There is not a Christian alive that does not want to go forward in their faith. YOU would not be here if you did not want that… Maybe some have given up, disappoint-ments, stuck in a rut. It’s amazing how many people I speak to that can relate to the word STUCK… stuck in a situation… The problem comes as we march forward, trusting God, believing his promises, looking to him for daily decisions, finding rest and peace in Him, then boom, we run into a wall, we run into the cat…and we don’t know how to turn, we don’t know how to get back on track…
This message today is for those that feel stuck in faith. Here is one person’s testimony of what stuck feels like for her:
“Why do I feel like I’m wandering around in a maze trying to find a way out of these feelings of inadequacy? The problem was, I was stuck. Yes, I had professed Jesus as my Lord and Savior. I knew Christ had set me free, but honestly, I couldn’t tell you exactly what He had set me free from….
My early years in the faith were filled with wonder, expectancy, and downright giddiness. But somewhere along the line, I had settled into being a good church girl—a Bible-study mom who moved into cul-de-sac Christianity, pitched my lawn chair under a shade tree, and waved at other well-mannered believers doing the same. Year after year I hoped, Maybe this will be the Bible study that will make it all better. And the truth is, I didn’t even know what the “it” was.
What do you do when your walk becomes a crawl? When you feel like you are a disappointment to yourself and to God? When spiritual chronic fatigue leaves you wondering if it’s all worth it? What do you do when you realize your once passionate faith has morphed into the safe confines of a predictable, … belief system, far away from “Go ye therefore” and “Greater things than these”? ~ Sharon Jaynes
Here’s another apt description of what it feels like to be stuck by the great thinker, Winnie the Pooh:
“Oh, help!” said Pooh. “I’d better go back.”
“Oh, bother!” said Pooh. “I shall have to go on.”
“I can’t do either!” said Pooh. “Oh, help and bother!” ~ Milne, A. A.
“Forward in faith”, Paul shouts… How? May the Lord speak to your heart today, prompting you, through his spirit, to WANT to go forward, to not settle for mediocre, to listen to the voice of God as the only authority.
How to Go forward in Faith? I like the wisdom of one person, “Declare your life an emergency” (~ Sheila Tiller-Tooks). The most stuck person of all is the one that has given up trying to get unstuck. Don’t be that person. I know life gets weary. The cutting edge of faith can seem so far away. One well meaning person I know tells a lot of stories of great movements of God across the globe that are bathed in extraordinary heart felt prayer. I feel so ordinary in comparison. It is a lie of Satan to accept the false premise that the exciting things of God are for other people. And sometimes, it is well meaning friends that unknowingly help perpetuate that lie. This is, of course, the temptation to think the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.
Paul seems to be writing to admirable Christian people who are just living their life. They are moving forward in faith, but they don’t see the wall they are about to hit. “It’s an emergency” Paul shouts. “Look out” he warns, “Do not let anyone judge you” in the things of faith. “Don’t let anyone disqualify you!” Don’t listen to the exclamation point people that make it sound like they have something you don’t. Declare your life to be an emergency ~ God wants the best for you in your walk of faith…
These verses today are a warning, Watch Out for the Walls. Look out Rowan, you’re headed for the cat! Look out Carl, some people think you’re focusing on the wrong people in Sumas.
Don’t let others judge you ~ is a looming wall. READ Col. 2:16. The best way to steer clear of the wall of judgment is to walk with confidence! In today’s world we most hear the world telling Christians to not judge them… don’t tell anyone they are wrong about anything… that’s a whole other topic….In this scripture, it is wild Paul is saying to Christians, Don’t let the world judge me! Don’t let the world impose their standards on me. We get in a heap of trouble when we start caring too much about what other people think. Chad and I met this week. He is preaching a bit more. Obviously he’s going to be different from me (thank goodness). I said, “It hasn’t happened, but if somebody comes to me and says they don’t like your style, should I tell you?” He gave me the right answer: “No.” I don’t want to hear every criticism either ~ I like better ideas. I like constructive thoughts. That is different from “judging” which is about everything that is wrong. Tearing down.
If you listen to every person that has an opinion that is like going out of your way to find walls as you move forward. “Hey, there’s a wall, BOOM!” searching for reasons to be stuck! There is no shortage of people willing to tell you everything you are doing wrong in your Christian walk. “Don’t let others judge you, endlessly analyzing what you eat, drink… nobody is certain exactly what Paul means by the “religious festivals and New Moon” but clearly he is saying the patterns of your faith.
A few months ago I had a woman on the phone from Texas that called the church because she was moving to Sumas. (I’m criticizing her, not the Seventh Day Adventists!) She assumed we are SDA. She could not fathom that we worship on Sunday. Slowly it sank in that we have nothing to do with SDA… she got angry and yelled at me because we don’t worship on Saturday. It was a strange conversation. I did not care this woman was judging me, because that matter was settled a long time ago, but when people you admire, or your community, or your family, starts pressuring you to conform, to change your patterns… that is when you need to go directly to the word of Jesus Christ. Walk with confidence. When Paul says “do not let anyone judge you…” there will always be people with strong opinions ready to tell you the better way. What he must mean is do not internalize their opinions causing you to get stuck. Have confidence.
Col. 1:17 is about going directly to Christ. READ. Look forward towards Christ. We need disciplines of faith, church is excellent, prayer is vital, bible reading is immersing yourself in God’s words, solitude is a way to get your batteries recharged, serving is being God’s hands and feet in the world…. But all that is NOTHING compared to the reality of Jesus Christ himself. The goal is Christ. Jesus Christ is our singular purpose of our walk. The patterns of our Christian life are the vehicle.
It is tempting to look backwards. One person said, “If you're stuck in the past, you go forward in reverse” ~ Josh Stern You’ll hit a lot of walls when looking backward. Nothing else matters but Jesus Christ…Honor Christ. Serve Christ. Live for Christ. Breathe Christ. Think Christ. Worship Christ. Believe Christ. Listen to Christ. He is in all, above all, around all, through all… That’s why the opening words of Col. 1:15-20 are foundational: READ. Real life is found in Christ. We get stuck when we focus on details that don’t matter. All that matters is to keep your eyes focused on the purpose and that is knowing Christ. What does it matter if the whole world thinks we are doing everything wrong if we have knowing Jesus as the ultimate goal… Christ is more important than life or death, things past or things future, he is our hope, our destiny, our present. He is more important than what others think. He is LIFE.
Another wall that looms is the wall of feeling like you don’t matter: Never lose sight in how much God loves you and thinks you are an amazing person. Col. 2:18a… READ. Don’t let anyone disqualify you, i.e., a great lie of Satan is that you are nothing, you don’t measure up, you are not as good as the next person, you have nothing to offer. The world will try to disqualify you. As Col. 2:19 continues people will puff themselves up which means putting others down, they will major on the minors, like Angel worship ~ not too many years ago it seemed everyone was talking about Angels. I believe in Angels, I have my own Angel stories, but Angels are not to be worshipped, they are only there to help us… There will be people that will overemphasize the minor which always undermines Christ. Only Jesus Christ is enduring…
Don’t let anyone disqualify you. I.e. don’t let anyone silence you. Your experience with Christ, your relationship with Christ is important. Jesus Christ does not want you to disqualify yourself in His eyes, you are important, you are amazing…the video Eddie L. sent me…. Don’t compare your faith experience to others thinking you are nothing. Nobody can take away God’s great love for you.. (I’m not going to go over in detail the rest of Col. 2:18-19, you can easily read and imagine how there are people who puff themselves up…). We live in a world that is overwhelming… many people conclude their life is trivial, meaningless ~ suicides, depression, hopelessness, no future. Wandering souls. Stuck. DO NOT LET ANYONE DISQUALIFY YOU.
Go forward towards Christ. Make Him your focus. Going forward in faith is critical. Treat your life of faith as an emergency. You will hit walls, but find a way to keep going. Some folks will want to tell you that you are on the wrong path as they judge your patterns, your goals, but keep looking to Christ, listening to His voice. Go forward in confidence. Keep learning. Keep looking. Look solely to Christ. Some will try to get you off track by majoring on the minor, which is a way of taking your eyes off of Christ. Some will talk with authority sounding very spiritual. Another wall is the lie of Satan that you aren’t important, not as good as others, getting you to think you are disqualified.
Maybe we need to stay the course towards Christ like children. When Rowan runs into the wall, he laughs. And gramma is right there to set him on the better course with no obstacles. Maybe the answer is more simple than we imagine…when we run into a wall trust God that he will find a way for us to keep going, not over analyzing, not getting to upset, but knowing that the Lord Jesus Christ will help us on the path of faith. Go forward in your faith. There is no greater journey than travel towards Jesus Christ. Amen.