In a dim and distant past I used to take part in the youth group at my local Church ( circa 2010!).
We used to give weekly talks to the teenagers – some of whom were Christians and some were not.
Then my work got busy and I could not sustain getting to Church and keeping tiredness at bay – maybe I did not pray enough? Who knows?
For many reasons – I barely get to Church these days and I am not part of any Christian community. Does that make me sad? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no.
I am not sure that I really bonded with people in Church (and if I am being honest anywhere else really!) and it seemed, at the time, that a love for God/Jesus was not enough to sustain any ‘friendships’ I made. Maybe I was doing it all wrong. Who knows?
And sometimes I found myself fundamentally disagreeing with some minor aspect of what was being taught and felt that I could not say anything, or at least if I did – I got the weird looks or the pursing of lips. Maybe I was doing it all wrong. Who knows?
I was going through my old computer files and I found this talk that I gave. At the time, that I wrote it, I am not sure that much applied to me but strangely enough seems to mirror my life right now.
So I thought I would share it to the ethernet – to remind that once I had a deep faith, conviction and passion.
Perhaps I will get it back! Each day begins anew.
Despairing – or Why I shout at God
“Today we are going to think what happens when the going gets tough.
What that means about our relationship with God and the character of God.
It is will be centred on the passage in Matthew’s gospel – when he asks the disciples to follow him onto a boat on the Lake of Gallilee and psalm 77 – which talks to us about hope in a time of despair.
So I will read the passage out aloud to allow it to ‘cook’ in your minds.
Jesus gets on the boat. His disciples follow but lose faith when the storm comes. But are then amazed at the power of God.
Matthew 8: 18 – 27″
The Cost of Following Jesus
18When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. 19Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.”
20Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
21Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
22But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
Jesus Calms the Storm
23Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
26He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
“Most times it seems that when we face difficulties we find that our faith does not rise to the challenge, but that our faith seems to desert us.
We seem to find the least faith when we need it the most.
This is almost part and parcel of the Christian life. But in a way it helps to know that we are not the only ones. That the disciples who had Jesus with them faced this.
I just want to take a minute to think about the people who were on the boat with Jesus.
These are the people who the privilege of being in the physical presence of Jesus. They saw him do amazing things. They heard him preach, saw the healing – the lepers, the paralysed servant, healed Peter’s mother, the resurrections. They could talk to him all hours of the day and night. PRIVILEGE
You would have thought that out of anybody human that when trouble comes along that they would have been bold and fearless. They would have had complete faith and just been calm.
However they still wavered when a crisis came along.
This is even more amazing if you think about what they gave up to follow Jesus and what kind of life they were going to live.
He was popular and had crowds following him. He offered them an unenviable existence – no red carpet treatment, no creature comforts. He told them that animals would have a nice life that they would. COSTLY
But Jesus said that we would all face the storms of life. The storms of life are many and varied. They include trials and temptations, trauma and testing, illness, opposition, pressures at work or due to unemployment, relationship difficulties, loss or bereavement.
Becoming a Christian does not mean that life is rosy, that everything is wonderful. In fact sometimes you might find that it is the opposite. Making it difficult to believe and question God. This is what happens in the boat.
This does not mean that we should be afraid to be afraid. This doesn’t mean that we should smile all the time and sing only the feel good songs. But some Christians believe that we have to force ourselves to feel or will faith. Like some kind of mind-controlled inner power. And Doubt is viewed as back-sliding. Again this is not what Jesus wants for us.
He knows that following him – means following him into a storm. It’s not for the half hearted – he wants all of us. That’s why he turned away some of the people that wanted to follow him – the man that wanted to bury his father. Jesus was saying drop every thing and follow me. He wants you to be focused on him – don’t look back.
When these storms happen what we do is cry out. Almost like babies. When babies fall or are hurt the first they do is cry out and looking for their parents wanting to be picked up and cuddled and no one else will do. In a way He wants us to be like that like children.
He values that openness and acknowledge of our helplessness. The Bible is full of examples of believers who are open about their struggles. For example the first part of psalm 77 goes through this. I will read the Message version:”
I yell out to my God, I yell with all my might, I yell at the top of my lungs. He listens.
2-6 I found myself in trouble and went looking for my Lord;
my life was an open wound that wouldn’t heal.
When friends said, “Everything will turn out all right,”
I didn’t believe a word they said.
I remember God—and shake my head.
I bow my head—then wring my hands.
I’m awake all night—not a wink of sleep;
I can’t even say what’s bothering me.
I go over the days one by one,
I ponder the years gone by.
I strum my lute all through the night,
wondering how to get my life together.
7-10 Will the Lord walk off and leave us for good?
Will he never smile again?
Is his love worn threadbare?
Has his salvation promise burned out?
Has God forgotten his manners?
Has he angrily stalked off and left us?
“Just my luck,” I said. “The High God goes out of business
just the moment I need him.”
“BUT that is certainly not the case. He is always with us. He says it many times in the Bible. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
But the disciples knowing all this, not only call out to him but also accuse him of not caring. In the passage in Luke’s gospel the disciples say “Teacher don’t you care if we drown?”
The disciples seem to have lost faith in Christ’s character. Which is why he says “you of little faith” or “do you still have no faith?”. God does not like it when we do not trust him, when we doubt his love and compassion. Jesus wants us to remember that his love for us is unchanging and unfailing. He was patient and compassionate with the disciples and showed his power and character by stopping the storm. He is powerful. We can build houses, drive cars but we cannot control the elements. Jesus just has to raise his hands and it all stops – that’s pretty amazing.
The rest of the psalm 77 goes on to say:”
11-12 Once again I’ll go over what God has done,
lay out on the table the ancient wonders;
I’ll ponder all the things you’ve accomplished,
and give a long, loving look at your acts.
13-15 O God! Your way is holy!
No god is great like God!
You’re the God who makes things happen;
you showed everyone what you can do—
You pulled your people out of the worst kind of trouble,
rescued the children of Jacob and Joseph.
16-19 Ocean saw you in action, God,
saw you and trembled with fear;
Deep Ocean was scared to death.
Clouds belched buckets of rain,
Sky exploded with thunder,
your arrows flashing this way and that.
From Whirlwind came your thundering voice,
Lightning exposed the world,
Earth reeled and rocked.
You strode right through Ocean,
walked straight through roaring Ocean,
but nobody saw you come or go.
20 Hidden in the hands of Moses and Aaron,
You led your people like a flock of sheep.
“Powerful stuff. The disciples on the boat were equally amazed with Jesus. “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
So in summary:
It’s ok to have doubts and worries – it is a normal part of life
Life will not always be easy
BUT YOU WILL NEVER BE ALONE.
Learning to trust comes with time, and get stronger.
Peter writing to other Christians said “ Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7
I want to use the last ten minutes to make you think about some of these things in groups.”
|Should we challenge God in difficult circumstances?|
|How do you pray in difficult circumstances?|
|What can you learn from the disciples in the story that can help you?|
|Can we be confident in God’s character whatever happens in our lives?|
Sadly I cannot remember what the teenagers said, not much, I think they were underwhelmed by my talk and my style of encouraging discussion. Maybe it was a bit much and maybe I had forgotton what it was to be a teenager. It’s funny – when I was a teenager I never went to Church. Did not find Christianity till I was in my thirties – so maybe I just do not get Church culture. Hmm. Still working it out…