Wednesday, October 12, 2011

October 9, 2011 - The Sermon On the Mount - The Lord's Prayer - Never Give Up!

Matthew 6:9-13 (KJV)

Winston Churchill is one of modern history’s most quoted individuals. There is a famous story about a speech he gave on October 29, 1941 to Harrow School, which he attended as a boy. The story is that when Churchill stood up to speak he said – Never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, give in. Never give in. Never give in. Never give in. Then he sat down.

The entire speech, according to the story, was just 18 words. It makes for a good story, but it isn’t true. Churchill actually gave a longer speech that day (the text of which can be read here – and it included these words – Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never--in nothing, great or small, large or petty--never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

Though the story of the 18-word speech is not true, it continues to live on as fact to many. Why? Probably because it’s a great story, even if it isn’t true. It makes a great story because it distills the longer speech down to the essence of what Churchill was saying – don’t give up. That was the message people needed to hear in Churchill’s day and it’s one we need to hear today. Never give up.

We are attracted, I think, to stories of perseverance. The weight of what we face in our lives can bring about so much discouragement that we need those stories of overcoming difficulties.

The next picture reminds us there are people who overcome incredibly difficult situations in their lives, and we are encouraged by what they are able to accomplish in the face of such great difficulties. Bethany Hamilton lost her arm in a shark attack at the age of 14. Nick Vujicic (Voy – e – chick) was born without any arms or legs but has proved incredibly inspirational because of what he has been able to accomplish in spite of his physical limitations.

How many of you feel hopeful about the state of the world? Do you ever feel as though you want to just give up? Does life ever get to the point that you feel so overwhelmed you want to just throw up your hands and say what’s the use? I give up! I quit! Have you ever faced challenges that seemed so insurmountable that you felt there was no hope?

This morning we complete our study of the Lord’s Prayer, and as we come to the final phrase, this is the message Jesus offers – Never Give Up! Never Give Up! Don’t lose faith. Don’t lose heart.

Listen again to the final words of the Lord’s Prayer – and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.

I believe the message of those words is that we should never grow discouraged and we should never quit. We should never lose heart. We should never lose faith. Those words are a promise of the goodness of God and the faithfulness of God.

There are a couple of unusual aspects to this final part of the Lord’s Prayer. First, depending on the translation of the Bible that you use, you may be surprised to find the final phrase – for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, missing. Some translations omit that phrase because it doesn’t appear in many of the early manuscripts of Matthew’s gospel. Interestingly, it begins to appear more often in the manuscripts that date to the time when the church was suffering terrible persecution under the Roman Empire. It was an important reminder during a very difficult time – Never give up! Don’t lose hope. Don’t lose faith. Don’t despair. The world is in the hands of God however much it may appear otherwise. That was the message sent to a church under terrible persecution – God is in control, not the Roman Empire.

The second unusual aspect of this latter part of the prayer is the phrase – and lead us not into temptation. Have you ever thought it odd that we should ask God not to tempt us? Would God do such a thing as tempt us? Isn’t life difficult enough without the worry that temptation might come from God?

Jesus is not implying that God would tempt us to into what is wrong. In fact, the book of James says When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone (James 1:13). The word used for temptation actually carries the meaning of being tested. Temptation and tested are two very different things. Temptation means to be led astray while tested means to undergo a series of trials or difficulties.

It is the evil in the world, I believe, that tests us, not God. The struggles and trials of life test us, not God. The evil in the world can cause us to lose hope; some people have abandoned faith because of the evil they see or experience. It is tempting to lose heart because of the struggles we fact in life. It is tempting to say what’s the use in trying? It is tempting to say What I do doesn’t matter. It is tempting to say Nothing I do makes a difference. But the end of the Lord’s Prayer is a reminder that in spite of how bad things in the world may appear, God is ultimately in control. And he’s in control forever.

Forever, Jesus says. Forever. When the economies of the world are shaky and on the verge of collapse, God is in control, and he is in control forever. When political instability threatens – God is in control – forever. When wars and violence rage on, God is in control – forever. When hatred seems to be getting the upper hand over love, God is in control – forever.

Scripture, on page after page, affirms that God is indeed in control. The Old Testament book of Job is about the testing of Job and raises the question of whether he would be able to endure in spite of a series of great trials and testing. In spite of all the difficulties Job experiences, he doesn’t lose faith. In spite of the fact that Job’s friends encourage him to give up, he does not do so. In 13:15 Job’s hold to his faith allows him to say though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.

The 23rd Psalm reminds us The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou annointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Isaiah 40:28-31 reminds us - Do you now know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

Romans 8:37-39 says Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine of nakedness or danger or sword?...No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Philippians 4:13 says, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

The book of Revelation, often seen as only prophecy, is really a book to instill confidence in people who were suffering terribly under persecution. So many of the images in Revelation are of a God so much mightier and more powerful than the armies of Rome. God is still in control is the message of Revelation.

And on and on we could go.

Some of you are facing tremendous challenges. Some of you may be on the cusp of giving up. Some of you may be wondering how you will make it. Never give up. Do not lose hope. Don't quit. Your life doesn't rise and fall on the stock market. Your life doesn't rest upon the success or failure of a political agenda. Your destiny does not rest upon the report a doctor offers, but upon what is deeper, higher, and more powerful - that which lasts forever. Forever! Say with me - Forever!

No comments: