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Saturday, January 17, 2015

Spiritual Stalling

There is a story of a man who once bought an older, used car. He was very pleased with his purchase. It was in good shape, low miles considering its age, and it wasn’t too expensive. It was a great car and it ran well for him for several weeks.

One day though, he got into his car to start it as usual and nothing happened.

He changed the battery … nothing happened.

He changed the spark plugs … nothing happened.

He changed the starter … nothing happened.

He was stuck.

He got it towed to an auto shop not too far from his home for some deeper inspection into what might be the problem. Several days later, his mechanic called and asked him suspiciously if he was the original owner of this car.

He said, “No, but I do have a bill of sale.”

The mechanic then told him that the original owner had installed a “kill switch” under the floor mat of the driver’s side of the car as a primitive anti-theft device.
Our friend had accidentally hit that switch with his foot getting into his car that day and didn’t even know that it was there.

If only he had known it was there, he could have just tapped it again with his foot and the car would have started right up.

Sometimes we stall out spiritually and nothing seems to get us restarted again.

Is there a spiritual “kill switch” hidden under the floor mat of our life that we have yet to discover?

When we read through the narrative of Scripture we see that the men who knew Jesus best had times like this, even after spending three years with him learning and living right with him they experienced moments where they stalled out, where there was no spark, no engine roar, no fuel, no… movement.

These disciples should have been the last ones to spiritually stall out, yet the Apostle John tells a story after Jesus was resurrected of this exact thing happening.
It wasn’t as if they doubted the resurrection. According to John, Jesus had appeared to them two other times already since his resurrection.

But still, Peter and six other disciples found themselves ready to get back to everyday life and livelihood.

Peter and the others missed out on something crucial:
When we experience Resurrection power we can never go back to normal. 

Where was his passion to be with Jesus?

Where was his purpose?

“After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” -John 21:1-3

Peter even discovered he couldn’t even catch fish anymore!

The disciples’ experience gives us an insight to the emotional barriers we all face.

The "Kill Switiches" to a Vibrant Faith:

  1. Disillusionment – things were not going as the disciples imaged they would go. Jesus was supposed to be the victorious warrior that would defeat Rome and give the Jewish nation their independence and prosperity back… instead he was crucified.
    Jesus proved He is a victorious warrior by defeating death, Satan, and sin… the real problems that we could not fix. The disciples were disillusioned by the culture on what was most important. They wanted an earthly king to remove Caesar, instead they saw a heavenly king vanquish Satan.

    How often do we expect something different than who Jesus truly is?
  2. Disengaged – These disciples found themselves more at home fishing than seeking Jesus, waiting on him, praying, and looking for instruction.

    Aren’t we always fighting the urges of our past coming back to distract us from our leader and master?
  3. Disconnected – These disciples were more comfortable in the fishing boat than the upper room with the others. I read that and I am dumbfounded. They were trying to go back to how things were!? After all that just happened!? What!? But then I think of myself and others today...

    Aren't we often more comfortable at home than in the pew?
  4. Disqualification – What intrigues me is who is all at this fishing party: Seven disciples. Only three of whom are fishermen (Peter, James, and John). But John makes mention of only five of them. These five names are very interesting.

    Have you ever felt disqualified as a Christian?
    Have you ever felt like God could not possibly forgive you, use you, sanctify you, fix you, redeem you, etc.?

    Well take a look at this list:

    • Peter denied Christ in his deepest time of need. Not once, not twice, but three times.
    • Thomas doubted that Christ was resurrected, (the hinge that all our faith rests on!) and even when he saw Jesus standing in front of him he didn’t believe until he saw and felt the wounds from the crucifixion.
    • Nathaniel (Bartholomew) he doubted that “anything good could come from Nazareth” before meeting Jesus. But as soon as he met Jesus he immediately believed, for the most part him being mentioned makes me see that John is playing a contrast here to Thomas and Peter. Where they fell short in doubt and denial, Nathaniel was faithful. That being said, he also ran when Jesus was arrested and we have no evidence that he came out of hiding until Jesus was raised. Nathaniel was fearful when Jesus needed him to be strong and courageous.
    • James and John were the cocky ones of the bunch, trying to call fire down on a Samaritan village, asking to be set above the other ten disciples by sitting on Jesus’ left and right, getting mom to ask the same question, being part of the discussion over who the greatest disciple was… And here they are going back to their fishing trade. James ran, John was a spectator, but to be honest, they moreso than the other disciples were very vocal about their desire for greatness, selfish pursuits, and anger. They were called the Sons of Thunder after all!
    Peter’s denials, Thomas’ doubts, James and Nathaniel’s lack of courage, John’s pride, may have left them assuming they were no longer deserving of relationship with Jesus. All of a sudden the first three "kill switches" sound less strange and more relevant.

    They lost their identity when they lost their relationship with Jesus.

The truth is though, that they never lost their relationship. 

Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.   -John 21:4-14

Jesus redeems these seven disciples, and if you were to continue reading in John 21 you would read about the specific redemption he brought to Peter. Something that is so important to know when we read this is that:

Their relationship with Jesus was never lost, honestly, it was just getting started. And so is yours.

Often, the reason we are spiritually stalling in our pursuit of knowing Christ more, is actually wrapped up in our insecurities about ourselves.

God hungers for a relationship with us, not based upon our perfect performance but grounded in His. We have to hunger for a relationship with God that goes deeper than our feeble attempt to “pay Him back” with our efforts.

We can never pay Him back.

The disciples were never able to "pay Him back"; but what they did shook the world and changed the course of history, the lives and the eternal destinies of everyone who followed Christ from their preaching and their examples.

This week, will you get real about the "kill switches" in your life, and ask the Master Mechanic to show you where they are hiding so they can be removed?

Just like the story of the man with the car, we can change everything in the car, everything in our life, but the car will not start unless we disengage the kill switch.

Friends, the kill switch was dealt with when Jesus breathed his last hanging on that cross. The kill switch was removed when Jesus raised and brought redemption to us all. Stop tapping it with your foot be believing the lies of disillusionment and disqualification. Silence the urges to be disconnected to your church community and refuse to succumb to feelings of disengagement.

Instead, I hope you will let the truth of Christ overwhelm those emotions and thoughts.


Nathan Bryant

is a pastor living in Phoenix, AZ. As a student at Ozark Christian College in Joplin, Missouri he majored in Biblical Leadership, New Testament Studies, and Missiology. Nathan has a combined passion for unity and discipleship in the global church.

Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our causes.
Christ's Kingdom is bigger than our boundaries.

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