What Are You Waiting For?
James C. Denison
We’re beginning today with a little test a friend emailed me this week. Let’s see how you score.
You are running in a race and overtake the second person. What position are you in? Second place.
If you overtake the last person, what position are you in? If you said that you’re second to last, you’re wrong. How can you overtake the “last” person?
Do they have a 4th of July in England? Yes–it comes right after the 3rd.
How many birthdays does the average man have? One–it comes each year.
Some months have 31 days; how many have 28? All of them.
Is it legal in California for a man to marry his widow’s sister? No–he’s dead.
How many two-cent stamps are there in a dozen? A dozen.
If you missed them all, we’re doubling your tithe requirement today.
Now take another test, a word-association quiz: what comes to mind when I say the word “disciple”? On DiscipleNow Weekend, with more than 400 students and their teachers involved in the most important single youth event of the year, it seems an appropriate question. What is a disciple? What thoughts come to your mind?
I grew up thinking that a “disciple” was a really serious Christian, a Green Beret church member. You have “Christians” and then you have “disciples.” A disciple spends an hour in prayer each morning, shares his or her faith each day, and memorizes Scripture each evening. A disciple is out on the front lines for Jesus–willing to go anywhere and do anything for the Kingdom. At least that’s what I thought.
Then I met some “disciples” in the Bible and got to know their stories. Peter, denying Jesus to a serving girl when he needed his friends the most; James and John, wanting to call down fire on some poor Samaritans; Thomas, questioning his Lord’s resurrection; Matthew, a crony of the hated Roman government; Simon the Zealot, a terrorist insurgent. Not a Green Beret in the bunch.
Finally I came to understand that a “disciple” is simply a person who follows a teacher. You are a coaching “disciple” of Bill Parcells if you approach the game the way he does. Avery Johnson is a “disciple” of San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich because he leads the Mavericks in the same way “Coach Pop” leads the Spurs. A violinist is a disciple of Itzhak Perlman if she tries to play the way he does. You are a disciple of a person to the degree that you do what they tell you to do. It’s that simple.
So let’s see if we are “disciples now.” Using the theme text of DNow weekend, we’ll answer two questions which make up the “Discipleship Test” and see how we score this morning. There is no more important exercise for the health of your soul, your family, and your legacy today.
Are you assuming the future? (vs. 13-16)
The author of our book calls himself simply “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1). If I were he, I would have said much more.
Our writer was the half-brother of Jesus, the oldest biological son of Mary and Joseph. He grew up in Jesus’ household. He knew him better than any other living person except his mother. However, he did not believe that he was the Messiah (cf. John 7:5) until after the resurrection, when the risen Christ made a special visit to his oldest half-brother (1 Corinthians 15:7).
The result was a new man. James quickly became the leader of the church at Jerusalem, the most visible spokesman for the gospel in all of Judea. His prayer life was so fervent that he was called “James of camel’s knees.” Eventually his faith and witness so threatened the authorities that they had him thrown from the temple and then beaten to death. His last words were a prayer, asking God to forgive them.
Now he calls himself a “servant” of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Servant” translates the Greek doulos, literally a “slave.” A slave belongs to his master. He has no will of his own. His only purpose is to do what his master wants. That was James. I’d say he knows something about discipleship.
In our text, he challenges his Christian readers in words which are eerily current: “Now listen, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business, and make money'” (v. 13). When last did you say something like that?
“This fall, I will go to such-and-such a college and major in so-and-so.” Or, “Later this spring, we will sell our house and buy one in such-and-such neighborhood.” Or, “By March we will expand into such-and-such a market and increase our revenues by so-and-so.” Or, “Later this year, our church will begin such-and-such ministries and services and reach so-and-so people.”
What’s wrong with such assumptions? “Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow” (v. 14a). Is that true? Do you know what will happen on Monday?
Did you know on 9-10-01 that we would never forget 9-11?
When Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby and started in the Preakness, did anyone expect him to break his leg and eventually be euthanized?
When the football season began, who thought that the New Orleans Saints would play the Chicago Bears for the NFC championship and the right to go to today’s Super Bowl?
When the Mavericks’ season began, who thought they would lose four straight and then achieve the best record in basketball?
When the Cowboys’ season began, who thought Tony Romo would be our quarterback of the future? When their playoff game began, who thought it would end with a fumbled snap on the winning field goal?
The truth is that “you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (v. 14b). When’s the last time you saw mist in the early morning? It wasn’t there the night before. It settles over the fields or streets, sometimes so thick that you can’t drive safely. But by mid-morning the sun has burned it off and it is gone.