Readings: Isaiah 65:17- 25 2 Thessalonians 3:6-13 Luke 21:5-19
Text: Matthew 16:24-26
Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. (Matthew 16:24-26 MESSAGE)
Last week, I had the privilege of Preaching on the topic “Trusting God to meet your needs” at the Youth Service, Mt Sinai Society. This morning I would have loved to share that message with you but then I can’t sacrifice today’s topic on the almanac, especially so when I am dealing with a people who have the zeal, the willingness and desire to cross to the other side of life.
In the late 1960’s I understand there was a TV show in America called Land of the Giants. Seven people from earth found their spaceship caught in a warp of some kind and ended up on a planet where everything was twelve times larger than on earth. Each week they battled giant cats, children, and soldiers. It was a little strange but raised an interesting question. What would we do if everything and everyone was a giant accept for us?
The truth is that we do live in a land of giants. There are things that are bigger than us which seem to stand between us and being where God wants us to be. In the Old Testament, God sent His people, Israel, to a place called The Promised Land. It was a great place to live but it also was inhabited by giants which they would have to face and defeat. We too live in a land of giants which we must face if we are to be where God wants us to be.
This morning, the theme before us is “You will gain your life through endurance”! Wow. Tell the person sitting by you “To gain your life, you’ve got to endure!”
Endurance according to the Wikipedia Dictionary is the ability of an organism to exert itself and remain active for a long period of time, as well as its ability to resist, withstand, recover from, and have immunity to trauma, wounds, or fatigue. Again, Endurance is the ability to keep going through a tough situation involving hardship, stress or difficulty.
When I was a little boy growing up in Asante Juaben, one of the difficult challenges we had to face each morning before going to school was “Water”! Water for household chores and water for bathing. You either wake up at dawn to queue for Pipe-born water or go to the streams, through muddy waters after 5:30/6 and queue there. Waking up at dawn was much stressful but once that is done, you get yourself free for the afternoon and sometimes the next day. The prize was “sacrificing my sleep”!
In Cardiovascular training, increasing endurance has been proven to release endorphins resulting in a positive mind. The act of gaining endurance through physical activity has been shown to decrease anxiety, depression, and stress, or any chronic disease in total.
A lady who had just lost everything after a tornado hit her home explained, “I have lost everything; but I’ve got my life. I’ve never been through anything like this before, but thank God I’m on the other side of it.”
It’s one thing to go through a devastating experience, another to get to the other side. Wouldn’t it be nice if parents could just bypass the 9 months of pregnancy, skip labor and delivery, and just get a nice healthy baby? But you’ve got to go through it to get to it.
Jesus was trying to explain to the Disciples that it was necessary for him to go through an ordeal of suffering, be tried by religious scholars, be killed and after 3 days, come back alive. Peter was an outspoken seaman. Peter took the great liberty to chastise Jesus for making such a statement.
For Peter, Jesus had already proven that he was the Messiah – he had already fed thousands, cast out demons, cured leprosy, and raised the dead back to life. Peter could not comprehend that Jesus had to do any more – or go through that kind of suffering – to prove that he was the Messiah – it did not make sense to Peter. So Peter tried to rebuke Jesus in protest. Here is a lesson Jesus is trying to teach Peter: “Peter, your mind is not on divine things but on human things, you have no idea how God works.” Two lessons here to learn:
1. There are NO shortcuts to get to where God wants you to be. Some say there are few, but I think there is none. You have to go through some things to get to where God wants you to be. When you try to take the shortcut, you are prone to miss some lessons that will be beneficial to you down the road. Maybe during the conversation in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was asking God: “Is there a shortcut to what I have to go through?” But God was saying, no you have to go through betrayal, denial, crucifixion – you’ve got to go through it to get new life.
2. When you put Jesus in the driver’s seat of your life he will show you how to live through whatever the world throws at you. Jesus tells the disciples: “Don’t run from suffering – embrace it! Take up the cross. Follow me and I’ll show you how to go through it!”
Brothers and Sisters in Christ, a whole lot of us here this morning – admit it or not – are going through something. An illness, no job or a bad job – (and let me caution you to keep the bad job until you get the other job) a family crisis, a downward emotional or psychological spin, or just a bad time in your life. Somebody in here is going through something this morning. The promise of Jesus is that, if we lose ourselves, follow and serve him, he will show us how to get through it. And the way he shows me how to get through it may not be the way he’ll show you how to get through it – but if you hold on to him, lose your life in him, he’ll show you how to get through it. You will gain your life through endurance.
In the 1st Bible lesson, Isaiah reminds us of this promise, God is making all things new. The pain you going through today, shall not be remembered tomorrow when God takes you to the other side; but before that, you’ve got to endure it. You got to embrace the pain. You must go through it to get.
One of the things I’ve learned is that God’s grace and mercy has gotten me through every turn, every snare. God was not always in the places where I thought He would have been, but in the moments and places where I thought God would be absent, I am a witness that – whatever burdens you’re bearing or have been through, His strength, power, grace, mercy and His love is sufficient to get you through. In his footsteps you must walk every day. When the storm clouds rise in your life, when disaster, sickness or even death follow you – don’t fight it – Jesus said “EMBRACE IT and I’ll show you how to walk through it.”
Dr. Norman Vincent Peale is reported to have shared encountering a hurricane while on a cruise in the Atlantic. After the captain managed to sail around the danger, he and Dr. Peale were visiting with one another.
The captain said he had always lived by a simple philosophy namely that if the sea is smooth, it will get rough; and if it is rough, it will get smooth. He added something worth remembering: “But with a good ship,” the Captain said, “you can always ride it out.”
Our ship is our faith in Christ. With a good ship, you can always ride it out. Life is unpredictable. God is with us. Not a hair on your head will perish. All you’ve got to do is endure, keep your head, and don’t faint for you are right there to your miracle.
Paul in our 2nd Bible reading called on the Thessalonians to follow their example, that of embracing difficulty, working hard to make a living irrespective of the strain that comes with it. For it was rumored among them, that some have ceased to work because their masters were hard on them and conditions were not as good as expected. Paul’s says don’t just be a busybody in church, get to work!
“Embrace it” – that’s a tough lesson to learn. It’s not a lesson that says “sit on your do-nothing and do nothing.” Or “Pray, go home, go to bed, pray some more.” It’s a lesson that says: “Do everything you can do by the example of Christ.” Christ never stopped. He knew what was ahead, he knew he had to suffer, but he kept on healing and saving lives, until he got through it.
I like the fact that Jesus does not end the text on a sour note. He says “I’ve got go through some bad times.” But like the woman who had lost everything but her life, there is the other side. I skipped over the part of the text where it says – “…and after 3 days, I’ll rise up ALIVE.” The scripture is saying: Jesus had to go through it to rise up and go to it!
I don’t know about you, but I know that God does work in ways that are mysterious to us. We ought to stop telling God the way to bless us; we ought to stop telling God what the other side is supposed to look like, because God knows what we are going through. And God has prepared a brighter day, and a better way. God has already opened the door and made a better way, and there is a bright side for you. So don’t give up, don’t throw in the towel, don’t hang it up, don’t you stop until you get to it!!
Jesus told the disciples in our gospel reading Luke 21:12- 13 that “They will lay hands on you; persecute you, deliver you up and throw you into prison …but it shall turn out to you for a testimony.”
Whatever you are going through – will turn out to you for a testimony in Jesus name!
Let me conclude with Paul’s admonition in Hebrews 10:32-36
Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever.
So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised.
Whatever you are going through, it’s just a season. It’s YOUR season to go through it. If you’re not going through something now, you may have been spared, but YOUR season is coming to go through something. Know that whenever – or whatever – you are going through, there is a better and brighter day coming. When that day come, YOU WILL RECEIVE THAT WHICH GOD HAS PROMISED TO ALL TO ENDURE TO THE END. Better days coming…lift your head up and shout “I’M GOING TO GO THROUGH IT TO THE OTHER SIDE”
Let us pray
STOP COMPARING YOURSELF!
My mates are getting married.
My mates are getting good jobs.
My mates are succeeding.
My mates are living overseas.
My mates are buying cars.
My mates are building houses.
My mates are this……my mates are that……
It’s a pity you literally forgot about your mates in the mortuary, your
mates in the psychatric homes, your mates are roaming on the streets,
your mates are jobless, hungry, blind, deaf……….
You might not be where you wish to be but you have obviously
transcended from where you were yesterday.