Rejoicing In Suffering

SCRIPTURE: Colossians 1:24-29, NLT

24 I am glad when I suffer for you in my body, for I am participating in the sufferings of Christ that continue for his body, the church. 25 God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you. 26 This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people. 27 For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory. 28 So we tell others about Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all the wisdom God has given us. We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ. 29 That’s why I work and struggle so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.

INTRODUCTION

No one can participate is the atoning suffering of Christ. What Jesus did on the cross, He did alone and it was sufficient. Nothing can be added to our atonement. The suffering that Paul speaks of is that of bearing the reproach of the cross which we the church are to do. Jesus never denied who He was: When Pilot asks Him if he was a King, He did not deny it. When Caiaphas asks Him if He was the Son of God, Jesus did not deny it. Jesus taught in Matthew…“Everyone who acknowledges me publicly here on earth, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven. 33 But everyone who denies me here on earth, I will also deny before my Father in heaven. The truth is: if you acknowledge Jesus publically today, you will suffer and rightly so. It is in this sense that we suffer with Christ.

Jesus said in John 16:33… ” I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

James said in James 1:2… Dear brothers and sisters,when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

Paul was in prison when he wrote Colossians. This was one of the last four letters that he wrote before he was executed by Nero. Dying men don’t blow smoke. Paul is not trying to sound like a preacher, he is sincere, he meant what he said, “I am glad when I suffer for you or in your behalf.”

TRANSITION

How can this be possible? How can a man rejoice in suffering without being sadistic? How can you be glad when you are on death’s row?

FIRST: PAUL UNDERSTOOD THAT SUFFERING WAS A PART OF HIS CALL

Now there was a believer in Damascus named Ananias. The Lord spoke to him in a vision, calling, “Ananias!” “Yes, Lord!” he replied. 11 The Lord said, “Go over to Straight Street, to the house of Judas. When you get there, ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. He is praying to me right now. 12 I have shown him a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him so he can see again.”13 “But Lord,” exclaimed Ananias, “I’ve heard many people talk about the terrible things this man has done to the believers in Jerusalem! 14 And he is authorized by the leading priests to arrest everyone who calls upon your name.” 15 But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as to the people of Israel. 16 And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.”

Ministry and Missions is not for sissies. You must gird on the armor and prepare for battle because taking on the name of Christ is sure to make you a target. Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:12, Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Professing Christians that do not suffer persecution are not living a godly life in Christ Jesus. They are compromising to avoid the flack. There is nothing in the N.T. that teaches believers will be spared from suffering, that is believers individually or the church as a whole.

Paul said in verse 25 of our text,God has given me the responsibility of serving his church by proclaiming his entire message to you.”Proclaiming the “Entire Message” is never popular, not even in the church. Some preachers have given themselves to Western minded wishful thinking. The church had better be prepared to suffer and you individually had better be prepared. Just think of the things Paul suffered to get the message to the Colossians and others. The great majority of this suffering came from the Jews, his own people. If you have the idea that being a servant, a messenger for Christ is easy, you best rethink the subject. There is going to be some degree of suffering if you enter the ministry of proclaiming the message: you can count on it.

So I think Paul rejoiced because he understood that suffering was a part of his call.

SECONDLY: I THING HE REJOICED BECAUSE SUFFERING HAD ENRICHED HIS FELLOWSHIP WITH CHRIST

I keep going back to Philippians 3:10…I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, 11 so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead! Paul understood that suffering creates a bond like nothing else on earth. We have been in the ministry for 45 years and most of that time serving as a pastor. The one thing that I have learned as a pastor is that suffering with families through tragedy creates a special bond. I have spent nights at hospitals. I even slept in my car in my younger days. I have drove to Birmingham with little or no money in my pocket and stays with families for hours as they watched their sons and daughters depart from this world. I even booked a flight to Pittsburg to be with a family during a time of crisis. I don’t regret doing any of these things. I don’t have great wealth in terms of money but I am a wealthy man in friends and most of those enduring friendships were created by the bond formed when you suffer with them or along side them.

When you are willing to sacrifice and suffer for me, just to be with me when my world is falling a part, I am not going to forget the sacrifices you made. I know that your presence, your standing with me at great cost, is a gesture of love. Paul rejoiced because the more he suffered, the greater his love for Christ and the greater his fellowship with Christ. You know our Pentecostal brothers have a way of expressing things differently and also a boldness that I lack. I heard about one such preacher who had been hit with a series of back circumstances; he stood in the pulpit weeping and said, “Bring it on God, I can take it.” I’ve never been that bold. As a matter of fact, I can’t remember passing the slightest test when it comes to rejoicing in suffering. For some reason, my first response is not to rejoice. This is one reason I know that I am no where near Paul in spiritual growth.

So Paul was glad to suffer for Christ sake and the Colossian’s sake because he knew that it was a part of his calling and he knew that it would enrich his fellowship with Christ; but there is a third thing I wish to discuss before we conclude…

THIRDLY: PAUL UNDERSTOOD THAT SUFFERING IS A VITAL PART OF OUR SANCTIFICATION

Romans 5 is helpful at this point…Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory. We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.

To the Colossians Paul said “We gladly suffer,” literally he was saying that he glories in suffering, exulted, rejoiced in suffering and in Romans 5 he tells us why we can glory in our suffering. The key is found in verse 3 “Know or Knowing”. If you know why you are suffering, it helps you glory in the suffering. If you are in the dark and you do not know why you are suffering, you will have a harder time glorying in it. Notice the sequence in Romans 5…

  • Trials and suffering produce endurance [blisters produce callouses]
  • Endurance builds  strength of character
  • Character produces confident Hope
  • Hope never disappoints

The secret we share in the gospel message is that Christ lives in us and that is our Hope of glory [Col. 1:27]. Our sanctification is achieved as Christ works out of us becoming visible to the world. This has not been achieved yet but it is our hope, our only hope of glory. According to Isaiah the prophet, Jesus was not physically attractive. Isaiah said, There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance, nothing to attract us to him. On the mount of transfiguration, the inner circle of the disciples saw the glory come out of this less the attractive man. I’m not saying that Jesus was ugly but many believe that He would be hard to pick out of a crowd based on His appearance alone. He was attractive but I think it was His love for the Father and people that made Him irresistible to so many.

Note what Paul says in verse 28, “We want to present them to God, perfect in their relationship to Christ.” The NASB says present every man complete. In verse 29 he says, “I work and struggle [to this end, the Colossians sanctification] so hard, depending on Christ’s mighty power that works within me.

CONCLUSION

I am a 64 year old parent and grand parent. My children are all in their 30’s for a couple more months. I can remember when they were in high school. I was not that mature as a parent in those days. I wanted them to be popular and successful in sports. I don’t think I drove them or put pressure on them but deep down I wanted them to succeed in these areas. Somewhere along the way everything changed and I will give credit to God’s amazing grace. I can tell you exactly what I want for my children and grandchildren, it is to grow and mature in their faith, to become complete in Christ. I want them to have that strength of Character that Paul talked about in Romans 5. I want them to take responsibility for their mistakes, to tell the truth, to work hard and to pay their debts. I never pray for God to make them wealthy, I just want them to be mature in Christ. To be like Job, a person of integrity. What do you want for your children? What one thing would you ask for in their behalf if you knew it would be granted?

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Answered Prayer

TEXT: Matthew 7:7-11, NLT

“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? 10 Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! 11 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.
 

INTRODUCTION

I want to talk to you about God answering prayer but qualify what I am going to say with a story and an explanation. When June and I were in Seminary, we attended the Wednesday Chapel service on campus. It was a good gathering made up of students who pastored churches out of town or in some cases had no church to pastor. There was this one particular guy. He was a brilliant student with flashy type personality. When he entered a room, you were going to notice him. Every week he gave a testimony of how God had answered a prayer about some particular need. After a while, June and I dreaded going and hearing his radiant “God is so good to me” testimony. We were struggling. We were not getting money in the mail each week. All these wonderful things that were happening to him were not happening to us. We felt slighted, unblessed. Of course we were young and there was a lot we did not understand. I have tried to remember since those days to remember when things are going well for me, they may be going bad for someone else. We do not want our praise to be a subtle form of bragging which is what it becomes much of the time. As I speak we have a 47 year old in UAB who needs a miracle. She is a sweet lady who has a good attitude and a lot of faith. Nothing would please me more than for the LORD to do a miracle in her life.
 
 
The first thing that I want you to notice about our very familiar text is the word “Everyone.” Jesus shows no partiality. He did not say the rich, the poor, the young or the old, He said everyone.
I love to hear children pray. They can say the cutest things. Mylee our granddaughter was about 3 years old and she had heard too much country music. When she got down to say her night time prayers she prayed, “God is great, beer is good and people are crazy.” At least she got two of the three right. If I love to hear them pray, how much more does our heavenly father love to hear them pray. Children have such tremendous faith and they are so sincere. One little girl had prayed for her granddaddy who had suffered a heart attack. He was in the hospital for days but when he came home, she came to see him. He was glad to see her and they had a delightful visit. Before she left, she said, “Granddaddy, do you know why you are better?” He said, “No, why?” She said, “Because I prayed for you.” She had more faith than 90% of adults. I believe that God hears all prayers. It is his universe and He inhabits it. He transcends it but also inhabits it and it is not possible for you to even think a thought without His knowledge let a lone speak a word. I believe that God delights in the prayers of children.
I believe he answers the prayers of the elderly and the infirmed. One of the ladies that I use to visit in the nursing home prayed all the time. I think it will be our last exercise. She was flat of her back the last five years of her life but she prayed. One of the greatest honors I have experienced in my life was have Clyde Dotson stay in our home. At mid-night every night, he would slide out of bed and get on his knees and pray. He formed this habit while he was a missionary in South Africa. After all his children were grown and back in the States and his second wife had been promoted: the loneliness eat at him so badly that he got in the habit of sliding out of bed in the middle of the night and praying. I was driving him to an engagement one day and he said, “Pastor, could you pull off to the side of the road, I think we should stop and pray.” I’ve known some good men in my time but I was never around anyone that prayed like this man.
 
Secondly, I believe in prayer. I am no Clyde Dotson or Elijah but I pray. Prayer is a life-line for me. I don’t think I could survive without praying. I think prayers are like rain drops, every one counts, everyone makes a difference. Jesus is my priest and I confess daily. I have a need to pray. At the same time, I must confess that I am not satisfied with my prayer life. Two things need to drastically improve in my life and one of them is prayer. I think my greatest weakness is the manner in which I pray. I am so direct and self-centered. Pray can be worshipful if we can remove ourselves from the picture. I am like the disciples and the blind man in Matthew 20, I go to Jesus with my needs. I get aggravated with myself for just diving into request after request without spending time in adoration, thanksgiving and praise. June and I use to have a Sunday night prayer time where we did nothing but give thanks. We didn’t allow ourselves to ask for anything. Asking had to wait until Monday. You would be surprised at how selfish are praying can become.
Worshipful praying is probably the highest form: just standing before God, praising Him, adoring Him, honoring Him with no thought of yourself. Second to that would be intercession. Worshipful prayer is hard and so is intercession. I read a story the other day that highlights the unselfishness of intercession. A couple had only one son. He was the love of their life. He grew up and go married. They fell in love with his wife. They were such a happy couple. The young wife adored their son and this made them very happy. They enjoyed each other’s company on holidays, weekends and special occasions. In time their daughter-in-law became like a daughter and then their son got sick and died. The parents were crushed but they had each other. Their precious daughter-in-law was devastated and on the verse of despair. She was unable to accept the untimely death of her husband. After a year, she was no better and the in-laws were very concerned. As much as it hurt, they decided to pray for her to met a man who would love her and help her get over their son. They agreed this was the only way to help her and so they began praying every day. Within months God brought a young man who had never been married into her life and gradually she pulled out of the dive. That is some tall intercession.
 
The third and final thing I want to say on the subject of prayer is the resolution to accept and be happy with God’s will. God does not always heal the body. He does not always let the barren give birth. Many have become bitter because they could not have a baby. Others grow bitter because a love one died with cancer. Naomi was bitter about the deaths of her sons and husband. It can happen. I might add that it is easier to accept God’s will for your life than to accept it for your children or grandchildren. I struggled with my call to preach but I struggled much more with my son’s. One thing is sure, we will never have much power in prayer until we lose our agenda. The power is in being selfless. I don’t understand prayer but I believe it works. I don’t understand electricity. I do know this, God created electricity and put it in our atmosphere. We simply discovered this power and learned how to use it. The key to capturing divine electricity is to be selfless, to pray “Not my will but Thine be done.”

What Do You Do With A Sad Story?

 

Scripture Text: Matthew 14:1-12

When Herod Antipas, the ruler of Galilee,heard about Jesus, he said to his advisers, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead! That is why he can do such miracles.” For Herod had arrested and imprisoned John as a favor to his wife Herodias (the former wife of Herod’s brother Philip). John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry her.” Herod wanted to kill John, but he was afraid of a riot, because all the people believed John was a prophet. But at a birthday party for Herod, Herodias’s daughter performed a dance that greatly pleased him, so he promised with a vow to give her anything she wanted. At her mother’s urging, the girl said, “I want the head of John the Baptist on a tray!” Then the king regretted what he had said; but because of the vow he had made in front of his guests, he issued the necessary orders. 10 So John was beheaded in the prison, 11 and his head was brought on a tray and given to the girl, who took it to her mother. 12 Later, John’s disciples came for his body and buried it. Then they went and told Jesus what had happened.
 

INTRODUCTION

I don’t like this story. I don’t like Herod and I don’t like his wife Herodias. I especially don’t like them entertaining themselves at John’s expense because I do like John. John is like an idol to me: well, not quite but he is a role model. I like John because he had the courage to celebrate his uniqueness. John didn’t try to be like anyone. He was different. I guess some would say he was weird or austere. John didn’t wear a suit and tie. He didn’t eat friend chicken and drink coffee. He dressed more like a biker, he wore leather and he ate dried locust and wild honey. He was an outdoorsman. He did no like be cooped up inside walls; he didn’t even want a ceiling. He loved the wilderness. He was a wilderness man who knew how to live off the land. John was a straight shooter. He was not politically correct. I heard a preacher say some years ago, that if John had stayed out of politics were he belonged, he would not have lost his head. John may have lost his head but he didn’t love his backbone and if some of these namby-pamby compromising preachers would start preaching the truth, it might make a world of difference. He told the truth. That became his legacy, he was the voice of truth. Herod’s wife did not like what John was saying so she coached Herod into arresting John and putting  him in a dungeon underneath the palace.

So, in coming to this story, I asked myself: what are you going to do? [1] You can skip it because you don’t like the way it ends [2] You can look for some new insights and try to make it a story with a happy ending, or [3] You can do like John and tell it like it is which is what I intend to do but first let me make a confession:

 WE CANNOT CHANGE THE TRUTH. TRUTH IS ABSOLUTE AND OBJECTIVE.

 

Truth has nothing to do with the way I feel and it has nothing to do with what I think or what anyone else thinks. Truth is not relative nor subjective: it is absolute and objective. It stands a part from human experience. We live in a mathematical world. We did not create math; we discovered math. Two plus two is four. That was true when Abraham lived and it is true today and it will be true tomorrow. You do not have to worry about truth changing, it is immutable. I know that because Jesus said, “I am the truth.” Amen, it is not rocket science, just simple faith.

I have already confessed that I do not like the story. If I were to rewrite the story, it would go something like this–Word reaches Jesus that John has been arrested and is being held in the fortress of Machaerus. Jesus dispatches Simon the Zealot and 50 Israeli commandos [a delta force], they storm the fortress and before Herod knows what’s going on, they rescue John and set him free 30 miles to the North in the wilderness he loved. You know the Israeli’s are good at rescue: it would be like the raid on Entebbe. This is wishful thinking but it is not the way things happened.

We cannot change the truth, even the ugly truth. Before 1934, we taught true history in our public schools. The story of George Washington riding fearless across the battle field was in our history books. It was taken out by John Dewey and the liberals/progressives because both Washington and the Indians attributed the General’s survival to Almighty God. Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams, Franklin…virtually all our founding fathers believed in God. John Dewey spent a great portion of his life re-writing American history without reference to the Almighty. We don’t want to be guilty of what the liberals do. When they don’t like a story, they change the story and then try to convince the masses that their version is true. You need to do some research on John Dewey the first NEA president. You are going to be shocked.

So, we cannot change the truth. Jesus did not come to the rescue and Herod had John beheaded.

WE CAN’T CHANGE THE TRUTH BUT LIKE JOHN, WE CAN TELL THE TRUTH

[John told the truth and it cost him his life but he did right by telling the truth, the ugly truth. I feel obliged to tell the truth, the ugly truth.

  1. The truth about Herod [hero-like]. Oddly enough, remove the d and you have the meaning of his name hero but Herod was anything but a hero. He was a sniveling coward.  He was not only wicked, he was weak.  He had the spine of a jelly fish. He did not have one ounce of courage. He was insecure and easily intimidated. Herodias pounced on his weakness. She broke up his marriage with Phasaelis the daughter of Aretas IV, king of the Nabateans [Arabs] which was arranged by Caesar Augustus. She manipulated Herod like he was a puppet on a string.  Herod feared John, Herodias engineered the old thing. She kept prodding until she got what she wanted. Herod was afraid of John, He was afraid of the people, he was even afraid of his guest and you know he feared the devil woman that he married or shacked up with. Do the research, I dare you: find something good about Herod. He was a loser.
  2. The truth about Herodias [heroic]. Give me a break, she was as big of a hypocrite as her husband. She was mean, vile, malicious, vindictive. She was ruthless and power hungry. The only reason she left Rome was that her husband Philip lacked ambition and she wanted to be a queen of a large kingdom. Herod Antipas has a small kingdom, very small, more like a small state or large county.  He controlled the area around the sea of Galilee. Herodias wanted more land and wealth. She was the driving force behind Herod’s demise.
  3. The truth about sin. It has wages. The way of the transgressor is hard.
    • Herod first wife returned to her father who was the king of Arabia [Nabateans]. He was outraged over Herod sending his daughter away and he began to attack Herod’s holding on the eastern front. He took control of everything Herod had except the castle where he was hiding and would have taken everything but he backed away in fear of the Romans. Besides, he accomplished his mission: he embarrassed Herod and made him look weak to the Romans.
    • Meanwhile, Herodias who does not know when to quit talks Herod in to going to Rome and asking for more land. This turned out to be a huge mistake. In Rome he was tried for treason and banished to Gaul where he died in just a few months. As a part of his punishment, they made Herodias go with him. She probably nagged him to death. He lived 11 years after John but they were miserable years.
    • Just so you know that nothing went right for Herod after the beheading of John the Baptist. The Jews believe to this day that the Arab invasion was the hand of God vindicating the death of John. So the truth, the gospel truth is that the wages of sin is death. Sin has a pay day and it comes sooner than expected. Herod may have had a drink or two at his birthday party, a laugh or two at the expense of a good man but he didn’t die laughing.
  4. The Truth about life. Herod lived twice as long as John but it is not how long we live but how we live that counts.
    • John left a legacy, a good one. What did Herod leave. We know what John accomplished, he set up the Ministry of our LORD. John was the LORD’s laser. He was focused and on target. A lot of folks name their boys John but you don’t see many boys by the name of Herod. Matter of fact, I can’t think of a one, can you? Who is their right mind would name a kid Herod. Who wants their kid to be a spineless wimp, a sniveling coward, a person devoid of character.
    • Jesus said John was the greatest man born of woman. He called Herod a fox, not a lion or bear but a fox. It was 2,000 years ago when Herod killed John but John is more alive today that he was 2,000 years ago. The life and legacy of John continues to grow. Herod will forever be a nobody.
    • John lived from 29-32 years yet he accomplished more in 30 years than Herod in 60.
    • It is not how long you live that counts, it is how you live.
    • Some of the best, most influential lives have been cut short. [William Borden 26, Jim Elliott 28, David Brainard 29, John the Baptist 31-2, Jesus 33, King Josiah 39] These stories of men like John and Jim Elliott will never make sense. Why do the good die and the wicked live on? As the write of Hebrews says in chapter 11, “Maybe they were too good for this world.” In terms of purity, Josiah was the best King in Israel’s history. When Josiah died, hope died for Israel.
    • John was a laser [focused] and Herod was a loser.
    • John spoke the truth, Herod feared the truth.
    • John died for something, Herod lived for nothing.
    • To die for something, you have to live for something.
    • I like what Paul said in Philippians 1:20…. For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. 22 But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. 23 I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. 24 But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.
    • Whether you are John or Herod, you are going to die. Herod lived a few more years but he died just like John. It is appointed unto man once to die. It is going to happen. It would be wise to prepare.

Jesus Feeds The 5,000

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 14:13-21

13 As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. But the crowds heard where he was headed and followed on foot from many towns. 14 Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.15 That evening the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.” 17 “But we have only five loaves of bread and two fish!” they answered. 18 Bring them here,” he said. 19 Then he told the people to sit down on the grass. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he gave the bread to the disciples, who distributed it to the people. 20 They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers. 21 About 5,000 men were fed that day, in addition to all the women and children!

 

INTRODUCTION

When Jesus got the news about John, He wanted to be alone so He left by boat and went to a remote area but the crowds got wind of it and they followed on foot from many town and communities. So much for Jesus having time to be alone. Crowds seldom think about the needs of others. They were coming from every direction and congregating around Jesus. When He saw the huge crowd, He got out of the boat and began to heal their sick. Can you imagine what it was like to live in Jesus day? To know that if you could get your sick ones to Him, He would heal them. When you are sick, it is hard to focus on anything other than healing. I know it seems awful selfish for the crowds to stalk Jesus for the purpose of getting their sick ones healed but I think we would have done the same thing. I see myself in two places in this story: first I am a part of this selfish and needy crowd that is pursuing its own self interest. I don’t want to see myself there but I am among them. I also see myself in the unbelieving disciples but we will get to that in a moment. Right now, I want to talk about the crowd.

I have no doubt about it, this crowd is following Jesus because of His miracles. Yes there are probably some who are gathering to hear Him teach but for the most part, they were following Jesus for what He could do for them, not what they could do for Him. They were not following Him because they loved Him. These folks were not ready to die for Jesus. They were ready to dine with Him at His expense but not lay down their life for Him. So by and large we have a selfish crowd that is pursuing their self-interest. What is absolutely amazing is that Jesus knew their motives and yet He had compassion on them. Jesus saw the crowd and had pity. Whereas if I saw this crowd of beggars, I would probably think, “I can I get back to the house without them following me.” I don’t like crowds as a general rule. I would like to see a crowd at church on Sunday, that is the exception to the rule but generally, I don’t like crowds. Crowds intimidate me; they make me feel small and insignificant. I stopped going to college football games because I don’t like crowds or being crowded. Crowds overwhelm me. I am no match for a crowd. The good news is that Jesus has compassion on crowds and He is not intimidated or overwhelmed. Praise the LORD! I am sure glad that He does not share my hang ups! Amen! You better believe it!

It is interesting to note that I am not the only one who does not like crowds: the disciples came to Jesus and said, “It’s going to be dark in just a little and we are out here in the middle of nowhere, send this horde packing, disperse them and send them home.” Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary–I want you to feed them.” Remember, I am quoting from the JEV [Jack’s everyday version]. “Are you crazy LORD, what are we going to feed them; we have five loaves of bread and two fish and there are thousands of people here. We can’t feed them. We have nothing to feed them with. If there was a Krogers on the back side of this hill, we don’t have enough money in our treasury to even buy them all a snack, let alone a meal.” It is good to remember at this point that Jesus had infinite patience. I can just see Him shaking His head in unbelief and maybe a little chuckle. “Bring Me what you have and then have the people sit down on the grass.”

  • So first of all: the disciples surrender their meager resources. It wasn’t much but it was all they had.
  • Jesus takes what they gave Him blesses it. He prayed over it. I have no idea what He prayed but He blessed the lunch.
  • Next Jesus breaks the lunch and gives the pieces to His disciples. There were 12 of them and only five loaves. I don’t know how many pieces He broke the loaves into before giving it to them.
  • Then the disciples distribute the food to the crowd. How did Jesus do this? I don’t have a clue.

Here is the shocker: they all ate and were full and they had 12 baskets left over. Watchman Nee, the Chinese theologian said, “a basket for each unbelieving disciple.”

There are several lessons in this story

I. God has infinite resources: the more He gives, the more He has to give. Giving does not diminish His wealth. This is why we cannot out give God. There is a limit to our resources but He has no limit.

II. Jesus is our greatest asset and we have a tendency to forget this truth. I have heard more than one preacher tell this story so I will make it a parable because I find it hard to believe that it happened the same way to two men. A church was in financial trouble. They had built a new sanctuary but their contractor was a crook who cut a lot of corners and the building did not pass the city inspection. The church was out a lot of money and could not use the building. The pastor was beside himself and gave in to the pleas of his people and they started doing fund raisers to try to pay their debt for a building they could not use. The R.A.’s [had to be Southern Baptist] were selling peanut brittle, the G.A.’s cookies, the WMU was selling furniture polish and the Brotherhood was dong Swamp John’s. Then the preacher got an opportunity to go somewhere else and he left them high and dry. God called him away! Right!  When they called the new pastor, he came in and surveyed the situation and then called a deacons meeting. He said, “Men, no more Swamp Johns, no more peanut brittle, cookies or furniture polish. We are going to get right, give right and get out of this mess that we gotten ourselves into.” One old deacon spoke up, “Just how are we going to get out of this mess if we stop raising money?” “We are going to trust Jesus,” said the preacher. With that the old deacon sat down in disgust and said, “Has it come to that?” We make Jesus the last resort. He should be our first option. He is our greatest asset. The answer was staring the disciples in the face and they didn’t see it. Jesus is the answer for the world today, believe me there’s no other, Jesus is the way.

III. Our human resources are never enough, never! We are always a dollar short and a day late. They had only five loaves and two fish and there were 5,000 hungry people in that crowd. No wonder the disciples felt intimidated. Notice what happened. Our resources in the hand of Jesus feeds the multitude. If I share the gospel with someone else do I have less to share with the next person? If I share the love of Christ with another person, does that diminish the love of Christ in my life? But even in terms of material resources, we must put what we have in Jesus hand. He and He alone can meet the needs of the multitudes. He and only He can turn our little into a lot. I don’t have one doubt that if we made our resources available, we would see miracles. Our problem is selfishness and greed. We want to keep our lunch. Do the crowds intimidate me? Yes they do. Are my meager resources enough to make a difference? Not unless I give what I have to Jesus.

IV. God’s Plan: Jesus plus our resources. You did see the miracle? When they put their meager resources into Jesus hands, He multiplied their resources and made them more than adequate to feed the multitude. Some people make excuses, “If I had enough to make a difference, I would give but what difference will my little bit make with some many needs?” Your little bit will make a lot of difference if you are willing to entrust it to Jesus. NOTE: Jesus can’t bless control freaks. You have to give what you have to Jesus with no strings attached. You have to take your hands off. I knew a millionaire a few years ago that professed to be a tither but he was no tither. Trust me, if he had tithed, I would have known it. He gave a little here and a little there and he counted it a tithe. He basically told me, “My tithe is too much for a church this size.” Yeah right? The truth was he was sending his tithe to various causes that he supported. In other words, he wanted to give but he did not want to lose control after he gave. That’s like those who have donated things to the church and then came back and get them. I am as serious as a heart attack: people have donated things to the church, ask for tax credit, got mad, came back and collected their things and I have been tempted to turn them in to the IRS. The only problem is I despise the IRS much more than I do Indian givers. I came across a little poem when I was a young preacher boy that sums it up…

As my children bring their broken toys with tears for me to mend,
I brought my broken dreams to Christ because He was my friend.
At last, I jerked them back and said, “How could You be so slow?”
He said, “My child, what could I do, you never did let go.”
 

It doesn’t matter if you have a ton of talent or very little talent: what matters is that you surrender what you have to Jesus for Him to take and break. The hungry multitudes cannot digest your pride: Jesus has got to break it down so it will be digestible. It doesn’t matter if you work for minimum wage or if you are like the millionaire. Jesus is not going to bless your resources until you let go. You can talk about how much you give but the truth is: you are in control, all the way. You don’t give a dime unless you see its final destination. You have pitiful faith and you will never see the miracles that Christ could do through you if you would only trust.

I want you to notice some thing that is very important in this story: Jesus did not take their lunch against their will. Jesus never robbed anyone. It just not His nature. He will take what you give but if you do not give it willing, He will not take it. In other words, He will not stop you from being a greedy miser. If that is not where you want to go: you must put a stop to it and you need to do it now. Most folks don’t want to hang out with misers, they just want to be in their will. You can be loved or you can be tolerated until you die and lose control of your wealth. It’s your call!

Going Over Board

Scripture: Matthew 14:28-33

 28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

INTRODUCTION

Peter and David are unfortunate in the sense that their personal sins are recorded for all to see. Would you want the entire world to have access to a written record of your failures. The entire world knows that David had an affair and that it was inspired by lust. I’d be willing to bet that you have managed to keep some things covered. Some people would choose death over having their hidden sins revealed and I may be one of them. We are not talking about hidden sins tonight but we are going to talk about Peter’s impetuous nature which did get him into trouble more than once. This story could be about Peter’s failure, taking his eyes off of Jesus but his failure is eclipsed by his effort. Peter failed but he failed trying. Peter may have failed on this occasion but he did not quit; no he lives to fight another day. Peter was impetuous; he had a tendency to go overboard. I know, I share his genetic flaw. BUT at least Peter exhibited faith, courage and the desire to be closer to Jesus. Tonight, lets turn the tables and focus on the 11 in the boat. Admittedly Peter did get wet but he also got a miracle. Thirty years later, who do you supposed loved this story most. In this story, if I can’t be Jesus, I want to be Peter: at least he tried.

WHAT KEPT THE ELEVEN IN THE BOAT?

If your answer is fear or lack of faith, I think you hit it on the nail.

WHAT WERE THEY AFRAID OF?

[1] Perhaps they were afraid of the elements [wind, waves and water]. Jews by nature are not a seafaring people. They do not like water. It is very possible that some of them were afraid of drowning. The elements can get frightening, especially in a storm but I don’t think this was their greatest fear.

[2] Perhaps they were afraid to fail. Fear of failure is a big reason many make no effort. There are many things that we will not attempt because we are afraid of failing.

Signs of fear of failure: “Are you afraid to fail?”
1. Failing makes you worry about what other people think about you.
2. Failing makes you worry about your ability to pursue the future you desire.
3. Failing makes you worry that people will lose interest in you.
4. Failing makes you worry about how smart or capable you are.
5. Failing makes you worry about disappointing people whose opinion you value.
6. You tend to tell people beforehand that you don’t expect to succeed in order to lower their expectations.
7. Once you fail at something you have trouble imagining what you could have done differently to succeed.
8. You often get last-minute headaches, stomach-ache, or other physical symptoms that prevent you from completing your preparation.
9. You often get distracted by tasks that prevent you from completing your preparation that in hindsight were not as urgent as they seemed at the time.
10. You tend to procrastinate and ‘run out of time’ to complete you preparation adequately.
 

[3] Perhaps we are afraid of the risk. I think this is very close to the truth. The boat represents the familiar. The eleven are prisoners to their own comfort. They will not step outside their comfort zone. One of the huge problems that we face as we grow older is the temptation to allow comfort to be our god. Comfort becomes more important to us than anything else. We react strongly to anything that threatens our comfort. Have you tried to get Baptist to change seats in the sanctuary? It is like pulling hens teeth. If you think that is hard, try getting them to go visiting. Most Baptist have never been on a mission trip. The problem is not money because these same people go on vacations, even over seas cruise. Practically everyone these days has taken at least one flight so it is not the fear of travel that frightens Baptist, it is the fear of getting out of their comfort zone. You can plan mission trips but you had better not be a slave to your plan because the key to mission work is flexibility. Americans are different. There is no one on earth like Americans. We are always in a hurry and schedules, clocks, calendars are very important to us. We have things called deadlines but in some cultures watches or clocks are not necessary because they don’t go by time. When you take a mission trip, you step out of your world into another world. It is a cultural jump. When you are in Africa, you cannot apply America laws are customs. Our customs mean nothing to them and we are visitors in their country. I was absolutely horrible on my first mission trip. Over the years I have learned to go with the flow. You either become flexible or you get bent out of shape. Long story short, the reason people don’t go on Mission Trips is they have to give up their comfort and that is very important to older people. We want our bed, our toilet, our recliner and our privacy.

[4] Perhaps they were afraid of total surrender. I believe this is huge. I have no question that this is not the number one reason why we live in the boat. Out there on the sea, you have to depend totally on Jesus or you go down. “The world has yet to see what God can do with and for and through and in a man who is fully and wholly consecrated to Christ.” When we hear this quote we think of Dwight L. Moody but the quote belongs to a British preacher named Henry Varley. He befriend Moody in Dublin, Ireland in 1873 and he spoke these words to moody. Moody altered the quote shortening it and simplifying it, “The world has yet to see what God can do  through a man who is wholly consecrated to Christ.” Later in life, Moody went back to England primarily to tell Varley that He intended to be that man. That was his purpose statement to be wholly consecrated to Christ and I suppose that he came as close as any with maybe the exception of one of the apostles. What I am going to say will shock you: I doubt that Moody was that man. I even have my doubts about the apostles. There is something in us that fights total surrender. To complicate matters you can surrender today but tomorrow, you will have to do it all over again. So I guess we get into semantics; what do we mean by ‘wholly’? If it means 24/7/365 then I doubt that anyone has ever been wholly concentrated other than Jesus. What I do not doubt is that Moody made this his goal and a worthy goal it is.

This I say about the fear of surrender:

[1] It is in all of us. I had a well-known successful pastor come and preach a revival for us and during the week I confessed to him my struggles with totally surrendering my life to Christ and I told him that I admired him for being totally surrendered. I’ll never forget what this honest man said to me, “Jack, actually I struggle with total surrender myself: there are times when I feel like I am and other times when I’m not. I think we all struggle with this issue.” So let me say first that I think he is right, it is a common struggle.

[2] As we grow and mature we develop a greater trust in the LORD and it becomes easier to give in, give up and give over. The fight seems to be leaving me. I don’t have the will to resist. I know God’s way is best. History proves Him right and me wrong. I’ve made so many selfish decisions that have cost me dearly; why should I trust my judgment over His? If He says “Come” I am with Peter, I’m going over board. Yes, I may get wet; most likely I will get wet. I may even go down and appear to be drowning but I don’t fear drowning anymore. Jesus was not going to let Peter drown. He did let him fail. He did let him get scared and wet but he was never endanger of drowning. We will never surrender our will to someone we don’t trust. If you trust Him and love Him, it really makes it easier to go over board.

[3] A big part of the problem is we are afraid of people making fun of us if we fail. What do the others in the boat think?  I’ve been made fun of all my life, its just for different things. When I was a little kid, I had an aunt and uncle who made fun of me for not keeping my nose clean and my britches zipped.  That’s why I have made it a rule not to mock and make fun of children. In high school they made fun of me for not combing my hair and other things like the old dodge truck I drove with cardboard and duct tape in the shotgun window. I don’t remember anyone mocking me in college but I’m sure it happened and then I entered the ministry which speaks for itself. So who cares what people think. So I am impetuous, so what? Yes, I have made a ton of mistakes, so what? Yes, I have gotten wet on more than one occasion. There have even been times when I thought I was drowning. Those guys may have laughed at Peter but I doubt if he cared. The one person he wanted to please was walking on the sea and he wanted to be near Him. Go overboard for Pete’s sake, the closer you get to Jesus the less you hear from those in the boat.

So, your basic decision is: who do I want to please, Jesus out on the deep or the eleven in the boat? I have learned that if I don’t please Jesus, I am very unhappy with myself. I have also learned that you will never please the boat people. Luke 6:26 should be my life verse, Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” I got this one covered, all men do not speak well of me. I just hope it is for Jesus sake that they don’t.

Jesus Saves

Reconciliation

Colossians 1:21-23

21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. 23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it.

Introduction

Reconciliation, according to Mr. Webster, is the act of causing two people or groups to become friendly again after an argument or disagreement. I sure you have heard of the Hatfields and the McCoys. The McCoy’s lived in Kentucky and the Hatfields in West Virginia. Actually, the only thing that separated them was the Big Sandy Creek which represents the line between Kentucky and West Virginia. The feud erupted over one of the McCoys serving in the Yankee army in the war of Northern aggression. He was dishonored by his own family and sought refuge in a cave but one of the Hatfields [uncle on mother’s side] found him and murdered him. That raised tensions and then tempers flared over a pig. The feud lasted for almost 30 years and claimed at least 12 lives and several others were wounded. With the Harfields and McCoys, both parties were guilty and neither party was really superior. The reconciliation that Paul is referring to here in Colossians involves two parties: God being the superior party and man who is at fault. So tonight, we are going to talk about RECONCILIATION.

I. THE NEED FOR RECONCILIATION [V.21]

[v. 21] This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions.

The human fall in the Garden left us with a severe spiritual concussion. There were some immediate consequences and then there were so long term consequences. Immediately, we felt guilt, shame and fear. These feelings drove us into hiding. Our great grand father hid himself in the forest. The idea of hiding from God is ridiculous but sin causes us to do ridiculous things. Adam moved away from God because he felt guilty and ashamed. His children moved even further and their children further and we became totally alienated from God. This alienation or separation is referred to many times as being lost. The distance between ourselves and God is too great for us to travel. Besides the distance, we don’t have a sense of direction, so we are like a lost lamb in the wilderness.

It gets worse. In our lostness, we became rebellious and self-willed. We became enemies of God. We fought His will and were determined to carry out our own. Our depravity just gets worse with the passing of time. We are lost, alienated and rebels. You see it all in verse 21, we stepped away, far away [because of our sin, guilt, fear and shame], then we became self-willed [Cain] and fought against God becoming His enemies. Then we were separated to an extent that there was no way for us to reach God and last we became totally depraved in our thoughts and actions. We had no hope of finding our way back to God and no means of renewing a relationship with Him even if were able to bridge the gulf.

II. THE MOTIVE OF RECONCILIATION [V.22]

We must understand that we don’t find our way to HIM; we were not even looking. He came seeking us. Jesus said in Luke 19:10, “The Son of man has come to seek and to save the lost.” He is the Seeker and we are the lost. So we are not talking about God being reconciled to us, we are talking about you and I being reconciled to Him. God is the superior party. As such He took the initiative. Paul said in Romans 5:8,  But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. Paul explains reconciliation clearly in II Corinthians 5…And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation. So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!” For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Reconciliation is a God thing. It is not a man thing or a religious thing. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. Reconciliation was God’s initiative and His doing for A-Z.

III. THE MEDIUM OF RECONCILIATION [V.22]

Colossians 1:22, “Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body.”

The big problem in reconciliation is not simple the distance or the separation, it is the fact that we have no grounds, no means of atoning for our sins. What could we ever present to God that would justify our sin and rebellion? We don’t have anything that He will accept. Religious folks think that they will be reconciled by presenting to Him their righteous but that will never work. Our righteousness is tainted with a vain and selfish motive. We do good things, but we don’t do them for the right reason. So what do we have to bargain with? Nothing, we have absolutely nothing. God not only took the initiative to seek us, He also paid for our sins through blood of Christ. This is what II Corinthians 5:21 it talking about, For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ. Jesus took our sin and shame to the cross. He literally died for our sins. He died because of our sins and He died to pay for our sins. You may not want to see yourself at the cross but you are there whether you like it or not. Jew, Gentile, male or female, barbarian or civilized, slave or free–you were there. Your sins were there just like mine. Our greed, lust, envy, hatred, anger, fear, cruelty, injustice, corruption, guile, deceit, cowardice, etc. If I haven’t hit a sensitive nerve yet, I can keep going because every deep dark black ugly sin in your life and mine were there screaming “Crucify.”

Jesus died because of our sins and He died to pay our sin debt. He who knew no sin became sin in our place so that we might be declared righteous. You have only one hope and that is Jesus. He is the only Hope I have or anyone.

IV. THE RESULT OF RECONCILIATION [v.22]

[v.22,b] As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.

God is doing more than restore us to our original state in Adam, He is transforming us to the image of His Son who is infinitely greater than Adam. Because of what Christ has done in our behalf, we are now…

  1. Presentable–because of the blood of Christ we will walk into the very presence of God.
  2. Holy–like Christ, transparent, real, without pretense, no charade
  3. Blameless–without a blemish [sacrificial lamb]
  4. Faultless–immunity from trail, unreprovable

Put them all together and you have SANCTIFICATION [which is a process]. This may be the most unbelievable aspect of our salvation, that we will someday be holy, blameless and faultless. I bet if I started right now that without slowing down or coming to a complete stop, I could name two maybe three dozen faults in my life. Give me time to think and write and I will come up with more. Then when I have found every fault I can find in my life, others will find more. There is no telling how many the devil could name right now. To be faultless blows my mind. It has to be a God thing and a Grace thing.

Sent Into The Storm

Scripture Text: Matthew 14:22-33

22 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. 23 After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Night fell while he was there alone. 24 Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves. 25 About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!” 27 But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here!28 Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.” 29 “Yes, come,” Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. 31 Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” 32 When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

INTRODUCTION

  1. First let me say that life is a series of storms and they come in all shapes and sizes. As I have said many times, “We are either coming out of a storm, going into a storm or in the middle of storms. If you have calms seas and blue skies be thankful but be humbly thankful. Don’t ruin your blue shy days by worrying about on coming storms but be sympathetic to those who are in the middle of a storm. You may not have encountered an F-5 and you may never but you will face some storms.
  2. Jesus being the Son of God had to know that a storm was coming. I believe that He intentionally sent them into a storm. So the question becomes WHY? We know that Jesus loves His disciples so why would He send them into a storm? I think He did it to teach them. They had just failed a major test and they were extremely deficient in faith. Jesus intended to strengthen their faith so He sent them into the storm as a test, a crucible.
  3. He knew what His disciples needed and it was more faith. He never rebuked them for their lack of finances. He never said, not even once, “O Ye of little finances.” Some of you under the sound of my voice think that more finances would solve your problem but your major problem is “Lack of faith.” Jesus said to his disciple in chapter 17…”You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”
  4. Which would be more valuable to you, earth moving faith or a few million dollars? Don’t answer too quickly, you need to give the question some thought. Jesus never rebuked His disciples for their lack of money or ability, it was always their lack of faith. Matter of fact, Jesus nicknamed His disciples oligopistos which is the Greek word for “Little Faiths.” In the Greek, it is one word. “Come on you bunch of Little-faiths, how long am I going to have to hang out with you guys before you get it.”

So I believe Jesus sent them into a storm to teach them some faith lessons.

LESSON NUMBER ONE:

Obedience to Christ does not give us immunity to storms. I want you to notice…Jesus instructed them to get into the boat… Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake. [v. 22]. So make a note: These guys are where Jesus put them. They are doing this to please HIM. They are obeying His orders. It is His will that they get into the boat and go to the other side. He literally sent them into a storm. Obedience does not make us immune to storms.  Paul spend two chapters talking to Timothy about suffering for Christ sake and then at the end of that discussion, Paul says, “Everyone who lives a godly life is Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” Being a Christian does not give us immunity from suffering. Suffering accelerates our learning, enhances or witness and it God’s primary tool of circumcision to cut away at our pride. Job was a good man. To be honest with you: I don’t know that he is not the best man in scripture other than Jesus and John the Baptist. This is what the LORD said to Satan about Job, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil.” The finest man in all the earth is pretty high praise and yet Job got hit with an F-5, an unbelievable and devastating storm. I have noticed that most of us are fortunate enough to advance without encountering and F-5 but we are going to face some storms. Being obedient to Jesus is not going to keep us out of the storms: it may even get us into some storms.

LESSON TWO:

We desperately need Jesus to get through the storm and to the other side. We are not self-sufficient. We need someone beyond ourselves. We can’t get to the other side without help. Is there anything wrong with you admitting that you need help? A few days back, our 18 month old grand daughter was going to get down from a stool and I reached out to help her but she refused my help. I backed off and said to myself, “OK, lets see you get down on your own.” She reached that place where her little feet were 6-8 inches off the floor and she had a decision to make, do I let go and take my chances on a crash or do I reach out to Granddaddy. It was the cutest thing: she looked up at me and then reached out her little hand. Our human nature longs to be independent but from time to time we need help. Just as I wanted to help my granddaughter, so our Heavenly Father who is infinitely better than any earthy father or grandfather, wants to help us if we will reach out our hand in faith. You can live this life without Jesus, many do, but you can’t get to the other side without HIM.

LESSON NUMBER THREE:

Jesus is present in the storm whether you see Him or not. The disciples panicked because they did not think Jesus was aware of what was going on in their lives [boat]. They felt emotionally that Jesus was at a distance. They were convinced that He was far away, beyond reach. They did not even resort to hollowing for Jesus. This is the strange thing: Jesus let them feel alone but He always knew where they were and what was going on. He did not send them into a storm alone but He gave them the impression that they were alone. In reality, Jesus was in the storm and eventually they see Him in the storm. Storms are not that frightening if you can see Jesus in the storm. What fills are hearts with fear and unbelief is when we feel alone in the storm and that Jesus is distant. Make a note: Jesus was out there but He intentionally stayed out of sight for a while. He becomes visible when He chooses to become visible. Sometimes we go to looking for Him in the early part of the storm and He doesn’t manifest His presence until the later part of the storm. The thing we have to remember is: JESUS IS PRESENT WHETHER WE SEE HIM OR NOT. He transcends and inhabits His creation. You cannot go anywhere in His universe that He is not present. He is omnipresent.

LESSON FOUR:

Jesus is greater than the storm. To me, this is the most comforting fact of them all, Jesus is greater than our greatest storm. Jesus winks at the things which horrify us. He can speak peace to a troubled heart or a disturbed mind. Jesus is the PEACE SPEAKER. In an instant, He can calm the storm and bring instant peace. As a young pastor, 35 years old with four kids, I encountered a storm of massive proportion, at least as far as I was concerned. I came under fire, I was getting heavy criticism, my job was threatened and my confidence was at an all time low. To make matters worse for my confidence, I went to some trusted friends for consolation but found out later that they were involved in the plan to get rid of me. After realizing that I had been deceived, my confidence really took a dive. By the middle of the week, my confidence was shot. I didn’t think I would ever preach again. On Wednesday evening the LORD spoke to me unlike any time before. He spoke a peace and calm to my soul that I have not been able to explain. His instructions were so clear that I wrote them down and made a commitment to follow them. I had some good men who had already committed to following me so long as I followed the LORD. I shared with the church on Wednesday night what the Lord had instructed me to do. I sure there was some tension in the community. One man told me up front, “You are making a big mistake.”  My response was, “You may be right but I believe the LORD has spoken to me and I am going to obey His instructions. It is possible that I have misunderstand. Time will tell.” This is Wednesday night and the confrontation is Sunday morning. I am a worrier so this means I have enough time to go crazy before this is settled. This was back in the day that I worked with daddy occasionally and just so happened he called later that night and offered me a job working with him for two days in Huntsville. We were actually pouring concrete for the Associate Director of Missions for Madison County. This is the miracle. I didn’t talk to daddy or the preacher we were working for about the problem.  I enjoyed the two days working with daddy and gave little or no thought to the problem. When I got back to the church field on Saturday, more than one tried to discourage me from confronting the problem but the LORD gave me peace and confidence. I knew that if I obeyed, He would take care of me one way or the other.  Long story short, it was a painful ordeal for a lot of us but the LORD came through. This happened almost 30 years ago but I have not forgotten Jesus speaking peace to my very troubled heart. He calmed my storm and He can calm yours because He is greater than the storm.