Sometimes the breakthrough we're looking for comes in the normal, mundane routines in our lives. The Lord is always at work - even in the "as usual" moments.
Hi, I’m Odalis. I’m part of the pastoral team at Cornerstone, and I’m so grateful to have this time to share together. We are seven weeks into 2021. I have a question for you. How are your New Year’s resolutions going? I don’t know if you set any. For me, I barely was able to come to a word of the year, sort of a word to direct my growth and focus for this year. And, I ask not like checking attendance or anything like that, but because studies have shown that by February, the vast majority of New Year’s resolutions have been abandoned. 80% of them have been, for one reason or another, abandoned by mid-February, by this time of the year. So, if you are a part of the 20%, I applaud you. Congratulations, keep to it. There’s a lot of year left, but you’ve got a lot of year checked off, keep it up.
I’m a part of the 80% this year. It’s been a little start and stop, but I haven’t quit. I haven’t quit. For one reason or another, sometimes I just forget, other times there’s other priorities going on. It’s just a little fumbly, but I’m sticking to it. And there’s something special about our theme of breakthrough. For me, in this, whether I’m at communion gatherings at Reardon or meeting just as part of the staff praying and pursuing the Lord for our direction as a church, or even just receiving a Sunday message. When this theme of breakthrough comes up, I find myself encouraged and reminded and strengthened to pick that goal back up and keep moving, to ease off the brakes, back onto the accelerator a little bit, and try to make some progress forward.
As start and stop as it’s been, this theme of breakthrough is helpful for me and I hope you’ve seen the same. As we spend this time together, I want to propose that breakthrough, whether it’s in our personal goals, maybe our relational goals, our relational health, or even the deep work of our souls of the core of who we are, to internal wellbeing. Breakthrough doesn’t always look glamorous. It doesn’t always look like this smash through the brick wall kind of a moment. And in fact, if I could take it a step further, I think that maybe of the time, it doesn’t. Instead, I think this concept of breakthrough sometimes just comes as usual. It’s the title for the time we’re sharing. As usual, faithfulness in the daily moments, consistency over time and trusting the Lord to determine the timing and the scope of that breakthrough. Over time, these small moments are often what lead to the most significant moments in our lives.
I would love to pray before we dive in. Father God, we thank you for your word, which is you revealed to us. We thank you for the hope for the life that we find in you, God, and we thank you that you never leave us where we’re at. And in one way or another, you’re inviting us into a life of breakthrough, of change in positive ways and strength and faith in you. We just welcome you here in this time. Would you speak over us, help us to hear your voice and we choose you in this time. Jesus, we pray these things in your name. Amen.
So today, we’re going to spend some time in Luke. Luke is one of the four gospels. There are these four accounts in the scriptures that tell us the life of Jesus, His life, His ministry work, His death and His resurrection. Each of the four gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, take a different approach. Luke specifically takes a unique approach because he, unlike the other three, was not Jewish. Luke was also a doctor. He was well-educated and he specifically emphasizes the work of the Holy Spirit in and through Jesus.
Right before this moment that we’ll read, Jesus was out alone in the desert. He had been fasting, praying. He was tested and tempted. The scriptures describe how Satan tempted him to break through into success, to fulfill his destiny on terms other than the Lord’s. Jesus leaned on the power of the Spirit, he refused Satan and he chose God’s way, he prevailed. And from then, we pick up right at verse 14, from Luke chapter four. You can follow along in your Bible, your digital handout, or even right here on the screen.
It says, then Jesus returned to Galilee filled with the Holy Spirit’s power. Reports about him spread quickly through the region. He taught regularly in their synagogues and was praised by everyone. He’s on his way back out of the desert and everywhere he goes, the word is starting to spread about him. There’s something different. When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went, as usual, to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the scriptures. The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written. The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim the captives will be released, that the blind will see, the oppressed will be set free and the time of the Lord’s favor has come. What a beautiful promise.
Verse 20, “He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. Then he began to speak to them, ‘The scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day.'” Now, this is often known as Jesus’s first official ministry statement. He had been baptized, he had been tested and now the Lord had determined that the time of favor, the time to change everything had come. Jesus was beginning his ministry. It’s a big moment. It is a breakthrough in and of itself.
But let’s look back at verse 16, not skipping ahead to the big moment, but to the setup. “Jesus,” it says, “Went to the synagogue as usual.” Other versions use the phrase, “As was his custom.” And just a sort of a side note, if you’ve ever tried picking up the Bible or get into the word and you feel sort of confused or intimidated by the language, I’d encourage you to try a version like this one that we’re reading, the NLT. Or even the message, which takes sort of a creative approach to it, to make it engaging and accessible in different ways. It’s been a long time since this was written.
But back to it. I love how normal this moment is. Right? Jesus was at the synagogue as usual. He had a routine. Jesus had habits. He had rhythms. He had all of the normal things that human beings have. It’s just when I think of the savior of the world coming onto the scene and announcing his big ministry, I think of like an epic movie moment, big music, and a climactic moment, the high point of a feel-good movie. I would think of it to be really different. But instead, it comes normal, a very normal day at church. He didn’t just show up out of the blue to go to this church. Also, he was a regular, he was known, he was respected. For him to stand and receive the scroll to read from it would be an honor. And it wouldn’t be just anybody who would do that.
And so this is the first lesson we learned from Jesus’ rhythms in the as usual life. We should make it as usual to be part of the church community. A concerted effort, no matter the season, no matter the difficulty, maybe especially in those times of difficulty. To show up and be strengthened and to strengthen others. You see, Jesus’ ministry, his breakthrough into it didn’t come from one moment to the next. It didn’t come from taking a shortcut or from inconsistency. It came after years of daily devotion, of discipline, of development, and all of it submitted to the Father’s timing. It’s so important for us, maybe now more than ever when we’re home all the time, when the days sort of blur together, when our expectations on change are set on these big, big, big differences, big breakthroughs, maybe goals we’ve always had, good things.
But we tend to look for the fruition of these big moments to determine the point of our success. But the ministry of Jesus comes not as the result of these big changes, not on anything like relocation or a job change. He wasn’t waiting on any of his circumstances to change, but it came as the result of consistency. It came from the as usual life. This shows us that our normal moments, our average routine, typical moments are the groundwork for what proceeds. And this, this time that we’re spending together, this Sunday service, or whether you watch it with family or with roommates, or maybe by yourself, maybe you catch it midweek, but coming to church and being in the Lord’s house, showing up just like he did to engage heart and mind, this is the groundwork for breakthrough, the groundwork for what comes from it.
It matters that we’re here. It matters. I still remember, it’s 11 months ago now when shelter-in-place hit, we were having a very, as usual, Monday morning when we found out that what we were so accustomed to, church gathering together, was not going to be doable for so many reasons. We were going to have to find something different. And as we talked and as we prayed, we thought, we did our best to fight to find a way to keep this rhythm even though it’s different. This stable rhythm, when we’re breaking through into our houses for what we thought was two months, and it’s been a year and is continuing, finding a way to fight for this rhythm matters. It is so good. It is the stable ground for us as a community. And it matters that you’re here. And I pray with all of my heart that the Lord speaks to you, that He draws you closer to help you to practice these rhythms. I know it’s not easy. It matters that you’re here.
Jesus had a track record of normal productive as usual days. When the change came in the Lord’s timing, things certainly changed, Jesus was not just ready for it, in how he had built his life, but he was listening, waiting, and attentive for it. This is the second thing we learn from his rhythms in the as usual life, it’s that we should make it as usual to pray. At its most fundamental level, all prayer is, is talking to God and listening for him to return. Jesus modeled this for us. He taught it to us. The Lord’s Prayer is the greatest place to start. Talking and listening because we don’t always know when the Lord is going to open the door or fulfill the promise that He’s made. We don’t know. We do know that He’s faithful. We do know that His timing is trustworthy and we can ask Him to meet ours.
But in choosing Him and practicing trust to choose His timing, we wait. In the meantime, as usual, we pursue Him just like Jesus did. There’s again so much relevance for us here. As we’re in this period of waiting, of praying, of asking God to change things, we’re trusting the Lord to clear the way forward. We have no idea how long it’s going to take. But in prayer, we acknowledge the unknown in front of us, We acknowledge God, the faithful God who’s behind and with and before us. We put into practice what He teaches, what Jesus models for us. Not just for now, not just for the other side of this pandemic by faith, but also for the scope of our lives and into eternity. Prayer is the essence of faithfulness, in the small moments, which prepares us for the changes, those big moments.
And so speaking of big moments, the verse that Jesus reads there in the scripture is not just sort of a quick casual thing. It’s not a small verse for him to be announcing the time of the Lord’s favor. It’s an incredible promise tied to these people, the group’s history. This portion that he reads is from the Book of Isaiah. He’s a prophet from the Old Testament. And the writing would be very familiar to the people at that time. The prophets were messengers from God. They were his spokespeople who guided the people who taught, the people who warned them, who challenged them. They were the Jewish people, throughout their history, who had been waiting for a Messiah for the change for this time of favor. And by the time of Jesus, there had been silence for 400 years. There hadn’t been a prophet since. There were no new promises, just the existing ones to look back on. Right?
So 400 years, talk about an as usual time. The people had grown accustomed to waiting, though they had this anticipation and this hope, this heart’s cry for the fulfillment of the promises in the Old Testament. Isaiah, actually almost more than any other Old Testament prophet, has these detailed chapters full of what to expect, what to look for from the Messiah. If we can put ourselves there in their shoes, in the shoes of the people there at the synagogue who are listening to Jesus as he reads this promise and says, it’s fulfilled. Their entire history, all they had known their community was waiting. We’re waiting. We can empathize, right? They’re doing their best. They’re contending for what’s good. They’re trying to grow in the meantime. They’re bringing themselves before the Lord, they’re in church and they’re praying. They’re asking for him to bring deliverance, to bring the Messiah, to fulfill his promise.
And, they’re waiting on God’s timing and Jesus, who’s someone who was known then, a model citizen, someone who’s a model human for us now, he gets up to read and he reads this passage. Let’s read it again. From verse 18, the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim the captives will be released, that the blind will see and the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come. The time of his favor has come. All eyes are on Jesus in that moment. There was something unique about how he said it. And as they watch him, as they listen, he declares this to be fulfilled in their hearing. The time of the Lord’s favor, the promise that we have all been waiting for is here, now. It’s not just a mere announcement. Good news to the poor, the hope that the ones who most need it, who have the least access to it, it’s here. Captives being free, the blind given sight, the oppressed set free.
These aren’t just physical promises then or now, they are spiritual promises. Freedom of the heart of our whole selves. The time of the Lord’s favor, the entrance, the arrival of a new era with unprecedented access to God, the Spirit of God within each of us. Do you need freedom? Do you need light and hope to enter your world? Are there areas of your heart or your mind or your life that feels so dark and weighty and confused it’s paralyzing, the damage? This is the hope of Jesus. This is what’s revealed in this promise he reads in that moment. He came to fulfill it then and he fulfills it now. It is astonishing. It is life-changing. And if your life is being changed in this season, if you’ve been meeting Jesus for the first time, we want to come alongside you. Please let us know.
The announcement of the single greatest work of human history, the life and work of Jesus, came on the foundation of faithful, daily as usual life. It is so beautiful to me. It’s not a simple routine. It’s not boring. It’s not a casual status quo. It is the epitome of intentional living. Jesus did not have a problem-free life. Just because he modeled this well, he was a model human. He defined what it means to be human, as my professor in seminary teaches us. Jesus showed us what it means to be truly human. That didn’t mean that he had a problem-free life. He had problems. He had issues and difficulty and pain. He was rejected frequently. In the moments after those verses that we read together, his hometown rejects him, forcefully. His family thought he was crazy. The religious leaders fought him, disagreed with him, came after him. People flocked to him and then disappeared on him. His own friends abandoned him.
At the very end, he was labeled a criminal, hung on a cross, separated from God, the Father himself. He faced every pain that we could experience. And it’s not like his divinity precluded him from the difficulty of it, from the suffering or from the desire to run away from it, towards the end there. He went to the Mount of Olives as usual to pray. He asked God if there was any way to take the cup, to relieve the burden from him, to give him another way to do this work, he prayed. But nevertheless, your will be done, your will be done. That suffering wasn’t the end of the story. It wasn’t the end.
Jesus’ commitment to the Father’s will didn’t happen overnight. It didn’t happen as the product of one moment or one moving experience. It was the culmination of a holistic faith, steadfast obedience, and his reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit. This is this last piece that I want us to pull from, the rhythms of Jesus’s as usual life. It is that we need to make it as usual to obey the Lord’s will. Now I know it’s not exciting to talk about obedience. It might actually sound kind of odd. But the life of Jesus can’t be fully understood outside of his complete obedience to the Father’s will. It’s not about blind rule-following or empty religion. It’s about trusting God enough to believe Him, to believe what He says is true, to genuinely trust that His way is good and right.
It requires humility. It is almost never easy. But there is nothing better than being exactly where God wants us to be. That’s what Jesus modeled. Even when everything in him said, “God if there’s any other way, give me any other way.” Nevertheless, your will be done. Nevertheless, I will obey. As much as it costs me, as much as it is difficult, I will obey. How many of us in our moments of pain, in those seasons we just had to endure, the overwhelming moments, our battles within our own hearts and around us. How many have just hoped and prayed for a different way forward? I have. I do just about every time. In the agony of grief, hoping for time to just rewind or to skip ahead, get it over with sooner. The burden of relational wounds, wishing words could be taken back or rephrased or said in the first place.
Breakthrough is not always exciting. Breakthrough is not this immediate change. It can be, but so often breakthrough is just getting through a season marked by an enormity of pain and sticking it out long enough that over time we start to realize it’s not as bad as it used to be. The fog isn’t as thick, the night isn’t quite as dark. In our life, our trust in God, in some deep and meaningful way, it surpasses our concern for self. It doesn’t eliminate our concern for ourselves. But trust in God surpasses it.
It’s not the hardships becoming smaller. It’s that our knowledge of who God is grows. We give the Lord our limited understandings, we give Him our pain, we give Him our suffering, we give Him all of the things that we have been feeling in these last months, whether we’ve been home and have been home and have been home, or we’ve been out on the front line, concerned doing our best and fighting for what’s good in the middle of it. We give Him our limited selves and we trust His perfect will. We choose sometimes the rougher road, the harder way of building good unglamorous rhythms. In my case this year, I chose a word like discipline to market, to get into the deep areas of my heart and do the hard work that I have not wanted to do. But to say, Lord, not my will, but yours be done. I don’t want to just have my own way because I trust you, God. I trust Him. I believe he is who He says He is, so I will fight through the pain of it, to choose His way.
When we follow the slow and steady, as usual rhythms of Jesus and build them in our lives, we find the same spirit Jesus had, the same spirit he relied on to make that choice with us, to lean into the Lord wholeheartedly or increasingly heartedly, I just made up a word, to choose His way more than our own. Sometimes we do get to rejoice when the two meet. It doesn’t always happen in a day. It can, I’ve seen it happen in a day, and praise God for those times, that can feel us for sometimes the longer times. But it will come, one moment at a time, one normal day after another. As the Lord works, His change in us produces new things, this breakthrough, as it flows out of these ordinary things, let’s choose His way, His change. Follow Jesus’s model for us in the as usual life.
In a moment, the band is going to share a song with us that sings of His work, the renewing work that He does with what we have. But first, we’ll have our time of giving, our expression of faithfulness and gratitude to the Lord. You can give online, you can give on the app, you can mail in a check to the offices. If you come to communion, you could even give there. But we practice this expression of gratitude, of deep gratitude and trust in the Lord together. I would just love to pray. Father, we thank you that you don’t ever leave us where we’re at. For those who look to you, for those who turn to you, God, you work your change and your breakthrough in our lives. And so we choose to pursue you wholeheartedly, would you help us. Jesus, would your hope change us and Holy Spirit, would your power fill us as we lean on you, help us to take this life each day in its time. Lord, as we do this, would your breakthrough come. We pray these things in your beautiful and precious name. Amen. Amen.
He’s the God who does new things and gives new blessings, fresh lessons. I think what we learned today though, was that the Lord often does the extraordinary out of the context of the ordinary and that the two are more intertwined than we think, that our commitment to rhythms in life with the Lord is what creates the groundwork for God to do those extraordinary things, those moments, those divine appointments, those moments where we go, “Wow, God surely was in this place.” And it’s important to remember that the healthy Christian life, the healthy life with God needs both of these things. It’s not one or the other. That’s probably true in any relationship as well that is going to last, to prevail. We need to have the safety, security and the foundation.
The rhythms matter, the as usual patterns matter. That’s where life is built, day in and day out, keeping commitments, little commitments, consistent commitments. At the same time, it’s sort of like our devotional life with God, right? Our time with Him, our reflection moments that we built into life, the meditation on His principles, reading of the scriptures, communicating His words with others, the basics, right? Gathering in community, reinforcing our love for Him by sharing it.
And yet, those things alone, though hugely important, in the end, there’s going to also need to be room for God to just do something special from time to time that just gets our attention and those wow moments that we need in Christ, we need them both. We need them both. We really do. We need both of these two things. Now, some of us may do a better job at the consistency part and we’re less maybe open to the wonder. Others of us, we’re always looking for the wonder, but maybe we’re neglecting the consistency. We need both. They’re intertwined, not one and the exclusion of the other. I think that’s part of what Jesus showed us and taught us. And you know what? He’s so good and he’s so God, and he wants us to so good and so God. So may he keep your spirit, soul, and body in every way, because you are greatly loved. Be blessed this day in Jesus’ name.