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Watch 2022-2023 online sermons » Dr. Charles Stanley » Charles Stanley - Lessons We Learn in Gethsemane

Charles Stanley - Lessons We Learn in Gethsemane

Charles Stanley - Lessons We Learn in Gethsemane

When you are suffering pain, whether it be physical pain or emotional pain, and it becomes so intense that you even despair of your future, where do you turn? There are many places you can turn. But the most helpful, healthiest, most encouraging, the best place you can turn, the most rewarding place you can turn is to the Word of God. This is not a history book, even though it may contain some history. It's a book about life. It's a book about reality. It's a book about how people live, not just how they want to live, but how they really do live. And when you think about where you turn and where people turn when they go through difficulties, they turn to all kinds of things. But this is God's guidebook for living. This shows us how to respond to every single circumstance of life no matter what.

So, when you look in the scriptures and you find these promises about peace and joy and contentment and eternal life, if you just keep reading, what you'll discover is this: there are even more principles there about how to deal with heartache, trouble, trials, hardship, persecution, criticism, you name it, it's all right here. And what God has done, He's given us, in the experiences of His children in the past and of His servants, He's given us principles. He's shown us how, in their lives, He worked during those difficulties and hardships so that you and I might also learn how to deal with these things so that what happens is, because they know how to respond, the very pain that would destroy them ends up in enriching them and preparing them for greater service of the Lord. Well, what I want to talk about in this message is simply this, and that is, I want to talk about the experience Jesus had, probably the longest, most difficult night of His life.

I want to talk about "Lessons We Learn in Gethsemane". And I want you to turn, if you will, to the twenty-sixth chapter of Matthew, and I want us to read the thirty-sixth through the forty-sixth verses. Jesus has just finished the Lord's Supper with them. And Peter's just told Him how faithful he was going to be. And so they crossed the valley up to the Garden of Gethsemane, and now, in that Garden where Jesus so many times went alone, to be alone with the Father, and sometimes, no doubt, carried His disciples with Him, on this night it is everything but a peaceful night.

So the scripture says, beginning in verse thirty-six, "Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to His disciples, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee," that is James and John, "and He began to be grieved and distressed. Then He said to them, 'My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and keep watch with me.' And He went a little beyond them and fell on his face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.' And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping and said to Peter, 'So you men could not keep watch for me for one hour? Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.' He went away again a second time and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if this cannot pass away unless I drink it, Your will be done.' Again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. And He left them again and went away and prayed a third time, saying the same thing once more. Then He came to the disciples and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going! Behold, the one who betrays me is at hand.'"

Now, usually the night in the Garden was a wonderful night, but tonight it is a night of grief. It is a night of warfare and bloodshed. This is a night of all nights in the life of Christ. No night was so dark. No night was ever so long as this one. So what we have to ask is this: What lessons can you and I learn from the life of Jesus in just this one night of His life? Well, I believe we can learn several very important lessons because, you see, the truth is all of us go through our nights of difficulty, hardship, trial, suffering, physical, emotional pain. Sometimes they only last a night, sometimes they last night after night after night. Sometimes they only last a day, but other times they last day after day after day. Sometimes it's only a year, and then there are those times when it's year after year after year.

How do we respond when we go through those difficulties and trials in life? Well, I want you to notice several things here that I think are helpful, lessons I think that you and I can learn from the suffering and the pain of Jesus that we can apply to our own life because all of us are gonna respond in one or two ways. We're gonna respond the right, most profitable way that'll bring fruit in our life, or we're gonna respond the wrong way. And we're gonna suffer even more because of a wrong response. And what I want you to think about for a moment is this: that in order for God to accomplish His will and purpose in your life and mine, sometimes His purpose and His will require that you and I go through our Gethsemane.

That is, we have to go through pain and suffering and hurt that we don't like any more than Jesus liked His. And if you'll think about it for a moment, Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane was in the will of the Father. And what he was going through was the will of almighty God. He said that He only did the will of the Father. He said, "I came to give my life a ransom for many". And you'll recall that when John the Baptist identified Him, he said, "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world". So even John knew something, at least had had a inkling of the revelation of what Jesus was going to face in His life. So we come to ask the question, well, was Jesus struggling over doing the will of God or not? No, He was not. It was not a matter of whether He was going to do the will of the Father or not.

What He was struggling about was what He spoke about in that cup. That cup represented the fury and the wrath of God that would be declared upon and, listen, and not just lavished upon but stormed against the one who bore the sin of the world. When He went to the cross, He felt the avalanche, He felt the tidal wave of God's wrath and God's fury against all the sin of all mankind forever, past, present, future. Jesus knew what He was facing. Of course He cringed at the cross. Of course He understood, because He had seen people crucified before. He knew something of the anguish and the pain and the suffering of hanging there and dying by degrees. And as horrible as that was, even more horrible was the fact that He and the Father would be separated.

How would you and I describe that? I don't think any of us will ever be able to describe or fully understand till we get to glory, and then maybe it won't be an issue, of course. But until we get there and He explains to us the horrendous pain that He experienced when He was separated from the Father for our sins, it would be like taking your physical body and cutting it right in half and pulling it apart. Can you imagine the kind of horrible pain that would be? Because remember that Jesus and the Father had never been separated in eternity past. Never. But you see, that was the price He was willing to pay for your sins and mine. And so when He comes and we find Him struggling here in the Garden, it's very evident what He's struggling about. And He is struggling not whether to do the will of the Father or not but because He wanted to do the will of the Father.

Is there some other way we can do this? Not eliminating the crucifixion but eliminating that point and that time of separation. Now, no one will ever suffer like Jesus suffered. Now, remember this, there are men and women out there for their faith who have been martyred for their faith who have gone through all kinds of pain, and whose physical pain may have been equal to Jesus's physical pain of crucifixion, because many people have been crucified in the past. But Jesus was different because, along with that crucifixion, He bore the weight of the sin of the world. Men have been boiled in oil. They have been fed to lions. They've been crucified. All kinds of things have happened. Nothing could match the pain of Jesus because He bore your sin and mine. He died as a substitute in your place and my place.

Now, when you and I go through difficulty and hardship and pain in our life, we certainly would like to be delivered from it, we certainly would like to escape from it, if at all possible. And yet, God knows what He's up to in our life and, as we said in the very beginning, it may be that it is the will of the Father that we go through difficulty in order to prepare us for His purpose in our life. Now remember this, it certainly wasn't God who put the nails in His hands, but He certainly allowed the Romans to put the nails in His hands and His feet and put a crown of thorns upon Him. God, listen, some things may not be the will of God itself in your life and my life, but God allows it to happen. And so if God allows it to happen, He has purposed, listen, He has purposed our pain for our profit. He will spare, listen, no experience, He will spare no effort, He will spare no pain in order to prepare us and get us where He wants us to be in life to accomplish His purpose and His will. And when you think about the pain and suffering and hurt that you've been through in life, you think, well, what a waste!

Now watch this, what a waste to go through this pain and suffering and heartache and trial and persecution and all the rest. Remember this carefully, are you listening? Say amen. It is only a waste if you allow it to be a waste, only a waste if you allow it to be a waste, and some people live that way. They go through all kinds of pain, hurt, and sorrow and suffering, and because they don't respond in the right manner, what happens is it is, to some degree, a big waste in their life. They didn't ask the question: God, what is your goal for me in this? They didn't ask God: What is your purpose? What do you want me to do? What are you saying to me? What do you want to change in my life? They just want to go on in their own rebellion, wasting the pain and suffering and hurt and, oftentimes, ultimately bringing their lives to destruction.

When I think about what pain does in our life, I want you to jot down four things, because this is true, and that is, pain and suffering in our life can be very instructional. There are some things that you and I are not gonna learn in pleasure when the times are good, when we have everything we need, everything we want in life. Pain can be very instructional. We learn things about God in our suffering we wouldn't learn any other way. We learn things about ourself we wouldn't learn any other way. We learn things about other people we wouldn't learn in any other fashion. There's something about pain that makes us get down to the nitty gritty of our life and see what we're really like. What can we endure? What can we sustain? How can we keep moving when everything around us desires that we stop?

When everything in us, our whole being cries stop, stop, stop, give up and quit, and yet, you and I know better than to do that. So let me ask you a question. How have you been responding in your pain? How have you been responding in your suffering? How've you been responding when people have criticized you or persecuted you? How have you responded when you have hurt so deeply, you did not know what to do next, which way to turn, where to turn? My friend, you want to turn to the living Word of God, and listen to what He says about His love. You say, "Well, how can I believe that God loves me when he allows all this to happen in my life"? What you have got to ask is, God, what is your goal, listen, what is your goal for this experience in my life? Because God, listen, being in the will of God does not mean that we will not suffer.

So, first of all, I'd simply say that God's purpose and plan for our life may include the time of Gethsemane in our own life. The second thing I want to say is this: that our times of suffering, our Gethsemane, may also be extremely painful for us. I think that there are two primary reasons that God has placed this particular event in the life of Jesus in the scripture. Number one is certainly that you and I, who are the very reason and the cause of it. Listen, if there were no sin, there would've been no Gethsemane; no sin, no cross. He wants us who are sinners, He wants us who have sinned against him, us who have disobeyed Him, us who have rebelled against Him, us who have refused to do His will, He wants us to understand the horrible pain His Son Jesus Christ went through to atone for, as the substitute, pay the sin debt for us in Gethsemane. That excruciating, painful night was the beginning, the horrible beginning, of the debt He paid for you and me. God wants us to see that.

Salvation is not cheap. Grace is not cheap. What you and I have, the forgiveness of our sins, did not come cheap. When people talk about cheap grace, they know nothing about the scripture. There's no such thing as cheap grace. Grace cost almighty God His only begotten Son. And that grace has been bestowed upon us, not because we are worthy of it, not because we are fit for it, but simply because God loves sinful human beings. What does He want? He wants us to be forgiven of our sin. He wants us to be sanctified unto Himself. He wants us to come into an intimate relationship with Him. God has something awesome in mind by allowing us to go through this difficulty and pain.

So one of the primary reasons is He wants us to see and understand something of what our Savior experienced. A second thing He wants us to see is this: He wants us to understand. He wants us to see how Jesus responded, how the Apostle Paul responded. He wants us to learn the principles of dealing with, of responding to difficulty, hardship and pain and suffering so that we will respond in the right fashion so that, listen, we will not waste our sorrows, we will not waste our pain, we will not waste our hurt, but we will profit from it. Listen, we will profit from it. It'll become a fruitful time in our life. And in our tears, our hurt, our brokenness, our loneliness, our sorrow, and our sadness, all of that, listen, all of that is like rich soil, rich, fertile soil plowed up. And what happens? God drops his awesome principles, listen to this, He drops his awesome principles in the soil of tears and hurt and pain and shame and suffering and persecution, and what comes out of that?

God begins to water that into your life and something transpires in your life that makes you more valuable to the kingdom of God than you have ever been or ever could even imagine to be in your fondest dream. It just depends upon how you're going to respond. And you see, being in the will of God doesn't mean that you're going to escape pain, suffering, and hurt. And when I hear people who are talking about the fact, well, if you're in the will of God and you're doing God's will and you're full of the Holy Spirit, you're not gonna suffer this and this and this. I want to tell you something, that is totally unscriptural. No one could be holier than Jesus. No man who's ever walked apart from Him could have been at least more obedient than the Apostle Paul.

These two men suffered for the gospel of Jesus Christ as no other two people that I know in history have ever suffered. Everywhere Paul went, somebody was on his case, persecuting him for one reason or the other. He was absolutely obedient to the Father. Did he have his struggles? Yes. His weak moments? Yes. Crying out to God to take that thorn out of his side, and God did not do it. He understood what struggling over the will of God was about. He understood what struggling against those who would've persecuted him and left him for dead, lying in the streets, having stoned him, he understood all of that. Does that mean he wasn't in the will of God? No, it does not. People who walk in the center of the will of God oftentimes suffer the most.

You say, well, I don't want any of that in my life. Let me ask you a question. Do you wanna be what God wants you to be? Do you want to be the best that God can make you? You want to be used of God? You wanna, listen, you want to at least head in the direction of the maximum potential of your usefulness for God? Then, my friend, you must be willing to submit to whatever God sends into your life. Because whatever He sends you in your life has a very definite Godly purpose for it. Jesus was suffering untold hurt and pain, broken in His heart. Why was He broken in His heart? His nation that He came to save had rejected Him. Judas had betrayed Him. Peter was going to deny Him. His disciples were all gonna be scattered and He was gonna be left all alone. I don't think any of us could ever possible conceive of that kind of hurt, that kind of pain, that kind of suffering. But we do go through ours.

And many of you have been through all kinds of suffering, all kinds of pain, and, probably, one of the things that you had to deal with above everything else is asked in this question: God, if you loved me, if you really and truly loved me, why would you allow this? And I can tell you what God would answer, how He'd answer that question. Are you listening? Say amen. Because I do love you, I have allowed this in your life. Because I do love you, I've allowed this in your life. My purpose is more important to me than your pleasure. Your pain is more important to me than your happiness. Because I have a purpose that's greater than your pleasure, greater than your goals, greater than what your desire in life, my purpose, my goal, my plans for your life include pain, heartache, distress, disappointment, suffering, tears, weeping. We don't like it, but you know what?

What you have to ask is this: What is God's purpose? His purpose is always good. Difficult, trying, painful as it was in the life of the Lord Jesus Christ here, and yet, He works it out for good. And you look at Gethsemane, and what followed? The next day the cross, He paid our sin debt in full, Later, the Resurrection. Later, His Ascension to the Father, and today He sits at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us, watching over us, caring for us, providing for us, enabling us, sending into our life those things, listen, that He knows will make us more like Him. He always turns it out for good if we'll let Him, if we'll allow Him, if we let Him do it. So, there is a principle here. Then I think about another principle here that is so interesting, and that's this: that in our Gethsemanes, it is natural for us to struggle in our prayers.

Sometimes when you and I are hurting and our pain is so intense, it's very difficult to even pray. It's, listen, it's difficult to keep from being distracted by our pain, our hurt, our suffering, or maybe even our anger. Something going on in the inside of us that is bringing us in such distraughtness that we can't pray, we hurt too much to pray. Somebody says, "Well now, you can't ever hurt too much to pray". Then you have never felt pain. If you've ever felt real, true, deep, abiding, grievous, emotional pain, you can know that even while you are praying, you are distracted? That it is difficult to pray when you're hurting badly enough? It's not a sin to struggle. It's not a sign of weakness that you and I say, "Well, I'm struggling in my prayer". This is why God, listen, this is why He has the church.

This is why He has the church family. This is why, listen, this is why He says we are to pray for one another, encourage one another, bear each other's burdens, lift up one another. It says so many "one another's" in the New Testament that we are to do for one another. And certainly one of them is to pray and to encourage and to lift up. And sometimes we go through those experiences in life when we struggle. We struggle to talk to God. We struggle because we've told Him over and over and over again and we don't see an answer. And sometimes we can feel, God, where are you? We can feel estranged. Why? Because the hurt and the pain can be so intense, and we don't see any evidence that God's at work. If it could just be for one day, or maybe for one night, that's one thing. But when it goes on night after night, day after day, year after year, then we say, "Well, God, if you really loved us, here's what you would do".

And the truth is, God does love us, and here's what He does: He allows the pain and the hurt and the suffering to last just as long as is necessary to accomplish His purpose. That's the part we don't like. Doesn't the Bible say, "Ask and it shall be given you. Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened unto you"? "Everyone that asketh receiveth. He that seeketh findeth. To him that knocketh, it shall be opened". Doesn't it say that? Yes. What it doesn't say is: ask and it shall be given to you right now. Seek and you shall find it tomorrow. Knock and it shall be opened unto you in just a moment. It doesn't say that. You know why? Because God and God alone knows how long it takes to give us enough instruction, purify us enough, motivate us enough, and He knows exactly what it'll take to draw us into an intimate relationship with Him. He spares no pain, no experience, and no effort to bring us to Himself.

So, when you struggle, you don't have to feel bad. When you struggle, you don't have to feel weak. When you struggle, you don't have to feel sinful. When you struggle, you don't have to feel like you're out of the will of God because you're struggling. It is natural and normal, listen, we're human beings. We are not super people. We are human beings. We know how to hurt. We feel the pain. We feel the suffering, and thank God, Jesus went through it so that when I come to Him and say, "Lord, here's how I'm hurting. Here's my pain. Here's my loneliness". And you see, when I think about all that He experienced in the Garden by Himself over there praying, one of the things He was feeling was being all alone. They were asleep when He needed them. All alone. Fervently, He cried out to the Father, "Is there some other way for us to do this, except me being separated from you"? And He realized within that hour there was no other way.

And so He said, "Not my will, but Your will be done". All of us have struggled, and I can remember times when I've gotten out of the bed at night and got on my knees, crying out to God, struggling. How long do you think I struggled? Till dawn? All day? Here's how long I struggled, just like you do. I struggled until I was willing to say, "Father, not my will but Your will. Father, not my time but Your time. Father, what You want is what I want". When you come to that place, here's what you'll discover. Struggle is all over, and the struggle is replaced by a sense of peace and contentment that has no human, listen, has no human understanding because the circumstance has not changed. God didn't take anything away or put something there. Nothing's changed, but we struggle until we can come to the place of saying, "Father, not my will, but Your will. Not my time, but Your time".

One last thing I would say about this passage, and that's this: here is the key to going through difficulty, hardship, pain, and suffering. No matter what the cause or no matter who you may feel is the cause, here's the ultimate key to get us through it. This is the way we can endure it, whether it's for a night or a day or years. This is the way we're sustained. This is the way we can persist. This is the way that, no matter how deep, how dark, how lonely, how anxious, how fearful, here's the key. God, I want to thank you. You are in control. Jesus never questioned that the Father was in control of what was happening that night. And you know what, you and I don't have any reason to doubt that He's in control of our lives.

You say, "But, if He's in control, why this pain"? Instruction. Purification. Motivation. Intimacy. Think about the value of those four things about which you and I profit from difficulty, hardship, pain, and suffering in our life. When I remember that my Father's in control, I can face most anything in life, because I know certain things that our loving Heavenly Father has a limitation on the intensity of the pain. He has a limitation on the length of the pain. He has a limitation on, listen, the nature of the pain. He has a limitation because He has a purpose, and that limitation of whatever He allows us to suffer must fit His purpose for our life.

So the question is this: When you go through those difficult, hard, trying times in your life, and you have been through probably many of them, how have you been responding? Have you been blaming somebody else? Have you been saying, God, if you'd love me, you wouldn't allow this to happen? Or have you come to the place in your life to realize that your loving Heavenly Father loves you enough to let you hurt? Remember this in the pain: you do not suffer a moment of pain apart from the presence of the Living God on the inside of you to sustain you, help you, love you, care for you, and to bring you through it.

You see, it's a choice we make. It's a choice we make to trust Him, that He's in control. It's a choice to make to believe that what He promised He will do. It's a choice to believe in our heart that He's using these things to prepare us, and that we don't have to waste our tears, waste our sorrows, waste our heartache, waste our pain, but to grow from it. The soil of tears and sorrow and the heartache and pain are the seeds in which God drops His greatest principles, because He knows He's going to reap a fantastic harvest when you and I respond in the right way.

Father, how grateful we are for your love for us. Thank you for your sustaining, enduring strength, and I pray that every person who hears this message, saved and unsaved alike, will recognize there's a purpose for what they're facing in life, and the right response will bring them great profit, tremendous growth, and preparation for greater service. I pray, Father, that those who have never trusted You as their personal Savior, that they'll recognize that the first step is just that, to receive the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior, Lord, and Master, surrender their life to You, and then watch You do Your great work in their life. For we ask it in Jesus's name. Amen.

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