There are times in life that trials come out of no where. How will you respond? Are you using the peaceful times to prepare for any difficult times that may be ahead?
[Darris McNeely] As we know through the announcement, again, today and certainly with all the news that has been on going this week with the terrible tragedy of hurricane Harvey in Houston hitting there as it did about a week ago, and then just grinding away for a period of time over Houston, and Corpus Christi, and the Gulf Coast of Texas. And with the instant news that we have, we’re eyewitnesses to all of that today in our modern society, and we vicariously grieve and take part in that. And it has been another one of those wallops that the coast of America has taken.
As we all know, I’m not going to take a lot of time to talk about it. But you’ve seen the pictures, and there are so many stories that emerge from something like this to people helping one another, people pitching in regardless of where they’re from, ethnicity, race, whatever things for a period of time, everybody pulls together to help one another out. And there’s a lot of remarkable stories.
One of the favorites of mine, I guess, I saw it, again, this week and you will see it along the Gulf Coast it seems when something hurricane comes in I just… I love to see the Cajun Navy swing into action from Louisiana, and these guys with their fishing boats pulling into to just cruise and help people. And it’s kinds like our own Dunkirk in our American story right now with the citizens putting together a flotilla to rescue other citizens. That’s just one story of what takes place.
Houston will recover. There’s certainly a great deal of damage, but Houston is a very, very wealthy area, it’s the fourth largest city in America and a great deal of wealth in that city, and it is a vibrant can-do city. But there are certain things and certainly, the deaths are tragic, and some things will not be replaced, and people’s lives will be uprooted.
But anyone who’s ever lived through something like that, and I’ve lived through a flooding situation years ago in Eastern Kentucky and know a little bit of what that’s like when floodwaters come in, and then when they recede, and what you have to deal with afterwards, there’s a great deal of physical damage. There’s emotional and psychological damage to all who are involved in that that take place. But with help, with aid, with prayers, with God, people can and do recover.
You know events like this remind us of the fragility of life on this planet. Natural disasters occur around the globe on a regular basis, whether it’s a hurricane or a typhoon as it may be called in Asia and other parts of the world, tornadoes, earthquakes, and resultant tsunamis along coastal regions, volcanoes that will occasionally erupt and loss of life and property. This is a frequent occurrence on the earth, we understand that.
Even on occasion, there will be a meteorite that will come through the atmosphere, and so far at least in our lifetime, those that have happened have crashed in not populated area so the loss of life has not been there, but they are very powerful forces that sometimes intrude from even outer space. So planet Earth is rather fragile in some ways. And the power of nature is awesome.
Jesus Christ has something to say about this that we should know. I’d like for you to turn back to Matthew 7 because just as we here in the Midwest have been spared from something like this while our brethren and fellow citizens have had to deal with the brunt of this particular hurricane. We can pray and certainly help as we can with aid, with help, with money.
But, I think, as we all look at this, there’s anything else that will occur where it is not directly impacting us. There should always be something we learn along the line of what Jesus said here in Matthew 7, beginning in verse 24, at the end of His sermon on the mount where He had given a great deal of detailed basic teaching about Christianity, about being as a disciple, His first major discourse that is recorded in the Gospels.
And in verse 24, He said this at the end to conclude everything about what He had taught, “Therefore whoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them,” all the teaching that He had given, to hear them and to do them, right? Remember that, it’s more than hearing, it’s more than sitting in a classroom, it’s also doing and taking it and applying it “and does them,” He says, “I will liken him to a wise man who built his house on the rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it did not fall, for it was founded on the rock.”
And that rock we can know from other scriptures is certainly our best understanding and interpretation of what that means beyond actually building upon a rock, and the solid foundation is the fact that Jesus Christ is that rock, a rock of salvation and a rock for life.
Verse 26 it says, “But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine who does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand: and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house and it fell. And great was its fall.” If we go to Oceanside in California, or we go to Panama City Beach, we all like to rent for a week a condo on the beach, but we also know that when hurricanes come into those regions, it’s those houses that are on the beach that will also take a brunt of beating because the foundation is on sand. But nonetheless, they have the best views for us to enjoy.
But Jesus was making a very strong point here that is important for His disciples. And we are all His disciples to understand. So I said at the beginning, He said, “You hear my sayings and you do them. You will be a wise man,” He said. What Christ really is saying, if I put it in my own words here, He’s saying, you will be tested, life will test you. Events, circumstances will test you.
And when you’re tested, it is not what you know but what you apply. It is not what you know but what you apply. And that’s my theme today. We will be tested in the classroom of life not on what we know but on what we apply based on what we are taught. And that’s what He was telling His disciples.
We’ve started a new year here at A.B.C., and the students will be put through the Bible as we have in our curriculum. We come to Sabbath services and we have sermons and messages on a regular basis, the Holy Days will have its unique message for us all to consider as we come into the fall Holy Days at A.B.C. We’ve fairly rigorously test the students to see how they are learning and even the effectiveness of our own teaching. And even test results will modify some of our teachings so we get the message across.
It’s not so much that we find out what the score is, but are we being effective teachers? That’s part of the testing as well. But as we tell students on a regular basis and as we all should know in our life, it’s not what we know. At the end of the day, it’s not the scores on the test or where we rank in the class, it’s what we apply.
That will be the ultimate test. Now, Christ’s disciples were an accomplished group of people. They were capable, they were smart, they were self-sufficient. They were fishermen, they were carpenters, they were businessmen, they were reliable. They lived in a culture that taught them to not to rely on their wits, and their strength, and their talents, and their abilities, it was their job.
If there was a job to do, they look to their own resources to get it done. That’s the way they were. They couldn’t run to Walmart, they couldn’t run to Menards, they had to manufacture and fabricate what they needed in the fields, on the boats, in their sheds, and their little shops as they had them, and they had shops, but they had to be very, very self-sufficient. And they had to learn self-reliance.
But Jesus was teaching them not only to build on that with the knowledge of the Kingdom of God and what He was bringing, but He was also teaching them to apply what they had. He called His disciples, and in this case here, He was sitting in an outdoor classroom situation. He trained them for three and a half years, the core 12 as well as others that were with them. And His textbook was Himself, and His teaching, life was His syllabus.
He used the examples all around of the fields and of harvests and others to make cogent illustrations as of deep spiritual principles. And they were all His students, in other words, they were all His disciples at His feet for that period of time, learning. And even Christ would give an occasional pop quiz. He would occasionally test them to see what they were learning. All meant at every instance to teach a very valuable lesson, an insight.
One day, He taught them that they had to rely on Him, and it wasn’t their self-reliance, it wasn’t their skills with tools and with navigation on the sea, or their abilities to produce something that was going to get the job done, He was teaching them something else. He was teaching them that being a disciple was not about what you knew but what you applied.
Let’s turn over to Mark 6. And let’s look at an incident… actually, we’re going to look at two incidents here that took place in Christ’s ministry in Mark 6. It is, first of all, beginning in verse 30, the feeding of 5,000 people in a miraculous occurrence.
Now, this is an interesting miracle and story from the Gospel accounts. It is a literal feeding, a potluck meal, if you will, of Christ with His disciples. But it is the only miracle apart from the resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the only miracle that is found in all four of the Gospels, the only one. So you can find a parallel account in Luke, and in Matthew, and in John.
But here in Mark 6, we’ll read it here, and each one of those other episodes will… our versions we’ll add them just a nuance here in a dimension there to the story. But the essence of it is here. I read it from Mark’s account because Mark includes something that happened right afterwards that ties into this as Jesus was teaching His disciples.
Let’s begin in verse 30. “The apostles gathered to Jesus and they told Him all the things, both what they had done and what they had taught.” On occasion, He would had sent them out and delegated them to go out. “And He said to them, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’ For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.” This is on the northern shore of Galilee in the area of Bethsaida, the city there. “And so they departed to a desert place in the boat by themselves.”
“But the multitude saw them departing, and many knew Him and they ran there on foot from all the cities. They arrived before them and they came together to Him.” Drawing in a large number of people. “And Jesus, came out, He saw a great multitude and He was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd.”
“And so He began to teach them many things.” That’s not recorded in detail, like, we have back in Matthew 5, 6, and 7 what He went through but we can well imagine that He built on that and perhaps a repetition in some ways, and other matters, but He began to teach them. This was an outdoor classroom, a teaching situation of Christ going through parts of the word, the law and as He was delivering it to them. “And the day was far spent,” the day went on.
And, you know, as you know, as certainly our students learn when they come in to A.B.C., you spend the day sitting, and teaching, and learning, that is tiresome. I do not know if I could sit for seven hours listening as we put A.B.C. students through. They do it. It’s remarkable that they endure that. I mean, you know, it’s hard enough for us to sit through an hours sermon once a week in services, right? And so I have to always keep watching that clock, it’s amazing. We would position this clock, right? They’re a big bright white, black, numeral clock in this hall back there, and I guess we’re supposed to pay attention to that.
Teaching can be challenging and difficult. Listening, learning is taxing. And He said to them after “the day was spent, His disciples came to Him,” verse 35, “and he said, ‘This is a deserted place, and it’s already late in the day. Send them away, the other multitudes that they may go to the surrounding country and villages and buy bread for they have nothing to eat.’” And there weren’t any fast-food drive-ins real close by. “And He answered, and He said to them, ‘You give them something to eat. You provide it. You do the job.’”
They’ve come, they’re part of what we are doing and they’ve come because of us, “And they said to Him, ‘Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread…’” that was a large amount of bread to buy, “’and give them something to eat?’ But He said, ‘How many loaves do you have? Go and see.’” So they had to dip into their own supplies and kind of take a look and see, and they found. And they came back and said, “Five and two fish.” Five loaves and two fish, not very much. Barely enough for even 12 of them, 13 of them, but certainly not for all that was going to be found there. That’s the resources that they had.
Now, this is a lesson for us beyond just food, and fish, and bread. This is a lesson as to what we have. Christ was teaching them something. He was saying, “You go take care of this. Look to your resources, you’re capable reliant men.” They weren’t that far from the sea of Galilee, some of them could have gone out, chartered a boat, and brought in a haul of fish perhaps. Then at the time, “You look to it. You take care of it. What do you have? What’s in your cupboards?” And there wasn’t much.
And so “He commanded them” in verse 39, “make them sit down in groups on the grass… green grass. So they sat down in ranks, in hundreds and in fifties.” This is a large amount. Now it is marked here as 5,000. Some commentators say that the actual numbers that 5,000 represents only the men. And the children and women that could have been as many as 10,000. This is what some commentators say but the Scripture tells us 5,000 and we’ll just stick with that. And that’s obviously quite a large potluck supper to deal with.
And they sat down, in verse 41, “When He had taken the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples who sat before them; and the two fish He divided them all.” And so He sent this out, and when you look at the other accounts, the disciples were the ones who came then to Jesus and took the baskets of food that began to multiply and we’re not given the full account of what amazement they must have had as they saw all this take place, but they had to then take that and deliver it.
They came to Christ, they received it, and then they delivered it, and distributed it that afternoon to the thousands of people who were gathered there. They didn’t have it themselves. They had to go to Christ to get it. He had the bread. Begin to make the connection spiritually.
Christ, in John 6, the other parallel account of this in John’s account, He goes on to give them a very strong message about Him being the bread of life, the true bread that came down from heaven. And He made it a very strong object lesson, one of the most profound of all the Gospel teachings. They had to go to Him to get it because He was the bread of life. He was not only feeding these thousands physically but He had already fed them spiritually.
When you, kind of, break down the message that Jesus did and what He did among the villages of the Galilee, and Judea, and His ministry, He essentially walked into a village, preached the gospel and He taught them. And occasionally, He even fed people and He also healed them. You’ll find those three elements being the key matters of what He did in His ministry. He fed them, He taught them, and He healed them. He taught them truth. He taught them about the Kingdom of God. He taught them who He was. He taught them about the Father, He taught them many things, and He fed them.
And when He fed them, it wasn’t just to… He certainly had compassion upon them, but He was also always making a much, much stronger spiritual point from this as He gave it. Verse 42 tells us that “They were all filled. And they took up the twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish. And those had it eaten the loaves were about five thousand people.” The disciples had found that their resources were small, and they had to rely on Christ to provide the food to feed them.
There’s a very important spiritual lesson for us. In the Church today, as Christ’s disciples carrying on His work and what we have to do, we look to our resources at times, you know, they’re pretty meager, pretty meager. We’re a small church, we can talk about that all we want but the fact is we are a small church. We look and look at our budget sheet and it’s balanced, and it’s handled very, very well, very capably. There need not be any concern that of waste and of profligacy, and the handling of the resources, the tithes and offerings they are provided for the operation of the United Church of God.
But, you know, $18 million is roughly the budget and few million in reserve. And that’s good, and we’re grateful for that, but again our resources are meager. I mean, J.J. Watts just raised million dollars plus just like that with his Twitter account, okay? President Trump gave $1 million out of his own pocket, didn’t do a dent, didn’t dent it at all, and that’s great, both to be commended, and any others as well.
We look at ourselves, we’re small and we have meager resources. We plan, we create strategic plans, do our work. And at the end of it, in one sense, by comparison, we’ve got five loaves and two fishes. We too often look at what we don’t have rather than what we do have. The times in some of our discussions, we can only see a half-empty glass rather than a glass that’s half full or more.
We should be able to see that the fields are ripe for harvest and gear up and go after it. But if we look at this particular teaching, we’ve only got five and two. We’re going to have to go to Christ to see it multiplied as only He can multiply it. That’s one of the big lessons that I take away from this particular story. There are many, many more. As I said, John 6 and His teaching about Himself being the bread of life is profound. And just looking at how they had… the disciples had to go to Christ.
You know, the best strategic plan I’ve read in recent years to doing the work of God, that’s right here. This is the best strategic plan I’ve read. I’ve read others, but this is the best. This is the best. And that’s where we’re going to find the mind of God, the will of Christ, the head of the Church as we look to that. And it’s an important lesson to remember not only for us in the United Church of God as we seek to do our work in our mission as disciples, but also even as we look to God in our own personal lives. Because after all, this sermon this afternoon is not so much about the larger entity of the United Church of God, but it’s about you and I. Because it’s not what we know, it’s what we apply. It’s not what we know, it’s what we apply.
Let’s go on in the story here, verse 45. This is why I chose Mark to read this story from because of what happens here after afterwards as Mark records it, “Immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent them away, He departed to the mountain to pray.” So they were out in a boat a ways offshore. “And when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land.”
If you’ve ever been to Galilee, you can know that there on the Sea of Galilee, it’s a large inland body of water. But there’s something about the Sea of Galilee because situated just below a plateau and a set of mountains, and a long range that comes in from the Mediterranean ocean, and at times, some wind’s coming off the Mediterranean and swoop down through the passes of the mountains bordering the western edge of the sea of Galilee and can create instantaneously a storm on that very small inland body of water, and that’s what happened here.
That a storm came up in that evening in the middle… while they were alone, and “He saw them straining,” in verse 48, “and rowing, for the wind was against them. And it was about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out.” They didn’t really… there was confusion.
The image you could come away with the disciples in this boat on a storm-tossed body of water at this moment was they couldn’t even fully recognize Christ as He was walking toward them thinking that it might be “a ghost and they cried out… they saw Him walking and they supposed it was a ghost,” in verse 50, “for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and He said to them, ‘Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.’”
And so He identified Himself then they heard His voice. And it seems from the account that it was at the tone of His voice, and the sound of His voice that they recognized who He was. “He then went up into the boat to them, and the wind ceased. And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled.”
Now, what is being said in verse 51, “They were greatly amazed beyond measure, and they marveled.” They didn’t fully understand initially even who He was that it was He instead of a… not a ghost, they thought it was a ghost not Christ, then they recognized it was Him. And then when He got up into the boat with them, the waters calmed and the rocking of the boat stopped and they felt safety.
But they didn’t know what was going on, they didn’t know what had happened. They couldn’t even believe that He had actually been walking on water. It’s a picture of confusion, it’s a picture of fear, amazement, and marveling as they must have been chattering among themselves, talking about it, trying to figure it out what had happened.
And what would Mark concludes with here, “They had not understood about the loaves,” it wasn’t the miracle on the water… the miracle first of Christ walking on the water, and then when He got into the boat that they the storm abated, but the bigger lesson was back early a few hours the previous day, when He had performed a miracle for 5,000 people with fishes and bread, they had not understood. Of course, remembering from John’s account, many disciples couldn’t take the strong message that Christ was giving about His body and His life through the bread, and they left Him. But these immediate disciples didn’t understand.
And it says, “because their heart was hardened.” A hardened heart, Mark is the only one who records it this way. They couldn’t understand how Christ was doing His work, how He was and all of His teaching. They had probably nodded in agreement during the day as He taught, during that period of time on the grassy slopes, and probably understood mechanically and academically.
But just a few hours later when their faith was tested, when their ability to even see who He was and what the power that He had was being tested, they hadn’t applied all of His teaching, and they had still a hardened heart. And we know from the rest of the Gospels that it would take the crucifixion, the death of Christ, and then even the resurrection and for at least one. Thomas, he had to handle Christ to believe that it was Him. And then their hearts were softened.
There were more episodes for them to go through to get to that point. But this is an incredible sequence of events to teach us something about the work that Jesus Christ is doing even today among His disciples. And we do not, brethren, want to find ourselves among those whose hearts are hardened and lacking in understanding, not really appreciating and understanding how Christ works. And so the lesson is there for us to think about.
Here, they were with the storms raging about them, and they lacked faith. They had knowledge, but they had not applied it all. They had not fully done what Jesus had even said earlier in Matthew 7 where they had heard, they had not completely done everything. In the afternoon, when the potluck meal was going on, things were calm, there was peace. In the middle of the night, when it was dark and the storm came up those rough seas.
When there’s a time of calm and time of peace, that’s when we should be learning, and that’s when we should be preparing and building our house, our spiritual house on a rock so that when the floods come, the rains come, we endure and we stand. That was a lesson yet for them to learn. And it is a lesson that they did learn because a disciple will learn that lesson. They will be taught.
We ask that an announcement be made here just to inform all of you about our son, Ryan because so many of you have asked about him over the recent weeks and it dawned on me. I better make a general announcement about it and certainly because we had had it announced the day that it first happened about seven, eight weeks ago and texted Mr. Myers and had him announce it here.
And so we appreciate that very much, and Ryan and Stephanie do as well. Ryan gave a sermonette in Indianapolis about two weeks after the initial seizure that he had. And he used the quote from the heavyweight boxer, Mike Tyson. Mike Tyson is supposed to have said, at some time that, “Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit.” “Everybody’s got a plan until they get hit.” And, of course, he got hit on a Sabbath morning a few weeks ago. And it got… bended their life as things like that will do. It’s a new normal. And they’ve learned a lot and will continue to learn a lot.
We all have plans and sometimes we get hit and it’s how we react after we get hit. When the rains come and the floods come, that’s then the test for us. It’s not how much we know, it’s how much we’ve applied. That’s what it comes down to, and every one of our lives. And that’s what Jesus is telling us. That’s a big, big lesson. As you know in the Church of God, in the United Church of God in recent weeks and months, a few people have been hit. A few people have been hit hard, and they got back up.
Everybody had a plan until that instant when something happens. And that’s the nature of things. That’s the nature of life. It’s a hurricane of life. It’s a tsunami that can suddenly arise out of nowhere and swamp us and change everything, and suddenly, you’re into a new chapter and in your life.
Now none of us, brethren, by ourselves will be able to stand through any trial we hit by ourselves. When we hit the storm-tossed seas, we will only be able to stand and endure and be found standing still because of the comfort, and the strength, and the life of Jesus Christ in us. This is what the lesson of the not only these scriptures but many of many others show us, because Jesus Christ is the one who comforts and encourages, and goes alongside, and is our advocate.
And He is the one whose life is in us if we are in the faith. He’s the one who walks on water, not His disciples. And He’s the one who gets in the boat with us and calms the seas in the waters, and He’s the bread of life that satisfies. And that is a lesson that we will all learn. We will all learn that in this church. By God’s mercy, He will see that we all learn it. So that when a trial hits, we will learn to depend on and apply what we know from the word of God.
In John 14, Jesus promised this, John 14, this is not just a scripture for the night of the Passover, this is a scripture, brethren, for every day of the year, for every day of our life. John 14:15 John 14:15If you love me, keep my commandments.
American King James Version×, Jesus told His disciples this promise. John 14:15 John 14:15If you love me, keep my commandments.
American King James Version×, “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father…” you must know the commandments, but we must also keep the commandments. We hear the teaching, we keep it.
“I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever — the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you.” Now that comfort, that Helper if, in your margin, you’ll see the word… it’s a Greek word Parakletos . When I was growing up in Missouri, I learned it as Pa-rak-le-tos , that flat Midwestern pronunciation, but I think Parakletos is probably closer to the Greek but it may not be perfect even at that.
But it says a comforter. It’s one of the most interesting words in the New Testament in the way that it is used. In 1 John 2:1 1 John 2:1My little children, these things write I to you, that you sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:
American King James Version×where it says that Christ is our Advocate, it’s the same word for Advocate as Parakletos . Yes, it’s one who goes alongside. It is one who comforts and encourages but it’s more than that, it is the Holy Spirit. And if you look at what He says here on verse 17, he calls it “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”
Very deep profound teaching as Jesus says that, “You’ll not be left orphans, I will come to you,” just as He came to the disciples on the Sea of Galilee when they thought they were going to drown and… capsize and drown, He came to them and He got into the boat with them to continue the teaching and the feeding that He had have been doing all along. He was their Parakletos that night.
He’s our Parakletos in our nights and our times of despair, hopelessness, and fear. When we get hit, when someone close to us gets hit, Christ is our Parakletos . He is the one who encourages in comforts and helps us to stand and not fall. He is the one who helps us to get up off the mat and face it again and move forward. It’s an interesting word when you study into it as to how it is used in the Greek. It’s a word that is used to send and to rally people with courage and to send them forward, whether it’s into battle and in some of the Greek uses of ancient classical literature, but to do so with courage, fearlessly, resolve, that’s what it means, that’s how it is used.
And when it is used here to describe the work of the Spirit and the work of the Living Christ in us, it’s a powerful understanding that helps us understand what is available to us when we get hit. When the hurricanes of life come our way, He was giving the disciples here teaching and works to fight and to engage, to anchor them into the rock, and to His life, His life within them so that when the floods come, the rains fall, and when we would might humanly reach the breaking point, the Parakletos keeps us from breaking. Christ in us will help.
He not only intercedes for the Father, it’s more than just a an advocacy role that we might imagine standing before the bar before the throne advocating. It’s more than that. It’s that and more. It is also Christ in us, our hope, it is Christ in us then proves as Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 13:5 2 Corinthians 13:5Examine yourselves, whether you be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know you not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you be reprobates?
American King James Version×, “…that if He is in us, we’re not disqualified.” Again, another scripture that is not just for Passover but for all year to know that Christ is in us: helping, encouraging, and leading us.
You know, I… Debbie and I have just really been… the whole episode is not only with my… sorry, our son’s life but certainly for us. This has, you know, impacted us as well. But I will tell you one thing that has really been encouraging to see, and it’s been a lesson for us with what just happened with our son. It has taught us a great deal about empathy. Empathy.
When people say, “How’s your son? How’s Ryan?” those who know him. They make a call and leave a message on the answering machine or send a note or, “How’s your son?” We’ve had a few calls, we’ve had, you know, many, many people ask. I take the time to stop and turn full-face and say, “He’s fine,” give them a report, but I say, “Thank you for asking. Thank you for asking.” And it’s been a lesson for us.
Empathy is very important thing for us all to cultivate. And, you know, there’s some things that Facebook are good for but, you know, and some of the other trials that have hit people in recent days I’ve taken to pen and paper. I’ve taken to just trying to express a, you know, courage, encouragement, and help the people in pen and paper rather than just… it’s good and it’s easy just to hit “Like” or to put an emoji up or whatever, and it’s all fine and good but, you know, to pick up the phone, to write a handwritten note, to stop, to take the time to say, “How are you? How’s your son? How’s your mother? How’s your dad?” whatever it might be. It’s been a big lesson for us.
And that shows, has taught me along with so many other episodes that I’ve been involved with through the years in the ministry about the work of God’s Spirit in us, this Parakletos work that is described here in John 14 where we are not left as orphans, where we have that help of God in us through His Son.
Over the years, I’ve picked up the phone and on the other end was the news of a tragic car accident that killed someone’s grandson. Or news that they had just received of the murder of their son. Or, in another case, a murder-suicide, and the widowed mother was just distraught. I remember one time just having to keep the phone to my ear, the cell phone, and drive 40 miles to get to her house but kept her on the line while I was driving just because she was in such despair.
And you get people’s reports and news about those matters, those things that they get the phone call from the doctor that they dread, or another tragedy, news of a divorce. And what I have seen over the years is the work of God’s Spirit and people to help them stand through those, and I’ve learned a lot from that. And still do as we all deal with the issues of our own life.
I have been eyewitness to, in many cases as you have as well, the people of God using the Spirit of God to absorb the pain, the hurt, the shock, and the grief, and just keep standing, and to keep moving forward without despair in faith because of the work of God’s Spirit within them. Those are reactions of faith. People acknowledging that God is with them or that their loved one is in God’s hands. And that undiminished faith is something we should always respect and seek to nurture and to encourage among ourselves. And as we comfort and ourselves act as a friends and family and comforters of each other and in our times of our time of trial, that is God’s Spirit working it all together.
I’ve had my faith strengthened by seeing members trusting in God to heal, to hold them in His grace, to see them step up in faith and trust, and realize that their lives and their hands are in that of God, and it’s a full proof of the power of the Parakletos of Christ, our advocate, working mightily in their lives. And it will continue to happen as we take the time to use the time of peace, the quiet times when the rains aren’t coming down to prepare because that’s exactly what will happen in these moments.
You know, when the floods come, when the lights go out if you don’t have the batteries in the flashlight, it’s a little bit late, or the candles in the drawer, and it’s too late to get flood insurance when the flood comes, isn’t it? There are some things we can prepare for and should, there are some things we cannot prepare for. We know that, too. There will be moments that are going to come that will hit us, and we will have to be prepared. And it’s in the times of peace that we should be preparing, and not as Vic Kubik was saying this morning to us, “Getting involved in mischief during times of peace.” I like that.
When it’s times of peace, we should be preparing for the times that will come not creating mischief in our own lives or maybe in the lives of others. We should be learning because we’re going to have to apply it all. The only way that you and I are going to survive a hurricane of life is going to be through the strength, and the courage, and the resolve, and the resilience, and the comfort help to the power of the risen Christ living, His life in us.
If we’re living with the faith of the Son of God in us, then we will endure, and we will stand, and we will make it. And we will take the hits and we will adapt. And we’ll be able to deal with it all. And no matter what it is, when it comes, it’s coming to terms with that reality. It is the most important thing that any of us can do.
A hurricane Harvey is an opportunity to do exactly that. It reminds us that what we like to call normal life is fragile and must someday break apart. And if we’re wise, we’ll take advantage of the smaller passing storms to think seriously about the greater storms coming for us all. So that when they hit and they take us into the storm-tossed waters of life, we will have been prepared, we will have been ready, we will have been wise as Christ said His disciples would be.
Christ has called us all and He’s put us into the classroom of discipleship, and He’s teaching us every day of our walk with Him in our life today. It’s not what we know, is what we apply.