Allen Jackson - The Courage To Lead With Faith - Part 2
It's a privilege to be with you today. We wanna complete our discussion on "The Courage to Lead with Faith". You know, the real test of my Christianity is not who I am when I'm at church, who I am when I'm standing on a platform. The real test of my Christianity is who I am when I'm standing in the midst of people who aren't godly. Does my faith hold up in that place? Do I have the courage and the boldness, the humility to give honor and glory to Jesus of Nazareth in an environment where that's not always well received? Well, I believe God is raising up a generation to do just that, and I wanna be a part of it. Grab your Bible and a notepad, but most importantly, open your heart.
There's an expression of courage to step out of the crowd, the public display of humility that changed a man's future. I don't think we often imagine that humility will change our future; we think boldness will change our future, brazenness seizing the moment, a lot of those things. Jesus is in Capernaum. "When he had finished saying all these things in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. And a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. And the centurion heard of Jesus and sent some of the elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal the servant".
Now up to this point, the Scripture reads, as you would expect it to be. Arguably the most powerful leader in this community is the Roman centurion. He has the Jews to make anything he wants to happen, and he has a servant who's sick. And so he goes to the Jewish leaders and says, "Bring that rabbi to me". Everything is on track at this point. You're reading it, and you're going, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, we've seen powerful people abuse their power". "When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him". We don't know whether it's out of sincerity or fear, but they're earnest in their pleas. They say, "This man deserves to have you do this. He loves our nation, and he has built our synagogue".
So a remarkable sentence, Jesus went with them. If you know the gospels very well, you know Jesus refuses most Gentiles. A woman comes asking for help for a child, and Jesus said, "I didn't come for the dogs". I don't know any language interpretation that gets you out of that awkward moment. But in this case, Jesus says he went with them. "And when he is not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to say to him, 'Lord, don't trouble yourself, I don't deserve to have you come under my roof. That's why I didn't even consider myself worthy to come to you. But if you'll say the word, my servant will be healed. I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I tell this one, 'Go' and he goes; and I tell one to come and he comes and I say to my servant, 'Do this.' And you know he does it".
When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and he turned to the crowd following him, and he said, "'I tell you, I haven't found such great faith in Israel.' And the men who'd been sent returned to the house and found the servant well". Now this was a man willing to step out of the crowd. He's a Roman centurion. He's powerful, he's respected, he's feared, he has a position of significance. And I would submit to you, he risked a great deal in approaching Jesus. He could have had Jesus brought to him in chains. He could have had Jesus frog marched to the front door of his home. He chose a completely different path. He approached Jesus with humility. He gave us the inside information. He said, "I didn't consider myself worthy to even approach you myself". Are you kidding me?
I'll give you one more example. Acts chapter 5, Jesus is back in heaven. The apostles are hard after it. They're telling their Jesus' story and the antagonism's already been ratcheted up. They've been arrested, they've been released, they've been arrested again. In verse 27, "Having brought the apostles, they made them appear before the Sanhedrin to be questioned by the high priest". You should know this is the mob that orchestrated Jesus' death. The Romans did it, but it's the high priest in the Sanhedrin and those that are their followers that brought the angry mob that demanded Jesus' death. "We gave you strict orders not to teach in this name," he said, "'Yet you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you're determined to make us guilty of this man's blood.'"
That's true, they are. They've been saying in the streets, every time they get a half a chance, "You killed the Messiah". Peter and the other apostles replied, "We must obey God rather than men". That is not a conciliatory statement. "The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead, whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree". I mean, technically, the Romans did that, but Peter is pointing it directly at the high priest. "God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him". You did it, we saw it, and we're gonna tell it. "When they heard this, they were furious, and they wanted to put them to death".
I wanna stop there just a moment, because the overwhelming message in the contemporary church is that we have to be conciliatory with evil. We don't need to be angry or belligerent. And for people who have no knowledge of the gospel, who know nothing about God, I believe we do have an assignment to help them understand the implications, and that requires kindness. But we are not coached to be kind to those amongst us who are living ungodly in ungodly ways. We're called to help one another, to speak the truth to one another, to not give them our encouragement and our affirmation. And the message has been so convoluted that the current version of evangelicalism is wandering aimlessly.
If you look at that, Peter and the other apostles, they are poking their finger in the eye of the high priest and the Sanhedrin. You did it, and we saw it. And we're gonna tell everybody we can find. What do you expect them to say? We're gonna shut you down. Well, I feel called to more of a covert approach. Well, you know, I would've told people I love Jesus, but they told me I wasn't supposed to say that. Peter and his crew already been in jail. It's the end of the story that intrigues me. "There was a Pharisee named Gamaliel. He's the teacher of the law, and he was honored by all the people. He stood up in the Sanhedrin".
Now they are in a murderous rage in the Sanhedrin, and they have acted on that before. They have the ability. It's not a question, it's not theoretical. "He stands up in the Sanhedrin and order that the men, Peter and the crew would be put outside for a little while, and he addressed them: 'Men of Israel consider carefully what you intend to do to these men.'" Gamaliel, he steps out of the crowd. He is on an island in a group of angry, murderous, violent, self-absorbed people, and he defends Peter and the apostles from an angry mob. He risks a great deal. He is aligning himself with a crucified criminal and the uneducated, unsophisticated troublemakers who follow him. And he doesn't have a support group. It says the people respect him, but in that group of people they could care less. The people are a tool to be manipulated. Gamaliel stepped out of the crowd.
I wanna give you a little practical application 'cause that's my preference. Remember, "Let's Pray"? Some of you were here years ago, we did a little, "Let's Pray," we did more than a little "Let's Pray" series. I gave you a tool for taking prayer out of the church. I wanna do, "Let's Pray 201". Can you stand it? I'll give you a little refresher on what let's pray is, but 201, we're gonna take it another step. I wanna raise your effectiveness a little bit if we can. There the Bible tells us very clearly there are different types of prayer. I think you understand this intuitively, but sometimes we avoid it. You know, in more technical language, prayer is an uncountable noun. You can say, "We all got together and prayed," and the implication is there were multiple prayers that were prayed.
So when we talk about prayer, inferred in the language is that there are many kinds of prayer: prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of intercession, prayers of healing, prayers of deliverance, prayers for direction. This isn't that complicated. Cooking would be another noun that carries with it multiple implications. If you say you are cooking, we don't really know what you're doing. I mean, we kind of know what you're engaged in, but we don't know if you're frying chicken or boiling beans. And they're very different activities, and the outcomes are very divergent. I prefer the chicken fryers, especially if you're potato mashers along with that. And if you happen to find some cream gravy, you are godly and anointed. But we understand there's very different activities involved in those outcomes, and yet all of that comes under the umbrella of cooking.
When we talk about prayer, you know what we typically will, you know, I just, I don't pray. That's like saying I don't cook. What that means is you go hungry or somebody else cooks. When you say, "I don't pray," either you go without God's intervention or you're counting on somebody else to pray. We can't afford to live those lives. There are prayers for different outcomes. I gave you a little list with a sentence prayer for each one in your notes. You can snap a picture, put it in your phone. You got a little handy dandy prayer guide for seven different objectives for somebody that needs God to improve their health. We just pray this together. It's one sentence, you can read it with me.
"Lord, give us Your strength for this day. In Jesus' name". You just prayed a healing prayer. You fanatic. Jesus said, "Give us this day our daily bread". He didn't say, "Give me all the bread I'm ever gonna need forever, and put it in a warehouse, and bring me the key". God, give me the strength I need for this day. I brought you a prayer for those of you who are plagued with worry and anxiety; let's read it together. "Father, may Your peace fill our hearts and minds today. In Jesus' name, amen". Lord, today give me your peace. But have you seen what's happened? Yeah, I've seen. Lord, give me your peace today. I brought you a prayer for problems in our lives. Do you ever have problems? I know you do. You share them with me. If you listen, I give them back to you. I will pray with you, but I usually say, "You really have a problem". Let's pray together. "Father, give us Your wisdom today. In Jesus' name, amen".
Discouragement, it is palpable in our nation, a lot of it based on real facts, but I brought you a prayer. Let's read it together. "Lord, fill us with joy and hope as we move through our day, amen". Loneliness, it's not about being alone, you can be lonely in the midst of a crowd. We don't know the presence of God that brings comfort. Let's pray together. "Father, send Your angels to stand beside us today. In Jesus' name, amen". A heaviness, an oppression, it brings a spiritual lethargy to you. It's just, it's difficult to do what you wanna do. I brought you a prayer. "Father, lift the spirit of despair and bring Your hope to us today. In Jesus' name, amen".
Weariness, sometimes I just get tired of doing good. Do you ever get that way? You know, I've had to learn like the warning signs when I'm losing, and one of 'em is how I respond when I drive. If everybody on the road annoys me, I need some alone time with the Lord. Like you pull out in front of me, I just wanna hit you. And then, you know, I'd like to back up and hit you again 'cause you need the reminder. And then I'll hop out and hand you a magnet, "Jesus is Lord," and then I'll just go right on. And I know when I get to that place, it's not a good place. So if you're a little weary with doing good, I brought you a prayer. Let's read it together. "Father, help carry our burden through this day: give us a sense of Your rest. In Jesus' name, amen".
Now I just gave you a quiver full of spiritual arrows, tools to use against the enemy. I don't like playing defense; I like making a way when the Lord allows us to. So I'll tell you real quickly, I've got a couple of minutes, how you can get those arrows into action. It is really the simplest kind of prayer. I know it's a listening prayer. We are social creatures. We are. And if you grew up in the south, especially so, 'cause we're coached as children to ask questions. You know, "Hi, I'm Allen, and how are you? It's nice to see you. How're you doing today"?
Now, many of you are not from the South. Okay, you've come here from the north or from California. I went to California a couple of weeks ago. I just need to know if there was anybody left out there on the West Coast, there are people there. Well, when somebody that has been in the South for a long season says to you, you know, "How are you or how do you feel today"? They don't care. Their mama taught them to ask that question. And when they didn't ask it, they got smacked. So we can tell who you are 'cause when we ask, you say something. Bless your hearts. But in seriousness, we are social creatures and the people you work with, and the people who live near you, and your kids go to school with, you have a little banter. And if you will listen just a little bit, if you'll step out of yourself and listen just a little bit, people are telling you a great deal.
"How are you doing"? "Well, I'm not great today, the kids were sick. My husband's traveling this week so I got the whole household. Or one of my parents, I had to take him to the doctor. Or I had a flat tire on the car. Or the pump on my washing machine is out, and I got a pile of wet laundry in the house". They'll let you in on what's happening in their life. Now, at that point, you have a decision to make: you can stay on the broad road of a well-coached southerner and just say nothing, or you can step away from the crowd and make an invitation for the Lord. And I'll tell you how to do it without looking like a complete crackpot. Okay, it's two little words, all you have to do is say, "Let's pray".
Now those two words are really, really important 'cause if you don't do it that way, you're gonna get shut down, if you look at them and go, "Would it be okay with you if I invited Almighty God to intervene on behalf of your washing machine". If they have a two digit IQ, they're gonna say, "No thank you, I'm good. I've called a repairman, I think we got this covered". And some of you're a little more, you know, you'll go, well, you know, "My pastor, he's a bold Bible preaching, devil chasing rascal. And this last Sunday, he told me I was gonna meet you, and I'm ready. Can I pray"? And I hope they get away from you. But if you will say, "Let's pray," not waiting for any affirmation from them, a response. You just say, "Let's pray".
Now here's the key. You only get one sentence. Every one of those prayers I gave you is a sentence. You only get one sentence. Don't quote your favorite verse, don't give 'em a link to last week's sermon, don't ask 'em for their address or their email. You get one sentence. Maybe they said to you, the kids were sick last night. "Father, I pray for health in this family. In Jesus' name, amen". Maybe he said that the washing machine's broke. "Father, I pray you'll bring peace where there is stress. In Jesus' name, amen". Maybe one of the parents is traveling this week. "God, let all the tasks get done more easily than normal. In Jesus' name, amen". You get one sentence, all right.
Now you've closed your eyes. It's better 'cause they're stared at you like they have never seen a human being like you before. You have stepped out of the crowd. There you stand. All right, now when you say "Amen," this is very important part of this little process 'cause there's something innate within us. If you've stepped out of the crowd, you would like affirmation. You would like them to say, "You know, when you prayed, it was as if warm oil was being poured over my head. I could feel it dripping down my beard". You want that response 'cause it would make you feel better about standing there on that island for just that 30 seconds. But you waiting for that affirmation, if I can tell you, is creepy 'cause you usually give a whole host of non-verbal signals going.
You got these looks that we crank out like... And you're, you know, it's really trying to see if you can get them to feel awkward enough to say something. Please don't do that. When you say "Amen," you move on. Great day for Tennessee yesterday. You think the Titans are gonna manage another miracle today? Hadn't the weather been beautiful? I love fall in Tennessee. It's almost lunchtime. If preacher will hush, we can go eat. Whatever you need to move past that moment, don't pick it back up. If they say, "Thank you," treat it casually, absolutely. If they're weeping, act like you don't notice. Don't make it about you. You have done two things: you have invited God into that circumstance, and you have introduced them to a person that they now imagine might pray. And those are two invaluable outcomes.
Folks, it's time for us to step out of the crowd. Now, I gave you a little toolkit of prayers and a little process around "Let's pray," but you can step out of the crowd in how you deal with your time, how you serve, how you give. Get out of the crowd. Decide which path you wanna walk and then get after it. There's one of the most amazing statements in the Bible. It's near the end of the book of Revelation. And the coaching is not what I would've expected. It said, "If you wanna be wicked, be more wicked still. But if you wanna be righteous, be more righteous still".
And I really think that's where we're standing as a church right now in our culture. We have to decide if we wanna be numbered amongst the godly or not. We have been so concerned that we were gonna bruise someone's feelings that we have buried the lead. Jesus changes everything. I brought you a prayer. It's more than a sentence. So I'm gonna ask you to pray it with me. Why don't we stand together? It's really an invitation to boldness, that the Lord would help us. He will meet you. Are you ready?
Heavenly Father, give us a spirit of prayer and intercession. Open our hearts to the reality of Your kingdom and purposes. Give us boldness as we live for You. Manifest Your glory in our midst, that others may see the majesty and glory of our God. May Your name be praised and Your purposes break forth in this generation. In Jesus' name, amen.