DO NOT BE AFRAID! TAKE THE HAND OF JESUS

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DO NOT BE AFRAID! TAKE THE HAND OF JESUS

A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
AND
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS

12 AUGUST 1990

By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

1 Kings 8:46-53
Psalm 56:4
Lamentations 2:14
Zephaniah 2:1-3
Matthew 14:22-33
Romans 9:1-5

Preparation Verse: (Psalm 56:4)

In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can mere man do to me?

For the past several weeks, we have been talking about truly turning our lives over to Jesus Christ, and of being living examples of His life within us.

This doesn't mean that we have to stop at doing what Jesus did, it means that we are to even exceed what He did in being loving compassionate peacemakers for the whole of creation.

That is the desire of God's heart for us all; but sometimes we slip, and the love of God reaches out to us to help us out of the situation we put ourselves in.

This in itself is not enough, for we must also be willing to take the extended hand of the Lord.

Sometimes we get into this kind of a situation because we are too eager to accomplish what we want, or God wants, and we lack the faith to accomplish our goal, or we overextend ourselves.

I personally have a tendency to fall into this last category, and the results are the same: we become ineffective and also a bad witness.

So, with either good intentions, or bad intentions, we can get into trouble; but as we said, the loving and helping hand of the Lord is there to help us out.

Note how this happened to Peter, and the results, as we look at Matthew 14:22-33.

22. And immediately He made the disciples get into the boat, and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away.

23. And after He had sent the multitudes away, He went up to the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.

This last verse is very important for us to understand. Our fleshly bodies need refreshing.

Even the Lord Jesus Christ had to refresh His fleshly body through prayer and separation from the continual excitement of the multitudes and His disciples.

We all need a quiet time with God.

And we all need a time of gathering with other believers.

While Jesus was doing this, His disciples were out in the boat, crossing the sea, as we hear as we continue our reading:

24. But the boat was already many stadia away from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.

25. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.

26. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were frightened, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear.

If we truly have faith, and truly love the Lord, we will not fear.

Our fears come from our incomplete love, for if we truly and wholly love the Lord, we will love the whole of God's creation, and we will also trust in Him to keep us out of harm’s way.

Jesus recognizes our weakness, as He did with the disciples in the boat.

27. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid."

Not being afraid does not mean to be foolish.

Not being afraid does not mean to test the Lord.

Not being afraid means to be able to stand firmly against the forces of evil.

Not being afraid means to take the hand of the Lord, so that we may be led out of danger.

Peter, like so many of us, suffered from “foot-in-mouth disease.” He opened his mouth, and before thinking thoroughly about what he would say, he utters something in the flesh and immediately inserts his foot in his mouth.

Listen to what he says:

28. And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."

29. And He said, "Come!" And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus.

30. But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!"

31. And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?"

32. And when they got into the boat, the wind stopped.

33. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, "You are certainly God's Son!"

Did you see where the doubt set in? It was when they saw Jesus walking on the water, for they were frightened, thinking that Jesus was a ghost.

The very fact that Jesus sent them on ahead in the boat was an indication that He would join them in some other way. They should have been expecting Him.

And what about Peter? He doubted when he said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water."

If it was the enemy, wouldn't he want to drown Peter?

If we have doubts, don't turn them into foolishness. Just seek God.

Don't venture into an area of greater danger unless the Lord calls us first, and we know that it is the Lord.

We should stand where we are and invite the Lord to join us, for when He enters, all will be peaceful, as the waters became when He entered the boat.

Peter's doubt caused him to sink in an area of greater danger than he was previously in.

The Lord knows our foolishness, and He still reached out to us.

But we must still be willing to take His hand in return.

We get into the trouble we do, because we sin against God's will for us; because we follow the ways of the world, or because we try to do things on our own, by our own will, without seeking the Lord's direction, and without God's help.

Throughout the ages, priests and prophets of God have been reaching out in mournful pleas to erring generations, so that the people would reach out to God through their repentance and receive God's forgiveness, and return to be with the Lord.

Solomon was a king who started off truly seeking God's direction to rule the nation of Israel.

He also was a king who fell into the trap we are talking about. Listen carefully to a portion of his prayer that is recorded in 1 Kings 8:46-53, and see if you can hear the prayer for his own weakness as well.

46. "When they sin against Thee (for there is no man who does not sin) and Thou art angry with them and dost deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near;

47. if they take thought in the land where they have been taken captive, and repent and make supplication to Thee in the land of those who have taken them captive, saying, 'We have sinned and have committed iniquity, we have acted wickedly';

48. if they return to Thee with all their heart and with all their soul in the land of their enemies who have taken them captive, and pray to Thee toward their land which Thou hast given to their fathers, the city which Thou hast chosen, and the house which I have built for Thy name;

49. then hear their prayer and their supplication in heaven Thy dwelling place, and maintain their cause,

50. and forgive Thy people who have sinned against Thee and all their transgressions which they have transgressed against Thee, and make them objects of compassion before those who have taken them captive, that they may have compassion on them

51. (for they are Thy people and Thine inheritance which Thou hast brought forth from Egypt, from the midst of the iron furnace),

52. that Thine eyes may be open to the supplication of Thy servant and to the supplication of Thy people Israel, to listen to them whenever they call to Thee.

53. "For Thou hast separated them from all the peoples of the earth as Thine inheritance, as Thou didst speak through Moses Thy servant, when Thou didst bring our fathers forth from Egypt, O Lord God."

A true servant of God cannot pray for others unless they first recognize their own weaknesses and sins and seek God's forgiveness for themselves first; then their prayers are heard.

Solomon recognized that what he was praying was not new, for it was the same that Moses had said; and Moses could not have said it and lived it if he had not turned wholly to God first, as we have been seeing over the past several weeks.

My cry to you and for you is not of my own, but of all those who have gone on before me, expounding these and other words in hope that they would be heard in the souls of the people.

But I've been doing something else, too, that I believe is even more important; I've been doing everything in my power to keep you out of the worldly situations that get us into trouble.

Listen to what Jeremiah cries out about the false teachers and prophets, and the results of their false teaching, in Lamentations 2:14.

14. Your prophets have seen for you
False and foolish visions;
And they have not exposed your iniquity
So as to restore you from captivity,
But they have seen for you false and misleading oracles.

Are you hearing what he is saying?

The people only wanted their ears tickled. They didn't want to know the truth. They would rather go to hell than repent.

They would rather go to hell that be the loving compassionate peacemakers we have been called to be.

They would rather go along with the ways of the world.

Their foolishness allowed the false prophets to enter their places of worship and mislead the people, as we are seeing this day.

But inside, each of us knows the truth, don't we?

That's why God says we are without excuse.

When someone exposes our iniquity, in the, love of God, they are not seeking our harm, but our healing.

But it is up to each of us to accept that helping hand.

Thus Jeremiah wept for the people.

Listen to the cry of Zephaniah as he pleads with the people, in 2:1-3.

1. Gather yourselves together, yes, gather,
O nation without shame,

2. Before the decree takes effect –
The day passes like the chaff –
Before the burning anger of the Lord comes upon you,
Before the day of the Lord's anger comes upon you.

3. Seek the Lord,
All you humble of the earth
Who have carried out His ordinances;
Seek righteousness, seek humility.
Perhaps you will be hidden
In the day of the Lord's anger.

Do you hear the prophet?

What he said 2,600 years ago is still true today.

But we only know for sure, if we are hearing in our souls.

The apostle Paul also languished and mourned for those he preached to, and who did not hear.

Listen carefully to his inner feelings, as he speaks forth in Romans 9:1-5.

1. I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit,

2. that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart.

3. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh,

4. who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises,

5. whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

Paul was very zealous for the Lord with his whole life. He did his best not live hypocritically. He tried to live the truth with every part of his being.

He lived the truth as he knew it, even before he came to know Jesus Christ. Thus God could use him.

But once he knew the truth about Jesus Christ, his zealousness drove him to tell everyone he could, particularly his fellow Israelites.

Their rejection drove him to mourn. Sure, he rejoiced over those who accepted Jesus as their Lord and Savior, but he mourned greatly over those who rejected Him, even to the point of suggesting that he would be willing to go to hell for them (something he could not do), if they would be saved.

I can empathize with Paul, for I also mourn over those who reject the Gospel, and for those who have hardened their hearts and souls to the point that they are indifferent to the horrendous suffering of millions of our fellow humans, and billions of other animals.

Like Paul, I cannot force anyone to go to heaven, nor can I keep them out of hell.

All I can do is reach out my hand in love, present the truth, and show others the hand of the Lord Jesus.

It is up to each of us, individually, whether or not to accept Jesus and His truth, and be born again.

We cannot fake the truth of our acceptance, for God sees the intent of our heart.

For unless we are born again, spiritually, in this lifetime, we will not go to heaven.

Being born again means that the whole of our being desires to leave the ways of the world, and to be living examples of Jesus and His teaching, and the be conformed to the will of our heavenly Father.

If you haven't previously made that decision to truly repent of your sins and live a Christ-like life, or if you've backslidden, reach out and firmly grasp the hand of Jesus.

He will save you!

And He also mourns for those who reject.

Let us pray…

Amen

Your Comments are welcome

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