Monday, August 07, 2006
The Rev. Dr. Chris Heckaman, senior pastor at our church, had what I thought was one of his best sermons ever this past Sunday. Probably a lot because of where I am in my life right now, it really impacted me, helping me to find joy in places where I never saw it before. In fact, a prime opportunity for that came up today when the Christian school where I serve on the board received what would be considered some disappointing news. While it was tough for my human side, I rejoiced knowing that God is at work and, without telling you all the details, knowing that good things will come from the situation we learned of today.

Here is Chris's sermon. I hope that it formats okay...

“Consider it all joy, when (not if) you encounter various trials, knowing…that the testing of your faith produces.”

I saw a National Geographic program recently on roller coasters, and specifically the engineering that helps make coasters so thrilling and exciting. How many people love riding them? How many not? Me neither, I’d rather watch a television special on them.

Any guesses though on what makes them so much fun?
Speed? Any takers? How many go for height?
Actually, it’s how well they keep you off balance…according to the engineers…when the ride is full of surprise.
The engineers build in twists and turns to do just that, to keep you off balance, surprised, guessing.
Have you ever noticed though, no matter how wild the ride, you always make it through to the end?
What a great metaphor for life…twists, turns, to keep us off balance, yet always on track to make it home.
Oh, if we could just live with an attitude of welcomeness, an attitude that says “Bring It On!”

“Consider it all joy, when (not if) you encounter…

The word for encounter is also the same word in the original language found in Luke 10:30, when Jesus describes someone who “fell among (faced, encountered) a group of bandits and robbers (thieves, thugs), who then stripped him of his clothes and money, beat him up, to leave him half dead along the side of the road.”

There is a group of thugs that is waiting for you every day when you leave your house.

Challenges that are waiting to test you….
Challenges that will try to strip you of your sense of protection…
Challenges that will threaten your resources…
Making you feel like they want to steal them or take them away.
To beat you up and hurt you…only to leave you half dead.

And you can’t get rid of them.
They will try to intimidate you, knock you off balance, try to knock you off your feet…
To take you out of your game as a follower of Christ.
And sorry, more often than not, they aren’t going anywhere, lurking somewhere in the vicinity, waiting for
their most opportune moment, when you and I are least expecting it.

And here we’re called to “consider it all joy.”

Now, just how are we supposed to do that????

#1, they will not hurt us because they can’t hurt us…they’re not allowed! God won’t let them. And
#2, no matter their real intent (very well could be our total annihilation), God only means them for good.

I Corinthians 3:11-15
11No one can lay any other foundation than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. 12Now anyone who builds on that foundation may use gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. 13But there is going to come a time of testing at the judgment day to see what kind of work each builder has done. Everyone’s work will be put through the fire to see whether or not it keeps its value. 14If the work survives the fire, that builder will receive a reward. 15But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builders themselves will be saved, but like someone escaping through a wall of flames.”

“The testing of your faith,” is actually a very good thing.
(Everyone repeat after me) Thugs have their benefits.

#1 Reason: The testing of our faith (i.e. our joy thugs) help reveal WHAT we are made of.

13But there is going to come a time of testing at the judgment day to see what kind of work each builder has done.

God sees it as part of His job to do just that.
And I don’t think He is going to give it up anytime too soon.
God will test us and allow things into our life that are specifically designed to do just that.

So He can see what we are made of?
Does He not know?
Does that mean He isn’t omniscient? All-knowing?
He doesn’t need to know. He already does.

Who needs to know?
We do.

Who is the testing of our faith really for? Us.

Trials have a way of revealing that which is not sugar and spice and everything nice.
The first words out of our mouth, the first thoughts of our mind (are they negative or positive?),
How we react on the fly…
All have a way of revealing for our benefit what work God has already done in our life and what He has yet
to do.

We might react better than we once did. And we can therefore celebrate…a little to a lot.
Work remains to be done in all of us though. It’s what Wesley and the Bible call sanctification.

Psalm 139…O LORD, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my every thought when far away. You chart the path ahead of me and tell me where to stop and rest. Every moment you know where I am. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD. Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

In more historic times when you would want to (quote-unquote) “test the metal of something,” you would take a bite out of it…a coin for example. The value of a coin in earlier periods of history was in direct proportion to the size of the coin and its substance. A large gold coin was more valuable than a small silver coin for instance. Sometimes coins got corroded, or coated, or were made as forgeries, and the only way of testing it, to see what it was made of was to take a bite out of it, to cut into it.

Next time something seems like it wants to take a bite out of you, stop for a moment, check yourself, realize what is really happening…i.e. the real opportunity that is before you.

The Scripture passage for today says there will one day be a great Judgment Day, where everything will be laid bare for all of the eyes of the world to see. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take care of some if not most of it beforehand? We can. Judgment Day, in other versions referred to here as “The Day of the Lord,” a day specifically set aside for the Lord, for the Lord to do His business. It can be any day we want it to be, if we approach each day with faith.

Reason #1: The testing of our faith (i.e. our joy thugs) reveal WHAT we are made of so we can seek more and more of Christ, the only TRUE FOUNDATION.

Reason #2: The testing of our faith (i.e. our thugs for joy) reveals whether or not what we’ve built our life on what will LAST…we get to see how well it holds up under stress…so we can seek more and more of Christ, the only LASTING FOUNDATION.

13bEveryone’s work will be put through the fire to see whether or not it keeps its value.

Say you wanted to build a new home, Mr. Hoying and Hoying Builders or Shreves Construction stops by and says, “Hey, we found this great new material, you can actually pick it up in the grocery store, its called “Stay-Puff,” “Stay-Puff Marshmallows.” How confident do you think you’d feel? And yet, what do oh so many people build their lives upon today?

For young families pick your favorite activity…soccer, baseball, music, dance, gymnastics. What happens when they don’t/can’t/never were meant to grow up as the next Pele, A-Rod, Pavarotti, Baryshnikov, or Comaneci? Do they know what to reach for then?

Others choose to most highly value career and hard work. What do you do when the company you’ve worked for all these years says it doesn’t want you anymore, or the world market for your product dries up, or the Chinese can make it better, or your state of health prevents you from working let alone working hard. What do you reach for then?

There is only one true foundation; only One that’s promised and proven to last. Jesus the Christ. Thee Eternal One. Thee Alpha as well as thee Omega. Almighty God is He.

The ancients used a variety of building materials… gold, silver, jewels for ancient temples, shrines, and upper class homes… wood, hay, or straw for the middle and otherwise. If the fire is hot enough, all of the aforementioned can be destroyed. Everything will perish that is less than Him. One day, on the Day of the Lord, you see, there will be a fire, that will be able to test it all.

What are the gold, silver, and jewels that we are putting our false hopes in? Things that look well-made, durable, refined, but in Thee End, will not stand the test?

If we seek the One who keeps His value, we will find the One who keeps ours.

John 16:33… These are Jesus’ words…I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world."

Reason #2: The testing of our faith (i.e. our thugs for joy) reveals whether or not what we’ve built our life on what will LAST…we get to see how well it holds up under stress…so we can seek more and more of Christ, the only LASTING FOUNDATION.

Reason #3: The testing of our faith (i.e. our joy thugs) will reveal what if anything will be LEFT…in the end when our life is done…if, in the end, God will think there is anything worth holding onto…

14If the work survives the fire, that builder will receive a reward. 15But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builders themselves will be saved, but like someone escaping through a wall of flames.”

Repeat reason #3…
…so we can seek more and more of Christ, the ONLY TRUE REWARD.

Fire, in the Scriptures, is symbolic of one of two different things. God’s desire to either:
1.) Purify – when there is still enough good for Him to work with (Matthew 3:11);
2.) Consume – when there is not (Matthew 3:12).

When there is still something good for Him to work with, isn’t it your desire to be made more pure?
When there isn’t, isn’t it your desire to remove or take away altogether?
…Then what are we afraid of?

Loss can sometimes actually be liberating, can it not? “Suffering loss” isn’t always a bad thing.
The letting go can be tough, but once some things are gone, some things are gone, rejoice!
Like a bad headache…or a pain in the…
The letting go of responsibility, feeling burdened…

When we build our life on Christ, we inherit even more of Christ.
Our joy thugs help us see, help remind, help clarify, what really is worth our all… what will be our reward.

I Corinthians 13:12…For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.

Revelation 21:5-7…And the one sitting on the throne said, "Look, I am making all things new!" And then he said to me, "Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true." And he also said, "It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega--the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life without charge! All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.

Go ahead, pass through fire’s test…It’s for your joy…
See what’s left...And then seek more and more of Christ.

In the book “Joy Hard Won,” a paraplegic describes the struggle of every morning…
Talking amongst some of her friends, one of them said, “You always look so together, so happy in your wheelchair. I wish that I had your joy!" Several women standing around nodded. "How do you do it?" she asked. "I don’t do it," I said. "In fact, may I tell you honestly how I woke up this morning?" "This is an average day," I breathed deeply. "After my husband, Ken, leaves for work at 6:00 A.M., I’m alone until I hear the front door open at 7:00 A.M. That’s when a friend arrives to get me up. "While I listen to her make coffee, I pray, ’Oh, Lord, my friend will soon give me a bath, get me dressed, sit me up in my chair, brush my hair and teeth, and send me out the door. I don’t have the strength to face this routine one more time. I have no resources. I don’t have a smile to take into the day. But you do. May I have yours? God, I need you desperately.’" "So, what happens when your friend comes through the bedroom door?" one of them asked. "I turn my head toward her and give her a smile sent straight from heaven. It’s not mine. It’s God’s. And so," I said, gesturing to my paralyzed legs, "whatever joy you see today was hard won this morning."

Just for a moment try to think about the group of thugs that must meet her each and every day.
And our excuse is…
Some days, joy is hard won, or not won at all.

  posted at 9:44 PM  


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Todd M


An ordinary guy. A wife I love very much. A great son. Wonderful friends. A metal roofing business and a sales training business. A loving church family. A few trade associations. A Christian school. And a four-pound poodle. Just trying to follow God and see where He leads.

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