Better or worse

By the end of His earthly ministry, the joyful crowds have disbanded, a riotous one will lie in wait. Of His twelve dutiful apostles, only eleven have made it to this stage, turns out one is a devil. These would pile on like stacked stones of staggering discouragement. Life can seem so callous and cold. Like a Three Dog Night in need of company and warmth, Harry Nilsson knowingly penned these words: One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do, Two can be as bad as one, It’s the loneliest number since the number one, No is the saddest experience you’ll ever know. Why would Jesus keep going? As Paul writes about fortitude in Romans 7:25 he says Thanks Be to God. Hebrews 12:2~fixing our eyes on Jesus, pioneer, and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him, he endured the cross, (NIV) Did you know that you were joy set before Jesus?

The Pharisees have accused Jesus Christ of having Satanic powers (12:22-37). When He returned to His hometown of Nazareth, the people who knew Him and His family well and were offended at His claims. Therefore, they rejected Him (13:53-58). Like a layered cake of rejection, discouragement is piled up as vast crowds amass drinking in the moment of His teaching. Only to have His family reject Him. Mark 3:21~When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.” (NIV) Yet, things get even more discouraging for Jesus and His disciples. As we engage with our passage it reveals two actions to help us with the question of this week. How To Rise Above Discouragement?

The first thing we must do to rise above discouragement is to remember others have it worse (Matthew 14:1-12) Many around us in life have much greater problems. Jesus’ cousin and forerunner, John the Baptist, was arrested, as though a baton was passed to Jesus who begins His public ministry. The tetrarch, Herod Antipas, rules the fourth part of the Roman region. He is one of Herod the Great’s sons, and he rules Galilee and Perea. When he hears the reports concerning Jesus’ ministry, he responds in Matthew 14:1-2~At that time Herod the tetrarch heard about the fame of Jesus, and he said to his servants, “This is John the Baptist. He has been raised from the dead; that is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” (ESV)

The following verses go back at least a year when Herod arrests and imprisons John as a favor to Herodias, the former wife of his brother Philip (14:3, Mark 6:17). John could not believe the audacity of sin and preached against such wickedness. It was sexually immoral for Herod to seduce Herodias and conjugate, even taking her as his wife. It sounds like a bad TV show. Next time on redneck wives, seduction, betrayal, and fornication. Spoken in a loud shill voice, “I knew they’s fornicators!” John the Baptist is a preacher of righteousness and his message lands him in jail. Matthew 14:4~because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” (ESV) 

There is nothing like being called a sinner to make people angry, it still has the same effect on people today. However, we must understand that our job is not to convict people, that job belongs to the Holy Spirit. No, our job is to be a portrait of the living Lord. We are to share his hope with a world that feels dread. We are to live and offer the peace of God which surpasses all understanding. Moreover, we allow the Joy of His presence flow through our lives as we demonstrate Love. Love John 13 says is how people know that we are His disciples, not because we are judgy. 

Today, why not realize that the Christmas season opens peoples’ hearts to hear about Jesus. Then, we can take ownership of the moment that the Lord in-breaks our lives and share Jesus with someone who just may be worse off than we are. 

How to rise above discouragement

If you are anything like Pastor D or the rest of the human race for that matter, you have probably contemplated how to climb out of the pit. We all get down in life, whether we show it or not. Even Jesus faced some pretty big discouragement while on earth with us. I can even hear David Attenborough narrate the scenes. A salty sea captain stands at the helm of his ministry, he’s a lonely fisherman, with a marginal group of swabs clowning to be the first mate. They migrate from town to town as if charting their way across the vast sea of humanity. Each port of call is a new season, as people begin to ball like baitfish. Large crowds longing for a healer’s touch, some looking for an eternal life change, still, others convene just to listen. While outside on the edges of the school, a more sinister group has gathered. Robed in black and white like orcas toying with their prey, they pick off the class, one by one. Until nothing is left. 

As a human preacher, it must have weighed on Him. The lack of commitment by people so needy, and once the need is met, they found little or no need of Him. Luke 17 records that once Jesus healed lepers. For his fame was great, they knew power flowed through Him. Luke 17:13~and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” (NIV) Yes, many call while in deep need, begging, they hope for change, crying out they long for peace’s great reprieve. Looking for Joy that is found only in His presence. (Psalm 16:11) Jesus will meet them at their deep longing, remove that which has separated them as he destroys a longtime traveling companion for each. Walking away and awaiting only one returns gushing with gratitude. Luke 17:15-16~One of them…came back, praising God…and thanked him—he was a Samaritan. (NIV) 

Has Jesus done anything in your life? Beyond all the stuff, people, and even the breath now filling your lungs. If so, why not take time to express to Him the joy that fills your soul. Because something happened and now you know, He touched you and made you whole.

Labor of Love

We all need to be reminded of the importance of faith (Matthew 13:53-58). This means we, like the disciples, need to make sure that we are going through the whole entire Bible, with regularity. This helps us to be formed properly in all areas and facets of our lives. When we study both old truths from the Old Testament and new truths from the New Testament, we learn just how amazing our potential is in God’s Kingdom. Our potential is truly mind-boggling when God’s Word is taught, learned and correctly applied. Keep in mind while we study God’s word today, Hebrews 4:12~For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (NIV) 

This tells us that we must own our faith-life from this day forward by growing in Christ, learn to selflessly share His peace with a world in tumult, let the power of the Gospel message flow on in and through your life through the Holy Spirit, and know that the power of God’s Kingdom is alive in you.

Jesus has been using parables all week long to impact our lives and reveal a fresh look at how important our faith is to our Kingdom work. When Jesus finishes teaching His disciples and followers, here in Matthew 13, He leaves the area around Capernaum and goes to His hometown of Nazareth where He teaches in their synagogue. Everyone is amazed, but. Ever had an amazing but. No, not what you may have had in your youth, this is an everything is perfect, but. Matthew 13:54~…Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? 

Wow, Jesus is smart and seems to really be blessed by God. He really knows how to unpack the scriptures, and those wonders, wow. Still, you know His family, we knew them all of our lives. Because they know His mother Mary, and his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judah and his sisters, well I don’t need to say any more about them. Have you ever been offended because you knew somebody? This made it tough for people to respond to Jesus, while He was in Nazareth. (13:53-57a). Therefore, Jesus says to them in Matthew 13:57~A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household. (ESV) It is awfully hard going home.

This is similar to the old saying, familiarity breeds contempt. This means those who know a person well are unlikely to see any greatness in them. Matthew 13:58~And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (ESV) Matthew records Jesus didn’t do many miracles in Nazareth because of their unbelief. What a sad sign of neglect. Our ability to change the world is directly related to our faith. Do you remember what Jesus says to the Roman centurion who asked Him to heal his servant in Matthew 8:13~And to the centurion Jesus said, “Go, let it be done for you as you have believed.” And the servant was healed at that very moment. (ESV) 

If you want to help us change the world for Jesus Christ, then you are going to have to go out and labor under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and operate in faith. What area of your life do you need to spend a little time building up in our most holy faith? I want to encourage you that if you will take the time, the Lord will bless your effort as He meets you in that perfectly formed moment.