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Praying In Crisis

Summit Life / J.D. Greear
The Truth Network Radio
June 7, 2015 6:00 am

Praying In Crisis

Summit Life / J.D. Greear

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Well, Summit Church at all of our campuses in the Raleigh-Durham area, let me welcome you in today as we worship together. And let me say what a privilege it is for me to have this opportunity to share with you some of what I think God is stirring in my heart in hopes that it'll be an encouragement and a challenge to you. I should begin today with a bit of a confession.

It won't be new news to some of you, but I must say it. I am a recovering control freak. I quite prefer things to be done, well, my way. I hate to be caught off guard or taken by surprise. I like to know what's coming. I really like to be in charge.

I began my career here convinced that if everyone would just do things my way, the world would be a much better place. But you all have so graciously reminded me on a regular basis through the years that I am not in control. Then God gave me a wife. Enough said. And now I have two young boys, six and seven years old, spirited boys, shall we say, who regularly shatter any remaining illusion that I have that I ever was or ever will be in control. So like I said, I'm in recovery. But I have a much deeper sense that things around me are not under control. Whether it's the devastation of the earthquakes in Nepal or the brutality with which ISIS has advanced in the Middle East, the world around me seems to be reeling from tragedy after tragedy and atrocity after atrocity. But the chaos isn't just in other places, it's here at home too. From Ferguson to New York to Baltimore, unrest and violence have erupted and communities are torn apart.

All across our land, racism has raised its ugly head and the result is devastating. Maybe like me, you feel that unsettling sense that all is not well in our world. The foundations seem to be crumbling. But maybe the feeling of life in crisis for you is more personal. Maybe your job isn't secure or maybe you're unemployed. You may be struggling with some disease and watching your health deteriorate. Maybe your family is falling apart at the seams, your marriage is a struggle, your kids are rebelling. Or maybe, just maybe, you don't have the family you thought you'd have by this point in your life. The dreams of being married and having kids and that cute little cottage with the picket fence are not coming true.

Your life isn't all you dreamed it would be. So the question for us this morning is when disappointments rise, and they surely will. When hardship comes, and you know it's just around the corner, when crisis looms large, what can you and I do?

How should we respond when we feel overwhelmed? In the next few minutes, I want to show you from the life of Jesus how he responded in crisis and how that, I think, should inform our response in the crises that we face. If you've got your Bible, turn with me to Mark chapter 14. We're going to look together at verses 32 through 36. I'd love for you to follow along with me, but if you don't have a Bible, you can look at the screen behind me and the verses will be there.

Let me set the stage for you. This moment in Jesus' life is sandwiched in between the Last Supper, his last gathering of all his disciples on one side, and on the other side is Jesus' impending trial and crucifixion on Calvary. So let's read together at verse 32. They went to a place called Gethsemane and Jesus said to his disciples, sit here while I pray. He took Peter, James, and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death, he said to them, stay here and keep watch. Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible, the hour might pass from him. Abba, Father, he said, everything is possible for you.

Take this cup from me, yet not what I will, but what you will. Listen, the crisis for Jesus was real. It wasn't imagined or contrived, it wasn't even exaggerated. Unlike many of the impending crises that we face or that we fear, Jesus knew the full extent of what was about to come upon him.

There was no ambiguity and no uncertainty. That's why verse 34, he says, my soul is overwhelmed to the point of death. Jesus knows what's about to happen. He knows he will be betrayed by one of his disciples.

He knows his closest friends will abandon him, even deny they knew him. He will be beaten and scourged and nailed to a cross. And on that cross, he will endure all of God's wrath for our sin.

Jesus knows the prophecy of Isaiah 53 is about to be fulfilled. He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. The punishment that brought us peace was on him. And by his wounds, we are healed. We, all like sheep, have gone astray.

Each of us has turned to our own way. And the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He knows the pain that's coming. He knew the separation from the father he was about to endure. He knew the brokenness that he would experience in his body and the hell that he was going to endure on our behalf.

His crisis was of a greater magnitude than anything you or I could ever even begin to imagine, more painful and more distressing than anything any of us will ever have to endure. For that reason, I think what Jesus does as the crisis unfolds is an appropriate guide for how you and I should respond when heartache and hardship, disappointment and difficulty, and crisis come our way. What did Jesus do? He prayed. He prayed.

But it's not just that he prayed, it's how and what he prayed that should offer hope and help to us today. I want us to look both at Jesus' approach to this moment and also his prayer. As we begin, there are two important observations and applications I want to make from Jesus' approach.

The first is this. Jesus shared the crisis with his closest companions. Verse 33 says, he took Peter, James, and John along with him. Jesus did not walk boldly into this by himself. He invited his best friends, his community to walk with him. I want you to see here and note that this wasn't just something Jesus did in the heat of the moment.

This was his pattern. He regularly drew these guys in close to himself to share and experience the work of God. In Mark 5, when he goes to heal Jairus' daughter, he takes only Peter, James, and John. In Mark 9, he takes these three, only these three up the mountain with him to witness his transfiguration so that they might experience and see his glory and his divinity. These were his closest friends. His confidants. So in the time of difficulty, these guys were his support. He humbly asked them to pray with him, to help him shoulder his load. But it wasn't just about him deriving comfort from their presence. You see, it was also for their benefit. Jesus knew. He knew that they would soon face crises of their own, and his invitation to them was, watch, watch and learn.

Not only was he demonstrating how to handle agony and pain, he was letting them into his moment so that they could see the faithfulness and goodness of God in the midst of great difficulty. Listen, the application is obvious. You need to be in a small group. You need to cultivate godly friendships. You need the body of Christ in your life. You need people who will walk with you in good times and share your joy. You need people who will walk with you in crisis and help you shoulder the load. But you don't just need that for your own benefit. You need to be in community for the sake of others. You need to let other people see the faithfulness and goodness of God in the midst of your pain and suffering. When you aren't in a small group, when you aren't in community, when you aren't cultivating and nurturing godly relationships, you aren't just depriving yourself.

You are robbing other people. My wife, Michelle, and I have had what I would characterize as a rough year. It's been hard. And I thought about detailing for you all the things that have gone wrong for us. I even listed them out as I prepared my sermon. But you know what?

The details aren't important. It's just enough for me to say it's been really hard. We've faced disappointment and loss. We've experienced grief like nothing we've ever faced before.

It's been hard. We've often wondered, what is God up to? And even today we're waiting on God to act in our behalf.

Our situation still isn't resolved. But I want to tell you this, I don't think we would have made it through the year without the presence of some very dear friends in our small group. You see, God has blessed us and strengthened us through the people who love us.

He has cared for us through our friends in our small group. They've prayed for us. They've cried with us. Week after week they've listened to us talk about what isn't happening. And week after week they've faithfully prayed with us.

We've even started to laugh recently that we're not sure what we're going to pray about as a small group when God finally answers this prayer. But they've loved us. And they've walked with us. And we have benefited greatly from their care.

But you know what? I think they've benefited too. Because they've been able to see God working in us. They've seen God provide for us.

They've seen and heard what God is teaching us and how He is working and moving in us. And listen, we are all built up as we walk through this together in community. So hear me today. For your own sake. For the sake of the body of Christ, get in a small group. Don't put it off. Don't deprive yourself.

Don't rob others. Second, I want you to see this. Jesus cultivated His prayer life before the crisis hit. If you look carefully at Jesus' prayer here, you'll see that this is remarkably similar to the model prayer He gave the disciples. What you and I often refer to as the Lord's Prayer. I'll draw some of that out as we walk through the prayer in just a moment.

But I want you to see this. Jesus prayed the way He did in the middle of crisis because He was in the habit of praying this way. Over and over again, the gospels tell us that Jesus withdrew to a solitary place to pray.

Mark 1 35, in the early morning. While it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place and was praying there. Listen, prayer wasn't crisis management for Jesus.

It was a way of life. He prayed before He broke the bread and the fish and fed the five thousand. He prayed before He raised Lazarus from the dead. He prayed for His disciples before He sent them out. He prayed in the garden and He prayed from the cross. Listen to me, if Jesus thought that prayer was necessary for His life, how dare you and I charge through life and act like it's optional? How dare we keep making excuses for our prayerlessness when the Son of God determined that it was necessary for His life? Surely, it is all the more necessary for you and I. If you want to pray well in difficulty, you must cultivate a habit of praying rightly in the ordinary.

I have heard it all my life. Practice makes perfect. If you want to excel in praying, then just start praying. If you don't think you pray well, then get after it. Go to it. Work at it. Pray.

And you know what? We want to see you. We want to see all of us grow and develop in this area of our spiritual life. That's why we've provided resources on our website that will help you develop your prayer life. Listen to me.

You are without excuse. There is teaching and help there for you. Every weekend at every campus during every service, there are a group of people praying.

We call it the boiler room. You want to cultivate your prayer life? Join those men and women and begin to pray. We call the church the 30 days of prayer during the month of June and are posting daily prayer points and scriptures on the website that you can use to learn to pray the Word of God. Over the next four weeks, we're calling you to fast and pray on Tuesdays.

Why? Because we believe that prayer is essential for your life in Christ and for the life of this church. So whether you and I are in the middle of an urgent situation or not, we all need to learn from Jesus' prayer here.

So let's look at it again in verse 36. Abba, Father, he said, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will but what you will. Now listen to me. It's not complicated. Everybody can pray this way. There are no big words. It's not overly eloquent. It doesn't sound super spiritual or even highly educated.

It's simple but extremely powerful. And there is not a single solitary soul in this audience today who cannot learn to pray this way. Notice where he starts. Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Much like his instructions to his disciples, Jesus, to begin their prayers with, our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, Jesus starts by focusing on God's fatherly compassion and his sovereign power.

Abba, Father, it's easy for you and I to read that and not give it the weight it deserves. This is not a casual greeting. It's not a polite way to start a prayer. It's not just a way to address God. This is an expression of tenderness and intimacy and delight. Papa, Daddy, it's an exaltation of the character of God. To say Abba, Father is to adore God as he has revealed himself to us. Psalm 103 verse 13, as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him.

This is how God has revealed himself to us. And when we come to pray, we must believe that God is who he says he is and we must worship him with hearts full of praise just like the Psalmist did in Psalm 68. Sing to God. Sing praise to him.

Extol him who rides on the clouds. Rejoice before him. His name is the Lord, a father to the fatherless. A defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling. When you and I pray, we have to learn to begin by looking full into the face of our father and adoring our loving, merciful God. And when difficulty comes and you are tempted to question his character and disbelieve his love for you, you must repeat the truth of his word. Lamentations 3, 22 and 23, because of the Lord's great love for us, we are not consumed. For his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning. Listen, whether you feel like it or not, whether you like your circumstance or situation or not, the Word of God calls us to marvel, marvel and worship because of the great love of God for us. But there's another aspect of this that we must not overlook. To call God father is to identify yourself as a son or daughter. To say father to God is to identify yourself as a child of his, a child who has every expectation of being heard and welcomed into open arms. Just like my kids in trouble when they cry my name out, they expect me to hear.

Just like my boys when they run out the door in the evening and I come home from work and they yell, Daddy, they expect to be embraced and welcomed. Listen to what Ephesians 2 says about those of us who've been saved by God's grace. It says that apart from Christ, we were dead in our trespasses and sins. We were sons, but not sons of God, we were sons of disobedience who followed the passions and desires of our flesh.

We were by nature children of wrath. And then verse 4, but God, but God being rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved. Because of his great love for you through Christ Jesus, by faith in him, you can become, you are a son, a daughter of God. No longer a child of wrath, but adopted into the family of God by faith in Jesus.

Can I ask you a simple and obvious question? Do you know that you are a son or a daughter of the most high God? Have you by faith in Jesus been adopted into the family of God? Listen to me, you don't become a son on the basis of what you do or on the basis of what you don't do. You don't become a son because of who your parents were or where you went to church or if you went to church. You become a son by trusting in what Jesus has done for you. And today, for some of you, the most important thing you could do is embrace the rich mercy and grace of God that can make you a son or a daughter. Right now, right now, you could say to God, God, I know, I'm a child of wrath because I've followed my own desires. I've followed my own plans for myself.

I believe that Jesus died to pay the penalty for my sin and so I'm turning from that. Father, save me. Make me alive.

I trust you. I surrender my life to you. You can be a son, a daughter of God. And I want to be really clear here. You are either a son, a daughter, or you are not.

There is no in-between. And if you are a son, a daughter of God, then adore and worship your heavenly Father. First John 3.1 says, see what great love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God and that is what we are. Listen, by faith in Jesus, you are a beloved son, a treasured daughter, regardless of your circumstance. So bask in it, revel in it, embrace it, and worship your God. Abba, Father, everything is possible for you.

Everything is possible for you. This is a resounding declaration of faith in the middle of unbelievable turmoil. This is not an empty platitude. It is not Jesus buttering God up. It is anchored in all that He has seen God do. Jesus was there in the beginning when the world was created. He saw God make everything out of nothing.

He knows God can do anything. Jesus was there when God began to fulfill His promise to make a great nation out of impotent Abraham. He saw the Father rescue His children from the bondage of Egypt and bring them into the Promised Land.

Jesus was there when the lame walked and the blind received their sight and the dead walked out of the tomb. He knows nothing is impossible for God because He's seen God do the impossible. So in His crisis, in His impossible moment, Jesus remembers the deeds of God. He recalls the work of God and He gives Him thanks.

1 Thessalonians 5 gives us this instruction. Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. Give thanks in all circumstances for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Rejoice. Rejoice continually.

Why? Because the Most High God is your Father. And give thanks. Give thanks in every circumstance.

Why? Because nothing is too difficult for Him. Nothing is too hard for Him. Everything, everything is possible for Him. In crisis, you and I need to do what Jesus did. He set His gaze on God the Father. He started with who God was and what God could do. He came in with adoration and thanksgiving and the strength to forge ahead came not from a change in His circumstance but from the steadfast character of God.

The strength for Jesus to forge ahead came not from a change in His circumstance but from the steadfast character of God. Last week we were at the beach for a few days and I was watching my boys play in the sand and run in and out of the surf doing what six and seven year old boys do. And I'll have to say to you that I've learned more about the Father love of God by being a Father than I ever learned from being a son.

But this particular day I'll be honest and say I've been struggling. I was struggling with my disappointment about our circumstances and how long this thing has drawn out and the seeming inactivity of God in our situation. And as I watched my boys play around I heard this question rise up at me. Chris, if you knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what was best for your boys and you had the power to do it, would you? If you knew what was best for your boys beyond a shadow of a doubt and you had the power to do it, would you? And y'all with everything in me from the depths of my heart I answered, yes, yes, of course I would. I love my sons, yes, I would gladly do it. My problem is often I don't know what's best. Often I don't understand how to discipline them or what to give to them or how to lead them.

But if I knew and I had the power to do it I would in a New York minute do it, yes. And then I heard God say this to me, I'm that kind of dad. I'm that kind of dad. Matthew 7-11 came rushing to my mind. If you then being evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more?

How much more? How much more will your Heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask Him? Listen to me, our best praying in any situation will not come from a thorough examination of our circumstance but from a thorough exaltation of the character of God.

Can I say that again? Your best praying in any circumstance will not come from a thorough examination of your circumstance. It will come from a thorough exaltation of the character of God.

Why? Because more than I need to know the details of my situation and describe them to God as if He didn't already know. More than I need to formulate a plan of action and tell God how to fix it. More than I need anything else, I need to know who God is and who I am in Him. I need to be familiar with His ways.

I need to recall His deeds. I need to recount His promises because praying is more about getting to God than it is getting something from God. When you and I come to pray, we don't just need God's hand, we need His face.

More than I need what He can do, I need who He is. And our approach to prayer says everything about how much we believe that. Now let's look at the second half of Jesus' prayer. Take this cup from me, yet not what I will but what you will. Again, we see Jesus following the pattern for prayer that He gave in the model prayer when He taught us to pray, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

I find this to be so intriguing. Why would Jesus say, take this cup from me? Why would He say that? He knew there was no plan B. Jesus knew what the plan was for our redemption. In eternity past, He and the Father had conceived this plan and agreed on it. Revelation 13, 8 says, Jesus was the Lamb who was slain from the creation of the world. This is where the humanity of Jesus and the divinity of Jesus collide. Jesus, fully human, wanting to avoid the unimaginable pain that was in front of Him.

And Jesus, fully divine, willingly participating in the eternal plan for the redemption of mankind. Listen, this verse gives us both permission and direction. Permission to cry out to God, permission to honestly say, God, is there another way? I don't want to walk down this path. I don't want to endure this pain. I don't want to experience this heartache.

Can we please do it another way? You have permission to say that to God. He can handle your objection. He can deal with your complaint. According to this prayer, it is perfectly acceptable to ask God to change your circumstance.

And the scriptures are full of instances where God did just that. He heard His child's cry for help and He responded, so ask, ask, be honest, ask. You not only have permission, you've been instructed to ask. Matthew 7-7, ask and it will be given to you.

Seek and you will find. Knock and it will be opened to you. Philippians 4-6, do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God.

Or how about this one? Second Chronicles 7-14, if my people, if my sons and daughters, if my bride, if my church, if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. Clearly, God expects us to ask. But not only does this prayer of Jesus give me permission, it gives me direction. Yet not what I will, but what you will. This is not resignation, it's obedience.

It's not reluctant surrender. It wasn't the result of being defeated or overpowered by God. It was joyful, expectant embrace of the plans and purposes of God. Hebrews 12-2 says this, Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him, the joy anticipated, the joy expected, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, despising the shame. More than Jesus wants to escape pain and suffering in this moment, he wants to see your salvation purchased.

More than Jesus wanted out of that critical situation, Jesus wanted to make a way for you and I to come in to his presence. The heart that longs for a change of circumstance must also have a greater longing, a longing to see God accomplish his purposes in the way he deems best. Our hearts have to believe Psalm 18-30.

As for God, his way is perfect. And we need to learn to love God's dreams for us more than we love our dreams for ourselves. We need to learn to love the dreams and desires and purposes and plans of God for us more than we love our dreams and our desires for ourselves. And at the end of the day, you and I need to be able to say with confidence Psalm 33-10, the Lord foils the plans of the nations, he thwarts the purposes of the peoples, but the plans of the Lord, the good plans of the Lord stand firm forever. The purposes of his heart through all generations are Philippians 1-6.

I am confident of this, that he who began a good work in me will be faithful to carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ. But let me be clear here, you will never honestly pray, yet not what I will, but what you will, until your heart is saturated with praise and thanksgiving for who God is as your father and what he can do, which is absolutely anything. I don't know if you noticed this, but this prayer has four phrases. Only one is a petition.

Only one is an ask. 75% of Jesus' prayer is saturated with the glory and goodness and promises of God. And I'm convinced that if you and I would learn to pray that way, if we would learn to turn our prayer life right side up and start with who God is and start with what he's done and give him praise and thanksgiving, and after we unload our request, if we would willingly and joyfully say, you know what God, I'd rather have what you have planned for me than what I have planned for me. If we would saturate our prayers that way with the glory and goodness and promises of God, then I think we would find great, great fulfillment in our time with him. So I'd like to challenge you this week, today, to start praying this way. I'll be honest, it won't come naturally for you at first.

It hasn't for me. You will have to discipline yourself just like I do to pray through the character of God and the work of God. Listen, your instinct, just like mine, will be to rush to your request. But don't, don't sit, worship, adore your Father. In your Bible reading, look for verses that describe the character of God, that reveal who he is.

Write them down. Speak them back to him. Let them fuel your adoration and give God thanks. Think about what he's done for you. Think about how he's worked in your life. And again, let the scripture remind you of the things God has done on your behalf. Speak those back to him and give him thanks and gratitude for all he's done. And then make your request.

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. And then release your desires. And embrace his dreams and ask him to do all that is in his heart to do for you. Abba, Father, everything is possible for you.

Take this cup, yet not what I will, but what you will. Would you join me and let's pray? That our heart's desire today is that you would open our eyes to see and know and trust and believe in your great love for us, in your awesome power and your deeds on our behalf. And God, we cry out to you in this moment and say, God, would you change this circumstance?

Would you move in this area of our life? But God, we willingly and gladly embrace your dreams and your desires for us. And we say, God, do all that's in your heart to do. In Jesus' name, amen.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-04 11:06:58 / 2023-09-04 11:19:13 / 12

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