Courage is the catalyst to breakthrough. Take what you do have, take a step, and start meeting some need. And then, what you see? God’ll show up. He’ll draw other people. I mean, all those great stories we have of miraculous things that happen, they don’t happen to people that are waiting for God to line everything up; they happen to people who step out, and often don’t know how it’s gonna work.
God is on the edge of His throne, and He wants a breakthrough to happen for you, and you’re basically saying, “I’m not taking a step, because I don’t think He’ll provide.” And your financial worldview has you living in a situation where you don’t experience God’s power. You don’t experience answers to prayer – you know what? God doesn’t play games. He doesn’t provide breakthroughs over here, when He says, “Now, this is true and right, and this is what I want you to do,” and you say, “Well, thanks. I take that as a really good opinion, and I’ll consider doing that.” That’s not how it works. Obedience is a channel through which blessing flows.
And the final barrier is the barrier of self-interest. But the self-interest goes something like this: He gets the disciples alone, which is His pattern. Miracles, teaching, small-group disciples, explanation. Checking, small-group disciples, explanation. Specific questions to see what they’re learning.
And so, as we flow through the text, at the end of chapter 8, Jesus says, “So, who do men say that I am?” “Well, some think John the Baptist, others Elijah, others the prophet that’s to come.” Now, the author has just told you that the disciples are blind. They see, but they don’t understand. And so, Jesus heals someone who sees partially, and then, the next question helps them see fully. And so, He’s picturing, for us, the process. And so, “Yeah, you’re pretty close – a prophet, Elijah, John the Baptist. But who do you say that I am?” And, again, this is Peter. He just steps up, inspired by the Spirit of God: “You are the Messiah. You are the Son of the living God.” “Peter – A-plus, and you didn’t get that yourself. God gave that to you. The Father revealed that to you.”
And by the way, that’s how this works. We take steps, but the Spirit of God will powerfully and supernaturally confirm and reveal, inside your heart, the reality of who He is. And so, as you take steps of faith, He’ll let you know, “I’ll support. I’ll show up.”
But then, something happens, because as God begins to work in our life, then Jesus begins a little bit of the truth. And the truth is, men all prophesied through the Old Testament, yes, the Messiah will come and reign. But before He reigns, He’s gonna be a suffering servant. And the text says He began to explain to them, plainly, that He would die and rise on the third day, that He would be betrayed by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. And He was kind of preparing them.
And as He’s preparing them – does anybody remember what our great hero, Peter, does? Peter takes Him aside, “Hey, Lord, I don’t know what You’re thinking, but You need to cut that one. That is not the right message. Look, we got thousands of people. The money’s rolling in. These miracles – I mean, You are the man. Rome’s going down, Pharisees are going out. You’re the big dude, and we’re with You. So.” I mean, that was their view! And after being the hero who heard from God – “You’re the Messiah” – what’s Jesus say to him? He says the harshest words that any human being, I think, has ever heard: “Get behind me” – not Peter – “Satan!” See, Satan’s the father of lies.
But then, what’s the explanation? “For you do not have on your mind and heart the things of God, but the things of men.” In other words, “You wanna use Me. You don’t want Me to fulfill the Father’s will. You don’t care about anyone else. Peter, you want to use Me. You don’t want the price; all you want is the product. You’re not willing to follow Me and to suffer, and realize this is God’s plan. You really want Jesus to be sort of your little self-help genie, to make your life work out your way.”
Anybody else, other than me, struggle with that? It’s a barrier. It’s a barrier. I mean, you think of this passage – who experienced breakthroughs? I mean, if you went down through – Who experienced the miraculous, the breakthrough? Unlikely people, right? Unworthy women, deaf guys, blind people.
Who didn’t experience breakthrough? Religious people, disciples. What did they do? What did the Pharisees do? Criticize, feel threatened, trying to figure out a way to manipulate the situation. What did the disciples do? Worry, uptight, concerned about them.
The people that got breakthroughs, what did they do? Passionately came to Jesus, and said, literally, “I beg You. I beg You. I beg You. I beg You.” Five times, they come and say, “I just need help. I’ll do anything. You’re the answer. I don’t care what people think; I’m not unworthy. I’m trusting You. I don’t see clearly. I know I don’t completely hear. I know I’ve got self-interest, but I will . . .” And what happens to them? Bam! Bam! Bam! God’s power.
Courage is the catalyst for breakthrough.
What lessons did He want ‘em to learn? If you went through each one of these, He wants ‘em to learn, God’s Word, not tradition, is what you go by. God’s love – no respecter of persons. God’s power – available in impossible situations, even when you’re dim – deaf. Might be dim and deaf. God’s provision is always available, and that God’s demands – here’s the hard part – are for your good.
See, Peter unconsciously thought he knew what was best for his future, his life, and his relationships. And, again, he forgot about God’s goodness. There are things God will ask you and me to do in following Him, that are hard, that are unpleasant, and that are scary. And what we have to remember, He’s a sun and a shield. He gives grace and glory, and there’s nothing good that He withholds.
In fact, look at chapter 9, because there is a question that every one of us will have to answer. There’s a path that we must take, and a vision to acquire. And what He does, here, is, He helps weak people get courage. I mean, the whole goal of what’s happening right here is, He wants these followers to be infused with courage.
And so, when He asks them – here’s the question He asks them, but He asks us: Who do you think Jesus is?
Is He a good, moral character, is it a biblical worldview, is it try hard to be a nice person, or has the living God died for you, risen from the dead, the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the one to whom all people of all time, every knee will bow, every tongue confess, and He’s invited you to a personal relationship, to follow Him. That’s a lot different than, “I believe in God, and Jesus paid for my sin, and I kind of live my life, and I squeeze Him in when I can.”
And the path – what’s the path? Look at verse 34. He says to them, “If [any man, if any woman] would come after Me, [let him] deny himself . . . take up his cross and follow Me.” He’s saying, power is resurrection power, but the only way you experience resurrection power is when there’s a death.
And what you have to die to – and this is the hard part – is your agenda, and take your future and your relationships and your finances and your kids and your uncertainty and your work and your dreams, and you offer ‘em to God and say, “I’m all in. I’ll follow You.”
And when we say that, what the enemy whispers is, “Well, then, it’ll be hard. It’ll be terrible. You’ll never get married. You’ll never have any money. It’s gonna be really rough.” And all that is like – oh, so God, He’s willing to die for you, and loves you that much, but He really wants life on earth to be just a real pain in the rear. That’s how we act.
And so, what does He say? Afterwards, He tries to help His disciples, with His arm around ‘em, saying, “Guys, don’t you understand? This is the path I will follow. I will die, and I will rise from the dead, and I’m gonna blaze the trail. Because unless a grain of wheat fall into the earth and die, it remains by itself, alone. But if it dies, it bears forth much fruit. For what will it profit a man or a woman if you gain the whole world, but you forfeit your soul?”
He’s saying, “I’ve got your best interests – there are some things that are hard, but you want deep relationships, you want My blessing in your life, you wanna have a connection with your kids, you want My hand of power and blessing upon your work?
Take up your cross to follow Me. ‘Cause what will it profit you if you cut corners and neglect Me, and one of your kids gets in Stanford, and another in Columbia, and they have high SAT scores, and your company finally goes public, and then, you get that really good raise, and you not only get this house, but you get to remodel your kitchen, and then, you get a little piece in the mountains, or maybe in the beach, and you work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work, work – and then, you’re this lonely person, alienated from God, and you have all these toys and all this stuff, and you realize it’s empty.” Now, they may be blessings that God would use. He’s not saying those things are wrong. What He’s saying is, they’re a bad end. And they might be a blessing that could be used and enjoyed, but as you follow the trail...
Well, how does this all work? How do we move from this vision that Jesus is who He said He is, that He’s the Lord, He’s the Son of God, He’s a good Shepherd, He’s the Messiah, He’s the Savior, you believe Him, and you get to where, when you’re afraid, you can take a step of courage and begin to see Him work?
Well, everything I’ve put on this sheet – I don’t know about you, I’m... whatever you call it. I’m linear, strategic, whatever those tests give you… What I like about the apostle Paul is, he takes all this truth of Jesus, and he goes, “Okay, point one – A1, A2, A3. I mean, it’s boom, boom, boom, boom, boom. So, I’m gonna take everything we’ve talked about, and I wanna walk through and give you a very linear, specific path and game plan to apply it. Because if you’ll take a step of courage, you will see God show up, in you and through you, like never before.
Here’s the path. The analysis: Fear keeps us from stepping out to unleash God’s power into impossible situations. Fair? We’re all afraid. But it keeps us from stepping out. I know I should, I know I ought, but we don’t. Two, stepping out requires courage. Courage is the power to act, despite our fears. Courage is birthed in us when we see God for who He is, and therefore, the size of our God becomes greater than the size of the obstacles, our problems, and our fear. Courage is birthed when our circumstances are so impossible, and we’re so desperate, that we step out and seek God’s help because we have exhausted all other options. Have you ever noticed that the biggest times in your life where God showed up was when you didn’t bring anything to the party, you were desperate?
Can I just tell you, and me, we’re as desperate today, if your circumstances are good, as you were when your kid was in ICU, or someone you love has cancer. But boy, no one had to teach me how to pray when my wife had cancer. No boxes to check. I was begging God.
When’s the last time you came before God, with urgency and passion, and begged Him to intervene in something in your life, or something about your character, or something – a habit that you have, or a relationship that you know’s gotta turn around, instead of, “I hope it works out, and I’ll try this, and I’ll read another book on that. And maybe if I talk to her, who talks to him, and then, she’ll get this turned around.” Or, maybe we try some different medicine. I’m for all the doctors, all the wisdom, all the counsel, but God does the impossible.
Courage, then, demands faith that God will do what He’s promised. I mean, I don’t step out – I’m not Peter until I believe if He said, “Come,” I can come! So, do you have faith?
Well, where do you get faith? Faith is a result of seeing Jesus up close, for who He is. And so, did you notice in chapter 9, verse 2, He has them on this journey. He wants ‘em to have courage. He knows courage comes through faith. He wants ‘em to step out. How are they gonna get faith? He takes His three key guys – James, John, and Peter – up on a mountain, and ‘member? What’d He say? “You see, but you don’t understand. You hear, and you don’t get it.”
And so, He takes ‘em up the Mount of Transfiguration, and it wasn’t a light from heaven, contrary to movies. The light came out of Jesus. He pulled back, and they saw the glory of the Son of God. And I mean, it was bright!
And then, all of a sudden, two people show up that these guys trust. Moses – what was Moses? Moses was the greatest revealer of God’s truth in the Old Testament. Elijah is the greatest revealer of God’s power. And these three guys, with all their doubts, all of a sudden – whew! – “This is who Jesus is. I see it.” And here’s the testimony, and then, a cloud comes, and they actually hear; they’re not deaf anymore. “This is My dearly loved Son. Listen to Him.” And those three guys will believe, and they’ll be courageous because they believe. And Jesus took them up so they could see Him for who He is.
And notice, we can, in our day, and here’s how: Prayer is God’s invitation to see Jesus up close, and believe He will do what is impossible for you. You need to totally revamp how you think about praying. Okay, five minutes, eight minutes, ten minutes, twelve minutes – okay. I think I’m supposed to do a little – “Okay, thank You, God. Thank You, God. Help me. I’ll see you later.” You know, “I’ll catch You in the car.” God wants a relationship.
What do you really want? What do you really want? Intentional, passionate, focused – “God, I want You to restore my marriage.” “God, I would like a husband, or a wife.” “God, I want You to turn one of my kids around.” “God, I think this kid has this opportunity. I want You to do something, so – I want You to open this avenue.” “Lord, I want to build a great business, and I’m telling You on the front end, You can do with it whatever You want, but this is what I’m asking.”
Are you praying like that? “God, I’m mad! God, I’m ticked off! God, I can’t take this anymore! I don’t understand!” The raw, real you, before the living God. ‘Cause what God honors is truth. Not these plastic little, “Bless here, and now I lay me down to sleep, and,” you know, “Help us do this, and help us do that.” You don’t really want help. “God, I’m scared to death, and You spoke to me about taking a step, and if You don’t show up, I’m – I’ll sink like Peter.”
And for some of you, if you’re like me, you feel like you don’t have time. And so, our final point is, fasting is choosing to remove whatever distracts us from seeing and experiencing God for who He is. And by the way, for some of you, food is the last thing in the world you need to fast from. It’s a good start. You need to fast from your phone. You need to fast from Facebook. You need to fast from your hobby. You need to fast from every moment of every time of how much football you’re gonna watch, or how many fantasy leagues, or how much time you shop. Whatever it is – some of you need to fast from a relationship. This person is no good for your spiritual, emotional, and intellectual health. You need to fast from them and get away from them for two or three weeks. Now, if it’s your marriage partner, that’s not what I’m recommending.
But do you understand? Do you realize how many of us – you have traditions and habits, and you want God to really work, and you do this and do that for a couple hours, and then, you sit afterwards ‘cause you’re exhausted, and you’re exhausted because you didn’t eat very well, and you don’t work out ‘cause you don’t have time. You don’t have time, ‘cause you’re sitting in front of a TV for two or three hours at the end of every day, and you keep doing it and doing it and doing it and doing it, doing it, and you come here, and you get all fired up, and then, you go, “It doesn’t work.”
Create space! And then, if you do, you won’t last two or three days. And the reason we’re talking about people needing small groups – you can never sustain any kind of discipline apart from people being in your corner, and you saying, “Will you help me get there?” No one does the journey alone. No one can keep their commitments alone.