Editors Note: For most of August I am on vacation, spending some much needed time recharging my batteries and enjoying time with the family. I knew I was going to be away from my computer for some time so I went out searching for some great guest posters to help keep this blog active while I am away. I am so excited to welcome my good friend Rev. Jared Miller as a guest on my blog. Jared is the pastor at Trinity Presbyterian Church in Grenfell, SK.If you are ever in Grenfell make sure you pop in.
I’ve never really liked birthdays. Nothing against them as an idea. In general I’m a big fan of cake, presents and being the centre of attention, but put those three together, and it just seems like a bad idea to me. So I’ve always dreaded my birthday rolling around. I figure it has something to do with the date … April 29th was always right in the middle of Music Festival in the town I grew up in and being a musical family, that inevitably meant there were going to be a million and one things happening on my Birthday. And as I got older my birthday always seemed to be just after final exams ended, or just some other crummy time of year.
But it’s amazing how something that you dread so much can change the way you see the world. I remember turning 20, and even though in my head, I knew that in every sense, little to nothing was actually different that morning than it had been before I went to bed the night before, yet everything seemed dynamically different. For the first time in my life I wasn’t a kid anymore. Immature, sure. But I was 20. Teenage was over. I was an adult. Whether I took them seriously or not, my choices had consequences. I had to take care of myself. 20 is the last real milestone in life, the last time you stop being something and start being something new. Everything else is just getting older.
The church I am privileged to serve is going to be celebrating its 20th Birthday this coming April, and so we chose THRIVE as our goal through this 19th year of Ministry. But this is a scary time to be not only a young church, but to be young and in church. In his book I Refuse to Lead a Dying Church, Paul Nixon points out that if trends continue the way they’re going, it’ll be somebody going into Ministry in their late twenties that turns off the lights in the last Church. Everywhere we look, every indicator we can find all tell the same story: the church is outnumbered, outflanked, and outgunned.
But that’s why I love this story of Elisha (you can read it in 2 Kings 6). He knew what it was like to be up against an army. So whether you’re part of a church facing an army of age, waning influence, and bills – or whether you’re simply feeling overwhelmed in your day to day life, I want to share with you three reflections that I think can help us all to Thrive.
- Being on the right side of things doesn’t mean an absence of fear. Look at verse 15, When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” This is not a normal response after waking up, because I don’t think it’s a normal way to wake up. His voice isn’t groggy or slurred before his first cup of coffee. That’s panic and a pounding heart you hear in his voice. Fear is not a sign of weak faith. Fear is a normal and healthy response to dangerous situations. Dr. Paul Brand, the physician who pioneered pretty much everything we know about leprosy, lumped fear in with pain when he called it a gift nobody wants. Experiencing fear is like a smoke alarm going off: it means everything is working properly and that if we don’t do something about it things are going to go badly. It means you’ve assessed the situation correctly. The absence of fear would have much more devastating consequences.
- God is up for a fight. Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. There’s a story a little bit earlier in Kings where the King of Syria wants to bring Elijah in and so he sends 50 men to capture him, but Elijah calls down fire from Heaven and swallows them up. Figuring it was a fluke, the King of Syria tries it two more times, each with the same result. But here, something seems different. There is no grand spectacle, no fire from Heaven. Feeling like you’re not seeing God solving all your problems doesn’t mean that He isn’t still fighting for you. The fight just may look a little different. God doesn’t promise a magic pill to solve every problem, but He promises that if we let Him, that He will fight for us. So don’t be afraid of the hard work. You’ve got armies of angels, horses and chariots of fire all around you, ready to pitch in and lend a hand.
- Victory doesn’t always look the way we think it will. You’d think that with armies of angels that Elisha would have witnessed an amazing military defeat. But He doesn’t. Instead, Elisha pulls a Jedi mind-trick and tells them these aren’t the droids they’re looking for and he leads them off. I have a tendency to think I know what my problems are. I don’t have a lot of money, so if God is going to take care of me He needs to give me more money. My family is in turmoil, so God needs to calm them down. I don’t have enough hours in a day to do everything I need to do, so God needs to hold the sun still in the sky for just a little while longer tomorrow. But then we have to ask: who am I to tell God what He needs to do? What if the solution isn’t more money, but that I figure out how to live a simpler life? What if the problem in my family isn’t with them, but it’s with me? What if the problem isn’t that I don’t have enough time in the day, but that I put too much on my plate? Victory means being open to the direction of God in whatever direction He deems to move, otherwise we might find ourselves struggling against armies of angels, horses and chariots of fire.
What areas of life can you Thrive in?
This is based on a Sermon from 2 Kings 6:8-19 on April 7th, 2013. You can listen to the whole thing here