Central Truth: God grants us glimpses of heaven to encourage us as we continue to grow and serve Him.
Question: What are the +’s and -’s of being satisfied with our walk with God?
For some reason, that old song by THE CLASH, “Should I Stay or Should I Go” came to my mind when preparing for tonight. Many of us here have experienced a glimpse of what heaven will be like. During the DNOW Caswell retreat, many felt the presence of God’s power in their lives. Even those who did not attend can relate to that feeling of knowing God’s presence at a specific time. For example, when someone prays to receive Christ as their personal Savior (Forgiver) and Lord (Leader). Our temptation is to want to “stay” in that “place” for as long as possible. Who could blame us? We as humans are “wired” for worship. Should we stay in that moment or go find what other blessings God has in store for us?
While growing up, I have experienced many things that have altered my mood and given me temporary satisfaction, but NOTHING has compared to experiencing a saving, living relationship with Jesus Christ. I have not had a perfect life, but I have learned to never be satisfied with where I am at a specific moment. Satisfaction helps to confirm the ways God is moving in my life but if not dealt with can become the very reason I refuse to grow.
Illustration: I really enjoy driving our truck out on the North End of Carolina Beach. Beyond the fear of getting stuck, I love when I can put the truck in park and know that I have “made it”. Whether I stay in the cab, drop the tailgate and have a meal, or play in the water, I am happy and satisfied to be on the beach. However, if I stay in that place of “Satisfaction” I will eventually get hungry or sun burnt. I know at some point I have to leave to get rest, shelter and nourishment.
We all experience those times of Satisfaction in our walk with God, but the trap is to think we can A) Stay There or B) That all our troubles will go away.
How powerful would God be if He could reach out and touch us through weekends like DNOW Caswell but not give us the strength to handle the problems that brought us there and are waiting for our return?
The danger in being “Satisfied” is never fully becoming who God wants us to be.
Take Tony Hawk For Example:
“I started skating when I was about 10 years old. It was in an alleyway. I picked up my brother's skateboard and stood on it. I started to roll down the alley, and I yelled at my brother asking him how I turn the thing. At the end of the alley, I just jumped off, picked up the board and physically turned it around. That's how it started.” - Tony Hawk, LATimes.com, December 25, 2008
If Tony Hawk would have been satisfied at 10 years old to do that one trick, where would the world of skateboarding be today?
READ Matthew 17:1-13 The Transfiguration
1After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. 4Peter said to Jesus, "Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." 5While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!" 6When the disciples heard this, they fell face down to the ground, terrified. 7But Jesus came and touched them. "Get up," he said. "Don't be afraid." 8When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. 9As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, "Don't tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead." 10The disciples asked him, "Why then do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first? 11Jesus replied, "To be sure, Elijah comes and will restore all things. 12But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognize him, but have done to him everything they wished. In the same way the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands." 13Then the disciples understood that he was talking to them about John the Baptist.
I. THE COST OF SERVING GOD IS NOT IN VAIN (Matthew 16:21-17:3)
Jesus predicted His death to the disciples for the first time. These were His followers and friends who knew Him best. Peter’s questioning spirit in Matthew 16:22 proves that even Jesus’ inner cirlce did not fully grasp who He was. I love the way Jesus told Peter, “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view not God’s.” Before we judge Peter for his shallowness, let us look in our own lives and find areas where we struggle between human versus Divine views. Do the things we spend money on build His kingdom or our own? Does our time management show to others that serving Christ is important to us? To Peter, Jesus was not making sense. He did not see what Jesus saw. Do we look at our lives through the lenses of human understanding or Divine? (Proverbs 21:2 / Proverbs 19:21 / Proverbs 3:5-6) Jesus goes on to challenge the disciples and us to evaluate what we are willing to sacrifice to follow Him. He lets them know that suffering will be a part of serving Him (Cross = Death), yet the rewards will be worth more than anything we experience here.
Jesus decides to teach three of his disciples some deeper truths of who He was. They got to see Jesus’ appearance change. What an honor! How could anything compare to that? I grew up watching the Incredible Hulk. If I had the opportunity to see David Banner transform into the Hulk, I would never forget that. Jesus gave them a taste of His divine nature to prove that whatever sacrifice they have or will make, will impact eternity. We may not get invited to unwholesome parties, rejected by the popular, overlooked by the rich or be as bright as the gifted but in the end, the sacrifice we make of His will over our wants will make a difference in our lives and those around us.
II. SATISFACTION IS A REST AREA, NOT A DESTINATION (Matthew 17:4)
During my years in Student Ministry I have logged many miles on church transportation vehicles. I have learned a lot of tricks by taking groups on the road and also where most rest areas are along the interstates in the Carolina's. As Peter suggests building monuments (altars) to Moses, Elijah and Jesus he means well but he’s not thinking it through. What do you think would happen if I told the students, “We have stopped at the best Rest Area in the world? The bathrooms are clean, the vending machines are working and there are plenty of comfortable areas to relax in. I think we should stay here rather than going on to our mission, ski or beach retreat.” They would look at me like I was crazy. The rest area is not the destination we are traveling towards, it is merely a place to rest, restore, and resume.
The greatest trap of student ministry is to base the spiritual depth and effectiveness of its members on events, retreats and trips. If the students are struggling in their walk, lets have a pizza blast. Do the student who always come to Wednesday night need a “get-away”? Lets take them to the mountains. Please listen before you tune me out. Retreats, trips and events are crucial to any ministry, but if we place our hope in them alone for Spiritual growth, they will leave us empty. They are simply vehicles that take the Word of God (Bible) into our lives. They provide an opportunity for us to get away from our normal routine in hopes of seeing God more clearly, but they do not change our hearts and lives, it is Christ, His Word, His Spirit and our obedience that change our lives. To build our Christian walk on anything else will leave us empty as soon as our feet touch the parking lot after a trip.
DNOW Caswell was a true blessing for me as a Youth Pastor, Husband, Friend, and Individual. God spoke clearly to me during the worship sessions. I also saw God working in the lives of our teens. I can identify with Peter when he tells Jesus that he wants to stay and build an altar. However, Caswell was a rest area, not my destination. I as well as my students must get back to the “sacrificial cross carrying life” Jesus asks of us in Matthew 16. He takes the “weight” of the cross but we must still carry it. Even before we returned Sunday, I saw the fight among our students between being the Christian they know God wants them to be vs the Christian they are afraid to be.
III. WE SEE GOD MORE CLEARLY WHEN WE ARE COMING DOWN THE MOUNTAIN (Matthew 17:9)
Peter, James and John saw the past, present and future of Christianity as a whole in this one moment.
- Moses - Old Testament: The Law (10 Commandments)
- Elijah - The Prophets: Foretelling of Jesus Christ The Messiah through prophecies
- Jesus relates John the Baptist to Elijah because like Elijah proclaimed the coming of the Messiah in the OT, John the Baptist did the same in the NT.
- Jesus - The Old Testament and Prophecies fulfilled.
Jesus told them not to say anything because he knew they did not fully understand what they saw. During retreats we often see the fullness of God and spend months trying to figure out how to apply what we learn. Let us remember that God still calls us to sacrifice our will for His. At Caswell we have seen a glimpse of what God has for our lives. Let us encourage each other to continue giving our time to read His word, serve His people and share His love to those who need to hear. Will you join me?
APPLICATION FOR PARENT / FRIEND / SELF:
- Read Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”
- Go to a room that you are not familiar with and have a friend rearrange furniture or set up an obstacle course. Cut out all the lights and have someone cut them on for one second then back off.
- Try to walk through the room only remembering that one glance. If you get scared or want some help ask for another quick flick of the light switch. Repeat as needed until you make your way through.
- Talk with each other about the importance of using retreats like DNOW as a “momentary” light of what God has for your lives. You may not comprehend everything at once, but by walking through the darkness with God’s word as a light you can navigate to where God wants you.