Matthew 20:20-28 (Part 2)- Do You Expect Being a Christ Follower Is Like Fantasy Island?

Posted: February 18, 2016 in Gospel of Matthew

Matthew 20:20-28 (Part 2)

Jesus Teaches About Serving Others

 

There is an old saying, “Be careful what you wish for! You just might get it!” There was a television show back in the late 70’s-early 80’s called “Fantasy Island”. It was a show where people paid to come this island owned by a character played by Ricardo Montalban. He would create these scenarios where they could live out their greatest fantasies and dreams. During each episode the visitor would find out that their dreams had drawbacks or side effects that they had not counted on. In the end, they would learn that their current life as it is was not so bad after all. The characters were different and the background of each story was different but that theme was the same every week. In this passage, we see the disciples jockeying for position in Jesus’ kingdom. His response was similar to the Fantasy Island theme, “Be careful what you wish for! You just might get it!” Let’s read the passage once again today:

 

20 Then the mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons and, kneeling down, asked a favor of him.

 

21 “What is it you want?” he asked.

 

She said, “Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left in your kingdom.”

22 “You don’t know what you are asking,” Jesus said to them. “Can you drink the cup I am going to drink?”

 

“We can,” they answered.

 

23 Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink from my cup, but to sit at my right or left is not for me to grant. These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared by my Father.”

 

24 When the ten heard about this, they were indignant with the two brothers. 25 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 26 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 27 and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

 

James, John and their mother failed to grasp Jesus’ previous teachings on rewards (Matthew 19:16-30) and eternal life (Matthew 20:1-16). They failed to understand the suffering that they must face before living in the glory of God’s kingdom. The “cup” was the suffering and crucifixion that Christ was to face. Both James and John would face great suffering. James would be put to death for his faith and John would end up exiled and alone on the island of Patmos. Many of us think that because we have accepted Christ as our Savior that our lives are going to be one blessing after another. Jesus is here to tell us that there is not necessarily a relationship between acceptance of Jesus and a wonderful earthly life of blessing. It is often quite the opposite. Why is it though that some who have accepted Christ as their Savior seem to live a charmed life and other live a life of suffering in the name of Jesus.

 

The answer to this question is one that has puzzled man for centuries. Some Christ followers seem to have everything they touch turn into something positive. We look at some of the great preachers of our time that are true servants of Christ and not just scam artists. Guys like Andy Stanley who are great servants of the Lord have had great ministries and lead burgeoning middle class American churches that are truly making an impact for the kingdom. I am sure that Andy has had his share of suffering in life, but in general, the guy has been blessed with a great pedigree (his dad is a celebrity preacher in his own right) and God has seen fit to bless Andy with being at the right place at the right time with the formation and exponential growth of North Point Church in Atlanta. Yet, at the same time, there are unnamed pastors in inner cities around the country that are pouring out their hearts into their churches and it is a mighty struggle daily. They toil in anonymity and live on a shoe string budget. There are many pastors out there that are toiling hard for the kingdom and we will never know their names outside the communities they serve. It’s not just inner city preachers, there are rural ones serving poor communities and bleeding their hearts out to serve their communities. They cry themselves to sleep at night because of the poverty and desperation they see daily. Because they serve poor communities, they, too, are poor.

 

It’s not just preachers who either seem blessed by our standards or are suffering by human standards. We all see it in all walks of life. I have friends who own their own business who are two of the finest Christians that I know. They are loving and generous people. They seem to live a charmed life. They have wealth and are surely blessed by the Lord. They know that they are and give God the glory for it. However, at the same time, I know friends of mine that barely make ends meet that are fine Christians. What gives? Why are some blessed and others just barely getting by. Why is that we Christians in America have it seemingly easy compared to Christians in tougher parts of the world like Christians in Muslim-dominated countries or in communist countries such as North Korea or China. Have you ever wondered why you were born in the United States and not some third world country such as Haiti or another desperately poor nation. Us being born in the United States and not somewhere else is an amazing blessing when you think about it. It is blessing beyond compare just to be born here. Even the poorest people in the United States are wealthy by standards of the rest of the world. Why is that? Why do some suffer and others seem blessed.

 

Whether we suffering or live a blessed life is first something that we must consider. The measure that we use for whether we live in a state of suffering or a state of blessing is a human standard. What we might consider extreme suffering may not be that to the person that is living it. They may be living out their calling from Jesus Christ and they couldn’t get a bigger rat’s butt as to whether they have a big fine car and big fine house. They are joyful in the fact that God made it so that they would be uncomfortable doing anything else but following their calling from the Lord. What we consider suffering to them is just all in a day’s work working for the Lord. We all have known or at least read of people who have given up earthly riches to serve the Lord in the inner cities of our country, or remote third world countries, or in the slums of major cities in underdeveloped countries, or to serve the Lord in Muslim countries or communist countries. They consider it all in a day’s work to just scrape by. There are those who suffer away in prisons in communist countries for having not renounced the name of Jesus that consider it part of the deal. They find joy in serving the Lord in prison. They do not look at it as a death sentence. They look at it as that God’s not done with them yet even in prison. As long as they are drawing breath, they are going to serve the Lord where they have been placed, whether that’s in or out of prison. We count suffering and blessing by our human standards, generally. We should be analyzing blessing and suffering as to whether we are living in God’s will for our lives or not. Those that are rich without Jesus are some of the most unhappy people in the world. Those that are poor with Jesus are some of the happiest people in the world.

 

Bottom line is that whether we have wealth or poverty, position or the lack thereof, a king’s ransom or a beggar’s lot, it is all in God’s sovereignty. Just because we profess faith in Jesus Christ does not mean that we automatically are going to be blessed by our human standards. Some will. Some won’t. It is up to God the lot in life we have as Christians. The main thing that we must learn is that we must depend on the Lord. Whether we are blessed by human standards or are poor by human standards, our relationship with God is not dependent on that. We should consider our lot in life as our ministry field. We do not need wealth to be happy and if we are poor we should not automatically be angry about it. God has placed us where we are as Christ followers to speak to those who need speaking to, to help those that need helping, and to tell them of the kingdom of God no matter what lot in life we have. If we are living in God’s will for our lives and we truly love Him and believe in His provision and care for us, then we are blessed. We don’t have to have the big fine car and big fine house to feel blessed by the Lord. When we are living the life that He has for us and sharing the gospel and giving Him glory for everything then we are blessed.

 

If you are wealthy or have a well-off life, then God gives you the responsibility to use your wealth for the glory of the kingdom. Only then will you feel blessed. Some wealthy folks that I have had the privilege to know over the years are some of the finest Christians I have ever known. You know these types. The ones that would give you the shirt off their back and they support their church in unimaginable and quiet ways. They help people in need whenever they get the chance. They give glory to the Lord for every penny that they have and they use it wisely so that they have opportunities to bless others. These are amazing people to know. They get why they have wealth. It is their ministry tool and their wealth comes from the Lord in their eyes. On the other hand, I have known some dirt poor folks as well that are equally amazing helpers of the Lord. They help others not with money but with gifts of food, gifts of wise advise, gifts of just being there for others. That person that you call when you need someone to give you wise counsel and so on. That person that is known in the community for always being there for others. We all know that Christian too. We all serve the Lord in the ways He gifted us. He puts us in our positions and we must see that we are there to serve. It is not about social position. It is about living and serving in the place that God has placed us.

 

Our blessings that we seek as true Christians are not the trappings of this world but rather the eternal blessings in God’s economy. If we are blessed financially by the Lord in this life, we see it as our ministry tool to bless others and help others and in so doing give glory to the Lord. If we find ourselves poor in this life, we know that the trappings of this life are temporary and that we simply are put in that position to serve the Lord. We do not have to have earthly wealth, fame, and honor to be happy in Jesus. If our joy is tied to our things or the lack thereof, let us examine ourselves. Our joy comes from our relationship with the Lord. Our joy comes from serving Him no matter what our lot in life is. Things don’t make us happy. Our relationship with the Lord does – suffering or blessing, sunshine or rain, fame or anonymity, wealth or poverty, life of pleasure or life of pain, persecution or exaltation. All that stuff is window dressing. It is just the setting for our ministry of our daily lives. Amen and amen.

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