TAKING THE INITIATIVE
from ‘50 Days of Faith’ Part 3 of 8
March 4, 2007
Part 1of 2
“God gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.” Ps. 145:14 (Mes)
HOW TO MAKE A FRESH START WITH FAITH
1. SEIZE ________________________________________
“As Jesus... left town, a great crowd was following. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus was sitting beside the road as Jesus was going by. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was nearby, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’”
Mark 10:46-47 (NLT)
“Jesus said, ‘No procrastination! No backward looks. You can’t put off God's kingdom till tomorrow. Seize the day!” Luke 9:62 (Mes)
II. TAME ________________________________________
“Many of the people scolded him and told him to be quiet. But he shouted even more loudly, ‘Have mercy on me!’” Mark 10:48 (GN)
“The fear of human opinion disables you: trusting in God protects you from that.”
Prov. 29:25 (Mes)
TAKING THE INITIATIVE
Part 1of 2
March 4, 2007 1880 words
Have you ever wished you could just start your life over? Maybe just go back and do it again. It wasn’t until my early thirties that for the first time in my life I felt like I was growing spiritually and it felt good. I started each day with prayer and I memorized texts as I traveled the 14 miles to work. Trish and I hosted a home Bible study group and I knew that God was working in my life and as a result my faith grew stronger. But I often had regrets that I didn’t do these things sooner. I wasted so many years doing other things and neglecting a relationship with God. I can now see how I would have avoided a lot of problems and pain and a lot of worry if I’d done what I’m doing now. I remember thinking that I kinda wished that I could rewind the tape and start my life over.
The problem is you can’t rewind the tape. It’s behind you. But you can start over. And God is a God of fresh starts. That’s what we’re going to talk about today and next week. Psalms 145:14 says, “God gives a fresh start to those who are ready to quit.” If you’ve felt like quitting you’ve come to the right place today. Today and next week we’re going to dig into the story of Bartimaeus and consider five key things that are to be found; five ways of making a fresh start. Things from God's word that will help you regardless of your background, regardless of your past, regardless of how you’ve really messed up. You can make a fresh start.
One day Jesus was walking through the streets of the city of Jericho. A large crowd was following Him. There was a blind beggar by the side of the road by the name of Bartimaeus. To be blind in Jesus’ day meant you couldn’t work, obviously you couldn’t read or write, and you probably couldn’t go anywhere because there were no guide dogs. So he was reduced to simply begging for living. Every day somebody would carry him out to the side of the road, set him on a pallet. He would beg for sustenance every day and at the end of the day they would take him back. It was a miserable life. His name was Bartimaeus and that means son of Timaeus or “son of the honourable.”
One day when Jesus was walking by, Bartimaeus thinks, “This is my chance. I’ve got to go for it. This is where I could get my fresh start. I’m not going to miss this opportunity,” and he starts yelling and screaming above the noise of the crowd saying, “Jesus! Son of David! Have mercy on me!” That is the first step to a fresh start with God.
I. SEIZE THE MOMENT
He said, “I’m not going to miss this one. I’m going to take advantage. Jesus is coming by my place right now. I’m not going to wait. I’m not going to delay. I’m going to start now.” And that’s the first key to a fresh start in your life. Whatever you’re going to do, do it now. Don’t say, “Next year I’m going to make a fresh start.... Next month I’m going to make a fresh start...” It’s now or never. Seize the moment!
When Bartimaeus got up that morning he had no idea that Jesus Christ was going to be passing by him. As best as he knew it was just another ordinary day. Same place, same thing, same begging, same miserable, lonely, pitiful lifestyle. So he had no time to prepare for Jesus, he had not time to plan for Jesus. It was just an opportunity that was dropped in his lap. He had to seize the moment.
Let’s take up the story in Mark 10. “As Jesus left town a great crowd was following. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus was sitting beside the road as Jesus was going by. When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was nearby, he began to shout, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” He says “I’m going to take advantage, it’s now or never. I’m going to make the most of this.” He seizes the opportunity, the moment.
All around you daily there are opportunities for a fresh start. You get them all the time. But you don’t take advantage of them. Why? One word: Procrastination.
Procrastination is a strange thing. We think it will make our lives easier, we think it will make our lives more pleasant when actually it just creates more stress. The truth is, you already know the right things to do. You already know them. Not only that, you know the benefits of doing the right things in life. So why don’t you do them? You keep saying, “I’ll do it later.” It’s the ‘manana’ syndrome: “I’ll do it tomorrow. I'll put it off. Someday ... One of these days... I'll get around to it. I’m aiming to.” But you never do it.
The Bible warns us over and over about presuming upon tomorrow. I’m not guaranteed a tomorrow, neither are you. You have no guarantee that you will live tomorrow. Whatever you’re going to do you better do it now. Listen to these verses from parts of the Hebrew Bible known as the ‘Wisdom literature’
Job 9:25 ”My days go quickly. More quickly than a runner, they sprint away.” The older you get the faster they run.
Job 8:9 “Our life is short. We pass like shadows across the earth.” Your life is really just a blip, a shadow. It doesn’t really last that long.
Proverbs 27:1 “Don’t boast about tomorrow for you don’t know what a day will bring forth.”
Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to number our days and recognize how few they are. Help us to spend them as we should.”
What do you need to do to stop procrastinating? What do you need to start doing that you already know is the right thing. Would you consider the thought that perhaps God brought some of you here this morning just so He could say to you, “Stop making excuses. Get on with it. Start living the things you know to do. Give Me your life now. Start living for Me now.” Jesus said this in Luke 9:62 “No procrastination, no backwards looks. You can’t put off God's kingdom until tomorrow. Seize the day.” Stop procrastinating.
II. TAME YOUR FEAR
If you’re going to make a fresh start with faith in your life, you’ve got to face your fears. You’ve got to tame your fears, toss them out. Don’t let them control you. Fear has an incredible ability to paralyze our potential, to keep us from launching out, to keep us from having faith in our lives.
When we face that choice of faith or fear, if we choose fear it does some things to us. It makes us skeptical. We’re afraid of trying anything new when we’re afraid. It makes us selfish. We’re afraid to commit to God and to others. It makes us short sighted. We focus on the past and not on the future.
There’s a lot of fears that we face when it comes to this issue of faith and stepping over the line to have faith. But Bartimaeus faced one that many of us face. That is the fear of disapproval or rejection. He knew that to shout out at Jesus in that crowd wasn’t the right thing to do. He knew that people would look down on him for it but he was desperate. And he knew that Jesus Christ was the only one that could help him.
And look at what happened. When he shouted out to Jesus the Bible tells us in Mark 10 “Many of the people scolded him and told him to be quiet. But he shouted even more loudly, ‘Have mercy on me!’” When he shouted out everyone around him told him, “Don’t do that. Be quiet. Quiet down. Don’t make a scene. Surely Jesus Christ isn’t interested in you. He’s got more important things to do.”
The devil whispers things like that to a lot of us. When that opportunity for faith comes into our heart, we hear the whisper: “God’s surely not interested in you. Don’t make a scene. What would people think of you?” Those kinds of thoughts often keep us from having faith. When you see that need, that opportunity to change, to be healed, all kinds of shouts from inside of us and outside of us tell us not to rock the boat.
Whose disapproval do you fear the most? Whoever that is, that person is your god. They can keep you from having faith or invite you to have faith. Peer pressure isn’t just for kids though goodness knows how much it affects them and scars them. But we all face it in our lives in many, many ways. And the fear of disapproval is a struggle for all of us. God's word warns us about living life for somebody else’s approval: Proverbs 29:25 says, “The fear of human opinion disables you; trusting in God protects you from all that.” That’s an incredible protection that God can give us. The truth is you really wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized they didn’t think about you anyway. People are not thinking about you, they’re thinking about themselves. Just like you are.
Faith can be scary and you might be asking ‘well why should faith have fear along with it? If it’s real faith, shouldn’t it just come naturally?’
God is asking you to do something greater than you’ve ever done before. Different that you’ve ever done before. He’s asking you to depend on Him in a way you never have before. Don’t you think that’s going to feel a little bit scary? Of course it is. And in that moment you and I have the choice. Am I going to fall back on my fear and stay the way that I was? Or am I going to look forward with faith and step forward in faith?
Over the past few weeks we’ve been looking at God’s promises in the Bible and this weeks’ promise that you can find in the box at the bottom of the page of notes is:
Ephesians 3:20 “Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus” (NIV)
“With God's power working in us God can do much, much more than anything we can ask or imagine.” (NCV)
Interestingly, it was exactly that promise which concluded the Service at the World day of Prayer ‘United Under God’s Tent’ on Friday evening
So far we’ve excavated two important discoveries to making a fresh start – next week we’ll complete our excavation when we look for and find the remaining three keys in this wonderful parable about Bartimaeus.
If you truly want to make a fresh start in faith, reflect with all seriousness, what we’ve looked at and unearthed this morning.
Let’s pray: Gracious Father, your Word speaks to our hearts whenever and provided we are open to hearing You and the challenge of trusting in Your promises, by faith. Help us not just to be hearers of your Word but doers of your Word; help us not to be fearful of change because change is inevitable; it’s part of life; and so enable us to begin if we have not already done so to do something greater than we’ve ever done before; to move out of our comfort zones; to depend on you and look forward in faith and step forward in faith as we seek your will and purpose both for your church but also for each and every one of our lives. This we ask in the name of Jesus, our Lord and Master. Amen