Joe stood at the pulpit looking out at his congregation, fire in his eyes and a prayer in his heart. The message he had to share today was not an easy one, but to do less than what God required of him would be spiritual suicide.
This sermon came out of a dark night of his soul, one in which he struggled with sin plaguing him day and night. He knew the message he was about to preach would reach at least one person today. He prayed that person would have an open heart to listen and respond.
“Let’s pray.” Joe paused, quieting his heart, seeking the Holy Spirit’s leading. “Father, thank you for your Word, that is living and powerful; sharper than any two-edged sword, dividing soul and spirit, discerning the thoughts and intents of the heart. (i) I pray, Lord God, that your Word will even now do its dividing work, that your people will hear Your Word to them this day and respond with a heart of obedience. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.”
“Amen,” the congregation echoed. Joe hoped it was heartfelt and not just a rote response.
“Please turn with me in your Bibles to Hebrews 5:7-8. For Jesus, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications with strong cryings and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard in that He feared, though being a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which
“These verses may sound somewhat confusing, but I hope to shed some light on them for you today. It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will speak to your hearts and give you understanding. When Jesus was here on the earth, He was living - just as you and I, ‘in the flesh’. He struggled and suffered with temptation, just as we do. While in the garden He prayed that He would not have to go through the agony of the cross. His flesh did not want to suffer. Yet, He was willing to say, ‘Not my will, but yours be done.’ (ii) These words show that Jesus suffered. Jesus learned obedience through the things that He suffered.
“Jesus is our example. He left us a road map to follow. When He was suffering in the flesh, He had a choice; He could either give into the suffering, walking away from God’s will, or He could allow suffering to teach Him obedience. In essence, He could chose misery or great joy. Hebrews 12:2 tells us He endured
the cross because of the joy set before Him. Obedience brings immense joy. Suffering led Jesus to obedience.
“What kind of suffering are you facing today my friends?” His eyes scanned the crowd, and he saw her. Tears streamed down her cheeks, her eyes intent on him, listening to every word with rapt attention. He knew then that he needed to share deeply from his heart, making himself vulnerable before these precious
people of God.
“I have struggled these last few weeks. I have a relationship in my life that I have long wished was closer. Every time I’m with this person, things are just as they’ve always been, distant; leaving me feeling inadequate. I cringe inside, and a little part of me seems to die. I have turned elsewhere to satisfy the barren feeling in my heart – food doesn’t do much, except to fill what doesn’t need to be filled – my belly! I felt so empty turning to food – and I finally listened to that still small voice calling my name. I wanted to ignore Him, to keep on stuffing the pain away, but He was calling me to obedience, to trust Him to help me with this issue and give this relationship to Him.
“So right now, I’m learning what happens as I allow myself to feel this pain, this suffering, and this anguish. I am learning to turn to God; and hopefully allowing it to teach me obedience. I am finding joy in the midst of the pain. Although my heart hurts, His joy is stronger, His love shines brighter and is
illuminating my heart as never before. I am finding that this path is much better than enjoying the pleasures
of sin for a time. (iii)
“I pray you will find the same as you examine your hearts and let Him show you anything that is keeping you from His best for you.”
(i) Hebrews 4:12 (MKJV)
(ii) Matthew 26:39 (MKJV)
(iii) Hebrews 11:25 (MKJV)
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