October 28, 2012
Pastor Michael Hockett
Follow the Leader!
Letting Go and Letting God
Good day! I’m Michael Hockett, the Pastor of Adult Ministries here at Life Center.
In September I went down to Texas to visit some old friends and my in-laws.
Unlike our golden-brown hillsides around here in late summer and early fall,
everything there was green despite the 100-degree heat every day.
All that green reminded me of the magnificent thunderstorms
Leslie and I used to ride out when we lived there in the 90s.
If we were driving during a thunderstorm, it wasn’t unusual to have to pull over.
The rain would come down in buckets, and no matter how fast the wipers went,
we simply couldn’t see the sides of the road or even out the window!
Half the time we couldn’t talk during these stops.
The pounding of the rain and the hail and the steady bursts of thunder
were just too loud.
I’d try to joke with her, and I’d yell out things like,
“All hail has broken loose now.”
But she’d just look at me blankly, and say, “What?!”
(It may just be that I don’t know how to tell a joke.)
So all we could really do is just sit there in awe until the storm blew over.
And in that stillness, we’d often experience a profound shift
in our sense of ourselves and of God.
It’s telling that we call weather events like these “acts of God,”
especially if they have the power to do damage.
The idea isn’t so much that we’re blaming God for our fears and sorrows.
It’s that we suddenly realize we’re not really in control; God is.
When we make that realization and simply put ourselves in His hands,
we often find He gives us inner resources and resolve
even in the face of a major storm in our lives.
We learn how to “let go and let God,” as Joe likes to put it.
This is the idea we’re going to focus on as we encounter Jesus
in the Garden of Gethsemane today. In the pre-storm stillness of that garden,
He turns to face the biggest storm of His earthly ministry
as it starts to gather force before roaring in.
Let’s begin in prayer.
Prayer Lord, when storms sweep into our lives, as they inevitably do, we pray that You would teach us to look to You and rely on You to walk us though them. We pray that we’d recognize that while we may not have any control over a situation, You do, and your love and your purposes never fail. Help us join You in what You’re doing.
What’s the biggest storm you’ve ever weathered?
[Not metaphorically: literally the worst weather you’ve ever experienced.]
The El Salvador Trip Info Meeting is today in room 200 at 3:00. The trip is specifically for those who sponsor a child through Compassion in El Salvador. You’ll get to meet your sponsored child in his or her community. If you don’t sponsor a child but would like to get in on this, it’s easy: just sponsor one!
Men’s Turkey Shoot—bring your kids and your friends and spend the Saturday morning before Thanksgiving having breakfast and shooting things! (And, no, we don’t actually shoot turkeys!) Register at the Info Center or online. It’s free, but we want to have enough food … and ammo!
The quarterly Newcomers’ Gathering is at 1 PM on Sunday, November 18. If you’re new to Life Center, Joe and the staff will talk about our history, vision, and ministries. And we’ll feed you lunch, to boot! As with the Turkey Shoot, just register online so we have enough food … and ammo!
As part of being salt and light in the world as followers of Christ, let me encourage you to take your voting ballots seriously and to weigh in on the important elections and issues that are presented to us this year on Nov. 6.
God wants to work through His people to expand his Kingdom.
Worship (And in that spirit, let’s all rise and sing our praises to Him!)
Message/Offering [Prayer is shifted to the end of the sermon]
Feel free to take your seats. Normally we’d move into a moment of prayer now,
but we’ll want to take time to pray at the end of this talk,
so let’s go ahead and dive into the sermon first today.
If you brought a tithe or an offering, you can prepare that now as the ushers come.
Thank you for being a generous church that “buys in,” so to speak,
to the ministries the church undertakes in the name and power of Christ.
I mentioned at the beginning of the service that I went to Texas last month.
I went primarily because I learned in late August that my first Air Force
supervisor was being overtaken by cancer after a 21-year struggle with it.
We became lifelong friends through our Air Force experience together,
and I’m going to call my friend Ellen, because that’s her name.
(She’s given me permission to talk a little about her life with you.)
Leslie and I had sent Ellen a birthday card in August, and when she wrote back,
she let us know that her cancer, which had been manageable
to a certain degree over the years, has become very aggressive.
Her doctors are down to clinical trials at this point,
which is to say they’re making Hail Mary long shots:
they have no real certainty of whether the treatment
will be helpful or harmful … or do nothing at all.
What was certain at that point in August was that without
a direct or medically-mediated miracle,
Ellen’s life was going to be cut short, and the suffering and disability
she was experiencing were just going to get worse in the interim.
Ellen has experienced heavy weather much of her adult life,
and right then she was looking into a major storm.
I bring up her story because we’re entering into the darkest part
of Jesus’ work on earth. He’s entering into the storm that sits
at the crux of all human history—past, present and future:
His death and resurrection for the sins and salvation of humanity.
Although our sufferings pale in the face of what Jesus did for us at the cross,
I think the connections between Jesus’ suffering and our suffering help us
understand what we experience as fragile human beings in a fallen world.
And these connections also reveal how Jesus the Christ—
the Messiah, the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52-53 and Psalm 22—
fully enters into our suffering to comfort us and to rescue us.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, we discover that Jesus paves the way
not only for our ultimate redemption, but also for navigating suffering now
as we experience it in this still-fallen world, which God deeply loves.
Today we’re looking at Mark 14:32-42, which explores Jesus’ final few hours
before being arrested, tried and crucified. What would you do if you knew
all this was going to happen to you, and you saw it rapidly rolling in?
How Jesus responds is telling for all of us as we face our own storms.
As we’ve done throughout the Follow the Leader series in Mark,
I’m going to use the SOAP method, which is a helpful way
of doing daily Bible study.
Scripture: read the Bible.
Observation: what does it mean? (Particularly in the sense of what it meant for the original writer and audience in their time and context.)
Application: what does it mean to me? (How does the original understanding and experience translate into today’s contexts?)
Prayer: pray it back to God. (We need motivation and power to live it out that only God can provide.)
So let’s begin with Scripture and read
We’ve been encouraging you to bring your Bibles so you can open them up
and see the broader context that goes along with the brief
scriptural passages we supply on the screen.
So if you’ve done that today,
feel free to flip over to our passage in Mark 14.
Let’s get going then with
32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
I suspect that like me, you find it hard to read about Jesus agonizing
over His impending ordeal.
But this passage can also be encouraging because so much happens here
that provides us with hope and a model for how to deal with suffering.
So let’s focus our observations in that light,
which is the second step of the SOAP method: Observation.
Let’s go back to the beginning of the passage, which gives us the setting:
“They went to a place called Gethsemane.” [Picture on Slide]
Gethsemane is a garden at the base of the Mount of Olives,
and what we’re looking at is the traditional site.
It was outside the city walls, and the gospels
indicate Jesus liked to frequent here with his disciples.#
Jesus and the disciples had just shared Passover dinner together—
what we now recognize as the Last Supper—
and they took an evening walk together out to their favorite park
to get some air and help their digestion.
But this wasn’t just an average evening stroll, and they all knew it.
Jesus had warned the disciples repeatedly that He was ultimately
headed for death on a cross “as a ransom for many,”
as He had explained earlier in Mark 10:45.
(I’ve put all His warnings from Mark in chapters 8, 9 & 10 in
your outline in case you’re interested in looking them up later#).
Before their evening walk, Jesus had just initiated for the first time ever
the sacrament of Communion with the disciples at dinner.
As you explored with Pastor David last Sunday,
Jesus was telling them and us through the bread and the wine
that He was about to give His life for them in a bloody death.
As John the Baptist puts it in John 1:29, Jesus is about to become the
the sacrificial “‘Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’”
Jesus is about to absorb all the evil and harm that we humans
have brought upon ourselves and this world
through our rebellion and sin against God.
And we can see the weight of what He’s about to undertake
through the response of His human nature. Look again at
33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them.
In Hebrews 12:2, we’re told,
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Jesus was willing to endure the cross because of the joy of redeeming humanity.
But there was no joy in the agony of the cross itself—far from it!
When facing that storm, Jesus honestly confides to His three best friends,
“My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.”
Now Jesus is the unquestionable hero of the Bible.
He’s a strong figure by anyone’s account:
He was a sturdy carpenter before He began His ministry.
He was a man’s man who could impress a whole mess
of smelly, “muscully” fishermen, as well as a Zealot!
Just invited Simon the Zealot as well as Simon Peter on His team.
Zealots were Jewish political terrorists.
They’d start riots and fires and all sorts of mayhem at official events.
Jesus was bold enough to take one of these guys by the collar
and make a disciple out of him, to transform all that hate into love.
And Jesus Himself didn’t shy away from rough and tumble action when needed,
such as throwing money changers out of the temple by force.#
For all we know, Jesus playing bouncer at the Temple may
have been one of the few times Simon the Zealot ever smiled
while following Him!
So why isn’t Jesus looking death in the face stoically here at Gethsemane?
If Greek philosophers such as Socrates could do it, why not the Son of God?
For one thing, just the thought of being crucified was torturous,
and the Jews of Jesus’ time saw lots of crucifixions,
so Jesus would have had plenty of grist for the imagination.
Seeing it coming must have made Jesus’ flesh shrink back and crawl.
There’s an innate part of living creatures
that just screams to protect itself and live.
That powerful instinct to live is built right into biological life,
no matter what we saw Walt Disney’s filmmakers
do to those poor lemmings!
Ill: In high school I was a pole vaulter.
You’ll never believe it from the spaghetti arms I now sport,
but I went 14’ in my day and set a district record.
This was in Nebraska, which meant in the early spring,
we were often running and vaulting in snow storms.
At one meet we started vaulting just after a snow squall,
and an icy slush was puddled up right in the middle of the mat.
The coaches standing close by and spotting us as we vaulted
that day because it was so slick.
It was so wet and cold on my first vault that I screamed.
And as I pulled myself dripping wet out of the frozen pool,
I noticed the coaches were laughing.
In fact, they were laughing so hard they were crying.
I was a little hurt, so I said,
“I can’t believe you guys are laughing at me.”
They said, “Well, we were actually feeling pretty sorry
for you before the vault. But you started screaming
up there before you even started coming down,
and we just couldn’t help ourselves.”
My involuntary, anticipatory scream is the very nature of
pain and suffering. As one author defines it,
“Pain is the sensation of hurting, while suffering is the consciousness of pain. Suffering also involves the anticipation of pain, the ability to feel pain even before it comes….”#
Biological life wants to live; it literally screams out to protect itself
from the harm that it can see coming.
And as a human, Jesus fully felt that imperative just as we all do.
But that’s not all that’s going on with Jesus, not by a long shot.
In his excellent commentary on Mark, my Gospels professor
at Whitworth, Dr. Jim Edwards, pulls back the curtain into
some of what’s happening in Jesus’ soul.
Remember that in Mark 10:45 Jesus teaches that He has come
“to give His life as a ransom for many.” Dr. Edwards writes
The Gospel According to Mark
In Gethsemane Jesus must make the first payment of that ransom, to will to become the sin-bearer for humanity. Jesus stands before the final consequence of being the Servant of God, “pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities” (Isa 53:4–5). It is one thing, fearful as it will be, to answer for our own sins before a holy and almighty God#; who can imagine what it would be like to stand before God to answer for every sin and crime and act of malice and injury and cowardice and evil in the world? In acquiescing to the Father’s will of bearing “the sin of many, interceding for transgressors” (Isa 53:12), Jesus necessarily experiences an abandonment and darkness of cosmic proportions. The worst prospect of becoming the sin-bearer for humanity is that it spells complete alienation from God, an alienation that will shortly echo above the desolate landscape of Calvary, “ ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ ” (15:34). Not his own mortality, but the specter of identifying with sinners so fully as to become the object of God’s wrath against sin—it is this that overwhelms Jesus’ soul “ ‘to the point of death’ ” (v. 34).#
I think the world in general and even Christians in particular have gotten pretty
comfortable with the idea that Jesus died on a cross.
I have a favorite uncle who could be downright dismissive about Jesus.
Whenever we’d start to discuss Jesus’ life and work,
he’d say stuff like, “What’s the big deal?
Lots of people have suffered worse things than dying on a cross,”
and he’d change the subject.
I love my uncle, but at moments like these, all I could think was,
The bonehead doesn’t get it.
(As you can tell, God has given me the gift of grace.)
The good news is, everything Jesus did for us as God the Son did
sink in for my uncle one joyful day, and he gave His life to Jesus!
And he’s remained a Christian in awe of Christ to this day.
I love it when people get what God has done for them,
particularly when they’re people I know and love!…
Jesus got it better than anyone.
He knew what He was doing for my uncle far better than I do.
He knew what He was doing for me, and for you, and for the whole world.
And He knew the weight of it. After he confided in Peter, James and John
that his soul was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,
He took His distress directly to God the Father. Look again verses
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, [Abba is a tender term in Aramaic—in our culture it would be Daddy, in European cultures it’s Papa.] “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
For 2,000 years the church has embraced the paradox
that Jesus is both fully human and fully God.
The cup He’s referring to involves His physical death on the cross,
which naturally distresses Him in His human nature.
And as we saw with Edwards, the cross also involves separation from
the Godhead, as Jesus takes all of humanity’s sins upon Himself
and bears the wrath of God as our atoning sacrifice.
John Ortberg, who’s a phenomenal pastor and author, puts it this way in
God Is Closer Than You Think
On the cross is the ultimate paradox: God experiencing the absence of God so that he can draw close to us in our loss and grief and even in our God-forsakenness.#
It’s no wonder that Jesus cries out on the cross in Mark 15:34,
“ ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ ”…
He is, indeed, utterly forsaken during those hours that
He nails our sins to the cross in His own body and being.
He’s separated from His Father,
the source of all goodness, love and life,
as He’s simultaneously laden with all the
sins and pain and brokenness of humanity.
And just a little while earlier in Gethsemane,
Jesus knows this awful storm is coming.
“Abba, Father,” He says, “everything is possible for you.
Take this cup from me.” …
He’s asking, Isn’t there some other way?
According to Mark’s and Matthew’s# accounts,
Jesus makes this plea three times.
He’s literally begging for another way.
In Who Is This Man? John Ortberg observes that at this moment in Jesus’ ministry,
He actually did have some other choices. Ortberg writes:
Who Is This Man?
When Jesus was in the garden, he still had many options. He could fight like the Zealots. He was young. He had charisma. The crowds would follow him to the death. He could do that.
He could withdraw like the Essenes. He could go into the desert and start a safe little community. Many would follow him.
He could collaborate with the chief priests. Imagine what reform Jesus might bring if he had the temple as the platform for his teaching.
He could try to cut a deal with Pilate. Imagine influencing the Roman Empire from the inside. What might that do for the world?
He could call on his God to be delivered. He could ask to be spared. He could ask for legions of angels. Maybe one more miracle would rally everybody to his side.
He did none of those things…. [H]e prayed, “Not my will but yours be done.” He came to believe that the real messianic fate, the real messianic calling, was not to conquer but to die out of love for others, and so he did.#
When people tell you all religions lead to heaven, don’t believe them.
If there had been another way for Jesus to secure our salvation,
God the Father would have provided it right here.
Why would He have insisted on the atoning sacrifice of His own Son
—or to look at it another way,
why would God have come in the flesh to die for us Himself—
if any other way would have been sufficient?…
Now how Jesus handles this call to die as it goes head to head with the drive to live
is astounding and instructive.
Each time that He prays, “Everything is possible for you.
Take this cup from me,”
He is also able to pray, as we see in
“Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
I think that’s the hardest thing a human being can ever say,
particularly when it comes to giving full control of one’s life and fate to God.
We resist God’s will in a million big and little ways.
There’s an old saying that the biggest difference between you and God
is that God doesn’t think He’s you….
Ortberg notes that “ In pain, we get very clear about not being God.”#
While standing in our place as one of us, even Jesus took up this lesson.
In Hebrews 5:7-9 we read this remarkable passage:
7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered 9 and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him….
There are two things I want to us note here:
First, you only truly learn obedience by doing something against your own will.
Ill: If Leslie asks me to have some ice cream with her, and I say, “Sure!”
I’m not being obedient, I’m just doing what I already want to do!
If Leslie asks me not to have any ice cream, so she won’t be tempted by it,
and I say, “Uh, … sure,” then I’m being obedient.
At Gethsemane, Jesus has the will to live,
and He has the will to obey His Father.
In this instant, He finds He can’t do both.
He releases control to the Father, and He passes the test of obedience.
In passing the test, He’s “made perfect.”
Adam and Eve didn’t pass the test,
and they became fallen, “imperfect.”
Second, notice again what is said in Hebrews 5:7 where I’ve underlined it:
7 During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.
God, who could save Jesus, clearly heard Him….
Did He answer Jesus by saving Him from death on the cross? No
God can love us and hear us and still not give us
what we desperately want, even something as good as life itself.
It’s telling to note what God apparently does give Jesus: release and resolve.
Jesus is able to “let go and let God.”
When He says, “Not what I will, but what you will,”
He discovers God has enabled Him to face the storm and enter into it.
God doesn’t carry us through our imagined worries,
but He does carry us into and through our actual storms.
After Jesus prays a third time, look what happens in
41 Returning the third time, he said to them [Peter, James and John], “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Jesus doesn’t run, duck and hide, or desert His post as the storm surges in.
He boldly walks right into it.
Luke 22:43 gives us an insight we wouldn’t otherwise have.
Just after relinquishing His will to the Father, we read,
An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him.
So the Father may not give us what we ask,
but He will give us what we need to live out His will….
Trans: That sounds like an application to me, so let’s go there.
The Gethsemane passage carries at least two major ideas for application:
First, when you’re in a battle of wills with God,
and you’re a follower of Jesus, follow Jesus by letting go and letting God.
Whatever issue you’re wrestling over with God, Jesus’ issue was bigger.
His issue was you! He gave His life for you.
Second, when you’re facing the storm of sacrifice and suffering,
turn to God for strength.
It’s this second one in particular that I want us to plunge into
a little more deeply.
Let’s get back to my friend Ellen.
She has a rare form of soft-tissue cancer that keeps recurring
in her lower back and hip despite surgery, chemo and radiation.
This cancer doesn’t metastasize to organs,
so it hasn’t brought about a swift death,
which all of us who love her are very grateful for.
But at this late stage it has hit the nerves and messed with her vascular system,
so it does cause intense pain and debilitation.
In August and September, unless there was a miracle or a cure
or a miracle-cure, it looked like the pain, exhaustion and medications
would ultimately and pretty rapidly take Ellen.
Ellen and her husband, Vic, are beautiful Christians.
They’re really just ordinary people like you and me.
But in the face of this 21-year struggle,
they’ve continued to trust in God and love each other.
While I was visiting with Ellen, as you can well imagine,
we had a few conversations about faith and suffering.
I was amazed that she didn’t question or doubt the justice of God,
as many people do in the face of long-term pain.
In fact, her main concern seemed to be whether her faith was weak,
because the last time she had come close to death
in fighting this thing, she didn’t have a longing to simply
let go and let God take her to heaven.
She found she was fighting to live, to continue this life.
What we found ourselves discussing at that moment
was this very passage about the Garden of Gethsemane.
It’s God who gives us this will to live.
Even Jesus exhibits it. It’s part of being human,
a creature of God. And God isn’t offended by it!
We discussed how it apparently wasn’t Ellen’s time then,
since she was still among the living to tell me about it.
In fact, she needed that will to live to fight for life.
Perhaps when it’s time for God to take her home,
He’ll fill her soul with a sweet release.
But she noted that even if He doesn’t do that, in the end,
she wants Him and what He allows her to go through,
even if that involves suffering and an untimely death.
Both Vic and Ellen mentioned that they’re living each day as a gift from God.
It was obvious to me that they really mean that.
For one thing, they keep a sense of humor.
Ellen, who’s only a few years older than I am,
has just started using a walker to help her get about.
You’ve got to understand who Ellen is—
she was a career Air Force pilot and a marathon runner.
In fact, when the Air Force opened up pilot training to women,
she was part of the first 10 women commissioned out of
college Air Force ROTC to enter. Ellen is a bold person
to not only take on military flying, but also
challenge what was considered a man’s world!
Vic was also an Air Force pilot—in fact, Vic and Ellen first met when
he gave her her first ride in an Air Force aircraft:
a T-37. [picture] … It was love at first flight.
When they retired, they bought twin aircraft,
moved into a neighborhood with an airstrip,
and flew around the country.
So Ellen’s not one to take transitioning to a walker lightly.
She’s added a cup holder and a glove compartment to it,
and to top it off she’s hung big fuzzy dice [picture].
She calls it her “swanky new walker,”
as if she’s just gotten a classic convertible
to race around the ‘hood.
Vic and Ellen maintain a spirit of joy and peace with each other
and in their home that I can’t even begin to comprehend
given their circumstances. And this was while I could see
Ellen grimacing with pain at times and not being able to walk.
It’s not that they don’t have conflicts. Anytime you put
two people together long enough, you’ve got conflicts.
But they just constantly affirm and reaffirm each other,
and as I said, they’re beautiful Christians.
Leslie and I watched them and learned when we were
in our early years together in Texas,
and we still watch them and learn.
I honestly don’t know what I’d do in the face of such pain and eminent loss.
Since God doesn’t carry us through our imagined worries,
I never will unless I experience something like it.
But Ellen and Vic, like their Lord, have given me a model
for how to let go and let God when actual storms arise….
Many of you know that Paul Miller, our Worship and Performing Arts Pastor,
has been suffering with seizures, debilitating migraines, blood clots,
and countless neuro issues since March.
Thank God, he was finally diagnosed after about seven months.
But the diagnosis is neurologic Lyme disease. So that’s a bitter pill, too.
The treatment for that is long and arduous,
with no certainties regarding long-term outcomes.
Paul was at a staff meeting in September, and he told us as best he could
at that point about his experience and how it’s been affecting his faith.
He said, to be honest, he couldn’t tell what God was teaching him
at this point; he hadn’t felt any profound presence and meaning.
But he also affirmed that He still trusts God.
His faith is still intact. That in itself is a testimony.
Job’s wife gives us the voice of despair in the midst of the storm.
Like Job, she’s also lost her kids and her wealth,
and for all intents and purposes,
she’s lost her husband as she has known him to date.
So she tells Job bluntly: “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9).
Job gives us the voice of faith even in pain and confusion when He says,
“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15).
It’s Job’s heart that I see in Ellen and Vic and in Paul and his family.
Cami, Paul’s daughter, who leads us in worship week to week,
wrote this in an email to friends about her family’s experiences
these last seven months: “Our hearts have never felt
so much distress and peace all at once.”
And Amy, Paul’s wife, who leads our performing arts, writes this:
“It all still reduces back down to one simple awareness and need…
a deeper, steady dependency on Jesus.”
In the midst of the storm, this is the nature of lived faith:
much distress and peace all at once.
And a deeper, steady dependency on Jesus.
Amy came across something in the book Captivating that has
deeply resonated with her. John and Stasi Eldredge write,
John and Stasi Eldredge
God does not always rescue us out of a painful season. You know that he does not always give to us what we so desperately want when we want it. He is after something much more valuable than our happiness. Much more substantive than our health. He is restoring and growing in us an eternal weight of glory.# And sometimes … it hurts.#
In response to this thought, Amy wrote in an email (again to friends and family),
“our prayer is that what is forged deep within… is all for His glory.
may we walk it well.”
Faith resolves to let go and let God. We see such trials play out
in Jesus’ life at Gethsemane and in our own lives.
Perhaps it’s with disease or a physical or mental impairment.
Perhaps it’s with chronic unemployment or financial crisis.
Perhaps it’s with a job you hate, a marriage that’ s painful,
a divorce you didn’t want, or a rebellious or estranged child
who’s breaking your heart.
We all get caught in storms at some point, and we realize we’re not in control.
We can choose to cling to God and grow closer to Him,
or we can choose to reject Him, and simply despair like Job’s wife.
Given these options, faith wins hands down, because the very reason Jesus
went to the cross was to ultimately free us from sin and suffering and death.
He frankly tells us in
“In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
Now sometimes we see our earthly sufferings overcome. Sometimes not.
Ellen’s new cancer therapies and treatments since September have
dramatically slowed the tumors and eased the pain and debilitation.
Vic and Ellen see God’s hand in leading the researches and doctors
to medical breakthroughs. But no matter what happens,
they continue to let go and let God.
Paul Miller’s therapies for Lyme disease bring some days of relief
and some of intense pain right now. But there’s hope, and either way,
the Millers are leaning into God. They also, day by day,
learn how to let go and let God.
Although we’d want to be very careful about saying this to someone
in the midst of their suffering, what Vic and Ellen and the Millers
inherently understand from their faith is that our lifespan is a mere
drop in the ocean of eternity. So whatever we suffer on this earth
will be more than made up for in God’s direct presence
in the afterlife. And that’s not just wishful thinking.
We read in Revelation 21:4 that for those who trust God,
“He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”
This is why the Apostle Paul can confidently claim in
2 Corinthians 4:16-17 ESV
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison.
It’s helpful to realize that Paul’s “light momentary affliction” included stonings;
beatings; and a chronic, debilitating disease; amongst many other trials.
As we’ve been discussing Jesus at Gethsemane today,
I suspect you’ve thought about suffering you’re experiencing
or those you’re close to are experiencing, and you’re facing the storm.
If the storm is in your own life, what will it look like for you
not only to tell God honestly what you want, but also to say,
“Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
What would it look like for you to let go and let God?
Perhaps your life is amazingly tranquil and blessed right now,
but someone close to you is in the storm.
Now is the time to be faithfully praying for them,
just as Jesus wanted His friends’ to join Him in prayer
when He was facing His storm of storms.
Trans: Our SOAP devotional method ends with prayer.
We go to God and ask Him to give us the understanding and ability to live out
His will with the strength that only He can provide.
So let’s take a couple of minutes to do that right now individually,
and then I’ll come up to close the prayer and the service.
If any of you would like to pray with someone after the service,
there will be prayer team members and staff up here waiting for you.
But for now, let’s take a couple of minutes of prayer
before I come back up and close us. [Live music?]
Closing prayer: [I’ll come back up to close the service after 2-3 minutes.]
Lord, many of us here today are looking into or riding out some heavy storms,
or we have people we care for who are riding them out.
We pray that you’d help us and those we love to lean into You,
to recognize that whatever we’re facing,
we don’t have to face it alone.
You not only sympathize with our plight;
You’ve come down to us to take our troubles on Yourself.
Help us to let go, and let You guide and support us at all times,
and particularly in our trials.
We ask that You’d use them to form our character
into Your image, just as you made us
from the moment of creation.
If you or someone you know is in the midst of a storm,
you don’t have to face it alone. If you’d like to pray further,
feel free to come forward to meet with one of us.
And for all of you here today,
may God bless you and keep you this week.
Let go and let God.
[Quiet, recorded bumper music for ongoing prayer.]