12-27-15 NEVER GIVE UP


December 27, 2015

          2015 is quickly drawing to a close.  Most, if not all, of us are worn out after the holidays.  We have put in a year of working at our jobs or raising a family - or both - ending with the hustle and bustle of Christmas.  Winter is upon us, and we often wonder if perhaps the bears have the right idea by hibernating until Springtime.  Perhaps you have had to face some extra challenges this past year as well.  Maybe the loss of a family member or close friend.  Or a doctor's diagnosis that was less than encouraging.  A job change...  A move...  We as a church have had to face some challenges also:  water damage this past Spring, a new pastor starting in July (especially challenging for me!), and now the demolition of the parsonage.  Life can indeed seem overwhelming at times.  And yet the Bible encourages us to never give up.

          There is a quote going around that says, "God only gives us as much as we can handle.  I just wish He didn't think I could handle so much!"  I've seen many variations on this, such as "God doesn't give us what we can handle.  He helps us handle what we are given."  And "If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it."  All of these are well and good, but often times it takes more than a nice platitude to bring us through. 

          There are three primary ways that the Lord uses to help us through the rough patches.  First, we need to talk to Him.  I didn't use the word 'prayer', even though that is what it is, because sometimes the word 'prayer' evokes images of the mindless repetition of words that we think God wants to hear.  Thank you Lord, we praise Your name, bless my family, etc...  But I mean really talk to God.  Tell Him exactly how you feel.  He already knows anyway!  So pour your heart out to Him.  He promises to listen.  He will understand.  Remember the Bible says, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:15-16)  Write these verses down, and keep them somewhere you will see them often.  Which brings us to number two...

          Read God's Word.  We read text messages and emails all day.  The Bible is like one giant text message!  You maybe can't read it all at once, but God has a way of putting just what you need in front of you, if you will just pick it up and open it.  Use a highlighter and mark verses that jump out at you - that you know in your heart God is speaking to you through.  And if you are so attached to your phone, ipad or computer that reading a book just doesn't cut it anymore, there are plenty of good Bible apps and websites where you can find just the chapter and verse that you need to get you through any situation that you might be facing.  I use biblehub.com all the time when preparing a sermon, prayer, or order of worship.  Looking for a particular verse but can't remember where it is in the Bible?  Type in a few words of it, and 'boom' there it is!  And there are many other study tools on this site also.  But it doesn't matter how you read the Bible, or what version you choose, just read it!

          And finally, number three.  Talk to another person.  Someone you trust, and you know cares about you.  Don't shut yourself off from people.  We as a church are a family.  We aren't perfect, we make mistakes, and sometimes we even hurt each other.  But as Christians we are obligated to both forgive and to love one another.  Building a wall around yourself doesn't keep hurt out, it only keeps sadness in.  The Bible says we are to "encourage one another and build each other up" (1 Thessalonians 5:11).   One of satan's greatest tools has always been to divide and conquer.  But the Lord made us in such a way that we need each other.  None of us was ever meant to get through life alone.  What did the Lord say to Adam in the Garden of Eden? "It is not good for the man to be alone."  (Genesis 2:18)  Man already had all of the animals to keep him company.  But he needed human companionship.  Even me, with my 7 cats, a dog, and a bird still need other people!  This is why we have family, we have friends, - and we have church!  Hebrews 10:25 says, "And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."  "But it's the pastor's job to counsel the church members", you say.  Yes, it is, and I am always more than willing to help in any way that I can.  But that doesn't mean you can't also reach out to a family member who is hurting, or a co-worker who is struggling, or a friend at school who is being bullied. 

          So as we wrap up 2015, let's heal old wounds, tie up loose ends, and resolve to make 2016 the year that we stop going down roads that lead nowhere, or worse.  It is time to let the Holy Spirit take the reins and lead us to higher ground, with Jesus ever standing by our side!