What was the worst day of your life?
Was it when:
You lost a home or business?
Your spouse didn’t want to be married anymore?
A precious loved one died?
You don’t have to live very long on this earth to have a bad day — some worse than others.
But recently, my pastor, the Rev. Mike Washburn, gave a sermon called: “How to Face Your Worst Day.”
The Biblical text comes from the 22nd chapter of the New Testament book of Luke, starting with verse 39.
Here, Luke tells about Jesus going to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.
Prayer was nothing new to Jesus. He prayed a lot to our Heavenly Father.
And on this night, Jesus certainly sought our Heavenly Father in prayer. He also told his disciples to pray so they wouldn’t fall into temptation.
Jesus then withdrew about a stone’s throw away, knelt and began praying: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.”
An angel appeared from heaven and strengthened Jesus.
Jesus was still in agony and prayed more earnestly and sweat became like great drops of blood falling to the ground.
After he arose from prayer, Jesus found his disciples sleeping from sorrow.
“Why are you sleeping? Rise and pray that you may not fall into temptation,” Jesus said.
After this, Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, one of his closest disciples. Peter, another close disciple, denied ever knowing Jesus.
Christ was arrested, mocked, beaten, whipped and crucified.
What can we learn from those moments before Christ was arrested?
Pick your friends more carefully?
Always have a plan of escape?
Stay out of gardens?
No, pastor didn’t mention any of those suggestions.
He had much better ones for people — like me — wanting to prepare for the inevitable worst day scenario.
Here are just a few of the recommendations:
Develop your spiritual disciplines before difficulties begin
- . Jesus had a habit of prayer. If you’re serious about entering a marathon, you train. “Developing spiritual disciplines when things are good, will prepare us so when things go bad, we’re ready,” pastor said.
I agree. Some of the most spiritually strong people I know aren’t tough folks physically. They’d never win a heavy weight boxing match. But when tough times have touched their lives, they’ve stayed strong, because of a daily habit of prayer, Bible reading and even writing in a journal what they believe God has been teaching them.
Enlist prayer partners
- . Jesus asked his disciples to be with him and pray. We need to let people know when we need prayer. Jesus and the Apostles Paul and Peter asked for prayer. Shouldn’t we?
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Understand that a life without prayer is doomed to defeat.
- Jesus told his disciples to pray so they wouldn’t enter into temptation.
And it’s so easy to be drawn right into temptation.
Pastor gave the example of someone opening a door, catching a whiff of an apple pie and going right into a house. There are many different types of temptations and we can get sucked right into a vortex if we’re not prepared to resist. Our discernment level and spiritual strength to resist can drop when we’re not praying.
But pastor also gave the analogy of how we take Vitamin C and eat the right nutrients to keep our immune system strong and we can resist a cold.
When we pray, we’re taking in God nutrients and strengthening our spiritual immune systems.
Accept your individual responsibility to press into God
- . There’s a point when we go beyond counting on other people, get alone with God and press in for ourselves.
Pastor gave the analogy of a tree covered with vines. The Lord is like the big tree and we’re like the vines. If a storm comes and the vine is on the side of the tree not receiving the wind, the tree blocks the vine from the battering storm.
At other times, the storm comes on the side of the tree that the vine is on — that’s when the vine only presses tighter to the tree. Like that vine, there are times when we need to press closer into the Lord.
Come to the Lord with complete honesty and absolute surrender.
- God is OK with us telling him how we’re feeling. The writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews tells how Jesus offered up prayers with fervent cries and tears to the one who was able save him from death — and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Jesus asked if he could avoid going to the cross, but in the end submitted to the will of our Heavenly Father.
God doesn’t always spare us, but he can strengthen us.
My pastor talked about the Romanian Pastor Josef Tson, who endured years of persecution under the Communist regime. Tson said how new words push out old ones and for American Christians the word “commitment” has replaced the word “surrender.”
Americans love the word “commitment,” because it means they’re still in control. But the word “surrender” is different. “If someone holds a gun and asks you to lift your hands in the air as a token of surrender, you don’t tell that person what you are committed to. You simply surrender and do as you are told … the key word is surrender. We are to be slaves to the Lord Jesus Christ,” Tson said.
Jesus modeled this type of surrender in the garden at a whole new level.
Expect God will strengthen a surrendered heart.
- God strengthened Jesus. “We know if we’re praying Christ-honoring prayers that God will strengthen us,” Pastor Mike said.
Don’t expect that just because you’ve surrendered and your heart is strengthened that the battle is over
- . Verse 44 of chapter 22 tells how Jesus prayed even more earnestly after he was strengthened. We surrender to the Lord and he strengthens us and then sends us into battle.
Forget the pity party. This is war
- . Be prepared. Put on the full armor of God (the belt of truth; the breastplate of righteousness; feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the Gospel of peace; the shield of faith; the helmet of salvation; the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God). And be willing to surrender to God’s will.
Pastor told a story about Judson Wheeler Van DeVenter, who didn’t want to give up being an artist. But when he surrendered to God and became an evangelist, he found a hidden talent — God had put songs in his heart.
Van DeVenter dedicated his life to active Christian service.
And he wrote a song that many people know and love. That song is “I Surrender All.”
After church, I heard a couple people say that sermon was meant for them.
I believe it was meant for me, too. I definitely need to hone my spiritual disciplines. And who doesn’t need to prepare for what’s ahead in life?
I’ve said for a long time now that we need a spiritual savings account — something we can draw from when tough times come.
I believe God makes deposits in our account as we pray, read and study his word and attend church, Sunday school and other opportunities as they arise.
And I think I got a really good deposit last Sunday, which is good, because nobody wants to be spiritually overdrawn when that worst day comes.