March 11th, 2015 Posted in sermons | 2 Comments »
I am so happy to be with you today in Texas!
I heard about woman who went to her pastor and said, “Pastor, I’m so scared. My husband says he will kill me if I keep coming to your church!” The pastor replied, “Don’t be afraid; have faith in God. God will watch over you.” She came back many times telling the pastor about this threat and he reassured her, “Don’t be afraid; have faith in God. God will watch over you!”
Then one day she returned and told the pastor, “Now my husband says that if I keep coming here he will kill you!” The pastor responded, “This might be a good time to start attending that little church across town!”
Faith—it’s easy to tell others to have it but sometimes it can be hard when it comes to our own circumstances.
What is real faith? “It is the confident assurance that what we hope for is going to happen. It is the evidence of things we cannot yet see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT). Faith is “belief plus action!” Faith is a living, restless thing; it cannot be inoperative. Faith sees the invisible. It is like a muscle: if you use it, it gets stronger. If you don’t, it can atrophy.
We are getting ready to take a bold step of faith this November: one of the largest evangelistic events in American history, to be held at AT&T Stadium. It’s an event we are calling Harvest America. But why do this?
Because America needs God, and we have all been commanded to go into the world and preach the gospel. When it’s all said and done, God saves people primarily through preaching. As 1 Corinthians 1:21 says, “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe” (NIV). And what is the message we preach? The gospel!
But there is no way we can do this without the help of many leaders. We all know it is not an easy thing to be called to leadership. As leaders, we have great responsibility. Being a leader is a great privilege and a great joy, but it can be quite hard at times too. A leader is second-guessed, gossiped about, and sometimes slandered. We have our lives threatened and we face challenges each and every day.
We all know it is an honor and a privilege to lead. But it is a privilege that comes with a price. You need the mind of a scholar, the heart of a child, and the hide of a rhino. It’s not easy, but if you are called you must do it. A leader is also barraged with things people want you to support, and here I am, ‘cowboy hat in hand’.asking for your help.
Harvest is not a parachurch organization. We are from the church, for the church, to build up the church—because the church is the only organization Jesus started when He walked this earth.
Events come and go, but the local church carries on the work. I believe God wants your churches to grow, both spiritually and numerically. Not just “transfer growth,” but the best kind of growth: new converts! Our prayer and hope is to have 100,000 people fill AT&T Stadium. Then, when the gospel is proclaimed, we trust that thousands will believe. We want to send them to your churches. Your church will grow in direct proportion to your involvement. Most new converts end up in the church of the person who brought them. And we all know, new converts are the lifeblood of the church. You show me a church that does not have new believers and I will show you a church that is dying. We have a choice: evangelize or fossilize!
Yes, this is a huge undertaking. You might ask, “What if you fail?” Then it will be a spectacular failure! But what if we succeed together?
Let’s look at a very familiar Bible story about “failure.” This failure started as a success. And it was a spectacular failure. If you are going to “fail,” this is the way to do it. And by the way, I would rather try and fail than never try at all. I want to talk about Jesus and Peter walking on the water.
You remember that Jesus sent His disciples into the boat and a great storm came. He was on the mountain praying, undoubtedly for them. At the fourth watch, He came to them walking on the water. At first, they thought He was a ghost. But Jesus reassured them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27 NIV). Simon Peter got very excited and said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come!” So he said, “Come!” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
What do we learn from this story? For one thing, we learn that storms come in life, even to leaders. Maybe you are facing a storm right now. Troubles in your church. Trouble with your family.
We faced the worst storm of our life seven years ago. Our oldest son, Christopher, died in an automobile accident. When I heard the news, I wondered if I could even survive such a thing. As a pastor, I have counseled many families who have lost children, but when it happens to you it is a different thing altogether. If God had not come through for me, I would have given up preaching. But He did come through. Now I have a ministry to families who have lost loved ones. It was not a ministry I necessarily wanted, but one I accept, because I do not want to waste my pain.
Friends,I believe a great storm is coming to America right now. It has already spread rapidly to other parts of our globe, including the Middle East and Europe. We make a huge mistake if we ignore it. I am speaking of Islamic terrorism.
We have never seen anything quite like this in recent history—a terrorist army with many names: ISIS, Al Qaeda, Boko Haram, Hezbollah. Some will tell us it’s not true Islam; all I know is they do what they do in the name of Allah. Of course there is a place for a military solution to these threats, and I support that. But have you noticed how these groups are capturing the imaginations of young people? Kids who have no moral center, no worldview to speak of—they are being reached with a radical ideology.
We have the greatest ideology, the most important message, and it’s the gospel!
Yes,there is a military solution,but ultimately this war of beliefs will not be won with AR-15’s but with John 3:16!
So, here are the disciples in the storm and Jesus comes to them, walking on the water. He reassures them: “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid!” As Jesus reassures them, Peter suddenly has a great burst of faith in his heart. Peter is filled with love and devotion to the Lord and just wanted to be near Him. He had gone from terror to fear. “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come you right now!”
This is very impressive. Peter is willing to put it all on the line. These are rough seas and he is ready to step into them. Why? Because he was looking at Jesus! Looking at Jesus gave him supreme confidence and courage. But he will not act presumptuously; he waits for the command from Christ. Peter says to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come!” Jesus said, “Come!”
Did this turn out to ultimately be a failure? Yes. But it was a spectacular one! If you are going to fail, this is the way to do it! Again, I would rather try and fail than never try at all.
There is a risk of failure in going to this large venue—AT&T Stadium. But there is also potential for great success.
Why did Peter sink? He took his eyes off Jesus and put them on other things. “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid.”
We as leaders can sometimes take our eyes off Jesus too. We look at another start-up church that is exploding while our numbers our down. We begin competing, and even taking shots at the other preacher.
But we are not competing with each other; we are not in a race to beat each other. Our “competition” is the world, the flesh, and the devil. Friends, we need to keep our eyes on the Lord.
Jesus lifted Peter up, and he walked on water again, and they went back to the boat. At AT&T Stadium, we are going to go “walking on the water.” We are going to, without shame, proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. I ask you to join us.
As a group, there are theological distinctives among us. But can we lay those aside and pull together for the gospel today? As Augustine said, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.” If we join forces and focus on this gospel Jesus has called us to proclaim, great things can happen. We can accomplish more together than apart.
We have our marching orders from Christ: Go into all the world and preach the gospel, making disciples. Vance Havner said, “If we are too busy using our sickles on each other, we will miss the harvest.”
Let’s not miss the harvest!