set up standards of achievement. To measure up, you have to met their standards and this paralytic had not met any of their standards. Religion hardens the heart and makes the spirit mean and that is why Jesus used the word evil in respect to what they were thinking.

IV. THE FOURTH WORD IS MY FAVORITE…CELEBRATION

There is a lot to celebrate in this story: [1] Jesus is in the house. Can I get a shout Church, Jesus is in the house. It is His house, why shouldn’t He be here. He is here so why don’t we celebrate His presence. [2] A man was saved, his sins forgive and healed all at one time. They carried him in and he walked out. I love it. There is enough here to make a liberal Episcopalian shout. [3] The spirit of awe descends on the place. People are wowed. “Man this guy is something…where did He come from…I know God must have sent him. All eyes are on Jesus. People are praising and glorifying God. Divine electricity was in the air and folks were getting shocked and charged but guess what, not everyone was celebrating. The Jewish religious leaders [the elder brothers] did not take part in the celebration. They preferred condemnation over celebration. While others were celebrating, they were finding fault. Do you think this still happens? I cannot reads minds like Jesus but I can assure you that it still happens.

You have to decide who you want to be: A happy Christian celebrating Jesus or a miserable religious person who majors on minors.

Jesus is Great, Demons Are Destructive and People Are Crazy

Matthew 8:28-34

28 When Jesus arrived on the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gadarenes,two men who were possessed by demons met him. They lived in a cemetery and were so violent that no one could go through that area. 29 They began screaming at Him, “Why are you interfering with us, Son of God? Have you come here to torture us before God’s appointed time?” 30 There happened to be a large herd of pigs feeding in the distance. 31 So the demons begged, “If you cast us out, send us into that herd of pigs.” 32 “All right, go!” Jesus commanded them. So the demons came out of the men and entered the pigs, and the whole herd plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water. 33 The herdsmen fled to the nearby town, telling everyone what happened to the demon-possessed men. 34 Then the entire town came out to meet Jesus, but they begged him to go away and leave them alone.

INTRODUCTION

My granddaughter Mylee Reese is a Country Music fan and I’m not sure that is a good thing. She is seven years old now but about 3-4 years ago, she was by her bed side doing her night prayers and she prayed a prayer that almost broke up the prayer meeting. I think she got a country song by Billy Currington mixed up with the dinner blessing; she prayed “God is great, beer is good and people are crazy.” Although their are some who professed to be Baptist that would agree with all three, I want to borrow just two. I disagree that beer is good for anything other than Mrs. Belle’s homemade rolls. So the title of the sermon today and the outline is: JESUS IS GREAT, DEMONS ARE DESTRUCTIVE AND PEOPLE ARE CRAZY.

I. Jesus is Great!

  1. The first thing I want to say about Jesus in connection to this story is the fact that He visited a Gentile area–He came to the East bank. He came to where we are, to where we live. He didn’t have to come. First of all, He could have stayed in heaven but He came to the Jews and was born in Bethlehem of Judah as the long awaited KING of the Jews but the great thing or one of the great things about Jesus is that He wanted to be our king as well. He is not just the King of the Jews, He is the King of kings. I love HIM because He first loved me. He came to seek and to save the lost and that included me. Jesus is still seeking and He is still speaking: I pray that He will speak to us today.
  2. There is a second thing about Jesus that I think is GREAT! This is something that I dwell upon a lot. Jesus was courageous; He had no fear or insecurity. Folks, there is no telling what I could accomplish if I had no insecurities, no fear. I’m going to tell you the truth, I could have made the boat trip to the East Bank, I’m not afraid of boat and water but when that boat landed on the beach and these two crazy naked men start toward me screaming, I’m out of here. I’m in that boat with all 8 oars in reverse. I can’t get back into the deep fast enough. Jesus calmly got out of the boat and met them. These two men intimidated everyone in the area. People would walk an extra mile to avoid these crazy cats.
  3. It gets better: we are intimidated by people but how much more are we intimidated by evil and the devil! Not Jesus, He knew that both these men were full of the devil but He never flinched. That is because JESUS IS  GREATER than the devil, GREATER than evil, GREATER than demons, disease, and death. Nothing in creation intimidates Jesus, nothing! Put all the demons of hell into one massive army and Jesus is not intimidated. Pilate didn’t intimidate Him. The wicked Herod did not intimidate Him. Nothing intimidates Jesus.

II. Demons are Destructive

  1. Demons destroy because they are “Tormentors”. The devil is a terrorist and all terrorist are sons of the devil. He is their master, their teacher. Once the demons get control of a human life, all peace is gone. Although the people of the area were afraid of these two crazy men, the men themselves were eaten up with fear. They had no peace night or day. That is why they cut themselves, why they didn’t sleep, why they screamed and shrieked through the night. We are in a demonic war at present and the number one form of possession is narcotics. Alcohol is a narcotic. Any thing that alters the state of the mind is an open door to the devil. The use of narcotics may bring some temporary peace of mind but it is an illusion. Eventually, you will have no peace night or day. Demons go after the mind first and if they get access to your mind [which they do through drugs] they will destroy your peace and then everything else that is around you.
  2. Demons destroy because they enslave. Drugs would not be a big deal if it were not for addiction. This is what makes demons so destructive; they enslave us. Drugs is not the only issue: Gambling is a form of possession, pornography is also addictive and the number one addiction is “Greed”. People who would never dream of using narcotics are eaten up with greed. I’ve had two people talk to me lately about finding Church Staff personnel and I told one of them, “Check their giving record.” Why would I tell them to check the giving? Because it will save them a lot of time.  People who don’t give are greedy and that constitutes an integrity issue because most church expect the staff to tithe.
  3. Demons destroy because it is their nature: once Jesus allowed the demons to enter the pigs, they immediately ran off the cliff into the sea and drowned. The human mind is more sophisticated than that of the hog and it takes longer in human for the process to work, but you mark my work, demons will destroy because they know nothing else. It is who they are and what they do. So you have to identify the areas where the demons are in control and avoid them.

III. People Are Crazy

  1. Well on the subject of crazy people: we begin with the two crazy men running around naked scream blood murder. If you have a desire to run around naked in public, something is wrong with you. We have a lot of crazy folks: they are naked but they are getting as close as possible and it is not smart. Mothers, a word of caution to you: don’t let your daughters were immodest apparel: it is crazy. Men, all men, that includes all men are visibly aroused. Why would you want to arouse and old man? Most men are restrained by conscience and fear of God but not all. Not all rapes are induced but many are: if you dress like a prostitute, someone may mistake you for one. You don’t like it, I can tell but let me tell you the truth: “Good men are impressed with women who dress modestly.” Women, there are certain things that should be revealed only to your husband.
  2. These two guys were crazy for going naked [dead give a way] but they were also crazy for living among the dead. Who in their right mind wants to live in a cemetery. I don’t even want to live next to one, let alone in one. There is a deeper lesson here: the dead can refer to the spiritually dead. Where do you live? Do you live among the dead or the living?
  3. Jesus cured these two wild screaming naked men and at the end of the story, they are sane, clothed and ready to follow Jesus. The real crazy folks in this story are the Gadarenes. [1] Some think they ask Jesus to leave because He hurt the pork industry and cost them a lot of money…that is crazy. You choose profit over the PROPHET…. You take Money over the Master…You value Gold more then God…if you do, you are nutty as a fruit cake. [2] Other suggest that they feared His transforming power and were afraid that He would change their way of life. Listen to me folks, “If you invite Jesus to leave, you are insane, you are not right.” The most insane thing you could do in this life is reject Jesus. It would be absolutely crazy.

How Big Is Your God?

Mark 11:22-24, NLT

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God.  I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart. I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours. 

Introduction

Charles Allen in his book, All Things Are Possible Through Prayer, tells of a shop keeper who lived in New York City. He opened his shop and got married at the age of 20. His shop and his apartment were several block a part so he rode the subway each morning to go to his business. He was very devoted to his business; he opened at 9:00 and closed at 6:00 Monday through Saturday. He always fixed his lunch and ate in the shop. He stayed inside his apartment all day on Sunday and usually in bed resting because he was a frail man and he was always exhausted when Sunday came. He had a daily routine that you could set your watch on. He got up the same time every morning, went through the same routine getting ready, ate the same breakfast, left his apartment at the same time, rode the subway, opened his shop, closed his shop, rode the subway, ate summer went to bed and then all over again the next day. He did this for 50 consecutive years before he died. He never once ventured from his daily routine. He never took a day off or a vacation. He lived his entire life in New York City and yet he had never walked down 5th avenue or seen a Broadway play. He never visited Time Square or Lady Liberty. Not once did he ride to the top of the Empire State Building are visit the Metropolitan Museum. When this man referred to New York City as being his city, he was actually referring to a very small part, the part that he knew and experienced but there was oh so much more that he never knew.

He concept and perception of the city, which was based on his experience was very small. How do you think of God? Do you see Him as an unhappy God with lots of problems or do you see Him as the awesome Creator of all things, who is in all and above all. He is not unhappy and He has no problems. He is the eternal ONE, the infinite ONE. There is no limit to his love, mercy, grace, power or resources. The more He gives the more He has to give. He is the God who can supply all your needs no matter how great those needs are.

When I first read Allen’s story about the shop keeper, I thought, it’s just a simple story and perhaps not worthy of the book but the more I thought about the story, the more I saw the truth that it conveys. What all are we missing due to our stubborn pride and lack of faith. We get locked into a mundane routine and we miss the abundant life.

I am a reader and in my reading, I kept coming across this name and then his books and so out of curiosity, I purchased a Dallas Willard book, the SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES and read it. Then I bought RENOVATION OF THE HEART and now I am reading his classic THE DIVINE CONSPIRACY. I have read a lot of C.S. Lewis and many other brilliant writers but Willard opened my understanding in new ways that shocked me. I’m thinking, I should have known this years ago. Honestly, I feel overwhelmed by my ignorance. Keep in mind that I am speaking of a fellow human being. I do praise God that He can create such brilliant minds as C.S. Lewis and Dallas Willard but I do realize that they too were limited just as I. This leads to the question: How much of God do we know? Are we not like the Shop Keeper? I have given it a lot of thought and I am afraid that I am he.

OUR CONCEPT OF GOD IS IMPORTANT WHEN IT COMES TO PRAYER

We need the faith of the Hebrew children…Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God whom we serve is able to save us. He will rescue us from your power, Your Majesty. But even if he doesn’t, we want to make it clear to you, Your Majesty, that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” They had faith in a big God. They said, “The God we serve is able,” amen! They had faith; do we have faith in God, a big God, a mountain moving God?

Faith is the currency of heaven. There is no need to go to the bank before you pray. All the money in the world will not move God but faith will. Jesus responded to faith. Matter of fact, Jesus loved faith. Faith got Jesus excited. I am about to preach Matthew chapter 9 and three times in that chapter the bible records Jesus responding to faith.

  1. Matthew 9:2 is the story of the friends bringing their paralyzed friend to Jesus. Matthew records, “Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “Be encouraged, My child! Your sins are forgiven.”
  2. Matthew 9:22…the woman with the issue of blood…Jesus said to her, “Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.”
  3. Matthew 9:29…Jesus heals the blind man…Jesus touched his eyes and said, “Because of your faith, it will happen.”

I am telling you that faith moved Jesus and faith moves heaven. Prayer without faith is like a boat without water, sails without wind, a car without a motor…we must pray in faith. God is offended by our unbelief.

To illustrate my point, I want to tell some stories. My kids tell me that my stories are the best parts of the sermon and trust me, they do not compliment my sermons or preaching often.

John Bisagno is Pastor Emeritus of the 22000-member Houston’s First Baptist Church. You can see him on Facebook. I heard him tell this story when he was a young man. John had two daughters and at the time they were pre-school and were at home during the day. John had his study at home and he didn’t like to be disturbed once he had entered his study. One day, his girls came into his study and interrupted with this question, “Daddy, will you build us a play house in the back yard?” He barely recognized their presence and said without a lot of thought, “Sure girls, daddy will build you a doll house. Now you girls run a long because Daddy has got to study.” He showed the out and returned to his studies. Later that day, he glanced out the window and saw this strange sight. His girls were moving things to the back yard. He called his wife and questioned her, “What are they doing?” His wife said, “They are moving their doll things out side because they said you said that you would build them a doll house.” “I didn’t mean today” he said, “Well, you better explain that to them because they believe everything you say and you did say you were building them a play house,” said his wife. John said, “I shut my books and went to the lumber yard to get the material to build them a play house.”

When our son Joe David was five and about to be six, he was telling everyone that he was getting a trampoline for his birthday. That constituted a huge problem for June and myself; we had no money to get a trampoline. They were higher then than they are now. Back then they cost $350 and we didn’t have $3.50. We tried everything. We even told him point blank, “Son, you are not getting a trampoline; we don’t have the money.” He was not discouraged, he continued to believe that he was getting a trampoline. A day or two before his birthday, I said, “June, what are we going to do?” She suggested I look for a trampoline. We had an old Chevy Station Wagon, three seater with wood grained paneling on the outside, a real beauty in the day. We all loaded up [6] and headed for Decatur. Vernon Lange ran a sporting goods store at the time and so I went in and explained my problem. He said, “Preacher, I have just what you need if you can come up with $100.” I told him that I thought I could manage $100 but no more. He showed me a trampoline, already assembled but it had a bent frame. He said, “Preacher, if you can find just the right place in your yard, this trampoline will work but no one wants to pay full price for one that is bent.” We bought it and carried it home. We turned it upside down and put it on the top of the station wagon. The kid believed and he received.

I have five beautiful granddaughters and I love each and every one but they are all different. The oldest is Lara. Lara has faith in her granddaddy, too much faith. She thinks that I have a gold mine in my back yard. She will ask for anything. She doesn’t ask once, she will keep on asking. She believes that if she keeps asking that she will get me to do what she wants which is usually a new dress or pair of shoes, etc. The only thing that keeps her from bankrupting me is her Big Mama and her Mother. When they find out what she is up to, they cut her off at the pass. If I being an evil earthly father want to give good gifts to my granddaughters, how much more does the heavenly Father want to give to those who ask Him?

Daring To Ask

James 4:1-10, NKJV

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, “The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously”? But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, youdouble-minded. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning andyour joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
 

Introduction

Kate Smith was an alto singer of the last century. In the middle of the century, she was a popular figure on TV and Radio but she is best remembered for singing Irvin Berlin’s GOD BLESS AMERICA at the Philadelphia Flyers hockey games. One of her appearances is captured on YouTube: she gets a standing ovation. I’m not sure anyone can sing GOD BLESS AMERICA like Kate. She was a native of North Carolina and raised near the Chesapeake Bay. When she was a teenage girl, she and two of her friend ventured out into the bay in a tiny row-boat. They did not realize that the tide was going out and they also lost track of time. When the sun starting setting over the horizon, they decided they needed to head for the shore but when they looked up, the shore was very distant, they rowed frantically but the tide and darkness was threatening them and they became terribly afraid. After a brief discussion, Kate said, “We are going to try asking God.” So the girls joined hands and hearts and began praying. When they finished praying the darkness had set in but within seconds it seemed, a boat appeared out of the darkness and rescued the three girls. Kate made “Try Asking God” her motto and life philosophy. You can learn more about Kate on Wikipedia and trust me; you will like her. She was pro-life and opposed to same-sex marriage.

Tonight we are going to talk about asking God and more particularly, why God doesn’t answer our prayers when we do ask.

To lay a foundation for the message, I want to share four pillars of truth that I hope will support the message:

  1. God created man to rule [have dominion] and to serve [care for the garden of Eden] {Genesis 1:26,2:15} God gave Adam dominion over everything in the Garden of Eden. Adam had the responsibility to manage everything in the garden. So he had both rights and responsibilities. He was also to procreate so we have three basic purposes for man [1] Rule [2] Serve [3] Multiply.
  2. Adam fell [transgressed] and lost his rights of dominion and his service became rigorous. He had to work hard for everything. The fall caused weeds to grow in his garden. God wants to restore us to all that we lost in the fall.
  3. Adam and Eve wanted to be restored just as all men want to be restored but we go about it the wrong way. The way to restoration is to submit to God, to become His servant, to lose our will in His. But man in his pride wants to rule not serve. The most foolish thing we can do is rebel against God. What He wants for us is infinitely greater than anything we could ever imagine. Resisting God’s will is the purest form of insanity. We would jump at His will if we had His foreknowledge.
  4. Adam’s fall gave the entire human race a concussion: it messed up our thinking. We think the opposite of God. The fall changed our default setting. After the fall man became self-centered and as you will see, this is the biggest hindrance to prayer.

JAMES GIVES US SEVEN REASON WHY GOD DOES NOT ANSWER OUR PRAYERS

  1. WE DON’T ASK GOD. We have desires and we pray in form but we are not going directly to God who is the only one that can answer our prayers. James said, “We have not because we ask not.” The Law of Prayer is to ask. Jesus commanded us to ask and this makes it an imperative.
  2. OUR MOTIVES ARE CORRUPT. The NKJV says we ask amiss. The NLT says we ask with wrong motives. We ask selfishly for things we want. Things that we intend to spend on our pleasures. James is not talking about sensual pleasures; he is talking more about the pleasure of having our way. He points out that envy and jealously are a big part of the problem; these things corrupt our motives and our corrupt motives rob us of any real power in prayer. God is not a cosmic Santa who is going to give us everything on our wish list. Our self-centered default setting hinders our prayer life.
  3. FRIENDSHIP WITH THE WORLD. God is offended by our kissing up to the world system that crucified His Son and hates His Son even to this day. Hate for Jesus is not past tense. We live in a country filled with bitter Jesus haters. Why should God listen to our prayers when we have been playing footsie with the world. We are nothing more than adulterers. We are sleeping with the evil world system that is set against Christ. We cannot be a friend of this system and be a friend of God at the same time. This makes us double minded. Our loyalties are divided. We are not totally surrendered and it kills our prayers.
  4. OUR REFUSAL TO SUBMIT AND RESIST. We are to submit to God and resist the devil.
  5. OUR REFUSAL TO DRAW NIGH. Draw near to God and He will draw near to youCleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Drawing near has to do with the approach of the priest. The priest did not run or bound into the holy place. He approached humbly, carefully, prayerfully and he started at the laver, then altar, etc.
  6. OUR FAILURE TO REPENT. Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. I don’t see much weeping these days, do you. I can’t remember the last time that I seen a person broken because of the burden they felt about their sin or even the sin of others.
  7. OUR PRIDE. Notice that pride comes up twice, verse 6 and 10. Why would pride be repeated? Perhaps it is because it is the biggest hindrance to prayer. God resist the proud. If you take two magnets and place them on a flat surface like a table and place them were the poles are the same, you can take one magnet with your fingers and drive the other off the table because it will resist any attraction. When the poles are opposite, they will attract. In the same way, God is not attracted to pride: He resist pride. He cannot stand pride. This is why the Pharisee in Luke 18 was merely talking to himself. God is not attracted to pride. To pray, we must humble ourselves.

The Receptive Mood

Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” Jesus said, “This is how you should pray: “Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.”
Luke 11:1-4, NLT

Introduction

I want to introduce this message with a series of questions. The object of a question is to arouse thought:

  1. Had the disciples never prayed or was it that they wanted to improve their prayer life?
  2. Do you think that their observation of Jesus prayer life prompted this request, LORD teach us to pray?
  3. What was it about Jesus prayer life that impressed them?
  4. Do you think they associated His prayer with His power?
  5. Did they see something in Jesus that they didn’t see in themselves?

I heard a preacher say in Seminary chapel one Wednesday night, “Where there is much prayer, there is much power; where there is little prayer, there is little power.” For some reason, that adage lodged in my brain. I did not write it down, it just stuck. I think the disciples made this association: they connected Jesus power to His prayer. Jesus taught His disciples to begin their prayer with “Our Father in heaven”.

  1. THE BEGINNING OF PRAYER IS A RELATIONSHIP…Note, Jesus taught them to pray, Father or Our Father and that signifies a relationship. If you do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, the only prayer you can pray is God be merciful to me a sinner. Leo Tolstoy was a Russian Count born September 9, 1828 and departed this world on November 20, 1910. Tolstoy became a famous writer. He wrote novels, plays, short stories and essays. In 1870 while walking through the country side, he had a spiritual awakening. He came upon a happy peasant toiling in the sun but happy as a lark. Tolstoy was shaken: why was he, an aristocrat with money to burn, unhappy and this peasant, who had practically nothing, happy? Tolstoy began to search, he knew that something was missing and he wanted to find out what or who it was. After a time of contemplation and meditation, he realized that it was a relationship with God. Although Jesus is not mentioned in the story, I feel confident that he is using God as a synonym for Jesus. Later Tolstoy would write, “To know God is to live.” I concur and to know God as Father is the first step in prayer.
  2. THE SECOND STEP IN PRAYER IS OUR RECEPTIVITY. We would probably use the word “Open” instead of receptive but the key to intimate prayer is to be open to God as a person. To be receptive of HIM. Prayer is worship for the Father and communion with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This sweet communion which I miss so often is going to be missed when we rush into His presence with our prayer list. Many of us pray like the Prodigal, “Father, give me!” Our whole approach is selfish and disrespectful. We are more concerned about His gifts and His blessings than we are HIM. Prayer will never take on any real meaning until we make it a time to express our love to the Father. I have to be honest. I had given this very little thought until I picked up an old, old book by Charles Allen, the famous Methodist who also believed in tithing. I heard someone say a few days back, “You might be a Methodist is the number of times you have been sprinkled is greater than the number of times you have tithed.” Charles Allen was an old-time Methodist and he preached tithing. As I was reading his book on prayer, I got convicted about my selfishness. I pray like the prodigal, “Father, give me, give me, give me.” To be honest with you, I am ashamed of the way I pray. I thought to myself, this has to be corrected and then the first time I pray, I automatically go into a list of things that I want God to do in my behalf and the thought came to me, this bad habit is not going to be easily broken. I don’t have a doubt in my mind, my prayers are offensive to God, they have to be. I come bounding into His presence asking for things I want and that should never be the first thing on my mind, I should be thinking about HIM and not myself. I feel like a regular jerk and I should, right!
  1. THE THIRD STEP TO PRAYER IS TO GET OUT OF THE AGGRESSIVE MOOD AND GET INTO A RECEPTIVE MOOD. This is a difficult thing for a Type A personality to do. We are aggressive my nature. We have trouble waiting on anything. Where normal people ease into the water, we plunge. Others drive 10 miles below the speed limit and we go 10 above. We are always late and always in a hurry. This creates a major problem because you cannot pray effectively or at all if you are in a hurry. Randy Sharp was leading the praise and worship for us in a revival with Junior Hill was doing the preaching: I had the audacity to tell Randy to move it along, keep it short and get it to Junior 20 minutes into the service. He looked at me like a calf looking at a new gate and said, “Bro. Jack, Jesus never got into a hurry and I’m not either.” It is an insult for a music man to correct a preacher but I didn’t have an answer. I could not remember Jesus getting in a hurry, not even for the sick or for a funeral which of course He would break up anyway. We treat prayer like a formality and Jesus treated it like a force. We have the tendency to pray so we can get on with the business but prayer is the business.  The poet said:
Drop down into the chair of quietness,
Let all your striving cease;
Take from your soul the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess,
The beauty of HIS peace.
 

David said in Psalm 46, “Be still and know that I am God.” Literally, the Hebrew word means to stop striving. That is easier said than done for a Type A. June and I were taking an anniversary trip some few years ago. I had to make some hospital visits in Huntsville so I decided to go on to Chattanooga and hit I-75. We were going to Cleveland to see the Indians play and to see my friend Phillip Carol. We got up into the mountains of Kentucky and got tired so we stopped for the night. That is when we realized that we had forgotten to pack our DAILY BREAD devotional. The next morning as we sat in the car for our prayer time and devotion, I turned and read Psalm 46 and then I said to June, that verse BE STILL AND KNOW THAT I AM GOD really means, “Relax and experience God” and then I said, “That is our goal for today, to relax, enjoy the trip and experience God.” She said immediately, “Who can relax with you behind the wheel.” It is a challenge at times but the key to prayer is to relax, get out of the aggressive mood and get into the receptive mood. If you are like me and I hope not, we need to work on this aspect of our prayer life.

 

Discipleship

Matthew 8:18-23, NLT

18 When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he instructed his disciples to cross to the other side of the lake.

19 Then one of the teachers of religious law said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”

20 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

21 Another of his disciples said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

22 But Jesus told him, “Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.”

INTRODUCTION

This passage reminds me of another in Luke 20 where the Scribe comes to trick Jesus with a question on taxes. He approached Jesus with what he thought was flattery but you and I know that it is true…this is what he said…Teacher, we know that you’re honest and straightforward when you teach, that you don’t pander to anyone but teach the way of God accurately. {Luke 20:21, Msg.} Whoever this Jew was, he got it right: Jesus was honest and straightforward and He did not pander to anyone. In other words, He did not kiss up, did not try to please of appease but told the truth in love. This brief story concerns the cost of discipleship. I do believe that Jesus wants followers. He commanded us in Matthew 28:19-20…Go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. Why would Jesus command us to make disciples if He does not want disciples? At first glance, you would assume by the tone of the text that Jesus is discouraging discipleship but actually He is just being thoroughly honest.

Three things you need to be a disciple…

  1. YOU NEED TO KNOW JESUS PERSONALLY. If you will look carefully at the text, you will notice that the Scribe addresses Jesus as “Teacher” or Rabbi. Some translate it master: the Greek word is didaskalos which means teacher. You will also note that the person referred to as one of His disciples addressed Him as LORD {kyrios} which means he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he has power of deciding; the possessor and disposer of a thing;  the owner; one who has control of the person, or as in the state, a person’s sovereign. As you can clearly see, there is a huge difference between acknowledging Jesus as Teacher and acknowledging Him as LORD. Long story short…If Jesus is not your LORD, you are not His disciple. Jesus must be more to you than a good man or a good teacher. Before becoming His disciple, we have to come to know Him as Savior and LORD.
  2. YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT DISCIPLESHIP CALLS FOR COMMITMENT. Jesus said in Matthew 16…“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me.” Jesus told the Scribe…”Foxes have dens and birds have nest but the Son of Man has no where to lay His head.” Jesus had a headquarters in Capernaum of Galilee but He wasn’t there much. His mission demanded that He be on the move. After He left Nazareth, He literally had no home. He simply wants the young man to think this thing through: is he really ready to surrender his life to Christ. Jesus also said in Matthew 16…If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.”  Was this young Scribe ready to give up his life and lose it for Christ sake. Jesus is not trying to discourage him but He does want him to count the cost. Jesus is not glorified by short-term disciples. He wants those who will endure the hardships of discipleship. He wants those who stick with Him to the bitter end which for the believer is the sweet beginning. We have all seen these “Flash in the pan” disciples: they do more harm than good. Jesus honestly calls for honest commitment or surrender.
  3. YOU NEED TO KNOW THAT JESUS MUST BE PREEMINENT IS ALL THINGS. Jesus must come first. The disciple said, “I will follow You but first let me bury my father.” It is doubtful that the boys father is actually dead and the funeral is in a day or two. In Jewish life, the eldest son had an obligation to take care of his father. The young man is probably telling Jesus, “I want to be your follower someday but first I must fulfill my family obligation.” Jesus answer was no, “You let the dead bury the dead.” I don’t know for sure what Jesus meant but for years I have assumed that this was a reference to those who were not called to be disciples. This boy probably had siblings that could take care of his father. Some think it is a reference to the unregenerate…unsaved people can take care of their parents. Perhaps that is what Jesus meant, perhaps not but one thing is sure: when He calls we lay everything aside and follow. Jesus becomes our life. He is our LORD, our Sovereign and we are at His bidding.

Personal Testimony

I struggled with this when God called me to preach. I was not a model child. I was a bit on the rebellious side and got into a little mischief to boot. I didn’t really begin to appreciate my parents until I was an older teenager and then God called me to preach and I left and never returned to live among my folks. Forty years ago, June and I packed up for New Orleans and Danville is as close as we’ve been to home since. I missed most of Mother and Daddy’s retirement years because I was away, yet I knew and they knew that God had called me away. Neither of my parents ever questioned my loyalties. They knew that I loved them but my ultimate commitment was to Jesus. In the early years, I thought I was making this huge sacrifice but I don’t feel that way anymore. Life is short here on earth and I am glad that by His grace, I chose to serve Him. I always comforted myself with the thought that in heaven, I would not be restrained by time and there I could enjoy my parents. I don’t think my parents thought that my following Christ meant that I loved them less. I’m not going to say that I was the greatest son in the world because that is not true, I know several that will put me in the shade. I have one friend who calls or checks on his mother everyday and I was not that good of a son but I did try to show my parents that I loved them.

I am trying to say two things: [1] I don’t regret following Jesus although it did mean living a part from my precious parents. I was blessed with six siblings who could help them when I was not available and I am thankful. I sure it would have been tough had I been the only child. [2] I don’t feel like I’ve made a sacrifice at all. Ten, perhaps fifteen; most definitely thirty years ago I would have played my little violin…poor pitiful Bro. Jack, he gave up so much to follow Jesus; now I am ashamed that I ever thought such cockamamie thoughts. Serving Christ has been more wonderful than I could have ever imagined. I have seen things and heard things that I would not have dreamed would happen in this world. I could not have sat down and dreamed up a better life. To think that as a boy, I wanted to be the next Johnny Unitas. I wake up with bed sweats when I dream about that now. Can you imagine being chased by a man that is 6’8″ and weights 380 and runs the 40 in 4.9 seconds. God is good and I have no regrets about spending a life time in His Son’s service. Thank You Jesus!

The Great Calm

[Note: Sermon is unedited, spelling and grammar have not been corrected]

Matthew 8:23-27 [NLT]

23 Then Jesus got into the boat and started across the lake with his disciples. 24 Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake, with waves breaking into the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.25 The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” 26 Jesus responded, “Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!” Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm.27 The disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”
 

INTRODUCTION

First of all, storms happen; they are a common fact of life and they happen to everyone. As Jesus pointed out in the conclusion of the Sermon on The Mount, storms come to the foolish and the wise. They come even when Jesus is in the boat with us. They may approach slowly or they may come out of nowhere and hit us unexpectedly. The storm described above came up suddenly. Storms are also frightening, they can scare the ever living daylights out of us. Most of us have a “Frighting Storm Testimony.” You are probably aware of everything that I just said but did you know that storms have a purpose. It is true, storms are necessary.

Let me give you two quick examples: first of all, lets think about a thunderstorm with the rain, wind and lightening. They can be frightening when they get close but lightening which can be deadly to humans is breaking down the composition of the nitrogen in the atmosphere and making it unusable for plants here on earth. The pure nitrogen which makes up 78% of the atmosphere is too strong for plants; it has to be broken down and this process occurs during electrical or thunder storms. The plants cannot survive without nitrogen and we can’t survive without the plants. Thank God for thunderstorms, right!

Thirty years ago scientist were trying to figure out how to stop hurricanes and in their research they came to the conclusion that hurricanes do not need to be stopped. If they were to stop the hurricanes, North America would become a desert. The hurricanes are the air movers that regulate the earth temperatures. They work like circuit breakers. When things get to hot around the equator, the hurricane moves the hot air toward the polar ice caps. Without hurricanes plants, animal and people around the Equator would burn up from the intense heat. Here in the states, we would suffer draught. Hurricanes are the number one draught breakers.

So lets review quickly…

  1. Storms Happen
  2. Storms Happen to Everyone [Even when Jesus is in your boat]
  3. Storms Happen Suddenly and can be frightening
  4. Storms Happen For a Reason and one of those reasons is teach us.

What is the message of the storm?

  1. STORMS ARE A TEST. What is your make up? What kind of character do you have? Are you courageous or fearful? Are you strong or weak? Storms put us to the test and they bring out the best and the worse. The disciples panicked; they were scared to death. This storm revealed their lack of faith. In the Greek “faith” and “little” are one word. It was a nickname that Jesus had given the disciples and He uses it a lot. Literally he says to them, “Why are you worried, you bunch of little-faiths?” The storm revealed their lack of faith. Four guys were playing golf, one repeatedly made bad shot after bad shot until he threw his club as far as he could send it and then added a few choice words. One of his buddies said, “Man, what is the problem?” “I’ll tell you what the problem is,” he said, “this game is giving me a terrible temper.” His friend smiled and said, “The game is not giving you the temper, it is revealing the temper you already have.” Traffic does not give us impatience, it reveals the impatience that is in us. The storm is like the traffic, it brings out whatever is in us. Sometimes that is tremendous faith and sometimes it is the lack of faith. You may be in a storm right now; how are you responding? What is the storm revealing to you about you? Don’t waste a good storm.
  2. STORMS ARE ALSO A TEACHER. Take the storm in the text today, what all did the disciples take home from this storm? There are so many that I know I will leave something out but here goes…
    1. This storm taught the disciples that JESUS HAD SOMETHING THEY DID NOT HAVE. Jesus was sleeping through the storm. How could anyone be aboard a tiny boat like this and sleep through one of those horrific Galilean storms? Jesus had perfect and I do mean perfect confidence in the Father. Jesus had perfect peace. He was not worried in the least about this storm. Wow! How envious I am of Jesus! O to have perfect peace. No have no worries, no anxieties, to have perfect calm in the soul…Jesus had it!
    2. The second lesson of the storm is that JESUS IS THE GO TO PERSON. Got a problem take it to Jesus. Do you feel like your ship is sinking, go to Jesus. Are you weary, are you heavy hearted?  Are you grieving over joys departed? Tell it to Jesus. Are you grieving over clouds of sorrow? Are you worried about what’s going to happen tomorrow? Tell it to Jesus. There is no other such a friend or brother: tell it to  Jesus the Savior. Tell it to Jesus, tell it to Jesus.
    3. The third lesson from the storm is that JESUS IS GREATER THAN THE STORM. The disciples thought they were going to drown but they had forgotten or did not understand that Jesus is the maker of even the storm and no water can swallow the ship were lies the Master of oceans of earth and skies. The Creator is always greater than His creation. The storm was a terrible and frightening monster to the disciples but it was more of an intempent child to Jesus, He just stood up and rebuked it. It doesn’t matter what your problem is, He is greater than the problem. I do understand that some of you are battling stage 4 cancer and you have prayed for healing of the body but it has not come, how can Jesus be greater than the cancer that is destroying your body? I will tell you how. Cancer will not have the last word: Jesus will have the last word. Cancer may kill the body but it has no power of the soul and Jesus is going to give you a new body, one that is cancer resistant. Cancer is not the final word because physical death is not the final word. Jesus came to Bethany four days after Lazarus had been in the grave and Jesus had the final word, “Lazarus come forth.”
  3. STORMS ALSO TRANSFORM. This is one of those life changing experiences for the disciples. They see a side of Jesus that they have never seen before and they are awed, amazed and visibly shaken. I don’t think any of them where ever the same after this event. It was what we call a DEFINING MOMENT. We all know storms [crisis]  usually do take us by surprise: the news of a terminal illness, an unexpected car accident, or perhaps our doctor telling us we have cancer. The uncertainty of what is going to happen tomorrow is probably our greatest anxiety.Have you ever had such defining moment? One that literally changed your life. Think about it: how could you be present and hear Jesus command the elements and walk away the same. It is great that Jesus had the power to calm the seas but just as amazing is His ability to calm the soul.

Saved To Serve

Matthew 8:14-17

14 When Jesus arrived at Peter’s house, Peter’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. 15 But when Jesus touched her hand, the fever left her. Then she got up and prepared a meal for him.16 That evening many demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. He cast out the evil spirits with a simple command, and he healed all the sick. 17 This fulfilled the word of the Lord through the prophet Isaiah, who said, “He took our sicknesses and removed our diseases.”

INTRODUCTION

After a busy day, Jesus goes home with Peter and finds his mother-in-law sick with a fever. Jesus simply touches her and the fever leaves immediately. When the fever left, she felt fine and she got up and fixed supper for Jesus. Thus she was saved to serve or healed to help, however you want to look at it.

If we go back to Genesis and the creation of man we discover that God gave Adam dominion over all creatures and everything in the garden. Adam was to rule over God’s creation within the borders of Eden and God gave him the authority to do it. Of course, Adam transgressed and lost his authority and dominion. The authority Adam lost we see in Jesus. Everyone was impressed with Jesus authority. He could speak to diease or demons and they would flee. But God not only gave Adam dominion, he gave him responsibility. Adam was to [1] rule over and [2] to care for. Genesis 2:15… The Lord God placed the man in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it. God made Adam the care taker of Eden. Adam was God’s steward or servant. The earth never belonged to Adam but God did entrust everything in the vicinity of Eden to his care. He had all the timber rights, mineral rights, water rights–All the gold was his and so was the silver. No man ever had more to manage than Adam when it comes to material wealth.

The fall gave man a bad concussion. It messed up the way we think. We are very anxious to get back what we lost but we go about it in the wrong way. Adam was both ruler with dominion and servant with instructions. Now the first step in our recovery is to submit to the authority of Christ as LORD and learn from and obey His instructions. That is basically our assignment here and now. In this life we are to be stewards [managers] of His resources and servants. We are destined to a throne but that comes later. Our problem is that we don’t like the servant hood role, we want to go straight into ruling. Everyone wants to be his own king or in the case of the ladies, queen.

We resist coming under Christ authority and allowing Him to make decisions for us. We want to be in charge and we are convinced that we are capable. Acknowledging Christ as LORD is much more difficult for us than acknowledging Him as Savior. As our SAVIOR He died for our sins and secured our forgiveness but as our LORD He commands our daily life. So we were created to serve in the beginning and when Christ redeemed us, He recreated us to serve…2 Corinthians 5:17…Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

Jesus not only healed Peter’s mother-in-law, He gave her a new purpose for living which was to serve HIM. He does not save us to sit, He saves us to serve.

Marion Mill was born into an aristocratic family in Hungary. Her first spoon was actually pure gold. She was raised in all the comforts of extravagant wealth. When she became of age, her parents sent her to school in Vienna where she became an actress, and there she met and fell in love with a young medical student named Otto.  They married and went to live in Hollywood, CA. There, as they “set up house,” he began to dabble in movies just as a hobby. He became so interested in movies that he gave up his medical practice and an made a career out of directing movies. Marion’s beauty, wit, and irresistible charm brought her everything a woman desires. In Europe, New York and Hollywood she became a celebrity but she could not handle the fast lane and got into drugs and numerous affairs. Her life and lifestyle became so sordid, even for Hollywood, that Otto divorced Marion. In a state of depression she moved back to Vienna. There at a party she met another doctor, named Albert Schweitzer who was on leave from his hospital in Lambarene, Africa.

She was so fascinated by Schweitzer, that she asked him if she could talk to him alone. He met with her weekly for the next six months. As he prepared to return to Africa, she begged him to let her go with him. Schweitzer surprised everyone by agreeing. Marion, the young princess, born in a palace, educated at Vienna, successful in Hollywood and formerly married to Otto Preminger the famous movie director, went to a little village in Lambarene, Africa, and spent the rest of her life emptying bed pans and tearing up sheets to make bandages for putrid sores on the poverty-stricken nationals.

In her autobiography she wrote, “All I wanted was everything. Dr. Schweitzer convinced me that there are two kinds of people; those who are helpers and those who are non-helpers. I thank God that He allowed me to become a helper. It was in helping others that I found everything.”

I agree with Schweitzer: there are two kinds of people, the helpers and non-helpers, the servers and the setters, the participators and the spectators and the happy and the unhappy…the fulfilled and the unfulfilled. Peter’s mother-in-law join the ranks of the helpers. In all my years [43] of ministry; I have never met a server that was not happy and I’ve never met a sitter that was not a complainer. When we reject Jesus call to serve, we become deeply introverted and so preoccupied with our self that it is impossible for us to think of anyone else and this leads to misery of the worst sort.

Many preachers have an unhappy retirement. Over the years they become addicted to being needed and they also enjoy the honors that goes with the job. When they retire, they have a lot of time on their hands and in some cases very few phone calls in regards to preaching assignments. The pastor who baptized me back in 1968 was an unusual man. Unfortunately I did not realize this until just a few years ago. He was never a great preacher. I cannot remember one sermon or even one point that he made and I heard him preach many times He was a very good pastor. He loved to tell stories and he had a great memory but he had trouble relating his stories to any specific point. He just told story after story at random and he lost track of time. Needless to say, when he retired, he got very few opportunities to preach but no man enjoyed retirement more than he. He was built like St. Nick and often played the part at parties and the nursing home. He didn’t need a pillow under his shirt, he had the big belly and everything but what I appreciated about him most was his jolly attitude. I saw one of his beautiful daughters just weeks ago and I told how much I appreciated her father’s spirit and attitude. How did he remain so jolly? Rarely did anyone invite him to preach so what was his secret. He got involved in a nursing home ministry and was faithful to that humble ministry for the last 20 years of his life. He took a job that no other preacher wanted. He was devoted to helping others and he did it until the day he collapsed. He could have sat home and felt sorrow for himself as so many seniors do but he would have not part in that: he had to be helping someone else and that was the key to his jolly attitude.

I’m telling you folks, Jesus doesn’t save us to sit, He saved us to serve. He doesn’t heal us to hinder but He heals us to help. Two kinds of people: helpers and non-helpers, which are you?

The Amazing Intercessor

Matthew 8:5-12

When Jesus returned to Capernaum, a Roman officer came and pleaded with him, “Lord, my young servant lies in bed, paralyzed and in terrible pain.” Jesus said, “I will come and heal him.” But the officer said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers. I only need to say, ‘Go,’ and they go, or ‘Come,’ and they come. And if I say to my slaves, ‘Do this,’ they do it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to those who were following him, he said, “I tell you the truth, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel! 11 And I tell you this, that many Gentiles will come from all over the world—from east and west—and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob at the feast in the Kingdom of Heaven. 12 But many Israelites—those for whom the Kingdom was prepared—will be thrown into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

INTRODUCTION

I am very impressed with this Roman soldier who made no attempt to impress Jesus and yet he did just that and he may have been the only person to “Amaze” Jesus. What was so amazing about this Roman Soldier? I think there is one thing in particular that amazed Jesus and it amazes me as well and we will get to it but let’s not start with that point: let’s build up to that point.

The first thing I want to say about the Roman Officer is…

I. HE CAME TO JESUS WITH THE RIGHT APPROACH

If you don’t think that approach is important, ask the 298 surviving members of the Asian Jet liner that crashed as it was trying to land at San Francisco last week. The pilot let his air speed get to slow on his approach to San Francisco International. This airport is very difficult because the strip begin just inside the sea wall of the bay. He got to low and by the time his instructor told him to throttle up it was too late. The tail hit and came off and two people were killed and 20 more are in critical condition. APPROACH is everything in landing a plane and it is also vital in coming to Christ.

The Roman officer’s approach was perfect. He came to Jesus…

  1. In Humility. He did not come demanding but he came pleading, literally begging. When Jesus volunteered to go to his house, he said, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come into my home.” What incredible humility. You can come to Christ today but your approach is everything…you must come as the Roman Officer came, in deep humility.
  2. In Faith. The Officer’s faith was incredible. He said to Jesus, “Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.” Wow, what faith, just speak the word. No signs in the
  3. heavens, no goose bumps, no touch or you kidding, just say the word. How many of us have this kind of faith. We wants signs; we want warm and fuzzy feelings but he said, “Just say the word and its done.”
  4. In Ernest. The Officer’s servant was in severe pain and he was deeply concerned. Their was a sense of urgency in his voice, “Lord, my servant is in bed and racked with pain.”

II. HE CAME IN BEHALF OF ANOTHER

You have to be impressed with this man. There was nothing selfish in his request. No only did he come in behalf of someone else, he came in behalf of his servant. He wasn’t there to plead for a family member or a peer: he came to plead for his servant. How would you like to work for a man who loved his employees like this man. How much our world needs men like this Roman Soldier who will come to Christ in behalf of the needs of others. What are the characteristics of an Intercessor?

  1. They know where to go…He came straight to Jesus, amen!
  2. They are focused on others…I’m not saying that this man has no problems but what ever they were, he doesn’t mention them. People who are wrapped up in their own needs make poor intercessors. One of the things that makes the CROSS so incredible is that while Jesus was in deep agony, He was thinking of us. WOW! Is that intercession or what!
  3. They care deeply. You have to have compassion to intercede. This man loved his servant and he was hurting him to see his servant suffer. He came to Jesus with one thing on his mind, “Getting heIp and healing for his servant. How would you like to have a friend like the Roman Centurion?

III. HE CAME WITH UNDERSTANDING

This is what makes the story so incredible and this is what impressed Jesus. He was not trying to impress Jesus but that is what he did because he understood the basic principle of the KINGDOM which is AUTHORITY. I am telling you, most people do not understand what his man understood.

  1. Everyone is under authority: even those in authority like himself were under a higher authority. Note what he said to Jesus, Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed. I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers.” This man had soldiers under his command but he also had officers who ranked above him and he was under their command. Complying with orders was not an option in the Roman army. You did what you were commanded to do. Once an order was issued, it became virtual reality. He understood the authority of a word.
  2. Authority comes down, it does not go up. For the Roman, it came from the Emperor through the ranking officers. Centurions did not give the Emperor orders. The Centurion understood his power but he knew that there was a higher power, a greater power above him.
  3. There is authority in the spoken word. Orders can be written but at this man’s level they were most likely to be spoken. This is why he said to Jesus, “I only need to say go and they go or come and they come.”

CONCLUSION

This brings us to the primary principle of the KINGDOM and that is AUTHORITY. The kingdom begins for you or I when we come voluntarily under the authority of Christ. If you are not under HIS AUTHORITY, you are not in HIS KINGDOM. There is no anarchy in His Kingdom. There is no such thing as partial authority; either He has it or He does not. You can not be under His authority in one area of your life and reserve the rest for your authority. You are either under or in rebellion. I can just imagine what you are thinking: if what I just said is true, there are a lot of lost people in our churches. I would concur, I think there are. The authority of Christ is the basic principle of the kingdom and it cannot be compromised: if God were to allow such a compromise, the kingdom would be destroyed.

  1. Is Jesus LORD of your life? I didn’t say LORD, I said LORD of your life?
  2. Do you profess Him as Savior and deny Him as LORD? How do you justify that position with scripture?