The past year has been one of sadness in many ways. Tragedy happened throughout the Northwest, the nation, and the world, and fear is the word – in news articles, social media, and people’s lives.
Fear holds us back, from hope, from freedom, from love. The men and women going through UGM LIFE Recovery often experience fear along their journey – fear of insufficiency, of not having what it takes. But they choose not to be held back by their fear.
The following sermon, preached by Ron Pyle, Communication Studies professor at Whitworth University, encourages all Christians not to be held back by fear. He explains why in this, part one of his sermon.
I feel a sense of privilege anytime I get to preach. I have that feeling in an especially powerful way when I get to preach from within my own congregation. I come this morning from within this body of Christ. I have been thinking and praying for you a lot in the past few weeks. I believe that God can use anyone and anything to communicate a message to His cherished children. This morning I come with a word that I believe God wants you to embrace. It may even be for you a word of liberation.
I have enjoyed our recent series on being sent. I grew up hearing about people who were clearly sent into “full-time Christian service.” Pastors and missionaries got that designation, the people I came to think of as “professional Christians.” The rest of us were just believers, ordinary followers of Jesus. I am grateful that God sets some people apart for specific ministries, they deserve honor. I have also come to realize that all of us who follow Jesus the Christ are to be in full-time Christian service wherever God places us. In this sermon series, you have heard that we are, all of us, sent. As we go, God’s design is that we live our lives as we breathe; we inhale and we exhale. We inhale as we pray, study the bible and reflect on it, and fellowship with others. We exhale as we serve.
The problem is that many times we get out of balance. For some of us, the problem is that we exhale without inhaling – I serve without adequate energy. Perhaps more common is our tendency to inhale without exhaling – we take in but do not serve. Inhaling without exhaling is also uncomfortable. That’s what got me wondering, “If all of us are sent, what gets in the way of our going? Why are so many of us inhaling without exhaling?”
I’ve spent the past several weeks searching the scriptures for an answer to that question. As I searched I encountered some old friends, familiar people in scripture whose faith is admirable and whose ministry changed history, people who inhaled and exhaled, people who went when and where they were sent. Surprisingly, I also found that they are not so very different from us. All of them experienced two realities that we live as well, and that is what this sermon is about - one common barrier to obedient service and one extraordinary, liberating, promise.
Here is the common barrier – what every one of us shares with each of the familiar heroes of the faith - we all at points in life, live in fear. Time doesn’t permit us to discuss all of the people in scripture who lived in fear, even as they were sent. We are going to drop in for a short visit with several familiar people. As we meet them, we will also encounter some fears that may feel familiar to you.
This morning we will meet committed, God-sent believers who were afraid. One of them feared that God’s promise would be unfilled. Another feared that he was inadequate to be used by God. One feared a position they were asked to fill. Yet another was afraid that his service was fruitless. And finally we will walk with the disciples who were afraid of the uncertainty of life now that Jesus is physically absent.
Perhaps you resonate with some of these fears. Or perhaps fears of your own make it hard to say yes to service: The risks are too great, the opponents are too powerful, the times are too uncertain, the disappointments are too devastating, your faith is too weak, your body is too frail, your knowledge is too shallow, or your life is too comfortable.
How do you like the sermon so far? Broken hearts and shattered hopes, insecurity and disappointment – what’s not to like about that?! Hang on; the story isn’t over. I told you that we would look at one common barrier and one extraordinary, liberating promise. So far, we’ve only heard about the barrier. While it is important to name and face our fears, fear will not have the last word.
I stand here today privileged to bring you great news. God knows our fears, and just as God did with the saints of old, God has provided a path to faithful service. Here is the extraordinary promise of God’s provision – God is with us! By the grace of God’s Holy Spirit, Jesus lives in you! Listen to the good news, it’s not about you – it’s about Jesus’ presence in you. I’m going to lead you through some scripture and I trust you to pick up the pattern.
In part two Ron gives examples from Scripture where God's presence outweighed individuals' fears.
Ron Pyle graduated from Washington State University in 1979. He has worked in youth ministry, completed an MA in theology through Fuller Theological Seminary, and holds an MA and Ph.D. in Speech Communication from the University of Washington. Since coming to Whitworth University in 1988, Ron has been honored by his faculty peers with the “Whitworth Teaching Excellence Award” and has been named "Most Influential Professor" by eleven graduating classes.
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