Never Lose Heart
Never Lose Heart
Welcome to Christ’s Community Church. As we go to the Word of God, I want to share with you on the subject “Never Lose Heart”. If you can open your Bible to John chapter 19, we’re going to begin in verse 25, as the apostle John describes the scene at the cross of Jesus. I want you to be able to feel the atmosphere of this scene because we too are going through an unprecedented period of uncertainty; most of us have come to the realization that it’s not just us that is going through this, but people around the world are experiencing suffering, uncertainty, and disruption in their lives. It is happening everywhere, and the painful reality is that as much as we would like to believe it, we couldn’t get back to normal if we tried. Today we have all gone through an experience that whether you like it or not, has permanently changed our culture and affected each one of us.
Wherever you are in this moment, whether you are sitting here or maybe sitting in your living room watching on YouTube or Facebook, my prayer is that you would “Never Lose Heart”. I hope you understand that we serve a God that knows how to create new things out of our disruptions, and so as we gather here today to worship, following the guidelines of our governing authorities with our masks on, being socially distanced, I don’t want it to get the best of you. In fact, I hope that even now you recognize that the Spirit of God is hovering over your life right now, hovering over your situations, hovering over your circumstances, and that you “Never Lose Heart”.
As we turn to the Word of God, we find that Jerusalem had erupted in violence, been disrupted by chaos, friends and family in turmoil, confusion among both politicians and religious leaders, but in the midst of all that chaos God was doing something new. At that moment it was hard to discern because Jesus Christ, the Son of God had been arrested, falsely charged, tried and crucified, but God was shaking traditions, mindsets, and ideologies that the people of God refused to let go of. He said, “I am about to do something new; I have already begun” but they didn’t see it, and even the disciples scattered in the chaos (Isaiah 43:19, NLT).
Now, the apostle John wasn’t loud or outspoken like Peter, he didn’t always have a lot to say, but as we turn to John chapter 19, we discover that he tells us what we need to know. It is interesting that when it came time for Jesus to do what he came to do, when it came time to go to the cross and die for the sins of the world, it became strangely silent because everybody you would have expected to be there for Jesus was mysteriously absent. In fact, Peter who made such bold declarations was not there because he never made it past the courtyard before he started cussing and denying Jesus. Thomas who said, "Let us also go, so that we may die with him" wasn’t there (John 11:16). And so, the people that you would expect to be there, James, Andrew, and Philip weren’t there, Bartholomew, Matthew, and Thaddeus weren’t there at the cross. However, as we turn to John chapter 19, verse 25, John tells us who was there, because he was there. None of the others were there, but John was there, John was faithful, and now he describes who was at the cross.
Verse 25 says, “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother…” (John 19:25).
Near the cross stood his mother, the one who had carried him within her womb, nursing him in his infancy and doing for him what he could not do for himself, now she had to watch him carry her cross. She had followed him up that hill and now stood near the cross that she deserved but he did not, unable to do anything about it, she stood there watching her son die. The Scriptures don’t record one word that she spoke, but like John she stood there with Jesus.
Along with her is her sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and then there is Mary Magdalene of whom Scriptures tell us that Jesus had cast “seven demons” out of (Luke 8:2). Jesus had done something for her that no one else had been able to do, she had been set free from some things that created a kind of loyalty within her so that even if all she could do was be there, just standing there crying, she was not leaving Jesus because he had been too good to her for her to leave him now. And so, John and these three women stood near the cross in spite of the uncertainty of that moment. They stood with the one they loved, they remained faithful even though they didn’t understand it. And it was in this moment when all others had abandoned Jesus that they refused to lose heart because they recognized the opportunity for something deeper, something greater, and so they waited to move out in whatever was next in their lives.
Certainly, if there is anything that we have learned over the past year in this pandemic, it is that in every crisis there is an opportunity for discovery. Since we are creatures of habit, if it wasn’t for this crisis, we would have never chosen to enter into each new opportunity. This isn’t the type of place that you just find, there are no directions, there is no roadmap, you only arrive to discover the disruption of what has been perceived as normal when those things which are familiar have been displaced. This is what Jesus’ mother, his mother’s sister, and Mary Magdalene were about to discover in these uncertain times. Verse 26 says,
“When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother…” (John 19:26-27).
What I love about this is that Jesus was not only thinking about his mother, but he was thinking about his best friend, the disciple whom he loved. I find that to be a great encouragement because most of us wouldn’t have been able to put aside our own selfishness if we were suffering like that. Most of us wouldn’t have been able to think about anybody else, but Jesus was able to look to the needs of others while he was suffering and in agony. While he was bleeding and dying for their sins, even in his suffering he was bringing people together, even in his death he was doing what he did in his life.
Even in his suffering he thought about those who were at the cross. I find that to be a great encouragement and hope that you do to because God will always leave a John at your cross. And yet, some of you have been so upset about those who left that you are missing out on the encouragement of those who remain, those who are nearby. John tells us,
“Near the cross … Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby” (John 19:25-26).
And Jesus needed them to be there at the cross, but he also needed those who left him, because he needed Judas to get him to the cross. I hope that some of you will recognize that the people who left you may have helped you get to that place where you needed to be so that you could do what God has called you to do. You see, it’s not always those who remain, it’s not always those who are near, sometimes it takes a betrayal, sometimes it takes a broken heart, sometimes it takes a Judas.
Jesus knew that he had to leave what was old so that he could obtain what was new, and yet in his leaving he remembered his mother. He realized that there was no way back to normal. In the same way, many of you are stepping out of something, you’re about to step into something new, and you now realize there is no way you can get back to what was. In fact, for many of you, 2020 is like a bad dream, you are praying and hoping that you will just wake up, but there is no way back to normal. And I’m afraid that some of you are still chasing after normal, still chasing after what was, without realizing that you are already on a collision course with your destiny, because God is already doing new things, the old is gone and the new has come.
Today I want to encourage you not to be distressed, not to lose heart, but to find strength in the Lord your God. This is what we see David doing, the Bible says he was in great distress because of his enemies, but he got into the presence of God and had a conversation with himself. Psalm 42 records his words,
“Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (Psalm 42:11).
I pray that you would find strength in the Lord and get ready to step into what God has next for you. If you have felt uncertain about your next move and where God is about to take you, can I encourage you to have a conversation with yourself. Just take a moment to tell yourself you’re going to get there, this is not the end, because God wouldn’t have started it if he wasn’t going to finish it. If God started it, that means he is going to finish it. Listen to what he said through the prophet Ezekiel,
“I am the Lord. I speak, and the word which I speak will come to pass; it will no more be postponed…" (Ezekiel 12:25, NKJV).
And so, that means if you’re still breathing, if you’re still alive, he’s going to finish what he started to do.
Now, I know it’s not easy to let go, it’s not easy to trust God when you don’t understand, it’s hard to let stuff go, but the key is to not try to hold on to what God is saying you need to let go of. And so, when we’re given those moments of disruption and uncertainty, when we’re brought into a place of disorientation, and there is so much ambiguity, and you don’t get a lot of details, you can be confident of this, the Bible says, “that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
In uncertain times we don’t often feel blessed, we don’t feel the grace, but we need to trust that God is trying to get us somewhere that he wants us to be. We often struggle with new things, but God needs us to hang in there because the process is already begun. For some of you, you may feel inadequate because you don’t look like you’re supposed to look, you don’t talk like you’re supposed to talk, or walk like you’re supposed to walk, but God has still called you. This is the process of sanctification, the work of God that begins with our calling.
This is what Moses experienced when God called him on the backside of the desert after he had killed somebody. Or when God called Isaiah and he saw the Lord and said,
"Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips…" (Isaiah 6:5).
Or when God called Peter while he was a fisherman and Peter told Jesus to get away from him because he was a sinful man. But God ignores Isaiah and Moses and Peter and every other individual that he calls who has an excuse about their inadequacy and he tells them to hold on because the process has already begun. That’s why you never give up on your kids, that’s why you never give up on your dream, or the vision God gave you because it is already in process. Some of you may be struggling at home, your kids are giving you a fit, but don’t give up on your child, because the process is already started, and the call comes before the conversion. I can testify, because I was that child once, I was that one they told my mother I would end up in jail or in an institution but look at me now. Now, I admit I’m not there yet, but I’m changing, I’m maturing, and one day I’m going to be like Jesus in glory, because I Never Lose Heart and I have embraced the process.
Even Jesus went through the steps, he knew who he was, and he welcomed the process. As he began his ministry he went down to be baptized in the Jordan River and the Bible says, “As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased" (Mark 1:10-11). Jesus had the affirmation of his Father and it didn’t matter who left him or who wasn’t there because he was confident in who he was and what he came to do. It’s for that reason that he could look at John and he could look at his mother Mary without concern for himself.
When you get like that, knowing that when you wake up in the morning, God has blessed you with another day, you will be too blessed to be consumed with yourself. Your validation won’t be found in others, it won’t be found in your children, but your validation is found in the cross. That is important because sometimes people are giving you all they can give, they can’t give you anymore, and so you’ve got to get it at the cross. John tells us in verse 28, that Jesus,
“Knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:28-30).
All was now completed, Jesus had finished his greatest work, and he gave up his spirit. John was near but there was nothing he could do, he couldn’t even get Jesus down, all he could do was stand there. And sometimes we need to release the people that are nearest, realizing that they can’t be everything to us, they can’t always be near, and so we’ve got to stop looking for people to do for us what only God can do. Some of you have been trying to get validation in all the wrong places and you’re only going to find it on the cross, you’re only going to find it in Jesus.
That’s why the apostle Paul said in Philippians chapter 2, verse one.
“If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion” (Philippians 2:1).
If you have any encouragement like that, knowing his forgiveness, knowing that he loves you and accepts you; Paul says if you know him like that;
“Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose” (Philippians 2:2).
And he’s talking about living out our faith horizontally in our relationships with others, having the same love, being one in spirit and in purpose.
Near the cross of Jesus was his mother, on the cross there is Jesus, and in him, in the cross, there is us. The Bible says,
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).
That’s where our strength is, not in others, not in what people say or don’t say. I receive my validation in the cross, I get it in the presence of God, because in his presence is the fullness of joy. I am complete in him, I am the righteousness of God, and the world didn’t give it and the world can’t take it away. That’s why Paul says,
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
I hope you can feel that this morning. When Jesus Christ was dying on the cross, his own brothers had rejected him, all but one of his disciples had abandoned him, but the Bible tells us,
“Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene… and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby…” (John 19:25-26).
In the same way, God wants you to know that he will never give up on you, that he will always be there for you, and when you fail you will not fail alone. When you feel like the whole world has turned against you God says,
"Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).
Some of you need to know that, others of you need to say that to one another, others of you your children need to hear it, they need to know it and experience it. No matter what they have done good or bad, they need to know that you will always love them. Whether they win or lose, they need to know that you will always be there for them. They need to know that you are there for them as long as it takes. We’ve all got a cross to bear but will you hang in there, will you stay near the cross until you become the person you are capable of being?
Graphics, notes, and commentary from LifeChurch, Ministry Pass, PC Study Bible, Preaching Library, and Sermon Central. Scripture from the New International Version unless otherwise noted.