Sermon Details

Faith to Defeat the Foe

February 26, 2023
Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church in Crawfordsville, IN invites you to join us every week for Sunday morning worship. Today's service will be led by Pastor John Van Nuys and Liturgist Jim Howerton. Pastor John's sermon title is "Faith to Defeat the Foe". WAPC Instrumentalists will be performing special music, Jennie Fights will be leading hymns and Alan White will provide accompaniment, prelude, postlude. Thank you for joining us remotely.
(1) The Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. (2) Jesus fasted forty days and nights and was famished. (3) The tempter said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” (4) But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (5) Then the devil took him to Jerusalem to the pinnacle of the temple, (6) and said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘God will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” (7) Jesus said, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (8) Then the devil took Jesus up a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; (9) and said: “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” (10) Jesus said, “Be gone, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” (11) Then the devil departed, and angels came and waited on him.
– Matthew 4:1-11

In basketball visiting teams are naturally harassed by homecourt crowds. But no player ever received as much undeserved torment as Miller Kopp. Kopp played at Northwestern before transferring to Indiana University. When IU played Northwestern at Evanston recently, the Northwestern student section was merciless. Whenever Kopp touched the ball, students chanted: “F*** you, Miller; F*** you, Miller…” from tip-off to end-of-play.

Northwestern’s students were so cruel, Northwestern’s coach condemned them in his post-game interview. The following day Northwestern’s president was even angrier in his denunciation of his students.

Indiana was plainly beaten, but Kopp was perversely hated.

It’d crush me if peers at a school I attended treated me so inhumanely. But not Miller Kopp.

The day after the game, Kopp tweeted: “God loves me. My family loves me. My team loves me. Love > Hate.”

Where did such spiritual maturity come from? When Kopp, who is one of Indiana’s starters, is introduced, he always points heavenward to silently, clearly say to God: “People are acknowledging me, but I acknowledge you.”

Miller Kopp was beaten at Northwestern, but he wasn’t broken. Kopp didn’t respond to hate with more hate, but by affirming the power of love. Despite all the abuse he endured, Kopp had a deeper well of strength that helped him prevail despite that that time of trial.

I don’t know what Jesus experienced in the wilderness, but Miller Kopp does: In hostile territory. Constantly bombarded by a merciless foe. Mocked. Taunted. Hated.

Miller Kopp’s post-game tweet shows that he knows how to get through tough times. But do we?

It’s easy to believe when all is well. But when we’re sick or when a loved one makes disastrous decisions or when our worst fears become reality, it’s hard to hold onto faith. But that’s when God most certainly holds onto us.

Merciless voices in our mind torment us, saying: “God has abandoned you.” But Scripture assures us, saying: “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall lack for nothing (Psalm 23:1).” In the valley of the shadow of death, we helpless sheep rightly perceive that threats abound. But our Good Shepherd invites us to rightly know that God’s strength and salvation abound even more – so that our cups overflow with blessing – as our enemies helplessly look on: Defanged and defeated.

Jesus defeated the evil one by relying on the Word of God. All of Jesus’ answers are quotes from Scripture. We can outlast whatever foes, evils, injustices, and circumstances we face by standing on the promises of God. We can even do that when we face death – because Jesus Christ is risen today. His sinless, cruciform life has redeemed us, and his shining, Easter life shall resurrect us.

We are in Lent, the forty days of preparation leading to Easter. Lent invites us to grow closer to God by becoming more fully who we are in Jesus Christ. Give up – or take on – something that will help you draw closer to him: Every-Sunday worship attendance – in-person or online. Daily Scripture reading. Doing something good for your neighbor. Burying a grudge. Sharing with a charity to help alleviate human suffering. Do something to deepen your walk with the Lord. Not because you have to in order to be perfect, but so that you can become more fully alive in what is good, right, and true.

Hard times come to us all. But God comes to us all as well. Use this time in Lent to come to God. Because what you do now will strengthen you not only to make it through a future wilderness, but also so that you can live your best life now. Let us all begin.

In reading this, your heart may be stirred. What you’re feeling is the Holy Spirit drawing you to Christ. To begin or renew a relationship with Jesus, just pray:

“Lord, help me receive your love. I regret the wrong I’ve done. Forgive me. Jesus, I believe you are God’s Son and the Savior of the world. Be my Savior. Save me from myself. Save me for yourself. Enter my heart. Fill me with your Holy Spirit. Help me to serve you faithfully and well. Help me to love as you love. Lead me in your Way, Truth, and Life now and forever. Continue to show me who you are and who I am in you. Amen.”

If you pray this prayer, contact a pastor. They’ll show you how to live for Christ with purpose, peace, and joy. Jesus says: “Behold, I make all things new.” That definitely includes YOU!