WHY DOES MATTHEW FOLLOW A STRANGER? The public commitment was preceded by behind-the-scenes work.
- Matthew 9:9.
- Matthew 4:18-22; John 1:35-42.
- Matthew doesn't follow a stranger. He had a previous relationship with Jesus. This public moment was preceded by behind-the-scenes things.
- The Bible does not explicitly reveal this pattern with Matthew, but it does with Peter.
- In John 1:35-42, we have an early encounter between Jesus and Peter. In Matthew 4:18-22, we have Peter making a commitment to follow Jesus “full-time,” so to speak. If you only read the Matthew 4 passage without knowledge of the John 1 encounter, you could leave with the impression that this random guy that Peter has never met walks up to him, says, “Follow Me,” and Peter walks away from his nets and does it. That seems a little crazy. In truth, we know that Peter and Jesus had met before. I would presume from that that they probably had multiple conversations. Peter was choosing to follow someone he knew.
- It makes sense that something similar would be going on in our passage with Matthew. He had probably met with Jesus multiple times and was making an informed choice (rather than a knee-jerk reaction) to follow Him (although, of course, He could not have fully realized what he was in for in following Jesus).
- There are public moment of commitment that we see and sometimes we don’t think about the behind-the-scenes work that went into making that moment happen:
a. The person walking down the aisle to be saved and the multiple lunch conversations with a Christian friend that led to that.
b. The person stepping out to serve and the friend who regularly encouraged that person that they are gifted.
c. The person starting to read the Bible and the friend who made it a point to regularly share what they were getting out of their Bible reading.
d. The person sharing their faith and the friend who modeled that passion before them in restaurants.
WHAT WE NEED TO REMEMBER: Spiritual breakthroughs rarely “just happen” – someone did the hidden work.
- 1 Corinthians 3:6.
- God has given us the privilege of making a difference in the world through our service and lives. And He is counting on us to do what we’ve been asked to do.
- 1 Corinthians 3:6 uses a farming analogy: Paul planted, Apollos watered, and God gave the growth.
- Obviously, God’s part is the biggest part, but we need to not discount what Paul and Apollos did.
- Also, especially important for our purposes in this sermon, we need to note that neither of them are credited here with being there for the harvest. The harvest is a wonderful time, but every farmer knows there’s a lot of work that has to happen to get to the harvest. It’s wonderful for whoever at Corinth had the opportunity to see them saved, but it wouldn’t have happened without the planting and the watering.
- Another analogy I’ve heard used before is building a car. It’s cool to see that car roll off the assembly line, but a lot of things had to happen to get the vehicle road-ready. We have to be willing to do some of those behind-the-scenes things that move that person a little further down the line toward being road-ready.
- This is especially challenging for us because we live in an image-conscious, P.R.-obsessed culture.
- We are often more interested in appearing to be something than we are in actually doing the dirty, hard, tedious behind-the-scenes work of actually becoming that person.
- One example that’s fresh in my mind from our family is all the hours day after day that Evan put in on the golf course to become good enough to be All-State. It’s easy to say that, in whatever sport, you’d like to be All-State, but it’s another thing to put in the thankless, lonely hours of work to get there.
- As a pastor, no one is sitting beside me to see whether I’m spending time each day in prayer. I could totally blow off my prayer life or turn it into something perfunctory and no one would immediately know.
- Conversely, if I decided to blow off hospital visits, I’d get negative feedback pretty quickly.
- That’s not to say that hospital visits aren’t an important ministry, but just that some of the hidden things are more important. And the fact that they’re hidden means that they are easy to lay aside.
EXAMPLES OF THE "HIDDEN WORK":
a. FOUNDATIONAL PRAYER FOR THEIR SALVATION OR MATURITY.
- When someone starts coming to church, many start praying for their salvation.
- When a youth group member shares a powerful testimony, many start praying for continued maturity for him.
- Who are the ones who will pray for the people when there is no sign of spiritual interest? Who are the ones who will pray for the believer who seems to be stuck where he is?
- There need to be people doing this hidden work. It’s long-term work. It’s hard on your faith when months go by without signs of progress. It’s thankless because even that person probably doesn’t know that you’re praying for them.
- But prayer is essential to see spiritual growth in people’s lives. Prayer is essential to see people saved.
- Who will do that hidden work?
b. FINDING ANY EXCUSE TO ENCOURAGE.
- We need to nurture whatever we find promising in our fellow believers. This is especially true for the younger believers around us.
- People tend to be scared to step out and serve. They’re scared that they’ll do something wrong. They’re worried that they’ll do something to embarrass themselves and the Lord.
- When we see baby steps forward, we need to speak words of encouragement.
- Many of those who are serving powerfully now are there because someone lifted them up years ago.
c. USING QUESTIONS TO PUSH PEOPLE FORWARD SPIRITUALLY.
- One of the more effective ways to make a difference in pushing people forward spiritually is through asking questions:
- “What can I be praying for you for?”
- “Where is God challenging you?”
- “What do you think God is leading you toward?”
- “What’s the next step for you spiritually?”
- This is powerful because it pushes people without us coming across as a “you-should-do-this” kind of person. Further, it opens up a chance for conversation on aspects of their lives that we might not have thought to bring up.
THE ENGINE ROOM OF GOD'S POWER: There is lots of behind-the-scenes work that goes into (a) prayer and (b) being Christlike.
- I think the two keys to seeing God’s power in your life are prayer and being Christlike.
- Prayer is us asking for God’s power to flow through us.
- Being Christlike opens up the door for God to be able to work through us.
- Both of these, though, are things that demand hidden work.
- When people look to copy growing churches, they usually look at the public, style-related issues: How is the worship done? What’s his preaching style? What curriculum do they use for their kids’ ministry? How do they organize their spiritual growth efforts?
- Those issues do have some importance because there are certainly better and worse ways to do church. But those are not going to be the source of the power for a vibrant, God-empowered church. It’s behind-the-scenes things that make up the engine room of God’s power.
- Ultimately God doesn’t work through programs, but people.
THE CHALLENGE TODAY: Eagerly do the work no one sees.
- Don’t just do it because it has to be done. Do it because you want to see God move powerfully in your life. Do it because you want to see God move powerfully in your church. Do it because you know it’s necessary to seeing great things from God.