Here is the sermon I preached at New Vision Church on Sunday. May you find encouragement and hope for the future!
There are all kinds of reasons people give for not taking advantage of an opportunity that comes their way. Some may say that they didn’t realize it until too late, while others may blame not having enough knowledge to make the most of the opportunity. Blind Bartimaeus diffuses such arguments and reasons with his actions in this instance.
Blindness is no excuse for not taking advantage of an opportunity.
Even if people can’t see all the possibilities, people who want out of their current situation are desperately looking for a change! Bartimaeus was most certainly physically blind but that did not prevent him from seeing and seizing an opportunity! In cases where “blindness” obstructs we must learn to use other senses to our advantage.
There were several things that helped Bartimaeus make use of this opportunity. He had been sitting in a place where activity and information would pass. He was on a roadside. People passed along there everyday and even if they didn’t give him money, they could give him information. He may have been a blind beggar but he was not an ignorant one! He paid attention to news about a certain man Jesus. He heard the rustling of the crowds as they drew near. He sensed the dust rising in his nostrils and took advantage of the chance he got.
Seeing doesn’t just happen with our eyes.
Bartimaeus couldn’t see where Jesus was. He had no idea how close he was to Jesus nor what Jesus looked like. All Bartimaeus could do was cast cries for mercy toward heaven and the general direction from which noise seemed to stir. He was listening. He was hoping. He was dreaming. He may not have seen Jesus at this point but he could most certainly see that his future lay in Jesus’ hands. Bartimaeus had faith. Without eyes, he had to listen more intently and closely for the voice of God. John 10:27 tells us that God’s sheep “hear His voice”. Bartimaeus’ faith came as a result of using His next greatest sense of sound. Many times people may miss opportunities God has for them because they are too fixated on God doing one thing or another and unwilling to see or act with eyes of faith. Bartimaeus “heard” and then he cried out. If we want to see again, listen for His voice. It’s then that everything becomes clear. “Faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17. In other words, don’t look for God if you’re unwilling to listen to God.
Just because you can’t see the future doesn’t mean you don’t have one.
Bartimaeus was not content to be a beggar the rest of his life. He had a dream and that dream would require a miracle. Most dreams do! However when the dream-maker came near, Bartimaeus took full advantage of the chance he had been given. It was a “now or never” moment. Bartimaeus may not have been able to see with his eyes presently but he could certainly see what kind of future he desired. Don’t allow a present limitation to prevent you from asking God for a future without limits . Bartimaeus was no idiot; a beggar but a believer and dreamer as well! His belief was not in himself mind you but in the one who could give him a future beyond his present status and situation. But it all came down to the present: what would he do with Jesus so close by? This is also the case for us. What will we do when Jesus passes by? Will we miss the opportunity given us? Take advantage of every opportunity to see Jesus…even if you have to see with your ears for that’s when it’s a vision to hear!
George Lockhart is a missionary with Vision 2 Hear and Youth Pastor of New Vision Church in Fayetteville, GA
Before we tuck Christmas away for another 360 some days, let me draw your attention to a few final thoughts to lead us into 2013. Surely there are truths in the story that can help in planning and preparing for the future.
Give God Room To Change Your Plans.
With the New Year, planning preparations are not in shortage. Many take time setting goals, marketing strategies, and visioneering the future. This was not lost on a young couple from Galilee. Mary and Joseph like all young couples had their visions of life together, little did they know those plans would be changed supernaturally. As we enter into 2013, make sure to give God room to change your life and the lives of those around you. God may be up to something you have not taken into consideration and or may have missed.
Don’t Underestimate What God Wants To Do Through You.
Mary and Joseph were simple, young, people. They didn’t have many years behind them, nor were they of any “nobel” stature, yet God chose a virgin and a young carpenter to “parent” the baby Jesus. You have no idea what 2013 may hold, so open yourself up to God and let Him use all of you for His glory. Give Him your heart, mind, body, and soul as He wants to use every facet of your life to bring forth His son.
Realize God Is With You in 2013.
Jesus came to show us God. God used a star, angels, prophecy, promises, among other things to lead people to Emmanuel, God with us. Rest assured that God wants you to know Him, see Him, and reveal Him to others this year! Pay attention to the signs, wonders, promises and manifestation of God around your life. God wants to be known and made known to all peoples, nations, and generations. As you make your plans for 2013 pay attention to the situations, circumstances, people, and places God has brought to your attention. Invite people into your life and share your life with others. Don’t neglect His intervention, details or sovereignty in these matters as He reveals Himself. He is with you and as you see Him working around you, make sure to give Him praise and worship.
Put Your Hope In Christ.
For some 2012 was a tough year and hope is pinned on 2013 to bring more blessings than hardship. However, we have to remember that even as Jesus was born, He was born into tumultuous times. There were literally thousands of babies slaughtered about the time of His birth. Mary and Joseph had to flee into Egypt soon after Jesus’ birth. Remember that our hope must be in Christ, not the surrounding circumstances of our lives, not the government or president, not the ceasing of wars or natural disasters, nor the ease of our own lives; Christ alone.
Worship Christ As A Wise Person.
The act of the wise men bringing their gifts is certainly notable. They did not come to Christ empty-handed nor empty-hearted. In 2013 if there is anything we are to do it is to worship Christ The King regardless of how everything plays out. Make every effort to acknowledge Christ in all things with all things. Give Him your affection, adoration, praise and glory. Sing praises to His name and proclaim His name and fame among your friends and family. Even if 2013 is tougher than 2012, make a conscious effort to worship Christ. If you choose to do so, your life will most certainly be different and you may find that you have peace and joy and hope that goes beyond any explanation.
As a believer in Jesus Christ, the Author of life and Victor over death, I am able to approach my Aunt’s funeral tomorrow with this perspective: anyone who is a follower of Jesus passes through death to a new life. Death is merely a shadow for those who love and call Jesus Christ alone, Lord. When our lives face Jesus, the eternal sun and Son, His resplendent light casts the shadow behind us. Simply put: when we face the Light the shadow of death is nothing to fear.
My Aunt’s death is the first death in our immediate family in many years. Her fight with pancreatic and liver cancer overcame her on October 12 and she is survived by her husband, three daughters, one son, several grandchildren and even great grandchildren! My Aunt Cam was a wonderful wife, mother and aunt. Even though I did not have much contact with her in recent years, I have some very fond memories of my time with her in the past. I took my very first trip to an amusement park with her and my Uncle Joe and cousin to Kings Dominion. That’s where I rode my first roller coaster, the Scooby-Doo.
As I remember her and spend time with my cousins and family, I cannot escape the fact that Jesus came and died so that we would never have to worry about what happens after death. Jesus came so that we could KNOW that we have life and that this life is found only in His Son.( 1John 4:9, 1 John 5:11-13, 1 John 5:20)Jesus came to take away the fear of the shadow of death, to offer us life eternal and to ensure that all who call on his name would have a resting place with Him in eternity(John 6:39-41)
Obviously my prayers and thoughts are with my Uncle and cousins who are experiencing this huge vacancy in their lives. Thanks to all of you who are praying for us and our family. During this time, let me remind you to make sure the people in your life know how much you love them and moreover know Christ who is our Light. When this is true we have no fear of death for we do not look it in the eye but Christ our Lord. Face the SON and the shadow will fall behind you.
One of the truest tests of people in leadership is their resolve to get back up again…to never quit! Resilience is a quality that each person who aspires to lead must possess. This is the capacity to endure hardship, take hits, get the wind knocked out and still rise again as though unscathed. This is no easy task mind you. There are tons of people who would be leaders yet they do not have the resilience nor tenacity to push forward. Here are a few things to consider the next time you get knocked down.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that isset before us, 2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. 4 In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Hebrews 12:1-4
1) Cloud of Witnesses
People are watching to see how you will handle the situation you are in. People are waiting to see if you will move forward. People’s decision to follow you into the unknown hinges on how you handle the hardship. A leader must have some fight within him to move forward. Finding the will to fight is all about what we see. A leader sees people who are in need of inspiration, motivation and encouragement and he gives it to them by getting back up and continuing onward! Leaders realize that this is not the first time nor the last time difficulties will come and they are prepared for the fight of their lives. They also look to formidable leaders of the past to learn from their mistakes and successes.
2) Cling to Hope
If there’s anything a leader needs when knocked down, it’s hope! But this is also what the leader must provide for the people. Far too often, when tough times come people resort to being relieved and want ease of pain and suffering. Therefore they result to clinging to “sin” or things that will make they “feel” better but only weigh them down. These things do not provide hope for a future only comfort for a moment. Leaders who rise again provide inspiration for those who are grasping for straws of hope looking for someone or something to believe in.
3) Consider Jesus
As the ultimate leader, Jesus exemplified the resilience we all need to aspire to obtain. From physical beatings to the emotional anguish of being rejected and left alone, Jesus endured the cross despising its shame. It seemed as though he was knocked down, even knocked out when he was killed and yet what did he do but rise again?!! If there’s anyone to model in times of hardship, difficulty, or stress, it’s Jesus.
In becoming someone worth following, we have to remember we are being watched and modeled, we have to provide people with something to hold onto that will lead them to the desired future and we have to be like Jesus and get back up again!
Who are your cloud of witnesses? Who’s watching you? Who are you watching?
What hardships, difficulties, or decisions are you facing that will affect the people around you?
How are you handling those? Are you depressed? Are you an inspiration? Where do you get your motivation? How can you motivate others?
To what are you clinging to and holding onto as your source of relief? Where is your hope?
How can you provide hope for others?
As a leader, are you casting a vision of hope or are you casting shadows of doubt?
Take some time and look back on your life, consider your own resilience and ability to overcome. As you look at your life, how has God resurrected you? How has God breathed new life into you again? How can you be more like Jesus today? Have you fallen or failed as a leader? Seek forgiveness and get back up again! Jesus rose for our justification and to empower us to overcome with Him! Get back up and keep moving forward!
I was listening to a sermon the other day and he pastor said something very true: we don’t train for the start or even the finish. We train for the moment when we want to quit, for the moment when we are faced with desparation and temptation to give in to those very things that would prevent us from all we have dreamt.
Leadership is not about the glory of the outcome; it is about the moment when we are faced with difficulty and challenge and decide to perservere. A leader is someone who is willing to continue on when the going gets tough, when the future isn’t so bright, when everything within them says “stop”! So the challenge for today is prepare for the moment.
When looking through the scripture it is clear that it was certain moments when leaders arose or fell:
David with Bathsheba
Joseph and Potipher’s wife
David and Goliath
Jesus in Gethsemane
Adam and Eve in the Garden
Daniel and Lion’s den
Jonah and the Whale
All of these people had moments that defined their legacy. It wasn’t that they could have predicted what their lives would face but in the day in and day out living, they certainly realized the importance of a moment. What can we do to better prepare for the moments that will decide our futures?
1) Embrace Pain.
I’m sure you have heard it before: No Pain. No Gain. Leaders draw from the pain in their lives. The hurt, the suffering and the grief are not allowed to become bitterness and anger turning a heart callous. Rather a great leader will draw wisdom, strength and even find hope through it all. The hardship that we face now prepares us to withstand the painful decisions we have to make in the future.
12 Therefore, since we also have such a large cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us lay aside every weight and the sin that so easily ensnares us. Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us,2 keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shameand has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.
3 For consider Him who endured such hostility from sinners against Himself, so that you won’t grow weary and lose heart. 4 In struggling against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. Hebrews 12:1-4
2) Endure with perseverance.
Sometimes when times are tough quitting is the only thing on our minds. Leaders do not think this way. Quitting is never an option. A great leader always holds on, even if by a thread! One defining characteristic of those in leadership is that they never give up! When the battle rages on a leader fights with every ounce of strength and finds themselves on the other side.
10 Finally, be strengthened by the Lord and by His vast strength. 11 Put onthe full armor of God so that you can stand against the tactics of the Devil.12 For our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the world powers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavens. 13 This is why you must take up the full armor of God, so that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having prepared everything, to take your stand. 14 Stand, therefore,
with truth like a belt around your waist,
righteousness like armor on your chest,
15 and your feet sandaled with readiness
for the gospel of peace.
16 In every situation take the shield of faith,
and with it you will be able to extinguish
all the flaming arrows of the evil one.
17 Take the helmet of salvation,
and the sword of the Spirit,
which is God’s word.
3) Acknowledge the enemy.
A leader is going to be faced with many foes. Being aware of the enemy, his strategies and strongholds is what each leader must do. To be naive and think that the enemy has no plan for your demise is foolish! The enemy is looking for the moment when you will be weak…it’s in those moments that you MUST CALL OUT TO CHRIST! Stand your ground. DO NOT CAVE IN. Remember Esau who sold his birthright for a bowl of soup. One moment affected everything else! Nothing wrong with soup but it’s not worth one’s birthright! Beware of the enemy. Every moment counts!
4) Stand your ground.
Leaders don’t always advance immediately. In fact many leaders are catapulted into leadership because of their past success in simply standing their ground. When we determine what our convictions, core values and and standards are we simply need to stand upon them. Leadership is not about imposing our beliefs or ideas on another. It’s about believing in them so much that we never waver ourselves. We don’t have to convince others to be convinced ourselves! Simply living right consistently and standing firm will open doors of influence and leadership never expected.
It’s a large number. In fact it’s a daily average.
It comes out to about 105 per minute.
What is it?
However, this number drastically rises when people experience failure. Suicide, depression, isolation, and despair, along with a host of other things flood a soul with darkness when a failure is experienced.
But failure is not fatal. At least it doesn’t have to be.
God sees ‘success’ and ‘failure’ more in terms of relationships than of achievements, more in ‘being’ than in ‘doing’… Noah got drunk, Moses got angry and Gideon became scared. Peter could be inconsistent, Paul inconsiderate; Thomas doubted, Martha pouted. But God continued to love them and turned their failures into victories… The good news of the Christian faith is that failure need never be final. Ron Elbourne, ‘Parson’s Pitch’
How can we move from suffering the fatal blow of failure to a future full of hope?
Press On. Only look back to gain perspective and wisdom. Don’t allow yourself to spend more time looking back than forward. A runner loses races by nanoseconds when they look backward instead of focusing forward. Spending much time on past losses and failures consumes energy that could be used to forge forward. Use the past for help reshape the future. Whatever you do, spend more time looking forward to what’s next than back at what could have been!
Lean In. Often voices from the past can haunt and taunt us. Instead, listen forward to the calling of God. Lean into the wind…the wind of His voice, His Spirit. Learning to discern the voice of God is crucial when we experience failure. Allow the Lord to woo you forward out of the mire of the deep losses. Listen to the words of forgiveness, hope and love that He showers on your soul. Pay attention to the sound of His voice as He comforts and consoles your soul. God never comes at His child with condemnation. Conviction, yes. Condemnation, no. Romans 8:1
Give Up? NEVER! Just remember that when you fall down, it’s much easier for everything else to be looking up! Our God is a God of the future. He is always moving and seeking to move us forward. His desire is not ever for us to move backward. Nor is it His desire for us to remain where we are but to reach forward for where He is. He is extending His hand seeking to lift us up and all we have to do is reach forward!
George Lockhart is a missionary with Vision 2 Hear and serves as Youth Pastor at New Vision Church in Fayetteville, GA.
We can cry out to God…out of the deepest depths we can cry out. The Lord will listen to our voices, he will ned his ear toward earth and listen to our cries for help.
He doesn’t hold our sins against us. If he did, who would ever stand a chance?
God forgives us so we can stand in his presence and worship him face to face.
We wait. We hope.
We hope in his word. His promise. More than we wait and watch for anything else, let us wait and watch for the Lord. It’s easy to anticipate and expect many things in life but we need to hold out hope for the Lord.
We hold out hope and get excited about many things but are we really excited about the Lord? Do we really expect and anticipate His return?
Israel, take hope in the Lord. Christian! Take hope in the Lord. There is a faithful love with Him. He will not abandon. He will not forget. He will not neglect. He will not relent. There is redemption, abundant redemption and forgiveness in Him. He will forgive the sins of Israel. He will forgive the sins of those who love and follow Him. He has bought us back Himself…with His own blood. He loves and He has proven it time and again.
Lord thank you that you have made such promises to me. Thank you that you are with me and that you hear my cries but not mine alone. You hear the cries of all those who are without anyone. You hear the cries of tose who are fatherless, who are weary and worn. You hear the cries from the depths of our hearts that we cannot even vocalize. Those things for which we wish we had words but cannot find them. Thank you that you hear us; that you know us!
Lord, I pray that you would help me to hear those same things. Lord make me aware of the needs and cries around me. Help me to be aware of our presence and to make your presence known through me. Open up our hearts and minds today to yourself and your word. Make us a people who care about the things of God.
Lord help me to grow in anticipation and expectation of the things you want and can do through me. Lord, help me to become more and more excited about who you are and what you can do. That my hope and joy and love would be found in you.