Condition Critical - Wellington First Assembly

Wellington First Assembly

326 W Botkin Lane, Wellington Kansas ........Family Faith Lessons - 9:30 AM........ Sunday Worship - 10:30 AM

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Condition Critical

It happens quickly.  One moment everything is fine, the next moment, the world is upside down.  A phone call, a test result.  Taking the eyes off the road, tripping over an obstacle, missing the light change colors. 
It happens quickly.  Laughter and joy turn quickly into anguish and pain.  The spinning world grinds to a screeching halt.

Condition Critical.

While serving as a trauma chaplain, I heard countless narratives of families and friends having fun on a Friday night when everything instantly changed.  Father’s fought back tears as they heard the news of their child.  Daughters wept at the sight of their parents. People mark time as the before or as the after.  The crisis demarcates their life.  It splits their story wide open, cracking their own reserves to the point where it spills over.

Condition Critical.

When the news settles in and as the shock wears off, I’ve seen people react in two distinct ways. People either embrace the new reality with resilience, grit, and determination – asking God to give them strength as they persevere, or they get bound up, eternally stuck in an endless cycle of questioning why.

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Two paths, and to be quite honest, it’s easy to start down the second one.  Blaming God, blaming yourself, wallowing in misery and self-pity is the human natural tendency.  The negative emotions in your mind, repeated over and over can lead to depression, anxiety, and constant worry.  The laughter that came easily is replaced by furrowed brows etched in stone across one’s face.  We’ve all encountered that person in the mirror.

I’ve watched things crumble around me.  In the course of a few short months, our family went from dual income healthy to downsized unemployment with significant medical concerns.  The trajectory of our life was no longer fitting the plan that we had carefully stewarded for a decade.  I’ve sat in depression, worry, and anxiety.  It would have been easy to push away from the table, throw in the cards, and call it day.  

Life went from Condition Perfect to Condition Critical.

As the years have accelerated, there are some things I know understand more than ever before.  Hard times are just as much a part of life as easy times.  A crisis is always ahead and cannot be avoided.  But how you approach it, how you prepare for it, how you speak through it, and where you put your trust in can help you weather any storm that blows its way in.

In his 33 years of living in a poor, oppressed country, Jesus was fully aware of the crisis and dangers of life.  He knew that conditions were critical, that health was fleeting, that daily life was grueling.  And even in those days, the human question invariably arose – Why are bad things happening to good people?  Why does it seem that the ones who perpetrate evil always come out ahead.  Why can’t we avoid these crisis situations? Jesus showed them that learning to trust in God meant going through the obstacles and learning from them.  In his teaching, he promised that he would walk with his disciples through all times of anxiety and would bring them peace.


Luke 12:22-31

 And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. 23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. 24 Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! 25 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 26 If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! 29 And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. 30 For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.


This passage gives us a vivid reminder.  God is in control.  No matter what happens.  It becomes very easy in our consumer culture to worry about what we need and want.  We often confuse the two.  How many times do people spend so much time striving in a career, trying to make it to the top so they can eat at the fancy restaurant, buy the latest fashion designs, be the first to get the newest Apple innovation or cutting-edge vehicle.  When I worked in the country club, I saw this all the time.  The happiness one a person’s face one day as they are bragging about their achievements turn into a jealous mask the next day as someone one ups them.  Everyone kept jockeying into place trying to have the best.  And although it might be seen easier in those social settings, the reality is it happens everywhere.  Even kids in school giving each other the once over in September to see who has the newest or best-looking stuff.  When we are honest, we all desire to have some sort of comfort.  And that is not necessarily a bad thing.  It helps motivate us to wake up in the morning and show up to work or school.  But if our whole focus is just on getting ahead – we didn’t really listen to Jesus when he said life is more than food and the body is more than the latest clothes.  That should not be the motivating factor behind all that we do.

If you are not content with where God has placed you, you will never be content with where God can place you. 

There is a point where we must learn to be comfortable with what God has provided.  Here is a truth – God will always provide for us – even when we don’t deserve it. How do we know that for sure?  It all starts by what we do when hard times come.  Jesus teaches us his approach to worry.



When hard times come, recall God’s Created plan.  In verse 24, Jesus immediately turns our eyes away from our current conditions to look at the non-human world around us.  Look at the trees?  Look at the birds?  Consider the ants and the bees!  Look at the cycle of nature. 

When earthquakes happen, or a forest fire rages.  When tornadoes chew up a swath of farmland or hail beats down the crops.  When a hurricane floods the coastline or a volcano emits flaming embers – guess what happens?  They eventually subside and the scars they made evolve into the contours of our earth.

Jesus reminds his people that God created the world, in all its glory.  The story celebrated in Genesis 1 and 2 reveals that the plan for the world was to be interconnected, in perfect harmony.  God’s sovereignty guaranteed its sustenance.  His wisdom provided the bounty.  There was never a need for anxiety.

Yes, the onset of sin in Genesis 3 destroyed the perfection in the garden – but it never destroyed God’s plan.  Yes, the results of sin require us to struggle and suffer – but it never changed the fact that God still wants to take care of us and bring us back into full perfected communion with Him.  God’s desire to take care of our every need is just as true today as it was then.  His plan still calls us to trust on him, not so that we can avoid the hard times that sin has created, but so that we can emerge triumphant from the hard times that sin has created.

Let’s be honest – it is our sin, our greed, our love for self that typically gets us into trouble.  It’s our pursuit of pleasure at the expense of others that cause conflicts in home and marriage.  The nagging voice in our mind reminds us of all the wrongs we have done so that we don’t really deserve God’s grace.  It is a lie, filled with truth.  The lie beats us down into the ground – but it’s a half truth, the worse kind of lies.  The reality is we don’t deserve anything from God.  But what the lie doesn’t tell us is that God’ gonna bless us anyway.  He’s gonna take care of us no matter what.  He doesn’t care Condition perfect, or condition critical – He takes care of his sons and daughters.  That’s always been his plan.  It will always be his plan. 

Jesus, sitting on the hillside, with his disciples at his feet – pointed out the raven flying in the sky.  Bird watching.  What he says, probably caused a gasp.  Verse 24 is revolutionary, unexpected, possibly even life changing.  When we read it, we miss the radical implications which can speak volumes. 

Yes, of course, the ravens don’t have grain elevators and storage facilities.  They can’t do what Joseph did for Pharaoh long ago in Egypt. There is no way for them to start a building program preparing for the certain eventuality of a drought.  There is no way for them to start rationing food and developing multi-level logistical organizations to ensure that the entire civilization of their species will survive.

That’s not the shocking the part.  Wanna know what is the crazy part here that made everyone sit up and notice?  Jesus said, God takes care of the ravens.

You may be sitting there, waiting for the shock value to come.  What’s so shocking about that?  Jesus is just quoting Psalms 147:9 and the ancient writing of Job 38:41 about the ravens crying out for food when they are hungry. 

So, what’s the big deal?  We find it in Leviticus 11:15. The Hebrew people are told to avoid Ravens, because they are unclean.  They are not holy.  They are forbidden.  They are the opposite of what a good worshiper of God should everdo or be.  This statement of Jesus is shocking because it shows that God is still providing for all of creation – even especially the parts that are not his favorite.  This passage falls right in there with Jesus saying that God even cares for the Samaritan woman, and the Roman soldier who abuses you.

And he drives the point home even further when he says – If God cares that much about those things – think how much more he cares about you, who he has called by name, you, who has made a promise and covenant with, you who have been chosen to be the disciples of good news.
Recall God’s created plan – because no matter how much you are messed up – God will still take care of you. 



When hard times come…review God’s concern.

Unfortunately, most of the time, we don’t do that, instead, we throw ourselves Pity parties.  Everyone has them at some point.  One pastor even wrote a poem about his pity party.[1]

I threw a pity party for myself Invited everyone by name
Hung streamers made from streams of tears But no one even came
I threw a pity party for myself and wrote it in the sky
Made a cake from sour grapes No loyal friend stopped by
I threw a pity party for myself Baked scones from moans and groans
Had my cake. Ate it, too and ended up alone.

The fact is, many psychologists will discuss that there are a couple of ways that one can overcome hart times in your life.  The first is to change the conditions or behavior that may have led to a situation.  The second is to change the narrative of the situation.   I’m not talking about excusing bad behavior – because some people will use these approaches to do that too – What I’m focusing on is how what we speak to ourselves and to others can make a lasting impression on how we move forward – and even if we move forward.  When we convert our hard times into stories that show how we overcame and how God got us through, it develops a resiliency in us.  There seems to be an actual psychological effect.  New pathways and neurons and connections are literally made in our brains.  Our perspective changes as our body’s own chemical pathways lead us into new insights.  God can literally change our mind over time.  And just like our muscles become stronger when we exercise them, so too, when we repeat the stories, those brain patterns become etched deeper and harder.[2]

The longer you speak negatively to yourself, the deeper you will sink.  But the more positive inspiration and influences that surround you, the faster you will emerge.  Which is why these verses are so important.  Verse 27 says to start considering all the good things.  Remember the great times.  Relive the glory days.  Tell the story about the fun times.  Laugh until your side hurts.  There’s a reason Jesus said to remember Solomon.  That was the heyday when everything was working great, prosperity was in the land, people were happy, there was no war.

Notice closely, though what Jesus said – He did NOT t say make Jerusalem great again.  Because the greatness was never back in the past or in Solomon’s accomplishments.  He used that great time as a comparison which pales against God’s creation.  No, Jesus wants them to go further.  Use the past as a springboard to what can be.  The elements of what made the time and temple of Solomon great are contained in the glory of God – which is available to you and your life even today.

The point of the story is not how great things were in the past – but that God brought you through the difficulties of the past.  When I encounter difficult situations in my personal life today, I am ever so more confident, because I know he brought me out of stuff in the past.

I will never forget one dear old saint.  A long-term missionary in Cuba, evicted from that country after the revolution, widowed at a young age.  When I met her, she could barely shuffle along on her crutches.  Life had been rough – she had very little to her name.  But the smile was always on her face, even through her pain.  She had seen God come through over and over again.  There are people listening today who will never reach the peace that she exhibited.  Not because they’ve gone through worse situations – but because they focus on the negative things in their lives instead of the positive.  This isn’t name-it, claim it.  The pain of life’s situations to her was all too well.  She prayed for healing every day – and it never came – even though she herself was a prominent healing evangelist in the 1950’s.  She had every reason to focus on the negatives – but every day she rejoiced in the care and concern that God had given her.  This is how she overcame hard times, by Treasuring God’s kingdom.

 When hard times come, treasure God’s kingdom.  The old chorus reminds us to Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all these things will be added to you.  Matthew reminds us in his gospel that where our heart is, there will be our treasurer too.  What we value in this life carries over to the next.

Have you seen the bumper sticker – “The one with the most toys win?”  Unfortunately, that’s not quite the way it works.  When I’ve sat at funeral dinners and talked to people who know someone who has deceased, the conversation usually centers on memories of their character – how they treated other people.  It never focuses on the things that people bought.  Most of those sit unused in a storage container some place.

This scripture isn’t telling us not work.  It isn’t an excuse to be lazy.  It’s not a blanket free for all for people to think they can go through life mooching through others when they are fully capable of obtaining gainful employment.  What it is really focusing on is that our identity in life, our goal in life – cannot be intertwined with our work.  Work cannot be our God.  Perhaps this a lesson that may hit closer to home in our culture this generation than previous.  Where for most of the last millenniums, people learned one trade and worked in it their entire life, today, whole industries become obsolete within a decade.  People who trusted in a corporation to be there forever with a retirement fund set in stone are routinely disappointed.  Hard times find their way into our lives.  What Jesus is reminding us is that there are things that are even more important.  Our jobs will fade, but the kingdom of God will last eternal.

 So, what are we to do?  Don’t neglect the spiritual disciplines in your life that attune us to the Kingdom of God.  Take advantage of the power of the gospel over all things.  Live generously.  Work hard, not for yourself, but for others. Make decisions in your life with the kingdom of God in your mind.  Ask yourself, how will this purchase, how will this action further enable the work of God in my life, in that of my families, and in the lives of my friends and neighbors.  Use what God has given you today to advance his kingdom for tomorrow.

REMEMBER THIS TODAY

The reality is a new critical condition could pop up this afternoon.  We can’t predict crisis.  We can only prepare for them.  We take out insurance so we have the monies to recover from a fire, a flood, or an accident.  Joseph planned ahead for 7 years to make sure Egypt would survive.  Planning and preparing is something that should be done and not pushed off to the side.  But even the best laid plans can go awry.  One military doctrine reminds us that the best plans never survive initial contact with the enemy.  But there is one piece of assurance that we have.  Jesus walks with you through any and every crisis.

It doesn’t matter what kind of crisis.  Financial, health, relationships.  School, Work, Spouse, kids.  Something that you had no control over – or maybe something that is a direct result of your actions.  The inception of the crisis does not matter.  Jesus will be there.  He walks with you, alongside of you, in front of you, and behind you.  When you can’t carry one, he carries you.

When you don’t feel him, or see him – he is there.  Call upon the name of the Lord and you will be saved.  Cry out, and he will lift you out of the drowning quicksand.  He walks with you through the valley of the shadow death.  He stands in the fire beside you.  He will never leave or forsake you.  Do not be anxious, for He is with you.

THINK THIS THROUGH

I am reminded of the great British author and philosopher, C.S. Lewis.  While we know his works today from his books and the movies, we might not realize the kind of struggle he went through. We forget that he was a teenage soldier assigned to the western front in France during the dying days of the First World War, he hospitalizations he endured through trench fever, the pain of seeing best friends die or the horror of having explosives tearing through his chest.  He survived and lived the remainder of his life with shrapnel lodged close to his heart – never knowing what jostling move might be his last.  Yes, C.S. Lewis had difficulties.  An avowed atheist, he was confronted with the horrors of evil and suffering; he denied the very existence of God.  It was hard times.  But then those around him who also went through hard times, encouraged him, lived a life of an example, and slowly the intellectual opposition to God disappeared as he encountered the love of Christ.

God knows our situation; He will not judge us as if we had no difficulties to overcome. What matters is the sincerity and perseverance of our will to overcome. -- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

God knows.  God provides.  God comes alongside and gives us the will to walk step by step, slowly forward.  All we have to do is invite him into our Critical Condition.  Then we will overcome.

Shall we pray.