Michael Youssef - Jesus, Know Him and Live - Part 1
Stress (raise your hand now) it really is a huge problem in our culture, in our society, in our world. I talk to people all over the world. Stress is phenomenal. In fact, all you need to do is, you look at the books and the seminars about stress management to realize the enormity of the problem. Most social scientists tell us that we live frantic, disjointed, and disconnected lives. As a matter of fact, we are in constant battle just trying to live a focused life and a well-ordered life. It's a battle, and most people have their priorities sideways, and that's really the cause of most stress. Every study had shown that at least 60% of us are living in a continuous state of stress, constantly stressed out.
I know that the medical scientists have been warning us (and very few people are heeding that warning) that a continuous stress and a persistent stress is very dangerous for our physical well-being. In fact, continuous stress can suppress the immune system. It opens the way to cancer and infectious diseases, and even strokes. In fact, most stress-management experts have concluded that stress is caused by the way we respond to our circumstances rather than the circumstances themselves. Let me give you an example: You get stuck in traffic. What do you do?
Well, you can scream and yell and honk your horn, or do sign language and all of the things that people do when they get stuck in traffic, or you can say, "Thank God, I've got 15 minutes of uninterrupted time". It's the way you react to your circumstances. The University of Wisconsin has a very extensive Stress Management Institute, and they found that 90% of all the stress is brought about by worrying, worrying about things had already happened, or worrying about things that are going to happen, or worrying about things that could happen, none of which you had any control. It's very helpful. But I wanna tell you about the permanent cure for stress.
Now, whether your stress is self-imposed or a reaction to your circumstances, whether your stress is self-inflicted or produced by somebody else putting it upon you, whether your stress is of your own making or not, the first thing you need to know is that, in the words of Hudson Taylor, it doesn't matter how great the pressure is. What really matters is where that pressure lies. Does it lie between you and God, or does it lie behind you so that it might press you closer to the heart of God? And the Bible gives us lots of examples. I mean, you go from the Old Testament and the New Testament and lots of examples of people who either allowed stress to put a barrier between them and God, or allowed the stress of life to press them closer to the heart of God, lots of examples.
But this morning I want to zero in on two sisters: One chose Jesus. She chose to know Jesus, and she experienced joy and contentment, and the other sister stressed herself out so much that she did not only resent her sister's contentment, she actually blamed Jesus for her stress. Two sisters, Martha and Mary, they lived in a small village, really not very far from Jerusalem. The story is recorded in the gospel of Luke chapter 10, verses 38 to 42. Jesus was a close friend of this family. He often came for times of refreshment with this family, and this family was made up of two sisters and a brother. He's not mentioned here, but his name is Lazarus. We find out about him later.
In fact, in another incident, later on, this was earlier in Jesus's ministry, but later on, Lazarus, the brother, the only brother, the only male in the family, became very sick, and he died, and Jesus comes four days after Lazarus was buried, and the corpse began to smell, and with the power of his omnipotence, he says, "Lazarus, come out," and he comes out of the tomb, raised the dead. But this was earlier in Jesus's time, earlier visit. Look with me at verse 38 and 39: "And Jesus and his disciples were on their way, and he came to the village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him". So far, so good, right? "She and her sister, called Mary, sat at Jesus's feet, listening to what he says". A beautiful picture. A beautiful picture, I think you agree. Mary was the younger sister.
You say, "Michael, how do you know that"? In the Hebrew language, whoever the name comes first is the older in the family. Mary realized what an incredible privilege for Jesus to be in their house, what an incredible privilege for her to sit at Jesus's feet, what a blessing it is to fellowship with Jesus, what a blessing it is to be able to sit at his feet and drink deeply from his words. Martha, on the other hand, she was a prototype of Martha Stewart of today. She absolutely was an intense lady. I mean, she was perfectionist. She was based on performance and give-it-your-all type of person. You know what I'm talkin' about? Nobody is in this room like that. Instead of choosing Jesus, to knowing Jesus and experiencing life that is worth the name, Martha chose performance and got herself into a frenzy, but that's not all.
Look at verse 40: "But Martha was distracted", I'm gonna come back to that word. It's a very important word, "with all preparations. So she came up to Jesus, 'Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to help me.'" Martha was "distracted". I'm gonna explain that word. It's very important. But you notice that Martha was not doing anything wrong. She was not sinning. She was not doing things wrong. She was doing good, but, beloved, I want you to listen to me: There are countless millions of people in our society who are busy doing good things. There are countless number of people who say, "I do good because it makes me feel good," countless number of people who see themselves as good people because they're doing good things.
I'm not against good things, but, listen, doing good things is better than doing nothing, but I'm here to tell you what God's Word said, not what I think. God's Word says, doing good things that draws you away from Jesus and his salvation is not worth a half a hallelujah. Don't shoot the messenger. I'm telling you what God's Word said. Well, this Martha Stewart of the first century was a perfectionist and performance-driven. Oh, my goodness, people not just in Bethany would talk about Martha. There's a whole region. They would talk about Martha, oh, about her dining room table, how exquisite it is, how beautiful it is, how perfect it is, how beautiful it looks. And, oh, the food, Martha's food, my goodness, it's to die for. I mean, her food is delectable. No one can hold a candle to Martha's recipes. Everybody's tryin' to get them. Everyone is buying her magazines, trying to imitate her excellent taste.
First century Martha got herself into such a frenzy in preparation while her sister was sitting there, worshipping Jesus. I mean, I just want you to get this picture, okay? Her sister, Mary, chose to honor Jesus. Her sister, Mary, knew what the Bible said, the Old Testament, "obedience better than sacrifice". King Saul thought he can bribe God with a sacrifice and then live in disobedience, and prophet Samuel said to him, "Obedience is better than sacrifice". And so, Martha's level of anxiety and stress, they just began to go through the roof. I mean, you see the smoke coming out of her nostrils. I can imagine dear old Martha. I mean, she was kneading the dough. And while she's doing it, she's looking at Mary, and if looks would kill, Mary would've been blown into smithereens.
"Look at her. Look at her. What is she thinking? What is she thinking? She goes religious, all of a sudden, on me. Look at Mary. She doesn't care if the dining table looks nice or not. She doesn't care if the food is ready, on time, or not. Look at her", and she's pounding at the dough, I mean, pounding at it, "Bible open, fellowshipping with Jesus, listening to Jesus, worshiping Jesus". And Martha, stressed in self-pity and feeling sorry for herself, just began to really blow up from the inside. Finally, she blew up at Jesus. Listen, the hotter, or the more air you put in the balloon, the easier it bursts, right? Be very careful of bursting your balloon because there is an answer to your stress. And so, she basically says to Jesus, "You don't care. Don't you care"?
Martha assumed not only that Jesus didn't care, but she also assumed that Mary is irresponsible. "My sister has left me to do all the work myself. Feel sorry for me". And she tried to enlist Jesus to do her bidding. "Tell her to come and help me". Let me repeat myself just for a minute because it's important. It was fine for Martha to be preparing food. It's admirable what she was doing, but here's the absolute biblical truth, my friend. Listen to me very carefully: All of our human efforts to do good and do good work, all of our activism, all of the working our fingers to the bone without Jesus is not worth a half a hallelujah.
I don't make the rules, and I was thinking about this, and I was thinking about how many false accusations have been thrown at Bible-believing Christians by those who think that they can earn their salvation through good works, by those who think they can earn heaven by their efforts, by those who think they can earn eternal life by their own activism? I was talking to someone that I did not know. She came, introduced herself to me at a party, and she said, she brought the name of somebody that I knew, and I knew from previous life, and she started telling me, "You need to know how many bake sales she held, how many bazaars she hosted for charity. You need to know how many silent auctions she conducted for charity. Oh, she does this, and she does that, and she does the other thing".
And I was listening, and I was listening, and she said, "She earned her reward". Now, those of you who know me, you know that sometimes I really can bite my tongue. I really do. Sometimes I can, sometimes I can't. I gotta confess to you, that time, I couldn't, and I said to her, "Without Jesus, all of that means nothing". This dear lady took off faster than I could bat my eyes. I'm serious. I mean, I had people run away from me before. I mean, I've seen it all, but she just, "shoom". I blinked, and she's gone. Well, better than saying what others have said. I'd rather have someone curse me today for telling them the truth than spend eternity cursing me.
Know Jesus and live because that's the only life that's worth the name. You see, we live in a time where society at large and many a church is preaching self-salvation. That is the tragedy we're living in, in this age. Millions of people are bought into this erroneous concept that "If I try to be good and do good, I can earn my way to heaven," but there is one humongous problem with that: God said you can work yourself into a frenzy. You can organize humanitarian and charity events 24/7, but without knowing Jesus as your only Savior and Lord of this life, you cannot have eternal life. I don't make the rules. But I'm thankful that somebody, back yonder, loved me enough to tell me the truth so I could come to Jesus.
Like the lady who ran away from me, when she heard what she did not want to hear, she was polite. Others have said other things. That's okay. People who stress themselves out, thinking that they can earn the favor of God or the favor of others, they often blow up when things go wrong. Others develop this cold relationship with God. Martha blew up at Jesus and her sister. Did you know that most of the stressed-out people are prone to blame others for their plight? Did you know that? They really do. They're always, "It is not fair with all the good that I'm doing, and you are telling me what? I must know Jesus as my only Savior and Lord and friend, and only then can I be saved"?
That's what he said. That's what he said, and he's inviting you. He's inviting you to come. Find him, know him, and live forever. After you come to Jesus, he's gonna give you strength, he's gonna give you supernatural strength to serve him, and you're gonna serve him with joy and delight, not as a drudgery or something so you can earn, no. It's gratitude and thanksgiving. Look at verses 41 and 42, 'cause I don't want you to take my word for it. I want you to take Jesus's word for it, so I want you to check me out here. "The Lord answered Martha and said, 'Martha, Martha...'"
Now, let me give you a secret about the Hebrew language. Whenever the term is repeated twice, like when Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you," whenever the name is repeated twice, it's a sign of an intensified emotion. "Martha, Martha, you are worried. You are stressed out. You're upset about too many things, but there's only one thing that is really needed, and Mary has chosen Jesus. She came to know me, and that can never be taken away from her". They can take away your clothes, they can take away your liberty, they can take away your food, they can take away your treasures. They can never take away Jesus from you.
That's why today there are millions of Christians throughout the world are gladly dying for Jesus. If you hear the stories that we hear every single day, people are tortured, and they gladly die for Jesus because they know they can take everything, but they can't take away Jesus, and that's what Jesus has said: "Mary found". The word that is used here by Dr. Luke, we call "stressed out," it really means to be pulled out in too many different directions.
Let me ask you this. Let me ask you this: Do you feel that you're being pulled in too many different directions today? Do you feel that you are being torn apart from the inside today? I mean, do you feel confused and uncertain and stressed out today? Do you feel that you are spreading yourself so thinly? Do you feel that you are splitting yourself in two? Do you feel that you're on a treadmill in life, and you don't know how to get off? Do you feel that you're spinning your wheels and going nowhere?
I've got good news for you today. Good news for you today. Know Jesus and live, not only this life that is life that's stress-free, but for eternity with him in heaven. What are those many things that you are scattered about? What was for Martha may not be for you. The things that are scattering you may not be what scatters Martha. For Martha, of course, it was the bread and the meat and the napkins or the "serviettes," as they say in England, or the timing, or the setting. Oh, my, all these things, but you have other things that they're distracting you from Jesus, the most important thing in life.
Ask yourself the question, "What are the things that are distracting you from the one and only most important thing in life"? Let me plead with you: Don't let the most important thing in life, namely Jesus, be lost in the shuffle. Don't let one thing distract you from the perspective and steal it away from you. There may be a person here today who would say, "You know, I really believe in Jesus. I admire Jesus. I'm very moved by the love of Christ. I really like Jesus. It's the Christians that I don't like 'cause they're hypocrites".
That's okay. Welcome to the club. The question is not whether you believe in Jesus, but whether you believe Jesus, and there's world of difference between those two. Do you believe Jesus? See, believing Jesus is take him at his word. That's believing Jesus. Take him at his word. He said, "When you come to me, I'm not gonna let you out. I'm not gonna let you out of my hands". You're secure in his hand. And I'm not asking you to do a... most people call, "blind faith," and you hear that in the media all the time. "Well, it might be true, it might not, but you just have faith".
Faith. Faith. They abuse the word. No, but I'm inviting you to have faith that is based on the historical evidence of who Jesus is. That is believing his words and that he, and he alone, is the one who lived every bit as right as what he taught, and Jesus said, "I am the only way to salvation. Only when you believe in me and you put your whole trust in me, not only will you lose the stress of life and you'll be assured of me walking with you day by day, moment by moment, but you can be assured that the moment you close your eyes in death, you'll be with me in heaven".