Courage – The Catalyst to Breakthrough
From the series Breakthrough
We're all pretty familiar with fear - sometimes that fear is real and sometimes it's only perceived. Regardless, courage is the ability to stand boldly and make a decision or take action in the face of that fear. As a Christian, we have absolute certainty that we never face our fear alone. God has promised never to leave us or forsake us. So, He's there - ready to encourage, strengthen, and support us when we choose courage. Chip explains how the Lord willingly helps us when we turn to Him.
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About this series
Unleashing God's Power into Impossible Situations
What do you do when a circumstance or relationship in your life is so hard, so big, so overwhelming that it truly becomes impossible? You need a divine, supernatural intervention. In this new 5-part series from Chip Ingram, you’ll discover the steps to experiencing breakthrough and how to make breakthrough a normal part of your life.More from this series
Mark chapter 6 – five thousand people are fed. Notice what Jesus does. He sends the disciples off. “Immediately Jesus had His disciples get into the boat to go ahead of Him while He dismissed the crowd. And after they left, He went up on the mountain to pray. When evening came, the boat was in the middle of a lake, and He was alone on land.” And, this, by the way, when you’re ready to take some steps for God – notice, the disciples get on the journey, and there is a stiff wind, and they’re straining at the oars. That’s what it’s like when you start taking steps for God.
And so, “About the fourth watch of the night, He went out to them.” And this is trying to increase their faith, so He’s walking on the water. And as He comes by, and had decided to pass by, they see Him and think He’s a ghost, and they’re terrified.
Immediately He spoke to them and notice what He says to them. He says to them, He says to us: “You’re taking a step.” You want to do what God wants you to do, and you’re thinking, Yes, okay, we’re going to go to counseling, or, Okay – oh, my lands, I’m going to really go public in this situation. I’m going to share my faith with this person, or, You know what? I’m going to confront this issue with one of my kids, and I’m scared to death, because maybe she’s going to… And what’s He say to them? “Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.”
Now, we’re in Mark’s gospel, and Matthew, Mark, and Luke are what’s called the “synoptics” and they’re speaking to different audiences. And so, Mark is written to the Roman audience, Luke to a Greek audience, and Matthew to the Jewish audience. And so, they all tell the same story, but they add, all correctly, the full picture, but in ways that help their audience understand.
And so, Matthew, during this exact same time, he adds something. And he lets us know that, right when Jesus is walking on the water and is going to pass by, Peter – you know, I love Peter. You know, he’s impulsive, “Let’s give it a whirl, what the heck.” You know, “You only live once.” “Lord, if it’s You, tell me to come!” And so, Jesus says, “Come.” And so, Peter takes – you know – it’s like, “This is amazing. He walks on the water; I walk on the water.” And then, his courage evaporates, and he sees the wind and the waves, and there’s fear. He starts to sink, and literally – quick prayer – “Save me!” And Jesus reaches out, pulls him up. They get into the boat. They worship Him.
And that metaphor, that picture of stepping out into uncertainty, which, if God doesn’t show up, you’re paralyzed by your fear, and you don’t do it, is courage. And Jesus is going to use this little picture, and then, the author is going to take us through a series of barriers to breakthrough. Because in your life, I can tell you this – God wants you to get out of the boat – and I don’t know what the boat is for you. But He wants you to get out of the boat of your fear, and take a step of courage, and that’s the catalyst for the power of God.
The issue is not: does God have power? The issue is not: is He willing to help you? He wants to. But the issue is: do you have the courage, rooted in faith, to take the step that, even when you can’t see what’s going to happen, to obey, and then, watch Him work? What keeps us from taking that dynamic step that causes the chain reaction of God’s power to come into our life?
Now, I want you to know that, sometimes – when we teach the Bible, or when I read it, I’ll get into one passage, and just a paragraph, and I’ll spend all of our time there. But what we miss, often, is that the author has put, sometimes, story after story and miracle, and he’ll let you know it all fits together, and he wants you to see the structure of what’s happening.
So, that’s what I’m going to do. My prayer is that you read chapter 6 through chapter 9 a little bit later today, and put your feet up and get a glass of iced tea. I’ll give you the highlights, and I’ll narrate it, because what I want you to catch is the big picture.
Barrier number one: Courageous steps that overcome this barrier – our first barrier is our traditions. We open it up in Mark chapter 7. The context is, they get out of the boat, and now, you need to know that things are swarming. Look at the very end of chapter 6. If you have your Bible, or iPad – whatever you using, look at the very end of chapter 6. Peter has walked on the water; he’s now falling in. They’re in the boat; they get to shore.
And when they get to shore – notice this very carefully – people are running to villages, and places all over, and every single person who brings them to the marketplaces, anyone who touches Jesus – it says all of them are healed. Jesus is communicating, “I am the Good Shepherd.” He’s doing these miracles to let people know, “I want to help you.” And physical healing is a way – you know, He lets them know, “I’m here. I’m the Healer. I love you. I’m for people.”
And so, His popularity is mushrooming. And now, the religious leaders are threatened, and so, we pick up that story in chapter 7: “The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the Law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and they saw that some of His disciples were eating with hands that were not washed .”
The Pharisees and the Jews always washed their hands ceremonially when they came back from the market, before they ate, and at special times. So, this is not, like, wash your hands for germs. This was a spiritual issue. There was a tradition that, when you went out into the market, and you were around those Gentiles, and all the evil in the world, you should clean yourself.
Now, you can scan the passage, but I’m going to tell you what’s in it. Seven times, the word tradition is there – “the tradition of the elders,” “the tradition of the elders,” “the tradition of men” – tradition, tradition, tradition, tradition. And, basically, what they say is, “You know, you’re not playing by the rules, and for years and years and years, we’ve been told, and we have these rules made by men.”
And Jesus says, “Your traditions nullify the truth of the Word of God, and Isaiah was right.” Look in the text. What’s He say? “Isaiah was right. Your lips say one thing, but your hearts are far from Me.” And He said, “You have your traditions.” And then, He points out that actually, the barrier of your tradition keeps you from obeying what God actually says.
And so, by that time, the Pharisees, who were very greedy, by the way, and very religious – so a lot of things haven’t changed.
People were to support their parents in their old age, like we’re supposed to. And what the Pharisees did is, they came up with a new tradition: just say the money is Corban or dedicated to God. And so, you would keep the money, and you wouldn’t have to support your parents. And Jesus just rips them. And He says, “Your traditions made by men, your rules made by men, nullify the Word of God.”
And then, He says, “You know, anything, no food is unclean. If you’re thankful for it, it goes in you, because everything you put in your mouth, it comes out of you eventually.” He’s pretty graphic here. He says, “If you want to know what makes you unclean, it’s what comes out of your mouth, because that’s what fills your heart – greed, malice, envy, sexual immorality, using people, corruption.”
He said, “It’s the things in your heart. That’s what separates you from God.”
And what all of us have is, we have some baggage and traditions and rules that we have equated with Scripture, over time, and it’s a barrier. It keeps you, and keeps me, from stepping out and being courageous. The fear of man. Because people tell us, “Well, you have to do it this way, all the time.”
I was getting interested in Theresa – many of you know, she was not a Christian, and was married before. She would find out later that her husband was having an affair with another woman, for about a year, that she was unaware of. She got pregnant with twin boys, and when he found out that, he left for another state, with another woman.
She was absolutely just devastated. And her boss, a few weeks later, led her to Christ.
And after multiple attempts to contact him, and bring restoration, a couple years later, there was nothing. And so, she got a divorce and had two little boys, and I met her when the boys were just – she came in Bible study, so, two and a half, three years later.
And so, I certainly was attracted to her, but a young woman with two kids was not on my radar, so I began to pray that God would give her a husband. I prayed for two years. And I just didn’t have any idea that I would be the answer. And it was really hard. Because, at that point in time, I was a basketball coach, and I was a teacher, and we were doing this college ministry. And then, I got this, Oh, my gosh, God, You’ve got to be kidding. You want me to be a pastor or a missionary or something?
And little by little, Theresa became one of the most godly women I had ever met, and I got to know those kids, and God said, “Okay, I want you to – this is My plan.”
Well, I checked with my parents and had their support, but in that day, as is important – you know, divorce is not for any reason, any time, any way. God hates divorce. He wants us to be together. But when you’re abandoned by an unbeliever, or on grounds of infidelity, God provides measures for people who are the victim.
But I had a spiritual leader that we have now reconciled all this, but he told me, “I don’t believe in divorce.” He said, “If my wife died, I would still not remarry. You get one shot, one person.” And I’d been around my spiritual leader, in this group, for about seven years. And the tradition of this group was, “That’s the way it is.”
And I remember agonizing. We fasted and prayed, and prayed and fasted, and, “Oh, God.” I read every book on the subject; I looked at every verse. And it was real clear what the Bible said is, “She’s an unbeliever. She’s abandoned by an unbeliever.” It was immorality. Here’s what the Bible says, but this group’s tradition...
And so, this man’s wife went out for coffee with my wife, and said, “If you marry Chip, you’ll destroy his life. God has His hand on Chip’s life, and He’ll never use Chip’s life if you all get married.” That’s a lot of pressure. And I agonized, and I just realized, One day, I’m going to give an account for my life before the Judgment Seat of Christ.
And it was a real breakthrough for me, because that was the beginning of a series of decisions that said, what other people think can’t dictate what I do. “The fear of man is a snare, but blessed is he who trusts in the Lord.” That’s Proverbs 29:25.
And there are some of you that you know exactly what you ought to do, and you don’t do it because of your tradition. You have a history – as I’ve talked with one guy recently – you have a history that your great, great grandfather, grandfather, grandfather, they’re Buddhists, or they’re Hindu, or they’re moderate Muslims.
Or, God has been speaking to you, and you know that you’re walking with Him now, and you need to go public with your faith, and you really haven’t, but it’s, “You know, I don’t want to do that, because my family, or my parents, they think that...” “I got baptized as a kid, even though I wasn’t a Christian, and God’s speaking to me, but I just don’t want the hassle. My mom, my dad – it’ll offend them.”
For others, it’s just the tradition, “My faith is really private, and I don’t want to go too public with that. I don’t want to be fanatical, and that’s sort of part of the tradition in our family. We really love God, but we’re not real public about it.”
And God says, “Go into all the world and share the Gospel. I love people, and you’re My agent.” And that tradition holds you back. Jesus said, “You want courage? You want to believe? Then look at some of the man-made rules.”
The second one, He says there’s a barrier of our unworthiness. Right after this – it’s interesting – the issue was whether you’re unclean, and right after this, Jesus is trying to get a little R&R, if you will. I mean, He’s been bombarded by all these people. They want His time; they want His energy. And so, He gets away – verse 24: “Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and didn’t want anyone to know it; yet He could not keep His presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about Him, a woman whose little girl was possessed by an evil spirit came, fell on her face, and she begged Him to heal her little girl.”
And so, this is a woman – the author wants to note – she’s a Gentile, Greek origin, she’s a woman. She breaks in; she’s uninvited. She does everything wrong. But she’s passionate.
And the conversation goes, as you read it a little bit later, and He says, “Look, I came for the house of Israel,” the Jewish nation. And the Gentiles were called “dogs” in that day, in a slang term, and Jesus, I think, testing her says, “I came for the children, and not for the dogs.”
And her answer of faith was, “Even the dogs, after the children eat, get to come in and get the crumbles under the table.” And basically, what she’s saying is, “You know what? I believe in You, and I don’t have any hope, but I – I don’t care what anyone says. I don’t care. I’m coming, and I need Your hand.” And then, the text says, “Daughter, go home. You’ve answered well. Your faith – your daughter’s well.”
But you know, if I was one of those disciples, I would say, “That woman is unworthy.” Number one, culturally, she’s not a Jew, and she rolls herself on the floor, and she begs. And for some of us, you have this little lie: “Yeah, I think this is probably true. Well, for Chip, or maybe a pastor or missionary,” or some Christian you think is really hot stuff and really lives the life. “Yeah, I bet God does that, but not for me.”
And so, you know what? You don’t take any step out. You know why? Your fear of disappointment. “I’m afraid if I take a step out, and – tchoo! I’m unworthy. God, He wouldn’t do for me what He does for some other people.” And so, Jesus, very clearly, says, “You know something? I love impartially. I’m for you. Do you believe?”
The third barrier is the barrier of our deafness. Right after this, we read a group of people come, and they have a friend who’s deaf and mute, and they bring him to Jesus. Look at your text: They beg Him. Notice the pattern. The people at the end of chapter 6, they brought their friends, and they begged Jesus to heal. The woman comes, and she begs for her daughter. And now, they come, and they beg for their friend – he can’t hear, and he’s a mute. And so, Jesus takes him aside, out from the crowd. He heals him.
Some of us, you can’t hear from God. You think, I would take a step of faith, or I would have a breakthrough, but you know what? I’m afraid, because God doesn’t speak to me the way He speaks to other people. I don’t want to go public with what I really believe and why because people will ask me questions, and I don’t know how to answer them.
You think you’re deaf; you think there’s some special thing that other people know about this book. And every single day, this book that God speaks to ordinary people is available, and the great majority of Christians never open it. They depend on people like me to give you thirty or forty or fifty minutes of a little bit of truth, and then, you’re on this journey of trying hard to be a good person. Totally miss the point!
The living God, who created the world, says, “This Word is alive, and I’ll speak to you about you and about Me, and I will give you promises and I’ll give you direction, and I’ll show you what to do with one of those kids and work, and what to do when you’re single, and what to do when you’re depressed, and what you do when you’re struggling, and what to do at work, and when and how to do what, but you’ve got to listen to Me.” Because see, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.
And He’s saying to His disciples – because the goal of all these things, as the author writes this – the real goal is not just to help these people. These disciples are going to get the ball, and the mission to take it to the world, and they did, or we wouldn’t be here. He wants them to learn. He wants them to learn, you know what? No one is unworthy, no matter what you think. He wants them to learn: I’ll speak; I’ll speak, and I’ll open people so they can then, after hearing – they can speak.
And then, we get the fourth barrier. It’s not just our deafness, but it’s our lack of resources. How many of us said, “You know, I would really do that. You know, I’d like to go on a mission trip, but, you know, if I take the time off, I don’t have the money.” Or, “You know, I see that that’s a really big need, and I would love to help people, but – pshw! – you know, I don’t have that kind of money.”
And so, we saw the feeding of the five thousand in the Jewish arena. Now, we have the feeding of the four thousand, but it’s a Gentile audience. It opens up in chapter 8: “During those days another large crowd gathered. And since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called His disciples to Him and said, ‘I have’” – are you getting this? – “‘I have compassion.’” The word is splagchnon. It comes from down deep in your gut. It’s visceral.
Jesus sees the needs of people – Gentile, Jew, hurting, moral, immoral – Jesus sees the needs, and something deep inside of Him, because of who He is, as God – He just cares. And compassion is not sympathy. It’s not, like, “I feel for them.” Compassion, in Scripture, a hundred percent of the time, leads to action that actually helps people.
And so, He says, “I have compassion for them; they’ve been with Me three days.” It’s like a rock concert, except different. It’s like three full days, and they’re hearing Him teach. But there are no Porta Potties; there’s no food. And He says, “The three-day seminar is over, and I’m going to send them home. And many of them haven’t eaten; they’re going to faint along the way.”
Notice, He doesn’t say to the disciples – He doesn’t say, “You feed them.” He just presents the issue. He just presents, “You know, here are people that have a need. We ought to do something.”
And you know, I can just hear Peter, to John: “You know, He did it once. You think He can do it again? What are we going to do?” And they go back to the same old thing, and they don’t know, what they are going to do, and of course, they bring what they do have, because that’s what God wants.
The breakthrough comes, not when you have it all figured out, not when, “If I do this, this, and this,” not, “When everything gets lined out, then I’m going to do it.” You bring what you do have to the supernatural power of the living God, who lives inside of you, as a follower of Christ, and you say, “I’m going to courageously step out, because I believe You’ll provide.”
And so, four thousand people get fed, and then, the disciples get clean-up duty again, and guess what happens: there are seven baskets this time. Because for the Gentile, or the Greek, world, the word seven is a perfect number. And they pick it up, and it’s not lost on the disciples, and they’re realizing He’s not just the Messiah for the nation of Israel; He’s a light to the Gentiles. Jesus came to save and to forgive all people. And He’ll provide.
I wonder how many times those of us – God shows us a need – a need at a local school, a need with an unwed mother, a need with sex trafficking, a need with some people that can’t make their house payment, a need with some people – and we say, you know, “God, I would really help out, but I don’t have the resources.” What’s God saying? Courage is the catalyst to breakthrough. Take what you do have, take a step, and start meeting some need.
And then, what you’ll see? God will 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 going to work. In fact, that’s part of making room.
Do you understand, 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.
The fifth is blindness. After He gives a little reproof to the Pharisees and to the disciples – I’ll come back and touch that in verses 8:11 through 21 – He’s going to heal a blind person. “They came to Bethesda, and some people brought a blind man and” – are you getting a pattern, here? – “begged Jesus to touch him. And He took him off to the side, and He put His hands on the man’s eyes, and He says, ‘Do you see?’” And the man says, “I see people who look like trees walking around.” In other words, He prays, and he gets partial sight, and he sees things, but it’s blurry. And then, He prays for him again, and then, he sees everything clearly.
You have to understand the literary genius, and why Jesus does what He does, not only for the disciples, but for us. Because just like there was an actual deaf man, the disciples can’t hear God. I mean, the disciples see the miracles, but they don’t understand. And so, sandwiched in between these barriers, Jesus is going to have a little talk with His disciples, and He’s going to say, “I’ve shown you, miraculously, hearing and seeing, and you can trust Me.” And yet, they don’t get it.
In fact, notice the two groups that don’t get it. Skip back up, now, to verse 11: “The Pharisees came and began to question Him.” All these miracles are happening, right? I mean, traditions are blown out of the water, this unworthy woman comes, this deaf man can hear, four thousand people, and there’s a buzz. And so, the Pharisees come, and they’re thinking, This is really getting out of hand – á la, We’re losing control. He’s getting way too famous.
And so, they come, not to hear, not to learn, not to grow. What’s it say? “They came to test Him, and they asked Him for a sign from heaven. And He sighed deeply, ‘Why does this generation ask for miraculous signs? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given.’ And then, He left them and got into the boat.”
See, here are people that really think they’ve got it wired, and this is how we do with God, sometimes: “You know what? I’m kind of hearing this stuff, God. When You restore my marriage, get me a good job, I get my house back, and my kid’s life turns around – and by the way, I’ve had this chronic pain. Take care of that, too. When You do all that, then I think I’ll believe.”
Let me tell you Jesus’ response: He sighs deeply, and says, “You know, faith isn’t you seeing all the things, and then… Faith is choosing to step out of the boat, when you feel afraid, and believing what I’ve said.” See, they weren’t sincere. They were trying to manipulate. They came to test Him.
And then, notice the disciples, because these are the people I think I identify with, and, you know, by now, isn’t there part of you that’s thinking, if you were walking around with Jesus – five thousand people, four thousand people, a deaf guy, a blind man – I mean, at some point, wouldn’t you think, Hey, I believe in this guy! If He says it, let’s do it.
And yet, we pick up the disciples’ response. Picking up in verse 14, chapter 8: “The disciples had forgotten,” so, they leave the Pharisees; they’re in the boat. They’d forgotten to bring any bread, except for just one loaf. And Jesus, He’s always teaching, like, we’re supposed to teach our kids and help one another. They’re in the boat, and He says, “Now, be careful of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”
A little lesson: As you’re seeing all these miracles, I want you to trust Me. I want you to be courageous. I want you to step out. But you need to understand, there’s a yeast – the yeast is something that starts small and infiltrates. And the yeast of the Pharisees is hypocrisy. Guys, you’ve got to guard – it’s easy to go there. The yeast of Herod is power, and you can get intoxicated with that.
And sometimes we make these Bible stories – can you imagine what it would be like to be a part of the entourage?
I mean, just picture you and me, right here. “So, you guys with Jesus?” “Yeah.” “How’s it going?” “Eh, we had forty-five thousand at the last one. Yeah. Yeah, you know, I was, ah, we see a few people healed, couple raised from the dead. It was a pretty good week.” “So, do you talk to Him, like, up close?” “Oh, oh yeah. Yeah. I cook His fish. Yeah, Jesus, me – we’re tight.”
And you know what Jesus is saying? “Don’t go there. Don’t get intoxicated with the power and the people and the public.” And He’s trying to guard their heart from what can happen.
And then, “Aware of their discussion” – look in your text. Look at the Bible – verse 17: “Jesus asked them: ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?’” The answer is yes. And in the Bible, a hard heart is unbelief.
“Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls and pieces did you pick up?” And, I think, in unison, they all said, “Twelve.” “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets or pieces did you pick up?” And they said, “Seven.” “And He said, ‘Do you still not understand?’”
The most encouraging part about this is, you can have that much experience, and be that close to Jesus, and see those many miracles, and still have your heart hardened. They’re still not willing to step out, they’re still not courageous, and they still don’t believe. They don’t have enough bread for a little trip from point A to point B, and, “Oh, what are we going to do?”
But how many times do we do that? Isn’t that a barrier? There are some of us – I’ve been there. I have begged God, in ICU, for the life of one of my sons. I mean, begged God: “Oh, God, don’t let my boy die! Don’t let my boy die!” And God answered. I have begged God, when my wife got cancer. I have begged God. I’ve been, at times, where the bills were this big, and the resources were this big, and I was on my face before God, with my closest friends, “Oh, God.” And I watched Him.
And yet, I can turn around, two weeks later, and have a financial need, or a relational need, or a big health issue, and find myself paralyzed by fear, when, “Oh, God. Oh, God.” And it’s like, you know, “Ingram, when are you going to…” It’s like I get a spiritual lobotomy, and I forget. How about you? What about your track record?
God wants you to step out. When was the last time you said, “Okay, forget none of His benefits, and you just start listing: “He did this, He did this, He did this, He did this, He did this, He did this, He did this,” and then – I mean, go back as far as you need to. Can that God take care of this problem? If the answer’s yes, courageously step out and trust Him. It’s the catalyst. It’s the catalyst to breakthrough.
The final barrier we’re going to uncover, when the disciples get close, and now it’s sort of exam time – the barrier of self-interest. And I do pray that you’ll dig in and spend some time reading, slowly, from chapter 6 all the way through chapter 9. 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 is, yes, the Messiah will come and reign. But before He reigns, He’s going to 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’ve got thousands of people. The money is 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 want to 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 them to learn? If you went through each one of these, He wants them 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 them 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 going to 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 them, 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 going to 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 want to have a connection with your kids, you want My hand of power and blessing upon your work?
Take up your cross to follow Me. Because 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, 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?
So, I’m going to take everything we’ve talked about, and I want to 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 has got to 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 them to have courage. He knows courage comes through faith. He wants them to step out. How are they going to get faith? He takes His three key guys – James, John, and Peter – up on a mountain, and remember? What’d He say? “You see, but you don’t understand. You hear, and you don’t get it.”
And so, He takes them 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 – whoo! – “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. Because 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 going to 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 because you’re exhausted, and you’re exhausted because you didn’t eat very well, and you don’t work out because you don’t have time. You don’t have time, because 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. 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.