John Bradshaw - Momentum
It's good to be with you today. We're gonna have the opportunity today to take the Bible, open it up, and expect God to speak to us from out of His Word. It's always a special time when that happens, so let's pray and ask for God's blessing. Let's do that now.
Our Father in heaven, we thank You today for the opportunity to gather around Your Word. Lord, let Your Spirit come close to us. Fill us and guide our understanding. Be honored and glorified, we ask You in Jesus' name. Amen.
People did initially wonder if something was wrong. The train was parked on a mainline, unattended. Now, that was not unusual. There were six locomotives in the train. Someone said it was almost a mile long, and one of those locomotives was left running. Now, there was actually a fire in one of the locomotives as the train sat there in the town of Nantes in southern Quebec, east of Montreal. But the fire department put the fire out, and it was believed that the train was safe. It looked safe. But it wasn't. For some reason the brakes on the train failed, and the train slowly began to roll. It rolled downhill toward the town of Lac-Mégantic, 12 kilometers away, that's 7 miles away. The runaway train had 74 train cars or carriages, most of them filled with crude oil from North Dakota.
By the time the train reached Lac-Mégantic, it was traveling at over 100 kilometers an hour, that's 60 miles an hour plus, when in some places the speed limit was as low as 16 kilometers an hour, or 10 miles an hour. Sparks were shooting from its wheels. When it derailed at about 1:15 in the morning, about 6 million liters of petroleum crude oil was released. The explosions were so hot that the heat was felt 2 kilometers away. Forty-seven people died. It was the worst rail disaster in Canada in 150 years. And it happened because of a little thing called momentum. The dictionary I looked at defined "momentum" as "the impetus and driving force gained by the development of a process or [a] course of events".
I hope you won't mind me using a negative to illustrate a positive. The point is that momentum is powerful. It's necessary. Once something gets moving, it's hard to stop it, depending on its size or on what is propelling it along. Momentum. Let's get an idea of momentum, an example of momentum. We'll turn in our Bibles to the 19th chapter of the book of Acts. You want momentum. And we'll start in Acts chapter 19 and verse 8. The Bible says, "And he went into the synagogue, and spake boldly for the space of three months", this is Paul we're talking about, "disputing and persuading the things concerning the kingdom of God".
Notice what the Bible says. He argued persuasively about the kingdom of God. That's how that would be translated or explained. Now verse 9: "But when divers were hardened, and believed not, but spake evil of that way before the multitude, he departed from them, and separated the disciples, disputing daily in the school of one Tyrannus". The result? "And this continued by the space of two years; so that all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks". What a phenomenal result! Do you think it seemed like success for Paul? Paul was thankful for small gains, small gains, which were truly great gains. Let me share something with you. When you witness to a neighbor or to a friend, it would be great to have your neighbor say, "I believe what you're telling me, and I want more Bible studies". Or, "That sounds so good. I want to come to your church".
Now, of course that will happen, but when it happens, it doesn't ordinarily happen right away. When you say to somebody, "I've just been reading this, and I wonder if you'd be interested in this," and that person says yes, then you can praise the Lord; that is a great gain. When you share a book with somebody or a DVD or encourage somebody to visit a certain website, and they do, you can be grateful for that. Celebrate great gains, sure. But I want you to be encouraged by small gains. When you have a chance to share your testimony with somebody, that's a great gain, and you can thank God for that and expect God to build on that. And then verse 11 says, "And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: so that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them".
Verse 13: "Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, 'We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.' And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, 'Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?' And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded".
Now, that's a warning to all of us. God wants to bless our lives. He wants to bless our efforts. He wants to bless our witnessing. But it's much more difficult for God to do so when our hearts are not joined together with His heart. This shows us where the power is. You remember that famous, well-known verse in the Bible, Zachariah 4 and verse 6, where the Bible says, "'Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' saith the Lord of Hosts". That is wonderfully hopeful. God's Spirit will get the work done that we want to see done. We live in the midst of a lost and dying world. Look at the immense multitudes in this world. Cities with millions, even tens of millions of people, and in some cases few in those cities know Jesus. We've been instructed to take the gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. How is that going to be achieved?
In Zechariah chapter 4 we have our answer. Just like the gospel went to everyone in Asia, the Bible says, at a time when there was no internet, now, this would be the nation of Turkey, if we were looking at it today, no internet, no television, no social media, no texting. The gospel still went everywhere in spite of the rudimentary technology of the time. The gospel is going to go to earth's remotest bounds. How? Not by our ability, but by our availability to God. Not through our brilliant plans, though we ought to plan, but by cooperating with God in His plans, plans which can never fail. You want to get busy in sharing your faith and let nothing slow you down. You want to get started and not stuck. You want to get some momentum happening and keep the momentum going. You don't want to get warmed up by the Spirit of Jesus and then allow yourself to go cold.
You remember the day that your church held a health fair or an evangelistic series or a stop-smoking program or something or other, and people said, "This is terrific. We have visitors coming to our church". And suddenly, what happened? The program was over, and our witnessing was over. The program was over, and church activity was over. You want to get moving and keep moving for the Lord. Now, there's a momentum killer, and that is a lack of spiritual preparedness. Now, I want to tell you a colorful story. You don't often hear stories about blocked sewer lines in a sermon, but you're about to hear one now. Friends of ours had a blocked sewer line in their house. They didn't know, but underground, the roots of a tree had infiltrated an important line. When that line got blocked, progress was impeded, and the results were dire. I'll leave it to you to imagine. But when the blockage was cleared, things could work as they were designed to.
If we'll just unblock the lines, unblock our hearts, unblock our minds, God can work as the plan of salvation was designed to work. We experience too many defeats in ministry. Sometimes they're out of our control, but sometimes they are not. There's a lesson for us here, for sure. But look what God can do: Out of defeat comes victory. It didn't work too well when they tried to reach the, the demon-possessed man, but the Bible goes on to say in Acts chapter 19 and verse 17, "And this was known to all the Jews and Greeks also dwelling at Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified. And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver".
There was repentance. There were lifestyle changes. People had found something better, something worthwhile, and they were willing to throw out the things that were useless to them. May I make an appeal to you? You might have come to faith in Jesus, but you've still got on your wall a whole array of DVDs... not good content. You used to like scary movies, and you came to Jesus, and you've still got a house full of them. You know what, it might be a good idea to make an, an offering of them like the people did back there in Acts chapter 19. You got books that you don't need to have. Time to get them out. You've got music that you know that does not glorify God. You just haven't been able to part with it, let go of it. I would say that the example of these people here in Acts chapter 19 is an example that we could emulate. There comes a time to make a break with the past. That time, that time comes.
Well, Paul preached the Word, he lifted up Jesus, he proclaimed the Word of God, and believers experienced conversion and repentance. And we go on now and we look at verse 20, where the Bible says, "So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed". You know something? Paul wasn't part of something that was for a moment. He was part not of a moment, but of a movement, something that would endure, something that had momentum. I mentioned momentum-killers. Let's think about a few of them. You want your witness for the Lord to be constant and powerful, but there are some things that drag on you like a heavy weight and slow you down and de-power your witness. Let me take you back to a time when Joshua and Israel went up against Jericho, and the walls came down. Anything should have been possible after that.
Think of what took place there, a miracle, humanly speaking, that was of ludicrous proportions. They shouted, and down came the walls surrounding a city. After God did that, you would think that all of Israel's problems were over. Next stop? Ai. Joshua said all Ai needs is 2,000 or 3,000 men; this won't be any trouble at all. And they went down there to Ai with 2,000 or 3,000 men, but Israel lost 36 men and were solidly defeated. And the Bible says the hearts of Israel's people "melted, and became as water". They were defeated, and they were deflated. And what was the reason? Actually, two reasons. First, there was sin in the camp. Achan had stolen from Jericho. Sin in the camp brought defeat to Israel. God wants us to take the message to the world, but He wants us to have the message in our hearts.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like if God's people truly came to God in repentance, and the sin was expelled from the camp? Can you imagine what it would be like? And I'm not talking about that person over there or that lady up there or that man back there. Can you imagine what it would be like if every one of God's people came to Him in prayer and said, "Lord, change my heart. I repent of my sins. Keep me from going back to the old life"? Can you imagine what that would do to our witness in the community? Can you imagine what that would do for our outreach activities in the community? Can you imagine the way the Holy Spirit would be able to work with far greater power? Achan, there was sin in the camp, and that brought Israel's momentum to a screeching halt. And secondly, Joshua had not consulted God about this mission to Ai. He just went up without asking God if that's what he should do. Plans might seem good and right, but if they're not God's plans, we don't want those plans. We want to work in harmony with God.
Think with me for a moment. If we went to God and we said, "Our church is getting ready to do A, B, or C. Lord, we need Your guidance, and we beg You to show us the way forward". If you went to God and you said, "Lord, I'm considering this new job, but I'm willing not to take it, if that's Your will". If you went to God and you said, "Ooh, Lord, I found this girlfriend or boyfriend, and I'm just so excited, but I really wanna know if that's Your will". Imagine the problems that we would avoid if we went to the Bible seeking for God's leading, if we went to God in prayer, appealing to God to guide us. You see, we want to go forward with, with real power in our witness and in our personal lives. We want to get on, on a roll and keep that roll up. We don't want anything to take the wind out of our sails. But sometimes things just take us down like we got hit in a heavy tackle.
And if we will go to God and found out, "God, is this Your will?", we will avoid a whole world of difficulties. Now, there's another reason, another reason for momentum being slowed in your witness and in your personal experience. You remember the parable of the sower. In the parable of the sower, some seed got snatched up by the birds. The devil just gets some people early in the game. And then with some, there's no depth of earth; they're shallow; they haven't developed a relationship with God. Others? Thorns. And what does the Bible say those thorns represent? Matthew 13, verse 22: "He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful".
The seed was growing well, but then, the cares of this world. Things were going great, but then the cares of this world. There are two different things here: One is momentum; the other is friction. And you wanna stay away from, as much as you possibly can, that's just gonna add friction and slow you down. It's an interesting story, isn't it, that parable? The cares of the world, the thorns, they grew up around that person, or that plant perhaps, and just choked the life out of it. Are there things that you're bringing into your home, into your mind, into your experience, that could be choking the life out of you? Is God really first for you? You know what I know? I know that there are a lot of people who sit down and watch a program or sit down in a pew and listen to a sermon. And they're glad to be there. But God is not first. They haven't really surrendered their hearts, their minds, their lives to Jesus.
How's that working for you? If you haven't really made the decision to surrender your life to Christ, it's like you're swimming upstream. I was raised right next to a river, a rather big river. I pretty much learned to swim in that river. And I, I never ever could swim hard enough to get up against the current. Maybe I'd swim my heart out, but the current was so strong I'd only make inches, not yards. How is it with you? Are you simply swimming against the current? Are you somebody who's weighing yourself down with the things of the world, the cares of this world? It's like the thorns are growing around you. And you wonder why your experience isn't surging on like it used to once before. Might simply be it's the cares of this world, because you're having Jesus in one hand and the world in the other. Or maybe you got Jesus just tucked up under your arm so you can hold the world in both hands.
Friend, I want to encourage you today to take your relationship with Jesus seriously. Live as though He's the most important thing to you. Start your day with Him. End your day with Him. And then don't forget about Him during the day. Remember to consult with Him, to thank Him, to praise Him, to pray to Him. Bring Him into all of the decisions that you make. Make more room in your heart for God, not less. And you'll find that you are going forward, and you're not being held backwards. I remember, if you remember the good old days, the good ol' days. Now, if you're old enough, you can remember the good old days, like the 1980s, and the 1970s. You might remember the great television programs that were on in the 1970s and '80s. Great, I mean, masterpieces. Charlie's Angels was one. Fantasy Island, Knots Landing, oh my goodness, this was art. I hope you know I'm not being serious. Starsky & Hutch, oh wow, in the mid to late 70s, went on for four years, two detectives fighting crime in California, driving around in what was really a rather gorgeous red Ford Gran Torino with a white stripe on each side.
Ooh, my goodness. The good old days weren't always so good, were they? Now, one of the lead actors in that program was a man named David Soul. He was outside of his acting, the son of a Lutheran minister. And along with being an actor, he had a pretty decent singing voice, so much so that in 1976 he sang a song that became a No. 1 hit on the pop charts in both the United States and in Great Britain. Now, I've always thought that if you were good enough to get to the top of the charts once, you must have enough talent to make a bit of a go of it. But for David Soul, one shot was all he got. He did have another single that made it to No. 52 in the charts. But to all intents and purposes, when it came to singing, David Soul was what is affectionately known as a one-hit wonder. And there have been many of them, and I won't mention all of the songs because I don't want to end up having them playing on the jukebox inside your head, especially if you're trying to forget that sort of stuff. But I share that with you to illuminate a concept.
Here today, gone tomorrow. A hero one day, a zero the next. A flash in the pan is what you might call somebody like that. You get it in sport as well. A boxer wins a championship, a golfer wins a major, never hear of them again. You see it in business to a certain extent. You remember a few years ago everybody was wearing Crocs? Uh, not me, but seemed like everybody else. And then they about disappeared, sort of made something of a comeback. They were here; it was big, they were on everybody's feet. Look around you. I don't see them on anybody's feet now. You see it in business. Pets.com, wildly popular when its IPO happened in the year 2000. But just nine months later, the company was as dead as dead as a pet, a pets.dodo. Gone. It's one thing to build a phenomenon, but what you really want is to build something sustainable, something that will last. It's true in business, it's true in your professional life, and it's true in church.
Let's stop; let's think about this for a, for a moment. So somebody comes to faith in God, and they get their hands on a Bible, and they say, "This is just the best stuff ever". And they love what they learn, and they come into the church gung-ho. And for whatever reason, it just doesn't last. Somebody comes into ministry, oh, my goodness, the most exciting thing that there ever was, and next minute no one's listening, and he or she's got nothing to say. Gone. The momentum stopped. It can be for a number of reasons. It might be that that person was never really converted in the first place. It might be that somebody came into church, came to faith in God, came to the Bible, and, and then was discouraged, discouraged by the coldness of people around them. It might be that people came to Christ, and they were full bore. But you know what? It wasn't really about a deep, abiding faith in God and a relationship with Jesus.
I don't want you to lose your momentum. The book of Revelation speaks about a group of people who "left [their] first love". When it comes to sharing your faith, you want to be close to Jesus and look for opportunities to share your faith. And don't stop. Just don't stop. If you are somebody who enjoys sharing literature, and you, as far as it knows, have never ever had somebody return or respond or come to church or come to faith in Christ as far as you know, don't stop. If God has placed that burden on your heart, you keep it up and keep sharing your faith. If you share your testimony, if you're offering Bible studies, if you're inviting people to church, and you're not seeing the results that you've seen, I would encourage you to pray about it, talk to God about it, ask others about it, examine what you're doing and how you're doing it, but don't stop. Keep pressing on. Keep pressing on and sharing your faith.
And again, let me double back around and speak to you about something even more important. You come to faith in God, you realize that Jesus truly is your Lord and your Savior, and somehow it's like you hit a roadblock. It's like you hit a dry patch. It's like the spark isn't there; the fun is gone. It's like somehow this isn't what it promised to be. I want to encourage you: Don't stop. Keep pressing on. We are saved, what does the Bible say in Ephesians 2 and verse 8? "For by grace are you saved through faith". We're saved not by feelings. We're not saved by what we can see. We're saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. You say to yourself, "Things were going so well, and then that drinking problem came back".
Well, wait a second. You wouldn't let something as small as a drinking problem keep you away from Jesus, would you? It, it, it's like you're drifting in the ocean, and you're grabbing hold of one of those life preservers, you know what I'm talking about? The round thing, and you're hanging on to that, and you say, "Well, the storm is so bad I might as well just let go of the life preserver". Would you do that? Here's what happens in the experience of some people. When you become a child of God, the devil does not let you go, and he keeps working, and he says, "You know, I can't get that person with A, so I'll get her with B. I can't get her with B, so I'll get him with C. I can't get him with C, great! I'm gonna think about it and plan, and I'll hold a conference with some demons, and we'll come up with something to get that person".
And the devil wants to separate you from faith in Christ. And when you fail, sometimes you feel like, "That's it, I'm done; there's no need for me to carry on with Jesus". Hold on. If you fail, you need to run to Jesus. And you know what Jesus said? "[Whoever] comes to me I will [in no wise] cast out". You were an addict, and then you relapsed. Well, what do you do? Stay away from God? "Oh, but, Pastor, what will other people say"? No, hold on a minute. What will God say? God will say, "Let's go again". God will say, "I love you still". God will say, "There is power for you". You see, when you start walking with Jesus, sometimes the road gets long. Sometimes you might get weary. But you don't want to stop and sit by the side of the road. You want to carry on, pressing on, pressing forward, hanging on to Jesus. Don't let the devil drag you down. Don't let people discourage you. Don't let your own weakness keep you from Jesus.
Oh, I'm not saying that addiction is okay. Of course it's not okay. You know that already. You bring it to Jesus, and you say, "Jesus, break this. Jesus, beat this. Jesus, help me". You work with others; you get into a program, if that's what's gonna help you. You look for supporters and, and people that will build you up. You have people praying for you. I could tell you story after story after story, and I don't mean this figuratively; I mean it literally, of people who were as addicted as you can imagine, and they kept pressing on, and God broke those chains. You might say, "After all of these years in the church, I still see a bad habit in my life". Well, listen, friend; you keep on with Jesus, and you don't let that bad habit keep you from coming to Jesus. You can't afford to. He doesn't want you to. "Come to me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest".
If you're sharing your faith, don't stop. If you're witnessing and letting your light shine, don't let anything distract you. If your congregation is doing outreach, and you're not seeing the results that you want to see, don't stop doing outreach. Jesus said the fields are white and ready for harvest. He said the harvest is great; it's the laborers that are few. Believe! Jesus said, "I will make you fishers of men". You go out with your rod in hand, and you say, "I'm gonna catch something today because Jesus said I'm a fisher of men".
Don't let anything slow you down, slow your church down, from sharing Christ with your corner of the world. Don't stop. "We are too old". Amen. Just keep on going. "We are too young". Not a problem. Just keep going. "We don't have enough money". All right, be creative. Doesn't cost you a cent to share your faith in Jesus with somebody else, not one cent. And in your personal experience, keep the momentum going. Keep coming to God daily in prayer, daily in reading of the Bible. You just don't wanna stop. "Oh, but, John, I'm tired". You keep going. "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they will mount up with wings as eagles; they will run, and not be weary; they will walk, and not faint". Keep going. "But my sins, my problems". Keep going! If you're going to fall, fall in the direction of Jesus. Grab on to Jesus on your way down, and don't you let go.
Perhaps one of Canada's greatest heroes was a young man named Terry Fox. I love the Terry Fox story. Terry Fox was born in Winnipeg and raised in Port Coquitlam, east of Vancouver, in British Columbia. He was an athlete as a kid, very active. He played soccer; he played rugby; he played baseball; he played basketball. But Terry Fox came down with cancer. At the age of 19, osteosarcoma cost him his right leg. But three weeks after surgery, he was walking on an artificial leg. In August of 1979, he ran a marathon in Prince George, B.C. And then in April of 1980, he started what he called the, the Marathon of Hope. He started in St. John's in Newfoundland, way out there in the East, and his intention was to run all the way across Canada, 8,000 kilometers, 5,000 miles, and he wasn't gonna stop till he got to Vancouver over there in the West.
Now, you know Terry Fox didn't actually run. He, he sort of hop-stepped off his good leg so that he could drag his artificial leg. Why was he running the Marathon of Hope? He was running to raise money for cancer research. He raised millions of dollars. His run ended just outside Thunder Bay, where the cancer had returned. Made it impossible for him to run any further. Terry Fox ran for 143 days. He covered almost 5,500 kilometers, 3,300 miles. Terry Fox ran a marathon a day. That's super-human. How did he do that? You know how Terry Fox did it? One forward step at a time. This brother didn't have a reverse gear. The west coast of Canada beckoned, and he was gonna get there, even if it killed him. One step at a time, one foot in front of the other.
Forward, onwards, ahead always. And that's Christianity. We don't go backwards; we go forwards. When God calls us, we go forwards. When Jesus is in your life, He drives you; He compels you; He pushes you forward. When you are too weak, He is strong. When you are ignorant, He is wise. When you are empty, He will fill you up. Forward, friend! No time to go back. Forward, friend! No time to give up. Forward, friend! It's no time to quit. Forward! No time to lack hope because Jesus gives us hope today. What do you say? Momentum, let Jesus carry you forward, and He will. And one day soon you'll look up, and you'll say, "Look at the eastern sky has split wide open, and Jesus has come back for me". Come on, let's pray together now.
Our Father and our God, we are grateful. We need never quit in sharing our faith or living our faith because our hope is in You. And You will bless our efforts as we cooperate with You. You'll bless our efforts as we share our faith with others. And You'll continue to bless us and empower us as we turn in Your direction and appeal to You to live Your life in us. O Lord, we are weak. The Bible encourages us by saying, "He knows our frame, and He remembers we are dust". Lord, we thank You for living Your life in us today and always. We look to You. We trust in You. Our hope is in You. You will be our strength. In Jesus' name we pray, would you say with me, please, amen and amen.