September 21, 2022
THREE PRAYERS FOR A NEW SEASON – Matthew 14:13-23
In his sermon introduction, Pastor Eric stated that he believes that God is at work and that not only are we moving into a new building, but we are also embarking on a new chapter in New Beginning Church’s history. We are about to enter a new phase that extends well beyond a mere change of address. New opportunities are beginning to unfold, new doors are opening, new life-changing ministries are being birthed, and new miracles are about to occur.
Upon witnessing the Lord’s extravagant generosity and kindness, Pastor Eric was left speechless and awestruck. As undeserving as we are, it is astounding that He would provide for us in such abundance! In no way does Pastor Eric wish to convey the impression that this outcome was the result of any clever ideas, ingenuity, or wisdom on our part. It is quite the opposite. In fact, we were planning to move elsewhere. We don’t believe that this was a coincidence. We believe it was a God-incidence. When we believe in Christ and we trust Him, there are no coincidences, only God-incidences.
According to Pastor Eric, our new address heralds the beginning of a new season for our church. As much as we are grateful for our new home and how amazing it is, God has much more in store for us that will transcend its physical structure. In light of this, Pastor Eric proposed a different format for our first service at this new location: the service will consist of a vision cast and a call to prayer. As we embark on this new chapter, he suggested three prayers that we should keep in mind.
Prayer #1 – That the people of New Beginning Church would be filled with the compassion of Jesus.
With the acquisition of this building, we aim to establish a permanent presence as a church at this location and to fill the building with individuals who are inspired by the compassion of Christ. Since New Beginning Church has frequently moved over the course of its existence, its congregation is unfamiliar with the concept of permanency.
Can a church on the move be beneficial? In the Old Testament, God is shown to be more frequently found in the Tabernacle than in the Temple; therefore, it is essential that we be mobile tabernacles. A tabernacle is a gathering of believers who come to you rather than the other way around. A church like this should be filled with people who are passionate about Jesus and who demonstrate His compassion.
Read Matthew 14:13-14, 22-23
John the Baptist reproved Herod for divorcing his wife, Phasaelis, and then unlawfully marrying Herodias, the wife of his brother. Despite King Herod’s intent to kill John the Baptist for his reproval, he hesitated because the people considered John to be a prophet. On Herod’s birthday, however, the daughter of Herodias performed a dance for him and his guests, which impressed him so much that he offered her half of his kingdom. She was assured that Herod would fulfill any request she made. Therefore, the girl’s mother, Herodias, instructed her to ask Herod for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. This request greatly saddened the king, but he had made a promise and his dinner guests had heard it. Thus, Herod ordered that what she had requested be carried out. In the following days, the disciples retrieved John the Baptist’s body and buried it. They then went to Jesus and told Him the news. In response to John’s plight, Jesus went off by Himself in a boat to a solitary location. However, when the crowds learned where He was heading, they followed Him on foot from a number of towns. When He arrived, a large crowd awaited Him. Having compassion on them, He healed those who were ill. It appears that Christ wanted to be alone to pray, as verse 22 states that “He instructed His disciples to return to the boat and cross over to the other side of the lake while he sent the people home”.
In Matthew 14:22, Jesus is seen dismissing the crowd. There are times when it is beneficial to dismiss the crowd in order to have some solitude or a time of prayer. In the next verse, after Jesus dismissed the crowd, He ascended the mountain by Himself to pray. According to Matthew 14:13, Christ sought solitude in order to pray and gain strength. As much as He was God, He was also human; therefore, He experienced hunger and fatigue from time to time. Despite being both the Son of God and the Son of Man, He desired time alone with the Father to recharge. However, when He saw a large crowd with great needs, He responded. As opposed to saying, “Leave me alone, I’m busy,” He ministered to them.
It has been said that the Galilee region was a very difficult place to be alone due to its small size. A distance of approximately 80 kilometres separated north from south and approximately 40 kilometres separated east from west. Within that area, there were approximately 204 towns and villages. In such a densely populated area, it was difficult to escape the crowds for any length of time. Therefore, despite His desire for solitude, He allowed the crowd to interrupt Him and disrupt His plans. In Hebrew and Greek, compassion is often translated as having mercy, feeling sympathy, and having pity. Our society and culture today do not value these qualities; however, they ought to be an integral part of our church life and our lives in general. When Jesus saw the crowd, he had great compassion on them and healed them.
We are invited by Pastor Eric to pray that our congregation be filled with the compassion of Jesus, so we may be more flexible with our pre-planned schedules and be more accepting of interruptions. Pastor Eric is not advocating that we should eliminate boundaries or allow people to walk all over us. Rather, he is referring to having the kind of compassion which encourages us to step outside of our comfort zone to help others.
Jesus had compassion on the crowd. In the seven verses cited in this sermon, the words crowd, crowds, or in reference to the crowds appear 10 times.
What is so special about a crowd? Human beings. People were at the centre of Christ’s ministry. Besides praying at night and in the early morning, Jesus also ministered to people during the day. Our mission as a Church must also be centered on people. The purpose of our gathering today is to worship God and to love Him with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength, and to love our neighbours as ourselves. Moreover, we are instructed to share the gospel with others through our words, our actions, and a genuine sense of compassion, as there are still souls in need of salvation.
Pastor Eric then related the story Rick Warren shared about his father, Jimmy, who had been a minister for more than 50 years before he succumbed to cancer in 1999. The night Jimmy passed away, members of his family sat by his bedside. At one point, he became very agitated and attempted to get out of bed. He kept trying to get up, but due to his frail condition, his family kept insisting he remain in bed. Over the next hour or so, Jimmy repeated the same statement approximately a hundred times: “I need to reach one more soul for Jesus.” Moved by what his father had said, Rick bowed his head, with tears running down his face, thanking the Lord for his father’s faith. While his head was bowed, his father placed his frail hand on his head and said, “Reach one more for Jesus.” That is what the compassion of Jesus will accomplish in us. It will propel us to help one more lost soul find Christ. It is essential that we choose a church firmly anchored in the Word of God and based on Christ’s compassion.
Prayer #2 – That God would give us a faith filled with expectation rather than excuses.
Read Matthew 14:15-16
According to the above passage, they were in a desolate place and the crowd needed to be fed. As the disciples had nothing to offer these people, they suggested that Jesus send them to the villages so that they may purchase food for themselves. But Jesus replied,
They need not go away. You give them something to eat.
Many times, we are made aware of a need, but instead of addressing that need, we direct the people to the government, refer them to an organization, or send them to another church. It is easier for us to send them away than to assist them ourselves. The decision rests with us. We may choose to say, “Lord, Here I am. Use me”, or we can say, “Our church is understaffed”, “We have insufficient funds”, “Our resources are inadequate” or “I am not qualified”, “I lack spirituality”, “I am too young” or “I’m too old.” How did Jesus respond when the disciples requested that He send the people to the villages to purchase food? He said, “That isn’t necessary. You feed them.” May the Spirit of God speak to us today. Let us fill our hearts with expectations rather than excuses.
There are times when we become so adept at identifying what we don’t have that we tend to overlook what we do have. As God used Moses to deliver the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, He can use each of us similarly. We may feel that we are not important enough or that our contributions will have little impact. Perhaps we have never travelled far or flown in an airplane. It may be that we are only familiar with the community in which we live. Well, guess what? In his lifetime, Jesus travelled no further than 200 miles (322 kilometres) from His birthplace. It is also noteworthy that He never held political power, mobilized an army, or conquered any territory. Historically, Jesus was not considered a significant political, economic, or military figure, yet His impact on mankind was profound. Whenever we place our trust in God, we can be confident that a little will go a long way. Trusting Him is all that is required. It is He who said, “Give it to Me. Bring me the five loaves and the two fish”. The five loaves and two fish provided sufficient food to feed more than 5,000 men and their families – and the leftovers filled twelve baskets!
Read Matthew 14:17-19
Pastor Eric encourages us to devote our time, talents, and spiritual gifts to Jesus. A little goes a long way when we have God’s blessing. We may believe that it works in theory but not in practice until we examine our own story, the story of New Beginning Church. God’s presence is felt strongly throughout this story and our presence in this building today speaks volumes about the power of a little faith and trust in God. A few years ago, when we were considering purchasing land, a deposit of $75,000 was required on a $200,000 purchase price. However, we had less than $10,000 in the bank. Where were we going to find $75,000? Prayers and contributions to the land fund eventually enabled us to obtain the amount required for the down payment. At the time, little did we know that a few years later, not only would we pay off the mortgage, but the value of the land would quadruple. We sold the land for $774,000 to purchase the property we are currently in. Regardless of what we possess, we are to give it to God and He will bless us abundantly. We are not to come to Jesus with excuses, but with expectations.
Prayer #3 – That the Lord will use our new facility as a house of prayer.
Read Matthew 14:20-23
The above passage serves as a useful reminder. Regardless of who we are or how strong we are in the Lord, we all need times of solitude to retreat, recharge, and connect with God. It is only by receiving compassion from Christ that we are able to show compassion to others. It is only through receiving love that we can show love. The ability to serve is not determined by our own human strength or abilities. We are empowered by the Lord with His abilities, His strength, and the capabilities He grants us so that He receives all the glory.
Read Matthew 21:13
While the preparations for the relocation were underway, Pastor Eric was blessed to witness some individuals praying quietly in the sanctuary. He realized as he looked around that this was the true purpose of our church. The purpose of New Beginning Church is to provide a place of prayer where people may find comfort and refreshment for their souls. Many of us come to the place of prayer but do not pray. We frequent the house of God but never speak to Him. Starting today, new habits must be established in our church.
Pastor Eric concluded the service by sharing the image he received from God while praying over each chair in the sanctuary. It is important to note that our church is located in the heart of this community. This building is located in the dead centre of Rockland. The Lord gave Pastor Eric the thought of a ripple effect. God revealed to him that as His people lift up His name and pray, a ripple effect will be experienced in this city. Our prayerful lifting of God’s name will also ripple out to our families, neighbourhoods, and workplaces as we return to our daily lives. It will dispel the darkness and change the spiritual climate of this community.
Watch the video here.