Sermon Date: February 8, 2015
Sermon By: Pastor Dale Raether
Jesus Overcomes Our Obstacles in Following Him!
A sermon preached at New Hope Lutheran Church, West Melbourne, FL on February 8, 2015 by Pastor Dale Raether
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net
Jesus Overcomes Our Obstacles in Following Him!
Earlier we prayed this prayer: Almighty God, you sent your one and only Son as the Word of life for our eyes to see and our ears to hear. Help us to believe what the Scriptures proclaim about him and do the things that are pleasing in your sight. Sometimes believing His Word and doing what it says is really challenging. For example the Word says: Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. – Exodus 20:8 The point of this Old Testament Law which still applies today is that God wants us to regularly worship Him and gladly hear His Word. Let me introduce to you a wife and mom, who had ran into obstacles in doing that. Her name is Susan. She and her husband Steve had been married 16 years. They have two children, ages 15 and 13. Steve had pretty much stopped going to church, because he had completely thrown himself into his work. This left Susan raising the children on her own. She would take them to church and say prayers with them at night.
Before I continue, here’s where I’m getting this story from. This little book is called, Growing Together in Christ. It’s co-authored by Pastor Mark Zarling, who’s the president of our Synod’s pastor-teacher training school in New Ulm, MN. The other author was Gene Gronholz. He’s in heaven now, but he had worked for Wisconsin Lutheran Child and Family Service. This is the agency Jeremy Long, our son-in-law and one of your elders, works for. Let me continue with Susan’s and Steve’s story. As time passed and with the lack of Steven’s support, encouragement, and leadership, Susan admitted that she had become lonely and discouraged. Susan began attending church with her children less frequently. She excused her self by saying, “Steven doesn’t care, why should I?” Susan felt isolated from Steven. She expressed her need to feel loved, wanted and appreciated by her husband. To fill that void, that emptiness inside her, Susan purchased a lot of things for the house, the children, and herself. Yet Steven never acknowledged how beautify the home looked or how nice she and the children looked. Unfortunately, Susan charged most of the purchases on their credit card (page 59). In this paragraph did you hear the obstacles Susan had run into for her worship? Granted some of the obstacles she had brought on herself, and some were done to her. But they were obstacles nonetheless. The good news in our text is: Jesus Overcomes Our Obstacles in Following Him. 1. He heals all our diseases. 2. He defeated the devil. 3. He prays for us.
1. He heals all our diseases.
Our text reads: As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. – Mark 1:29-31 We don’t know how many of the Apostles were married. Peter was, and it’s possible that his wife had either passed, or she was among those who traveled at times with Jesus and took care of their meals and so on. At any rate the whole crew goes to Peter’s house, where his mother-in-law was living with them. When they get there, they find that she was sick with a high fever for some days. Jesus heals her. Normally, if we’ve have a high fever for days, even after the fever leaves us, it takes that many more days to get our strength back. Peter’s mother-in-law heads straight for the kitchen and starts cooking up a storm.
Sometimes physical ailments can be an obstacle to serving Jesus as much as we would like. That happened to St. Paul. Three times he had asked God to take his ailment away. Three times God said, “No”. In Paul’s case God was using an ailment to keep Paul humble and trusting in Him, plus that ailment was making it clear to everyone else, that everything Paul was doing was by God working through him. In Peter’s mother-in-law’s case, Jesus healed her immediately. But His purpose then was to get people’s attention, so they would listen to His teaching.
You see, what really matters is not physical healing, but spiritual healing. Also, regardless of what physical obstacles we might have in serving Him, as we study His Word, we grow in faith. And as we grow in faith, we grow in patience, wisdom, and endurance. You might say, then, that Jesus uses physical obstacles to help us grow through spiritual obstacles we might have. However, in all of this, Jesus knows us. Jesus loves us. And Jesus sees the total impact of everything that’s going on around us. For this reason, whenever we pray Deliver us from evil, in the Lord’s Prayer, we’re also praying, Hallowed be your name, and Your will be done.
2. He defeated the devil.
We read on in our text: That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. – Mark 1:32-34 We don’t hear a lot about demonic possession anymore. It was very common in Bible times. That’s because back then Satan was trying to scare people into not trusting in God, because supposedly God wasn’t able to stop him from doing the things he was doing. This tactic backfired on Satan. When Jesus and His disciples cast out demons, He was showing everyone that Satan was powerless before Him to harm us physically.
However, Satan is also powerless before Jesus to harm us spiritually. Nevertheless Satan’s main weapons are lies, guilt and temptations. Satan’s lies are defeated as we read the truth of God’s Word, and as God works through all things to lead us deeper into His word. The guilt, Satan tries to stick us with, was defeated when Christ died on the cross. Yet Satan keeps tempting us that not every sin is paid for, so that maybe we’ll give up on ourselves. Or, he tempts us that since our sins ARE paid for, it’s okay to choose sin. But that’s a lie too! Sin still enslaves, if we choose it. On the other hand sin is defeated, as we remember who Jesus is. He is God, who gave Himself on the cross for us, and now we are heirs with Him of heaven.
However Satan hasn’t given up. He still does everything he can to hinder us from following Jesus in our daily life. For example when I served a congregation of farmers in Wisconsin, the worst snowstorms seemed to always come on Saturday night. Or, if the water pipes in the barn were going to freeze and break, it would always be on Sunday morning. Or, when the weather finally got better, Satan would convince entire communities that the best time for weekly softball tournaments was Sunday morning. Satan does things like that here in Florida too. However, Jesus defeats all of Satan’s tactics by strengthening US through His Word, so that WE become role models to others. And yes, sometimes it’ll happen that love for others will require that we miss a service, but that will only be after extra effort on our part, for we belong to Jesus and not to the things of this life. But if we have forgotten that at times, Jesus invites us to come to Him, for He forgives and He heals our souls.
Now having said all this, Satan’s latest tactic is making His evil more open again like it was in Bible times. An example is what ISIL is doing in Syria. However, just as Jesus has always done in the past, He will use Satan’s tactics against himself. And so, the Christian church is growing the fastest of any part of the world in Syria. That’s because Christians there are letting their light shine, and light is brighter, when it’s surrounded by blackness. May we also let our lights shine, and not be discouraged, because of what’s going on in this world! No, rather, all the more let’s pay close attention to the Word for our own sake, until we have the wisdom and the endurance and the right words to share, in order to show everyone that Satan is defeated!
3. He prays for us.
We read on in our text: Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons. – Mark 1:35-39 That last part of these verses may be a little confusing. Why would Jesus go away from people, who were eager to hear Him? Well, they wanted more from Jesus than the Gospel. They wanted Jesus to remove all their physical obstacles to enjoying life here and now. Because of this, Jesus’ physical presence was becoming a spiritual obstacle to their faith, and that’s why He left.
This still applies today. Being a Christian doesn’t mean having a glorious life as the world defines glorious. Rather, it means having a glorious life as God defines glorious, and that means humbly serving others, even when or especially when they don’t deserve it or can repay us. However, humble service doesn’t mean enabling people to be irresponsible, because then we become a spiritual obstacle to them.
I hope this isn’t confusing, but life is confusing. Furthermore, feeling confused about how to handle a situation with someone can itself be an obstacle, which keeps us from doing anything. But here’s what Jesus did when faced with difficult situations. He prayed. He would present what He was facing to His Heavenly Father for Him to work it all into His eternal plans. Jesus also prayed for the Holy Spirit to work in people’s heart through His preaching and teaching.
Today Jesus is still interceding to the Father, whenever we’re faced with difficult situations. In doing this, Jesus is also serving as our example. So, suppose you know a Steven and a Susan, whose marriage is on the rocks. Or, suppose you know someone, who’s torn up inside with grief, or is going through more things than a person can take. What are we going to do for them? Let’s intercede to the Father for them. Then let’s assure them of God’s forgiveness through Christ, even if that’s just by relaying what God has done for you in the past. Or, maybe the best you can say is what Philip said to Nathanial in our sermon a couple of weeks ago, Come and see. Come and see the truths I’m hearing at our services. Or, come with me to our Pastor’s Bible Information Classes. And lastly, but certainly not the least, what we can do to help those who are hurting is what Peter’s mother-in-law is did. Make dinner for them! Amen.
Please visit our Synod’s website at www.wels.net