by Nathanael Wilson
(Pastor Neil & Donna’s son)
Have you noticed how our popular culture exudes the idea that all one needs is superior self-reliance to make it in life? As if positive thinking, will power, and a little luck can solve all your problems. I think we all have experiences that prove otherwise.
Sadly, even popular Christian culture has taken scripture out of context to tell the world that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” In the full context of scripture that passage loses its shine as a rallying call for the self-empowered and shares a much different message of where relief and strength comes from.
“How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be CONTENT with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty.” Philippians 4:10-14.
How different is that message when in its full glory…fundamentally different I think!
Has anyone else uttered the phrase “I don’t have time for this”? We are busy, we find ways to fill every minute of our lives and leave no room for surprises. One of those surprises for me was that I had surgery to remove my gallbladder in September. That surgery really stressed me out! I was a little anxious about the surgery naturally, but my biggest concern was the recovery. I have 4 active kids and I work in the hands on home renovation industry. A large part of my job includes heavy lifting and here I was in the position of not even being allowed to lift my 9 month old son! The surgery was absolutely needed, but it also made me into one of my biggest fears…a burden on those around me. My family had to pick up most of my tasks around the house while some just went undone. There’s nothing like watching your 8 year old drag bags of trash out of the house to make you feel bad. Once I recovered enough to return to work my coworker still had to do 80% of the lifting and moving that I would have normally done. No matter what anyone told me, I was feeling pretty useless, but I believe God had a purpose for sitting me on my butt and slowing my mind.
Philippians 4:6 says “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.”
I was doing a poor job in the “do not worry” department! Useless as I was feeling, worrying wasn’t going to get me back on my feet any faster. Corrie Ten Boom said it perfectly “worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” I had lost track of the fact that it is ok to let other people help me out when I’m not capable, but as usual God always finds ways to remind me!
One of the major roles that I have as a deacon at my home church of Markle Church of Christ is serving communion to shut-ins and members currently living in care facilities. Truthfully it can sometimes just be a blip in a busy Sunday schedule, but often it is the humbling experience that pulls my focus in line.
That specific morning was busy, it was Easter…2 full services with my wife Veronica singing in 1 and myself playing guitar in the other. After getting the girls and myself to the church and getting through practice I grabbed the communion kit and headed out the door to Markle Healthcare. I found the first church member by the nurse’s station and knelt down next to her wheelchair. I told her who I was and that I was there to serve her, as I proceeded to get the cup of wafers I could tell she was struggling to tell me something and she motioned with her head down to her hands…her hands that were curled up and locked into unusable fist from what I can only imagine was at the least very painful arthritis. I could feel her shame as she looked at me as I told her not to worry. I physically served her placing the wafer on her lips and pouring the small cup of juice into her mouth. A large tear ran down her cheek as she placed her hands on my cheeks and mouth thank you to me…I felt like a complete fool for having minutes before been concerned about schedules and what guitar parts I needed to play. She and I had church right there in the midst of a busy nursing home and there is no doubt that GOD was there as we shared a moment of clarity.
A lack of clarity with an abundance of worry is not a new issue or a problem solely my own. A quick look in at Numbers 21:4-9 shows us that it is a problem that crosses many generations:
4 Then the people of Israel set out from Mount Hor, taking the road to the Red Sea to go around the land of Edom. But the people grew impatient with the long journey, 5 and they began to speak against God and Moses. “Why have you brought us out of Egypt to die here in the wilderness?” they complained. “There is nothing to eat here and nothing to drink. And we hate this horrible manna!”
Does that sort of complaining and distrust sound familiar to anyone else? This could have easily been coming from the backseat of our Suburban on the drive up to Charlevoix, but variations of this have come out of my own mouth as well. “For I have learned to be content” Paul wrote in the letter to the Philippians. A place or state of satisfaction is how content is defined. Have we really fallen into Paul’s kind of contentment in our lives? I know I haven’t! My worry to prayer ratio gets out of whack. When life isn’t going as planned everyone looks for an escape or a scapegoat, but God has a different plan for us as Christians!
“Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.” Psalms 515:22 NLT
Take a moment to wrap your mind around that scripture and Corrie Ten Book’s quote “Any concern too small to be turned into a prayer is too small to be made into a burden.” WOW…laid right out in plain sight, yet maybe the biggest stumbling block of our anxiety ridden society. If I won’t pray about it, I shouldn’t stress over it because it must not be a real problem!
Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church, had this to say about faith and being Godly “you only believe the parts of the Bible that you do.” Seems simple enough, right? The application proves to be troublesome at times. Reciting something from memory is great and is not my gift sadly, but that knowledge doesn’t carry the same weight as action. Just telling someone that you love and care about them isn’t nearly as powerful as showing them with your actions that you really do love them. Is that not the same for God and his holy word, if we truly love him and his scripture than we should show it by living it in our lives everyday!
Magnus Ver Magnussen is one one of my favorite “strongmen”…I used to get sucked into the replays of “The World’s Strongest Man” competitions on tv, you know the ones where they had to flip tractor tires, carry tree trunks, and lift compact cars. These guys were doing some HEAVY LIFTING!! They didn’t just think they could lift a car…they actually went out and did It! So we all “know” that the Bible tells us to give our burdens to the Lord, but if we don’t actually do it then we don’t actually believe it!
So who is doing your heavy lifting? Are you carrying around the weight of life’s burdens or maybe like me you have felt like someone else’s burden? Jesus said in Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
My body will heal from surgery, but in the meantime that worry is not gaining me anything and seems very petty when I remember my moment kneeling next to a wheelchair. I think it is time for many of us to stop doing our own heavy lifting and bring the Bible into action. Jesus is all around us if we pay attention and his desire is to do our lifting for us so that we are free to shine his light into the dark places in our world. I pray that we see God and that our actions reflect that we know God!
If you would like to listen to the original Audio recording from Sunday’s Service please double click on “Download File” below and enjoy!