Easter 2009: Our Belief Dictate Our Action
Scripture: Luke 24:1-11; Matthew 28:11-15; 2 Corinthians 12:9
Before I say anything else to you, I want to say to each of you this morning, Happy Easter! This is the time of year when we celebrate life. The trees and flowers shake off their slumber and the grass wake up. The birds begin to sing again and there is a smell of spring in the air. But this is also the time when we celebrate the “waking up” of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. When Christ rose from what was believed to be His last slumber, not only had His life changed, but also the lives of all those who knew Him and would eventually accept Him which now includes each of us. How Christ handled His last adversity opened the door for us to be able to receive salvation and gave us an imprint of what handling our adversities can look like.
In part one of my message last week, I shared a story with you titled “Carrots, Eggs and Coffee”. In the story a young woman shared with her mother the hard time that she was having. After listening to her daughter, the mother put three pots of water on the stove to boil. In the first pot she placed the carrots; in the second she placed the eggs; and finally in the third the coffee beans. The carrots became soft after going into the water hard and unrelenting. The eggs which had the hard shell and liquid center became hard on the inside. Finally the coffee beans became coffee – changing the water. All faced the same adversity, but only the coffee beans changed the water. Last week I asked you to consider if you were the carrots, the eggs or the coffee beans. This week I want to place one more layer upon your consideration of this question.
I. Believing Is Seeing - Sometimes
When Christ died on the cross everyone thought that His life was over. They believed in their hearts that what they had witnessed and experienced for those three years was over and there was nothing else for them to do. They did not understand that their lives was about to change drastically forever. But what they understood, they believed and what they believed they acted on. You see, whatever we believe will dictate our actions. Let me give you an example. A couple of weeks ago my family and I went to see the movie “Knowing.” The main character in the movie was traumatized after his wife died and he’d lost his belief in almost everything. He took the stance that everything that happened did so by chance and with his belief he stated that there was no way to prove that heaven existed. Well, he acted on what he believed. As the story moved along and he began to see some things (I do not want to ruin it for those of you planning to see it), his beliefs changed which resulted in his actions changing. Think about some of the things you have done in your life. How many times have you acted based on something you believed, even if what you believed was actually later proven to be wrong? You see, it is not always about the truth, but it is always about the belief. This is what is easily identified when we face adversity. Our first response when we face adversity will be based on whatever it is we believe. What we believe will dictate our response.
Think about the story that I referenced earlier. The daughter believed that it was time to give up. She believed that her life would not get better. She wanted to give up because she believed there was no other way for her. Based on what she believed about her situation, she was ready to quit as she was tired. Now let’s examine the mother, the one who gave her daughter an example of how to handle adversity. The mother believed in her heart that her daughter could overcome this period in her life, but she needed a way to make it plain for her. So without saying a word, gave her the demonstration. Had the mother believed that all was lost with her daughter she could have bailed her out. But this would have been a temporary fix. What this mother did was act on the belief that if she could prove to her daughter that it was her that needed to change versus the adversity that would always come, then her daughter’s life would be changed forever because she would see adversity in a totally different light. Both acted on what they believed. We also find a similar response with the disciples when Jesus was taken and crucified.
II. The Disciple Respond
The disciples believed that Jesus was gone forever, an untruth, and yet even though this was not true, this belief is what they acted on. Consider where we would be today if the disciples had been correct in their belief. Where would we be if the report by the Roman guards were true when they, under instruction (Matthew 28), reported that His disciples had stolen the body? (There are some today who believe the disciples stole Christ’s body.) If Christ had not risen from the grave, everything we believe – everything we practice – would be a lie because we believe that through his death and resurrection, He conquered sin and death and is now sitting on the right hand of God interceding for us. If we do not really believe He rose from the dead then we can’t believe He is interceding for us! The disciples initial response was to go into hiding because they believed that Jesus was dead forever and would not be coming back. They responded to their adversity – their fear of being killed – based on their belief that Jesus was dead forever. Believing this, they went into hiding trying to determine what would happen to the rest of their lives.
The disciples were scared for their lives and they did not understand what they would do in the days ahead. Some thought about going back to their former occupations while others reflected on what they had accomplished while Christ was with them. But regardless of where their minds were, one thing they seemed to agree on was that the life they had experienced for the last three years was now over. They were sad, depressed, scared and without any of the confidence they recently had. They were so depressed and scared that when Mary came and told them that Christ was alive that they did not believe her. Look at Luke 24:10-12: “Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles. But these words appeared to them as nonsense, and they would not believe them.” When they heard that Jesus was indeed alive, they did not believe; they did not accept the report; and they looked at the women as if they were crazy. This was not the response of someone expecting Christ to return. They were acting on their belief that He was dead and would remain that way. But what if? What if they had believed differently? Would their response have been changed? Let’s examine what their response “could have been” if they believed that Jesus’ death was temporary and that He would rise on the 3rd day.
What if they knew come Sunday morning, they were going to the grave to make sure He got out okay? Instead of grieving and being depressed, they would have been planning the next stages for the ministry. They would have completed the first stage and would now be making the necessary preparations for Christ’s return because they only had three days until everything would change. They would be ecstatic as Mary Magdalene and the others rushed into the room to let them know He had arisen and was alive. As a matter of fact, they would have camped out at the grave site in anticipation of His rising and wanting to witness the event. There would have been a praise service unlike anything that they had ever participated in before because now the ultimate had happened – Christ had conquered death and death no longer held any fear over them. If they had known and believed, they would have told Jesus “Jesus, we know this is going to hurt you physically, but we will definitely be waiting on you Sunday morning.” Can you see them asking Him, “Okay Jesus, what you need us to do while you’re in the grave dealing with Satan and stripping him of his power.” Their attitudes and their actions would have been totally different had they known and believed. In every case, they acted on what they believed. On this Easter morning – what do you believe?
III. We Have The Proof
We continue to live in a world based on knowledge. We send our children to school so that they can attain knowledge. Why do we do this? Because we believe with the knowledge they gain in school, they will be able to make better decisions in life and ultimately become a positive contributing member within our society. But gaining the knowledge is not enough; it must be coupled with a belief. As I said earlier, it is those things that we believe that we act on. Our lives are based on what we know and believe. We date and we marry based on what we know and believe at the time. We make purchases based on what we know and believe at the time of the purchase. We attend Churches based on what we know and believe about that place of worship. We choose a career or a job based on what we know and believe. Almost everything we do starts with us knowing and believing something and the two are not the same. If you learn something and do not believe it, that knowledge will not make you act any differently from the way you acted before you gained the additional knowledge. However, if you learn something and you believe it, then you are empowered to act differently, even if you choose not to, you have the power to do it. It goes back to the belief. The information that we give credibility to helps to shape our beliefs.
So this morning what do you believe about Christ’s death and resurrection because how you answer this question will determine how you handle adversity in your life. Although you may have an intellectual knowledge of this event, do you believe it? Do you believe it with your hearts? What you believe will impact how you act and how you handle adversity. If there is room for doubt in your mind, Satan will exploit it to his benefit, not yours. You see, in order for God to intervene on our behalf, we must know what His word says about this and we must believe it. Thousands upon thousands of people pray everyday not believing that God will answer their prayers. It’s not that they do not want God to answer their prayer, but their knowledge of Him is not sufficient enough to cause them to believe that He will. Consider what happened when the guards reported to the chief priests that Jesus had risen from the dead.
In Matthew 28:11-15, the guards were told to say that Jesus body had been stolen from the grave by His disciples. The guards were paid to say this and even though they knew the truth, they had no choice because they could have been put to death because Jesus body was “missing.” There are still people who believe this lie two thousand years later. But we need to consider and understand the truth. Matthew 27:63-66 records that when Jesus was placed in the tomb, the Roman guards placed a seal on the rock. They did this because rumors had already been circulating that Christ would rise again. Who were circulating these rumors? Certainly not the disciples because they were in hiding because they thought Jesus was gone forever. So if it was not the disciples, who was it that knew? I believe the religious leaders who understood and studied the Scriptures knew that it was a possibility because they would have recognized the prophecies pertaining to the Messiah. And even though they knew Jesus was probably the Messiah, they were not ready to give up their power which the believed would happen if they acknowledge He was the Messiah. But let me get back to my point about the grave being secured. When Jesus’ body was placed in the tomb, Roman guards were placed outside the tomb to make sure the disciples couldn’t steal the body. Although His body laid there in that grave, His spirit was preaching in hell. Early on Sunday morning, as the sun was rising and before Mary arrived, His spirit “reconnected” with His body and His body got up. When the angel appeared and moved the rock out of the way, the Roman guards stood there motionless, not being able to move. The angel didn’t move the rock to let Jesus out; he moved the rock to let everyone else in. Jesus had His glorified body; He could come and go as He pleased. When the disciples got to the tomb, they didn’t see the body. Later when Jesus appeared to His followers, they began to understand – He was never supposed to stay in the grave. Seeing the risen Christ changed their lives. They would no longer go into hiding, but would begin to preach Christ wherever they went.
I started this message last week with a story, so I think it appropriate that I end it with that story. All of us face adversity. Sometimes that adversity causes us to become weak and sickly. The strain of always having something thrown at you; of always having to fight to get ahead can take its toll. In the story, consider the carrots. If you take a carrot out of the refrigerator and bite into it, it is hard, solid and crunchy. It takes some strength to cut it with a knife. But when that strong, solid carrot was placed in the boiling water, the boiling water made it soft. The boiling water kept attacking it until the carrot finally gave in. But there is another side to this carrot story. You see, there are many people who are so strong and hard that God cannot use them. They are so powerful that they believe that they do not need God. Yet when they are faced with such adversity that they are forced to call on Him, it is only then that they realize that they do need God. It is at that time that they become soft, more humble and more willing to allow God to use them. Paul records what Jesus said to him when he was complaining about his adversity in 2 Corinthians 12:9. It says “And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” If our adversity beat us down to the point where we turn to God and rely on His strength versus our own, then it is okay become like the carrot.
When the egg went into the boiling water, its shell protected it against the water, so the water could not seep in. However its shell could not protect it again the heat. There are many people who experience adversities and become hardened by them on the inside. Where before they were loving, kind and willing to help others, after experiencing some adversity, they become hard, bitter and unrelenting. This is not what Christ would have us to become when we face adversity. If you have changed your outlook on life based on the hard times you have experienced and you are not allowing the love of God to flow through you to others, it is not too late. Accept the love that Christ has made available to you; allow Him to provide healing.
Finally we return to the coffee bean. The coffee bean when it went into the boiling water, it embraced it. Sort of like what Paul said after Jesus told him that His power was perfected in weakness. Paul said “I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” The coffee bean did not fight against the boiling water; it did not fight against the adversity. The coffee bean embraced it and not only was it changed, but it changed the adversity also. Remember, not only did the boiling water cease to be boiling water, the coffee bean ceased to be a coffee bean. The coffee bean allowed itself to be changed in order to change the adversity. Sometimes when adversity comes God can use it to work out something with us. The adversity can change us for the better. When we recognize that through our weakness Christ’s power is perfected, it changes how we see our weaknesses.
So I close with two questions:
1. Before you faced adversity, were you a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?
2. After you faced many adversities, are you now a carrot, an egg or a coffee bean?
On this day we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We remember why He chose to die and the fact that He did get up. We celebrate Jesus. Easter is not about the baskets, the eggs hunts, or new clothes. Easter is about remembrance. We remember and celebrate what Christ did for us at Calvary, but more importantly that it did not stop there. We celebrate what He is doing for us right now. Happy Easter!
May God bless and keep you is my prayer.