Intro: “I have everything I need for joy!” Robert Reed said.
His hands are twisted and his feet are useless. He can’t bathe himself. He can’t feed himself. He can’t brush his teeth, comb his hair, or put on his underwear. Strips of Velcro hold his shirts together. His speech drags like a worn out audiocassette.
Robert has cerebral palsy.
The disease keeps him from driving a car, riding a bike, and going for a walk. But it didn’t keep him from graduating from high school or attending Abilene Christian University, from which he graduate with a degree in Latin. Having cerebral palsy didn’t keep him from teaching at St. Louis junior college or from venturing overseas on five mission trips.
And Robert’s disease didn’t prevent him from becoming a missionary in Portugal.
He moved to Lisbon, alone, in 1972. There he rented a hotel room and began studying Portuguese. He found a restaurant owner who would feed him after the rush hour and a tutor who would instruct him in the language.
Then he stationed himself daily in a park, where he distributed brochures about Christ. Within six years he led seventy people to the Lord, one of whom became his wife, Rosa.
I heard Robert speak recently. I watched other men carry him in his wheelchair onto the platform. I watched them lay a Bible in his lap. I watched his stiff fingers force open the pages. And I watched people in the audience wipe away tears of admiration from their faces. Robert could have asked for sympathy or pity, but he did just the opposite. He held his bent hand up in the air and boasted, “I have everything I need for joy.”
His shirts are held together by Velcro, but his life is held together by joy.
Transition: Is there something in your life that makes you happy? Or better yet, is there something missing in your life, that keeps you from being happy?
HAPPENSS IS NO MORE THAN GOOD HEALTH AND A BAD MEMORY.
I HAVE NOTICED THAT FOLKS ARE GENERALLY ABOUT AS HAPPY AS THEY HAVE MADE UP THEIR MINDS TO BE.
Do you think Jesus was a happy person? I do, I don’t appreciate all the movies like Jesus of Nazareth, that make Him out to be a stoic boring man, who never smiled. Was it Jesus’ money that made Him happy? Was it his house, job, or was it His wife and kids that made the difference in His life? He had none of the things we as Americans consider to make us happy. Think of the radical change Jesus made when He left heaven and came to this earth. One moment He was royalty; the next He was in poverty. His bed became, at best, a borrowed pallet – and usually the cold, hard ground. He never owned any form of transportation and was depended on handouts for His income. He was sometimes so hungry He would eat raw grain or pick fruit off a tree. He knew what it was like to be rained on, to be cold. He knew what it meant to have no home.
His palace grounds had been spotless\; now He was exposed to filth. He was surrounded by perfection, but was now surrounded by illness.
In heaven He had been revered; now He was ridiculed. His neighbors tried to lynch Him. Some called Him a lunatic. His family tried to confine Him to their house.
Those who didn’t ridicule Him tried to use Him. They wanted favors. They wanted tricks. He was a novelty. They wanted to be seen with Him – that is, until being with Him was out of fashion. Then they wanted to kill Him.
He was accused of a crime He never committed. Witnesses were hired to lie. The jury was rigged. No lawyer was assigned to His defense. A judge swayed by politics handed down the death penalty.
They killed Him.
He left as He came – penniless. He was buried in a borrowed grave, his funeral financed by compassionate friends. Thought He once had everything, He died with nothing. He should have been miserable. He should have been bitter. He had every right to be a pot of boiling anger. But He wasn’t. HE WAS JOYFUL!
1 Cor 1:18
18For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
We are in a battle of two kingdoms, the kingdom of this world and the kingdom of God. In this battle there is a struggle between the believers flesh and spirit. The flesh is drawn to the world while the spirit is drawn to God. The Sermon on the Mount is the powerful sermon ever preached. This is a pivotal point in history, the first sermon the greatest preacher who ever lived preached. The Old Testament ends with a curse.
6He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse."
Now Jesus opens His ministry with the blessings we know as the beatitudes. The Old Testament law demonstrates man’s need of salvation, and the New Testament message offers the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord had to begin with a proper presentation of the law, so the people would recognize there sin – then come to the offer of salvation. However, Jesus makes it clear that man’s effort can never earn him righteousness or salvation. Only the new nature that God gives can enjoy the blessedness that Jesus speaks of in the Sermon on the Mount.
AMERICA IS IN A HURRY. We are the only nation on earth with a mountain call “Rushmore.” In 1965 a testimony before a Senate subcommittee claimed the future looked bright for free time in America. By 1985, predicted the report, Americans would be working twenty-two hours a week and would be able to retire at age thirty-eight.
The reason? The computer age would usher in a gleaming array of advances that would do our work for us while stabilizing our economy.
And now the computers are byting, the VCR’s are recording, the fax machines are faxing. Yet the clocks are still ticking, and people are still running. The truth is, the average amount of leisure time has shrunk 37 percent since 1973. The average workweek has increased from forty-one to forty-seven hours.
Why didn’t the forecast come true? What did the committee overlook? They misjudged the appetite of the consumer. As the individualism of the sixties led to the materialism of the eighties, the free time gained for us by technology didn’t make us relax; it made us run. Gadgets provided more time…more time meant more potential money…more potential money meant more time needed.
Many of you have so many irons in the fire that you can’t keep any of them warm.
Now with this in mind we look at the opening of the Sermon on the Mount.
5:1 Now when he saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, 2 and he began to teach them, saying:
Notice the first thing Jesus did, He went up on the mountainside. He didn’t go into their midst. He didn’t heal their sick. He didn’t immediately begin to teach them on the spot. Before He went to the masses He went to the mountains. And before the disciples faced the crowds they faced the Christ.
Jesus wants us to come up out of our hectic lives that are keeping us too busy to even do what we want, and follow Him to the stillness of the mountainside. To turn our backs on the noise of this world so we can hear the still, small voice of the Father. The reason many of us don’t hear God isn’t because we have God tuned out, He is simply flooded out by the overwhelming demands of everyday life. God’s summit is clear, clean, with crisp air to fill our spirit. The noise and busyness of the world is far below, and it’s their with God that we get the perspective we need to see true blessedness.
Illustration: One man I read of recently enjoyed time with God on His summit and it sustained him to the end. A few days before he died, a priest went to visit him in the hospital. As the priest entered the room, he noticed an empty chair beside the man’s bed. The priest asked him if someone had been by to visit. The old man smiled, “I place Jesus on that chair, and I talk to him.”
The priest was puzzled, so the man explained “Years ago a friend told me that prayer was as simple as talking to a good friend. So every day I pull up a chair, invite Jesus to sit, and we have a good talk.”
Some days later, the daughter of this man came to the parish house to inform the priest that her father had just died. “Because he seemed so content,” she said, “I left him in his room alone for a couple of hours. When I got back to the room, I found him dead. I noticed a strange thing, though: His head was resting, not on the pillow, but on an empty chair that was beside his bed.”
v.3 “BLESSED ARE THE POOR IN SPIRIT.”
To be POOR IN SPIRIT is to recognize one’s spiritual poverty apart from God. It is to see oneself, as one really is; lost, hopeless, and helpless. Apart from Jesus Christ every person is spiritually destitute, no matter what his education, wealth, social status, accomplishments, or religious knowledge.
This keeps us from making the fatal error of thinking that God was less holy than He is and that we are more holy than we are. Being poor in spirit is the first beatitude because humility must precede everything else. No one can receive the kingdom until he recognizes that he is unworthy of the kingdom.
Sometimes God has to interfere with our life to get us to this point. Like in the life of Peter. If there was one thing Peter knew it was fishing. After a long night of fishing and catching nothing the last thing Peter wanted to do was fish. Isn’t it amazing how God often times leads us to do the very things we’re tying to avoid? This is where we pick up the story with Peter on the beach washing his nets after a long night of catching nothing. His back hurt, his neck hurt, his eyes burned in the early morning sun, and all he wanted to do was go home and rest. But here comes Jesus with a crowd following behind Him. He needs a podium, so asks Peter if He can use his boat to teach the people from. Peter allows his boat to become the Master’s pulpit, so Jesus climbs in and Peter pushes Him a little ways into the water. I’ve been there before. Washing my nets (going about my own daily routine) while allowing Jesus to do His thing close by. There is no risk involved, the boats only in shallow water and Peter’s not asked to do anything that would pull him out of his duty. Just show up for church every once in a while and splash around in the shallow water of God’s blessings. Besides I’m tired, I’ve worked hard all week, isn’t showing up for church enough? I’ll let Jesus use by boat then He can go His way and I’ll go my way and everyone will feel better. But that’s when Jesus asks the serious question.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch."
5 Simon answered, "Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets."
I wonder if their was a pause after, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.” You know one of those times when you’re waiting on the other person to say, “oh well, never mind, we’ll fish another day when the conditions are better. But theirs just silence, Jesus looks at Peter, Peter looks at John and no one says anything. So Peter finishes the thought, “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
Battery Illustration: Yesterday morning I got up and the first thing I needed to do was change out the batteries on Julie’s car. No big deal, shouldn’t have taken longer than 15 minutes. But…the terminals on the new battery I bought were on the opposite side from the old battery. Which once again normally would be no big deal, because most automobile manufacturers put long enough cables in the cars to reach to either side of the battery. You just turn the battery around and you only have to negotiate a few more inches. But not Julie’s car, I believe her car has the shortest battery cables in the world. I promise you I wrestled and pulled and tugged everyway possible to try and get that new battery to work, but it just wasn’t happening. And on top of all that as you know that North wind was blowing yesterday morning like nobodies business. My hands are ice cold in the middle of the summer so you could imagine how much fun I was having. Then Julie comes out of the house and as she’s walking by the car she asks, “how is it going?” I wish I could tell you I stuck my head out from under the hood and said, “oh, it’s going just fine dear, I’ll have your car ready in no time at all.”
It’s a good thing Brother David wasn’t in the boat with Peter and Jesus as they began to row back out into the deep water. Because I guarantee you I would’ve been doing some talking. Or maybe I should rephrase that, I would’ve been doing some moaning and groaning.
But this is where the miracle takes place. Maybe to you and me it’s not that big of a deal but to two professional fishermen like Peter and John, that’s exactly what it was.
6When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"
Peter must have been thinking as they were rowing out into the deep water, that there was no way on God’s green earth they were going to catch any fish. You see that’s where God has to get us, to the place where our human efforts are useless. Where the only way it’s going to work out is for God to get involved. In reading the Bible I’ve come to the conclusion that God loves surprises. And with Peter’s surprise, he realized Jesus wasn’t just merely a teacher to be called “master.” But He was God, so he called Him, “Lord.”
Conclusion: A young and very successful executive named Josh was traveling down a Chicago neighborhood street. He was going a bit too fast in his sleek, black, 12-cylinder Jaguar XKE, which was only 2 months old.
He was watching carefully for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed that spot, no child darted out, but a brick sailed out and – WHUMP! – it smashed into the Jag’s shiny back side door.
SCREECH!!! He slammed on his brakes and his gears ground into reverse, with tires spinning he backed up the Jaguar to the spot where the brick had been thrown.
Josh jumped out of the car, grabbed the kid and pushed him up against a parked car. He shouted, “Who are you? And what the heck are you doing?” Building up a head of steam, he went on. “That’s my new Jag, and the brick you threw is going to cost you a lot of money. Why did you throw it?”
“Please, mister, please….I’m sorry! I didn’t know what else to do! I threw the brick because no one would stop.” Tears were dripping down the boy’s chin as he pointed around the parked car. “It’s my big brother mister,” he said. “He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can’t lift him up.” Sobbing, the boy pled, “Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He’s hurt and he’s too heavy for me.’
Moved beyond words, the young executive tried desperately to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. Straining, he lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything else was okay. He then walked with them to make sure that the younger brother was able to get them back home all right.
It was a long walk back to the sleek, black, shinning Jaguar – a long slow walk. Josh never did fix that side door. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at him to get his attention again.
God may not take you on a fishing trip or have someone throw a brick at your car, but He can get your attention. I know that many of you are very busy, but I urge you today to follow the Lord to the mountain top and spend some time alone, just you and Him.