For years now, anytime I get a chest cold or a cough, I have moments of panic. I flash back to age 19 and being hospitalized for pneumonia. That sickly cough and the flavor of sickness. It makes me panic. I cry out “No, no, no Lord! Not again. Make it go away!”
Just recently I got over a particularly stubborn bug with a cough that wouldn’t let me go, and it had me thinking about when I had pneumonia. I had been sick for a couple of weeks when I finally went to the doctor. I was diagnosed and sent home to rest, but when I woke up the next morning I was struggling to breathe. My mom rushed me to the clinic down the road, and after a few looks at me, the ambulance was called.
Now for those of you lucky enough to have never been in an ambulance (or unlucky enough to have never seen a medical/crime show), there are two medics: one driving you to the hospital and one in the back with the patient. The second medic, the one in the back, their sole purpose is to take care of you. They are trained to keep you alive.
So here I am, strapped to a bed and loaded into the back of the ambulance. My guy got me all settled in, and told me that he was going to start working on my paperwork. He communicated that if I needed anything to just ask him. Now, I’m going to blame the rest of this story on my sickness muddled brain.
I was laying there and I started to struggle to breathe. I could feel something starting to block my airway. I could still breathe but it hurt, and I was uncomfortable. I remember looking over at my medic and thinking, “I don’t want to bother him. He looks busy. I’ll just wait until I get to the hospital. If he asks if I’m alright, I’ll ask him to move me but I don’t want to be a bother.” Seriously! This man’s sole purpose in life (while he’s with me) is to make sure that I am in the best possible condition he can manage, and I didn’t want to bother him.
As I was thinking about my unwise decision regarding my paramedic and my bout of pneumonia, I came up with some parallels to our faith walk.
1. God is my ever-present, soul paramedic. Like my ambulance paramedic, He is right here with me, ready and willing to ease my burdens. Jesus invites you and I plainly, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Whether my burden is sin related, and all I need to do is reach out to God for forgiveness, or if my burden is situational, and I need to reach out to Him for help and guidance, He is right here with me. When life throws us in the back of an ambulance, He is right beside us, yet pride, shame or disbelief in the severity of the situation can keep us from reaching out to Him.
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
2. My faith family are my spiritual paramedics. We all have people in our lives that we can turn to for help, yet we try to do life on our own. When we don’t allow people in and don’t let them help with our struggles, big or small, we are missing a beautiful opportunity for healing and depth of friendship. When we fall into the trap of “I don’t want to be a burden” we miss out on God-designed wisdom and help from others.
Exodus 17:8-16 provides an excellent example of how much we need others to help us carry our burdens. Moses chose to ask for help from Aaron and Hur. His arms needed to be in the air for the Israelites to win the battle and he couldn’t do it on his own. He needed them to help him support the burden God had given him. It makes me wonder how often I try to carry my burdens myself when there are others placed around me, intended by God to be sources of His grace.
3. Sin is my sickly cough (or worse). I need to treat my sin the same way I treat any new chest cold I get. The second the Holy Spirit draws attention to the sickly evidence of sin in my life, I need to cry out “No, no, no Lord! Not again! Take it away!” I need to take Psalm 51:10 seriously and pray, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." I need to be conscious of what has historically trapped me. I need to look reality in the face and know where I am easily susceptible to be taken in again so that I can fight in the future.
I need to take Psalm 51:10 seriously and pray Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Our physical health is very similar to our spiritual health. I, for one, do far better with my physical health when I have someone walking alongside me: meal planning with me, cooking healthy foods, asking to go on a hike rather than watching a movie. The same is true with my spiritual health. I need community walking alongside me. Encouraging me to be in Scripture. Doing Bible studies with me. Keeping me engaged in my local church. This requires me reaching out to the people in my life and asking them to help me. I’ve got to open my Bible so that I can see God’s work in my life and feel His poking and prodding to grow more like Him. I need the Great Physician and my brothers and sisters in Christ to keep me out of the ambulance.
by: Nikki Watermolen
A few days ago was a difficult behavior day for the children at the Gold home. It was the sort of day that leaves dad and mom battling discouragement and asking, “Are we doing something wrong?” What in your life can leave you asking the same question?
I concluded the day with Janice by praying a few of the attributes of God over us in order to rally our hearts. The next morning I awoke before the family knowing my need to draw on God’s grace. As I prayed the Holy Spirit drew my mind to the first verses in the Gospel of John which celebrate the excellency of Christ. Verse 5 was specifically sweet to me because of the previous day’s turmoil: “The light [Jesus] shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
I grabbed that phrase and repeated it over and over, guzzling it like my son guzzles ice water after mowing the lawn in July. The light shines in the darkness. The light shines in the darkness. Jesus shines victoriously in the darkness, AND the darkness has NOT overcome it. Darkness has NOT overcome Him. Darkness cannot overcome Jesus.
A thought of victory and true hope exploded upon me: Jesus is the Darkness Destroyer.
Darkness (godlessness and sinful turmoil) cloaks our world, our homes, our kids’ hearts, but the Light still can shine, does shine, and will shine where He chooses. The darkness is not supreme. It cannot overcome what Jesus wants to do in the hearts of those around us, and what He wants to do in our hearts as well.
Jesus is the Darkness Destroyer.
This early morning reminder restored my heart to want to love and lead my kids for another day, regardless of the behavior that might burble up on their part. My hope for the day isn’t rooted in their fluctuating behaviors and attitudes. My true hope is in knowing: Jesus shines (actively, effectively) in the darkness, and darkness cannot overcome Him.
Jesus is the Darkness Destroyer.
I need the Destroyer at work in me just as much as my children. Other people, kids or otherwise, stir up the selfishness, pride, and impatience that still seek to reclaim territory in my heart. Darkness continually creeps upon my desires like the late afternoon shadows stretch slowly over my backyard. My victory is in keeping my eyes on the One who blazes forth and eliminates the darkness.
Jesus is the Darkness Destroyer.
The further miracle of the Destroyer’s work is that, as He overcomes darkness, He re-constructs His own character in His people. Think in terms of lawn care. Many people nourish their lawn with products that contain both weed killer and grass fertilizer. It destroys as it strengthens. It removes what harms as it restores what’s desirable. The Darkness Destroyer is equally committed to our true health and holiness. He promised, “The thief [Satan, mastermind of darkness] comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).
Jesus is the Darkness Destroyer. Jesus is the Abundant Life Giver. Those are truths that get me back in the parenting game, and life's other "games," with gusto!
Ice Breaker: Following up on the metaphor from the sermon, if you were a boat floating through the sea of life what type of boat would you be? Why?
Exploring False Hopes
Jeremiah’s Extreme Hope
SKIM over the first two chapters of Lamentations. How would you summarize the historical situation and emotional state of Jeremiah?
Helping Others Hope
Pastor Thomas repeatedly referred to three common people as examples of people in need of hope: your neighbor, your waitress, the teenager trudging through your neighborhood. Apply Jeremiah’s sources of hope to each of these case studies:
NEIGHBOR: Your neighbor is concerned about a pending layoff at his job. It is likely his position will be cut with no severance package. He shares with you that there are no “rainy day” funds in his bank account and he has a growing mental panic. How might you empathize and then relate how the truth that “God’s love never ceases” has given you hope in times of duress?
WAITRESS: You asked your waitress, “When we pray over our food is there any way that we could pray for your?” Initially she hesitated, but a few minutes later she returns and blurts out, “My boyfriend has been drinking more and more. We’ve lived together for 4 years, but I feel like he’s drifting from me and going to end up in trouble.” How might you respond with compassion and then relate how the truth that “God’s faithfulness is great” has given you hope when facing people problems?
TEENAGER: You are friendly acquaintances with a family in your townhouse complex. You had a cookout with them last year. Lately you’ve heard the teenage son and his father arguing frequently which typically ends with the teen bolting out the door to trudge angrily around the complex. This time you feel the Holy Spirit prompt you to gently engage the young man so you grab a couple of Cokes and head out. The teenager is open to conversing. How might you relate the truth that “God’s mercy is new every morning” can offer true hope to this young man?
Ice Breaker: Have you ever known someone who was genuinely excited, on a continual basis, to see Jesus face-to-face in Heaven?
READ Romans 15:13
Close in prayer for yourself and seek the Lord for how to minister hope to yourself and the other individual you mentioned above.
Ice Breaker: How has your spiritual journey impacted your relationship to your finances?
READ Philippians 4:10-23 and imagine how these verses would have been received by Paul’s friends and spiritual children back in Philippi. How does this function as a fitting conclusion to this letter?
Paul’s first focus (v.10) is to Express Gratitude.
Paul moves from gratitude to Contentment In Christ (v.11-13).
Paul celebrates the Philippian believers as True Church Partners (v.14-16)
Paul writes (v.17-18) that the Philippians’ gift was Worship Through Generosity
Paul finishes this passage (v.19-20) worshiping God as a Faithful Father Forever.
Close and Pray based on the word you selected in the final question. Spend time praising and petitioning the Lord based on that characteristic.