Growing Old Gracefully

Scripture Text: 2 Samuel 19:31-39, NLT

31 Barzillai of Gilead had come down from Rogelim to escort the king across the Jordan. 
32 He was very old—eighty years of age—and very wealthy [NASB ‘great’]. He was the one who had provided food for the king during his stay in Mahanaim. 
33 “Come across with me and live in Jerusalem,” the king said to Barzillai. “I will take care of you there.” 
34 “No,” he replied, “I am far too old to go with the king to Jerusalem. 
35 I am eighty years old today, and I can no longer enjoy anything. Food and wine are no longer tasty, and I cannot hear the singers as they sing. I would only be a burden to my lord the king. 
36 Just to go across the Jordan River with the king is all the honor I need! 
37 Then let me return again to die in my own town, where my father and mother are buried. But here is your servant, my son Kimham. Let him go with my lord the king and receive whatever you want to give him.” 
38 “Good,” the king agreed. “Kimham will go with me, and I will help him in any way you would like. And I will do for you anything you want.” 
39 So all the people crossed the Jordan with the king. After David had blessed Barzillai and kissed him, Barzillai returned to his own home. 

Introduction

I want to speak to you today on the subject, GROWING OLD GRACEFULLY. Least you feel that the subject does not apply, let me gently remind you that we are all growing old or at least older. But I must confess that I am speaking with Senior Adults in mind. I have no problem admitting that I am a Senior Adult and I do not understand for the life of me why some people are offended by the term. Some 30 years ago, Dian and I started a Senior Adult luncheon at the old church and we had the same problem then as we do now, we had folks in their 70’s and 80’s who would not come. I asked one lady why she did not come and she said, “I am not a Senior Adult.” That’s like me saying, I am not fat, this [pat my belly] is just fluid. Adults at Danville never promote in Sunday School, never, or not in the last 40 years. Charles class was the young married when we came her and Jerry’s class was the middle adults. No one out of either class promotes, we just changed the name on the door. If you are 75, you are 75 no matter what class you go in. Eighty years old is eighty years old even if we put you in the nursery.


Transition: Seniors, we need a good roll model to follow and we find a good in the Old Testament–2 Samuel 19…the story of Barzillai, the Ironman, a highlander from the hills of Gilead and the little village of Rogelim. These highlanders were noted for loyalty, courtesy, hospitality and a passionate love of the hill country.

Verse 32 says…He was very old—eighty years of age—and very wealthy [NASB ‘great’]. The Hebrew word is ‘ga-dole’ and it means to be large in size, power, influence and character. It is the same word that is used in Genesis 1:16 in reference to the sun and moon–two great lights.

Barzillai was great man… 

I. HE WAS GREAT IN TERMS OF WEALTH AND GENEROSITY

You cannot do what Barzillai did without great wealth. In the last part of chapter 17, the bible tells us that when David arrived at Mahanaim, he was warmly greeted…by three noblemen…and Barzillai was one of the three. These men took care of David and his entire household. They brought sleeping mats, cooking pots, serving bowls, wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans, lentils, honey, butter, sheep, goats, and cheese for David and those who were with him. For they said, “You must all be very hungry and tired and thirsty after your long march through the wilderness.”


Few of us have the resources to provide for a king but Barzillai had great wealth and he was very generous. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:28, He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. The father in the Prodigal Son is our model and what did he do with his wealth? He shared it!


Note Barzillai’s answer to David in verse 34, “No, I am far too old to go” but he was not too old to give. One of the greatest blessing of being a Senior Adult is that I have more time and money to give.

II. HE WAS A MAN OF GREAT LOYALTY

Barzillai was not from the Tribe of Judah, he lived in Gilead. Most Israelites treated the transjordan tribes like step children. I am absolutely amazed at this Highlander’s loyalty to David. Barzillai was a KINGDOM MAN. He put the Kingdom of Israel before his own interest. Jesus taught us to “Seek His kingdom first,” and Barzillai is a good example. At a time when David’s popularity had reached an all time low, Barzillai stood with his king. Who knows what would have happened to David had it not been for people like Barzillai. We know one, David was very grateful for what Barzillai had done for the kingdom.

III. HE WAS A MAN OF GREAT COURAGE

Chapter 17 tells us that Absalom’s army was already camped in the land of Gilead. The odds were heavily against David. At a time when most men would have been trying to protect themselves, Barzillai took the risk of giving the king sanctuary and supplies. Who knows, this man’s kindness may have made the difference. We know this; Barzillai was not thinking about himself, he literally stuck his neck out for David. If you have a friend like Barzillai, you are rich indeed.

III. HE WAS A MAN OF GREAT WISDOM

  1. He had the wisdom to say no…”I’m too old to go.”
  2. He had the wisdom to realize his limitations. He knew he could not do things he once did:
    • Couldn’t enjoy his food
    • Couldn’t hear the voices of singers
    • Didn’t want to be a burden to David…afraid he could not pull his own weight.
    • It is not sad to be a Senior Adult, what’s bad is to be one and not honest enough to admit it. Like 70 year olds buying a sports car, a convertible on top of that, one of these jobs that sits about 8 inches above the pavement. Or one of these 75 year old women wearing short-shorts.
  3. He had enough wisdom to retire. He passed the paton to his son Kimham. He said I am too old to go but not too old to send someone in my place.

Seniors, this is what we need most–wisdom. We need to know when to give and when not to give. We need to know when to go and when not to go. We need to know when it’s time to step aside and pass the torch to someone more capable. This is becoming a sad reality…some people do not know when to quit.

Let me give you two examples: I saw an 84 year old man trying to call a baseball game the other night and he got so confused that he was calling folks out with two strikes and walking them on ball three. When someone corrected him, he got aggitated. It was embarassing for everyone. The best example of not knowing when to quit, is John McCain. He should have retired after losing the election in 2008. At one time, he was nick named John Wayne McCain but that is not how he will be remembered. He will be remembered as petty, vain and a sore loser. He destroyed his own legacy by staying too long.

Seniors, don’t quit living, don’t quit giving but don’t be a hindrance to the next generation. I love retirement, I am busier than I’ve ever been. June and I have put 30,000 miles on an 11 month old Honda and 4 month old truck. We are on track to do 40,000 plus in a year. I love being out of the decision making process. Let the young folks make the decisions because they are going to do most of the work but that doesn’t mean we are to quit ministry. We can give, pray and encourage. We may not be able to go but we can send someone in our place.

There are two kinds of senior adults: the kind and the wrong kind. Actually, it is the bitter and cynical and the happy and supportive.

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The Good Samaritan

Scripture: Luke 10:25-37, NIV

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 
26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 
27 He answered, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 
28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” 
29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 
31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.
32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 
33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 
34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 
35 The next day he took out two denariiand gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ 
36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” 
37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

INTRODUCTION

Everyone loves stories and Jesus was the master at story telling. Luke records at least four stories that are not found in the other gospels: The Good Samaritan, the Rich Fool, The Prodigal Son and the Rich Man and Lazarus. The Story of the Prodigal is the most renown in all the world and the story of the Good Samaritan is not far behind. Everyone knows what it means to be a good Samaritan. There are hospitals name GOOD SAMARITAN. Franklin Graham relief organization is the SAMARITAN PURSE.


This is a simple story with a simple meaning. Origen, the Catholic scholar, interpreted it as an alegory but it is not an alegory. It is a simple story that even a lost man can understand. Jesus told it for the benefit of a Jewish Lawyer who was lost in religion. This story is a favorite for the left because they think Jesus was advocating socialism and the distribution of wealth but nothing could be further from the truth.


A very simple way to understand the story is to see the four groups or four kinds of people involved:

  1. There is the man who fell among robbers–he is the victim
  2. There are the robbers or thieves–they represent the villians
  3. There are the religious leaders, priest and Levite–the apathetic
  4. There is the Good Samaritan–the compassionate

The story center around the victim, the man beaten and left to die and how the other three respond. In their response, we see three philosophies of life.

I. THE ROBBERS–WHAT YOURS IS MINE AND I AM GOING TO TAKE IT

In spite of what our friends say on the left, there is evil in this world and there are vicious people out there who will do you bodily harm. One liberal said, “The problem here is not the crime, it is the deeper social ills behind the crime. We must uncover and dig out the roots of social injustice that made these men steal. There is a Greek word for this thinking…Balogna. These men were not stealing in order to feed their starving families and I can prove it. Look at verse 30… A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A man is singular, robbers or thieves is plural. There was more than one robber. Thieves and robbers have always run in packs so they over powered this man. Had robbery been their only motive, they would have tied him up and left him but not only did they strip him, they beat him and left him to die.


Folks, I don’t care what the liberals say, there are mean, evil and violent people in our world and they will hurt you for their own sick pleasure. Are we so niave to think that criminals are concerned about hurting others. First of all, being robbed is painful but being beaten half to death is worse.


A liberal was debating Dr. Jerry Falwell on national TV. He told Dr. Falwell there was no such thing as evil and that men are not depraved. Dr. Falwell asked him, “Do you have locks on your doors at home?” The lib said, “Yes, of course I do.” Dr. Falwell said, “Then you must believe in evil, why else would you lock your door.”

II. THE PREIST AND LEVITE–WHAT MINE IS MINE AND I AM GOING TO KEEP IT

Sad to say, both of these men were church men and probably on their way to the temple. Priest were the religious leaders of the day, the descendants of Aaron. They were your teachers and worship leaders. The Levites were the temple care takers. Both were involved in the activities of the church. Both should have been concerned about the hurting man but both passed by indifferently. The priest barely slowed his pace. The Levite did go closer for a better look but he too, hurried off to church.


There is an old adage–put a mouse in front of a cat and you will find out if you’ve got a cat. Put a hurting person in front of a Christian and you will find out if you have a Christian. As Christians, we are supposed to care.


I want you to picture the victim as he lies beside the road in his own blood. He may be semi-conscience but he is dying. The beating and the lose of blood have taken its toll. Without intervention, he will die. What if his eyes were open, like when they do a root canal: you can see and hear but can’t move. What if he saw the priest out of the corner of his eye or the Levite. He was bound to think…help is coming but they looked and passed on by.


Have you ever had your heart broken? Perhaps you suffered through a painful divorce. Maybe you were the rejected one. When the people who are supposed to love us and care for us don’t care, it hurts. 


Hurting people want help but they don’t want to be exposed. The man was laying there naked; they had taken his clothes. He was lying in his blood and shame. He wanted help but he did not want to become a spectule or a side show. Let me tell you what can hurt worse than the clubs of the robbers, the indifference of those who are supposed to care.

III. THE GOOD SAMARITAN–WHAT IS MINE IS YOURS AND I AM GOING TO SHARE IT

Folks, the key to abundant living is good stewardship. Paul told the Ephesians in 4:28,  He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who is in need. Jesus said in Acts 20:35, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Let me give you the JEV…Life is a lot more fun when you are on the giving end rather than the recieving end. I had much rather be Santa as the kid.


Ministry always involves a sharing of resources and the Good Samaritan was lavish in his ministry. He used his time, his energy, his resources [oil, wine, animal] and his money to help this hurting man. He has no concern for the cost or for being reimbursed for his expenses.


If you go back up to verse 2 in this chapter, Jesus says, “The harvest is truely great but the laborers are few.” The harvest is great, it is just not the harvest we envision. We are looking for folks who are hungry for the gospel and want to be saved: these folks are hard to find but there is a harvest…the fields are littered with hurting people. They are everywhere. Hardy a days goes by that I don’t encounter a hurting person.


The time to express the love of Christ for our friends and relatives is when they are down. This man was lying there helpless–he was open to someone lending a hand.

CONCLUSION

A junior high students approached his teacher in the hall way with a problem, as he was telling the teacher his problem: the teacher pulled a quarter from his pocket and said to the kid, “Here is a quarter, go call someone who cares.” All the other kids laughed but the kid needing help just ducked his head and walked away. I am sorry to say, that I witnessed this event and did nothing about it. I already had a bad reputation for meddling in school affairs and I kept silent.

I’m not picking on school teachers, there are preachers who don’t care. Of course we preachers and teachers are held to a higher standard, we are supposed to care. Every believer and follower of Christ is supposed to care.

Burdens

Scripture: Galatians 6:1-5 and Matthew 11:28-30

Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But each one must examine his own work, and then he will have reason for boasting in regard to himself alone, and not in regard to another. For each one will bear his own load.

28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

INTRODUCTION

I was reading a devotion written by a Pentecostal brother who had taken a verse from Isaiah {9:6}….”The government shall be upon His shoulder.” The one thing that he and I agree on is that this is a prophecy concerning Jesus who will one day rule this earth as King of kings. His point of view had nothing to do with the future reign of Christ. He was implying that Christians need not concern themselves with anything related to government. In his opinion, that is a burden that Christians are not called to bear. He and the reforms are in agreement, both believe that the followers of Christ should stay out of government.

Of course, the man is wrong. What we want to avoid is extremes. I’m not advocating that we make government our primary interest but the bible does not teach that we are to be irresponsible citizens either. There must be a healthy balance so let’s look at what the bible teaches about bearing burdens. Do we have some responsibility in this matter?

…Let’s start with Galatians 6:5…

I. EACH ONE MUST BEAR HIS OWN BURDEN

No where is scripture does the bible teach us to be irresponsible

  • Work–Ephesians 4:28He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need. First of all, it is wrong to steal. It is wrong for the government to steal and the greatest motive for stealing is laziness. Our socialist comrades are very subtle: they don’t come to our house and take our possessions, they confiscate them through the government by unjust taxation.  Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3:10…For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.
  • Give–Same verse…but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.
  • Think-I John 4:1 {Message}… My dear friends, don’t believe everything you hear. Carefully weigh and examine what people tell you. Not everyone who talks about God comes from God. There are a lot of lying preachers loose in the world. Half of America is not only too lazy to work, we are too lazy to think.
  • Cross bearing–Matthew 16:24… “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.

II. Bear one another’s burdens, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ. 

  • We do live in a world of need: a fractured, hurting world, still suffering from the pain of the fall. We are going to encounter people with legitimate needs. These are not lazy and irresponsible people. They are people like Job. Life has thrown them a curve and their burden is weighing them down.
  • My next door neighbor had a massive stroke some ten years ago. He is confined to his home and lives between a wheel chair and a hospital bed. He is a good man. A much better man than myself. He does not wait to be dependent on others but he has no choice. The stroke paralyzed his left side which means he has one leg and one arm that works. He cannot walk at all and now he cannot move from his wheel chair to his bed without help. I don’t have to go far to do my daily act of kindness, just across the yard.
  • I guarantee you, there is someone near you that needs your help. The longer I live, the more clearly I understand what Jesus said in Matthew 22:37 and following. Someone came up to Jesus and asked…“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”  Jesus replied, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” 
  • To fulfill the LAW of CHRIST, we must love our neighbor as we do ourselves and this means to help them when they need help. Our word for this is MINISTRY and I believe it is the key to EVANGELISM.

III. THERE ARE SOME BURDENS WE CANNOT BEAR

  • Jesus is our great, our infinite BURDEN BEARER…Wow! What a Savior! 
  • Listen to Him speak…28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
  • Isaiah 55:22– Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.  
  • Psalm 38:4– David said…My guilt overwhelms me— it is a burden too heavy to bear.
  • Beautiful story of redemption in the book of Ruth. Boaz is Naomi’s kinsmen redeemer {ga’al}. As such he has the legal right to redeem her estate, to essentially buy back her freedom and life but two requirements must be met: [1] It is legal but not binding, therefore, he must be WILLING. [2] Not only must he be willing but he must be ABLE.
  • JESUS is our Ga’al, our Kinsmen Redeemer: He was both willing and able.
  • Isaiah said, 800 years before the fact–He was pierced because of our transgressions, crushed because of our iniquities; punishment for our peace was on Him, and we are healed by His wounds. 
  • No one is all of creation is equipped to deal with your sin other than Jesus.
  • No one is willing or able to take your sin other than Jesus.

The Celebration of Life

Scripture: John 11 {Selected}

INTRODUCTIONS

Those of you who have attended COLS that I am involved in know that John 11 is my favorite chapter and I use it a lot at Celebration of Life Services but I have always had a desire to share it with the Sunday morning crowd…so here goes.

I. A COMMON PROBLEM

1 A man named Lazarus was sick. He lived in Bethany with his sisters, Mary and Martha. 
2 This is the Mary who later poured the expensive perfume on the Lord’s feet and wiped them with her hair. Her brother, Lazarus, was sick. 
3 So the two sisters sent a message to Jesus telling him, “Lord, your dear friend is very sick.” 

II. A STARTLING PROPHECY–“Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death.”

 4 But when Jesus heard about it he said, “Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” 

III. AN ETERNAL PERSPECTIVE–“Lazarus has fallen asleep.”

11 Then he said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but now I will go and wake him up.” 
12 The disciples said, “Lord, if he is sleeping, he will soon get better!” 
13 They thought Jesus meant Lazarus was simply sleeping, but Jesus meant Lazarus had died. 
14 So he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead. 

15 And for your sakes, I’m glad I wasn’t there, for now you will really believe. Come, let’s go see him.” 


We humans have a problem: we view everything through the lens of time… We even project time into our thoughts of heaven but there is no time in eternity…if there was, there would be a starting time and finishing time. Jesus had His feet on earth but His head was in heaven: He could see both worlds. He could see the future as well as the past. Think of it as a continium…At present [Lazarus is sick]…then Lazarus dies…Future, Lazarus is alive and well. Death is a barrier for us–we can’t see beyond it–but it was not barrier for Jesus. What appears to be death to us is simple sleep to Jesus…a temporary state of repose…everyone dies but we do not stay dead. Yes, from our perspective, death seems and appears to be final but not from God’s.

IV. AN INFINITE POWER–“I AM the resurrection and the life.”

Notice the focus of Mary, Martha, the disciples and the mourners. They are focused on circumstances, problems, grief, sickness, mystery of unanswered prayer, dates, promises, prophecies about the future. There is nothing sinful about focusing on the great resurrection day in the future unless we are more focused on the date than we are the person of Christ.

Look with me if you would at these verses…

  • Verses 2-27–Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” “Yes, Lord,” she told him. “I have always believed you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one who has come into the world from God.” 
  • Verse 33–When Jesus saw her weeping and saw the other people wailing with her, a deep anger welled up within him, and he was deeply troubled. [NASB,  He was deeply moved in spirit and was troubled] The first of these two words [anger in NLT] means to snort with anger, to groan with displeasure or to sigh with chargrin. The second word means to be agitated, stirred up, troubled or distressed. To my knowlege, used only here in reference to Jesus.
  • Verse 38 —Jesus was still angry as he arrived at the tomb, a cave with a stone rolled across its entrance. 

Over the years, hundreds have tried to discount Jesus emotional state at the tomb: some have even said that it was due to his grief that Lazarus was dead and others believe that he felt emphathy for Mary and Martha but this is clearly not the case. JESUS IS RIGHTEOUSLY INDIGNATED over the unbelief of the entire bunch. No one there believes a thing He has said…He told Martha plainly, “Your brother will rise again.” He told His disciples plainly, “This sickness will not end in death.” And yet no one believes. Martha did not believe…When Jesus told them to roll the stone aways…she protested…”By now he stinks.”

What does this tell us? Unbelief is offensive to God. Hebrews 3:12–Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heartof unbelief in departing from the living God.

  • It was unbelief that kept Israel from the land of promise.
  • It was unbelief that caused the Jewish Religious Leaders to call for the crufixion of Christ.
  • It is offensive to God when we mistrust His word or even doubt it.

CONCLUSION

Let me tell you what I love about this story….No one in the cemetery that evening believed that they would be eating supper with Lazarus that night: no one but Jesus. Not even Mary or Martha believed that Jesus was the Resurrection and the Life. When Jesus commanded them to roll the stone aside, Martha protested….”By now there is a stink.”


It doesn’t matter what you think or what you believe about any given situation. The Jewish mourners believed that Jesus had failed his friends. The disciples believed that Jesus was committing suicide by returning to Jerusalem. Not one soul in this story believed that Jesus was going to raise Lazarus by the power of His spoken word. Practically all believed that Jesus was a healer but even Mary and Martha believed that He had showed up too late.


Here is what is important: God had a sovereign plan and Jesus carried that plan out. God intended to get glory this day and He did…in spite of the unbelief.

ARE YOU NOT GLAD THAT OUR IMPOTENCE AND FAILURE PUTS NO RESTRAINT OR RESTRICTIONS ON GOD’S OMNIPOTENCE.

Hallelujah, HIS Kingdom is going to come and His will is going to be done because it has been spoken and in spite of man’s sin, wickedness and unbelief—it will happen.

The Man, The Moment And The Message

1 This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the provinces of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 
2 God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and His Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed Him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ. May God give you more and more grace and peace. 

Introduction

  • I Peter has become a favorite to me. I don’t know how this happened, but over time, it is the first book I read when ever I begin reading a new translation. This has been going on for some five or so years. If we fast forward to I Peter 5:12, I think we will find out why this has happened in my life. Here Peter says…

  •  I have written and sent this short letter to you with the help of Silas, whom I commend to you as a faithful brother. My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s GRACE for you. Stand firm in this GRACE. [Grace is the theme]

  • In this message, I wish to introduce our study in I Peter: one that I pray will be encouraging and uplifting. If you get a small percentage of what God has given me in the preparation of these messages, you will be blessed. I love this letter.
  • Speaking of this letter: when we get mail, the first thing we do is to see who it is from. If it is from a close friend or loved one, we give it special attention, don’t we. This brings us to the MAN.

THIS LETTER IS SPECIAL BECAUSE IT IS FROM PETER THE APOSTLE

I. THE MAN: PETER THE APOSTLE

v.1…This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. {Silas wrote it but Peter dictated the content. I Peter 5:12}

  • Note: It was from Peter the Apostle, not Simon the fisherman, but Peter the Apostle {a messenger, a delegate, one sent out} of Jesus Christ is writing to encourage these persecuted believers in the Northern part of Asia Minor, modern day Turkey and he does so with gentleness and grace. I think my love for this letter is the grace that exudes from Peter’s words. Oh how I love GRACE because it was grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved. How precious does that GRACE appear when I read and meditate on the Epistle of I Peter.
  • Think with me for a moment, how did Peter come to know the marvelous grace that he writes about? Peter was the first to confess Christ but he was also the first to deny HIM. Shortly after confessing Christ, he attempts to rebuke Jesus. One minute Peter is exclaiming the truth and the next minute he was acting as an agent of Satan. So we are talking about impetuous Peter, the man who only stopped talking long enough to change feet. We are talking about the oldest of the twelve who lead them boldly but also failed them miserably. We all know the story of Jesus renewing Peter after the resurrection. It was Peter who preached at Pentecost and it was Peter who became the leader of the church. So this letter is written some 30 years later. Peter is not an old man but he is probably in his early 60’s. He knows what it is like to fail and be restored. He has been growing in grace for 30 years.
  • This letter is not just from anyone, it is from Peter the Apostle: one who witnessed the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This Apostleship and eyewitness account was a passing thing. These folks understood that in a few years, there would be no eye witnesses left, many of the twelve had already departed this world and Peter was only months away from his departure. Peter himself was awaiting trial under Nero who was possibly the most vile man who ever ruled the empire. He was a sexual pervert and had a touch of insanity.
  • To get a letter from an Apostle is one thing, but to realize that he is a dying man adds weight to his words.
  • I think the main thing we need to understand about the author of this letter is his experience in GRACE. After denying Jesus for the third time, I imagine Peter felt like he was finished but Jesus did not write him off although he did a terrible thing.
  • Jesus heard the denials but He did not reassess or disclaim His call on Peter’s life. Had our LORD been merely human, He might have said, “I made a mistake choosing Peter. He has too much pride and too big of a mouth. I will never be able to use him. I should have chosen John to be their leader. Peter is not cut out for this.”
  • NO! This is the great thing about GRACE. Jesus knew in advance that Peter would fail, it was Peter who didn’t see it coming.
  • Jesus changed his name from Simon [to hear from] to Peter [rock] because He knew what He could make out of this impetus and temperamental Galilean fisherman. Jesus transformed this loud mouth into a flaming witness. He transformed the impetus fisherman into a rock solid leader. He transformed a fisher of fish into a fisher of men. Only Jesus could do such a thing.
  • If there was anyone on the face of the earth who could talk about Grace from experience, it was Peter.

II. THE MISSION: ENCOURAGE BELIEVERS TO STAND FIRM IN GRACE

My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. [I Peter 5:12, NLT]

Now a word about the people to whom Peter is writing. Scholars are divided concerning their ethnicity: some believe he was writing to Jewish Christians, other think Gentiles but it really doesn’t matter. He uses three words [all in verse 1] to identify these people:

  • Elected/Chosen {eklektos} [selected, chosen, picked out]
  • Strangers {parepidēmos} [Pilgrims, aliens, used again in 1 Peter 2:11]
  • Scattered {diaspora} [dispersed, spread out]

In the Greek they come together in the above order… Πέτρος ἀπόστολος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ ἐκλεκτοῖς [elect] παρεπιδήμοις [strangers, aliens] διασπορᾶς [dispersed] Πόντου Γαλατίας Καππαδοκίας Ἀσίας καὶ Βιθυνίας

NOTE:

  • These scattered believers [not living in the bible belt] are like strangers or foreigners. They are being called to live counter to their culture which was very pagan.
  • There must be no attempt assimilate or blend in and this will [Romans 12:2… Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will]…undoubtedly  lead to persecution. They had already experienced some but Peter, who was in Rome, knew that it was going to get worse and it did. [Nero]
  • Peter understood that a call from Christ is a call to suffer and much of this letter is about suffering. [I Peter 2:21, F]
    21 For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps. 
    22 He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. 
    23 He did not retaliate when he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.
    24 He personally carried our sins in his body on the cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right.
  • When Christians do what is right in a pagan culture, they are going to suffer for doing good. David Green had to take on the Federal Government who tried to force him to provide funds for abortions in his company’s health insurance. He refused. Ultimately, he was favored in a Supreme Court Ruling but not until he had spent millions, not to speak of the loss of time. All Muslim businesses were given a free pass but the Obama administration targets Christian businesses.
  • Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cake shop in Lakewood, Colo., declined to make a cake for the wedding celebration of two gay men in 2012. Phillips told the couple that he would make a birthday cake but could not make a cake that would promote same-sex marriage due to his religious beliefs. Two lower courts ordered Phillips to serve gays but he carried his cause to the Supreme Court. Two of the Supreme Court justices were outraged at a comment made by the Colorado Civil Rights Commission…. who said, religion  has been used to justify all kinds of discrimination throughout history, including slavery and the Holocaust." You have to understand where these civil rights groups such as the ACLU are coming from...Rich, agnostic Jews, in the mold of Ciaiphas, who hate Jesus. These talking pundits have made slavery, the holocaust and civil rights for sexual perverts the only three sins. It is OK to kill a baby but its immoral to honor the memory of George Washington because he owed slaves.
  • The ACLU along with every civil rights group I know always target Christians. If religion was really their target, they would go after Muslims and Orthodox Jews.
  • Long story short, we live in a Christ hating world and those of us who identify with HIM are going to suffer for it. It is not a matter of if but when...we are going to suffer for Christ.
  • The recipients of this letter had suffered but things were going to get worse and Peter is simply alerting them to get ready.

III. THE MESSAGE: SUFFERING NOW BUT GLORY TO COME

Peter says in verse 2, God the Father knew you and chose you long ago, and His Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed him and have been cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ

  • Note first of all that the TRINITY is at work in our behalf...God the Father chose us, the Holy Spirit is sanctifying us [making us holy] and Jesus made it all possible by dying for us. All of this is God's work in our behalf and it is according to His eternal plan.
  • Like Jesus, we are called to suffer but just as his suffering lead to glory, so will ours.
  • Jesus had the ability to look beyond the pain: the writer of Hebrews said...            "We fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
  • This is why Peter said in the closing of his letter [I Peter 5:12]...My purpose in writing is to encourage you and assure you that what you are experiencing is truly part of God’s grace for you. Stand firm in this grace. 
  • You might say, "God's gracious plan for you." Jesus coming was a part of a plan. His suffering and death were according to a plan. Our suffering is no different, it is according to God's plan. There is a purpose in our suffering.
  • Peter said at Pentecost, speaking of Jesus....  this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 
  • Peter says in chapter 4... Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in His suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world

CONCLUSION

Suffering is never pleasant but it is necessary for our sanctification. Suffering is God's refining fire, his smeltering furnace. Do you want what Jesus wants? Does your heart beat with His? If you answer yes then I know you have suffered.


Greed is no respecter of persons: never doubt that poor people can be just as greedy as the rich. We want to take possession of things. We measure people by the kind of house they live in, the clothes they wear, the cars they drive and their annual income or their net worth. This fallen world has a seductive power that can get to any man. In my life time, the only folks that I have seen OVERCOME THIS WORLD were those who suffered. People who have suffered intensely don't care for this world nor the things in it. They don't fight over land lines and inheritances because they see beyond this world. What was it that destroyed their love for this world? I can tell you, it was suffering. If you look closely into the lives of the great saints, you will see they all have something in common: they suffered.


As a very young pastor, I stood along side a family who watched their 8 year old son depart this world due to Cystic Fibrosis. Just minutes before his passing, I heard his dad say, "I would give everything I have in this world, for just one more day." I had enough sense not to articulate my thoughts but my thoughts were: "that's crazy, he is terminally sick, he cannot get well, why would you give everything you have for one more day?" I was young and ignorant and not fully convinced that life doesn't consist in the abundance of things one possesses. But the suffering, broken hearted dad didn't care for the things in this world. He loved his son and wanted to spend one more day with him. This man became one of the best friends I've ever had. He came to my defense when no one else would. He had more courage than anyone I've ever known. The LORD promoted him in November of 2009--He died like he lived, without fear. How did he get this way? By suffering. Peter got thrown into the same smelting pot as did Jesus and it bonded them together. I've seen the same think happen when we fellow believers suffer together.

My best friends are not those I played ball with or those I did business with, it is those I suffered with. I am not saying that suffering is pleasant, I am saying it has a purpose and the outcome for a believer is glorious. Hope is looking beyond the pain and seeing the glory that is waiting.

May you be encouraged by this word from God.

 

 

Feeling and Foes

Scripture: Psalm 142, NLT

1 I cry out to the LORD ; I plead for the LORD ’s mercy. 
2 I pour out my complaints before Him and tell Him all my troubles. 
3 When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn. Wherever I go, my enemies have set traps for me. 
4 I look for someone to come and help me, but no one gives me a passing thought! No one will help me; no one cares a bit what happens to me. 
5 Then I pray to you, O LORD . I say, “You are my place of refuge. You are all I really want in life. 
6 Hear my cry, for I am very low. Rescue me from my persecutors, for they are too strong for me. 
7 Bring me out of prison so I can thank you. The godly will crowd around me, for you are good to me.”

INTRODUCTION

This is a Psalm of David written while he was fleeing from Saul. He was hiding in a cave, either at Adullam or En Gedi. He was feeling down, alone, trapped, overwhelmed, afraid, unloved and unappreciated. Do you ever get to feeling down, alone, afraid, overwhelmed, trapped, unloved and unappreciated? I think most of us have spent at least one night in the cave a Adullam. Our emotions are strong and they play a big part in our life. We all have feelings and they are important to us but our feelings are not alway reliable. Feeling are fickle, they play to the circumstances. If the circumstances are good, they are good but if the circumstances go sour, they go sour also.

TRANSITION

Tonight we are going to talk about feelings and foes. Both are real and both can become a problem. The key to victory, to overcoming our foes and our feelings is TRUTH. Truth liberates us, it sets us free from the power of both foe and feelings. We sing the song “Always” a lot and it begins like this....”Our Foes are many, they rise against us, but I will hold my ground?”

So, I want to share with you some truths that will help you hold your ground but before I do, I want to share one story…

When Steve Tanner was at Shepherd’s in Atlanta, I visited him one evening just before sundown. When I came out of the clinic to get into my little Honda Civic, it was dark and foggy. Visibility was less than a hundred yards. One of the attendants had shared with me a way to get to I-75 without driving four miles down the ever busy Peach Tree Street. I followed my instructions to a T but there was some turning and twisting and my gyroscope got all out of wack. Those who know me know that I have a good sense of direction most of the time but when I got to the I-75 ramp the signs were wrong. South was North and North was South. I said to myself, “Either someone got these signs wrong or else they have moved down town Atlanta.” I had a decison to make,“Do I go with my feelings or do I go with the signs.” I remembered what Herman Griffin taught us in aerospace about flying a plane, “Always go by your instrument, never trust your feelings.” So I followed the signs and turned right but my feelings continued to screem, “You are wrong, you are going North.” The fog was so thick that I could not see the down town skiscrappers and my feeling continued to protest even after I turned West on to I-20. It was not until I passed the Six Flags exits that my gyroscope flipped back around and suddenly everything was where it was supposed to be.

The moral of the story: your feeling will betray you, don’t follow them. The word of God is our instrument: it sets our course and direction. We follow the word and our emotions will eventually catch up.

I. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE

Matthew 28:20…“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

John 14:16…And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.

Hebrews 13:5-6… Don’t love money; be satisfied with what you have. For God has said, “I will never fail you. I will never abandon you.” So we can say with confidence, “The LORD is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?”

We may be alone, even separated from those we love; we may be alone in a lonely place but we are not really alone, it just seems that way. The LORD is always with a believer. This is exactly what Jesus said, “I will be with you always.”

II. YOU ARE NEVER UNLOVED

John 3:16….For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 

I John 2:2….He [Jesus] is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” Jesus died for everyone on the planet and that certainly includes you.

The very heart and soul of the gospel is that God so loved the world, or He loved the world so much that He gave His son. I can, with full assurance and a good conscience, look any person in the eye and say, “God loves you, Jesus died for you.” You may not matter to anyone else, but YOU MATTER to Him.

Close to 30 years ago, we had a child in WEE Care by the name of Beth. Beth was a pistol. She acted out daily. The teachers were getting so frustrated with Beth that they asks me to speak with her. When I talked to Beth, she was unresponsive at first but as I continued to probe, I found the root of the problem: Beth was eaten up with insecurity. She was living in constant fear. Her father had abandoned her mom and her brother when Beth was six and now she was eight her little brother was four or five. Beths mom was lonely and she had been inviting men over to their trailor. She was not a prositute, she did not invite men randomly, but she had gone through two or three boyfriends in the space of a year. Beth picked up on the fact that these men did not care for her or her brother but saw them as extra baggage. She said, “I am afraid that I will wake up one day and my mother will be gone just like my daddy.” First of all, no child should have to live with this fear but her mom did not leave the impression that she was that stable and I was afraid for Beth and her brother myself but I did not let on. Beth was acting out in front of her mother just as she was in Child Care and that wasn’t helping. What was I going to tell this eight year old? “Yeah, your mom worries me too, I am afraid she may run off with one of these men and abandon you and your brother.” Although that is what I felt, it is not what I said. I said, “Beth look at me straight in the eye. I want to tell you something. There is someone who I know loves you very much and His name is Jesus.”

Beth was despisable. She acted so bad that no one wanted to be around her and I knew the workers were having trouble loving Beth and I had serious doubts about her mom but I knew at least one person loved Beth and that was Jesus.

I want you to understand that you and I are Beth, we are eaten up with insecurities. Yes, we put on a proud front but they are there lurking in the shadows of our soul but I can tell you for a fact, Jesus loves you in spite of your fears and flaws. His love is unconditional. It cannot be earned. It is a gift of grace.

III. FEELING ARE FICKLE, THEY CANNOT BE TRUSTED

I did not say that feelings are unreal, they are very real and they are important. We all want to feel good. I don’t know of anyone who wants to get over feeling good, do you? But there is a problem: feelings are not reliable and we cannot allow them to become our spiritual barometer.

Jeremiah 17:9…The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? 

AV…The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; Who can know it?

NIV…The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

NASB…“The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; Who can understand it?

If you allow your heart to call the shots, you are in a heap of trouble. First of all your emotional life will become a roller coaster ride, up and down, up and down. When the circumstances are bad, you will feel bad. Our emotions are not the Engine, they are the caboose. The Engine is the FACT OF GOD’S WORD.

No only will following the heart get you into trouble emotionally, it will get you into trouble morally. Eve followed her heart, so did Sarah and look where it got them. The heart is going to take the easy route, the supposed short cut. God wants you to be happy. Jesus died so you could be happy but the way to happiness is not to follow the heart. The way to happiness is to follow Jesus. You can’t be happy a part from Him or a part from holiness and He is the only one who can make you holy.

The Plant, The Worm and The Wind

SCRIPTURE: Jonah 4:1-10, NLT

1 This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry
2 So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love {unrelenting, unconditional}. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 
3 Just kill me now, LORD ! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” 
4 The LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” 
5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 
6 And the LORD God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 
But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 
And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. 
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?” “Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” 
10 Then the LORD said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly.
11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

INTRODUCTION

As we come to the close of our study in Jonah, there is so much I want to say but out of respect for you and the blessed Holy Spirit, I will discipline myself to share what I feel is most important.
  • Jonah is indeed a flawed character which reminds us that God can use whomever He pleases, however He pleases and whenever He pleases. The book reminds us that the MESSAGE is greater than the messenger.
  • The book of Jonah is about God’s redemptive mission to save the world.
  • The book of Jonah affirms God’s sovereign control over His creation. God is in absolute control of every element and every creature: He hurled the storm, He directed the fish, He caused the plant to spring up, He sent the worm to kill the plant, He sent the wind to bring discomfort to the rebellious prophet. God is in control: there is no need to panic. His KINGDOM will come. His will is going to be done.
  • Warren Wiersbe points out some interesting contrast between Jonah and Jesus
    • Jonah was willing to die for his sin–Jesus was willing to die for yours and mine
    • Jonah ministry was to one city–Jesus ministry is to the entire world
    • Jonah’s obeyed reluctantly because he feared God–Jesus obeyed willingly because He loved the Father.
    • Jonah did not love people–Jesus loved the world and died for sinners
    • Jonah waited outside the city and prayed for his enemies damnation–Jesus died on a cross outside the city and prayed for God to forgive His enemies.
  • In the book of Jonah, God has the first and last word.

TRANSITION: TONIGHT WE WANT TO LOOK AT THREE THINGS….

I. FIRST: JONAH’S ATTITUDE

This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry
2 So he complained to the LORD about it: “Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, LORD? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love {unrelenting, unconditional}. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. 
3 Just kill me now, LORD ! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen.” 
4 The LORD replied, “Is it right for you to be angry about this?” 


Jonah is angry: anger is the emotion we fell when our expectation for justice is not met. Jonah believed that God was in error. He should not have forgiven the Ninevites because they deserved judgment.


James 1:19-20– Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angryHuman anger does not produce the righteousness God desires.


There is a good anger and a bad anger but most of the time our anger is not good. There is a thing called righteous indignation [Jesus in John 2]. Paul told the Ephesians, “Be angry and sin not.” Matthew Henry said, “The only way to be angry and not sin is to be angry at sin.”


Jesus got angry when He saw others being treated unjustly but Jonah anger is personal: he feels that he is the victim of the injustice. It is the anger that arises when we don’t get our way. Jonah is mad because God doesn’t agree with him and did not cooperate with him to carry out his will.


Anger is the frustration of not getting the desired results that we wanted.


Anger is a two sided coin: On one side their is rage but flip it over and you find self-pity. Note what Jonah said, “I am so angry I could die.” Both rage and self-pity are disparaging, they diminish and depreciate us. Rage is a gross waste of energy and nothing makes us appear smaller in the eyes of others than self-pity…poor pitiful me.


God asked Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry?”

II. JONAH’S POSTURE

5 Then Jonah went out to the east side of the city and made a shelter to sit under as he waited to see what would happen to the city. 
6 And the LORD God arranged for a leafy plant to grow there, and soon it spread its broad leaves over Jonah’s head, shading him from the sun. This eased his discomfort, and Jonah was very grateful for the plant. 

Some temptations abate as we grow older but some increase in intensity and one of those temptations that gets stronger with time is our “comfort.” We want to be comfortable. I am not an exception to the rule.


There are two things wrong with Jonah’s posture. [1] Like so many professed believers today, Jonah’s posture is passive…he is sitting and waiting.


Don’t get me wrong folks but I have very little patience with these bible study groups who want to meet and indulge their appetite with more knowledge when we are not putting into practice what we already know. If you have a bible study group that is involved in ministry, missions and evangelism, that is a horse of a different color: I applaud such. What we Baptist like to do is meat, eat, blow and go…but we go home to our recliners. We don’t go to the hurting or to the lost. The Reforms are just as guilty of taking this passive position. They want to leave everything to God. Listen folks, God expects us to do what we can. He gave us brains and spiritual gifts so that we could serve others.


[2] Jonah is not only sitting and waiting: he is engrossed in his own comfort. He had made his comfort a top priority.


A part of my doing this series out of Jonah was God prodding me to move out of mycomfort zone.


I am not comfortable with interrupting the lives of others. I have some neighbors who want to be left alone and I want to leave them alone but God is prodding me out of my comfort zone. I had a lot of anxiety over the Block Party: would the weather be permitting, would anyone show up? I finally just had to pick a time and date and say, “LORD, I can’t control weather or people so that part is up to you.”


What is God prodding you to do this week? Teach, go on a mission trip, share Christ with a co-worker or neighbor or to give sacrificially, more than you can afford.

III. JONAH’S RELATIONSHIP TO THE LORD

But God also arranged for a worm! The next morning at dawn the worm ate through the stem of the plant so that it withered away. 
And as the sun grew hot, God arranged for a scorching east wind to blow on Jonah. The sun beat down on his head until he grew faint and wished to die. “Death is certainly better than living like this!” he exclaimed. 
9 Then God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?“Yes,” Jonah retorted, “even angry enough to die!” 
10 Then the LORD said, “You feel sorry about the plant, though you did nothing to put it there. It came quickly and died quickly.
11 But Nineveh has more than 120,000 people living in spiritual darkness, not to mention all the animals. Shouldn’t I feel sorry for such a great city?”

What is the old saying, “God called me to afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.” Well, God sent a worm to afflict Jonah, to destroy his comfort. There is a purpose for everything, even worms.


If God can use a worm, a plant, a fish and a rear end like Jonah, surely He can use me or you, amen!


Jonah got mad at God again: [1] First He was angry that God did not destroy Nineveh and [2] now because He allowed the worm to destroy Jonah’s shade, or comfort. This is a sermon within itself but I am going to move on for the sake of time.


Jonah fell in love with the plant. It was a 24 hour affair and he was upset when the plant died. He was not upset by the people of Nineveh dying. He cared more about the plant than he did people. It is OK to love plants and even to talk to them but they are not more important than people. How do we get our priorities so out of whack?


How is it that we get so bogged down in the mire of this temporal world that we become enslaved to it cares and passions. Think of the world as a pit of quick sand and we are in it up to our shoulders. We spend all our energy trying to survive. We have nothing left for God. I one time, we owned a huge house with a huge yard [5 arces]. I had one little riding mower. It took forever just to cut the yard. [the bigger the swing set the more bolt and nuts there are to keep tight]. Now we don’t own a house but we are freer to go and to give. [story of Wang from Ruth Graham Lotz]

CONCLUSION

Did you know that repentance is mutual: We repent and then God repents. We turn from sin and then God [because He is merciful] turns from His wrath. The book of Jonah is about mutual repentance. The Ninevites turned from their sin and violence and God turned from His wrath. 


WHAT DO YOU AND I NEED TO REPENT OF THIS WEEK, TONIGHT?

  • Is our prejudice greater than our love for people, especially those who are not like us and who threaten our way of life?
  • Are we all tied up with earthy cares, so much so that we are not free to serve God.
  • Do we need to repent of our anger and frustration and asked God to fill us with love rather than anger and resentment. {Remember, Jonah’s disobedience robbed him of the joy of leading such a great crusade}
  • How close are we to Jonah’a attitude and how close are we to Christ. Who do we resemble most?

When we decide that we want to be more like Jesus and less like Jonah, we will have REVIVAL is some form. WHY NOT TONIGHT?                                                                                                              

 

“Who Knows?”

Scripture: Jonah 3:1-10, NIV

1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 
2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” 
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.
4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 
5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. 
6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 
7This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 
8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 
9 Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.” 
10 When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

INTRODUCTION

The book of Jonah is about God’s redemptive purpose in this world and that is for all men to come to know Christ. We know because of Jesus teaching, that all will not repent but it is God’s will that all have the opportunity to repent. God wants the gospel shared with the world.

In Matthew 24:14, Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

God said to Israel through Isaiah the prophet…“I, the LORD, have called you to demonstrate my righteousness. I will take you by the hand and guard you, and I will give you to my people, Israel, as a symbol of my covenant with them. And you will be light to guide the nations.”

PROBLEM! The Jews misinterpreted their call: they did not want to share the gospel. They believed that God’s grace was for them alone. When God called Jonah to go to Nineveh, Jonah refused, he did not go because he didn’t want to.

Why do we not witness, why do we not share the gospel? [We don’t want to, we don’t have a desire to]

Jonah ran from God which you can do: You can run but you cannot hide–God sought him out and brought him to repentance via the fish. He gives Jonah a second chance.

QUESTION: Why didn’t God get someone else?

  • Jonah had the courage to do the job
  • God wanted to use the prophets experience as a part of his message
  • God loved Jonah

Warren Wiersbe, who is very good at researching the history of these events suggest… 

  1. The ‘FISH STORY’ could have very well preceded Jonah…the story got to them before Jonah did. In other words, there was an eye witness who saw the fish spit Jonah on the beach. They saw Jonah unwrapping the sea weed from his body.
  2. Jonah had lost his complexion. After being in the belly of the fish, submerged in gastric juices for three days has bleached Jonah to an albino white. He looked like a ghost.

TRANSITION: Tonight, my first point is…

I. THE MESSENGER [V. 1-3]

1 Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time: 
2“Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” 
3 Jonah obeyed the word of the LORD and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it.
  1. Jonah is a Jewish prophet Jonah son of Amittai {my truth}, the prophet from Gath-hepher. [2 Kings 14:25]
  2. Jonah means “Dove.” The Jews believed the dove was a peaceful but feeble bird. Jonah was indeed a feeble bird and it is possible that he did not like confrontation. But God knew him and he knew Jonah had what most of us lack: raw courage.
  3. Jonah was not a perfect instrument: he was imperfect, flawed, even bigoted.
  4. Jonah was not the news, he was the news boy. He was not the message, he simply delivered the message.
  5. The Ninevites never discussed Jonah, they did talk about the message.

II. THE MESSAGE [V.4]

4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 

  1. “Forty days from now Nineveh will be destroyed!” Eight words in English, five in Hebrew. Can you believe it, a five word sermon. [the kind my family would love]
  2. The sign…Jesus said Jonah was a sign, a sign of what. A sign is an uncommon phenomenon. The star was a sign to the wise men but the heavens are filled with stars. The star they saw was uncommon. Jonah was not common. Can you imagine how stunned the Ninevites were when they seen an albino Jew walking down main street.
  3. Message was from God. It was not Jonah’s message.
  4. Paul said, For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power [dü’-nä-mēs] of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.

III. THE MESSAGE BELIEVED [v.5]

[v.5] The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth. 

  1. Note: the Ninevites did not believe in Jonah, they believed in God.
  2. The Ninevites believed across the board from the greatest to the least.
  3. Jonah could not reach the entire city but his message was shared, it swept through this huge city like wild fire. [huge city, three days just to walk through it]
  4. Their faith lead to repentance, put on sackcloth. Repentance is a change of mind–they changed their minds about God, about sin, about life.

IV. THE MESSAGE OBEYED [v.6-8]

6 When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. 
This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh: “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. 
8 But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. 
  1. The King stepped down from his throne and sat in ashes and dust.
  2. He issued a proclamation: fast and pray.
  3. Let everyone give us their evil way and their violence. No testimony greater than a changed life.

CONCLUSION

Look at verse 9, “Who knows.” Will God send a great REVIVAL in three weeks…WHO KNOWS?  I do know that God is sovereign and He can move upon people by the power of His Spirit. I pray for the Ruach to sweep across this land, convicting us of sin, stirring us to pray and to repent like the Ninevites.

2 Chronicles 7:14…Recipe

If My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

My pastor use to refer to this verse as the Recipe for Revival but technically, there is no such thing. We cannot work a revival up and we cannot pray one down. God and only God, can send REVIVAL….

BUT

When God’s Spirit moves, He will move us to pray. Before every revival in history, people got a burden to pray. You see this here in Jonah. Every revival in history has also been accompanied by the preaching of the word…which you have here.

WHAT IS GOD DOING IN AMERICA TODAY?

He is at work. I’m not saying “I personally know what He is doing,” but He is at work. Did you hear the President’s speech last Friday. Be honest, did you ever think that we would hear that kind of speech from the president?

I’m with the King of Nineveh, “Who Knows” what God will do?

Just remember this: He is a CREATOR, not a DUPLICATOR…Our awesome God seldom does the same thing twice.

  • Only one Garden of Eden
  • Only one Flood
  • Only one Red Sea
  • Only one Calvary
  • Only one Pentecost
  • Only one Revival like Nineveh

So, I am not praying for another Pentecost: I am asking God to do something fresh. I’m just longing for Him to move among us and stir us, to give us a burden to pray and to give us the spirit of repentance because I don’t see either.

Do you have a burden to pray? [I will gladly meet with you]

Do you have a spirit of Repentance?

Distress And Revival

SCRIPTURE: Jonah 2:1-10, NLT

1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from inside the fish. 
He said, “I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble [tsarah], and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and LORD, You heard me! 
3 You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. 
4 Then I said, ‘O LORD, you have driven me from your presence. Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’ 
5 “I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
6 I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O LORD my God, snatched me from the jaws of death! 
7 As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD . And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. 
8 Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies [checed]. 
9 But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the LORD alone.” 
10 Then the LORD ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.

INTRODUCTION

Four Act Play

If the book of Jonah was a play, it would have four acts:

  • On board the ship [in the storm]
  • In the belly of the fish [in deep distress]
  • In the city of Nineveh [shouting judgment]
  • Outside the city [waiting to see God destroy Nineveh]

 

This morning– we are in act 2, inside the fish.

I realize that the last thing any of us wants today is ‘stress’

...that is the emotional strain or tension that results from adverse or very demanding circumstances…

…and we certainly do not want any ‘distress’ which is extreme stress or extreme anxiety, sorrow, pain which can lead to anguish, suffering, agony, torment and heartbreak.  

Jonah is disobedient to his call…

God called Jonah to go to Nineveh and warn them of judgment but Jonah had other ideas. He was not in agreement with God. He wanted the Nivevites judged but he did not want them to get a warning. So Jonah did not obey. He went in the opposite direction. Thus, God send a storm which lead to the conversion of the entire ship’s crew but had little effect on Jonah. It may have caused him some stress but certainly no distress.

Jonah knows Yahweh sent the storm and why: he calmly tells the crew to throw him overboard. I don’t think Jonah had any hopes of swimming to shore; I think he thought at that moment, that he would rather die than repent or even pray and he certainly had not changed his mind about going to Nineveh. Sometimes, we think we want to die and then when the opportunity presents itself, we change our mind.

Jonah’s confinement inside the fish causes his distress…

Jonah hit the water like a rock and began to sink into the depths of the sea but before he could drown, God sent a fish and the fish swallowed Jonah whole. It had to be a large fish. God sent a great storm so He had no problem sending a great fish. Personally, I think it was a whale but that is not important. The important thing is that Jonah is incarcerated inside the stomach of the fish. This is the cause of his distress. The Hebrew word translated trouble in the NLT is translated ‘distress’ in the NASB, NIV, ESV and NRSV is ‘tsarah’ and the t is silent. The word pronounced almost sounds like ‘sorrow’. It means to be in a strait or a tight place. As the old adage, “between a rock and a hard place.” It means to be confined, restricted, caught in a bind.

Jonah cannot save himself. The US Navy with their most sophisticated equipment could not have rescued Jonah. He was hidden from the view of mankind, only God could see him. It is in the helpless position that Jonah feels the distress.

Today, I want to show you from scripture how God used DISTRESS to nudge Jonah in the right direction…I want you to see how God used DISTRESS to turn Jonah’s life around.

I. FIRST OF ALL: THE DISTRESS LEAD JONAH TO PRAY

1 Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from inside the fish. 

He said, “I cried out to the LORD in my great trouble [tsarah], and He answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and LORD, You heard me! 


Jonah is in deep trouble and he knows it. Only one person can save him now and that is the LORD to whom he prays.

Remember, the Ship’s Captain could not get Jonah to pray. The crew could not get him to pray. He was not speaking to the LORD. His decision to be thrown overboard was a decision not to pray. They all wanted him to pray and repent but he refused. So notice the first word of the text…“Then”….after all that is happened in chapter one, Jonah prays.


How many of you think the distress helped him to pray? When are we most fervent in prayer? When we are sailing under blue skies or when we are in deep, deep trouble?


We all know that Jonah’s relationship with God is not going to be fixed until he prays and prays earnestly. The distress moved him to pray.

Are there some things in your life that can only be fixed by you talking to the LORD.

II. THE DISTRESS REMINDED HIM OF WHO WAS IN CONTROL

You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea. The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves. 

Note what Jonah said,YOU [Lord] threw me into the ocean depths.” I thought the sailor threw him into the ocean. They did but they did so as God’s instruments. Jonah knew that God was behind the storm and that he was exactly where his own sin had put him and where God providentially had placed him. Jonah knew, that from His heaven, God was pushing all the buttons to make these things happen. The storm was no accident nor was the fish: God sent them both.

God in control not us…

It was inside the fish that Jonah realized that God was in complete control and that he was at God’s mercy.

Some of you tonight may think you are calling the shots but I can assure you: “You are not.” God is at the control center and the sooner we realize this the better our lives will be. Jonah created this storm by his own pig-headed rebellion. He took great pride in how he handled the storm but when God sent the fish to swallow him alive, it opened his eyes and he realized, I am not in control: The LORD is in control and I am at His mercy. We are all at His mercy tonight.

III. THE DISTRESS GIVES HIM TIME TO THINK ABOUT THE DIRECTION OF HIS LIFE

4 Then I said, ‘O LORD, you have driven me from your presence. Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’ 
5 “I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me. Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.
6 I sank down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever.

Jonah probably acknowledged that he was a sinner but inside that fish he realized he was a death and hell deserving sinner. He felt the distance he had put between himself and the LORD and he knew he was sinking lower and lower. 


I was in my late 20’s when the LORD began revealing my depravity. That when the process began, it continues to the present. There was a time I thought highly of myself and then God began revealing me to me.


I visited an old friend a few weeks ago and I knew that I needed to witness to him because he seldom attends church. I chickened out but as I was leaving his office he followed me to my truck and he said, “Jack, I know you are concerned about me and I appreciate it. I want you to know that I was saved when I was 14 and I remember being baptized.” I was both shocked and ashamed. I thanked him for his testimony but cautioned him about relying on any righteousness other than that of Jesus. As I shared with him a part of my depravity, he took issue. He said, “Jack, you are a good man. I have watched you for years. You are devoted to helping others.” I said, “That’s what you see but it is not what God sees.”

Without giving you details that would prove my depravity, how about you take my word word, I am depraved. There is nothing good in me.

 

Trust me, I have been searching for the good for years and it isn’t there but I’m OK with that because I am going to heaven on Jesus righteousness not mine.


Do you know what opened my eyes to my depravity: a horrific storm. It was out of my distress that I cried out to the LORD.

IV. DISTRESS CAN BRING US TO REPENTANCE

But you, O LORD my God, snatched me from the jaws of death! 
7 As my life was slipping away, I remembered the LORD. And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple. 
8 Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies [checed]. 
9 But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows. For my salvation comes from the LORD alone.” 
It was inside the fish that Jonah repented. He turned to the LORD and away from his selfish pride. To prove his sincerity, Jonah vowed to sacrifice, to sing and to keep his commitment as a man of God. Inside the belly of the fish is where Jonah changed his mind and decided to go to Nineveh. 


Right out of Seminary, in my first pastorate, I encountered a man who claimed to be an atheist. I knew after meeting him only once, that all he wanted to do was argue and I did not want to argue with him. He was not open to the truth and I did not want to cast pearls to swine. He began having some physical problems, went to the doctor and they diagnosed him with cancer. His brother in law asks me to go see him but his attitude had not changed. He was going to lick the __________ stuff. They sent him straight to Birmingham and again, his brother in law insisted that I go. I did not want to go. We visited him right after the Birmingham doctors had told him he had 6 months to live. For the first time, he listened but he was not ready to make any changes. We stayed in his room until almost midnight. To be honest with you, I thought he was hopeless. We went down to the lobby to spend the rest of the night and about 3-4 am his wife came and got us. She said Kenneth has something to tell you. We walked in and you could sense the change, Kenneth had repented of his evil ways and had given his heart to Jesus. He took chemo and that extended his life a few months but Kenneth never stopped praising Jesus and witnessing to others.

CONCLUSION

The book of Jonah is about repentance. Both the prophet, the one who announced judgment, the pagan sailors aboard the ship and the wicked folks of Nineveh needed to repent. Jonah was not cruel like the Assyrians but he was full of pride and indifference and he needed to repent.

  1. We all need to repent.

  2. We need to repent to the LORD. {False gods are incapable of showing mercy, saving us}

  3. It is not too late to repent.

  4. You can repent anywhere. Don’t have to be in a church at an altar. Jonah was in the belly of a fish.