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Good Intentions


A sermon by

Dr. Keith Wagner



Mark 14:32-42



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SERMON: Good Intentions


My wife and I are in the process of remodeling our upstairs bathroom. So far we have done all the work ourselves. First, we removed the wallpaper and painted. Then we installed a new counter and sink. To make things match we added a new medicine cabinet and light fixture. Except for the curtains the only thing remaining was the floor. We decided to install new tiles.


Last Saturday we set aside a few hours to complete the project. At least that was our intent. In the process of installing the tiles we loosened the toilet to slide the tiles underneath which made a more professional look. But, the water supply line came loose and when I went to reconnect it, I had a leak. Now that we had spent the entire day, on our hands and knees, fitting floor tile, we had to shut off the water.


It was a frustrating experience. We had good intentions of finishing the job and then doing something relaxing. Unfortunately the day was spent messing with plumbing and flooring. One thing you learn quickly about remodeling, everything is connected to everything else. By the end of the day I had just about every tool I owned in the bathroom.


It would have been much easier to pay a professional contractor but we wanted to do the job ourselves. We had a budget and wanted to save money. By the grace of God, my wife and I are still speaking. If you want to test your marriage relationship, just try remodeling a room in your home.


The next day we still had no water in the bathroom. The project was temporarily on hold. It was time to get help. "The spirit was willing, but the flesh was weak." It was time to submit. I wonder how often we set out to do something, thinking we can go it alone. We have high aspirations but in reality we need help. I finally admitted that plumbing was out of my realm. I told a plumber friend my situation and he told me how to fix my problem. I purchased the necessary part and repaired the leak in about ten minutes for a total cost of $3.50.


My point is that I couldn’t reach my goal of completing the project until I humbled myself and surrendered to professional assistance. What I faced was nothing compared to what Jesus had to go through. Jesus was faced with the monumental task of a mock trial, rejection by the spiritual community, public humiliation and ultimately being crucified. He was "distressed and agitated and deeply grieved." He prayed to God that if it were possible, he wouldn’t have to go through it. Ultimately he relented and submitted to the will of God. He said, "Not what I want, but what you want."





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It’s hard for us to submit to what God wants. God wants us to get help when we struggle, but we resist. Perhaps we are just too stubborn or too proud. We like to do things our way. We would rather not be dependent on anyone else.


Jesus submitted to the will of God. And, he had hoped that others would be there for him but his disciples let him down. In his most difficult hour, "they fell asleep." Sometimes we ask for help but our friends don’t come through for us. The disciples, Peter, James and John, were his closest friends. Peter had good intentions too. He told Jesus he would never desert him. But when push came to shove, he denied Jesus, like all the rest.


Notice, however that Jesus doesn’t lay a guilt trip on his disciples. He is disappointed, feeling alone in his moment of agony. But, he doesn’t hold it against them for falling asleep and failing to live up to the task.


Lloyd John Ogilvie wrote in his book, Let God Love You, about the time a close personal friend let him down. His friend had plagiarized some of his ideas and reproduced them in his name instead of Ogilvie’s. Ogilvie says he was "deeply hurt and indignant." He wrestled with the situation and prayed to God for help. Ogilvie realized that it wasn’t important who got the credit for the Lord’s work, only that it got done. He then forgave his friend and got on with his life.


There are times when we ask God for help and God enables us to do the right thing. There are also times when a friend lets us down. And, there are times when a friend lives out his/her faith and is there for us.


On New Year’s day, 1929, Georgia Tech played the University of California in the Rose Bowl. In the first half, Roy Riegels recovered a fumble for California, but he became confused about the direction and ran the wrong way. One of his teammates tackled him just yards before he scored for the opposing team. When California tried to punt, Tech blocked the kick and scored a safety, which became the winning margin.


During halftime, the California players sat quietly, waiting to hear what the coach had to say. He was uncharacteristically quiet. Riegels put his blanket around his shoulders, stayed in a corner, put his face in his hands, and cried like a baby. Three minutes before playing time, Coach Price looked at the team and said simply, "Men, the same team that played the first half will start the second." The players filed on the field, but Riegels did not budge. "Roy, didn’t you hear me?" the coach asked. Riegels responded, "I couldn’t face the crowd in the stadium to save my life." Coach Price put his hand on Roy’s shoulder and said, "Roy, get up and go on back, the game is only half over." Tech men to this day will tell you they have never seen a man play football as Roy Riegels played that second half. (from More Stories for the Heart, Alice Gray)


The disciples failed Jesus, but they were still on his team. They had good intentions but they didn’t carry through. Nevertheless, they were forgiven. Jesus grieved over their lack of support but they just weren’t up to the task. He had to be who he was and they had to be who they were.


I doubt if any of us had been there in Jesus’ moment of crisis that we would have supported him. Chances are we would have fallen asleep too. "The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak."


That being said, God depends on us to keep the faith. God needs us to continue to spread the word, tell the story and be faithful in all circumstances. When people see our faith, it can make a great difference.


Sadie Delaney, one of the Delaney sisters, said her father taught her to always do better than the competition. She put that lesson to practice shortly before she received her teaching license. A supervisor came to watch her and two other student teachers bake cookies. This was their assignment as Home Economic teachers.


Sadie was assigned to teach the other two girls how to serve and clean up. The first student panicked and forgot half the recipe and to preheat the oven. The second student got behind and made a mess and ruined her dough. Then it was Sadie’s turn. "Listen, she said, we have to work as a team." They quickly baked the remaining dough. The girls all worked together and scrubbed the pans while the cookies were baking in the oven. Within ten minutes they had a clean kitchen and several dozen perfect cookies. The supervisor was so impressed with Sadie’s leadership she offered her a position as a substitute teacher. She was the first black female to teach Home economics in New York City public schools. (from God's Little Devotional Book for Teens, Honor Books)


We all fail. Being a faithful disciple of Jesus is not easy. Jesus wants us to be who we are, giving our best, doing what we can to further his mission in the world. There will be times when we rise to the occasion and times when we fail. It doesn’t matter whether we are doing plumbing, baking cookies or playing football, there are times when we just simply fall short. But, just as his first disciples were forgiven so also will God forgive us.


We are forgiven, because when Jesus was put to the test, he didn’t fail. He would have rather been spared from rejection and suffering, but his role was to show us the way. He wanted his friends for support, but on this mission he would have to go it alone. He is our teacher, our coach and our friend. Praise be to God for his unbelievable faith.

Copyright 2010, Keith Wagner.  Used by permission.


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