June 10, 2018 WE SHOULD NEVER GIVE UP
WE SHOULD NEVER GIVE UP
When working on sermons sometimes there are illustrations from the real world that help one make a point. While living each day we find ways to get through things that happen in our lives. We watch TV and see the news and how some person shares a story of how they might have been blessed, or how out of the blue something that was needed was found. It’s amazing how God does work, even though we often take things for granted. Miracles abound, yet some can’t seem to see them. But the Christian community, we notice them and are reminded that God continues working in our lives. Sometimes we might get distracted by things, and these stories of faith remind us God still is working in us. We are Christians under construction. We are mighty vessels being molded by the hands of God. He calls us to follow him and keep focused on the prize that lies ahead. When things were going bad for England in WW II it is said that in a speech Churchill just stood and said, “Never give up! Never give up!” and the British never did.
Since it is baseball season there are many examples. Like the Cubs doing their thing, not giving up when games seem out of hand, coming back and winning. It happens because folks on the team, folks that run the team don’t give up. They hang in there. For you Cardinal fans I will use one from your team. I was flipping between the Cubs-Mets game and the Cards-Pirates games recently. The Cubs won their game, so I tuned in the last few innings of the Cards game. They were winning by one, but the Pirates scored 4 runs to take a three-run lead with one inning to go. When you looked at the stadium many had left by the time the bottom of the ninth took place. They were the ones that gave up. They were the ones that believed the game was over. But as Yogi Berra used to say “it ain’t over till it’s over.” With the Pirate’s closer on the mound the bottom of the ninth began and the next thing you knew there were two men on base. Those in the dugout, those remaining fans, began to perk up. Hope raised its head. Then a hit and the next thing you knew they were only down one run and only one out and two men still on base. The pitcher went into his windup, tossed his best pitch and the batter hit a long fly ball to deep center that would tie the game. However, as the Cards players got closer to the dugout railing, some trying to give it and extra nudge with their waving hands, with the twist of their towels, they watched with joy as that ball sailed right out of the park. The fellow who hit it, when rounding the bases could hear the joys of the crowd. Mighty Casey did not strike out, nor hit into a double play but hit a 3 run homer to win the game. His team gathered at home plate with the Gator Aide bucket and doused him in victory form.
The motto of the story…. you never give up. You learn that when you play sports. You learn that when you follow sports. You play the whole game, not part of the game.
It’s the same in life. The Apostle Paul writes to the troubled and struggling church in Corinth these words of hope, these words of encouragement: “It is written: “I believed; therefore, I have spoken.” With the same spirit of faith, we also believe and therefore speak, because we know the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God. Therefore, we do not lose heart.” (Let me say those words again so that they standout for us today.) Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, you inwardly are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So, we fix our eyes on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, what is unseen is eternal.”
God’s grace and wisdom offered to us this morning.
Many nuggets of wisdom in this one passage that help us get through tough times. We never lose heart. We are renewed daily. We are called to fix our eyes upon Jesus. A chorus in our hymnal says, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.”
Peter pops up in my mind when I think about keeping focused. His battle was keeping focused on Jesus when he got out of the boat and took a few steps toward Jesus while the storm was raging all around him. He was okay the minute he found himself standing on the water but when he began to move toward Jesus, well, that sly old fox turned up the wind and the waves, and guess what… Peter took his eyes off Jesus and the next thing you know he found himself beneath the water instead of walking on it. What he learned…. Don’t focus on the problem, focus on the one who has the solution, and all will be well.
You ever found yourself losing focus? Report from the doctor and some of us, me included, sometimes forget who oversees the situation. As Paul says don’t focus on what is…but focus what will be. We need to remember God. You don’t quit. You plug along because God is there with you. Believers are winners, never losers. One way or the other we win because God is our manager.
“Therefore,” Paul writes when things are not going well, when struggles come, when we can’t see beyond the bend, when a storm pops up and we’re trying to ride it out, “we do not lose heart.”
For 12 years I’ve served this church that some thought would have been history by now, but by the grace of God, and the direction of our Bishop, when July 1 comes around I plan to begin my 13 years of retirement by serving another year. We aren’t ready to give up. We continue to focus of Christ and his mission for this church. We keep going. We need to focus on what we do well. We need to focus on our ministry here in Williamsville to those who have no church, have no faith. They are neighbors. They are family. They are people you might be working with. God is not calling us to focus on what other churches are doing. He’s calling us to focus on what he has called us to do. We need to trust in him to lead us on the journey of faith, focusing on what John Wesley has said. “Do all the good you can, in all the places you can, by all the means you can, to all the people you can, as long as you can.”
In other words, keep focused on Christ. Keep focused on the cross. Keep focused on the message of the resurrection, Christ is alive and is with us always.
That Corinthian church had floundered. It had kind of lost is focus. It’s like some of those churches you read about in the Book of Revelation, churches that lost its first love, churches that lost its mission, churches that lost its true focus. It’s scary on what happened to some of them. The church must be the church. Our focus, to know God. Our focus, to follow Christ. Our focus to be the hands, the feet, the voice of one who was crying in the wilderness to believe and offer hope to the world.
I just read recently that a wife went in to wake her husband to get ready for church. It was unlike him to stay in bed so long. He always was up and ready before her. She yelled for him to get up but when she didn’t hear any movement she went up and shook him to tell him time was getting late. She left, and he just snuggled up with his blanket trying to fall back to sleep. Not hearing the shower running, she yelled again to no avail. Looking at her watch she headed upstairs in a panic. The hour was getting closer when they should be leaving. She walked in the room and found her husband still in bed, covered head to toe. She yanked back those covers, threw him his towel and yelled for him to get in the shower. He said he didn’t want to go to church today. People complained about things. Sermons were boring. People were unfriendly. “Give me one good reason why I should go to church today.” With her hands on her hips, with those big eyes she could muster, she said in her loud voice. “You’re the pastor!”
I know, you could hear that one coming. But you know, and I know our faith isn’t just found in church. Our faith can be found wherever we go because God is wherever we go. However, what I hope we find in this church, or any church you attend, is the hope of a wonderful tomorrow. I hope you find the faith you need that when there is a crisis in your life you focus on the one that has called you to follow him through thick and thin. For he says I will never forsake you. I will never leave you. I will never give you more than you can handle without showing you a way out of it.
Those are comforting words for us this morning. The church might be considered to be like a gas station where when your tank gets close to empty you stop in order to be refilled in order that you can continue your journey.
It’s also a spiritual hospital where we are like some of those Chicken Soup for the Soul books that offer help and encouragement for daily stresses in one’s life.
We aren’t people that have no hope. When struggles come, we fix our eyes upon Jesus. Our hope is in the one who took our place on the cross and who went to prepare a place for us. Our journey of faith is such that if we keep our eyes on the prize that is set before us, we will cross the finish line one day to receive God’s great words of joy and praise for being a faithful follower.
Why do we need such words of advice? Because this is not a perfect world. Lots of distractions. Sometimes we might want to be like some of those worldly people, like for example the fellow who asked his dad for his inheritance early, so he could go off and have fun with his friends and see what the world had to offer him. Dad obliged, and the fellow went down the trail and eventually out of the sight of the watchful eye of his father. So, he went where the fun was, and he played hard, and made many friends until…. until he ran out of money. Then he found himself all alone, working in a place he hated. One day, while doing his thing, he realized he had lost everything, and he came to his senses, and went to his boss to tell him he was through and was going home, hoping his dad would allow him to work on the farm like the hired hands that were there. And you know the rest of the story of the Prodigal. He went home and as he was heading up that walk there came a joy in his heart as he saw his dad a long way off now running as fast as he could toward him shouting words to mom to put on the coffee, put some Lasagna in the oven, for the one who was lost had been found. The one who was blind can now see.
End of story. And there was joy in Mudville when the son hit home plate where his father swarmed him with hugs and kisses, “Welcome home! Welcome home!”
That’s why we need the church. That’s why we need stories of our faith. That’s why I hope we leave this place week after week with hope, with a desire not to ever give up on ourselves, on our church, on our God, on our faith. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of his glory and grace.
So, may it always be.
Sermon Verse 2 Corinthians 4:13-5:1