Staying Focused when Under Pressure Sermon

Ready, Set, Go  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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When you follow Christ you will face opposition. Learning from the early Apostles, this sermon gives us guidance on staying focused when under pressure.

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Series:  “Ready, Set, Go” part 9
Sunday, March 24, 2024
Chris Vaught, Lead Pastor
If you Fully Follow Jesus…You will find yourself
March Madness has begun!
When it comes to basketball, anything can happen during March Madness.  Stadiums are packed, crowd is electric and the fight to win usually goes down to the buzzer at the end of the game.
Athletes put on the jersey representing their schools and go out on the floor as a team. The players have to handle both the praise of their fans and the pressure of their opponents.
John Wooden, arguably the greatest basketball coach in the history of college basketball, led  UCLA to ten NCAA national championships in a 12-year period, including an unprecedented seven in a row. Within this period, his teams won a men's basketball-record 88 consecutive games.
He was known for his wisdom.  One of his great quotes is…
“You can’t let praise or criticism get to you.  It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.”
JOHN WOODEN QUOTE/IMAGE
We are finishing our series, “Ready, Set, Go!” this morning.  We’ve been looking at the disciplines the early Christians lived by to position themselves for use by God.
Last week, we talked about Taking the Opportunities that come to you to Boldly Proclaim the Gospel of Jesus.
Listen, you and I aren’t playing a game, we are living life on a mission.  When you surrender your life to following Christ, you are joining Heaven’s Team and you put on the jersey of an AMBASSADOR for CHRIST.  So, when you boldly represent Him.  you will at times receive praise and at other times you will receive PRESSURE….maybe even PERSECUTION.
2 Corinthians 5:20, Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, since God is making his appeal through us. We plead on Christ’s behalf, “Be reconciled to God.”
When Living for Christ, you will often find yourself running against the tide of popular opinion.
How to Stay Focused when Under Pressure.
Center your Emotions on Christ, not the praise or criticism of people.
Acts 4: 1-4, (CSB) - While they were speaking to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple police, and the Sadducees confronted them, 2 because they were annoyed that they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 So they seized them and took them into custody until the next day since it was already evening. 4 But many of those who heard the message believed, and the number of the men came to about five thousand.
I’m sure Peter and John were astonished at the situation they found themselves.  There they were witnessing a miracle and preaching the Good News of Jesus.   They have thousands of people repenting of sin and calling upon Christ on one side and they have the very men responsible for the conspiracy against Christ that led to His Crucifixion on the other.  Yet, Peter and John KNEW THEY WERE RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF GOD’s WILL.
Now, the Sadducees were one half of the ruling party in the land.  They were lawyers, politicians who conspired with Rome and did not believe in Angels, Resurrection from the dead or Eternal life.  So the disciples were arrested because they were preaching about the Resurrection of Jesus and so the Sadducees saw them as a Threat to both their Political Agenda with Rome and to their Religious power over the people in the Temple.
Now, the day after their arrest, Peter and John were brought before the Sanhedrin.  This was the Political and Religious authority of the day.  The Sanhedrin consisted of 71 members of both Pharisees (conservatives) and Sadducees (Liberals) of the day.  Much like our modern congress.  They would have sat in a semicircle with the Apostles standing in front of them.    The last time these two men saw anything like this was a few months earlier when Jesus was standing before this same council and being sent to Pilate for crucifixion.
Question.   Was Jesus crucified because he was a religious figure?   NO!  He was crucified because He was seen as a threat to both the Political, Social and Religious Agendas of His day.
Let’s bring this home to us….When you and I represent Christ, we will be received by some and rejected by others and we must not be caught off guard by this.  In fact, when you are living for Jesus, you will at times find yourself swimming against the tide of the Political, Social and even Religious Agendas of popular society.
Remember this, even Jesus was often standing alone in the middle between the Pharisees and the Sadducees screaming on both sides.
The Apostle Paul would write,
2 Timothy 3:12, In fact, all who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
Does that bother you?  Don’t let it.
Jesus taught His disciples this truth as well.
Luke 10: 2-3, He told them, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are few. Therefore, pray to the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest. 3 Now go; I’m sending you out like lambs among wolves.
One of the last words of encouragement Jesus gave His disciples before ascending to Heaven was to Go…Make Disciples and then He said,
Matthew 28: 20, And remember, I am with you always,  to the end of the age.”
TRUST the Holy Spirit to EMPOWER you for the moment.
Acts 4: 7-10, After they had Peter and John stand before them, they began to question them: “By what power or in what name have you done this?”8 Then Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit and said to them, “Rulers of the people and elders: 9 If we are being examined today about a good deed done to a disabled man, by what means he was healed, 10 let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing here before you healthy.
Listen folks,  this had to be an intimidating moment.
Yet, Peter and John was at peace.   How?   They knew that Jesus promised to be with them and He was, through the Holy Spirit that now indwelt them.  One of the promises Jesus gave concerning the Holy Spirit was this..
Luke 12: 11-12, Whenever they bring you before synagogues and rulers and authorities, don’t worry about how you should defend yourselves or what you should say. 12 For the Holy Spirit will teach you at that very hour what must be said.”
What does it mean to be filled with the Spirit, it means to be surrendered completely to the leading and control of the Holy Spirit - to follow Him and not your own strength, wisdom or emotions.  To yield control to Him and follow His lead.
When you surrender to the Holy Spirit - Filled with the Spirit, you will…
DISPLAY the CHARACTER of Christ.
Acts 12-13, here is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.” 13 When they observed the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and untrained men, they were amazed and recognized that they had been with Jesus.
Here are Peter and John standing boldly for Jesus and the ones interrogating them are astounded.  They know Peter and John have no formal legal or religious training and yet they cannot refute their defense!
Then they recognize that JESUS MADE THE DIFFERENCE IN THESE MEN!
Musicians come to play…
The reason we have spent these past 9 weeks looking at the disciplines the early disciples lived their lives by is so that we position ourselves to be ready whenever God calls us to put our Faith into Action.
You don’t know what you will face tomorrow….the way to face with confidence whatever comes is to already be spending time with the LORD.
When you and I devote ourselves to following Jesus, then like these disciples we can….
STAND firm against the pressure to CONFORM
Acts 4: 18-20, So they called for them and ordered them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; 20 for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.”
Listen, on that day, the political and religious leaders arrested the Apostles of Jesus, BUT THEY COULD NOT ARREST THE GOSPEL OF JESUS!
Today, persecution of Christians around the world is at an all time high….we can even see the framework for it here in our own land.   The world can try to bind and silence the followers of Jesus, but they cannot bind, nor silence the WORD of GOD.
The Big Take-Away:
Remember,  LIGHT shines the brightest when it's DARK!
Finishing story….
Prayer
Response/Reprisal
Dismiss
The Message of Acts 3. The Council Brings the Apostles to Trial (4:1–22)

Luke makes it plain that both waves of persecution were initiated by the Sadducees (4:1 and 5:17). They were the ruling class of wealthy aristocrats. Politically, they ingratiated themselves with the Romans, and followed a policy of collaboration, so that they feared the subversive implications of the apostles’ teaching. Theologically, they believed that the Messianic age had begun in the Maccabean period; so they were not looking for a Messiah. They also denied the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, which the apostles proclaimed in Jesus (2b). They thus saw the apostles as both agitators and heretics, both disturbers of the peace and enemies of the truth.

The Message of Acts 3. The Council Brings the Apostles to Trial (4:1–22)

As they sat in their customary semi-circle, and Peter and John were brought before them (7a), memories of the trial of Jesus must have flooded the apostles’ minds. Was history to repeat itself? They could hardly expect justice from that court, which had listened to false witnesses and unjustly condemned their Lord. Were they to suffer the same fate? Would they too be handed over to the Romans and crucified? They must have asked themselves such questions.

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