"If you wait until you need a break to take a break, your break won't be so pleasant!" This was just one of several important things God was saying through my preaching Sunday - both to me and to my congregation. In today's sermon notes blog post we learn four ways to remain flexible in our Christian faith - so we can bend but not break!
Every week I publish my sermon notes so that you may read them for yourselves. For my parishioners, this could be a good review from the weekend before. And it gives you a chance to see what I intended to say! For other pastors and ministers, feel free to borrow and use any of this material. I'd love for God to be glorified by you incorporating these notes into your own worship.
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Fast forward to minute 43 to hear the sermon.
Summer Singles Part 14: Bending Without Breaking - 09.09.12
Intro: I love that song that Brandi and Eddie just sang for us. There are many times when we will struggle with our faith, when we don’t know why we are suffering through trials, and when we rely on just “God said.”
Even the Apostle Paul, with all his closeness to God, went through an unknown trial of faith or health. At the end he concluded this from Christ: “My grace is sufficient for you...” 2 Corinthians 12:9
1 Corinthians 10:13 is our temptation verse. Do you remember it? “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so you can endure it.” The word temptation is also the word for trial or tribulation. When you are facing tough times, God provides a way for you to stand up under it. So that you can be flexible in your faith.
Today’s Single: God’s Presence In Tough Times Helps Me To
___BEND AND NOT BREAK___.
4 Ways To Keep My Faith Flexible In Tough Times
This world is not yet the perfect place that it will become some day when Jesus returns. Understand that everything that happens between the first two chapters of the Bible and the last two chapters of the Bible is tainted by evil and man’s sin. So there will be consequences when we do good in an evil world.
So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, ”May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” 1 Kings 19:2 NIV
Elijah had done everything right. He obeyed God. As a prophet his job was to relay God’s message to the people. He had accurately told them about the two years of drought. He miraculously provided food for the widow. He restored life to the lifeless body of the widow’s son. He single handedly (with God of course) faced off against King Ahab and Queen Jezebel and 450 Baal prophets with one of the greatest miracles in the OT. (Tell the story.)
Yet what response did Elijah receive for doing the good? ... for his obedience? Was there an honor guard? A complimentary letter from the King? A knighthood? Did they rename Mount Carmel? Did they carve his likeness into the mountainside? No. The queen said she would have him killed within 24 hours! We live in a world where evil is often returned for good.
Now we come to one of the strangest parts of this story, but one that is so important for us to understand. This same Prophet Elijah, who the day before was so strong and powerful and confident to overcome 450 prophets of Baal, suddenly is afraid for his own life.
Elijah was afraid and ran for his life... He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 1 Kings 19:3a-4 NIV
God includes these honest, human stories about the Bible’s greatest heroes for a reason. We should never take ourselves or our strength too seriously. Our strength is never our own. It is always God’s - The Holy Spirit’s strength - working within us. That’s why Elijah could be so strong on one day and so weak the next.
And here’s another key point to understand. There is NO EXPLANATION as to why Elijah responded with weakness. We don’t see that he sinned somehow. We aren’t given a reason for a failure on his part. We can speculate all we want to about his mental stability... some suggesting that he might have even been bipolar, strong on some occasions and weak in others. But that’s just us trying to fill in the blanks. Here’s what we should understand. Our strength comes from God. Period. I am strong when He makes me strong. I will be weak if He chooses not to strengthen me. And, no matter what, to God be the glory! There would be no 1 Kings 19 without Elijah’s response of fear and running. So the next time you are fearful, and weak, and running... you can say to yourself, ‘Even the Elijahs of the Bible sometimes ran away... to God be the glory!’
Sometimes our weakness is caused simply because we are biologically needful. I love this part of the the Bible because it is so pragmatic. 3 “Needs” To Handle My Weakness:
A. I need to get enough ___REST___.
“Then he lay down under the bush and fell asleep.” 1 Kings 19:5 NIV
“... and then lay down again.” 1 Kings 19:6b NIV
Elijah was physically exhausted. He had pushed himself beyond his own physical ability to endure. Sometimes the most spiritual thing you and I can do is to get some rest. Not only but also...
B. I need to get enough ___FOOD___.
I love this part of the story because it is so apropos for me. Sometimes Mary Kay will be the angel in my life and tell me that I need to eat. (Though it’s usually after I’ve been cross and she knows my blood sugar must be down.)
He ate and drank and then lay down again. The angel of the Lord came back a second time and touched him and said, “Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food,...” 1 Kings 19:6b-8a NIV
Elijah was physically exhausted, not only because he hadn’t had enough rest, but also because he had not been eating correctly. His body needed fuel to do what God required. We see this beautiful story of God’s angel actually providing a good meal several times for Elijah. What does it take for your body to function well? What foods? What medicines? What exercise? Are you doing the important things you need to do to take care of yourself, so you can live out God’s purpose in your life?
C. Sometimes I need ___A BREAK___.
Even with regular maintenance, we can’t continue to do the same things day in and day out without a break. Elijah, like us sometimes, needed to get away from it all. Notice 40 days...
“He traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.” 1 Kings 19:8b NIV
The Bible is filled with advice about breaks. We need a weekly break called the Sabbath. The OT was filled with times of festival weeks, when work stopped. You are I were not designed as machines, but as human beings created in the image of God. God even rested on the seventh day!
Important application: You cannot wait until you need a break to take a break. Put another way, if you wait until you break to take a break, your break won’t be so pleasant!!! Don’t wait until you are physically, mentally, emotionally, exhausted to begin planning for your recharge time. Taking a break requires planning and sometimes even some extra work. Example: the Israelites had to gather twice as much manna on the 6th day so they would have enough for the 7th day. Question: are you planning for both a weekly and occasional week-long breaks?
There is no such thing as possessing godly strength without spending time with God. This is really an investment because every moment that you are spending with God is a moment you are not doing something else. This is always a question of priority. Which will we choose? Here’s what the LORD told Elijah:
The Lord said, “Go and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”1 Kings 19:11a NIV
Can you imagine that Elijah’s response would have been negative to such an invitation? “Sorry God, busy schedule today.” “Got to get the kids to the school on time.” “I wish I would have woke up earlier.” “Maybe later... if everything works out.” No! Of course Elijah went and stood right where God told him to go. You may say, “Well, if I had such an invitation to meet with God, I’d be there too.” Important - you have such an invitation each and every day! One more thing - the real purpose behind 2C - taking a break, is not just for fun and games, but to also invest time with God!!! Recharge spiritually!
Have you ever considered that success is the root of the word “succession?” You will be successful when you have planned for succession! It’s true! Sometimes we become inflexible and wore out when we think it is all is up to me. Nothing could be further from the truth. We each have a moment to do the thing God has given us. But only a moment. Tomorrow will be someone else’s moment. God told Elijah to train Elisha to succeed him.
“Anoint Elisha ... to succeed you as prophet.” 1 Kings 19:16b NIV
Godly success involves: (a) an awareness that I am only a steward and not an owner of the job that God has given to me. There will come a time when I will not be able to do what I do now. (b) an awareness that my identity is not tied up into what I do FOR God, but in what He has already done for me - we are children of God and that is NOT DEPENDENT on my doing, but HIS! (c) planning for my own succession. Who am I investing my life into to plan for the tomorrows? Do I have an Elisha in my life, someone I am mentoring to carry the load, when I no longer can do so? Important: doing (c) helps me in my awareness of (a) and (b).
Conclusion: There have been many times in my life when I’ve just been so exhausted that I’ve made foolish mistakes - and felt like I just wanted to run away. I’ve invested into relationships (Mary Kay, Dad, Roc, Steve) who can speak truth to me in these down moments. Is your Christian life flexible? Can you bend but not break? Let’s pray.