13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Dear Friends in Christ,
Today is the day that we Christians declare war on a disease that has attacked each one of us more times than we care to remember, a disease that has paralyzed our passions, played havoc with our hopes, and devastated our dreams. This disease is not physical in nature, though it can affect us that way. It is a disease that can be summed up in two words, and those two words are: “I can’t.” “I can’t go on with this marriage anymore.” “I can’t put up with this job anymore.” “I can’t resist this temptation anymore.” “I can’t forgive what he or she has done to me.”
Those two words – “I can’t” – affect the confidence level of our lives and can render us incapable of doing what God wants us to do and being what God wants us to be…unless we find the antidote for all those “I can’t’s.” And that’s exactly what we’re going to be looking for this morning as we consider the theme “Declaring War on ‘I Can’t.’” And the way we’re going to do this is by examining the three most important days that our world has ever known, the days of that first Easter weekend.
And the first point that I want to make is this: With Christ we can face the struggles of Friday. Do you think Jesus struggled on that Friday of his crucifixion? Of course he did. More than any human being had ever struggled before. He struggled physically beneath the crushing weight of the cross he was forced to carry to Calvary’s hill. He struggled emotionally at the betrayal of Judas, the denial of Peter, the desertion of his disciples, the mocking of the multitudes, the abandonment by his own Heavenly Father. More than anything though, he struggled spiritually beneath the unbearable and incalculable burden of sin that had been placed upon his shoulders and for which he had come to this earth to die. Think of what that must have meant for Jesus, my friends. The One who was spotless became stained. The One who was flawless became flawed. The One who was sinless became sin personified, as 2 Cor. 5:21 says: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us.”
We wonder how Jesus endured that horrible Friday, don’t we? And our question is more than just idle pondering because we have some of those Fridays ourselves, don’t we? Obviously not as dark and dreadful as the one Jesus faced, but still we have dawn to dusk days of struggles and challenges that take a physical, mental, emotional, and sometimes spiritual toll on us. And sometimes they’re more than just days. Sometimes they’re weeks, maybe even months. I saw that earlier this year when 2 types of flu were going around our area – what we sometimes call the stomach flu along with the upper respiratory flu. I remember talking to one of our mothers who told me that for a couple of months their family had not had an entire week where everyone was healthy. Whatever one of them got, the others got. And when it ran its course, then another bug or virus would step in to carry on where previous one left off.
So how do we face the struggles of Friday? Well, we do it the way Jesus did it. And that way is stated in Heb. 12:2 where it says: “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross.” So how did Jesus endure the struggles of his Friday? He kept his eyes focused on the joy that was set before him. He lifted his eyes off of that which he was facing and looked into the eternity that he knew was coming. The Apostle Paul did the same thing in Rom. 8:18 when he said, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” So how do we face the struggles of our Fridays? By focusing less on the problems we are facing and more on the joys that await us in heaven. The more you make heaven bigger in your mind, the more the pain here can be tolerated.
Now I know that may sound a bit simplistic to some of you, not to mention very difficult to do, especially when you find yourself enshrouded in the struggles of Friday. So let me show you how Jesus did this by taking a look at some of the things he did and said on his Friday. When we first hear Jesus speaking very early on that Friday morning, we find him telling his accusers, “In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” So where’s the mind of Jesus? In the future, right? More specifically, it is focused upon his 2nd coming. When interrogated by Pilate later that morning, Jesus told him, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Again, where’s the mind of Jesus? It’s on the next world. This continues on the cross when he says to the penitent thief, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” And what does he say right before he dies? “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” You ever heard of the song “Heaven on My Mind”? Well, that title definitely describes Jesus on that first Good Friday. In fact, so much so that of the 13 times Jesus spoke on that Friday that we have recorded in the Gospels, 10 of those times he was either speaking to God his Father or about God his Father. Now that’s real close to 80%. So nearly 80% of his comments that day were either to God or about God. Where then was the mind of Christ? His mind was set on God. His mind was saturated with God.
So what about yours, my friends? Think of your tough days and do the math. What percentage of thoughts on those days are God-anchored, God-centered, and God-oriented? If the percentage is small, maybe that’s why those days are so tough. What if you thought more on those days about God’s strength and less about your weaknesses? What if you thought more on those days about God’s promises and less about your problems? What if you did what the Apostle Paul said in 2 Cor. 4:16 when he wrote: “We do not look at the troubles all around us, but we look forward to the joys in heaven which we have not yet seen. The troubles will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” Don’t you think if you did that, it just might give you what you need to face the struggles of your Fridays? It certainly did for Jesus.
Then secondly, with Christ we can face the silence of Saturday. Jesus was silent on that Saturday because he was dead. After being brutally beaten, savagely scourged, crowned with thorns, and pierced with nails and spear, his limp and lifeless body had been placed in a sealed tomb. Though Jesus said much on Friday and would say much on Sunday, he says nothing on Saturday.
Nor does his Heavenly Father. Again, he sure spoke a lot on Friday when he shook the earth and split the rocks, when he tore the curtain in the temple in two, when he eclipsed the sun of the earth as he sacrificed the Son of heaven. And on Sunday he’ll speak even more as the rock is rolled and the tomb is opened and the reality of the resurrection is revealed and proclaimed. But on Saturday he says nothing.
When we talk about Easter weekend we talk a lot about Friday and a lot about Sunday, and rightfully so. But how many of us talk about Saturday? I’m not sure I’ve ever mentioned it or heard it mentioned in an Easter sermon before. Yet as I was working on this message it occurred to me that we need to talk about that silent Saturday because we sometimes face those too, don’t we? Those days when God seems so far away. Those days when our heartfelt prayers just seem to bounce off the ceiling and come back to us. A silent Saturday is the time between the discovery of the disease and the healing of the disease; the discovery of the problem and the solution to that problem. It’s the time between the broken heart and the healed heart, the job loss and the new job assignment, the arrival of those overdue bills and the final payment of those bills.
We’ve all experienced those silent Saturdays, haven’t we? Those times when we think to ourselves, “Doesn’t God know that my body is sick, that my job is the pits, that my finances are in a shambles, that my marriage is a wreck? And if he knows, doesn’t he care? And if he cares, then why isn’t he doing something about it?”
What are we supposed to do at times like that? I suggest we do what Jesus did in the tomb. We wait. We be still. We be patient. And we be trusting. Jesus was buried with this prophetic messianic promise found in Ps. 16:10: “You will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay.” Jesus knew his Father would not abandon him in his moment of greatest need. And you need to know the same, my friends. God will not abandon you in your problems. His silence does not mean his absence. His apparent inactivity does not signal his apathy or indifference to your problem. So on those silent Saturdays we need to be like Jesus. We need to do what David wrote in the 27th Psalm when he said, “Wait on the Lord. Be strong and let your heart take courage. Yes, wait on the Lord.”
With Christ, then, we can face the struggles of Friday and the silence of Saturday. And then lastly, with Christ we can celebrate the victory of Sunday. When the women went to the tomb early that Sunday morning, they went with every expectation of finding the corpse of Jesus and finishing the burial preparations that they had started on Friday. But is that what they found? No! Instead they were greeted by an angel who asked this incredible question: “Why do you seek the living among the dead. He is not here. He has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay.” My friends that invitation is still open to you and me today. And if we accept it, if we enter the tomb of Jesus by faith, you know what we see? We see a vacant slab where the cadaver of Jesus once lay. We see blood-stained grave clothes that once covered his body. And if we look way over in the corner, you know what else we see? We see a stack of “I can’ts” languishing there, shriveling there, decaying there, just like the body of Jesus would have been doing had he not risen. But because he rose, we can now face the struggles of Friday and the silence of Saturday because of the victory of Sunday.
Might I encourage you on this Easter morning to honor your risen Savior by laying all of your “I can’ts” to rest in his grave. What is that one “I can’t” that you’re especially struggling with right now? “I can’t forgive him?” I know you can’t, but with Christ’s help you can. “I can’t resist that temptation?” I know it’s hard, but with Christ by your side you can. “I can’t face the worries of today and the fears of tomorrow?” I know you can’t, but with Christ leading the way you can.
Or how about even bigger “I can’t’s” than those? Like, “I can’t be forgiven for what I’ve done.” In a sense you’re right. Nothing you can do can earn God’s forgiveness. But with Christ, you can be forgiven because he earned that forgiveness for you. “I can’t get past my fear of death.” Oh, but with Christ you can because he’s the One who conquered death and whose resurrection guarantees the same victory over death to all who believe and trust in him. “I can’t be sure that I’m going to heaven.” Again, if you’re basing your hope for heaven upon yourself and what you’ve done, you can be sure that you’re not going there. But if you base it upon Christ and what he’s done for you, then you can be sure that one day heaven will be your home.
So leave your “I can’ts” in the tomb today and walk out of this church with the great words of our text ringing in your ears, flowing from your lips, and finding a permanent resting place in your hearts. Let’s say them like we mean them. Let’s say them together with conviction, confidence, joy, and trust: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” Amen.