Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 8 September 2013

For more sermons and other writings, please check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org

 

Series on Hope (02) – Burning Hearts Urging Jesus

 

The days after Jesus died, two of his disciples were absolutely disillusioned. Jesus was dead – and with him their hopes! Only a few days earlier, people had laid down their clothes before Jesus – they had humbled themselves – as he was riding into the capital – Jerusalem – on a donkey. People were shouting: “The king is coming! Hallelujah” (see Luke 19:35-38, Mark 11:8-10)! Everything was going right and the disciples just knew what was going to happen next because they knew their Jesus. He had been healing people, had demonstrated his authority over demons, and had performed many miracles. When he spoke, people listened. Surely now was the time for him to step up and break through and – with all the godly power at his disposal – according to ancient promises (as they were understood at the time) – heal the whole land from its biggest cancer – foreign oppression – the Roman invaders. Jesus was going to be king. Only he died – tortured on a cross. [Betrayed by his own people, the Romans nailed him to a wooden cross – the most painful execution imaginable. Bystanders taunted him until he suffocated because it becomes harder and harder to breathe when your body is hanging from a cross.]

Within days, two of his disciples left Jerusalem for a small village – Emmaus – about eleven kilometres from the capital. They were stilltalking with each other about everything that had happened” (Luke 24:14) when Jesus himself joined them:

 

Luke 24:15: As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; but they were kept from recognizing him.

 

Disillusioned and discouraged – confused with no clear direction where to go – (Emmaus was not conquering the world with King Jesus) – talking out their pain – the disciples mourned Jesus and then Jesus joined them – he began walking with them – Jesus was as close to them as you can imagine – and they did not even know.

Can I suggest to you that the same is still happening today? Discouragement makes you question everything – Jesus seems to be a thousand miles away – but he is drawing near and begins walking with you – as close as you want him to be – and (sometimes) he is walking with you for a quite a while before you recognize him.

Last week (August 2013), Inara – our Sunday school coordinator – collapsed and the nurses in the hospital suspected that she had suffered a heart-attack. She was not ready for this. She fought the experience and questioned God. Where was he? Why did he allow this to happen? But then she gave in – surrendered to this change of plans – and realized that God had been there all of the time, trying to get her attention: “Inara, I am jealous for you. I want you to take breaks and become still so that I can talk to you.” Early in the morning – when Inara could not sleep – and could not do anything but lie in her bed – God was talking to her through pictures and music on television and a Benny Hinn program.

When a crisis happens, it does not mean that Jesus has abandoned ship. You may get discouraged but he is drawing near you. Jesus is there with you – waiting to be discovered.

As Jesus joined the two disciples on their way to Emmaus, he engaged them in a conversation and he let them talk first – as we sometimes need to talk first in our prayers before we are ready to listen to him:

 

Luke 24:17-21: He asked them, “What are you discussing together as you walk along?” They stood still, their faces downcast. One of them, named Cleopas, asked him, “Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

“What things?” he asked. “About Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied. “He was a prophet, powerful in word and deed before God and all the people. The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel …

 

Why were the two disciples discouraged? They got the facts right – (Jesus was powerful in word and deed and then he died – handed over by the chief priests and the rulers) – but so what? Was there anything in their story that was surprising and did not go according to plan? How many times had Jesus forewarned the disciples that he was going to suffer and die – and then also rise again from the dead. That was the planand the disciples had been paying attention. They had not been too tired or distracted but had argued with Jesus:

 

Mark 8:31-33: He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.

He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

 

Jesus had spelled out to his disciples what would happen and the disciples had known him to bepowerful in word and deed before Godbut believing him – in this instance – was another matter and we are still the same. We retain our own ideas about Jesus and our lives with him. No matter what he has said– no matter what reality he has promised – we imagine our own versions of the blessed life and become very disillusioned and discouraged when our dreams fail. It’s almost as if we have never heard Jesus.

With God – (the Almighty) – by our side, we should be trouble free – so we think – but did not Jesus say:

 

Luke 9:23: Then Jesus said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.” Following Jesus comes with daily sacrifices. In obedience to Jesus and what he wants, we deny ourselves what we want in the here and now for future glory.

 

2 Timothy 3:12-13: In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted …

 

John 16:33: I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

 

Hebrews 10:32-34: Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you endured in a great conflict full of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

 

Matthew 6:19-21: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

Philippians 4:12-13: I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

 

[Luke 22:24-27: A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.”]

 

Galatians 5:16-18: So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. / Matthew 26:41: Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

 

[1 Peter 4:12-14: Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.]

 

God promised to be by our side (with peace and strength and much more) but he never promised a life of ease. He neither promised riches nor comfort. Jesus suffered the cross and so will we. For a Christian – without fail – there will be sacrifice and self-denial. Therefore, why be surprised – why be disillusioned and depressed – when it happens? Why were the two disciples inconsolable on their way to Emmaus? Jesus was persecuted and put to death. Yes – the disciples had the facts right but did not Jesus say so beforehand?

The disciples could not get past the cross – the awful scene of Jesus’ blood running down his body, the whipping and the crown of thorns on his head. Therefore, they were closed to the other words that Jesus also spoke to them – Mark 8:31: “He then began to teach them that … he must be killed and after three days rise again.”

Listen to what they told Jesus on the way to Emmaus:

 

Luke 24:20-24: The chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be sentenced to death, and they crucified him; but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel. And what is more, it is the third day since all this took place. In addition, some of our women amazed us. They went to the tomb early this morning but didn’t find his body. They came and told us that they had seen a vision of angels, who said he was alive. Then some of our companions went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but they did not see Jesus.

 

The disciples had evidence for hope – something beyond death – an amazing testimony of their women. These women had gone to Jesus’ grave, looked inside the tomb but found no body. Instead, they saw angels who told them that Jesus was alive. In response, some other disciples had gone to the tomb and corroborated their story. The evidence checked out. The tomb was empty. Yet, it made no difference to the disciples’ depression. They still struggled with Jesus dying in the first place so that they could not process what Jesus had intended next – his resurrection from the dead – as foretold beforehand. For them, the suffering of Jesus was the end of everything. Therefore, they stopped looking for more.

The same can happen to you. You get stuck. Your suffering gets you down – your cross makes no sense to you – therefore, you question Jesus and any faith in him – so that you fail to keep listening to the other words that Jesus is speaking to you. Jesus promises you more than sacrifice and trouble. Expect them but go on:

 

2 Corinthians 4:17: For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.

 

2 Corinthians 1:3-5: Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

 

1 Thessalonians 1:5-6: Our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

 

2 Corinthians 1:9: Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. / 2 Corinthians 12:10: That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

 

Philippians 4:6-7: Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. / Matthew 6:31-33: So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 

2 Corinthians 5:14-21: For Christ’s love compels us … God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us … / Acts 14:3: … the Lord . confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders. / John 14:12: I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.

 

You have your cross – you have your share of daily trouble in this world – but don’t get stuck in discouragement. The cross is not everything. Jesus not only died but rose from the dead – in power – which means that for you there is also new life beyond this one – eternal glory that far outweighs all present suffering – and – with Jesus by your side – (even now) there is comfort, joy given by the Holy Spirit, resurrection power, peace and provisions, motivating love and authority to speak on God’s behalf. Accept what Jesus has said about suffering – don’t get stuck – so that you can also process his other promises. It is good to be a Christian.

Maybe I share with you Bill Johnson’s (Senior Pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, California) most powerful experience of God in his life because his testimony demonstrates again the basic principle: As we embrace suffering and the cross in our own lives – as we completely surrender to God in obedience – we also share in God’s power. In the Christian life, there is something beyond misery:

 

From the book “HEALING: unplugged – Conversations and Insights from Two Veteran Healing Leaders” by BILL JOHNSON and RANDY CLARK:

 

Bill Johnson: Our church had been involved in the renewal, and we were starting to experience new things. We had a weekly Friday night prayer meeting where a lot of stuff was happening and we learned a lot about how the Holy Spirit moves, so we kind of turned that into a prayer/renewal meeting. And we brought Dick in. He had been with us in Toronto in February, and he had already been ministering in power and seeing stuff happen. For years, people would fall when he prayed for them.

Toronto had impacted me internally, although I didn’t walk out with the kind of breakthrough anointing I now realize you can get in those kinds of gatherings. But we started getting a measure of breakthrough, and in October we had these meetings with Dick that were electric. During that time, I prophesied to a friend who was struggling that God was going to touch him, maybe at 3:00 in the morning. I went home late – you know all these meetings run late, so you get to bed in the wee hours. At 3:00 A.M. exactly, the electricity of God hit me [October 1995] . I was at a dead sleep; I was exhausted. Dead sleep. And I was instantly awake as I could be, and there wasn’t but a millisecond in between those two realities. I was completely awake. I knew it. I could move my head and I knew enough to look at the clock – 3:00 A.M. And God reminded me of my prophecy to my friend. As I was lying in bed, I said out loud, “You set me up, Lord.” Because my arms were shooting up, my legs were shooting up, and I had no control of my body. This went on for several minutes. I kept thinking, “It’s going to lift.” It didn’t lift. Finally, I pulled my arms next to my side, and my legs got more violent. It was as though power was flowing through me at such a high level that if I tried to control one thing, another thing got worse. And so I realized, “It’s God. I don’t know what He’s doing!”

It wasn’t comfortable at all. It wasn’t pleasant. Honestly, it was somewhat miserable in the way it felt. It was aggravating in one sense. But at the same time, I had such an awareness of God’s presence that there wasn’t even the slightest temptation to want it to go away, because I knew this was my moment. This power was going through me. I laid there wondering, “What’s going on?”

Beni didn’t wake up. We were in a water bed, and I thought it was a miracle all by itself that she wasn’t tidal waved out of the bed! As this was going on, God reminded me that I had been praying nonstop day and night for more. I would wake up praying. Or rather, I wouldn’t wake up to pray – I would wake up because I was praying in my sleep. And I’d be praying for more: “God, you’ve got to give me more. I’ve got to have more. I will pay any price. I’ve got to have more.”

You’ve been praying for more at any price, God said, and then scenes started going through my mind. I saw myself trying to teach in front of the church in Weaverville; I love to teach the Word. And I saw people reacting to my physical manifestation. They were going to think I was crazy! Nobody in their right minds would think this was God, because it wasn’t stopping. 

Then I saw myself in front of my favourite restaurant in town, reacting physically like this. And I realized, I’m going to be a laughingstock not only to the church, but to the entire city. I’m going to look as if I need to be locked up.

I remembered Jacob wrestling with the angel and how he walked with a limp the rest of his life. I remembered how Mary was accused of being “the mother of an illegitimate child.” That was her label the rest of her life. And after all those thoughts had gone through my mind, I realized what God was after. He wanted to know if He could have my dignity.

There wasn’t a moment’s hesitation in me. I said, “You can have it. Just give me more.” That’s what I told Him. “You can have it, if I get you in the exchange.”

The other crazy thought going on in my mind was, “I don’t know how I will ever get out of bed.” It’s hard to explain moments like that; it doesn’t make any sense to just talk about them. But that’s what was going on in my mind: If this keeps on, I don’t know if I’ll ever get out of bed because it feels as if it’s blowing circuits where I’m going to lose the physical capacity to function normally as a husband, as a father, as a pastor.

I saw these scenes and I realized I might never get out of bed again, and I said to the Lord, “All right – if I get you in the exchange, your presence, if that’s what I get. You take away my capacity to function, but give me more of you. I’ll do it.” And then all night long, I just lay there praying, “Just increase it, just go deeper. Don’t stop, just go deeper, increase it.”

It lasted until 6:38. At that time, I got out of bed. Almost any day that I see 6:38 on a clock, I give thanks now. It’s a trigger for me to know that God deposited something. I can’t trace back what; all I know is that there has been continuous breakthrough since that week and since that night – continuous breakthrough. I got out of bed and went about the day as if I’d had eight hours of sleep, though I slept hardly at all. I’d been wide awake. And it started again the moment I got in bed the next night, and then on a third night. It actually happened for three nights.

 

Randy Clark: How long did it last the second and third nights?

 

Bill: I don’t even know because I just lay there praying, “Increase it!” The third night it hit Beni, too. So we both were laying there just absolutely being electrocuted. And it went on for quite a while. Not all night; we did get some sleep. But it lasted a significant amount of time. When morning came, I was glad I was able to get up and function, the same as I had been at 6:38 the first morning. 

It was as if God were roto-rootering us, Randy. He was doing something to clean us out and get us ready for a Holy Spirit lifestyle that I quite frankly only knew through worship. I knew the presence in worship, but I didn’t know it in an anointing and I didn’t know it in ministry. I had inspired thought in my teaching – I knew that world. But I didn’t know the presence in any kind of power ministry. So that connected me.[1]

 

God woke up Bill Johnson at 3am in the morning and God made his body shake violently – legs and arms shooting out – which was uncomfortable, uncontrollable and scary. Would this condition ever stop? Would he ever make it out of bed again? Bill had thoughts of trying to preach in their church and trying to eat at his favourite restaurant but both were impossible in his present condition because people would never overlook his crazy body jerks. He would become a laughingstock everywhere.

Just then, Bill realized that – through these violent body shakes – God was asking for his dignity. Would he accept this condition? Bill said to God: “You can have my dignity. Just give me more of you.” In other words, Bill said: “I accept the cross of these uncontrollable body movements – I may stay in bed for the rest of my life – never function again as a husband, father and pastor – if only I get more of you in exchange, God.” All night long, Bill asked for more – despite the cross and what his body was doing – and – in the morning – (after three days) – the work was done. God chose to return Bill’s body to normal and – from then on – Bill had continuous breakthrough in ministry – more healings, more revelation, growing churches and world-wide movement, books and preaching invitations, miracles and much more.

Don’t be discouraged. Embrace the cross – your current season of trouble – because God has something for you beyond the misery. Look to the words of Jesus.

(We get) back to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. They had been slow on the uptake. They had forgotten or dismissed Jesus’ words about his death and his resurrection. Therefore, Jesus now reminded them:

 

Luke 24:25-27: He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

 

Jesus was exasperated. His disciples – like us (on many occasions) – had been foolish and slow to believe his teachings. How many times did he have to tell them that the Messiah (the anointed Saviour) had to suffer torture and death and then enter his glory? Jesus – once more – taught them everything from scratch. He preached and preached and preached to them: “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.And this is what the disciples needed – another exposition of God’s word – because later they would say: “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Bible study and sermons (!) dispelled the depression of the disciples. God makes something stir within us as we hear the truth. A new fire begins to burn.

My guess is that the disciples had to learn again about the big picture. Jesus had not been targeting the evil of foreign invaders on their land. He was aiming higher. Jesus had purposed to overcome all evil – sin, death (the curse that is on our bodies because of sin) and the devil – but the strategy was to overcome evil with good – his sacrifice on the cross and then our sacrifices of obedience and loving a broken world. As Jesus died and rose again, the stranglehold of Satan was broken – he became a defeated foe – (people could now have peace with God through Jesus Christ) – but he would only be removed completely when this world would come to an end at the time of Jesus’ return on the day of judgement. Until then, there would be struggle but victory was assured.

 

1 Corinthians 15:3-6: For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep … / 1 Corinthians 15:20-28: But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death …

 

Colossians 2:13-15: When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.

 

Revelation 20:10: And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

 

Romans 12:17-21: Do not repay anyone evil for evil … On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; …” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

 

The disciples’ hearts were burning as they listened to Jesus’ preaching and explanation of the Scriptures (Bible). They were no longer in the doldrums of depression but then something strange happened:

 

Luke 24:28: As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther.

 

At the time, the two disciples had still not recognized Jesus. Jesus had corrected and encouraged them through the usual means for Christians – the word of God (which the disciples would need to hear again and again in other times of discouragement). At the time when they had reached their village, Jesus was still a stranger for the disciples but an interesting one and inspiring one. Their hearts were burning.

Then Jesus acted as if he was leaving them and going further down the road. I read you the rest of the story:

 

Luke 24:28-35: … Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

 

If the disciples had not urged Jesus strongly to stay with them, they would have missed out on what came after the teaching on the road: communion – fellowship – around a table with food. Why did Jesus act as if he was going further when his intention was to be with his disciples all along – sit with them and make them relax with bread from his hand?

God is not cheap. He lifts us out of our depression but then does not throw thepearlsof his presence (and deeper knowledge) before unappreciativepigs” (Matthew 7:6; cf. Luke 24:28; Mark 6:48-50; Genesis 32:28; John 15:15; Numbers 12:6-8). Therefore – when your heart is burning, make the right move and invite more of Jesus into your life.

When it comes to dining with Jesus, we have moved on from the business-side of prayer – the depressed questions (and whingeing), our petitions and his instructions. Sitting around a table – we simply enjoy him and eat and drink in his presence. The key for this kind of experience is the passion that it takes to urge Jesus to stay and not move on:

 

Revelation 2:2-4: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. / Revelation 3:15-20: I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth … Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.

 

There comes a time in prayer when we stop being busy with our feelings and needs and assignments and simply enjoy communion with Jesus – a greater foretaste of our communion with him in heaven. We are no longer on the road, but he is at home with us, hands us bread and we eat and – as the two disciples – we recognize him there – his goodness and his care for us. Meals – eating and drinking with those that make our hearts burn with the word of God – remain absolutely important in the Christian life. Something happens in this kind of fellowship (Hebrews 13:2) and then there is the meal that Jesus set up to be consumed until he returns – the meal that contains himself – (his body and blood in the bread and wine):

 

1 Corinthians 11:23-26: For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

 

I want to encourage you. You can make the journey from being depressed to sitting with Jesus and recognizing him in the goodness of the meal and fellowship with him. You may not have noticed but Jesus has joined you on the road. He made the Scriptures burn again in your heart (even this morning). Suffering is not a strange experience for a Christian but it is also not the only experience for a Christian. Urge Jesus now to do more for you. Welcome him into your home and sit with him and eat what he gives you – he is alive – there is his body and blood in the bread and wine – complete forgiveness – the hope of eternal life – joy that makes you run and share the good news with others – his power and presence now. God open your eyes. You are with Jesus. Amen.

 



[1] Hudson Taylor writes: “Could there be a sadder proof of the extent and reality of the Fall than the deep-seated distrust of our loving LORD and MASTER which makes us hesitate to give ourselves entirely up to him, which fears that he might require something beyond our powers, or call for something that we should find it hard to give or to do? The real secret of an unsatisfied life lies too often in an unsurrendered will. And yet how foolish … ” (Union And Communion, p6).

For most of us – absolute surrender of everything takes time and God – in his mercy – does not hurry the process. He is leading us step by step – wooing us with his love – but then – when we get there – we are in for a surprise. The secret unfolds. We thought that we would lose so much by selling everything – by giving everything to God – but the opposite is true. We are not losing anything but gaining everything. In the words of Hudson Taylor: “But ah! What follows? A wondrously glad surprise. No Moriah, no Calvary; on the contrary, a KING! When the heart submits, then JESUS reigns. And when JESUS reigns, there is rest” (Union And Communion, p6).

Years into his work of preaching and bringing people to faith – Charles Finney had the following experience:

 

“… this winter … my mind was . exercised on the question of personal holiness … I gave myself to a great deal of prayer … After praying … for weeks and months, one morning … the thought occurred to me, what if … my heart is not really subdued … Just before … I had had a great struggle about giving up my wife to the will of God. She was in very feeble health, and it was very evident that she could not live long … I had never before seen so clearly what was implied in laying her and all that I possessed upon the altar of God, and for hours I struggled upon my knees to give her up unqualifiedly to the will of God. But I found myself unable to do it. I was so shocked and surprised at this that I perspired profusely with agony. I struggled and prayed until I was exhausted, and found myself entirely unable to give her altogether up to God’s will, in such a way as to make no objection to his disposing of her as he pleased. This troubled me much … But … I was enabled, after struggling … to fall back in a deeper sense than I had ever done before upon the infinitely blessed and perfect will of God. I . told the Lord that I had such confidence in him that I felt perfectly willing to give myself, my wife and my family, and all, to be disposed of without any qualification according to his views and will … I then had a deeper view of what was implied in consecration to God than I ever had before. I spent a long time upon my knees … giving up everything to the will of God … the whole of that day … nothing troubled me. I was neither elated nor depressed; I was neither … joyful nor sorrowful. My confidence in God was perfect … Just at evening the question arose in my mind: ‘What if God should send me to hell – what then?’ … my mind . settled. I said, ‘No … hell could be no hell to me if I accepted God’s perfect will.’ This sprung a vein of joy in my mind that kept developing more and more for weeks and months, and indeed I may say for years.

For years my mind was too full of joy to feel much exercised with anxiety on any subject … It seemed as if my desires were all met. What I had been praying for for myself, I had received in a way that I least expected. Holiness to the Lord seemed to be inscribed on all the exercises of my mind … The language of the Song of Solomon was as natural to me as my breath … I not only had all the freshness of my first love, but a vast accession to it. Indeed the Lord lifted me so much above anything that I had experienced before, and taught me so much of the meaning of the Bible, of Christ’s relations and power and willingness, that I often found myself saying to him, ‘I had not known or conceived that any such thing was true.’ … I had had no conception of the length and breadth, and height and depth, and efficiency of his grace … I found myself exclaiming, ‘Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!’ …” (Charles Finney: The Original Memoirs Of Charles Finney, Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989, p328-332).