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How To Fly Like Eagles When You’Re Surrounded By Turkeys!

Matthew 17:14-20

There is one word which Christians ought never to use. One word which ought never to appear in our vocabulary. That word is the word “impossible.” Jesus said that Himself right here in Matthew 17:20. He said, “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘move hence to yonder place’ and it will move and nothing will be impossible to you.” In other words, Jesus was saying that when problems and difficulties pile up like mountains before us, faith, even a little faith, will enable us to soar above them like eagles. By faith…even a mustard seed sized faith…by faith nothing will be impossible to you. What a wonderful word from the Master.

Now I know there are times in your life when you have experienced the tremendous soaring power which faith gives. There are times when Christ’s spirit, dwelling within you, has lifted you above, or at least given you the strength to confront, the problems and difficulties of life. In fact, I’ve seen so many of you demonstrate that so many times that there can be no doubt of it in my own mind.

Yet, I also know that there are times in life when you encounter people who seem to want to stand on the wings of your faith. People who make it difficult for you to rise up in the great adventure faith is. People who seem bent on keeping you from becoming all God wants you to be. People who look at your hopes and dreams in the Lord and write across them in capital letters the word “impossible.” How do you deal with people like that? How do you respond to those whose faith-less-ness frustrates your faith-full-ness? Whose cowardice limits your courage? Whose earthliness squelches the heavenly in you? How do you handle those “turkeys” in life who seem so determined to keep you from soaring like an eagle? The Bible, as always, has the answer. The pages of scripture offer us some very helpful principles. Here they are…

Principle number one: Cast down your bucket where you are.

What do I mean by that? Well, Jim Moore tells about a ship in the waters just off the coast of Brazil. Those were strange waters for the ship and her crew, and they were in desperate straits. The men had run out of fresh water and they didn’t know where they were in relation to the coast. Another vessel came into view and immediately they signalled with their flags, “Send us fresh water, we are desperate.” Back came the message, “Cast down your buckets where you are.” They knew they could not do that. You can’t drink salt water. And so they repeated the appeal for fresh water. Again the response, “Cast down your buckets where you are.” So they did. And when they pulled the buckets in they were filled with sweet, fresh water. You see, the ship was in the mouth of the great Amazon river, which is so wide that you think you are still at sea when you are in the midst of it. But the water of the Amazon is fresh water, not salt. And so they could drink it.

Now let’s apply that to our lives. The Bible teaches us that there are seasons to life. Sometimes things go smoothly and sometimes they are rough indeed. “For everything there is a season. A time for every matter under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to pluck up what is planted. A time to weep and a time to laugh. A time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to seek and a time to lose. A time to keep and a time to cast away.” The message is clear. All of us are going to have good times in life and bad times in life. But our confidence as Christians is built upon what Paul says to us about those bad times. He says that for those who believe, God works even in the bad times to bring His good. That means that even in the off season, or even in a losing season, we can discover something good which God has for us.

I’ve always been intrigued by the story in the 11th Chapter of John where Jesus received word that his good friend Lazarus was seriously ill and Jesus said that he would go to help. But then John notes that Jesus stayed where he was for two more days. When at last He did get to the home of Lazarus in Bethany, it was too late. Lazarus had died. Now you can bet that frustrated Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha. They had sent Jesus a message asking Him to come and help them. It is difficult to imagine how Jesus could be concerned about Lazarus and his sisters, and yet at the same time not go hurrying to help. Difficult, that is, until we remember that when Jesus finally got there He performed the mighty miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. Not only that, but he went on to give us one of the most sublime teachings of all of Scripture. “I am the resurrection and the life. He that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whoever liveth and believeth in Me shall never die.” Those soaring and triumphant words arose out of a time of frustration and delay.

So here’s the truth I want us to grasp: when we get into a situation where somebody else’s lack of faith is hindering us in our witness, we need to cast down our buckets where we are and see what good work God is speaking to us or what good thing God is doing for us in that time of frustration and delay.

Principle number two: Hang on to your helpers.

Dr. Joseph Matazaro, a distinguished professor of psychology, has written: “More psychotherapy is accomplished by good friends over coffee every morning than all day long in doctors’ offices. A good talk with a good friend can solve problems, or at the very least, keep the problems from becoming overpowering.”

I think the doctor is right. When we encounter circumstances that are weighing us down and keeping us from flying in our faith, we need to reach out for the hands of those who love us in the Lord and who are ready to help us. Where better to find such people than in the church?

There is a term in biology which describes the kind of relationship that ought to exist among Christians. The term is “symbiosis.” It refers to two organisms that live off each other to the benefit of both. It is not a parasitic relationship. A parasite is a creature who lives off another creature to the detriment of that other. A symbiotic relationship is one in which each benefits from the other. For example, in Africa when you see a great rhinoceros you often see a little bird on its back. That little bird is called a tick bird. The rhinoceros goes around and roots up insects which the birds like to eat. That’s the favor the rhino does for the bird. There’s also a favor the bird does for the rhino. Insects have a way of burrowing down into the thick fleshy folds of the rhino’s hide. They can do great damage there. But the little tick bird, riding on the rhino’s back, eats those little insects and prevents the damage from being done. Now that’s a symbiotic relationship.

Christians ought to engage in that kind of mutually beneficial relationship with each other. Do you remember what Paul says in Galatians 6? “Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” There it is. We are called by Jesus Christ to help each other shoulder the burdens of life and we are to feed each other and to feed off of each other. So when someone is trying to drag down your faith, remember there are Christian sisters and brothers who are always trying to lift you up and to set you to soaring again. So hang on to your helpers.

Principle number three: If at first you don’t succeed, then try and try again.

Whenever I think about trying again, I think about Winston Churchill. We know what a great man he was. We know how magnificently he led the people of Great Britain during World War II, uttering words the world will not soon forget. But when I think of Churchill, I recall how after the war the conflict-weary people actually voted Churchill out of office. He could then have gone off to his estate in Kent and spent the rest of his years as an honored old man, painting pictures and writing books. Not Churchill. He hit the campaign trail again and in time he was restored to office. And some of the most splendid leadership he gave to Great Britain, he gave in those post-war years. That’s the reason the British people, on the occasion of his death, placed a great onyx tablet in the floor of Westminster Abbey which bears only three words: “Remember Winston Churchill.” And when you remember him, you remember one who never quit, one who kept on trying.

So there are people in life who seem to find some kind of perverted joy in making you miserable and in plunging you into despair. And there are circumstances in life which test your faith and put a damper on your spirits. But when you encounter such people or circumstances, if at first you don’t succeed in soaring above them, then just try, try again.

Principle number four: If you try and try again and still fail, then quit. There’s no use in making a darn fool of yourself.

That rather profound word was first spoken by the distinguished theologian, W. C. Fields! And there is a lot of truth in it! Understand, please, that we are never to quit on God. We are never to quit struggling to do the things he wants us to do. But there are times when we ought to separate ourselves from particular people or particular tasks and go on to something else. I am not just saying that. It is in the Bible. Jesus said, “If they don’t receive you, shake the dust off your feet and move on to some other place.” Jesus said, “You are not to cast your pearls before the swine.” We are told in the New Testament that if someone continually offends us we are to “come out from the midst of them.” The Bible teaches us we are never to quit on our pilot Jesus Christ. But there is no place in the Bible where it says never give up the ship. In fact, there are times when for the sake of our pilot Jesus Christ the wise thing to do is give up one’s ship and move to another.

Someone wrote to David Livingstone, the great missionary to Africa, and said, “Have you found a good road to where you are going? We have some men who want to come and serve with you.” Livingstone wrote back, “I do not want those who wait until the road is built. Send me those who do not care whether there is a road or not.” My friends, there are some people who by standing on the wings of your faith will lead you down the road to nowhere. God is not down that road! God is always going somewhere. So shake the dust of the road to nowhere off your feet and follow the Lord Jesus Christ in your life—cost what it may. Don’t let anyone teach you how to use the word “impossible.” Don’t let anyone keep you from flying in the great adventure of faith.

Principle number five: Never let the misery of any moment cloud the glory that is ahead.

And that reminds me of Morris and Mary Alice Flint. They hadn’t had a very happy life. He failed at a number of business enterprises. A great deal of anger and bitterness had built up within him. What’s worse is that they were associated with some people who, when he got down, tried to keep him down. Then one day he heard a sermon on the radio that converted him. It was a sermon based on the words of Jesus in Matthew 17:20: “If you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, nothing will be impossible to you.” Morris Flint went to talk to the minister whose sermon he had heard. It was Norman Vincent Peale. Dr. Peale talked with him at great length about that text, and Morris Flint decided to take Jesus at his word.

The first thing he had to do was to cast down his bucket where he was. (First principle, remember.) Every day then he would remind himself of Jesus’ word about the mustard seed. One night he asked his wife if she had a mustard seed in the kitchen. He felt if he could carry it around with him, it would help him remember the Lord’s words. So she opened up a pickle jar and she got a mustard seed for him. It was such a tiny little thing though that he kept losing it. He knew he didn’t really need it but it was a help. He kept casting his bucket down, right where he was.

Then he got an idea. Wouldn’t it be a fine thing if that little mustard seed could be placed inside a container where it would be seen but it wouldn’t be so easy to lose. He was beginning to discover what God was saying to him. So he sought out some of the friends he had come to know at church and hanging on to those who could help him, (second principle, remember) he shared his idea. They encouraged him. They even gave him some financial backing.

He then began approaching various manufacturers to see if they could make his idea work. Again and again he was told it wouldn’t work. They said, “That’s impossible.” But he kept on trying and trying. (Third principle, remember.) Nevertheless, “no” was always the answer. Even Dr. Peale, the expert on positive thinking, actually gave up on the idea.

Finally, Morris Flint quit trying to solve the problem by going to other people. Fourth principle, remember. Instead, he moved on to another place. He headed in a different direction. He decided to focus upon the project himself. Within a period of months, he had solved the problem. He went on then to build a factory in a mid-western state where they produced hundreds of thousands of key chains, bracelets, necklaces, cuff links and tie clasps—all of which featured a little clear crystal ball with a grain of mustard seed inside. You see, Morris Flint kept the vision of what he was trying to do always in front of him. He wouldn’t let other people or circumstances stop him. He would not let the misery of any moment keep him from seeing the glory ahead. (Fifth principle, remember.)

And that’s what we have to learn to do. So when you encounter faithless people who frustrate your faith, when you are surrounded by people who are standing on the wings of your commitment, then remember Jesus’ words, “If you have faith no bigger than a grain of mustard seed…nothing will be impossible to you.” On the strength of those words, you will be able to fly and only heaven will be the limit to your flying. And I promise you today, from my heart to yours, that you cannot even begin to imagine the splendor of the winged victories which will be yours…in Jesus Christ!

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