Breaking the Press
How many basketball enthusiasts do we have here today? Who knows what a full court press is? Is there anyone who is willing to come up here and explain what it is?
The Apostle Paul was experiencing a full court press when he wrote II Corinthians 4:7-12.
2 Corinthians 4:7-12 7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
In what way was he pressed? In what way was he dealing with pressure?
Paul said he was Hard Pressed. We all know about the regular trials of life. There is a flat tire, a rock cracks our windshield, there is a test we forgot to study for, someone in the family gets a virus, we lose a button off of our shirt, the unsweet tea we ordered is sweet, we forget a deadline at work, we spill coffee on our outfit, and the list goes on. We can all relate to what Paul is saying. He said pressure was just coming from everywhere. Everything that could happen at once was happening, and things were all piling up. He felt the pressure.
Paul also said he was Perplexed. Sometimes, when pressures come from every direction, it is hard to know which pressure to give our attention to first. Sometimes when the pressures are too much, we find ourselves a bit paralyzed; we don’t know what to do. Fear, anxiety and worry start to overtake us because we feel out of control and we don’t have a ready answer. We are confused about how to break the press. Have you been there? Have you been in the moment when the pressure is mounting and you literally don’t know what to do?
Third, Paul said he was feeling the pressure of being Persecuted. These weren’t random attacks. People he knew, people he used to align with, people who once respected him, people he once considered friends, were now attacking him for his faith in Christ. They were attacking his reputation. They were attacking his character. They were trying to take him down. Have you had that experience? The kind when you feel like the world is against you? When you are being punished or penalized for doing the right thing? When no matter how hard you try, someone is there trying to keep you from gaining ground?
Paul went on to say that the pressure was so great that he was feeling Struck Down. Maybe there were moments that were grieving him in his emotional self, grieving him in his soul. Maybe he couldn’t understand why someone who was serving God so faithfully would have to deal with the intense pressure he was facing. Have you ever been there? These are the moments that take your breath away. These are the moments when you are enduring what you thought would never happen to you. These are the times during which we cry out, “Why me, God? Why now? How could You let this happen to me?” These are the times when you are not sure you can go on.
Paul, the champion of the Gospel, the one who gave up everything He had worked for to follow and promote Jesus was feeling stressed to the max. Things were bad. But notice what he said after he shared about the pressure he faced:
We are hard pressed on every side, BUT NOT CRUSHED; perplexed, BUT NOT IN DESPAIR; 9 persecuted, BUT NOT ABANDONED; struck down, BUT NOT DESTROYED.
He was able to break the press! What I read here is that those who have Jesus with them can endure pressure and can break through the press. The pressure that is designed to take them out, to push them out of bounds, doesn’t have the power to succeed against a Christ-follower who is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. The person who is crushed will be made whole by the Lord Jesus. The person who is perplexed will find answers as they wait on the Lord. The person who is persecuted will make it because Jesus never leaves us or forsakes us. The person who is struck down will have power to get up and walk on because the Holy Spirit will sustain them.
Listen to II Corinthians 4:7 again: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. Everybody say “power.” There is supernatural power that is available to all of us in times of pressure that will see us through and that will allow other people to see Jesus as we endure whatever pressure we face. Your pressure + God’s power = proof to others that God is alive in you!
How do we access that power when we need it? Hold on to that question, and let’s take a look at some of The pressures Jesus faced.
Religious Leaders-You would think the people who would be most interested in what a prophet like Jesus had to say would have been the religious leaders of the day. You would think they would be lining up to try to spend time with Him. They knew the miracles He performed were legit. They knew He had people following Him in droves. Yet, Jesus’ popularity with the crowds didn’t pique the curiosity of the religious leaders. It agitated them. It angered them. It threatened them. They were concerned for their job security. They were concerned about maintaining the status quo. And so, they did what they could to undermine Jesus’ credibility, to destroy His reputation, to minimize His impact and following. They were constantly picking on Jesus, trying to subtly bully Him by questioning His motives, His authority, and His power. They event plotted to kill Him and attempted to do so on numerous occasions. Matthew 26 is just one example. That’s pressure.
Mark 3:9-10 9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him.
The crowd was so large and so aggressive, Jesus needed a boat to be ready so He could put distance between Himself and the crowd in case they stampeded each other to get to Him.
The message puts verse 10 this way: He had healed many people, and now everyone who had something wrong was pushing and shoving to get near and touch him.
That sounds more like a mob than a crowd, right? It sounds like one of those Black Friday shopping days gone wrong or like a stampede when a building is on fire. Gaining a following can come with a high price tag. Because Jesus healed some everyone expected for Him to take time to heal them. These weren’t small crowds. At times we know there were thousands and thousands of people trying to get Jesus’ attention. In the same chapter in verse 20 it says Jesus and the disciples didn’t even have time to eat because of the demand of the crowd. That’s pressure. To feel like you have to keep going and keep pushing yourself without even taking time to do basic things like eat—that’s pressure. Jesus couldn’t walk through the streets like a normal person. Everyone needed and wanted something from Him.
How about one more example? Luke 8:40-42 (NIV) 40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him. 41 Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house 42 because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. The crowd that welcomed Him almost crushed Him. To feel as if there is no rest, no break, and that everybody’s physical well-being depends upon you-that’s pressure.
Every Family has pressures of their own, don’t they? Jesus faced pressure from His family. There was a time when Jesus’ family thought He was a lunatic. They thought He was out of His mind. They tried to “reign Jesus in.” Families are unique and there are pressures to perform a certain way or to achieve a certain status or standard. There are expectations that are always dangling in front of people to meet. Jesus had to deal with that kind of pressure as well.
Jesus also dealt with pressure from Demonic Spirits. Satan harassed Jesus from the beginning of His ministry, and He didn’t stop. Demons would routinely mess with Jesus, violently crying out, trying to intimidate Him or expose Him in order to disrupt His ministry. We know that Satan himself tried to take Jesus out at the start of His ministry. Battling demonic forces-that’s pressure.
Success brings pressures of its own. The more you accomplish, sometimes the more pressure there is to accomplish even more. Everyone had an opinion about the Messiah. Many wanted Him to be a political figure. They were looking for an earthly Savior for an earthly King. Jesus couldn’t allow others to define success for Him. He couldn’t look to others to inform His mission. He had to stay laser-focused on what His Heavenly Father had called Him to do, and resist the pressure to conform to the opinions of the majority regarding why He had come.
Jesus’ relationship with the Disciples created pressure for Him. He took these 12 guys on as His personal project. They lived together for three years. Try going on vacation with 12 people and after a week, I guarantee you will be looking toward home. Jesus had to spend every day and night with these people. He surely felt a responsibility to make sure they had food to eat and that their basic needs were cared for. He felt pressure to train them and equip them for the mission that He had called them to. He had a lot of curriculum to cover with them in the three years they were together. He didn’t have unlimited time. He had to make the most of every minute. Just answering constant questions can feel like pressure can’t it? Jesus had that to deal with on a daily basis.
Then, of course, His Mission, by its very nature, was stressful and pressure-filled. Jesus had a lot to accomplish. He would walk many miles. He would face many perils. And, of course, He had to do it all knowing that His crucifixion was the culmination of His mission. To live with the knowledge that you will die an excruciatingly painful death, had to be a pressure we could never imagine. It wasn’t easy to stay focused on each day’s tasks with the crucifixion looming in the not to distant future. Jesus said in Luke 12:49-50 “I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! 50 But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! The pressure was so great that at times it was like, “Let’s hurry up and let’s get this over with.”
How did Jesus cope? How did He deal with it all? I see three behaviors, three strategies, three choices that Jesus consciously made that enabled Him to deal with the pressure that came with His life and mission. See if you can see some of His strategies from the following Scripture:
Luke 22:39-45 (NIV) 39 Jesus went out AS USUAL to the Mount of Olives, and HIS DISCIPLES FOLLOWED HIM. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but YOURS BE DONE.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
The first thing I see that Jesus did in order to deal with the pressures of life that He cultivated a routine dependence upon God. (
Cultivate a routine dependence upon God.
Luke 22:39 says that Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives. He was going to the Mountain of Olives to pray. He was going to talk to the Heavenly Father about the pressure He was feeling and the fear He had about what He was facing. He was going to pray in order to unload some of the burden He was feeling. And this wasn’t the first time He had done so. Scripture tells us this was part of a regular routine for Jesus. Luke 5:16 tells us that Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.
Jesus had a regular habit, a regular pattern of talking things over with the Heavenly Father. If anyone could have said they were too busy to find time to pray, it would have been Jesus. Prayer was a “go to” for Jesus. It wasn’t an on-the-run, fit into His schedule a minute here and a minute there, but He took time away from all else to talk with the Heavenly Father. This is one of the ways Jesus would diffuse the pressure and upload the pressure into the hands of the Father.
When faced with the pressure-filled decision about which disciples to pick, Jesus went away to pray. We read in Luke 6:12-13 12 One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13 When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles:
Making decisions can feel like pressure, but when we spend significant time praying about what to do, we will have clear answers.
Prayer doesn’t just offload our burdens, but it puts us in a situation where we are relying on God for help. As we transfer our burdens to God, He transfers His perspective and power to us!
The reason Jesus could handle every day pressures, family pressures, pressures from spiritual forces, pressures from the religious elite, pressures from the crowds that followed Him and face the cross and surrender His life was because He was fully relying on God to see Him through. He didn’t let pressures build up. He took His pressures to God in prayer. You see, Pressures become less problematic and less powerful when prayer becomes our priority. Praying regularly didn’t exempt Jesus from pressure, but it enabled Him to continue from day to day, even though there were great demands on Him.
The second thing that we can see from Jesus’ encounter in the garden is that He connected in community with other people. (
Connect in community with other people.
Notice that Jesus didn’t go into the Garden alone. He took the disciples with Him. He asked them to watch and pray with Him. He let some people in to the trial He was facing. While we know they wound up falling asleep, at least they were there with Him. At least He wasn’t physically alone.
Before the Garden scene, where was Jesus? He was eating with the disciples in the Upper Room. He was fellowshipping with them. Yes, He was preparing them for what was to come, but He was sharing inside of His community, inside His circle of friends.
I also want to point out that in Mark 14, just before the Last Supper that Jesus shared with the disciples, we see Jesus at the home of Simon the Leper. A woman came to Jesus and broke expensive perfume over His head. This was an act of worship, a demonstration of love, and was a symbolic way to prepare Jesus’ body for burial. This act was rendered by Mary of Bethany, according to John’s Gospel. Mary was the sister of Martha and Lazarus. These were close friends of Jesus. Here he was, fellowshipping with friends, being ministered to, being strengthened and loved on, being encouraged going into the Passion Week.
Jesus knew what was coming His way. It would be have been understandable if He wanted to isolated Himself or retreat into the shadows, but He chose to be with people who loved Him. I believe the fellowship of good friends and the fellowship of His closest disciples gave Him an uplift that enabled Him to handle the intensifying nature of the stress that was about to come upon Him.
The third and final thing I believe Jesus did to handle the pressures that came His way was to Commit to God’s will above all. That moment in the Garden of Gethsemane was the toughest pressure Jesus had faced to date. Look at it again: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but YOURS BE DONE.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.
Like the regularity of His prayer time, Jesus regularly chose the will of God. Jesus said in John 4:34, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.” Every day, Jesus was laser-focused not on the pressures of life, but on the will of God. You see, if you are in the routine of choosing God’s will every day, on the days when it feels harder, it will still be possible for you to say “yes” to whatever God asks of you because you will be in the habit of obeying the Lord.
When you realize that what God has called you to do is way bigger than you and is for a Sovereign purpose, and when you willingly go “all in” with the will of God you will be able to get through the toughest of times.
Gethsemane actually means, a place of pressing. It refers to an olive press. During Jesus’ day, heavy stone slabs would be lowered onto olives that had already been crushed in an olive crusher. Gradually, the weight of the stone slabs would cause the oil in the olives to run. It was then collected in clay jars. Jesus would soon be crushed for our sins, bruised for our iniquities. The very life would be squeezed out of Him. Fitting that He would be praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, the place of pressure, the place of pressing. Isaiah 53:10 (NIV) 10 Yet it was the LORD‘s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering.
Jesus trusted the will of God, and because He did, He was able to handle the intense pressure that led Him to the cross.
Do you feel like there is a full court press going on in your life right now? Do you find it tough to advance? Do you feel like circumstances or people have you off of your game or are keeping you from playing the game of life well? Do you feel as if your back is to the wall and you are out of options with no time outs left? There is a way to break the press. Follow Jesus.
Cultivate a routine dependence upon God, connect in community with other people, and commit to God’s will above all else.
With your palms down, go ahead and release to the LORD all the things that are bothering you – your marriage, your job, your grades at school, the coach on your sports team, the stress of being good at sports, your health, whatever it is. Let go of the stress at work or whatever is bothering you. Whatever is causing you to worry or be anxious, just let it fall into the hands of Jesus.
Simply put your hands out and let it all go. Anything and everything. Just release it to the LORD. Don’t hold anything back. Anything or anyone that is causing you pain and trouble – simply let it fall out of your hands and into the hands of Jesus. You can release your family, your life, your day, your health – anything and everything. You don’t have to control it. You don’t have to carry the burden. It is now all in the hands of Jesus. Let Him deal with it. He is in control. He has everything. The weight of life can be released into His care.
Next, turn your palms up as a symbol of your desire to now receive from the Lord. Ask for whatever you think you need. If you need wisdom, ask Jesus for it. If you need direction, healing, forgiveness, guidance, peace, love – whatever it is, just ask and be ready to receive. Open your heart and mind and allow the Holy Spirit to come in and fill you with Supernatural power, peace, and perspective.