Sermon by Rick Crandall
Grayson Baptist Church - Nov. 14, 2012
*Christian: Are you struggling? -- Struggling with anger, disappointment, regret, guilt or fear? Are you struggling with the people who should be closest to you? Don't be surprised by your struggles: You are not alone. You are in good company.
*We all have struggles, even the greatest Christians who ever lived. We see this truth here in Luke 22, and Paul gave us another great example in Romans 7. Paul had been following Jesus for many years when he wrote that letter, but in Romans 7:19 he said: "The good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice."
*John Ortberg wrote about a world where everybody did what they should all the time. It would be a world where "all marriages would be healthy and all children would be safe. . . Israeli and Palestinian children would play together on the West Bank. Their parents would build homes for one another. . . Disagreements would be settled with grace and civility. . . Doors would have no locks; cars would have no alarms. Schools would no longer need police presence or even hall monitors. . . Churches would never split. . . Divorce courts and battered-women shelters would be turned into community recreation centers. Every time one human being touched another, it would be to express encouragement, affection, and delight. No one would be lonely or afraid." (1)
*That would be a wonderful world to live in. But it's not our world. We all have struggles. Here's what to do about them.
1. First, recognize the source of our struggles.
 And the first source is sin, all kinds of sin and selfishness in our hearts.
*We get a glimpse of our sin struggle in vs. 24, which says this about the disciples: "There was also rivalry among them, as to which of them should be considered the greatest."
*Jesus had just told the disciples that His betrayer was right there with them at the table. But what do we see our heroes doing in vs. 24? They began to argue about who was the greatest.
*Talk about bad timing! There they were just minutes from the Garden of Gethsemane, just hours from the cross. And they were doing the last thing they should have been doing: Arguing about who was the greatest, not just who was the best, but who was going to be in charge. Shameful pride, self-centeredness and a critical spirit were on display that night. But we struggle with the same kinds of sins, even when we are kids.
*I like these short letters some church-going children wrote to their pastors. The first is from an 8-year-old boy who lived in Nashville. His name was Arnold. "Dear Pastor, I know God loves everybody, but He never met my sister. -- Yours sincerely, Arnold"
*I remember those brotherly skirmishes very well. We never sent each other to the hospital, but we came close a few times. And notice the pride in this letter from a 9-year-old boy who lived in Phoenix. "Dear Pastor, Please say in your sermon that Peter Peterson has been a good boy all week. -- Sincerely, Peter Peterson" (2)
*Pride, selfishness and a host of other sins we could list tonight: Who among us has not struggled with sin? One day after kindergarten, a boy named Steve told his grandmother about his problems at school. When he told her that he had gotten in trouble, Alliene Snell asked her grandson what happened.
*Little Steve placed his finger on the side of his head. Then he gave this explanation: "You know your brain? Sometimes it just tells me to do things that get me in trouble." (3)
*Isn't that the truth! And one of the things our brain tells us to do is be proud of ourselves. Self-righteous pride is often a problem for us, and it can be an ugly thing. We see that here in vs. 24, when these disciples were arguing almost in the shadow of the cross.
*Lou Bartet described our self-righteous pride this way: "We continue to insist that we are seeking God, when in reality we are seeking to be God. We want godhood, not godliness. We want the sovereignty that uniquely belongs to God. We want to call the shots. At the very least, we want to be 'God Jr.' and have the right to rule next to Him." (4)
*Our pride is a problem. That's why God's Word is so careful to warn us against it. We hear this warning in places like Philippians 2:3-8, where Paul wrote:
3. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.
4. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
5. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,
6. who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,
7. but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men.
8. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
*Our sin is one of the biggest sources of our struggles. Recognizing this will help us turn away from sin.
 But also remember that we have an enemy, a strong enemy named Satan.
*He hates us and does everything he can to keep us from living the way God wants us to live. This is why in vs. 31 the Lord said to Peter: "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat."
*What an enemy Satan is! A roaring lion, Peter himself will tell us in 1 Peter 5. Satan is far too strong for us to fight in our own strength. Don't be overconfident like Peter was in vs. 33. He said, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death."' But Jesus knew that Peter would deny Him three times before the night was out.
*Recognizing the danger we face from our enemy will help us run to the Lord for the strength we need.
-If you are struggling right now, recognize the source of your struggles.
2. But also ask the Lord to give you a serving heart.
*We all need a heart like the Lord's heart. Jesus points us to this truth in vs. 25-27, where He said:
25. . . "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called 'benefactors.'
26. But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves.
27. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves."
*John's Gospel doesn't tell us about the argument, but John tells us that Jesus did more than talk about serving. As we see in John 13:1-5:
1. Now before the feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that His hour had come that He should depart from this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
2. And supper being ended, the devil having already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon's son, to betray Him,
3. Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God,
4. rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.
5. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.
*Then in John 13:12-17:
12. So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you?
13. You call me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.
14. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.
15. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
16. Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.
17. If you know these things, happy are you if you do them."
*By His words and by His actions, Jesus teaches us how important it is to have the heart of a servant. And in John 13:17, we see that a serving heart will even give us true happiness! We all need a heart like the Lord's heart: A serving heart.
*Ron Hutchcraft told about a lady like that. Ron said: "You probably have a picture of yourself that you don't like, either on your driver's license, an ID card, or maybe a passport. There's probably a picture of you that you do like. That picture is the one that shows your good side, your hair is just right, there is good lighting and you're smiling.
*Once at a conference, there was a lady who really appreciated the ministry of one of the speakers. She asked him, 'Would you mind if I give you a picture of myself?' He said, 'That would be fine.'
*She signed it with a note, and he didn't look at it until he got to a lunch that I also attended. He opened it, and he said, 'Look at this picture.' It was the most unusual personal photo I have ever seen. It was a picture of her hands.
*She didn't want the focus to be on her face, but on the hands she had used to serve the Lord for many years." (5)
*How are you using your hands, your time, your life? Ask God to give you a serving heart. You be the one who opens the door, wipes the table, moves the chair, changes the diaper, makes the call, writes the card, or makes the visit. It will change your life.
*I have a wonderful example for you tonight from young Roxie Smith. She is one of the children who helped pass out bookmarks for Operation Christmas Child last Sunday. Roxie had some left over, and she asked if she could take them to give out at school the next day. She gave a bookmark to everybody in her class. And tonight at supper, Roxie was so happy, because one of her friends filled two more boxes for Operation Christmas Child.
*I told her, "Roxie there is no telling how much good that will do for Jesus Christ. One of those children may trust in the Lord, and lead their family to Jesus too. Maybe five or ten or a hundred people will get saved, because you took those bookmarks to school."
*Great things happen when we have a heart like the Lord's serving heart.
-So if you are struggling right now, ask the Lord to give you the heart of a servant.
3. But also trust our Savior to give you the help you need.
*Verses 28-34 point out the great ways that Jesus Christ wants to help us. In vs. 28, Jesus told the disciples, "You are those who have continued with Me in My trials." Think about those trials, all that the Lord went through in this sin-sick world. Jesus went through those trials for them. And He went through those trials for us.
*Next in vs. 29&30, Jesus told them:
29. . . "I bestow upon you a kingdom, just as My Father bestowed one upon Me,
30. that you may eat and drink at My table in My kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.
*Let me tell you that Jesus also wants to give us a place in His Kingdom!
*Next in vs. 31&32, Jesus told Peter:
31. . . "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.
32. But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail
*The Lord prayed for Peter. And Romans 8:34 tells us that right now the Lord Jesus Christ is also praying for us!
*In vs. 33, Peter thought he was ready to die for the Lord. And he said to Jesus, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death." Jesus knew the truth about Peter, so in vs. 34 the Lord said: "I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me."
*Jesus Christ knows all about us. But He loves us anyway! He will pick us up when we stumble. He will steer us back in the right way. He will help us turn back to Him.
*Just a few hours after these verses, Jesus even went to the cross for us. He sacrificed His life to take the guilt and punishment for our sins. Then He rose again, and has promised eternal life to all who trust in Him.
*You can trust Jesus. You can trust Him to save you and help you. You can trust Jesus to help you through every struggle in life.
-If you are struggling right now, trust our Savior to give you the help you need.
4. And then share God's strength with others.
*This is what the Lord told Peter to do in vs. 32. Jesus said: "I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brothers."
*What are we going to do with the strength God gives us? Jesus wants us to pass it on! God gives us the strength of the cross! But it's not just for us. God wants us to pass it on!
-God strengthens us to strengthen others.
-God blesses us to bless others.
-And God comforts us to comfort others.
*A chaplain at West Point told about a young soldier who went into a New York book store many years ago. It was just after World War II. The young man was walking briskly and whistling, when the sales lady said, "My, but somebody's happy!"
*"Sure," he answered her. "I've just gotten back from Europe where I spent a year in a German prison."
*"That should be enough to make anybody happy," she said. "Well," he replied, "it wasn't that that made me so happy. I've come to get a book. In prison we didn't have much to read and someone handed me an old, dog-eared copy of a religious novel. I would never have read it if there had been any other reading material available. But that book told how everyone who came under the influence of Jesus had wonderful things happen to them, and how it helped them to start living new lives. And you know, it helped me there in the prison camp. I was set free in my heart long before the army came to set me free.
*When I got home to my wife, I found her to be downhearted and scared and sort of bound up in herself. So, I've come to get a copy of that book. I want to read it to her. I want what happened to me to happen to her." (6)
*"I want what happened to me to happen to them." -- That's the spirit God wants us to have today. We may be going through some struggles. But if we know Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, then the best thing that can ever happen to us has happened to us. And God wants us to pass it on.
*We all have struggles. Even the greatest Christians who ever lived had struggles. But there are some things we can do to help:
-Recognize the source of your struggles.
-Ask the Lord to give you a servant's heart.
-Trust our Savior to help you.
-And share God's strength with others.
*Let's go to the Lord in prayer.
(1) Adapted from John Ortberg quote found in SermonCentral sermon "Shattering Life's Illusions" by Lou Bartet - Luke 22:24-34 - 03162003
(2) Sermons.com sermon "Bread for Everyone (I am the bread of life)" by Eric Ritz - John 6:1-15
(3) "Mature Living" - October 2007, p. 8 - Source: "In Other Words" - September 2007 #3 - produced by Dr. Raymond McHenry - 6130 Barrington - Beaumont, Texas 77706 (409) 866-2111 www.iows.net
(4) SermonCentral sermon "Shattering Life's Illusions" by Lou Bartet - Luke 22:24-34 - 03162003
(5) KERUX ILLUSTRATION COLLECTION - ID Number: 28975 - SOURCE: A Word With You By Ron Hutchcraft #4579 - TITLE: The Hands Tell It All - AUTHOR: Ron Hutchcraft - DATE: 72904
(6) "SOUNDS OF THE PASSION" by Wallace H. Kirby - CSS Publishing Company, 1984, 0-89536-647-9 - Source: Sermons.com sermon "The Sound of Everlasting Joy" by Wallace H. Kirby - Luke 19:28-38; Matthew 28:1-8; Luke 15:11-34