This is the text version of the first half sermon I preached last Sunday night (second half to come later). It has taken me awhile to get all of this down, including links to all the Scripture references. I hope you can benefit from it.
I’ve seen people desperate for a new job, but not for God. I seen people desperate for a relationship, but not for God. I seen people desperate for a lot of things, but very rarely have I seen someone desperate for God.
Look at Matthew 13:44-45. In this parable, we see Jesus teaching us that to get the Kingdom of God is worth everything else. They sell everything they own in order to get the treasure or the pearl, representing the Kingdom of God. In Matthew 5:3, Jesus makes the same point in a different way. The poor in spirit, those who recognize their spiritual needs, are the ones who get the Kingdom of God. Only the desperate get it.
But when we think about desperation, we have to think about two questions: what is desperation and why desperation?
What is desperation?
Desperation is an obsession with a goal – both have to be present. We often speak of desperation in athletics. A football team goes into a two-minute offense to try to score points quickly as they are trailing late in the game. The announcers say they are in desperation mode. Duke vs. Kentucky in the 1992 NCAA tournament, my favorite game of al-time (video here) was full of desperation. When you’re desperate, you make changes and do whatever it takes to win the game. If you are behind, you can’t keep doing the same thing you’ve been doing and expect to win.
Desperation plays come about because the coach realizes that in order to achieve the desired result (a win), he has to make some changes and do some drastic things. Can you imagine a coach doing quarterback sneaks and fullback draws down by two touchdowns in the fourth quarter? Can you imagine instead of heaving it the length of the court in 1992, Grant Hill tossing the inbounds pass to Bobby Hurley who slowly dribbles up court as time expires? When you’re desperate you change things up.
The Bible talks about a lot of people who were desperate. Zaccheus climbed up into a tree in order to see Jesus. Then after meeting Him, repented and became a cheerful, zealous giver. Blind Bartimaeus screamed and yelled, even though everyone around him was trying to shut him up. He knew that Jesus was passing by and this was his one shot to be healed. The woman who had been bleeding for 12 years knew if she just could touch Jesus’ cloak she would be healed. Even though so many people had taken advantage of her, she knew if she pressed through the crowd and touched him it would all be over.
One lady really impresses me in her desperation for Jesus – the Canaanite mother who would not leave Jesus and His followers alone until her daughter was healed. The Bible says she followed them begging and screaming for Jesus to heal her demon possessed daughter. She annoyed the disciples. They asked Jesus to send her away because she was bothering them. (Sounds like church people complaining about the member that’s “a little too excited.”)
Jesus mostly ignored her. Finally he answered her that He wasn’t sent to her and her people, but to Israel, even comparing her to a dog. She was not deterred, but rather she acknowledge her own lowly state and continued to ask for His help. I don’t think Jesus was being callous. I believe He was allowing her to demonstrate her passion, her perseverance, her commitment and her desperation. He was using her to teach the disciples (and us) a lesson about how much we should need God.
She is the opposite to the picture we see of the church in Laodicea, who believes they are rich with great vision and all the answers. Jesus tells them they are “wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked,” while He stands outside their church wanting to come in.
We recognize that when we are desperate it is obvious to everyone around us. Have you ever seen a caged animal? You can tell there is something different about them. There’s something in their eyes and just the way they hold themselves – they just look desperate. Shouldn’t that be the way Christians are? Shouldn’t people just be able to “tell” that we are desperate for Jesus. Nothing else will do.