WHEN JESUS IS INCONVENIENT!
Peter and Andrew were small-businessmen. Along with their father, they ran their family business and had to work long hours just to make ends meet. But this all changed one day when The Messiah came along uninvited and uttered the words: Follow Me. There must have been a moment of dilemma for these hardened sea-farers. “Now?” perhaps they wondered, “It’s hardly a good time now!” But follow they did. Yes, to follow Jesus is to live a life of inconvenience. It really does seem that Jesus often – if not usually – interrupts a person’s life when it is most inconvenient! It’s not just that it seems inconvenient to walk through life with Jesus – it is! There is a cost to honouring Christ and it is counted in the currency of convenience.
¶ While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
And as inconvenient as Jesus is, no-one was ever more inconvenienced than He! He came from eternal and infinite bliss and laid aside His divine privileges and inconveniently became a human.
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Even though He was on a mission to redeem all mankind by His sacrificial death on the Cross, He was repeatedly interrupted with the most inconvenient requests. “Heal my daughter“, “Raise my son back to life“, “Cast the demon out of him“, “Open my eyes” “Give me back my legs“, “Let me just touch You“, were not the cries of patients who had made an appointment! These people came from seemingly nowhere and inconveniently intersected Christ as He continually strove toward the Cross. In addition to this, Christ’s days were often so full that the only time He could find to commune with His Father was when His own weary body would have screamed for sleep and despite how inconvenient it was, He chose to spend the night instead talking with His Father.
¶ In these days he went out to the mountain to pray, and all night he continued in prayer to God.
Each of His disciples went on to live very inconvenient lives. They had to be away from familiarity of their families, jobs, communities, and go where it would have been most inconvenient for them to go. Peter eventually went to Rome where he was crucified upside down in 64AD for preaching the Gospel. Andrew went to Patras, Greece, and crucified diagonally by the Roman Governor there in 70AD for preaching to, and converting the Governor’s wife to, Christianity. Thomas went to India and preached the Gospel there with signs and wonders following and met with violent opposition and was eventually publicly skinned (“flayed”) then crucified for doing so. The Apostle Paul was inconvenienced throughout his preaching ministry when he was repeatedly imprisoned for up to two years at a time as he travelled across Europe. The early followers of Christ gladly embraced inconvenience in order to serve and follow Christ, and two millennia later, we are the eternal beneficiaries!
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life.
In a couple of weeks from now the 2016 Rio Olympic Games will commence. This extravaganza will showcase the world’s best sporting and athletic prowess. Undoubtedly, each of these athletes has been inconvenienced to even make it to the Olympics and it’s probably safe to say that every Gold Medalist could tell their heart-rending story of the inconvenience they and their family had endured to be the best in the world. The greatest delights and pleasures of this world are exchanged for those prepared to be the most inconvenienced. For Olympic swimmers it means 3AM get ups and 4AMs in the pool and twenty kilometres of laps later, they’re ready for school!
¶ Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
The case can be made in the spiritual realm as well. The closer you want to get to Christ, the more inconvenient it will be. It too will mean sacrifice. It too will mean getting out of bed rather than staying in it. It will mean hanging in there even though everything within you wants to quit. It will mean being misunderstood. It will mean more times alone when it would be nicer to be with others. It will mean reading your Bible for just a few minutes more than usual when you could be enjoying browsing Facebook or Instagram instead. It will be inconvenient to get closer to Christ and, without doubt, the more people you want to reach for Christ, the more you will be inconvenienced!
Christian leadership involves carrying a cross of inconvenience. This means that a leader will turn up even though they are tired and busy. A local church team leader knows that their presence – not just their attendance – will often be inconvenient for them because of the sacrifices involved, but the blessing it generates is felt by more than they might ever know. This is how you can tell the difference between close-Christ-following leaders, and leaders. Jesus categorised these two groups of leaders as either: shepherds or hirelings. He offered Himself as the preeminent Shepherd-leader. Shepherd-leaders, unlike hirelings (who are only there when it is convenient and they are paid) more often than not, do not even consider the inconveniences they face due to their genuine delight in serving Christ and His people –
¶ I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,
Christ’s comparison between shepherds and hirelings might well be the comparison between those who embrace inconvenience (shepherds) and those who don’t (hirelings). No church can possibly reach it’s Christ-honouring potential if its leadership is comprised of hirelings. No barrier can stifle a church comprised of leaders who each gladly carry a cross of inconvenience. This is why the greatly inconvenienced Dr. F.W. Boreham said in his last sermon, “The Church does not ordain men to be preachers – it ordains men because they are preachers!” To put it another way, “A church does not make someone a leader then hope they will (lead). Rather, the church appoints proven (shepherd-)leaders (ones who have overcome the inconveniences to following and serving Christ within a local church) to official positions of leadership.”
Will you join me in striving to be a church of shepherd-leaders? Will join me in praying that we can minister to broken, damaged, lost, hurting, confused, people, even when it’s inconvenient for us to do so?
Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead.”
Last Sunday I preached in a church in Brisbane about the Good Samaritan. The man robbed and beaten and lying on the side of the side is like the broken of the world. The busy priests and Levites who were too busy to tend to the hurting man are like many of us today – not prepared to be inconvenienced by the needs of others. And the Samaritan is like Jesus who despite the inconvenience takes the time to clean the half-dead man’s wounds and bandage them. He then transports the beaten man to an inn where he cares for him overnight. In the morning he gives the inn-keeper two denarii (2 day’s wages).
And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, ‘Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.’
The inn is like the church where still today Jesus wants to bring in the broken, damaged, hurting, lost and abandoned, that He finds scattered along life’s byways. But the only way this can happen is if we, His Church, joins Him in embracing our own crosses of inconvenience. And as we do, we may discover that the very things we were depriving ourselves of to follow Christ, may well be the very thing which Christ provides anyway!
And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.”
Luke 5:4, 9-10