Andy Stanley - Leading Strong In Troubled Times
You know in times like these, there are several things that we can't be without. But one of those things is decisive and compassionate leadership. So, if you are a marketplace leader, if you are a community leader or you're just responsible for leading your family through these troubled times, Jesus has four words for you. These four words have stopped me in my tracks on multiple occasions. When I heed them, I'm a much better leader and when I don't I gain the world but I lose a bit of my soul and I lose the respect of the fantastic people that are around me. And we'll get back to that in just a minute.
As you probably know, we're in part five of our series You're Not Far. This is a story that should've died in Nero's Rome but it didn't. It's the story of Jesus of Nazareth as told by Simon Peter dictated to and edited by John Mark. And this comes to us in our modern era as the Gospel of Mark. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Now, as we've said every week in this series Mark wasn't writing the bible. Mark was simply documenting the life or the experience that Peter had with Jesus. And right up front Peter gives us the bottom line. He said, "Everywhere Jesus went, every time he preached, every time He taught, This was the theme of his preaching and his teaching", and here it is. Jesus would say, "The time has come. The Kingdom of God has come near". Which means you are never far.
Repent and believe the good news. And as we've said throughout this series the idea of repenting here wasn't a negative it was a positive. It meant to turn forward and to turn and face this extraordinary new world order. This new world view and face this new set of values and embrace it for your life. Now, previously on You're Not Far, Jesus has just finished accusing religious leaders from Jerusalem of being hypocrites. He said, "They were guilty of elevating their own traditions above the actual commands of God". And after he calls them hypocrites, he sends them packing and send them back to Jerusalem. And then Jesus and his disciples along with a crowd they actually go north from there all the way up to the region of Caesarea Philippi. And something very extraordinary and very significant happens here.
This is the place where Jesus turns to his disciples and he says, "What's the word on the street about me? What are people saying about me"? And they said, "Well, some people think you're a prophet and some people think you're John the Baptist reincarnated". And then Jesus asked this question, you may remember this he said, "But you guys, you've been with me for a little while now. Who do you say that I am"? And Peter announces, "We believe that you are the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of God", and then Jesus does something extraordinary. He does not say, "No, no, no. You're gettin' carried away, Peter". Jesus accepts that description. He accepts that title and then he says this, "Gentlemen, you are exactly right, and on that foundation, the foundation that I am uniquely sent from God to do something unique, I am going to establish a brand-new movement. My Ecclesiastes. My assembly. My congregation. We call it the church".
And then immediately after saying that they begin the long journey south from Caesarea Philippi past Capernaum, past the Sea of Galilee, outside the region of Galilee on their way to Judea and ultimately to Jerusalem. And as they travel, he reminds them once again he goes over this over and over, he reminds them once again of what to expect when they reach Jerusalem. This is what he said. He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the law, and this was the shocker, and that he must be killed and then after that rise again in three days. This was so confusing because they've just announced that they believe he's the Messiah and the Messiah can't be killed. And they lived in a day and age when they assumed that bad things don't happen to good people. And he was one of the goodest people they'd ever met.
In fact, they were convinced he was the Goddest person that they had ever met. So, the disciples look at Peter like, "Peter say something. He can't keep talkin' like this. We're gonna lose the crowd". And so, Peter, this is so dramatic, Peter actually takes Jesus aside to rebuke him. Basically Peter says, "Jesus, you gotta knock it off with all this negativity. You're scaring the children". And then something fascinating happens and again Peter is describing this to Mark and Mark's writing it down. But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, not Peter so Peter is rebuking Jesus, Jesus knows that the disciples put him up to this so that Jesus turns and looks at the disciples then he looks back at Peter and he rebukes Peter and he says, "Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns".
In other words, you want a kingdom like all the other kingdoms. But I'm not that King and this is not that Kingdom. That's not my Kingdom. That is not why I have come and then to emphasize the point he stops, and then he gathers the crowd, and he gathers the disciples. He wants everybody to hear what he says next as they continue their journey toward Jerusalem. Here's what happened. Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and he said, this was intense, "Whoever wants to be my disciple or my follower, must deny themselves", say no to themselves, "and take up their cross and follow me". And the crowd, you could've heard a pin drop at this point. Basically, he was saying, "This isn't going to be fun anymore. This isn't going to be a parade anymore. This isn't going to be a festival anymore. From now on, if you follow me to Jerusalem, it's gonna cost you something".
And for us, this is symbolic. Take up our cross and follow Jesus. But for them this was literal. They had seen crucifixions. They'd seen the aftermath of crucifixions. They had smelled crucifixions. They may have lost a loved one to a crucifixion. and Jesus says, "I'm just telling you. From here on out, you're gonna suffer. From here on out, it's gonna cost you something to follow me". But disguised in this ominous declaration was an extraordinary invitation. Here's what he said next. "For whoever wants to save their life", that would be all of us right? "But whoever wants to save their life will lose it".
This was his fancy way of saying, "Everybody dies. No matter how healthy you are, you're gonna die. No matter how hard you work to preserve your life, you're gonna die. Everybody loses their lives. No matter how well they take care of themselves". But if in the meantime you only live for yourself, if you only live for yourself, you will only have yourself to show for yourself in the end. And then here's the invitation. But he says, "Whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will ultimately save it".
And in this moment he was inviting them. And I think in this moment he invites us to live and lose our lives with purpose. So, suddenly Peter and the boys have a decision to make. Do we just stay up north and fish our lives away and die as old men in our beds forgotten or do we accept an invitation to live on purpose? Because after all, everybody ends up somewhere in life. It's the intentional people who end up somewhere on purpose. Now, I think we have a decision to make as well. Will we be consumed with preserving our lives? And that is always the temptation, right? We're always tempted to just work towards preserving our lives. Will we simply live to preserve our lives? Lives that in the end we will not preserve. Will we continue to say, "Yes", to our fear? And what happens when you say yes to fear?
Fear always invites us to follow the path of self-preservation. Always. But Jesus knew and the warning was so intense and it was so relevant to all of us that if you follow that path long enough you will neither, think about this, you will neither preserve your life nor will you have anything significant to show for your life. So, the question that Jesus proposed to his first-century followers he extends to us as well and that's simply this. Will you follow me? Will we ask that disturbing question? Will we wake up to it every single day of what does love require of me?
So, Peter never forgot that day. The fear, the uncertainty, the confusion. It would've been a lot easier to stay in Galilee. But he and the guys decided to follow Jesus and that's why we know his story. And that's why his story was worth telling. Which brings me to this. When the story of COVID-19 is just a story we tell, when the story of COVID-19, this virus is simply a story we tell a year from now, five years from now, maybe 10 years from now, here's the challenge for you, and here's the challenge for me.
Let's make sure that our stories are stories worth telling. And the decisions we make every single day between now and the end of this crisis will determine the stories we tell and will determine the stories we tell our children, and will determine the stories we tell our grandchildren. And we are writing that story. Every single decision, every single minute of every single day. And as easy as it would be for us to retreat to our fear, to retreat to fear doesn't necessarily preserve your life. To retreat to fear simply means we lose the opportunity of doing something extraordinary in this season of life.
So, Peter and the boys decided to follow Jesus and they decided to follow him south towards Jerusalem. The text says this that they actually left that place far north above the Sea of Galilee. They pass all the way through the region of Galilee on their way down to Judea and ultimately to Jerusalem and here's what the text says. They were on their way up to Jerusalem and even though it's south to Jerusalem, there's a deep, deep valley and eventually you have to start moving up even though you're moving south. It's a little confusing. So, they talked always about going up to Jerusalem. They were on their way up to Jerusalem with Jesus, this is so interesting, leading the way.
Here's what Peter is inferring he was saying, "You know what? It was amazing to us. After all of this warning, after all of this death and doom and gloom, Jesus was so anxious to get to Jerusalem he actually got out in front of us". Which, again, was just so confusing and then he stops and once again he warns the disciples what they're gonna face when they get to Jerusalem. Here's what happened. Again, he's already done this three times. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. And here's what he says and this time he gets pretty graphic. He says, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. And they will condemn him to death. And will hand him over to the Gentiles or the Romans, who will mock him, spit on him, flog him and kill him". And then he turns around and he heads south leading the way to Jerusalem.
This is so confusing to his followers. But then something really interesting happens. The text says this. Then, as in right then, right after Jesus has given them this graphic description of what they can expect when they get to Jerusalem. Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, two of his original disciples, came to him. In other words, they kinda ran and caught up with him while the rest lagged behind and they're kinda lookin' over their shoulder to make sure they can have this private conversion with Jesus.
And here's what they say to Jesus in such a way that nobody else can hear the conversation. "Teacher", they say, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask. Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever you ask". In other words, we need a special favor and by the way, ugh that is too bad about all that spittin' and mockin', and flooggin', and dyin'. That sounds terrible. But we need a favor. And Jesus is so patient and here's what he says. He says, "What do you want me to do for you"?
Now, this is an important question. We're gonna come back to this in just a little bit. "What do you want me to do for you"? And here's what they said. "Would you please let one of us sit on your right and the other on your left? Would you allow one of us to sit on your right and your left"? Places of prominence. Places of position. "Would you let one of us sit on your right? And not right now, not right now. Certainly, not right now. In your glory. After all of that spittin', and floggin' and mockin', and all of that stuff. We'll probably hang back during all of that. But once you've established your Kingdom, we want positions of authority". And Jesus smiles and says, "Boys, you don't know what you're askin'. You don't know what you're askin'. You still don't get it".
A few verses later here's what happens. The 10, the other 10, they find out they heard what James and John had just asked Jesus about and they became indignant with James and John. They are so upset and they're not upset because James and John offended Jesus or disrespected Jesus. They're upset because it's not fair. Hey, wait a minute. They're gettin' two cookies. We're just gettin' one cookie. And suddenly an argument breaks out among the disciples about who's gonna be the greatest in the Kingdom of God. And Jesus, I don't know. I can't even imagine what runs through his mind at this point because he's already covered this two or three times.
And so, once again, Jesus calls all of them together, has 'em sit down and he says, "Okay, guys, let's go over this one more time before we get to Jerusalem". And here's what he says. "You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them". In other words, "You know how the rulers in the Gentile world, the Roman world, the secular world rule mercilessly and they rule mercilessly for their own benefit. And you know this, guys. And you know that their high officials exercise authority over them". Paraphrased, guys. He says, "You know how the world works. You know that those who are in positions of authority leverage their authority for their own benefit. You know how this works, guys. You know those with resources and influence leverage their resources and influence to gain even more resources and influence for themselves". Right? "Guys, you know how the world works, right? The powerful people have the power and they're always tryin' to get more power".
You got it? Of course, the disciples and the crowd are shakin' their head like, "Yeah, we get it. Why do you think we wanna be number two and number three when you establish your Kingdom? We wanna be at the top of the pyramid". And then Jesus pauses and he looks at 'em, and he looks at me, and if you're a leader he looks at you. And here are the four words that stopped me in my tracks over and over and over. Here are four words that will make you a leader worth following. Jesus pauses, looks at that group of men and women, and he says, "Not so with you. Not so with you. That's not how my administration's gonna operate. I am not that King. This is not that Kingdom. I am the King who has come to reverse the order of things".
And then he says this. "Instead, instead of how you've seen it work everywhere else, instead whoever wants to become great", and it's fine to want to be great. If you wanna be great, I'm about to tell you how to be great. But here's how you're great in my Kingdom. "Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant", and before they can catch their breath he digs it a little deeper. "And whoever wants to be first must be slave of all". And before they can object, I think Jesus turns and he stares south towards the city of Jerusalem and then he takes all their excuses away. And takes my excuses away as well and he says this.
"For even", talking about himself, "For even the Son of Man did not come to be served. James and John, you wanna be served? Do you think you're greater than me? For even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve". And this was the shocker. "And to give his life a ransom for many. Any questions, guys? James? John? Peter? We all good? All right, gentlemen. Let's go to Jerusalem". This was so confusing. Give his life, ransom, take up a cross. I'm sure Peter was thinking, "Maybe we should've stayed in Galilee".
And then Peter tells us that they came to the city, they finally make their way all the way down, and they make their way to the city of Jericho. And something extraordinary happens in the city of Jericho. Here's what happened. Then they came to Jericho as Jesus and his disciples together with a large crowd, because there are large crowds following him everywhere he goes, as they were leaving the city, a blind man and he gives us the man's name, a blind man, Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging. And when he heard that Jesus of Nazareth was coming through he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David. Jesus, Son of David have mercy on me"!
But there's a large crowd and many begin to rebuke him and told him to be quiet. Because after all Jesus is an important Rabbi and he's got important things to do. Both of which were true but this wasn't gonna stop blind Bartimaeus. But he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me"! And Peter's tellin' this story to Mark and Mark's takin' this all down and Peter probably said to him, "And we couldn't believe it. I mean, Jesus was so anxious to get to Jerusalem. He was in such a hurry to get to Jerusalem, We couldn't believe it".
But when he heard this blind man yelling his name, Jesus stopped. He stopped to actually illustrate his message. He stopped to illustrate what his Kingdom would look like. He stopped to illustrate that he was introducing an upside-down Kingdom where the people with the power and the resources would use those power and resources for those who had less power. And perhaps no resources. He's on his way.
Think about this. He is on his way to his most important appointment. This is so convicting to me. Because I'm like you. I mean, aren't you busy? I mean, I'm busy. But here's the point of this interesting narrative. Sometimes following Jesus requires stopping. Sometimes following requires stopping. And Mark tells us that Jesus stopped and said, "Call him". And so they did. What a day for this guy, right? Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and he came to Jesus. And then one of those extraordinary statements that no one would dare put in Jesus' mouth.
These are the kinds of statements that make me believe that the gospels are reliable accounts of actual things that actually happened. Nobody would make this up. This is one of those statements. I mean, Jesus says things all the time that confuses disciples. But sometimes he says things that even confuse us. It almost seems like he's insulting the person he's talking to. And this is one of those statements. But I believe Jesus asks blind Bartimaeus this question not for Bartimaeus' good but for the people standing around. Here's what the text says that Jesus said next. There's blind Bartimaeus. He finally makes his way to Jesus and Jesus says, "What do you want me to do for you? What do you want me to do for you"?
I have a feeling this isn't in the text. I think he says to blind Bartimaeus, "What do you want me to do for you"? And I think he looks over his shoulder at James and John and smiles. "Blind Bartimaeus, you wanna sit on my right-hand or my left"? And Bartimaeus says, "No, Rabbi, I want to see. I just want to see. I just want to see". That is always a good thing to ask for. If James and John had been askin' that question, if Peter had been asking that question, if the crowd had been asking that question, they would understand what Jesus was trying to say all along. In fact, this is a prayer. I've shared this with you before. This is a prayer that I pray every single day or multiple times a day.
Heavenly Father, help me to see as you see. Help me to see me the way you see me. Help me to see my family the way you see my family. Help me to see our churches the way you see our churches. Help me to see the people around me because if I could see as you see I would be far more inclined to do as you say. And if I could see as you see, I would be less inclined to see things that look like sacrifices as sacrifices. Because obedience is never a sacrifice. Obedience is always an investment in the invisible Kingdom of God. And Jesus responds. He says, "Go. Your faith has healed you". And immediately he received his sight and he folLowed Jesus along the road to Jerusalem. A date with destiny.
Now, we're gonna pick up the storyline right there next time. But before we go, I wanna circle back around to these four words. Not so with you. Not so with you. And here's the question. What would it look like for you? What would it look like in your world, in your home, at work, in the community? What would it look like for you to become a not so with you leader? Because when you choose, when you choose to follow Jesus, he will lead you in this direction. He is going to lead you. He's going to lead me. He's going to lead all of us who have any kind of influence, any kind of leadership. He's going to lead us to leverage our power and our resources for the benefit of those with less power and fewer resources.
This is always the direction Jesus is going to lead us in. This is simply another application of the law of Christ to love as we've been loved. Because Peter, this is amazing we're gonna get to this next time. Peter will eventually find himself in the back of a crowd watching this play out in real time. As he watches his Rabbi give his life a ransom for many and it would be a few days later when Peter would finally put all of this together and he would understand. He was indeed a different kind of King and he was indeed introducing a different kind of Kingdom. And this whole idea, becoming a not so with you leader, begins with a simple question. It begins with a question that was similar to the one that Jesus asked Bartimaeus.
And the question is simply this. "What can I do to help? What can I do to help"? In fact, I recommended if you have any kind of influence, any kind of leadership, that you write this question down and put it somewhere where you see it every single day. Because you see as a leader I'm accustomed to people asking me this question. But if I'm gonna lead like Jesus, and if I'm gonna lead like Jesus in troubled times, I must be the one who asks the question because this is the question Jesus asked.
It's why he gave his life as a ransom for many. In other words, what can I do to help? How can I loan you my strength? How can I put my weight behind your need? And when you leverage your power and when you leverage your resources, for the benefit of those with less power and fewer resources, you are not far form the Kingdom of God. And here's how I know that. For even the Son of Man, for even the Son of Man, did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. And when you lead from that posture, you are indeed a leader worth following. Not so with you.