05-06-18 “A Conquering Faith”
New Testament: 1 John 5:1-6
Gospel: John 15:9-17
Laurie Capps of Annandale, Virginia, tells the story of her 8-year-old daughter Grace, an only child. Laurie often hears Grace after she has gone to bed, whispering in her room. Sometimes Laurie hears Grace’s footsteps at night, scurrying around the house, retrieving a doll or stuffed animal.
One day Grace was whispering and Laurie asked her what she was doing. “I’m playing hide-and-seek with God, Mom.”
The Mom laughed and told her, “Gracie, honey, don’t you think that God can find you anywhere you hide?” She rolled her eyes, “Mom, I’m looking for God.”
Each of us, in our own way, is looking for God. For some, the search ends quickly, and for others it is a lifelong quest. The good news is that we can find God in Jesus Christ, the one who is the human face of God. And when we find God in Jesus, we become a member of God’s Kingdom. We cease to be an only child, and become part of an enormous family of faith.
Then John says that everyone “who loves the parent loves the child.” This is a reminder that there can be no distinction between love of God and love of our new faith family. This can be an enormous challenge, especially when our new brothers and sisters are getting on our nerves, but there is an unintended upside to our efforts: Love actually improves our health and happiness. Finding God is healthy.
Debbie and I were walking through the mall recently and I saw one of those massage chair businesses. Here you can just stop in and pay for a massage. As I went by I saw a sign that read, “Great stress reliever.” I thought, “I could use some stress relief these days.” I’ve had some pretty stress inducing moments recently. Stress doesn’t run my life every day like it once did, it comes and goes now.
Finding God helped me to believe Jesus is the calming force in the midst of the stressful storm. I wouldn’t want to live in a storm everyday, nor would I want a completely peaceful existence where I never experience happiness either. There must be a balance between the highs and the lows. God is that great balancer. God is the one who calls us from the depths and from the heights.
Sin can cause us to dwell in the pits too long, or leave us on the mountaintop of self gratification too long as well. God calls us to a balanced life. I’m not talking about balancing sin. A life with sin can never be truly balanced. We can experience happiness and sadness without ever sinning. God gives us time for each, but like sin, stress can create an unbalance that leaves us feeling sick all the time. Finding God can help.
Stress has been called a killer, so has sin. As I looked at the sign in the mall that read, “Great Stress Relief,” I thought about sin. How much stress would there be / without sin. Probably not much. I thought about setting up a table of Bibles with a sign that read, “Great Stress Relief!” I am not sure the Bible would be as popular as the massages. People have come to know that Jesus expects a relationship. The massage chair requires only a few minutes of their time; it doesn’t require a long-term time commitment, the chair doesn’t want to change me from the inside out.
The Bible is forever, the chair is kind of superficial, but sometimes I like superficial, it’s easy. Some people never go looking for God.
In a way, though, that is exactly what the chair is offering. A lifetime dependence on idols that are nothing more than superficial promises and almost zero hope. I assume the massage chair therapist can help relax a tight muscle, and may even relieve suffering, thats not a bad thing. Sin on the other hand is not a sore muscle, it is a real dangerous health issue.
It would be nice if there was a pill to take away sin and stress and other things that cause brokenness. It would be nice to think that a five minute massage would take away the worries and troubles of life. There is no cure, but there is healing. The sign in the mall didn’t read, “Great Cure for Stress,” because it only offers relief. The cure for all problems is Heaven, but we are not there yet. So what we have is healing, working towards being better with God’s help. We need to find Him first.
God is not in the distant future waiting for us only in Heaven. The Holy Spirit of God is here right now waiting to be found. When was the last time you played hide and seek with God? We search so hard to find the relief we need for a variety of ailments. It’s like we are trying to do what John writes, overcome the world. Does it seem some days like the stress you feel is the result of trying to overcome the world? I don’t know how well a massage will hold up when trying to overcome the world.
It may momentarily take you away from the troubles and stress but eventually we find ourselves once again at the foot of a mountain pushing harder and harder trying to overcome. Where is our hope, look to First John 5:5, “Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” Jesus’ answer to overcoming the world was not to fight against it, but to love it. Search for God among the darkness and find that love.
The answer to a more peaceful existence for me,came in no longer judging everything and everyone God created but by learning to simply love. Jesus came to save all, no asterisk, all. God came to show love to all. If we believe in the Son of God, then we must love as he loved, openly, freely, without thought of reward or compensation, simple love. Pure love can not bear sin, there is no sin in pure, righteous love.
John was correct when, in the Gospel of John he wrote,
If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love. Jesus love was perfect and sin free. So, go get a massage if that helps you feel better, I might stop in the next time im in the mall. I won’t however, look at a massage as a replacement for God. God way well work within the hands of the masseuse. I close with a short story from homeletics.com that might help.
He was 62 feet tall, rising out of a cornfield in southwestern Ohio. Made of steel, fiberglass and Styrofoam, this statue of Jesus Christ had upraised arms, which make him look like a football referee signaling a touchdown. This mega-messiah, with arms and hands big enough to hold a dump truck, was erected by a nondeminational charismatic church along Interstate 75.
And here’s where the story gets interesting: Not long after the church had the statue erected, the highway suddenly became safe. There were 14 deaths in the two-year period before the sculpture’s appearance. Then there were none. The church’s pastor, Lawrence Bishop, told the Cleveland Plain Dealer, “Since that’s been up, there hasn’t been one wreck out there. We didn’t build it with that intent, but that’s what happened.”
So maybe this Jesus is a Super Savior. One who has calmed the storm of highway killings. Of course, there may be other forces at work. About the same time that the statue appeared, the state of Ohio spent a million dollars to install a cable that runs down the median. This barrier is designed to prevent vehicles from crossing the median into oncoming traffic.
Says Jay Hamilton, the highway engineer who designed the barrier, “I honestly think that Jesus can perform miracles, but I don’t think the statue was the miracle out here. It was the barrier.”
Take your pick: Whether it was Touchdown Jesus or the state highway department, we can be thankful. Interstate 75 is now a much safer stretch of road.
Where do you find God? Solely in a statue of Jesus or can God also be found in those around us in our faith family. Maybe even those members of our family who erect barriers on the interstate to keep us safe, those who offer massages or in the youngest, moist innocent members of our family. There is balance in God’s plan that when we find God, He is in the physical and spiritual realms. If you are having trouble finding God, expand your search to the unexpected places.
I invite you to come forward this morning to find God waiting for right here at this altar.
Let’s think of that stretch of Ohio interstate as the world we must overcome. Harsh, broken, something to be feared and there is no doubt the barrier that the highway department erected helped, as does the massage chair, as does the little girl, but none can fully replace the love which God has given us to exist in the world, notice I said exist, not overcome.
We will never overcome the world, God has already done so through Jesus’ sacrifice. We don’t overcome the world we follow and believe in the one who already did. Truly being connected to Jesus would provide the balance we seek. We need to start by looking for God in more than the usual places, the Lord is never hiding but as close your heart.
Leader: Go forth in peace. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all
People: And also with you.