Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Would've, Could've, Should've Won't Change the World!

My baby sister has a saying, “Would’ve, could’ve, should’ve caught a rabbit won’t make stew!” It’s a funny saying but there is an element of truth to it. In essence, what she is saying is that you can make all the excuses in the world but in the end, all you will have are the excuses. The Apostles were all men who could have made excuses. At the time that Stephen was martyred for being a follower of Christ, the scripture tells us that Saul (Who would later be called Paul) was in agreement with his death. According to Acts 8:3 Paul was wreaking havoc on the Christians: “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison.” (NKJV) We find in Chapter nine of The Acts that Saul was intent upon bringing an end to Christianity: “Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.” (Acts 9:1-2 NKJV) What Saul didn’t know was that he was about to have a divine encounter that would forever change this zealous, “Pharisee of Pharisees!” On the way to Damascus, Paul met the Savior whom he persecuted. He was then carried by those who were with him into Damascus, a man blinded and broken. The scripture tells us that the Lord spoke to a devout man named Ananias and told him to go and lay hands on Paul that he might receive his sight. Ananias protested, reminding the Lord that it was this same man who had persecuted His followers, to which the Lord replied, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” (Acts 9:15-16) Now here is where Paul might have offered his “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve.” Who in the world would willingly go from persecuting and fighting against someone only days earlier to “suffering many things for His name’s sake”, Paul would, and he did. Did you know that Paul was beheaded by the Emperor Nero? Not only Paul, but all those who followed Jesus and proclaimed His name, and continued His teachings suffered. Peter was crucified, Church historians say that he chose to be crucified upside down rather than think himself worthy to be crucified like Jesus. The Apostle John, though he was not killed, suffered for Christ. Church history tells us that he was boiled in oil and exiled to the Isle of Patmos, where he received the Revelation of Jesus Christ, prophesying the events of the end times. John’s brother James was the first Apostle to suffer death for Christ; he was stoned and beaten to death in Jerusalem. Peter’s brother Andrew was crucified. Matthew was killed with an axe. Mark was said to have been torn to pieces by a mob in Alexandria after he told them that their god was just a piece of carved stone. Do you think that these men might have had some “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve excuses to offer? Jesus told them before His crucifixion that the world would hate them because of Him. They could have made excuses and gone back to their homes and lived out the rest of their lives, but they didn’t. They chose the tough suffering way, and because they did, we now have what the world calls The New Testament; a series of letters and personal accounts of the work these men did in the name of Christ. Ask yourself these questions, “Could I do it? Do I do it? Do I risk it all to make certain that the people that I come in contact with meet and know the Risen Savior?” The truth is that we are a people of excuses. The doctor says go on a diet, you need to lose weight to get healthy and we offer excuses;"My metabolism is too low!” “Diets are too expensive!” “I don’t eat that much, I’m just big boned!” The pastor and the church leadership ask us to go out and witness in a drug infested area of our neighborhood on Saturday morning and we offer excuses. “Saturday is my only day to sleep late.” “Those people don’t want to know Jesus, they like what they’re doing.” “My child has a really busy schedule on Saturdays.” Jesus, as He was preparing to ascend into heaven left a mandate for His disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth! Go to the people of all nations and make them my disciples. Baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything I have told you. I will be with you always, even until the end of the world.” (Matt. 28:18-20 CEV) It is called “The Great Commission.” This Commission was not just for those who followed Jesus during His earthly ministry, or those who came into direct contact with the Apostles, it is for every believer who claims Jesus Christ as their Savior and Lord. Instead of fulfilling the Commission, we offer our “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve(s).” Honestly, if we don’t give up our excuses, and be about the work of spreading the Good News of the love and salvation of Jesus Christ, we are of no benefit to the Kingdom of God; and if we are of no benefit to the Kingdom, we need to stop calling ourselves followers of Christ. Peter, John, James, Paul, all of the Apostles gave up the “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve(s)” and as a result, they have stew…or as Paul put it in his final letter to Timothy, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.” (II Timothy 4:7-8 NKJV) The Apostles gave up all of the excuses and put it all on the line for Christ and in exchange they received the crown of righteousness. What about you, dearly loved one…are you ready to make stew? Let’s give up our “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve(s)” and let’s go into our neighborhoods, our cities, our states, our nation and around the world and proclaim the love and salvation of Jesus Christ! The harvest truly is plentiful…and the “stew” is wonderful!

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