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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Allen Jackson » Allen Jackson - Let's Do Difficult - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Let's Do Difficult - Part 1

Allen Jackson - Let's Do Difficult - Part 1
TOPICS: Let's Do Difficult

It's a privilege to be with you today. Our topic is "Let's Do Difficult". You know, there is an attitude that has taken root in contemporary American evangelicalism that our faith is intended to make life easy, that the goal of Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and Earth, is to make us happy pretty much 24/7. You get that notion if you just review the list of top-selling books or the top titles for messages that we write. I'm not opposed to happy and I believe God wants the very best for us, but I also believe God gives us assignments that will take the very best we have, that will require determination, perseverance, that will require us to endure. And that's not always fun. If we want God's best in our life and we wanna lay up treasure in heaven, I believe we're gonna have to learn to do difficult as a part of the kingdom of God. Enjoy the lesson.

I want to continue a theme we began in the previous couple of sessions using a conjunction, two little words "let us". There's a fun Bible study. If you want to do a little extracurricular reading, do all the "let us" statements in the book of Hebrews. It's a corporate call to action. And we looked at a handful of them together in some previous sessions. But I want to take that idea forward with a little different direction. And I want to spend a few sessions talking to you about "Let's Do Difficult". Thank you for that overwhelming response. I can tell you're excited. You know. I'll take it. Let's go. Preach it, pastor. If they're not here to say it, I'll just do it for myself. I like the Navy Seals motto, not that I had the ability to be one, but I enjoy it when I see it in others. It said "the only easy day was yesterday," and it feels to me that we have an addiction to easy.

There was a whole marketing campaign not too many years ago where a major nationwide chains, the campaign was they had an easy button for you. Everything was easy. Shop at our store, it's easy. And I think we're addicted to easy. And I think it's just as true in the church that it is outside of the church. And I have an announcement for you. Between where we are and excellence, we're gonna have to get over it being easy. Difficult is the difference between mediocre and excellence. And I don't wanna offer to the Lord something that's mediocre. I don't want my discipleship journey being described that way. I don't want my commitment to God being described that way. I don't want to be presumptuous or arrogant or any of those things, self righteous, and that's going to require us to have a change of attitude, folks. We're presiding, our generation, actually, several generations of us now, it's not just mine. You know, it's much easier for the younger people to point at the older people and go, "It's your fault".

So make it better. If the younger people look at the old people and say, "You've made us ungodly," then you be godly. Let your righteousness rain down in such a way that it brings conviction to the people who are ahead of you. I can speak to my generation, folks. We've presided over the most precipitous decline of Christian influence in the history of the church. That's our story at the moment. Now, I'm not content with that. It's foolish to point at big churches and go, "Look at what we did". The percentage of people in this community going to church is the smallest it's ever been. There's no place for them. Look at the neighborhoods we've built, the apartments we've built, the grocery stores we've built, the schools we have built. We haven't even become close to keeping up with church construction, not even remotely so. The influence of the church is in decline, and we wanna point at politicians or global changes or post modernity or some knucklehead that says we're a post-Christian whatever. Stop it. God hasn't relinquished his interest in humanity.

So what are we going to say? Are we gonna continue to surrender? Will we be like the British prime minister while the Nazis were occupying more and more of Europe? He boldly announced peace in his time so he could look away from what was happening on the continent. Or will we have the courage to engage? Well, I want to spend a few sessions talking to you about what I think biblically we're called to do now, and it's going to be an invitation that we're going to look at from a variety of ways. It's not just doing things that are uncomfortable or awkward or we would rather not do. It's recognizing the difficulties. The difference between being pregnant with possibility and celebrating a new life is doing something difficult. You don't get that new life without difficult. And then the church has waffled on this. We've been waiting for somebody else to do it. We're in an election cycle again, and we, as like idolaters, we think some politicians are gonna fix us. That's the wrong idea.

I saw Steve Jobs quote that I liked a lot. I don't quote Steve Jobs a lot, but he said, "If you really look closely, most overnight successes took a long time". I believe that's true. We want God to fix our problems. We want one of those instantaneous Red Sea parting things. But the preamble for the parting of the Red Sea was about 400 years long. There was a lot of harsh days of labor at the end of the whip. There was a baby being set adrift in a basket. There was the murder of an Egyptian by an overzealous Hebrew who had grown up in Pharaoh's palace. There's a lot of years on the backside of the desert feeling like a failure, filled with rejection. There's a lot of things that happened before that Red Sea parted. And that example is true in almost every one of our lives. If you look carefully and you know the rest of the story, overnight successes take a long time. Are we willing to put in what's necessary so that the generations who come behind us will know freedom and liberty and faith in ways that we haven't known?

It's a very important question, and I wanna explore it with you. And I think biblically there's some things perhaps we've overlooked. I want to just start with Mark. We're reading Mark's Gospel right now. If you're doing the Bible reading with us, and I hope you are, we're in Mark. And so the majority of the text I have pulled tonight, I've just taken out of our reading. I thought it might add a little momentum to what you're doing. But in Mark 10, Mark is the oldest of the gospels. Most scholars agree that it was written before Matthew, Luke, or John, that Matthew and Luke certainly would have had access to it.

Says, "They were on their way up to Jerusalem," this is Jesus and his disciples and the group that travels with them, "with Jesus leading the way, the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. And again," meaning he's done this more than once, this is repetitious, "Again Jesus took the Twelve aside and he told him what was going to happen to him. 'We're going up to Jerusalem,' he said, 'and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They'll condemn him to death and they'll hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him, and kill him. Three days later, he'll rise.'"

Jesus is leading the way to Jerusalem. This is his last trip, at least on this section of his entry into time. And those that are going with him, his closest friends, can't believe he's going back to Jerusalem. He's narrowly escaped the last time he was there. That's the power center. The ones who hate him the most have all the power in the city of Jerusalem. And they have declared publicly and privately their intent to destroy Jesus, and yet he's going back, but he's not only going back, he's leading the way. He's leading the parade. So his closest friends, they just can't believe it. Can you believe he's going again? We gotta go with him but they're gonna... what are we gonna do? And those that are following, but a little further out in from the epicenter of that group, they're just afraid. Mark just says that the rest of them who were following were just flat out afraid.

What's gonna happen? Are you prepared for the people that knew Jesus the best, that ate with him, walked with him, helped him do miracles, were in the boat when he walked on, all the stuff. They're frightened with Jesus next to them. And it says Jesus then repeated to them what he's already told them, "When we get to Jerusalem, I'm gonna be betrayed. And the religious leaders, the people you would expect to be our allies and our advocates, they're gonna condemn me to death. They're gonna hand me over to the Gentiles". There's very few things you could say that would be more distressing to somebody in the Jewish community than "we're gonna hand you over to the non-Jews".

We're gonna hand you over to somebody that has no concern whatsoever for your traditions, no respect for what you say you believe. We're gonna abandon you. It's very difficult for us to imagine the magnitude of that statement. "They're gonna hand me over to the Gentiles, and they'll mock me, spit on me. They'll flog me," it's an old English word. "They're gonna beat me, and they'll kill me". The followers are afraid. The disciples are astonished that Jesus is thinking about it. Jesus is fully aware of what awaits him in Jerusalem. He's told his friends repeatedly. He's trying to tell them. They can't believe it. They can't hear him. In a very different way, but in a very similar way, we're struggling with that these days.

We're watching things happen that, even though when they're acknowledged before us, they're verified, they're fact-checked, it's difficult to believe. It's difficult to believe that our government is currently monitoring people who purchase Bibles, but they are. That's wrong. No kidding! No kidding. They're brazenly saying we're the greatest threat to the freedom and the liberty of this nation. It's hard to process. You think, "Oh, it couldn't be. You're being po...", I'm not being political at all. I'm just observing what's being reported. We're watching things which are difficult to believe. Is it safe to say that that passage we just read from Mark is not an easy assignment? To be betrayed. You'll be scourged. You'll be spit upon. They're gonna torture you to death. I'm not overstating that, right? Is that difficult?

What I wanna begin in this session and I'm gonna repeat it and we'll approach it from several different vantage points but is a perspective on our faith that is discussed less frequently. It's not the most common title in the Christian bookstores. If you go scan contemporary sermons on YouTube, this probably won't be in the top ten list. For clarity's sake, I'm not introducing something new, not something that's been previously hidden, hasn't been considered. There's no new gospel here. Nothing like that. In fact, it's old news. What I would like to do is turn the light on in the room of our greatest accomplishments. I'm gonna remind you some of the most heroic stories that are a part of our story, our most unexpected triumphs.

However, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I want to help focus our attention not on the end result but on the things which preceded that wonderful moment, that wonderful moment when the enemy was vanquished, when the threat has been eliminated, when the fear has been routed and helplessness is dissipated. Our Bible is filled with those. We can have testimonies in this place, almost in an unending stream of times and places where God has intervened. I want to do that because, quite candidly, I believe that we have lived for too long on the sacrifices of others, the effort of love that has been borne by our predecessors. Too much of our success has been birthed by the labor pains of others. We have a great deal, a great deal of freedom and a great deal of liberty and a great deal of access to the Word of God.

And we have churches, particularly in the part of the world where we live, in abundance and options and opportunities. It's a wonderful thing. But very candidly, we have not sacrificed greatly nor suffered deeply to have those things, the overwhelming majority of us. We live in comfortable homes, often with kitchens and bathrooms that are large enough to be efficiency apartments in most places in the world. We have access to global communications tools, which were once reserved for leaders of nations. We expect to travel frequently and to accumulate experiences for ourselves and for our children. For many years now, interest rates were low, energy was abundant, opportunities were frequent. Good character has not been required for quite a season.

Moral boundaries or limits, they have been for deconstructing. We have been told so frequently. We expect it. We've heard it so often. It's been ingrained in us: We are amazing. There are no limits. We can do anything we want to do. And we've heard it as much in the church as any place else. And we believe we deserve all of these things and more. We deserve more. You should find more words and more language to tell me how remarkable I am and what I should expect someone to give me. Well, spoiler alert, we need to consider more than the advertisements of greatness and self-satisfaction. Let's pause for just a moment for a bit of adjustment on some situational awareness. Where are we really? And what's happening? A glance at our personal communicational tools and turn our focus to our location finders.

Can we do that? I'm sure I'm not the most adept with my phones or my pads or my computers. There are those of you in the room far ahead of me. But I get those constant queries, you know. Turn on your location. Go to your settings and adjust this because if the devices don't know where you are, they're not gonna give you any direction. And you can glance at all kinds of facts and all kinds of information, but until you know where you are, you have no perspective, no adjustment to make in relation to everything else. Well, in the Christian Church, we've been busy gathering information, and we can spout facts and quote verses and say what we know and what we believe. But until we understand where we are, and that takes a bit of the Holy Spirit's help, I believe he has to awaken us from the slumber of self-centeredness. But I believe he's willing to do that if we'll raise our hands.

It's what Jesus was doing with the disciples. We're going to Jerusalem. Duh, we can't believe you're going to Jerusalem. And when we get there, bad things are going to... that's why we're afraid! But then he spelled it out to them in detail, and they were going, "Uh, I don't hear him," because when those things started happening, they were completely unprepared, caught totally off guard. If we had known this was gonna happen. I've been telling you for months. A little situational awareness is helpful. There's some things you should know. They're not necessarily good things. They're not necessarily bad things. They just describe the world we live in right now in our nation as a people. As citizens of this nation, if you have passports, we are currently more than $34 trillion in debt, and that's one of the lowest possible numbers. It could easily be three times that. That's an almost unimaginable amount of money.

Now, I understand we don't really care. I get it, folks. If we don't care, it doesn't matter to us because we don't intend to pay it back. Because we've now become a people who don't think we have to pay our debts. Well, I was tricked into it. I didn't understand what I signed. Well, I expected to make more money than I currently make. Therefore, I don't want to pay it. We got a whole litany of things. But the reason $34 trillion does not unsettle us is we don't think it's our responsibility. This is not some fantasy we're living. The global community is not filled with hugs and high fives. A little perspective on what a trillion dollar is. A million seconds is was about 12 days, a billion seconds about half a lifetime, somewhere like 32 years. A trillion seconds is more than all of recorded history, more than 32,000 years.

There's a big difference in a million and a trillion. We are $34 trillion, the lowest possible evaluation, trillion dollars in debt. Some people remember Ross Perot, a little business guy from Texas, had kind of a squeaky voice and charts, before Karl Rove. He talked to us about jobs leaving North America, leaving the United States, and the perilous debt when Ross Perot was squeaking at us on television, our national debt was about a trillion dollars. He'd stroke out. It's a problem. If that glance through that window isn't of appeal to you, well, let's take a look at a different way. We're having a struggle right now keeping pornographic material out of our schools. We're having a hard time doing that in our own community. Forget the larger cities or the places that you think are the epicenters of evil. We're having a hard time here.

And the language that's being used is, "I'm not for banning books". Duh. Who is? That's nothing to do with banning books. It's a manipulation of language. It's deceptive, and it's dishonest. Pay attention. Think. What it is about is age-appropriate information. We don't teach nine- and ten-year-olds to drive. It's not because they won't be brilliant one day or highly coordinated, but they don't yet have either the emotional maturity or the physical dexterity to entrust the kind of decisions that are required to drive and maintain public safety. It's not a lack of love for them. It's not questioning their ability to mature into that. We understand it's not age-appropriate. You have to be 21 years old to buy alcohol. And yet we're doing our best. There are forces amongst us very determined, and I don't mean someplace else, in our own community, to sexualize seven-, eight-, nine-, and ten-year-olds. And we don't like to think about that.

What can we do? What should we do? Well, you should talk to your friends about it. You should be certain it doesn't happen in your schools. You should know who's an advocate for that. Just exactly why do you think that's a good idea? I'm not for a book banning, doesn't have anything to do with banning books. Let's give nine-year-olds driver's licenses. Let's give them all Mastercards. Well, they've already got yours. I forgot. I'm sorry. Maybe the best window into this, the most startling, the most uncomfortable window into this is the Jeffrey Epstein debacle. He and his friends are a rather uncomfortable reminder to the rest of us that presidents and princes and celebrities and musicians and thought leaders and hundreds of others that we have revered in the public square, we've celebrated them.

We've heaped honors upon them. We've seen the Kennedy Center honor to them. We've given them awards in Hollywood. We have held them up as the most revered people amongst us, and they've been leering at our children and teenagers with predatory glee. This isn't imagination. It's not some frivolous accusation. It's our reality giving full expression to their perverted desires. Now, the tragedy in that isn't their immoral, ungodly, perverse behavior. The real tragedy in that is neither the media, nor law enforcement, nor the general public have seemed overly concerned. That's what we see through the window.

Now, I'm of the opinion that the church is the front line of the future and that our choices regarding God, ourselves, and obedience to him will determine the kind of future that we experience. People of faith are a more accurate indicator of what is next than emerging defense spending, political elections, or leading economic indicators.

Now, I know I can be accused of some self-delusion because I'm a professional Christian and why wouldn't we believe that? But the people of God understand, if you've read the book, you understand that those are all important components for understanding what is happening. But Almighty God is the one who directs the course of nations, and he responds to the conditions of the hearts of his people. And if our hearts are right before him, there is no adversary that will overcome us, no economic problem that he won't shepherd us through. But if our hearts are turned away from him and we've plunged into ungodliness and indulgence and immorality and we're living presumptively and arrogantly, there is no defense or economic uptick that will protect us from his judgment. We're the leading indicators.

I didn't come to give you that analysis today. You can make your own. What is the trend? There were times in our nations where the most beautiful buildings in the cities were the churches are being constructed, the tallest, the most expansive, the most elaborate. I'm not arguing for more elaborate church buildings. I'm simply saying there have been times and seasons in our own history when there was a very prominent public display of the value we attach to our faith, and it seems to me that we've spent decades removing it from the public squares, from our universities, from our hospitals. You can't take the name of Jesus to our college campuses, but you can go demonstrate and be in favor of terrorists. And we struggle to have the courage to say Jesus belongs in a corporate boardroom. Before we go, we want to pray.

Heavenly Father, I pray you'll give us the boldness to stand for you in the midst of this most significant season. I thank you that through the blood of Jesus, you have delivered us out of the hand of the enemy, that you've given us everything we need for life and godliness. May we live in such a way that you're pleased with us and your purposes break forth in the Earth, in Jesus's name. Amen.

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