“Sirs, we would see Jesus” (John 12:21).
Nothing tells the story on you and me like what it takes to defeat us.
Some of us, like the Saints’ Jimmy Graham, have to be double- or triple-teamed to stop us from serving Christ. Others of us can be safely ignored because we’re no threat to the devil.
I am impressed in reading the gospels at the people who did whatever was necessary to get to Jesus. Here is a partial list. You may think of others….
1) In Mark 2, four men brought their paralyzed buddy to Jesus. Unable to get into the house, they carried him onto the flat rooftop and tore open the tiles and lowered him into the room. I am impressed by their perseverance.
2) In Mark 5, the woman with a 12-year hemorrhage worked her way through the crowd to get to Jesus. “If I can touch but the hem of His garment, I will get well.” People with her affliction avoid crowds, but look at her. I am impressed by her determination and pushiness, even.
3) In Luke 18, the blind beggar of Jericho (called Bartimaeus in Mark 10) is constantly hushed when he calls for Jesus. But the more they tried to shush him, the louder he called. I do love this brother and am impressed by his stubborn refusal to be discouraged. He would not be denied.
4) In Luke 19, the chief tax collector of Jericho, Zaccheus, wanted to see Jesus but the crowds lining the streets and roads were blocking his way. So he climbed a sycamore tree. What a sight he must have made, this Roman official up a tree. Jesus recognizes faith when He sees it and invites Himself to Zac’s home and into his life. I am impressed by Zac’s determination to do whatever it took to see Jesus.
5) Several times in scripture (Matthew 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16, and maybe other places), the disciples discouraged mothers from bringing their little ones to Jesus. But they persisted and the Lord blessed them. I am impressed by their love and their unwillingness to be easily dissuaded.
6) In Luke 2, old Simeon had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would live to see the Christ child. So each day he went into the temple at Jerusalem, where he waited and waited and waited. And then one day…. (I’m smiling.) I am so impressed by this man’s steadfast patience.
7) In Matthew 2, the Magi must have overcome considerable obstacles to get to the Christ Child. They were driven by strong faith and high expectations; they came at great expense and personal inconvenience. We wish we knew more of their story. I am in awe of their sacrifice.
8) In Mark 7, the Syrophoenician woman refused to be dissuaded even by the Lord Jesus Himself. After she absorbed the put-downs and still remained in place, Jesus gave the ultimate compliment for the mother’s faith. Her deep love for her child enabled her to withstand any abuse.
I admire these people so much.
All around us there are people who give as their excuses for not going to church and not serving the Lord lame statements such as…
–“No one spoke to me, so I’m not going back to that church.” Bartimaeus must shake his head at that. How easily you were turned away.
–“The churches in this town are cold. We couldn’t find a church like the one back home.” Zaccheus must wonder about you. You weren’t looking for Jesus, were you?
–“Someone criticized me, so I quit teaching that class.” The Syro-phoenician mother can hardly believe her ears. Do you not care?
–“No one appreciated what I did, so I quit.” The Magi are not sure they heard you correctly. You quit that easily? You were unwilling to pay such a tiny cost.
–“People mistreated my daddy when he was the preacher. If this is how Christians act, then I don’t want to be one.” The mothers of Galilee wonder about you. Some things you endure out of love for your family and dedication to Christ.
We who say such things should be ashamed.
How little it took to defeat us. How quickly we threw in the towel and left the field of battle. How easily we were bested by the enemy. What a small price we were unwilling to pay.
Question: “What would it take to make you so discouraged and frustrated that you would stop going to church and serving God?”
Please do not rush by that question and on to what follows. It deserves your attention.
Here are some thoughts on the subject–
a) Based on what I have seen in churches across the land, it would take far less than you might think to provoke you to quit. People are dropping like flies at the least provocation.
b) You and I are far more vulnerable to discouragement than we might think, particularly when we are tired, overworked, and stressed. Then, after we draw back from church attendance and quit reading our Bibles and doing meaningful praying, we become easy targets for the enemy.
c) By our constant harping on why we are inactive (“They were unfriendly; They mistreated my Daddy.”), we spread the infection and do the work of Satan. Others become disaffected with the church too and the work of Christ grows weaker and weaker in our city.
d) We should be aware of this constant possibility and pray against it. “Lord, help me not to grow weary in well doing. You have said that in due season we shall reap if we do not grow discouraged and quit.”
Pray that you will work on through discouragement.
e) We should learn to laugh at our troubles and shrug off the nay-saying of the carnal-minded around us, even if they happen to be leaders of churches.
During my parents’ lifetime, as much as I loved my six siblings, nothing any of them would ever say or do could keep me from coming to see mom and dad and loving them. To have stopped going home because of something Ronnie said or Trish did would have been unthinkable.
f) We must keep our focus on the Lord Jesus Christ and let nothing keep us from Him, hinder us from serving Him, and stop us from working to please Him.
g) Let us be inspired and instructed by the example of Paul and Silas in the jail of Philippi, who, while their backs were still open wounds from the beating they had received from the very people they had come to serve, and while they were locked into stocks and penned into the interior jail cell, erupted into prayer and songs of praise around midnight. Acts 16:25 is one of the all-time great statements of faith, and the supreme illustration to you and me of how to be pleasing to the Lord in the midst of our trials.
Many a lesser person with weaker resolve would have bailed out when given the treatment Paul and Silas received. I can hear myself now (and maybe you too?)… “Oh Lord, where are you? Lord, we were just trying to obey you. Look how they treated us. Lord? Are you there? You said you would be with us to the end. So where are you? Lord, if this is how it’s going to be, I might want to return home and help Dad with the fishing business.”
We are such cry-babies.
h) The thing that ties almost all the people of Hebrew 11’s faith roll-call together across the centuries is how they persevered against obstacles with no Bible and very little to sustain them other than a vague awareness that the Lord had chosen them. The writer of Hebrews gave them the ultimate accolade: “Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God” (Hebrews 11:16).
I’m afraid He is ashamed to be called our God much of the time.
May the Lord make us indomitable.
Knocked down, we get back up and come back to Jesus. I want to be relentless.
Laughed at and jeered, we slough it off and go on with Jesus. I want to be impervious to ridicule.
Rebuked even by the Lord Himself, we say, “Though He slay me, yet will I serve Him” and go forward. I want to be sold out.
“We are afflicted in every way but not crushed; perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)
Let’s encourage each other to hang tough.