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Sermon 12/31/06 –
Resolutions – Matthew 26:41


 Audio Sermon


Keep watching and praying, that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41)

When I was a little boy and it was the season called “Christmas,” my parents encouraged me to think about my life and make what is called, “New Year’s Resolutions.” You may have done the very same thing. The idea is that you promise to do something better next year. Something that didn’t go so well – you’ll do it better next time! It’s called making “resolutions.”

To my surprise, it didn’t work. Whatever it was that I wanted to do better; it didn’t happen. I held out for a few days or perhaps a couple of weeks, and then I discovered that I was doing the very thing that I had vowed not to do. Or, on the other side, something I had pledged to accomplish was the very thing that I did not do. Has that ever happened to you?

It did to Jesus’ disciples and it happens to us all. Jesus was with them in the Garden of Gethsemane and He KNEW it was time for Him to die for the sins of the world. But the greatest weapon that has been given to mankind was supposed to be aimed and fired at that critical moment. The weapon of God’s choice is called “prayer,” and this mighty device was placed into the hands and hearts of the disciples for immediate use, just as it is for you and me today.

Jesus had given them warning about the danger that was to come. He said, “Truly I say to you that this very night, before a cock (rooster) crows, you shall deny Me…” (Matthew 26:34). The disciples understood His words, and they were full of resolutions about what they actually would do. Peter, who was often the spokesman of the group that came to be called the “apostles,” responded this way: “Even if I must die with You, I will not deny You.” We know the others felt the same because the Scripture continues: “ALL the disciples said the same thing” (Matthew 26:35). They each RESOLVED to do their part. And they all failed! They went to sleep!

Here’s what happened: Jesus took them to the place called “Gethsemane,” and He said, “Sit here while I go over there and pray” (Matthew 26). They sat down as He told them, and then Jesus made an exception by taking Peter and the two brothers, James and John, a little further. They were to be with Him because emotionally, He was in agony. As He said, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with Me” (Matthew 26:38). He then went a few steps further and “fell on His face and prayed.” His words were these: “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me, yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39).

Him who knew no sin” was to become “sin” for you and me, so that we might “become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). I can’t imagine, and none of us can imagine what it’s like to be TRULY innocent of all wrong-doing. Jesus “knew no sin,” in thought, word or deed, and our sins, one-by-one, were to be upon Him, while He hung on that thing we call the “cross.” None of us would want such a death, and yet, we don’t appreciate the true horror of it, for only God is innocent and no one else can fully comprehend it.

Jesus had a more awful experience than anything you or I could ever bear. We should look at what He did and respond, “Thank You, God,” every day of our lives that He died as He did. Like He said with His last breath on the cross, “It is finished!” and with that, He “gave up His spirit” (John 19:30) – there was nothing more to do. He had died for our sins.

Here was the greatest event in all history, and as it was unfolding, what did Jesus ask His disciples to do? He did not ask them to arm themselves with slings and swords as you would expect. He did not send them to rouse His followers in Jerusalem to come and form an army that would protect Him and eventually sweep out from the Garden of Gethsemane to overthrow the Roman Empire and the world! None of that was what was needed. He wanted them to – pray! And that is also precisely what He wants from you and me. He wants us to pray.

Here’s a question: What would have been different if the disciples had prayed like He wanted them to? We really don’t know, but we do know this – It is clear from their experience that we can all fail in responding to God, just like they did. It is also apparent that we are likely to fall asleep while attempting to pray, over-and-over, because the “flesh is (indeed) weak,” just as Jesus said in our Scripture for today (Matthew 26:41). The disciples fell asleep and we often do the same.

We have a friend named Jan (pronounced “Yahn”), and he is a man who prays. And much like the disciples lost much, Jan has known great loss. This year, his beloved wife, Annelore, went to be with the Lord. And then it was his good friend, Phil, who, it seemed, had successful cancer surgery earlier in the year. The cancer suddenly returned, attacking his liver, kidneys and lungs. Phil passed away on December 9th. In his email, Jan reported he “spent time with (Phil) during his last 4 days, which was a blessing...” And as we read further, Jan continued, “please pray for comfort and strength for the family and all the friends (of Phil) who are missing him.

Jan understands the need for prayer. He continued in his email: “Please add Patsy to the list of women suffering from breast cancer.” And, “could you also please correct the spelling for Chaney, it should be Chancey.” Many of the names of women we have added for prayer because they have breast cancer have come to us through Jan’s emails.

Jan then wished us a “blessed Christmas,” and said: “I am glad to be part of your prayer chain. After going through all those requests on a daily basis, I feel so blessed that I am healthy. Yes, I feel the pain of not having Annelore around especially at this time of the year, which was her favorite. But I also know that the Lord is giving me strength each day.

Do you see what Jan said? In his own personal loss, he has continued to pray for others. We typically send out the prayers on a weekly basis, and he responds by praying for them (and no doubt, he prays for others as well), on a daily basis. Because he does, he is able to say, “I feel so blessed that I am healthy;” and even with the deep and personal losses he has experienced, he can say, “I also know that the Lord is giving me strength each day.

Do you want the “strength” and health that Jan has found? I think the answer is “yes” for us all, and it’s likely you understand through trying that making a resolution to pray isn’t enough. But prayer IS what you need. And if you can’t pray because deep inside, you have some kind of hurt, pray anyway, and you will be “healthy.” Keep it simple. At first, ask that He will help you to pray.

And He will. As Jesus said in today’s Scripture, “Keep watching,” for you will be tempted to answer the need with your own strength. And “Keeppraying,” for that is a key to answered prayer. Like Jan, you will find “that the Lord is giving (you) strength each day.”

Father, help us to watch and to pray. Give us Your strength in prayer. In Jesus Name. Amen.

Ron Beckham, Pastor
Friday Study Ministries
"While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)

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Long Beach, CA 90809-2131 USA

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