The Christmas season can be full of encouraging stories and many wonderful opportunities to share the gospel message, however it can also be an exhausting experience for both the Pastor and the congregation as they try to reach out to their community with the gospel message.
Over the next few weeks as the Christmas season winds down, there will be many changes around us: the decorations will be put away until next year, the lights will all be taken down, the parties will cease, and the number of visitors in our churches will decline… This can be a discouraging time for the Pastor and the church.
Allow me to remind you today, success in ministry is not based on attendance. Success in ministry is about surrender, obedience, and discipleship.
Read Matthew 14:25-32,
25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea.
26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear.
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”
29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!”
31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
1) Being a disciple of Jesus means that there will be times and seasons where we must work and serve in the darkness.
I think many ministers often consider the work we do as a ministry of light, which it is; but, let me remind you that a light is most noticeable when shone in the darkness. It is wrong for us to have an expectation that we will always work and serve in the safety and comfort of the light.
2) Working in the dark can be scary.
How long has it been since you stayed up all night? Do you remember what it is like to be in the dark? About 15 years ago my wife and I moved out of the city into the country. This move was one of the best things we could have done for our relationship and our marriage, but it was also full of some new experiences… At that time in our life, my wife and I were accustomed to staying up late at night during the hot summers because it was cooler outside. We would sit outside and talk our go out with friends, not leaving until the sun had already gone down for the night.
Our move into the country taught us several lessons, one of which was about real darkness. In the country of the desert Southwest, the nights are dark. The darkness was so extensive, that unless there was a moon out, we could not see our own hand in front of our face. In the city, the street lights and store fronts hid the reality of the darkness from us – but in the country, the total absence of light set this truth in us to the extent that it changed the way we lived.
3) Be strong and courageous, because Jesus is the Great I AM.
Jesus always says the perfect thing at the perfect time. In the darkness, when fear sets in we need to remember who we serve: I AM. There is no darkness which Jesus cannot see through or illuminate. There is nothing which Jesus fears. There is no obstacle which Jesus cannot overcome. When you think that all options are gone, and there is no hope… Remember, Jesus walks on water- He makes His own way. Do not limit The LORD to our own understanding.
4) The proper response to Jesus is always, command me LORD.
Peter seems to always be singled out as the disciple that speaks before he thinks. This is not the place for me to argue this seemingly well-accepted viewpoint; nevertheless, Peter’s response here is perfect. Peter responds with the only response possible when we find ourselves standing before The LORD, viewing His awesome majesty. Peter responds, command me LORD. What a profound statement, command me LORD. How much would our churches and world change if more believers, more disciples made this one simple statement their constant prayer, command me LORD…
5) Expect to be commanded, and be prepared to act.
I don’t know what Peter’s expectations were, but I do know that Peter responded immediately to the command of The LORD. We too should be ready and willing to respond to the command.
Being prepared to respond means that we must’ve good stewards of our resources and hold no allegiance to anyone or anything apart from Jesus. If Jesus responds with the command, move to Alaska. We must be prepared to move. If Jesus responds with, go to seminary. We must be prepared to attend. If Jesus responds, disciple your family. We must be prepared to disciple.
6) Be strong in faith.
Peter responded to the command of Jesus, but when he encountered resistance, his faith left him and he began to sink. Success in discipleship is not in the response, it is in the faith. When Peter began to sink it was fear that captured him again, and this time instead of asking Jesus to command him, Peter ask Jesus to save him.
Jesus saved Peter. Jesus brought Peter back into the boat safely. The wind stopped.
As disciples we need to spend a lot less time trying to ‘live our best life now’ and a lot more time praying for faith. It is the in-the-darkness, in-the-fear, during-the-storm, and the stepping-out-of-the-boat moments which glorify Jesus. That is what disciples do, right? We serve our LORD as He commands to bring Him glory and honor.
As we enjoy this Christmas day, and as we spread the gospel to those who visit us tomorrow, let’s remember that exhaustion and attendance decline are not products of faith, they are results of busy schedules and cultural overtones.
Let’s start praying today, LORD command us, and let’s be prepared to act when Jesus speaks.