Enduring Changes We Never Wanted

Dr. Gary Glanville Sermon 13 “Enduring Changes We Never Wanted” May 31, 2020

Hymn of Preparation “I Am Resolved”

Closing Hymn “Day by Day”

Enduring Changes We Never Wanted

           Consider the year 1902, nine years before my grandmother was born in 1911, and eleven years after my step-grandfather was born in 1891.  We might say life in the early 1900s was a little different than it is today, yet it was the world where my grandparents grew up and amazingly, my longest living grandmother lived to be almost 104.  That’s a pretty amazing age for anyone to reach, especially when you consider what life was like back in 1902.  For example, in 1902…

  • The average life expectancy was 47.
  • The average wage was 22 cents an hour with an

  average worker earning between $200 to $400 for

  an entire year.

  • Only 14% of the homes had a bathtub.
  • Only 8% of the homes had a telephone.
  • 95% of all births took place at home. (That would make life exciting don’t you think?)
  • Only 6% of all Americans had graduated from high

   school.

  • In the entire United States there were only 144

  miles of paved road, everything else was dirt.

  • The population of Las Vegas, Nevada was 30.
  • Mother and Father’s Day did not exist; neither did

  crossword puzzles, canned carbonated drinks, or

  ice tea.

  • Sugar cost 4 cents a pound and coffee was15

  cents a pound.

  • And in 1902, most women washed their hair once a

  month using either borax detergent or egg yolks for

  shampoo. (I wonder how many of us could survive

  washing our hair once a month with either borax

  detergent or egg yolks for shampoo?)

           It’s amazing to think about all of the changes that have taken place since the early 1900s. Or to know when you hold in your hand a greeting card that plays a musical tune like Happy Birthday, that simple $4 card carries more computer processing power than existed in the entire world before 1950.

           Let me ask you, do any of you drive a car to work, or to run errands, or to go on vacation? Well, did you know when the automobile first entered the scene, the horse and carriage industry fought against its acceptance.  Ministers were asked to preach against the automobile, explaining this desire people had to drive was an emotional disease called automobilitis which was destructive to religion and morals.  The Tennessee State Legislature passed a law requiring anybody who intended to drive an automobile to place an article in the local newspaper a week in advance to warn pedestrians in the area. 

As the speed of the automobile reached the terrifying level of 20 mph, public relations specialists paid brain surgeons to issue warnings that motoring at such high speeds would drive people insane.  A neurosurgeon by the name of Dr. Winslow Forbes wrote, “When these racing motor cars reach 30 mph, they must drive themselves for no human brain is capable of dealing with all the emergencies that may arise should that rate be maintained for any period worth thinking of.  The human animal is simply not destined to travel at 30 mph; neither the human brain nor the human eye can keep pace with it.” 

           Makes you wonder how they would have reacted if they ever saw a NASCAR race at 200mph. 

           Well, obviously, none of those predictions about the automobile ever came true. (Which makes you wonder about some predictions people make today.  Will they ever come true or not?)  But it does support the fact, change looms all about us and it’s something we don’t always have a great deal of control over do we?  Especially, when we are dealing with unknowns, like a virus creating a pandemic, and life as we know it has been disrupted and dramatically changed.

           Some of you will remember Michael Agwanda from Kenya, East Africa.  Michael has spoken at the church several times and we support him through Life for Children Ministry.  Michael sent an email this past week explaining what is happening in Kenya beyond dealing with Covid-19. 

           Crops for human consumption have been totally wiped out as hundreds of billions of locusts have swarmed the country devouring all in their path.  The worse flooding in 60 years has destroyed homes, killed animals, and washed away farmland.  200,000 people have been displaced from their homes while 237 individuals directly died from the flooding and landslides.  Men and women have literally lost everything including their livelihood. 

Because of the virus, wearing a mask is mandatory along with a national curfew in Kenya from 7pm to 5am that the police enforce with arrests and fines.  And, because of the lockdown, families have been separated and are not allowed to travel and reunite.  Michael’s wife, Lolla, is living in one community, and he and the kids are living in another. 

Because of all these devastating events, there is a desperate need for supplies for all of the orphans Michael works with, so I want you to know our mission committee stepped up and sent a gift in your name.

Q:       How does a country like Kenya, without a solid infrastructure and finances, deal with the impact from all of those changesHow would someone living there pick up the pieces and start all over again?   Where does a person place their hope when all around them life seems hopeless?

           I’m directing today’s message toward the person who is doing their best to endure with a major event change they never asked for or wanted.  Quick example, the recent flooding in Midland County where thousands have left their homes.  Or, think of someone you know right now who may be hurting, or has some questions, some doubts, they have become discouraged or weary from all of the recent changes.  I mean, you and I didn’t ask for these changes.  They came uninvited.  As a matter of fact, these changes are a royal pain.  They’re exhausting.  Depressing.  We’re tired of it.  And the question remains, how are you supposed to live life now in the midst of changeHow do you endure the problems that won’t go away fast enough? 

Well, I believe, all of us from time to time need to hear a word of hope, a word of encouragement, a sign of confirmation answering a personal prayer.  And it is my prayer, my hope as I speak today, that the Holy Spirit is going to speak to you and meet you at your greatest level of need. 

           This past week I was reading the Bible before heading to bed.  I came across two Scripture references that really spoke to me.  One was from the book of Romans and the other from the book of Hebrews.  Each verse used a word that I think is a word many of us need to hear right now.  The word was “endurance” or “perseverance,” depending upon your Bible translation.  Let me share with you those verses of Scripture and see if God may have a special word for you. 

First from Romans 5:3-4:

And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces enduranceendurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope

           The second verse is from the book of Hebrews, chapter 12, verse 2:  “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

  One of the beautiful things we can experience as a Christian is having both a peace with God regarding our salvation, along with a peace from God that the Lord gives us as a gift while going through various trials and stressful situations.  It is a peace that helps us rise above our circumstances, in spite of whatever hardship we may be facing, as we know in our hearts God still goes with us and will never leave us. 

And with that sustaining peace from the Lord, the Apostle Paul reminds us can rejoice while dealing with afflictions.  Not that we are excited about having problems, because nobody in their right mind wants problems.  But the fact remains, the Christian disciple knows about their future with God, they know where they are going.  And, because of that knowledge, they can triumphantly endure all things, for we have a greater hope to come.  You see, this world where we presently live is not all there is; this is not our final home.  God has designed for the true believer, something on a grander scale as a reward, where all that we have suffered and endured on this side of heaven will be made up to us in glory.  And so, the future prospect of heaven allows us to deal with present sufferings, because we know, they will not last forever.  At the same time, when it comes to endurance or maintaining a steadfast perseverance, we discover enduring afflictions and trials is more than just the ability to bear things while under pressure.  Endurance has an element of triumph. 

Look at Jesus for a moment.  Jesus endured the cross for our sakes, so that one day we could triumphantly join Him in His triumph over death.  You see, the cross, as painful as it was to endure, did not defeat Jesus in death.  Rather, Christ triumphed over the cross, defeating death with resurrected life that shall reign forever.  Which is the same resurrected life the Christian believer is promised.

Now here is the thought that hit me while I was reading all of this.  Here is the application.  You and I have been dealing with some life altering changes because of Covid-19 that has been at times frightening because of the unknown factor, grieving when death has ensued, stressful because of jobs lost and finances put on hold, and inconvenient because of the sheltering in place and all the safety protocols we have been following. 

And as I was reflecting on how tired and weary I am about all of this, as I was thinking about how inconvenient life has been for all of us and how we miss connecting physically with family and friends, I began to think about what Jesus went through for you and me.  Jesus was mocked, spit upon, beaten with fists and rods.  He was scourged with a Roman whip that tore the flesh off of His body.  He had a crown of thorns pressed into His head.  Then Jesus endured the worst torturous death the Romans could inflict upon another human being called – crucifixion.  It was such a horrible way to die that it was against the law for a Roman citizen to be crucified.  Jesus’ hands and feet were hammered into wooden beams as if He was a 2×4.  He was offered a drink to deaden the pain and He refused it.  He endured it all, fully, 110%.  And the thing is, no one forced Him to do it.  He did it freely.  Why?  So that one day you and I might openly confess our faith in Him and be granted the gift of everlasting life in the kingdom of heaven. 

When I compare the inconveniences of Covid-19 to what Jesus endured on the cross – it doesn’t compare does it?  How does sheltering in place and the fact I can’t go to my favorite restaurant or movie theatre, or go on vacation, or attend church the way I want to and shake hands, how does that compare to what Jesus endured for me?  And I decided, if Jesus could go the distance on the cross for me, I can go the distance with Covid-19 for Him.  

           When my dad had his stroke in October of 1994, his world dramatically changed and change was very difficult for him.  I think the toughest thing for him as a man was grieving his loss of independence.  Legally, he could no longer drive.  People had to take him places.  He could not jump into his pick-up truck anymore and take off to the hardware store or lumber mill and grab some nails and wooden boards like before.  He could not work on small engines or putz around the yard or do plumbing or fix things readily as he had for years because only one hand was working well.  But I’ll give him credit he did not give up trying.  A simple 5-minute job may have turned into 45 minutes, but in the end, there was a sense of accomplishment.  His endurance, his perseverance brought triumph. 

           I share this with you because all of us have been through a life-changing experience these last 3 months.  Ask anyone older than you if they can ever remember a time like this and I bet every single person will tell you “no.”  Talk to a senior graduating from high school or college and ask them what they think about their future as everything is put on hold.  And because this has been such a life-changing experience where we don’t know the endgame yet – we all need the reassurance that life will go on.  We need an inner hope that reminds us there will still be memories to make and times of joy with laughter, but most likely, at least for a little while, we will experience them in new ways in the midst of these new changes

And because all of us have lived life with daily routines we understand and feel secure in and derive comfort from, introducing a new change can be dramatically difficult at first, especially when uninvited like Covid-19 or flood waters invading our homes and businesses.  Uninvited change is downright tough, oftentimes more than what we bargained for.  From my limited observation, about the only person I’ve witnessed who really enjoys change is a wet baby.  But for the rest of us, how we deal with those changes, especially when difficult, can make a big difference on our perspective of life and how we view God.  To one dear soul change is so difficult they may question if God is real and still present and they turn away.  To another, change drives them even more to call out to God, believing the Lord walks with them every step of the way no matter what, to where God will even carry them.

           And so, I ask, with dramatic change, like what we are going through now, causes worry and weariness, can we still choose to endure, to go the distance like Jesus and move forward with God’s help?  Can we discover new meaning through our trials and setbacks, or even a routine we dislike such as wearing a mask when we go shopping?  Is God capable of transforming our changes into new possibilities for growth?  Can God still bring about a redeeming purpose?  Are we learning anything?

One of the redemptive things we are learning in the church is that by forcing us out of our comfort zones to use technology, we are reaching more people in their homes than we’ve never reached before.  A second thing I think many of us have also learned is that during this time of separation we miss being together and that life is fragile and not a guarantee, and we need to take advantage of all the moments of living life to make them count.  A third thing I hope we’re learning through all of this is the fact no matter what changes may come, God never changes.  He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  God sees the beginning from the end.  God has not been taken by surprise through any of this.  Now you and I might be surprised by events in life, like the family down south in 2016 who found in their great-grandfather’s attic a crumpled paper bag (they were going to throw away) with seven Ty Cobb baseball cards inside worth millions of dollars.  But the point is, being surprised is not a part of God’s vocabulary. 

We need to always remember as Christian believers that when God is by our side, there is always a brand-new ending to the story that is yet to come about.  God is not finished yet and He is committed to you as a loving Father.  His gracious favor knows no bounds when He thinks of you. 

           As so as I close, I want you to hear this promise of peace God offers to the disciple who has learned to pray about everything as they persevere, as they endure with triumphant hope in their hearts, committing all of life’s surprises and changes unto Him.  Philippians 4:6-7 (LB). 

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don’t forget to thank Him for His answers.  If you do this you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand.  His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” 

Let us pray. 

God, we need You.  We always have.