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“Developing a Character Like Christ's”
Part 3:
“Being Empowered by
Our Heavenly Father”
Based on Matthew 6:25-34, 7:7-12
Delivered on March 14 & 15, 2009
by David J. Claassen
Copyright 2009 by David J. Claassen     

            As a small boy on our Iowa farm I liked playing with my toy tractor and other miniature farm implements.  One day I got it in my head that I wanted to build a small wagon to hitch to my toy tractor.  Almost everything that I built in those days was built from peach crates.  My mother canned pears and peaches and I'd confiscate the empty wooden crates and make things out of the wood.

            On this day I wanted to make a wagon.  I found a set of four wheels off some old toy and tried to nail them unto the piece of wood that was to form the main body of the wagon.  I just couldn't get the nails pounded in.  I have a foggy, but real, memory of my Dad coming along and nailing them on for me.  One job of fathers is to come along and help their kids and when I think of a father's help, this vague memory is one of the first to surface.

            In this series of six weekend messages we're tackling the subject of “Developing a Character Like Christ's” and that means looking at Jesus and seeing what made Him who He was.  Jesus' identity and purpose, really, His whole character, was wrapped up in His identity as the Son of the Heavenly Father.  And though Jesus was the unique Son of God the Father, we too, through Jesus, are invited to be in relationship with God as our Heavenly Father.

            In His relationship to the Heavenly Father Jesus clearly saw that His own strength and ability to be the Heavenly Father's perfect Son was because of His utter dependence on the Father's strength and help.  Let's take a closer look as to just how this played out in Jesus' life, and what we can learn from Him on how we should be living our lives. 

Jesus' Dependence on the Heavenly Father

            Jesus was a great miracle worker.  Some of the most amazing parts of the four gospels are the miracles we have record of Jesus performing.  But Jesus didn't see Himself doing these in Himself, from His own strength.  On one occasion Jesus said to His disciples, “I have shown you many great miracles from the Father.” (John 10:32)  He clearly believed that His ability to do miracles came from the Heavenly Father.

            Look at the great miracle of Jesus' feeding over five thousand people from the five loaves and two fish He held in His hand.  What did He do before He handed it out to be distributed by His disciples to the large crowd?  We read, “Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves.” (Matthew 14:19)

            Even in His decision-making Jesus was dependent on the Heavenly Father.  One of Jesus' biggest decisions was who He would choose as His twelve disciples.  These guys would go on, long after He had ascended to heaven, to give leadership to the early church.  Who should He pick as His twelve?  The historian and gospel writer Luke records of Jesus that “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.  When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles...” (Luke 6:12-13)

            And what did Jesus do just before His arrest, trial, and crucifixion?  He prayed in the garden of Gethsemane, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)  Jesus grappled with the whole idea of being taking the ugly despicable sins of the world, your sins and mine upon the coming cross.  He prepared Himself for that supreme act of sacrifice by calling upon His Heavenly Father.

            Jesus' entire life was lived with an utter dependence upon the Heavenly Father to give Him the strength and wisdom to do what He was supposed to do.  Folks, if Jesus needed to be so dependent upon the Heavenly Father, and He was the perfect Son of God, God in the flesh, then you and I most certainly need to live with a constant awareness of our utter dependence upon the Heavenly Father! 

Our Helpful Heavenly Father

            Life is tough.  So often we feel overwhelmed by it all.  It's not at all uncommon to feel a deep sense of personal inadequacy.  We worry.  We get discouraged.  We just don't know how we're going to deal with what we have to deal with.  There's times when we think we can't take much more.

            We almost always see such thinking and the accompanying feelings as negative, even painful.  We want them to go away, and even more we want the circumstances that prompts such thoughts and feelings to go away!

            There's another way for us to view these painful and automatic responses to the challenges of life.  We can see them as opportunities to experience God as our helpful Heavenly Father!  If my earthly father can help me with my wagon then certainly my Heavenly Father can help me with anything else!  Jesus put it this way:  “Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11)

            A father who would play a trick on his hungry child by substituting a rock for a piece of bread or, worse yet, trick him into grabbing a snake could be facing charges of child abuse.  When we allow ourselves to doubt the good intentions of God as our Heavenly Father toward us His child we are, in essence, charging Him with child abuse!  Jesus' point is that, generally speaking, if earthly dads, who are far from perfect, try to do right by their kids then how much more shouldn't we expect our perfect God to be a loving Heavenly Father to us!

            That's the key, to expect God to be a loving Heavenly Father to us!  Jesus lived constantly with this expectation, that the Heavenly Father would come through for Him.  Jesus wants us to be like Him in this way.  In fact, Jesus believed that His Heavenly Father had promised us His continual presence and help!  Jesus told His disciples near the end of His ministry, when He knew He would not be with them much longer, “I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49)  Of course, Jesus was talking about the Holy Spirit, the third member of the triune Godhead.  The disciples were to stay put in Jerusalem until Jesus sent them the help the Father had promised, His Holy Spirit.

            The Holy Spirit did come, on the Jewish holiday of Pentecost.  The promised gift of the Heavenly Father, the Holy Spirit of God Himself has never left!  You and I, when we accept Jesus as God's Son and what He was sent to do for us on the cross and yield to Him as our King, then we are given this gift from the Heavenly Father of His empowering help through His Holy Spirit who then lives within us.

            What are you facing that has you overwhelmed, worried, discouraged or thinking that you're not much good?  You're in a perfect and ideal place, and I am too!  We're in a position to experience God as our helpful Heavenly Father! 

Hidden Help

            But, I know we face our challenging lives with doubts.  Can I share with you one of my greatest doubts, or questions I've had to struggle with when it comes to believing God is my Heavenly Father who wants to help me be His person?

            When I look around me I see people, people with little or no faith in God, let alone in relating to Him as their Heavenly Father, and yet many times they seem to do just fine in life.  Sometimes non-believers even seem to handle life's struggles better than some believers.  Why is this?  How can this be?  Shouldn't it be obvious to everyone, including me with my doubts, that life lived with a dependence on God as your Heavenly Father is better than life not lived this way?  Inquiring minds (like mine) want to know!

            I've come to a two-part answer to this.  First part:  It's not fair to compare apples and oranges.  A non-believer may have been raised in a better environment or been born with a personality that makes some challenges easier to face than a given Christian.  So, in reality, a certain non-believer may be doing better at coping with life than a given believer, but the believer would be even worse off without his or her faith in God the Heavenly Father.

            Part two of my answer as to why some non-believers may seem to do fine without the help of God.  The fact is, they're not coping without the goodness of the Heavenly Father!  Everyone benefits from God being good, even those who don't believe in Him.  Speaking of “your Father in heaven” Jesus said, “He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45)

            Jesus made it clear that often when God is at work (He calls it the kingdom of God) that it's not always obvious to the casual observer.  Jesus compared the working of God to how yeast works in a loaf of bread, not to fireworks!  “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.” (Matthew 13:33) Jesus' primary analogy with using yeast was how it permeates the whole loaf, and that God's working of His kingdom will do the same.  However, it's obvious that God's working out His will is often not obvious!

            Jesus' own mission is a great example.  To most people viewing His crucifixion it would have appeared that Jesus was on the losing end of things.  We now know that He was on the winning end!  He won for us, dying for our sins on that cross.  Yes, God's working is often not real obvious.  His help is often hidden to casual observation.  His is a stealth-like strength, not calling attention to Him.  Why?  Well, for one reason, people would turn to the Heavenly Father out of a selfish need for wanting help instead out of a loving desire to know God as Heavenly Father.  When we do turn to Him as our Heavenly Father, through Jesus His Son, we do have His help as Father.  He just won't usually have it be so obvious that it makes the papers, the evening news, or the web's news pages. 

A Story about the Heavenly Father

            No, the Heavenly Father's working in His children's lives doesn't often make the news but I'm going to tell you about one such story that happened to a friend of mine.  His name is Tom, he's in my pastor's accountability group and he shared this story with us, and gave me permission to share it with you.

            Tom's about my age.  A couple of weeks ago he received word that his sister, two years older than he, had committed suicide in Florida.  He had always been close to his sister and was devastated.  She had been a brilliant person, an RN, but had also struggled with some issues and relationships.  Tom traveled to Florida to help make arrangements and to help set her affairs in order.  Taking a break, he sat in a lounge chair at the swimming pool of the hotel where he was staying.  He was physically and emotionally exhausted.

            There were only a handful of people scattered about the pool but a woman, about seventy, decided to take the lounge chair beside him.  He greeted her and tried to be pleasant, asking her a couple of basic questions, like why she was there.  In the conversation she said she was a retired RN.  She asked Tom why he was in Florida.  He didn't want to get into the details so simply said he was there on family business.  It came out in the conversation that Tom was a minister.  She responded by telling Tom that she had been frustrated as an RN that she was primarily dealing with the physical and not the spiritual needs of people, so she went back to school to get a theology degree.  She told Tom that, though retired, she just wanted to come alongside hurting people.

            Tom couldn't believe his ears!  He decided to tell her why he was in Florida.  He wasn't long into his story before she had reached out her hands and clasped Tom's hand between hers as she listened.  Tom had a profound awareness that God was reaching out to comfort him in his time of great need.          

            Jesus said on one occasion, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.” (Matthew 6:8)  He's a good Father, the best of Fathers, He's the Heavenly Father.  Given this fact, Jesus instructs us, “So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we wear?' or “What shall we drink?' or “What shall we wear?'  For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father know that you need them.  But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:31-33)

            Jesus lived on earth with an ever-present awareness of His utter dependence on the Father and the constant help of the Father.  You know what?  We should too!

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