Sermon: March 22, 2009

23 03 2009

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.  For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

 

                                               

                                    James 1:2-4

 

 

 

How do you act when the pressure’s on

When the chance for victory is almost gone,

When Fortune’s star has refused to shine,

When the ball is on your five-yard line?

 

How do you act when the going’s rough,

Does your spirit lag when breaks are tough?

Or, is there in you a flame that glows

Brighter as fiercer the battle grows?

 

How hard, how long will you fight the foe?

That’s what the world would like to know!

 

Cowards can fight when they’re out ahead.

The uphill grind shows a thoroughbred!

You wish for success?  Then tell me, son,

How do you act when the pressure’s on.

 

 

            I would just like to know by a show of hands – how many of you here this morning have never faced adversity?  How many of you here this morning have never had a problem that seemed insurmountable?  How many of you have never faced difficulties in your life?  Just raise your hand.  What?  Are you telling me that everyone here this morning has had problems to face and overcome in their life?

            Well, that is the truth.  The question never is have we ever faced adversity.  Everyone of us has a some time in our life.  For some it has been financial.  I remember a friend of mine who had been in the Air Force – was married with a family – and then decided to go back to college so that he could be a teacher.  Several times during those years he almost quite – the amount of money that he had got smaller – the cost of tuition got higher – he had a family to take care of.  How was he going to make it?  Lately I have seen a lot of anguish on people’s faces as they have lost jobs – faced the frustration of looking for work with so few opportunities.  Just last week I heard about a janitor’s job that opened up and 1,100 people showed up to apply for the job.

            Maybe your adversity has been health.  “I never had a thing wrong with me.  I have always been as strong as an ox until this happened.”  I cannot tell you how often I have heard that sort of thing from friends and members of churches that I have served.  The loss of health can take the wind out of your sales and the bills that accumulate can devastate a family.

            Maybe death has been your adversity.  There is not a person here this morning who has not been touched by death – a spouse – a parent – a child – a good friend.  We all know that death is a reality.  We all know that death comes to us at some time or another, but that is always tomorrow.  And when tomorrow becomes today, it is like a two ton boulder comes crashing down on us.

            Adversity is real.  It comes to each and everyone of us.  The question is how do we handle it.  And after being a pastor for almost 40 years, I have come to the conclusion that this is the best advice that I can give someone who is facing adversity:

FOCUS ON THE THINGS OVER WHICH YOU HAVE CONTROL.  GIVE EVERYTHING ELSE UP TO GOD.

 

            Do you have a health issue?  Then go see the doctor.  Listen to his advice.  Take the drugs that he prescribes to you.  Do the therapy that he has given you.  And then give everything else up to God. 

            Are you out of work?  Look for jobs.  Go where you can and put in your applications.  If you think additional training or learning a new skill would help, then sign up for some classes.  And then give everything else up to God.

            Are you depressed because you just lost someone who is near and dear to you and the feelings are overwhelming you?  Then go and talk to someone.  If necessary, go and see a counselor.  Do what he tells you to do.  Take his advice.  And then give everything else up to God.

            To do other than this is just a waste of time.  I know that there are some people who when they face adversity will worry.  There are some people who have worry down to a pure science.  What will happen?  And then…  It could lead to…  I know this young woman who worries all of the time.  She worries about everything.  In fact, she is one of those people who worry if she doesn’t have something to worry about, because she is afraid that she must be missing something.  Finally one day I told her that if she could convince me that worrying about that sort of thing would make a difference that I would sit down with her and worry with her.  “That’s silly, Pastor!” she said.  “No sillier than you worrying about things over which you have no control.”  Focus on the things over which you have control.  Then give everything else up to God.

            And, you know, that giving up everything else up to God thing.  That is good advice, because you see the promise of our God is that He will always be there for us.  “Cast all your care upon me, for I really care for you.”  “Nothing every separates us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.”  “Lo, I am with you always even unto the end of the world.”

            And there is something else to remember here.  Every time you do that – every time you get through adversity – by focusing on the things over which you have control and by giving everything else up to God – every time that you do that and get through that – you will get stronger.  I promise you.  And the next one – the next time – will be easier – until finally you reach the point where you sail through adversity because you focus on the things over which you have control and give everything else up to God.  Because – you see, what you will discover – is that your faith gets bigger and stronger.

The ancient Lakota hunter warriors handcrafted their own bows from seasoned ash wood.  There were two ways to acquire he proper wood.  The conventional way was to find a young ash tree, harvest it, and let it dry for at least five years.  But the hunter warriors were always on the lookout for a mature ash tree that had been struck by lightning.   Such a tree had been dried and cured in an instant by the awesome power of lightning, and any bows made from it would be much stronger.  Such trees were rare, but they were preferred because they had suffered the ultimate adversity, and ultimate adversity produces ultimate strength.

 

FOCUS ON THE THINGS OVER WHICH YOU HAVE CONTROL.  GIVE EVERYTHING ELSE UP TO GOD.

 

 

 

                                   

 

Amen!

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