“RUNNERS AND STANDERS”                     By Pastor YAU

Text: John 6:66-68; 2 Timothy 4:9-17              April 11, 2010.

 

INTRODUCTION:

1)   Old West runners: Western novelist Stephen Bly says in the days of American Old West, there were two types of friends, and horses: runners and standers. At the first sign of trouble, the runners would bolt---abandoning you to whatever peril you were facing. But a stander would stick with you no matter the circumstances. Unfortunately you wouldn’t know which kind of friend you had until trouble came. And then it was too late---unless your friend was a stander.

2)   Bible time runners: Rather than being concerned with what kind of friends we have, however, we ought to consider what kinds of friends we are. In the final days of Paul’s life, as he awaited death, some of his friends turned into runners, abandoned him to face trial and execution alone. In his last letter, he listed some, like Demas, who had run off, then simply stated, “Only Luke is with me.” (2 Timothy 4:11) Luke was a stander. Undoubtedly disappointed by those who had deserted him, Paul must have been deeply comforted to know he was not really alone.

 

THE EXPERIENCE OF JESUS: (John 6:66-68)

1)    Facing the moment of truth: After Jesus fed the 5,000 with the little lunch of a boy, (John 6:1-5) he urged the people to seek the real food that would never spoil. (6:24-33). He went on to tell them that he was the bread came from heaven and who feeds on the that food will never die.” (6:47-59) Jesus was telling them what God had planned for them and the world, the truth for salvation of their souls. But they didn’t like what they heard. “On hearing it, many of his disciples said: This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (6:60) Most people don’t want to face the truth, especially when the truth is not what they want.

2)    Then the runners will run: “From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.” (6:66)When things didn’t go their way or what they have expected, those who have their own agenda will run, leaving you to face the situation alone. This happened in marriages, business, friendship, politics and even in churches. Either they don’t care about you or afraid of responsibility or something else, they will choose to abandon you for their own benefit.

3)    Runners always break hearts: “You do not want to leave too, do you? Jesus asked the twelve.” (6:67)Close your eyes, imagine that you were Jesus, knowing your destiny was to die to save the world but seeing many of them were leaving you. What would you think Jesus was feeling? What was in his heart when he asked the twelve if they also would leave? Being abandoned is never anything easy, especially when you are in need to help, comfort and support. You can’t stop others from running away when you need them. But you can stop yourself from running away when your family, friends and church need you.

4)    Thank God for the standers: “Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Word of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (6:68-69)While there are runners in the world, there are also standers as well. Peter and the rest of the Twelve chose to stay with Jesus when others decided to run. It is these who decided to stay were instrumental to follow the commands of Jesus, to spread the gospel message, to save souls and built churches that this world has a hope of redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Runners will never get anything done.

 

THE EXPERIENCE OF PAUL: (2 Timothy 4:9-18)

1)    Runners in bad times: “Do your best to come to me quickly.” (4:9)We never find in any other place of his letters that Paul was so desperate for company and support except here when he was facing certain death (4:6). It is at this moment of danger, the runners will run to leave you alone. Most people will stick with you when things are doing well. It is when things are going nowhere, troubles mount, then they will run.

2)    Runners run together: “Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia and Titus to Dalmatia...At my first defense, no one cam to my support but everyone deserted me.” (4:10, 16) For various reasons, many close friends had deserted Paul when he needed them the most. Bad things seldom happen one at a time. They all come as a team when you are least expected.

3)    Standers hard to find: “Only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you because he is helpful to me in my ministry.” (4:11)With all the 30 years of faithful service to the Lord and many churches in many cities, there was only one man, Luke, still stayed with Paul. He was lonely and longed for company and support that he asked Timothy to find and bring Mark to see him. When you are in desperate situation it is hard to find some one willing to stick with you. King Solomon treasured this truth when he wrote, “A true friend loves at all times.” (Proverb 17:17) They will stay in good time and bad time, all times.

4)    One will stand forever: “But the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength.” (4:17) Human support may come and go, but the support and strength of the Lord will stay with us at all times. As God promised Joshua that he will go with him, Jesus also promised to be with us until the end of the world. (Matthew 28:20)This is not meant to discredit the value and importance of human support, but to put our need of support and strength in time of trouble in proper perspective: It is the Lord we need and can count on at any and all times. God never forsakes anyone.

 

WHY ARE RUNNERS AND STANDERS? See couple reasons.

1)    Conflicts of interests: According to almost all Bible scholars, many of the followers of Jesus, including the 5,000 who came for food, had their personal interest and purposes. When they saw, heard and felt that the purpose of Jesus was not the same as theirs, there wasn’t reason for them to continue to follow. We still see some who come to church for their own interests other than that of the Lord. Some came because of friendship, a date, a business opportunity, mingle with people they want to get close and other reasons. Either when they had achieved their purpose of fail to find some, then is time for them to run.

2)    Burdens of responsibility: Some become runners because of the pressures of responsibility: giving, service, participation and other personal burdens. Most visitors enjoy the privilege and courtesy of being guests without giving or doing anything. Mere presence brings them satisfaction. Until they feel belong and are encouraged to bear responsibility and giving support, that is time for some to run. We have lost a few families when we started our building program because they were frightened of the enormous financial burden of the building project.

3)    Faith over fright: “You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.” (John 6:68-69) While some were scared off by the impending death of Jesus, Peter and others decided to stand with him because they placed faith in God and Jesus over his pending death. It is their faith in Jesus that kept them stayed with him. Faith continues to play an important role in calling and keeping millions to follow him through the centuries. If you are seeking the truth and eternal life, you will have the power to stand with Him.

4)    Dare to be different: “Our dear friend, Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings.” (Colossians 4:14) Compare the “Demas because he loved the world has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica,” (2 Timothy 4:10) we can see that Dr. Luke was a different kind of friend Paul had when he needed them the most: when Demas decided to run, Luke decided to stay. Some may run for various reasons, only those who dare to be different will stand with you. Don’t follow the crowd to flee. We see the great contribution of Luke who wrote a gospel and the Book of Acts, but we never see anything Demas had done for God.

 

CONCLUSION:

1)   The choice is yours: To run or to stand is a personal choice each person has to make for him or herself. In many cases, it is the reflection of what is on the inside shown on the decision outside. It depends on the value, character and purpose of life one makes his choice: to run or to stand.

2)   The consequences: The decision one makes carries consequence on the maker. We reap what we planted. This is true especially in our relationship with God and people. Therefore, be careful when you decide whether to run or to stand with God or person.

3)   The best choice: Facing your life here on earth or in eternity, to run away from God is not an option. While others may be diehard to refuse God, you need to take a different stand with God. He is your best choice of life now and eternity. Don’t go about life all by yourself. God wants to save your soul, direct your life, make it useful and meaningful if you choose to stand by Him. You may make that decision today.