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SURF the Winning Wave

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Surf the Winning Wave Sam Stone, 2020-05-24, 7th Sunday of Easter John 17:1-11 What’s up everyone, greetings from the empty tomb again! This is the last Sunday I am preaching from this empty tomb because today is the 7th Sunday of Easter, which marks the end of Easter season. Next week is Pentecost. Should I be sitting on the fire, or flying with the doves? We’ll see next week. One of the greatest Chinese philosophers, Mencius, said that you need three elements to be successful in life, or in anything you do. You need … 1) The Power of Heaven (天勢) 2) The Benefit of the Land (地利) 3) The Harmony of the People (人和) If you have these three things, you will be successful in anything you do. That sounds quite simple, doesn’t it? What is not simple is how you harness these three elements. It means if you can harness one of the three elements, you are 33% likely to succeed, and if you can leverage two, you have a 66% chance to succeed. Of course, if you have all three, you have a 99% chance to succeed. Mencius then said that the Power of Heaven is not as easy to harness as the Benefit of the Land, the Benefit of the Land is not as easy to harness as the Harmony of the People. What he meant is that the most accessible element is the Harmony of the People. You have seen that most of those who are successful in life are those who can work with people. They are people persons. That is why we teach children from a young age to share, to cooperate, and to be socially savvy. That alone is not easy for some people, especially those that have been hurt by people. We live in a fallen world, and we have to deal with fallen people, so we are often offended by others. To have harmony with people, we must learn how to forgive others and heal our social wounds quickly, or we will be left behind and lose one-third of the chance to win. Jesus taught us how to forgive. Even at his most painful moment on the cross, he showed us that forgiveness is possible. The second easiest element to harness is the Benefit of the Land. America is known as “the land of opportunity.” “Location, location, location” is the slogan for real estate. In warfare, the lay of the land can determine win or loss. So you need to leverage a location that is beneficial for you to win. The reason the Benefit of the Land is harder to harness than the Harmony of the People is that it is not always easy to move to another place. First, it is hard to know which location is right for you. Then, you must have the resources to move there. Some people risk their lives to cross the border to the United States. Now, if you have the Harmony of People, and the Benefit of the Land, you have a 66% chance to achieve your purpose. Then you need the last 33%, the Power of Heaven, to secure your win. How to harness the Power of Heaven is the subject of today’s message. The reason Mencius put the Power of Heaven at the top of the list because it is the most important even though it is the hardest to get. Why is it most important? It is because if the Power of Heaven is with you, the other two can be given. Jesus did not have the leverage of Harmony of People. He was not born in a palace, but in a manger to a peasant family. He did not have the Benefit of the Land. He grew up in Nazareth, a town so obscure that people did not believe anything good could come out of Nazareth. (John 1:46) Yet, Jesus accomplished his calling in three shorth years of his ministry, but the ripple effect of his accomplishment continued to impact the world today 2,000 years after he was shamefully crucified. This global and historical impact is accomplished by the harmony of only 12 disciples in a small nation of Israel about the same size as New Jersey. It means the Power of Heaven can overwrite the shortfall of the Benefit of the Land and the Harmony of the People. That is why Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you.” (Mat 6:33). When you get the kingdom of God, you will also be given the other needs. God will turn your land into a fruitful ground and send you the people to work with you to accomplish your divine calling. That is why the Power of Heaven is more important than any other element of success. In his farewell speech, which covers five chapters of John’s Gospel, he imparted the essential teachings of his life that concentrate on how to harness the Power of God to make the most impact with your life. John’s Gospel has only 21 chapters. That means John spent a quarter of his Gospel writing about Jesus’ final words indicating how important it is in his mind for his readers. After his farewell speech, he prayed this prayer that we are about to read part of it, and it covers the secret to his success. Now, let us read the scripture lesson for the day. It is from the Gospel According to John 17:1-11. Listen to the Word of the Lord, After Jesus had spoken these words, he looked up to heaven and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, 2 since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3 And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4 I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. 5 So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed. 6 “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7 Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; 8 for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9 I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. 11 And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one. (Jn 17:1–11). This is the Word of the Lord! Thanks be to God. This is the beginning part of Jesus’ farewell prayer. From this passage, I have drawn four critical principles of harnessing the Power of God. Harnessing might not be the right word because harnessing can mean controlling as if we try to harness a horse and use its power to pull a carriage. That sounds arrogant and disrespectful when it comes to God’s power. Anyone that tries to control the Power of God is doom to fail. That is why Mencius said it was the most challenging part of success. We need God’s help to succeed, but how to receive God’s help? Throughout history, we have read about many people who have been helped by God. What’s their secret sauce? There is a saying, “Instead of asking God to bless what we do, do what God is already blessing.” What it means is while we cannot control God’s Power, we can submit to God’s power. It is like surfing. If you know how to submit to the power of the waves, you can ride the waves and have a lot of fun with it. God wants you to win and has sent you the wave of winning. All you need to do is to learn to surf the winning wave. The four key principles of surfing God’s winning wave can be easily memorized with the acrostic SURF. S is for … 1. Serve the Audience of One Jesus began his prayer by saying, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you.” (John 17:1b). This sentence represents Jesus’ life. All his life, he sought to serve the audience of one—God and God alone. Asking God to glorify him means he wants God to be happy with his works. He was seeking God’s recognition instead of the world’s recognition. Sometimes we fail because we seek to please people or try to impress the world. It’s stressful to seek the recognition of the world. Even our President cannot please everyone. If you want to have less stress, serve only one audience and the audience of One—God and God alone. This statement has a deeper layer of meaning. Sometimes we say, “I just try to do the right thing. I don’t care about recognition by people or even by God.” The problem is human beings are created to crave recognition. If we do not seek recognition from others, we are seeking our own recognition. It means we are trying to please ourselves or our own ego. By asking God to glorify him, Jesus showed his humility. He was saying, “Without your help, I cannot glorify you.” We try to serve God, but at the same time, we ask God to help us to serve him. It sounds paradoxical, but this is how Jesus kept his humility, and we must do the same to maintain the winning edge. So, the first principle of surfing the winning wave is to please God alone and seek the recognition of God alone. U is for … 2. Unite with those God Gives You Pleasing God alone does not mean you ignore people. Even though you are not trying to please people, you are called to win with people. You need the Harmony of People to succeed, but we lived in a fallen world, and we are often hurt by fallen people, how do we work in harmony with everyone. The good news is you do not have to seek harmony with everyone. It might sound contradictory to Jesus teaching that we must love everyone, including our enemies. Loving our enemies does not mean we must unite with them, especially when they are serving a different audience other than God alone. In his prayer, Jesus said, “I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me.” (John 17:6a). Here and in other parts of his payer, Jesus repeatedly mentioned, “those whom you gave me.” That means Jesus worked with those whom God has given him. The Pharisees and the influential people of the time didn’t cooperate with him, but Jesus did not sweat on it. It is stressful to please everyone. If you want to have high blood pressure, try to be a people-pleaser. It is such a stress reliever to know that God does not expect you to unite with everyone. God has enough people for you to work with. You just need to identify those whom God has sent to work with you. Jesus had only twelve disciples, and one of them betrayed him. However, all he needed was those eleven to make a massive impact in this world. Yes, there were about 500 disciples that he visited after the resurrection, but he started with only twelve that God has given him. Look around you and recognize those God has given you and do not get stressed out by those whom you cannot work with. Just assume that God has other assignments for them. Also, do not think that people work in harmony with you because you are impressive. When Jesus recognized his followers as those God has given him, we learn another principle of humility. His disciples did not follow him because of his greatness, but because they are given to him by God. So, unite with those God has given you, and never think they follow you because you are great. To serf the winning wave, Serve the audience of one, unite with those God has given you, and R is for … 3. Recognize Your Defense Jesus is praying to God for your protection, “And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me.” (John 17:11a). Fear can cripple our success. Later in his prayer, Jesus said, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one.” (John 17:14). As someone who has received eternal life, you belong to the kingdom of God, and you do not belong to this world, and the world hates you. “Hate” might sound like a strong word here, but it the Hebrew culture, “hate” can also mean having conflicting values. That means your values conflict with those of the corrupt world. How do you stay protected by God? You stay holy. Both in Hebrew and Greek, the word “holy” means “being set apart.” The world is always trying to corrupt you, but you must maintain holy, set apart from this world. You are in the world but not of the world. How? By staying in God’s word. Jesus prayed, “They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (John 17:16-17). The word “sanctify” means “make holy” or “set apart.” So, Jesus is praying that God will keep you apart from this corrupt world. How? Through God’s word. That means if you want to stay uncorrupt, read God’s word, listen to God’s word, and meditate on God’s word. I can’t emphasize this enough. God’s word will keep you sanctified, set you apart from this world, protect you from being corrupted by this world, and keep you surfing the winning wave. To surf the winning wave, serve the audience of one, unite with those God gives you, recognize your defense, and lastly, F is for … 4. Focus on Your Calling Jesus prayed, “I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do.” (John 17:4). Life is full of distractions, and people fail not only because of fear but also because of distractions. Jesus is extremely focused. From the very moment he started his ministry, Satan tested his focus by tempting him with the three most enticing temptations. He was not distracted by his hunger, he was not distracted by the lure of fame, and he was not distracted by the seduction of power. Because of his focus, he was able to say, “It’s finished!” before he breathed his last breath on the cross. Because of his focus, we have salvation. The Apostle Paul was focused too. At the end of his life, he said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” (2 Tim 4:7). When you surf, you must be focused, or you will fall into the water. You have heard the story of Jesus walking on water. Peter saw him walking on water, and he got excited and asked Jesus to let him walk to him. Peter was able to walk on water until he was distracted by the wind. After Jesus pulled Peter out of the water, he asked, “Why do you doubt?” Doubt can be a big distraction. Fulfilling your calling is sometimes like walking on water, and we cannot let doubt distract us. Peter was able to walk when his focus was on Jesus, but the moment his focus shift to the wind, he fell. It goes back to the first principle of serving the audience of one. Starting with the first Easter, Jesus not only delivered the eaternal life to humanity, but also launched a winning wave for you to surf. Now, this is how you SURF his winning wave. 1. Serve the Audience of One 2. Unite with Those God Gives You 3. Recognize Your Defense 4. Focus on Your Calling This is God’s word for your edification. May God bless you with a fruitful life by fulfilling your divine calling. Amen!
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