Hope

Scripture: Romans 4:17-25, NLT

16 For Abraham is the father of all who believe.
17 That is what the Scriptures mean when God told him, “I have made you the father of many nations.” This happened because Abraham believed in the God who brings the dead back to life and who creates new things out of nothing.
18 Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!”
19 And Abraham’s faith did not weaken, even though, at about 100 years of age, he figured his body was as good as dead—and so was Sarah’s womb.
20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God.
21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises.
22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous.
23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded
24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the One who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead.
25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and He was raised to life to make us right with God.

INTRODUCTION

I preached this message at the Sunrise Service of 1990 {April 15}, our last Sunrise Service at the old campus. Our very first service here was on Easter 1991 which was on March 31. I know you don’t remember the message because I don’t. In the process of moving my office, I came across this sermon and laid it aside. I have made one or two changes but it is basically the same message I preached in 1990.


Our text today is about Abraham who seems to be stuck in a hopeless situation. Abraham is nearing the age 100 and Sarah is 90 and she has yet to produce a son. God has made it clear, the son of promise must come via Sarah. Ishmael is 13 years old but God has already made it clear that he will not be the son of promise: Ishmael was born as an act of the flesh or the will of man. The promised seed will be an act of God.


Although it was a hopeless situation; Abraham did not lose hope. Romans 4:18 states this fact clearly, Even when there was no reason for hope, Abraham kept hoping—believing that he would become the father of many nations. For God had said to him, “That’s how many descendants you will have!”

Transition

When you think about it, the history of God’s people is made up of hopeless situations.

  • Adam and Eve– Genesis 3:23-24…. So the LORD God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made. After sending them out, the LORD God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. Adam and Eve were banished, cursed and separated from the Tree of Life. They had one hope and it was in a seed. {Genesis 3:15} And I will put enmity between you and the woman, between your seed and her seedHe {Messiah, Jesus the promised seed} shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise Him on the heel.” Paul gives us commentary in Galatians 3:16….Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. Adam and Eve’s hope was in a Seed. That Seed was Jesus!
  • Noah the faithful Sethite living in a world of corruption and violence. He had no protection and things were getting worse and worse. Noah had only one HOPE and it was an ARK. That ARK was Christ. It had only one window and one door: it was the only way and it was God’s way.
  • Joseph in Prison. Betrayed by his own brothers, falsely accused by his captors, unjustly treated by the courts of Pharaoh. He was alone, no help from the embassy. He had no friends or relatives to plead his case from the outside. He had only one Hope, a divine intervention.
  • Jacob living in constant grief. Living under the oppression of a diabolic lie fabricated in the halls of hell and perpetuated by depraved humans. He was a man without hope but then someone told him the truth. Joseph is alive, he is well and he is ruling all of Egypt. Jacob had only one hope, the truth and the truth revived him. The very same TRUTH that sets you and I free, sat Jacob free. Jesus is the TRUTH.
  • Then there is Israel in Bondage. Enslaved, weaponless, oppressed, beaten down to a slaves mentality with no hope. Well they had one hope and only one hope: it was a prayer to Yahweh the Holy One. God heard their prayer and send them a deliver, a liberator named Moses who like Joseph is a type of Christ.
  • Then there is the divided and then fallen kingdom of David. A kingdom that was supposed to be perpetual; a never ending kingdom. But 600 years before Christ, this kingdom bit the dust. It was shattered like a piece of pottery. Again a seemingly hopeless situation but there is one hope…Isaiah talked about in Chapter 53, “The root out of dry ground.” Out of the dust of a fallen kingdom, the Messiah was born, the son of David. The ONE and only ONE who could fulfill the prophesies made to Adam, Abraham, Moses and David. God promised David, “I am building you a Royal House. You will always have a descendant on the throne. This kingdom will last forever. Just as Adam and Eve thought Cain was the promised seed, David and Israel thought Solomon was the one to build the temple and perpetuate the kingdom. But it was never Solomon that God had in mind, it was another Son of David, Jesus the Messiah.
  • Then there was the Crucifixion of Christ: the most horrible event in man’s history. Depraved humanity acting like mindless beast crucified a perfect man. His mother and His disciples watched Him suffer and die. When He died, they died or so it seemed. They were devastated, discouraged, depressed and deeply distressed. If was the blackest hour of their life. It was a hopeless situation if ever there was a hopeless situation but wait, there was ONE HOPE. The disciples remembered Him saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’” Unfortunately, it was not His promise that gave them hope; it was His resurrection. Some doubted even after He appeared                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

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

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.

Normal Christianity

Matthew 10:37-39

37 “If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. 38 If you refuse to take up your cross and follow me, you are not worthy of being mine. 39 If you cling to your life, you will lose it; but if you give up your life for me, you will find it.

INTRODUCTION

What does it mean to be a Christian? Many people believe that being a Christian means attending church once a week but is that a good definition of Christianity? What does it mean to be a disciple of Christ or a follower of Christ? Are all true believers followers of Christ? Did Jesus teach nominal Christianity? Did He distinguish between a believer and a follower? A study of the gospels reveals that Jesus made the same demands on all followers. There is no category for non-following believers. In the GREAT COMMISSION Jesus emphatically stated…”Therefore, 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. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world already convinced of its rightness that they provoke that world’s hostility.

In a moment, we are going to look at three extreme claims that Jesus makes on our lives but first I want to tell a story. Recruiters for all the armed services were given one hour to make presentations to the student body of a certain high school. The Army recruiter went first, then the Navy and then Air Force. The problem was that each one of them too more than their allotted 15 minutes and that left the Marine recruiter with 3 minutes to present. He stood and spoke loudly and clearly: I have less than three minutes to speak but I don’t need three minutes. Most of you can not handle being a Marine; you don’t have what it takes. In a group this size, there are probably a half dozen that can make the grade. I want to see you six at my table as soon as the bell rings. Guess who had the most applicants? The Marine told them the truth and that challenged a select group.

When it came to enlisting followers, Jesus was tougher than a Marine. Three things Jesus says if we are to follow HIM…

  1. WE MUST GIVE HIM PREFERENCE. He must be our highest priority. He can not be given a place; He demands preeminence. If you love your father or mother more than you love me, you are not worthy of being mine; or if you love your son or daughter more than me, you are not worthy of being mine. Jesus must be your greatest love. No one can come before HIM, no one. Many of us want Jesus to be first in our lives but we have learned as did Peter that sometimes our heart deceives us and we don’t love Jesus as much as we thought. My intention is to put Jesus first in everything. I read a story about a woman who loved Jesus with all her heart. She was married to an unbeliever who was also a jerk. He resented her going to church every time the doors were open but she loved the worship and fellowship of her church and she never missed. Finally on a Sunday morning, he gets fed up with this church business and he tells her as she walked through the den and headed for the garage that she is not going. She hesitates briefly but continues to get her coat and the car keys. By the time she is ready, he is standing between her and the door. “You are not going to church today, you are staying home and spending time with me” he said. “No,” said she, “I will have all evening to spend with you but this morning, I am going to church.” With that he pulls a pistol and puts it between her eyes. In a rather sarcastic tone of voice he says, “Now where are you going?” She said without a blink, “If you pull the trigger, I’m going to heaven; if you don’t I am going to church.” I love that story…I’m cheering her own…you go girl. Jesus has to be number one: your greatest love.
  2. WE MUST TAKE UP OUR CROSS AND FOLLOW JESUS. Theologically, there is no such thing as a Christianity without a cross. The cross was the Roman instrument for death and of course Jesus took our sins to the cross. Our forgiveness and atonement is directly related to Jesus death on the cross. If you take the cross out of Christianity, our sins are un-atoned for and we have no forgiveness. The cross is not a piece of jewelry or a good luck charm, it is death to the flesh, to our self life. Paul told the Corinthians that he suffered death daily. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies. Yes, we live under constant danger of death because we serve Jesus, so that the life of Jesus will be evident in our dying bodies. So we live in the face of death, but this has resulted in eternal life for you. Matter of fact, Paul said to the Galatians that he was a living dead man…I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. Paul said I am crucified, that would mean dead but then he says, nevertheless I live but it is not I but Christ in me. So what is Paul, living or dead…he is both. He is a living dead man. He is dead to self and alive to Christ.
  3. WE MUST WILLINGLY SURRENDER OUR VERY LIVES. The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world that they provoke that world’s hostility. JESUS does not want to be a part of our life, not even the best part: he demands our life itself. Whoever counts his life of so much value that he will preserve it by sacrificing his opportunity to follow Jesus, or will renounce his faith to save his life, will find in the end that he has lost his soul forever for the sake of a few fleeting years; while he who gives up all things, even life itself, will find an abundant reward in the life eternal. All self-seeking is self-losing. The Divine law is always to give in order to receive. We keep nothing that we have not given away. The only thing you will retain in the final outcome is that which we did not clink to. It’s not that important that we live long upon the earth; it is important that we be faithful as long as we live. If we want to be followers of Jesus, we must be ready to die. If I value my life in this world more than I value Jesus and the life of the next world, I cannot be his disciple. Admittedly, we are afraid of persecution. We see what the world did to Jesus and we do not want to bear that kind of reproach. We do not want to be marched down main street with a cross on our shoulder while the crowds is mocking and making fun of us. Our very nature instinctively cries out for us to preserve our lives, to clink to our life and that would make sense if this life was all we had.
    • If this life is all there is, no more studying all day on Saturdays…I watch football and eat stew.
    • No more trips to Guatemala and no more money given to missions…I will use that to buy me a new tractor with a front end loader.
    • Sacrifice is stupid if this life is all there is.
    • If this life is all there is we should live it up not give it up!

CONCLUSION

The demands of the kingdom are so offensive to a world that they provoke that world’s hostility. We live in a world that is anti-Christ and the hostility toward Christ and His followers is growing. I think it is very possible that a more severe persecution is on the way, one that I fear the West is not prepared for; one that I’m not sure I am prepared for. All of the 12 Apostles were martyred except John.

  • James the brother of John was killed with a sword by Herod.
  • James the less was stoned to death by the Jews.
  • Andrew was crucified on an X cross in Greece.
  • Matthias was stoned by the Jews.
  • Mark was dragged to death in Alexandria, Egypt.
  • Peter was crucified on a cross in Rome. Upside down by his own request.
  • Paul was beheaded by Nero in Rome.
  • Bartholomew was crucified in India.
  • Thomas was run through with a spear in India.
  • Luke was hung on an olive tree in Greece.
  • Simon the Zealot was crucified in Britain.

The bad news is that this world will hate anyone who openly confesses Christ and they can kill the body; the good news is they cannot touch the soul.

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.