KEEPING OUR FAITH IN DIFFICULT TIMES
( Encouragement for Wondering Christians - May 10, 2020)
Series Big Idea: "Even in the middle of our darkest days, the Church retains its faith in God to carry us through"
Sermon Big Idea: "Fear shouldn't cause us to lose our focus on our relationship with Christ"
Key Scripture (Matthew 28:16-20)
The 11 disciples traveled to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had directed them. When they saw Him, they worshiped, but some doubted. Then Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)
The context of this passage of Scripture is that the disciples are discouraged because Jesus had died on the cross and was now buried in a tomb. There were stories going around that His body had vanished, but the Jewish leaders were trying to keep this silent. It was certainly a discouraging time for them.
I heard a story a couple of years about a professional boxer who traveled to Chicago to fight in the heavy weight championship for the first time in his career. As he stepped off the bus and stood there at the foot of the Sears Tower, he set his two suitcases down and saw how big it was a remarked, “I am going to take this town by storm.” About that time, he looked down and his two suitcases were gone. Don’t we do that sometimes? We feel we have the world by the horns but suddenly discouragement closes in on us. That has surely happened to us over the last two months. It seemed everything was fine for us but then out of the blue, our world turned upside down.
These disciples are discouraged because Jesus has not quite lived up to their expectations. Along with the expectations of many others. During this time, they had also lost their fellow disciple Judas. And here they are receiving word from two women that Jesus had appeared to them and told them to wait in Galilee. He would meet them there. The Bible tells us that Jesus showed up. Some worshiped Him but some doubted Him.
All of us as disciples of Christ get discouraged at times. Maybe some of us more than others. Some of us need a little more encouragement than others do. That is why we must help each other out, especially in these times.
Have you ever been at the place that you admit sometimes you wonder about Christ? You may even wonder if you are really saved. You tell the Lord, “Lord it just seems something isn’t right, is everything the way it ought to be? You might have been in church all your life but sometimes those thoughts creep in on us. Disciples sometimes wonder. So, from this Scripture passage today I want to give you three things you don’t need to wonder about anymore.
We don’t need to wonder about Who Jesus is (v 18-19)
At the time, the disciple’s big discouragement was this deal about Christ’s Resurrection. So, Jesus appears to them and confirms that He has risen from the dead. This is one of the most historically proven events in history. Jesus was seen by over 500 people after His Resurrection. So, this could not have been a mass hallucination. His is victorious over the very thing they are wondering about.
Maybe for you it’s not the Resurrection you are wondering about. Maybe it is something else. But Jesus is still the One who is verifiably victorious over death and discouragement. He is more than able! He has all authority. He is Lord over all things in heaven and on earth (v 18).
When Jesus talks about being Lord over things on the earth, this is good because these are things I can see. All the problems and circumstances I am dealing with and encountering, Jesus is Lord over it. He has authority! His is the Lord and Master over everything on the earth.
But Jesus doesn’t just command the things I can see, He commands the things I can’t see. All the dark armies that try to attack and beat us down, Jesus is well aware of each and every one of them. He is Lord and Master over them all. (Romans 14:11-12) says “Every knee shall bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord one day.” There will be a day when even the angels will confess Jesus Christ as Lord of all. So, we never need to wonder who Jesus is. He is never out of control even when we are.
When you study the Book of Revelation and see all the chaos, you almost feel that God has lost control, but God is absolutely sovereign. Every judgment poured out on the earth begins at the Throne of God in Heaven. We can know that Jesus is in control.
We don’t need to wonder about What Jesus wants (v 19)
The word “therefore” points us back to what Jesus has already said, “I am absolute Lord. I am who I am. You can trust My authority.” Because He is Lord over everything, this is what He demands and wants to be done. No matter what is happening around us or the people that hurt us, one thing never changes, Jesus wants us to be about reaching people and loving people.
(Matthew 22:37-39) The greatest command is to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind. But equally important is to love people. We must love people even when we disagree, when we they hurt us, and when we want to pull our hair out because of something they did or said. People are why God has left us here after our salvation. Jesus hasn’t given up on me and you. He loves us.
God wants us to love Him supremely. But sometimes obstacles and discouragements can get our eyes off loving and walking with Jesus. At times even depression sets in. This happens to me at times. We want to withdraw from everyone. It is a very dark place. If we are not careful, discouragement will cause us to withdrawal from the purpose God has for our lives. The purpose of our life, no matter what comes our way, is to walk with Jesus Christ and love Him. When we are walking with Him, we will be about doing the things Jesus is all about and that’s making disciples. That never changes no matter what happens. There are no excuses we can come up with that can stop us from our goal. He wants us to be about what He is interested in, and that is changing lives so He can get more glory.
We don’t have to wonder about Where Jesus is (v 20)
When we are depressed it can feel like the loneliest place in the world, but the fact of the matter is Jesus never leaves us. The disciples thought Jesus left them when He died on the cross. Acts 1 talks about the disciples looking up into the sky at His ascension into heaven. They were probably thinking, He is leaving us again.
It is easy sometimes to think God is inconsistent like we are, but He is not. People may let you down, your spouse may let you down, and your government may let you down. We also let each other down. But Jesus will never cut and run! He will never leave no matter how hot the heat may get in our lives. He is there!
There was a British Olympic runner named Derek Redmond who was running in a world championship race. A couple of years before he had torn his Achilles tendon in another race so this race was a comeback. As he rounded the last turn he fell to the ground. He had torn the tendon again. With tears in his eyes, he struggled to get back up but with the crowd cheering tremendously in the stands he attempted to keep going.
I think about Hebrews 12:1 in this story.
Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us, keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.
If a country can motivate a man in excruciating pain to keep moving forward, what can a risen Savior who has forgiven our sins do?
Derek came around the corner and a man is seen jumping the rail. It is his dad. His dad puts his arms around him and carries him to the finish line. I am so glad Jesus is always there aren’t you? He will never leave us. We don’t have to wonder where Jesus. We may lose the shirt off our back but we will never lose our relationship with our Lord and Savior!
We don’t have to wonder Who Jesus is. We don’t have to wonder What He wants. And we don’t have to wonder Where He is. Let’s keep going forward Church!
Pastor Beaver's thoughts and ideals for this message, are inspired by:
Holman Christian Standard Bible
English Standard Version Bible
King James Version Bible
Christian Standard Bible
The Bible Knowledge Commentary by John F. Walvoord/Roy B. Zuck
The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge by Jerome H. Smith
Water, Mark, ed. Encyclopedia of Bible Facts. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2004. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
Barry, John D. et al. Faithlife Study Bible. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016. Print.
NIV, Archaeological Study Bible, eBook: An Illustrated Walk Through Biblical History and Culture
Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Duane Garrett, and Walter C. Kaiser Jr.
NIV, First-Century Study Bible, eBook: Explore Scripture in Its Jewish and Early Christian Context
Zondervan, Kent Dobson, and Ed Dobson
Hughes, Robert B. and J. Carl Laney. Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1990. WORDsearch CROSS e-book. Revised edition of New Bible Companion.
Blomberg, Craig L. Volume 22: Matthew. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 1992. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
Weber, Stuart. Matthew. Edited by Max Anders. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman, 2000. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
Wilkins, Michael. Matthew: From biblical text...to contemporary life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004. WORDsearch CROSS e-book.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel according to Matthew. Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992. Print. The Pillar New Testament Commentary.
Brown, Jeannine K. Matthew. Ed. Mark L. Strauss and John H. Walton. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2015. Print. Teach the Text Commentary Series.
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