Title: Trust IN
Series: IN – Lent Easter 2020
Bible Readings: John 14:1-3,25-27 and Philippians 4:4-13
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Preached: Sunday 15th March, 2020
In my weekly email I made the comment that we are living in uncertain times. The news of the last week, particularly regarding the COVID-19 virus has just been hard to keep up with. It seems that things keep changing day by day and we have seen some huge decisions made that will make a massive impact on the way that we live our lives such as travel bans, cancelling of public events, stimulus spending and high profile people being diagnosed with the virus. After a month of knowing about this virus, we are still without a cure or a vaccine or it even feels like we are without a clear plan forward. I feel like I am waking up each morning wondering what’s going to happen today. What’s next? Schools closing? shops closing? the church closing?
And this sense of uncertainty and unknowingness is causing people to feel overwhelmed, worried, anxious and fearful. We can see this being played out in the panic buying in the supermarkets. Even in the conversations that I have had this week – most conversations have had an edge of concern as people express “I am not sure what is going to happen next”.
This is where we are at? Are you feel worried or anxious? Let’s open our bible readings to see if they can help us in these troubled times.
Our first reading is an Easter reading. John 14 is part of the long dialogue that Jesus and his disciples are having during the last Supper and walk to the Garden of Gethsemane. The disciples knew that something not good was happening. Jesus had clearly told them that the time was coming for Jesus to die. Judas had bretrayed Jesus and things were looking dark.
There is no doubt that the disciples were feeling this sense of anxiety and stress and worry that comes with uncertainty about the implications of what was just about to happen. And it was into this uncertainty and worry that Jesus spoke those amazing words:
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God, and trust also in me.”
In times of anxiety, Jesus is saying that a helpful response is to trust. Trust God and trust in Jesus.
But what does it mean to trust? [60 seconds with the people around … and don’t use google] How would you define what it means to trust someone? Trust God?
The dictionary gives the answer … trust is the firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something. So, for me trusting in God is our belief that God can help us or support us or guide us or whatever we need in times of trouble or anxiety or worry. And so, when the disciples were troubled and worried, Jesus is saying … believe in God, trust in my ability to help. Put your trust in me.
This is a theme that is all through the bible …
- Proverbs 3:5-6 – Trust in the with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge God, and God will make your paths straight
- Psalm 9:10. Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.
- Psalm 56:3. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you [God]
- Romans 15:13 – May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
There is something in that last verse … that when we trust in God, the bible implies that God fills us with joy and peace. This is a theme throughout scripture – this connection between trusting in God and peace.
In John 14, Jesus starts this chapter by saying that when our hearts are troubled, trust in God and trust also in Jesus. By the end of the same chapter, what is Jesus talking about? Peace.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27
It is the same in our second reading from Philippians 4. Paul starts by saying “Do not be anxious … but rather present your requests to God” but concludes what when we do this, when we trust God with our worries and petitions what happens? …
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:7
So this is the theory. In uncertain times … when our hearts are troubled, when we are anxious and worried … we are to TRUST in God and in Jesus, believe that they will come through for us … and when we do, we will be blessed with peace.
That’s the theory, but what does this mean in practice? I was listening to a sermon the other day when the preacher, Jeanne Stevens from Soul City Church in the states, shared an example which I thought really brought the idea of trusting home to me. Especially after my experience of the last fortnight with my appendix issues. Jeanne was sharing her own story of how she was facing a difficult time in her life and said it was like standing before this huge metaphorical mountain and wondering … how am I ever going to be able to get past that?
We might be feeling the same way in the light of the COVID-19 stuff. It just seems so huge, so uncertain, so worrying … how are we going to get to the other side?
I felt the same way Thursday week ago when I was diagnosed with a burst appendix and rushed to hospital. Initially, I wasn’t worried. I had it all worked out in my head what would happen. I would get to hospital, they would prep me and take me into surgery, whip out my appendix and then after a few days recovery, I would be back and powering on again. I was ok with that.
What threw me was when the doctor said, “Yeah, we are not going to operate yet. It is too infected and too risky. We are going to keep you in hospital for a while, maybe a week and see what we will do after that.” Everything sort of crashed down around me. I didn’t really have a choice, but I had gone from being quite clear about what was happening to this unknowingness … and I don’t like being in a place where I don’t know what’s happening.
My first reaction was to pray for a miracle … God, please just make this all go away. Instant cure. God can do that, can he?
Yes, God can do that, but most of the time, for reasons beyond our understanding … God doesn’t just take the problem away.
God could make the CoronaVirus just instantly disappear, but I don’t think that is going to happen. Or like my preacher friend Jeanne said … we might want God to take away the mountain that is before us, but is that what it means to trust in God … to hope that the problem or difficulty or issue will just disappear … or do we need to trust God to help us get across the mountain.
But how do we trust God to help us get over the mountain? This is where preacher Jeanne made a point that really hit home to me. Jeanne said that instead of praying for a miracle, she would pray for “clarity”. Instead of praying “take this mountain away”, she would pray, “God show me the way to cross the mountain. Show me what I need to do to do. Direct my path. Give me clarity”.
You understand what she is trying to say? She is tapping in to the idea from Isaiah 20:31 … Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”
As Jeanne was sharing her own particular story … and shared how she prayed the prayer for clarity, she felt God speaking back to her asking, “Is it clarity that you want, or is it courage?”
Jeanne responded, “Well, God, if you are offering, I would love both! I want the clarity to know which path to walk, and the courage to take it.”
But the more that Jeanne pondered this question, the more she realised the difference.
Clarity looks at an uncertain future and wonders “how I am going to get through this?” Courage looks at an uncertain future and says, “with God’s help, I am going to get through this”
Clarity looks at a mountain and wonders “how am I going to get over that”.. Courage looks at the mountain and declares … “I am climbing that mountain. I AM going to get to the other side”.
Asking for clarity is keeping the controls in your hands.
God, just show me what to do, and I will do it.
Courage, is trusting enough to hand over the control to God.
It has been my experience that while sometimes God does do the miracle and takes the mountain away, and sometimes God does give us clarity on how we are to move forward and what we need to do, it is my experience that more often God offers us courage and strength to cope with whatever comes our way; for whatever unknown lies around the corner.
Trusting in God is trusting that God will be there with us, and help us, and strengthen us within the unknown and uncertain times we live.
We might want God to give us understanding of why we are having to go through what we are going through, but Jesus response is “I give you peace and courage to take on whatever come your way.”
This has been my story for the past two weeks. As much as I want to be in control of my outcome, I can’t be. I still don’t know when or how they will do the surgery to take out my appendix. I just have to trust the doctors and trust God that things will work out and that I will be strong enough to cope with whatever happens.
I said at the beginning that we are living in uncertain times with the COVID-19 stuff … but I am sure that many of us are also living our own personal story of uncertainty, worry, trouble or anxiety. So, I want to encourage all of us this morning to put our trust in God.
Let’s be encouraged by the words of Paul from Philippians 4.
The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- The Lord is near.
- Do not be anxious about anything… but in EVERY situation.
(this covers all things … work, personal life, family, kids … in every situation).
- Bring your requests to God. Bring your worries to God, bring your uncertainty, your anxiety … bring it to God.
When my kids were babies, and I was rocking them to sleep, I would often sing an old chorus based on 1 Peter 5:7 that became so meaningful to me.
I cast, all my cares, upon you Lord
I lay all of my burdens, down at your feet.
And anytime, I don’t know, what to do.
I will cast, all my cares, upon you.
Trust in God, bring your concerns to God … trust that God will give you the courage and strength you need to get through it and God will bless you with … peace.
7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
As the band comes and leads us in the next song, and we take up our offering, you might like to pray in your own heart … reaffirming our trust in God. Amen.