Title: Step Up To The Plate Even When You've Struck Out

Sermon Summary

This message is the first in a series dealing with the topic of serving God. Some people are hesitant to step up to the plate and serve God because of past failures. However, we discover from the disciple Peter's example that a person can have a very epic and public strikeout, but still be used of God. God doesn't kick us off His team when we've failed. In fact, He desires to help us learn from our failures and to overcome them by His grace and strength. He wants us to step back up to the plate and with His help get back on base! The question we each face, and the decision we must make after a strikeout is whether or not we're going to trust God to help us do better and then step back up to the plate.

Community Group Discussion Guide

1. Have you ever faced a time in your life when you felt like you had struck out and weren't sure whether or not you could muster the strength to step back up to the plate? What are some of the reasons we all struggle with getting back in the game after a failure?

2. What are some of the ways the story of Peter's failure can help us deal with our own strike outs?

John 13:36  Simon Peter asked him, "Lord, where are you going?" Jesus replied, "Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later."
John 13:37  Peter asked, "Lord, why can't I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you."
John 13:38  Then Jesus answered, "Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

3. If there were ever a time or sufficient reasons for Jesus to kick someone off His team, you would think it would be Peter and his three public denials of Jesus. However, Jesus dealt with Peter in a very direct, but very loving way. What does this tell us about the reaction we will get from Jesus if we are willing to admit we need His help?

John 21:15  When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
John 21:16  Again Jesus said, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me?" He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
John 21:17  The third time he said to him, "Simon son of John, do you love me?" Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?" He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my sheep.

4. Peter was not the only one to face the roller coaster of emotions that follow a failure or a very difficult circumstance in life. The Sons of Korah, had faced this difficult time spiritually in their own lives and wrote a song about. It is recorded in the Bible in Psalm 42. Read this Psalm (song) and discuss some of the amazing spiritual truths it contains which can be applied to our own lives...

Psa 42:1  For the director of music. A maskil of the Sons of Korah. As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God.
Psa 42:2  My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?
Psa 42:3  My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, "Where is your God?"
Psa 42:4  These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.
Psa 42:5  Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and
Psa 42:6  my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon--from Mount Mizar.
Psa 42:7  Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
Psa 42:8  By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me-- a prayer to the God of my life.
Psa 42:9  I say to God my Rock, "Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?"
Psa 42:10  My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, "Where is your God?"
Psa 42:11  Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Full Sermon Notes

Step Up To The Plate Even When You've Struck Out

"Alone in my sorrow and dead in my sin
Lost without hope and no place to begin"

Sounds like someone who's struck out in life? But the next line of that song gives us hope...

"Your love made a way to let mercy come in
When death was arrested and my life began"

Today we're going to begin a series about stepping up to the plate when it comes to serving God! There's a lot of reasons people don't step up to the plate. We're going to address those reasons in this series with the hope that all of us will step up to the plate and get in the game. Let's pray and ask God for the courage and inspiration to step up to the plate for His amazing causes!!

"Father God, this is the first day of a brand new year with brand new possibilities and potentials. Regardless of past failures and mistakes, we each have been given the opportunity to get back in the game and to step up to the plate and make a difference in our world! There are many reasons people don't step up to the plate, especially when it comes to serving You! It is my prayer that through this series of messages we will discover why we should step up to the plate, and why there's no excuse for just sitting in the dugout! I ask you to fill me with Your Most Holy Spirit and to speak through me in a way that will inspire people to step up to the plate. I pray that this coming year we'll see so many getting into the game that we are able to double and triple our efforts to transform worship, people and the world!, In Jesus Name I pray and believe!!"

Ok, let me ask you a question. Even if you're not a big baseball fan, have you ever heard of Babe Ruth? In 1923 he and Cy Williams both broke the record for home runs, with 40 each. In 1927 Babe Ruth became the first to hit 60 home runs in one season and that record held for 34 years. He had a career total of 714 which was a record he held for 39 years. But he held an even bigger record for 29 years! Do you know what that record was? He struck out 1,330 times! 1,330 times!! By the way, guess who broke Babe Ruths record for strikeouts…Another home run king, Mickey Mantle. This fact should teach everyone of us in this room something about life.

You may strikeout if you step up to the plate, but if you don't step up to the plate you won't even have a chance of hitting a home run or even getting to first base! And here's another life lesson from the 1,330 strikeouts: Just because you've struck out before doesn't mean you will strikeout this time! But here's the way the enemy of your soul works: Satan wants you to focus on past failures! Satan wants you to believe you can't do any better! Satan wants you to live in condemnation and defeat! Satan wants you to be discouraged by the consequences of past failures. Satan doesn't want you to know that with God's help you can step up to the plate and at least get to first base, or second, or third, and maybe even hit a home run!

Today we're going to look at man in the Bible who was humiliated by a devastating strikeout. A strikeout that he thought was a career ending strikeout. Before we get to the strikeout, let me just give you a little background. This guy was a major player on Jesus' team of disciples and he had made some pretty bold statements.

Once when some of the other disciples, not the twelve, decided to quite the team, this happened...

John 6:66-69 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him. “You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve. Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.”

Talk about hitting it out of the park! Peter was the outspoken disciple! He was the disciple who was so bold, that when he saw Jesus walking on the water during the storm, he told Jesus if it was really him to allow him to walk on the water. Peter got out of the boat, and walked on water, but when he took his eyes off Jesus and saw the height of the waves, he began to sink. Of course, Jesus saved him! But at least he was willing to step out of the boat and up to the plate! The other guys stayed in the boat, so Peter was the only one who could say, "I've walked on water!" And later, at the last supper, this happened…

John 13:36-38 Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? I tell you the truth, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!

Peter was so sure of himself and he was really sincere and at least he was willing to step up to the plate. After Jesus was arrested, Peter was one of only two of the disciples who followed, albeit at a distance.

Mark 14:53-54 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.

But look at what happens next. Mark 14:66-72.

The Strikeout!

Mark 14:66-68 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said. But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.

Strike one!

Mark 14:69-71 When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it. (Strike Two!) After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

Strike three!

Mark 14:72 Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Oh the feelings after we've struck out! The if only's overwhelm! The I should haves! The I wish had done this or that! If I could go back, oh, I want to go back, but I just can't! Then there's the self-condemnation: "I'm no good. I'll never amount to anything. No one could ever possibly love me. Everything I do is wrong!"

The guilt, the feelings of utter failure and the condemnation from Satan can just suck the life right out of you. These feelings certainly come when we've intentionally done something wrong, but the enemy of your soul will also dump these feelings on you even if you make an honest mistake, or even if things happen that are completely out of your control! That's the way Satan works!

He wants to take you out of the game! He wants you to give up on life. He wants you to think there's no moving on, no hope, no healing, no getting past the mistake, the mess up, intentional or not! But the truth is, there is hope, there is a future, there is purpose, there is healing! You may not believe in yourself, but God believes in you! You see, God knows that you can do all things through Him.

And He knows if you are willing to let Him He will work in your life in such an amazing way you will be blown away by God's amazing grace and His amazing power and His amazing work which will be done through you! But this begs the question!

The Question!

And what is that question? Here it is…Are you willing to let Him do this work in your life? Are you willing to let Him carry you, strengthen you, encourage you, work through you, heal you, lead you, and direct your every choice and step? And speaking of steps...Will you step back up to the plate after a strikeout? Peter faced this dilemma and even though he had seen the empty tomb after the resurrection, and was there when Jesus appeared before the disciples, Peter was thinking he would just go back to fishing. And remember, I told you he was a leader amongst the disciples. Listen to John's account of what happened…John 21:1ff.

John 21:1-14 Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Tiberias. It happened this way: Simon Peter, Thomas (called Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus. He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?” “No,” they answered. He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish. Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off) and jumped into the water. The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards. When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread. Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” Simon Peter climbed aboard and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

So Peter pretty much decided he was just gonna go back to his old life of fishing. It may be that he was so distraught over his strikeout that he didn't believe God would forgive him of that God just couldn't use him again after such an epic failure. But Peter still had the desire to follow, love and serve Jesus. He was so excited to see Jesus that he jumped out of the boat to run to him.

This was not the first time Peter had jumped out of a boat to be with Jesus. But this time Jesus was on the beach cooking fish for everyone! He invited everyone to eat. Once they finished eating, Jesus comes up with a unique way of asking Peter if he would step up to the plate again. Listen…

John 21:15-19 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Do you see what Jesus was doing here? He was giving Peter a chance to literally confess to each of the denials! He was giving Peter a chance to verbalize his willingness to step back up to the plate and serve God by serving others. He was giving Peter a chance to be emotionally healed by allowing him to say the words,

“Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

You see, some of us need to say something a friend of mine's son used to say when he was about 4 or 5 years old…
"'cause, I did that!"
The willingness to admit and confess we're not perfect and we need help is such an important step to forgiveness and healing.

And even when something happens that is a mistake, an oversight, or even totally out of your hands, we still need to ask ourselves the question, "I'm I willing to trust God enough to get back in the game and step up to the plate and live the life God has called me to live?"
Peter had to make this decision. There have been others before Peter who faced this same dilemma.

There were some worship leaders in the Old Testament. They wrote a song, a Psalm that describes a person facing the same kind of struggle Peter was going through. And maybe a struggle you've been through or one you are going through right now. It describes the roller coaster of emotions that we sometimes find ourselves riding...Listen to these powerful lyrics...

Psalm 42:1-4 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go with the multitude, leading the procession to the house of God, with shouts of joy and thanksgiving among the festive throng.

The writer of this song remembers a time when things were good, before a strikeout, before a poor choice, before a tragedy, before a struggle, before ______, you fill in the blank! The next verses describe the feelings that come when our world is rocked by consequences of poor choices or circumstances beyond our control! Even though we want to have hope, it's hard…

Psalm 42:5-9 Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon —from Mount Mizar. Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?” My bones suffer mortal agony as my foes taunt me, saying to me all day long, “Where is your God?” Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

The beautiful thing about this song is that it is written proof that God can handle our questions and it's not wrong to ask questions, even tough, hard questions to God, like why God? Did you notice, the writer said, "God Your waves and breakers have swept over me!" It's as if the writer is saying "God why have You done this to me, why have You allowed these terrible things in my life!"

He then asks this very directive question to God...

I say to God my Rock, “Why have you forgotten me? Why must I go about mourning, oppressed by the enemy?”

Wow! That's brutally honest and God allowed the lyrics of this song to printed in the Book of Psalms right there in your Bible! The song writer then reminds God that the pain is so strong that his bones suffer mortal agony, and that people question why he would still hold on to faith by constantly taunting him with the question, "Where is your God?" But I love the writer's question to himself and his answer...

"Why are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God."

The Psalmist made a decision that all of us face. I can choose to believe there is no purpose in life, no real meaning, no reason to hope, and just believe what will be will be! With that decision you will then aimlessly wonder through life bumping into circumstances, consequences, difficulties, heartbreaks, and tragedies, all without meaning, purpose, or a single ray of hope! But the Psalmist makes a very important and decisive decision…He decides to preach a one sentence sermon on faith to himself...

... Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.

Did you know that Peter made the same decision that day on the beach when He said...

“Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

The Decision!

In fact, Peter decides to step back up to the plate in a bold move after his very public strikeout…On the Day of Pentecost when God gave His Holy Spirit to the disciples this happened...

Acts 2:5-13 Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven.When they heard this sound, a crowd came together in bewilderment, because each one heard them speaking in his own language. Utterly amazed, they asked: “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans? Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs—we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” Amazed and perplexed, they asked one another, “What does this mean?” Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had too much wine. ’”

I love that! These men suddenly become fluent in foreign languages and all the mockers could come up with is "they must be drunk!" Yeh that's what usually happens when someone get's drunk, their language skills become amazing!! Actually not! But remember, these people who are making fun of the disciples are the same ones who had just a few days before crucified Jesus. Maybe the same people Peter had been afraid of when he struck out by denying the Lord three times! But Peter steps back up to the plate...

Acts 2:14-24 Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: “Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: “ ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heaven above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ “Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

He finished his message with these words...

Acts 2:36-41 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off —for all whom the Lord our God will call.” With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, “Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.” Those who accepted his message were baptized, and about three thousand were added to their number that day.

From strikeout to home run, God used a man who had struggled with his faith and had such fear that he denied ever knowing Jesus, but God didn't kick him off the team, He graciously gave him another chance at bat! And it was crucial at bat! The bases where loaded with non-believers, and Peter hits it out of the park. Three thousand were added to their number that day!

No matter what led to your strikeout, or how many times you've struck out, God is saying to you today, "I've still got a purpose for your life, I still believe in you, I want you on my team, and with my help, you will get a hit and maybe even a home run. But it's your decision to step up to the plate or not! 
Let's pray!!