Jesus and We
We are in week 2 of a message series called Jesus and WE. Our mission as a church is to point people to Jesus and connect with each other. That is why the series is called Jesus and WE and not Jesus and ME. But as we said last week…We are not only to have a PERSONAL relationship with Jesus, but we are also to have a SHARED relationship with Jesus.
In this series we are focusing on what God is calling us to do and who He is calling us to be as the Body of Christ. This week our focus is on the importance of building big faith. As our personal faith gets bigger, I believe our corporate faith will grow as well.
There is no doubt about it, God wants us to learn to trust Him more. That is what faith is.
FAITH is about trusting our Heavenly Father COMPLETELY
Wouldn’t it be awesome to trust God completely and believe for something so big that it couldn’t happen without His power and presence at work in your life? I believe this could be the day you take the next step on your faith journey. Maybe you will look back on this as the day that you decided to trust God on a deeper level than ever before.
Sometimes I can’t help but wonder…Do we really have the kind of faith that God desires us to have? Are we faith-filled, big-thinking, bet-the-farm risk takers? Or are we the kind of people who are more interested in playing it safe with small thinking, and safe living?
I don’t know about you, but I want to trust God completely. I want to believe God for the impossible. I want to dream big dreams and trust God to do exceedingly and abundantly more in our lives, and through this church, than we could ever ask or imagine.
Today we are going to focus our attention on two familiar stories from the Gospels. In both stories, Jesus was amazed. He was amazed on two different occasions, for two very different reasons. The first story is when Jesus was in His hometown.
He was teaching and preaching some of the people were offended. They were saying things like, “Who does this guy think He is? I know his dad. He’s the son of a carpenter. He shouldn’t be saying these kinds of things.”
“And he (Jesus) was amazed at their unbelief.” – Mark 6:6a (NLT)
They didn’t believe Jesus had the power to do what He said He could do. They didn’t believe that He was who He said He was. And Jesus was amazed by their LACK OF faith.
The second story is in Luke’s Gospel. A Roman official had a servant who was very sick. In fact, he was dying. So, the centurion sent someone to Jesus to ask for help. The man had faith to believe that Jesus didn’t need to come to his house to heal His servant. He believed that all Jesus had to do was speak the word and his servant would be healed. “When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.’” – Luke 7:9 (NIV)
These are the only two times in scripture where we read that Jesus was amazed. Both have to do with the matter of faith. One time Jesus was amazed by a lack of faith, and one time He was amazed by great faith. So, here’s the question I want you to ask yourself…
Is there anything amazing about my faith?
If Jesus looked at the level of your faith today, would He be amazed? And if so, what is it that would amaze him? Would He be amazed by how big and how bold your faith is today? Or is it possible that He would be amazed by your lack of faith?
It’s a legitimate question and one we should all be willing to wrestle with. Because there is no question about it: Our faith in God MATTERS to God. It would be so easy to skate right by this question without giving it much consideration. So, I want to ask you to give serious consideration to how you would rate your faith.
< Tiny Faith Great Faith >
1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7 – 8 – 9 – 10
For this to be relevant, we need to avoid generalities and get specific. So, let’s focus our attention on the last week of our lives. Did you take any specific steps of faith in the last week? (7 days) Did you attempt something that was so big, so bold, and so daring, that if God didn’t come through, you knew you were in trouble? If so, you would want to rate yourself on the higher end of the scale. If not, you would have to rate yourself a little lower.
Let’s think about our prayer life. If God immediately answered YES to every prayer you prayed in the past seven days, what would have changed, if anything, in the world around you? Would there have been someone healed of a sickness or disease like cancer? Would a relationship, or marriage have been restored because you were praying great prayers of faith on someone’s behalf? Is it possible that there might have been a child that would have been adopted into a forever family?
Or was the biggest prayer you prayed was for God to bless your Wheaties? Would your biggest answer to prayer be that you made it back and forth to work safely?
Please don’t misunderstand, I am not trying to diminish these things. Laurie and I thank God for our food. We are grateful for His protection. But let’s be honest, how much faith is really required to pray these kinds of prayers? And what do these prayers say about the size of our faith or the size of our God? If the biggest thing you prayed this week was for God to be with you, which He has already promised to do BTW, are we really demonstrating great faith?
For some, you would have to admit there would be nothing different in the world even if Jesus answered every one of your prayers with an immediate yes. That is because you didn’t pray a single prayer, and you don’t remember the last time you attempted anything that was big, bold, or daring for the glory of God.
So, would God be amazed at your great faith, or would He be blown away by the fact that you didn’t pray at all? Could it be said that you didn’t pray, you didn’t believe anything, or attempt anything significant at all, not only in the last week, but for as long as you can recall? What does this say about the size of your faith, or maybe even more important, about your understanding of the size of your God?
“With God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26b (NIV)
Do you believe that? If so, do you live like it? I want to look at three faith-inspired principles and then make some personal application as we seek to follow God, His plan, and His direction for our personal lives and for the life of this church in the days to come.
You can’t PLAY IT SAFE and please God
Principle #1 – You can’t PLAY IT SAFE and please God.
In other words, if we can do everything on our own, in our own strength and power, and we never need the power of God to make anything happen, that is not living by faith. The author of Hebrews reminds us…“Without faith, it is impossible to please God.” – Hebrews 11:6 (NIV) But let’s just be honest? Faith can be messy. Faith is not always easy.
There may be moments when you have great faith, and then, the next minute, the clouds of doubt and questions start rolling in. I get it! It’s hard to follow a God you cannot see. But we have been called to walk by faith, not by sight, and it can be very messy. You cannot play it safe and please God.
One of the greatest examples of this is the Apostle Peter. All the disciples were in a boat that was being tossed back and forth by the wind and the waves in a dangerous storm. Do you remember how Jesus came out to them walking on the water? Peter said, “Jesus, if it is you, invite me to come to you on the water.”
Jesus said, “come on, Peter!” Peter stood up, stepped over the side of the boat, and he started walking on the water to Jesus! But Peter took his eyes off Jesus, and he looked at the wind and the waves, and he started to sink!
When people talk about this story, they often criticize Peter, talking like he failed. Here is what I want to know – If walking on the water is failure, what do you say about the 11 guys who were still sitting in the boat? They didn’t even attempt it.
Don’t allow the fear of FAILURE to keep you from taking a step of FAITH
The win is found in obedience. Peter could have sat in the boat saying, “This doesn’t make sense. What’s going to happen if I step out of the boat?” Sometimes you have to step out to find out. Right now, some of you may be playing it safe. We’ve all done it. God may be calling you to step out in faith and trust Him in some tangible way.
Peter took a giant step of faith. I am convinced God calls us all to do the same at times. This is how we demonstrate our faith and confidence in God. When God calls, we have a decision to make. Will my confidence in God cause me to stand up and step out, or will I shrink back and sit down?
If you’re not failing every once in a while, you’re probably playing it too safe. It is also good to remember that what you perceive as failure may be success in God’s eyes all because you chose to trust Him.
Jesus was obedient, even to the point of death on a cross. Nobody standing at the foot of the cross thought that scene looked like success. But we know that Christ’s obedience led to the greatest victory in the history of the world. Without faith, it is impossible to please God. Principle #1: You cannot play it safe and please God.
Faith does not come with a GUARANTEE
Principle #2 – Faith does not come with a GUARANTEE.
If you have a GUARANTEE, you don’t have FAITH. The writer to the Hebrews said it like this…“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” – Hebrews 11:1 (NIV) Faith does not come with a guarantee. Faith is what we hope for. It’s “the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen. It is the assurance of things we cannot see.”
For many of us, the thing that interferes with faith the most is, we want a guarantee: God, I am willing to take this step of faith, but I need a safety net. We want a guarantee that everything is going to work out. We are looking for security. Our security is to be found in the promises and in the presence of God, not in any other source or circumstance.
When I was in high school, I remember feeling physically ill before calling a girl to ask her out on a date. There was no security. What if she said no? Potential rejection loomed on the horizon. Every guy wants a guarantee. That’s why we missed middle school and elementary school when notes like this were acceptable. “Will you go with me?”
I don’t even know what that means when you are in the fourth or fifth grade. You are not going anywhere, but that was often the question. We were looking for a “guarantee”.
I remember when I got a note like this from Laurie. “Dear Steve, if I were to ask you to go out with me, what would you say? Check YES or NO (sometimes MAYBE). Then you give the note to a friend who could give it to the person you are asking, you never give it to them yourself. And then you wait…hoping the guarantee comes through. The guarantee would change everything about your confidence in the ask.
When it comes to our relationship with God, wouldn’t it be nice if we could just write a note to God, and He would send a response or give us some kind of written guarantee that everything is going to work out? Dear God, will this work out like I hope? Can you give me a guarantee? Unfortunately, that is not how faith works.
You can have FAITH, or you can have CONTROL, but you can’t have BOTH
Sometimes we just have to take a step of faith and say, “This is what I believe God is calling me to do.” It can be a scary place, but this is what reveals our level of confidence in God. In living the life of faith, you typically can’t see the end from the beginning. We’re inclined to say, “God, I will take this first step of faith, but first I want to know what happens down the road. Where will this step lead? What do steps four, five, and six look like on this journey of faith?” God’s not going to show you steps four, and five, and six until you take steps one, two, and three.
He wants us to trust Him. The only guarantee is that God will prove Himself faithful. He always does. Walking by faith requires taking some risks. You can’t play it safe, and please God. Faith does not come with a guarantee.
We must release our SECURITY to take hold of our DESTINY
Principle #3 – We must release our SECURITY to take hold of our DESTINY.
To take hold of something, you typically have to release something. You can’t take hold of something new when your hands are already full. The story of Abraham is one of those crazy, faith-filled stories in the Old Testament that is referenced again in Hebrews 11, the great faith chapter in the Bible. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.” – Hebrews 11:8 (NIV) Even though Abraham didn’t have a clue, he trusted God, and he took a step of faith. Would you be willing to do what Abraham did? Have you ever done it?
Laurie and I have…but it has been a while. In fact, our last giant step of faith was 20 years ago, in 2002, when the Lord called us to go a land we knew not of. That is when I accepted the call to come to Seymour, IN. And even though we have continued to live by faith since then, we haven’t taken any other GIANT steps of faith…that is until now.
I never cease to be amazed at how specifically the Lord speaks when we are willing to listen. While I was on sabbatical in 2016, I felt compelled to read several books about pastoral transition. I knew that at some point in the future, we would establish a team that would help shape leadership transition that would someday take place here at The Point. Four years later, in 2020, with the blessing of our Church Board, I reached out to five friends in the church, to ask about their willingness to serve the church in this capacity. All five agreed to be on the transition team.
I began meeting with this team in early 2021, and we held several meetings over the course of the past year. Our goal for 2021 was to establish a transition plan. We met. We discussed. We thought. We planned. We prayed. And God led. There was great unity in the process.
As a part of our work, we sensed the Lord leading us to enlist the services of an outside consulting firm to help guide us through this process. So, in 2021, with the approval of our Church Board, we enlisted a consultant, completed a church-wide assessment, I did some personal assessments, and we came to the end of this past year not only with a plan, but also a tentative timeline that stretched out over the next few years.
All of us felt very good about the path we traveled in 2021 and there was a sense of confidence about the plans we had put in place for the future. In the weeks following our final meeting of the year, there was a growing realization in my personal life, that the Lord was leading me to take a GIANT step of faith and to initiate the transition process now rather than later.
Now what I’m about to share may surprise some of you, but I was a record holder on my junior high track team. That is where I learned the importance of a good transition. In addition to a couple of individual events, I was one of four members on the 880-yard relay team. Our coach was adamant that we constantly practice handing off the baton. It seemed like a waste of time to me. I thought we should be running. But after you have seen a relay team that is winning the race, drop the baton during one of the transitions, causing them to lose the race, you learn the value of a good handoff.
My track training for the 880-yard relay was about 45 years ago. I hadn’t really thought about my track experience much until recently. I believe the Lord brought that experience to mind again as He has reminded me that you don’t pass the baton when you are ready to pass it. You need to pass the baton when the next person is ready to receive it.
As the runner with the baton, you must begin releasing your grip before the transition can take place. That is what brings me to where we are today. God has made it clear to Laure and me, as unexpected as it is, that it is now time to begin this important process here at The Point. This decision will require us to trust Him in this process. I believe God has been preparing someone else to take this church to the next level.
For two decades, since I believe I have been in the center of God’s will being here, I have often joked with the Board that I was the best God had to offer this church for the time being. 😊 But at this point, I know He has someone else who will lead The Point to accomplish all He desires for the next chapter in the life of this great church. I don’t know who that person is, but I believe God does, and it is up to me, and up to us, to prepare to pass the baton.
Laurie and I have no idea what this decision will mean for our future. God has not revealed what He has in store for us. We just know that it is time to take another step of obedience and release the position, the security, and the identity I have held for almost 20 years (as of June 1, 2022).
My part of this relay here at The Point is not over, but it is coming to an end. I have done my best to run my part of this race well. Together, we have built a strong foundation that our future leader can build upon. One of the great blessings of my life has been the opportunity God has given me to serve this church that I love so much. The only asset that I brought with me, apart from my wonderful wife and ministry partner for more than 38 years, was my desire to seek to determine and do God’s will here.
The thing that has made this union so special, and the thing that has made it work so well, is the fact that it has been Spirit-led. We have done our best to stay in step with the Holy Spirit, and it has been good. And that is why we want to continue to follow His leading as we look to the future. We trust God completely. We do that individually and we trust Him as the Body of Christ. Jesus and WE.
Because Laurie and I trust the Lord completely, we decided from the start that there would never be anything in our lives that would be off limits to Him. That means sometimes the journey of faith takes us to some unexpected places.
What I have shared with you today is not my plan, it is God’s plan.
Today is the next step in launching the transition plan that we approved last year. This process will take several months. We anticipate a potential passing of the baton at the end of this year or the beginning of 2023. I intend to be here through this process until a successor has been chosen. We will NOT DISENGAGE. We will lean into this process TOGETHER and we will continue to fulfill God’s call for HIS church.
These are exciting days! God has a plan. The future is bright. This is simply a transition to the next exciting phase of life and ministry at The Point. Laurie and I have invested more than half of our years in ministry here in Seymour. We want you to know that we love you and we love this church. The last thing I want to do is stand in the way of His will being fulfilled here. And that is what I believe would happen if I were to hold onto my position here.
So, this is not retirement (I still intend to work), and it is not resignation (I am still the Pastor), but it is the beginning of the transitional phase of our ministry here. I am looking forward to seeing God’s plan continue to unfold. I believe He has great things in store for His church.
When we walk by faith, it is important to always make sure we keep our eyes focused on the Author and the Perfecter of our faith. He is the One who calls the shots He is faithful. He can be trusted. He will never lead us astray.
Faith is built when we are OBEDIENT to the call of God
And our faith will continue to grow with each step of obedience. Even though we may not see the end from the beginning, we will trust God and walk forward by faith in obedience to His Word and His will for our lives and for this church.
This is a great time to evaluate your personal faith journey. Would Jesus be amazed by how big and how bold your faith is today? Or is it possible that He would be amazed by your lack of faith?
I want to encourage you to be willing to step out with confidence and trust God completely with your life, your family, your future, your finances, your ministry, etc. He is faithful. We can trust Him completely, we can trust Him personally, and we can trust Him corporately. That is what we have done. And that is exactly what we will continue to do.