John Donaldson - A Little Further - Saginaw, Oregon - 2006

Matthew 26:38-40, this is in the garden of Gethsemane.  “Then saith He unto them, 'My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. Tarry ye here, and watch with Me.' And He went a little further, and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, 'O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless not as I will, but as Thou wilt.' And He cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, 'What, could ye not watch with Me one hour?'”


We just sang that hymn, “Close to Thee, only let me walk with Thee.” Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane went a little further. “Further” is just old English for the word we understand as “farther.”  It means the same thing. Jesus went a little further, then He prayed to His Father and He addressed the problem which only He could resolve by going a little further. I’ve enjoyed thinking about Jesus going a little further and why He went a little further, and what it means to us today because He went a little further. He went a little further because there had never been a person on the face of the earth, and never would be a person on the face of the earth that had to resolve the problem that Jesus had to resolve at that moment. That’s why He went a little further. He went a little further to pray to His Father to resolve the problem which was on His shoulders. The weight that Hercules had on his shoulders was nothing compared to the weight that was bowing Jesus down at that moment; because Jesus had to resolve this problem - the problem that would affect the destiny of mankind, forever. It was no small thing. No one else could do it. No one else could. He had to do it, just Himself and God alone. That’s why He went a little further.

Most of mankind didn’t have any idea of the weight that was on Jesus Christ at that moment, any idea of the critical moment, the crucial moment of the whole balance of life. Not even the disciples who were only a few yards away: Peter, James, or John. I don’t believe they understood how critical that moment was. That’s why Jesus went a little further. Jesus went a little further because His prayer represented sacrifice for Him. Friends, as we go out this year, God is going to give us opportunities to go a little further. That’s what it’s all about. Serving God is not about coming to convention each year and then going home. It’s not about going to the meeting every Sunday morning then going home; or going to study meeting every Wednesday night and going home. Serving God is about taking steps further into His will. Making a deeper commitment, paying a greater price, making a greater sacrifice, receiving a greater blessing and becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. That’s why we are at convention here: to receive help, to receive inspiration, to receive direction so that we can go out and go a little further. It would be a sad thing if we just marked time from one convention to another because that’s not God’s will.


We can go a little further in prayer if our prayers represent sacrifice for us. That prayer means a greater sacrifice, a greater commitment, more involvement in God’s will, more consumed in His will, and less taken up with ourselves. That’s going a little further in prayer. If our prayer is about the good of others, then that’s going a little further in prayer. Jesus’ prayer that day was about the good of others, about the eternal benefit of mankind. That’s why He was praying for the good of others. To help others meant that He had to sacrifice. We can pray for others and we can pray a kind of impersonal prayer, but when we pray for others and we see how we could help others, that’s going a little further.


I was thinking of a lady in the Old Testament who’s been mentioned already in these meetings. She went a little further in prayer. She had a desperate need; she was sad and weeping. That lady didn’t have a son. Her name was Hannah. All she saw was her need and her lack, and she was almost in that pit of self-pity. But at some stage, maybe it was right in prayer, she saw something else. She saw the kingdom also had a great lack and a great need. She went a little further in prayer and when she asked for that son, she promised to give him back to God. She went a little further in prayer because she made a commitment, and made a commitment that she knew that she would have to fulfill, or stand by. She went further in prayer. Her prayer touched the heart of the God of heaven not only because it was a promise, but I believe God could see Himself in that prayer because He also had just one Son, and He had prepared to give that one Son. He was about to give up that one Son. When that woman prayed for a son that she would give back to God, that touched a chord in God’s heart, and He answered that prayer because she went a little further in prayer.


We can go a little further in prayer this year if our prayer means sacrifice. We can also go a little further in prayer this year when we ask God for direction and we make it obvious to God that we will do what He shows us. So often we have two ways before us and we don’t know which way to take and we ask for God’s help. We kind of, if you understand the saying, “We hedge our bets.” We wait and see what God’s answer is like and if it’s acceptable, we’ll go for it. We’ll wait an awfully long time for an answer. We’ll go further in prayer if we pray to God, "Whichever of the choices you show me, I’ll take it." We won’t have to wait long for an answer if we make it clear that we will take the option He chooses for us, we will do His will.  I can say for myself, I’ve wasted a lot of time asking for God’s help in decisions but not making it clear to God that I will really do whatever He shows me. I’ve waited a long time, and I’ve wasted a lot of time. We don’t want to waste time. We want to go further. It says that Jesus went a little further. He fell on His face praying, “O My Father.”


We’ve heard in these meetings about the circle of God’s love, and the circle of God’s will and how dangerous it is to live on the outside, right out on the edge. A circle is something that spins. If we’re on the outside, it’s very easy to get thrown off. God wants us to push in to the center. Push in, push in further into His will. Further consumed. Further involved. Knowing more sacrifice so that we’ll know more blessing. Closer to Him, closer to His love. We’ll feel His love greater, we’ll feel that fiber growing stronger when we push in to the center. That’s what God would like to see: us going a little further. Not just marking time until convention comes again. Push in. Take some steps. Go a little further.


I’ve enjoyed thinking about Jesus Christ and the things He went a little further in. People have traveled many miles to take the gospel all over the world. People have traveled many miles to do God’s will. They’ve also traveled many miles to take the gospel message to their friends, to make contacts for God’s servants. Many miles have been covered. But no one has ever covered the distance that Jesus Christ covered. He went further than anyone. Jesus Christ came from heaven and came clear down to earth. No one has ever traveled that distance for the sake of the gospel. We must remember that this year God will give us opportunities to go a little further. We may think, it’s too far. We may think, it’s too much, or too great or too difficult or too hard. The price is too exacting. But we must remember if there’s any opportunity, anything God presents to you this year, you can be sure Jesus has already gone further. There’s no danger that you’ll go father than Jesus. There’s no danger that God will ask us to go further than He asked His own Son to go, because He’s already gone further. But we can go a little further than we’ve gone before, and we can know a little more sweetness, and God’s pleasure and His well done.


In Genesis 22:5, “And Abraham said unto his young men, 'Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you.'” Abraham said, "We’ll go yonder and worship." We’ll just go a little further. We’ll go a little further to worship and then we’ll come back. Abraham went a little further to worship because he was taking steps in faith in the will of God, to do a very difficult thing. When we worship, we mingle our words in song, in worship and in our testimony. So we want to praise and uplift Him in our worship. This year we can live the lamb. We can manifest the Lamb. Sunday is a beautiful day to worship the Lamb. But Monday through Saturday we can live the Lamb.


We read in Philemon 2:5-8 where Jesus went a little further in humility. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men. And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Jesus Christ came from heaven and He humbled Himself so He could do the will of His Father. He humbled Himself so He could be the Lamb of God, so He could do the will of his Father, and complete the mission that God had given Him to do. It tells us that it wasn’t wrong for Him to be equal with God. He was on the same level as God. John tells us that He was God (the Word), He was with God, and He was God. He was part of God. (John:1:1) It wasn’t wrong for Jesus to be on that level. Jesus was born into a humble home, a poor home. Even if He had been born into the palace of Israel, He still would have had to humble Himself because He came from heaven. Then it tells us He humbled Himself to become as a servant. So He did that not just for the sake of humility, not just to demonstrate humility. Jesus Christ did that because what He had to do could not be done without humility. He went a little further in humility.  There’s a saying, “Jesus Christ came from heaven and He was so humble. We come from the dust and we’re so proud.” Can we understand it? Is there any logic to it? We come from dust. There’s a verse I’ve enjoyed recently: it tells us that men will return unto dust. (Genesis 3:19) I don’t have time to tell you about this now, but I’ve seen a man’s dust. It’s about two handfuls. When the body has returned to the dust, taking the bones aside, there are about 2 handfuls. That’s what we come from and we’re so proud, so arrogant, so important. Jesus Christ had every reason to be proud, to be arrogant, to be important because He came from heaven, but He was humble. You know why Jesus Christ was humble? Because what He had to do required humility.


There are two things I’d like to mention that Jesus did – two things that He taught when He was on the earth. They are really just a picture of the things which He did while He was on the earth.


Matt. 5:23-24, “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way. First be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” Jesus Christ taught that if you realize that you’ve done something to offend your brother, before you present your gift at the altar, you go to your brother and first be reconciled. Jesus Christ taught that reconciliation is a must. If we cannot be reconciled to our brother and sisters in Jesus Christ, we cannot progress in God’s way. Reconciliation is a must. It’s not an option. In the marriage it’s a must, in the church it’s a must, and in the fellowship it’s a must. You know why it’s a must? Because when we practice this thing of reconciliation, we are just showing through our lives what God did for mankind through Jesus Christ on this earth on a much wider scale. If your brother has something against you, or if you know you’ve done something to hurt him, and you realize it, you go. You humble yourself and you go and you be reconciled. It doesn’t say, "Go and justify yourself." If you go and try to justify yourself, you’ll spoil it. You’ll wreck it. He said, "Accept the blame." Take the blame. And trust that that person has enough of God’s Spirit to understand the situation, and will accept your apology and you can be reconciled and you can have fellowship again. It says if, “Thy brother hath ought against thee” – if he has something against you… That’s the situation mankind was in because of sin. God has something against us. We had offended God because of our sin. Down came Jesus Christ from heaven to this earth. He took on the human body and He took on sin. He took our place. Now God had something against Him because He was in our place; He had our sin. Then He went to God to be reconciled. That’s when He gave His life on the cross of Calvary so that you and I could be reconciled to God. Jesus Christ did that. He went further in reconciliation than He’s ever asked you or I to go. We can go a little further in humility by being reconciled to our brothers and sisters over any little problem that comes up.


Another thing that Jesus taught which manifests what He’s really doing is in Matthew 18:15, “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone. If he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.” This is the other side of what Jesus Christ came to this earth to do. You think that can be done without humility? If you realize you have a brother that’s hurt you, or harmed your family, or harmed the testimony, or has caused wrong feelings and made it impossible to have fellowship, Jesus said, "You go and talk to him. If he hears you, you’ve gained a brother." Do you think that could be done without humility? There’s no way that could be successful without humility. We have to be humble. You go to see someone, to help them see their mistake. Do it humbly so they could find within themselves the strength to humble themselves and apologize so that we can gain back our brother or sister, so that we can have fellowship together again. When there’s a problem like that, our brother or sister is probably more like a stranger than a brother or sister because there is no fellowship. So Jesus said, "Make it your motive not to crush them, not to show them how wrong or how bad they are, and not to get satisfaction. But you go and do what you can so that you can get them back as your brother." You can’t do that without humility. That’s what Jesus Christ did when He came to this earth and preached the gospel. The gospel convicts us of our wrongs. It shows us how we’ve hurt God, how we’ve offended God through our sin. Jesus Christ did that through the gospel in humility. He didn’t preach the gospel to crush us, or to embarrass us in front of our friends. The gospel doesn’t do that. It individually convicts us of our sin. Individually, we can feel very convicted and the person beside us doesn’t know a thing that’s going on in our heart. That doesn’t humble us or crush us in front of our brothers or sisters. Why? Because Jesus Christ came to gain us as His brothers and sisters and He did it in humility. That’s why we must practice that and do that in our fellowship so that we can in a little measure manifest the greater plan that God for the salvation of mankind, so that we can show that in our fellowship. We are reconciled and we are able to gain our brother and sister. Humility is necessary for that and Jesus went further in humility.


As it tell us, He took upon Himself the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men and then He went a little further: being found in fashion as a man, He humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Imagine where we would be today if Jesus Christ had said, "I don’t deserve this sort of treatment, I’m not going to stand for this sort of treatment. I’m a prince and I demand that I be respected." Where would you and I be today? We wouldn’t be here. We wouldn’t be speaking about salvation. We wouldn’t have a hope for eternity. We wouldn’t be announcing a gospel message because there wouldn’t be a gospel message because Jesus Christ wouldn’t have gone to the cross, if He had said, "I have my rights. I expect to be treated better than this." Jesus Christ humbled Himself so that He could face and take all that He did so that He could then present Himself to God on the cross of Calvary, and have His sacrifice accepted. His sacrifice was accepted so we today have an open way before us. Don’t ever think when you’ve been in a difficult situation, or you’ve been harmed or hurt that, “I don’t have to take this treatment,” and you give back as good as you got. And the problem becomes greater. Just remember if there’s a problem, let’s see what I can do to gain my brother or sister back again. What can I do to be reconciled if it’s my fault? Can we have this attitude that Jesus Christ had in humbling ourselves even unto death. That’s what this world thinks of their rights: I have a right to be treated the way I think I should; I have the right to be respected. Jesus Christ had more rights than all of us will ever have but He didn’t claim them because He came to gain us as His brothers and sisters.


There are other things Jesus Christ went further in, and we’ll be invited to go a little further in maybe this year: not only in prayer, not only in humility; Jesus Christ went further in forgiving. We could go back to the gospel of Luke 23:34, “Then said Jesus, 'Father forgive them for they know not what they do.'” Same chapter in verse 46, “And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, He said, 'Father, into Thy hands I commend My Spirit,' and having said thus, He gave up the ghost.” Don’t ever think that those were just words that Jesus said on the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Jesus Christ was the one who had the greatest right of anyone to ask God at that moment to forgive those men because He was the one who was paying the price of forgiveness. Therefore He had the right to ask God to forgive those men. As we read in that last verse, He gave His life so that mankind could be forgiven.

“Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Why did Jesus say that? It was because if one of those terrible men one day in the future happened to understand God’s plan of salvation and wanted to repent and wanted to ask for forgiveness, and wanted to become part of God’s way, there would be an opportunity, there would be an open door. We don’t know if any of those men made the most of their opportunity, but Jesus Christ left the door open. “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We will never ever have to forgive as Jesus Christ had to forgive. We might think the most difficult thing we ever have to do is to forgive someone, or to ask for forgiveness, and it’s not easy because of our human nature; but we’ll never ever be required to forgive in the way Jesus Christ forgave.

We could look at Isaiah 53:4, “Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes, we are healed.” When Jesus Christ forgave the sin of a person, that sin went on Him. When we forgive a person for something they did to us, their sin doesn’t come on us. We will never ever be expected to carry the sin of a person that we forgave. Jesus Christ was expected to carry the sin of the people that He forgave. He went further in forgiving. We will never ever be expected to go that far, but God will give us opportunity, maybe this year, or maybe next year to go a little further in forgiving. As it tells us, “The chastisement of our peace was upon Him.” The thing that gives us peace today, forgiveness from our God, the price of that was on His shoulders. Can you imagine Jesus Christ, every time He forgave someone there in Israel, every time He cured someone, healed someone, every time He offered hope and eternal life and help to someone, He was aware, "I have to pay this bill. This bill is mine. I have to pick up the tab. It’s going on my account." And every day, that account got larger and larger and larger until finally one day, Jesus Christ paid the account. He picked up the tab. On the cross of Calvary, He died so that those figurements He had offered to men and women could really be permanent. He went further than we’ll ever have to go in forgiveness. That’s why Jesus Christ had all the right to ask that God would forgive those men who had crucified Him because He was the one that was paying the price for forgiveness. We think that we have to pay a price for forgiveness, and we do pay a little price, but it’s nothing compared to the price the Jesus Christ paid because He bore our sins so that He could really be our forgiveness.


There’s one verse in Matthew 18:27. It’s telling about that man who had two debtors and one owed a man 10,000 talents. There’s no way he could pay it so he went to the man and he pleaded and even promised to pay it, something that was impossible. Verse 27, “Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.” Forgave him the debt. Loosed him. The man was moved with compassion and then he did two things: He loosed him and he forgave him the debt. Friends, when we forgive someone, do we loose them or do we leave them bound? You know how you can forgive someone and leave them bound? Let’s say you had a problem, a friend that hurt you. Then they realize they made a mistake and they come to you and they humble themselves and they ask you to forgive them. So you forgave them. But then you go out and you tell all your friends or the rest of the church, ”You know what so and so did to me? You know what so and so said to me? Well, they later came and apologized, but can you imagine how that was for me?” You have left them bound. And if you’ve left them bound, you really haven’t forgiven them. That man, he forgave and he loosed. If we forgive someone we have to let them go free. That is, we can’t go telling everyone about what they did because they’ve asked for forgiveness. They’ve repented. If we don’t loose people, we really haven’t forgiven them. And if we haven’t forgiven them, then what about our forgiveness before God? I believe our forgiveness that we receive from God depends on our willingness to forgive others. We must be willing to forgive and to loose or we will find ourselves stuck on a rock. I saw a pick-up once in another place. Someone had backed it up on a rock; two wheels were off the ground on one side, and it was just spinning it’s wheels. If we’re not prepared to forgive and to loose, we are just stuck on a rock. We can go to convention and leave convention, and we can come back to convention next year and go to convention year after year, but we are just stuck on a rock and we’re not going anywhere because we haven’t forgiven. There is one thing happening: we are getting closer and closer to eternity. Closer to the day when we’ll have to face our God. Let’s forgive and let’s loose our brothers and sisters so that we can have fellowship, and so that this world can see God’s plan working is us, and so that God can work out His great plan in us.


Just one more thing I’d like to mention. Jesus Christ went further in love. In John 13:1, “Now before the feast of the passover, when Jesus knew that His hour was come that He should depart out of this world unto the Father, having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end.” He went right to the end. John 15:3, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus Christ went further in love. He expects us to go further in love, but God doesn’t expect us to go as far as He asked His Son to go. But He does expect us to go further than our human nature would take us. You might say a soldier lays down his life for his friends, that’s right. Many soldiers have and some of you people would be very aware of that. I’ve seen many cars with that little ribbon stuck on the back to remind us of the troops that are in foreign lands giving their lives. But a soldier gives his life for the homeland that He loves; a soldier gives his life for the people He loves. Jesus Christ gave His life not only for the people who loved Him, but He gave His life for the people who did not love Him. He went further in love.

When we look at Matthew 5:44, we would say, it’s impossible. “But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Impossible. Why does Jesus Christ ask us to do that? So it would drive us to our knees, drive us to God to ask Him for His help. Lord, help me. I can’t do this. My nature can’t do this. My strength can’t do this. I need your help. That’s how we can love our enemies. That’s how we can bless them that spitefully use us – when we go on our knees in desperation, God help me. Help me have Your love in my heart so that I can love in these impossible situations where it’s just not possible to love. We can only do it if God is living in us and if His love is living in us. There will be lots of opportunities to go a little further in love; to love with divine love, not with human love. Human love is a beautiful thing, but you know it’s limited, and it can be selfish. God loved us with a divine love, that’s why He was prepared to let His Son leave heaven, He was prepared to lose His own Son. Jesus Christ loved us with a divine love. He was prepared to give His own life. He was prepared to leave the comfort and glory of heaven so that you and I could experience what divine love is. He went a little further, and God will give us opportunities to go a little further this year, to love as His Son has loved.


We heard about the Lamb already. We heard about manifesting the Lamb. God gives us opportunities to manifest the Lamb. He gives us many ways in the Sunday morning around the emblems, and in other ways at convention. There are often opportunities when we’re alone from Monday through Saturday, and in the dark and difficult experiences, bitter experiences, or temptations when there’s no one to stand beside us, no one to help us. God will give us opportunities to manifest the Lamb, opportunities to go a little further in love, a little further in forgiveness and a little further in humility.


Speaking for myself, I know so often in Sunday morning meeting I say, "I want to be more like the Master." And we do. We really do. I know you’ve said that in Sunday morning meeting: you want to be more like the Master, you want to show more of Jesus Christ, and you want to be more like Jesus Christ and have more of Jesus Christ in your life. I say that on Sunday. Then maybe on Tuesday, something happens. Somebody offends me. Somebody says something mean, or somebody does something which provokes me and I flare up. I say some sharp words, and I do something that is rather mean, and I just react. It’s for vengeance. Then things calm down, and maybe I get to Thursday and I start to think about the next meeting. I start to think a little more rationally and then I remember: on Sunday, I said I wanted to be more like the Master and on Tuesday, God gave me a perfect opportunity on a silver platter: “Here - be like My Son,” and I blew it. I just let my human nature take over. I said I wanted to be like the Master. We often think that being like the Master is one of those glorious moments when we’re together and singing hymns and it’s beautiful and the atmosphere is wonderful. And it is, and we can be like the Master then. But there are many other opportunities to be like the Master, to show the Lamb when the situation is not very nice, when there’s a hard spirit, when there’s criticism. That’s when God wants us to show the Lamb; to go a little further in love.

A light shines brightest in darkness. A soft answer is most effective when there’s criticism and harsh words. A soft spirit is so effective when there’s a hard spirit. Godliness is so evident in the midst of worldliness. We could go on and on. That’s where the Lamb needs to be seen. That’s where we can be like the Master this year in going a little further in showing the Master. We can go a little further, get a little closer to God. May God help us to do this.