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AUDIO How’s Your Back?

Rev Bill Woods

EZEKIEL 3:17-19: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me:
18  When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.
19  Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

When I pastored in Pullman, Washington, I had a WSU student attending my church who refused to go out soul winning or even just calling to invite people to church. – He said he’d gone out once and been rejected and wouldn’t put himself through that again.

Jesus never promised people would welcome His message, but He did tell us to give it to them. – We aren’t responsible for if they listen or not, but we are responsible to warn them so they know the consequences of their choice. 

Listen again: 18  When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.
19  Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul.

I’ve heard people say they don’t want to witness because they’re afraid their friends would reject them–maybe even persecute them.

In fact, Jesus did promise we’d be persecuted — John 15:18-20:“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.
19  If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.
20  Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also.

That hardly seems like an enticing sales pitch to offer people to accept Christ! – Yet, the Eternal benefits are outstanding and the alternative is terrifying.

Again, Jesus said, Matthew 5:10-12:  Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.
12 Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 A preacher pastored a church in a little village along the Mexican Border.
 – In one sermon, he told about Simon of Cyrene being forced to carry Christ’s   cross and asked his audience what their reaction would’ve been if they’d been there.

A 9 year old Mexican boy walked up the aisle with determination in his eyes. – The preacher stopped speaking and the congregation grew quiet.  – Everyone knew this boy, his dad was a miner, his mother was an outcast.

He said, “You asked what I’d have done if I’d been in the crowd when Jesus fell under the weight of His cross.  Sir, I’d have helped Him carry it.”
The minister answered: “Yes, and if you’d helped Him carry His cross, the Roman soldiers would’ve beaten you across your back with their whips until the blood ran down to your heels!”

He never flinched. Meeting the preacher’s look, he gritted through clenched teeth: “I don’t care. I would’ve helped Him carry it just the same.”

Two weeks later, at the close of the service, the old preacher stood at the door, greeting people as they left. When little Pedro, came by, he patted him on the back.  Pedro pulled away with a little groan.  “Please don’t do that. My back is sore.”

The preacher was astonished; he’d barely touched the boy’s shoulder. He took him to a room and removed his shirt.

– Crisscrossed from his neck to his waist were ugly, bloody welts.

“Who did that?” the preacher said angrily.
    – “My Mother did it. She whipped me because I came to church.”

Jesus said in Luke 14:27 “And whosoever doth bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.”

– The geek in Seattle who carried and dragged a cross across the country………                                    

    – That’s not really what Christ meant.

There are many forms of crosses in our lives.

– We all struggle from time to time with heavy loads, some heavier than others.

Paul did his share of bearing crosses. – 2 Corinthians 4:8-9: “We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are  perplexed, but not in despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but  not destroyed.”

Paul was amazing. – He was hit by more problems than most people see in a lifetime. – If anyone had a right to say he had a bad back, it was Paul.

He was thrown into prison, received 39 lashes on 5 different occasions, beat with rods, stoned and left for dead, and shipwrecked. – Paul wasn’t invincible but he knew a secret. He knew where his strength came from.

2 Samuel 22:33 says, “God is my strength and my power; and he makes my way perfect.”

Psalm 73:26:  My flesh and my heart fail; But God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.

The difference between Paul and most Christians today is Paul was ready to bear whatever cross came his way, no matter how heavy or burdensome it was – He knew God would be with him every step of the way.

When we face problems we can find comfort and encouragement in scripture promises like Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.”

Jesus never promised it’d be easy when we give our lives to Him. We’re promised a cross.

Our cross might not be the same as little Pedro’s but it can be just as hard to bear.

Once we recognize what we’re struggling with, we must meet it head on.

We have to be convinced that God will see us through to the end.

How’s your back?  Is it scarred and bent over from the cross you’ve been dragging?

The young man was at the end of his rope. Seeing no way out, he dropped to his knees in prayer. “Lord, I can’t go on,” he said. “I have too heavy a cross to bear.”   

The Lord replied, “My son, if you can’t bear its weight, just place your cross inside this room. Then, open that other door and pick out any cross you wish.”

The man was filled with relief. “Thank you, Lord,” he sighed, and he did as he was told. As he entered the other door, he saw many crosses, some so large the tops weren’t visible. Then, he spotted a tiny cross leaning against a far wall. “I’d like that one, Lord,” he whispered. And the Lord replied, “My son, that’s the cross you just brought in.”

When life’s problems seem overwhelming, it helps to look around and see what other people are coping with. You may consider yourself far more fortunate than you imagined.

Maybe you’ve just given up, just left your cross lying in the sand.  It’s time to grit your teeth, ask God for strength, and get a firm hold on that   cross again.

The trail to Heaven can be a long, hard struggle — many won’t make it.

Those who do reach Heaven will do it under the weight of a cross.

When it seems like you can’t go on and you just want to give up, remember  2 Corinthians 12:9-10And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
10  Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

We’re surrounded by a world of lost sinners on their way to Hell.

If we don’t reach them for Christ, who will?

The Times-Reporter of New Philadelphia, Ohio, reported in September 1985, on a celebration at a New Orleans Municipal Pool.  The party around the pool was held to celebrate the first summer in memory without a drowning at any New Orleans City Pools.  In honor of the occasion, 200 people gathered, including 100 certified lifeguards.

As the party was breaking up and the 4 lifeguards on duty began to clear the pool, they found a fully dressed body in the deep end.  They tried to revive Jerome Moody, 31, but it was too late.  He’d drowned surrounded by lifeguards celebrating their successful season.

I wonder how many friends, neighbors and strangers around us are drowning in loneliness, hurt, and doubt, when we could help but don’t realize it. 

Christians have reason to celebrate, but our mission is to “rescue the perishing.”    – And so often they’re right next to us.

Roger Storms, pastor of First Christian Church in Chandler, Arizona, said: “One Sunday, a car had broken down in the alley behind our church — the driver had jacked it up and crawled underneath to work on it.  Suddenly, we heard him scream.  The jack had slipped, and the car had fallen on him.”

“Someone shouted, ‘Call 9-1-1!'” a couple people ran for the phone. Several men gathered around the car and strained to lift it off the trapped man.  Nurses from our congregation were rounded up and brought to the scene.  Somehow the men eased the car’s weight off the man, and he was pulled free.  Our nurses checked him over.  He was scratched and shaken, but otherwise okay.

“When this man was in peril, people did all they could to help – risking themselves, inconveniencing themselves.  They were ready to try whatever was necessary to save him.”

We need that attitude when it comes to rescuing those in greatest peril – losing life eternally!”

Some of them are waiting for you to show them the way. 

In 1967, Charles Murray, a student at the University of Cincinnati was training as a high diver for the summer Olympics of 1968. He had a Christian friend who was concerned about his soul.

Charles was very patient with this friend as he’d speak to him for hours about Jesus and how He needed to be saved.

Charles wasn’t raised in any kind of church, so all his friend said was fascinating to him.

He began to ask questions about forgiveness of sin.

Finally the day came when his friend asked him if he realized his need of a redeemer and was he ready to accept Christ as his Savior.

His reply was ‘NO!”

For days Charles avoided his friend, until one night this friend got a phone call from Charles. He wanted to know where to look in the New Testament for some verses about salvation.

His Christian friend gave him the references to several passages and asked if he could meet with him.

Charles declined the offer and thanked him for the scripture. He was obviously greatly troubled, but his friend didn’t know where he was or how to help him.

Because he was training for the Olympic Games, Charles had special privileges at the University pool facilities. Sometime between 10:30 and11:00 that evening he decided to go swim and practice a few dives.

It was a clear night in October and the moon was big and bright.

The University pool was housed under a ceiling of glass panes so the moon shone brightly across the top of the wall in the pool area.

Charles climbed to the highest platform to take his first dive.

At that moment the Holy Spirit began to convict him of his sins.

All the scripture he’d read, all his friend’s words to him about Christ flooded his mind.

He stood on the platform backwards ready to make his dive, he spread his arms to get his balance, looked up to the wall and saw his own shadow caused by the light of the moon. His shadow was shaped like a cross.

He couldn’t handle the burden of sin any longer. His heart broke and he sat down on the platform and asked God to forgive him and save him.                  .   – He trusted Jesus Christ twenty some feet in the air.

Suddenly, the lights in the pool area came on.  – The attendant had come to check the pool.

Charles looked down from his platform and saw an empty pool which had been drained for repairs. He’d almost plummeted to his death, but the cross had stopped him from disaster. 

…As you consider the outcome of this story, I ask, How many of your friends, co-workers, family members are up on that diving board this very minute… Turn on the light for them. Share the cross. Invite them to accept Christ’s Love.

Maybe you need Christ in your life, call on Him and ask Him to forgive you and save you now.

 Allow the Lord to work through you. Will you make yourself available to Him?


Author: Narrow Path Ministries

Non-denominational, Independent, Bible believing Church

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