When Life Is Not Fun!

Dr. Gary Glanville Sermon #3 March 29, 2020 “When Life Is Not Fun!”

So, have you have a change to go outside yet to get some fresh air and do a little bit walking?  People everywhere are walking, jogging, riding their bikes and taking their pets for a leisurely stroll.

I’m reminded of the man who named his dog Five Miles and every day took his dog for a walk around the block.  Later on, when speaking with all of his friends, he would tell them he walked five miles that day. 

And speaking of walking, kids today don’t have a clue how easy they have it.  One woman explained, when I was young, I had to walk 9 feet through shag carpet to change the TV channel.

Kids also complain a lot about taking a nap as if that was a punishment.  What they don’t understand is that when you get older, a nap feels like a small vacation. 

And here’s my final piece of advice for people who want to get a little exercise and go outdoors after feeling all cooped up.  Begin by standing on a flat surface, where you have plenty of room at each side.  With a 5lb potato bag in each hand, extend your arms straight out from your sides and hold them there as long as you can. Try to reach a full minute, and then relax. 

Each day you’ll find that you can hold this position for just a bit longer than the day before.  After a couple of weeks, move up to 10lb bag and then a 20lb.  Finally, when you feel completely confident, put a potato in each bag. 

Well hopefully that got you to smile just a little because there really hasn’t been too much to smile about lately, except for a few viral videos like the dad from Kentucky dancing with his sons on Tic Toc, or a few heart-warming stories of encouragement such as neighbors lined up in their subdivision clapping for a young girl returning home from cancer treatments.

Well, I’ve got a question for all of you, on this Sunday, March 29th.  How would you describe the last few weeks of March?  What words capture for you what you have been feeling lately in lockdown mode as we’re still figuring out a new daily routine?  Do words such as discouraging, depressing, disrupting, devastating, even defeating, come to mind?  Or maybe it’s words such as bored, interrupted, trapped, isolated, confined, going stir crazy, fearful, lonely, stressful, lack of sleep, crisis management, getting on each other’s nerves, not how you imagined life would be, saddened by the news reports, emotionally and physically exhausted.  Well, whatever words come to your mind, I’m betting for all of us, we would not describe life right now as fun

For each of us, we can’t wait for all of this to be over, to be behind us, so we can get back to a sense of normalcy.  This routine of six feet apart, washing our hands constantly, staying inside while relying on technology to be the answer for everything, was old way back on day number one.  We weren’t created by God to function this way.  We thrive on fellowship and communion, interaction and personal touch, sharing ourselves with others while embracing life to the fullest, making memories with loved ones and not restricted from travel. 

This virus thing changed all of that.  It came, unexpectedly and suddenly out of left field, without warning or time to really prepare.  This virus didn’t knock politely, instead, it bashed-in our front doors like a swat team. This virus was never invited, it rudely interrupted our way of life.  And the thing is – it doesn’t care who you are, or how old you are, or how important you might think you are.  You can be a teen in LA, a police officer in Detroit, or the next king of England, but it doesn’t discriminate, because it’s an equal opportunity disease.

I wish life could be fun right now, but it’s not.   Dreams have been put on hold, events cancelled, workers laid off, businesses shut down, while the grief-stricken deal with their losses unable to see or touch their loved ones.  Sport’s enthusiasts are going through withdrawals while athletes can’t train or compete.  And speaking of athletes, what about all the Olympians all around the world who have been training and preparing for the last four years for Tokyo and now they must wait some more?  No, life has not been fun at all, though we are doing our best to make the best of a bad situation. 

            Today, I want to share a word with you I’m calling When Life Is Not Fun.  And my intent is to share with you a few stories about real life and then try to tie that in with a story from the Bible about a man named Paul who knew all about life when life wasn’t fun.  And yet somehow, for Paul, when life was far from fun, and he was treated unfairly and unjustly for preaching about Jesus; tossed into a prison cell below ground with the pungent smells of sewage and excrement, he learned about some new words, some hope-filled words, some inspiring words that God had for him that encouraged him greatly.  And I would contend, we could sure use those same grace-filled words today in 2020.  And I believe we need to grab on to some of those same hopeful words that God can plant in our hearts, so we can move ahead just one more day – one day at a time. 

            And this idea of one day at a time, makes me think about the Hebrew people traveling with Moses after leaving Egypt.  Do you remember the miraculous bread they ate in the wilderness called manna?  They were given just enough for each day to satisfy their needs.  There was no storing up of manna for a rainy day.  It was a daily supply.  Just enough.  And then the next day God would do the same thing, giving them just enough again. 

I think the same could be said about us right now, where God gives us just enough grace, just enough strength, just enough peace, just enough faith to believe we will get through another day, with the confidence God goes with us and will provide for our daily needs.

            So, with that in mind, let’s begin and see what God may want to show each of us today through a simple message pertaining to life in 2020, a life we did not choose or vote on right now, but rather, was dropped in our laps – when life is not fun

Does anyone remember January of 2014 and a new term we were all learning back then called a Polar Vortex that froze the Great Lakes all around Michigan?  Does anyone remember wind chill numbers (in this immediate area) around minus 40 degrees with 16 inches of snow?  In 2014, the Polar Vortex hit our nation on Sunday, January 5th, and dipped as far south as Atlanta, Georgia.  The actual temperature in North Dakota went down in some places to 55 degrees below zero while Miami, Florida was 85.  That’s a 140-degree temperature difference.  Schools were closed in the north and people were taking squirt guns outside, shooting them into the air to watch the water freeze instantly. 

The reason I remember the Polar Vortex so well, is because we were returning from a tropical cruise and had just docked in Tampa, Florida.  Here we were, in short pants, sunscreen gooped on our skin, with temperatures each day averaging 88 degrees, and now we would fly home to a place where as soon as you went outside, it felt like your face was going to freeze off. 

Now, originally, we had a direct flight from Tampa to Bishop Airport.  But guess what?  Our flight was cancelled along with 3,500 other flights and nearly 8,000 flights had been delayed.  We ended up flying to Baltimore, Maryland and spent a night in a hotel.  The good news was, God still blessed us during a miserable situation.  We stayed in a brand-new hotel that had a free airport shuttle and breakfast in the morning.  (Just enough provision to get us through another day.)

But our situation, though far from fun, was nothing compared to the story of Tim Rutledge, a trucker from Florida, who was making a delivery in Indiana.

            On Monday, January 6th, Tim encountered a snow storm and his brakes froze up.  He pulled over at a truck stop and got underneath his truck to fix his brakes.  While on the ground, the truck shifted and caught Tim’s left side and left arm pinning him by the axle.  He called for help but nobody could hear him.  With the wind chill at -42, his clothing froze to the pavement underneath him and he could not move.  He lay on the ground freezing for nearly 8 hours.  It’s unbelievable he survived.

            How did he get free?  His wife in Florida, not hearing from him, became worried and started calling him repeatedly on his cell phone.  His phone was on vibrate and eventually came loose from his jacket pocket where he used a voice command to call a phone number.  The thing was, after 8 hours of freezing, Tim had no idea who he was calling, but he pleaded with the person not to hang up.  The good news was, it was his boss, who figured out his location and called 9-1-1 for help.  Rescuers had to literally cut Tim out of his frozen clothes in order to free him.  I don’t think Tim Rutledge was having fun that day do you? 

            There are tons of other dramatic stories we could tell, yet, the point is this:  We have no clue what might happen to us any day of the week do we?  We go about our normal business and sometimes things just happen.  At the same time, there will be days for all of us, when life is just not fun.  Whether it is the minor aggravation of a flight being cancelled, the seriousness of being trapped under a truck, or having to deal with an invisible enemy like a virus that is gripping our world right now and causing all kinds of havoc to our health, our lives, and our economy. 

I try to remind myself that in this brief life I live on this side of heaven, there are no guarantees that life will always be rosy without any hitches or scars.  And just because I’m a Christian, doesn’t mean I’ll never have any challenging days.  However, the great news is, as a believer, you and I have a source of strength that will sustain each of us through all we encounter, as God will provide for our needs.

            One of my favorite people in the New Testament is a particular person named Saul, who at one time in his life hated Christians, wanted to stamp them out of existence and then, he met Christ and became a believer himself.  As a matter of fact, he wrote roughly half of the New Testament we have in our Bibles.  We know him by his Roman, Gentile name, the Apostle Paul.

            Several times in Paul’s life, he found himself in prison.  And wanting to still communicate with the many churches he had started, he would write them letters from prison through a secretary.  They were letters to tackle various situations that the churches were going through.  One of those letters, Paul wrote to a church found in Philippi.  This Philippian letter is often viewed as Paul’s most personal letter, and has been called the Epistle of Joy

Kind of amazing to think that of all of Paul’s writings, his most joyous letters came while in prison.  That really says something about the person himself and where he placed his trust when life became the most difficult.  It also challenges us to re-think about our own lives in comparison, and where we place our trust in the most trying of times.

            I believe it was during Paul’s time in prison that he really learned about the concept of contentment.  Accepting the unacceptable.  Learning to appreciate whatever circumstances he found himself in and that God could be his sufficiency and strength to get him through one day at a time.  For Paul, he was learning how he could face any situation, because he knew the Lord would walk with him and would never leave him.  And Paul’s contentment, inner peace, and abiding trust in His Lord, was not something he mustered up all on his own, rather, it was a divine gift God gave to him.  His strength and inner confidence to endure all things lay with the One who continually empowered him day by day. 

            That’s why I believe Paul could write in Philippians 4 such things as: “I can do all things through Him (through Christ) Who strengthens me.” (Phil.4:13)         “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”  (Phil.4:19)

            I also believe it was through the challenging and stretching and most difficult times for Paul that he developed an attitude of gratefulness, where he could express to God his thanks in big and small ways, for the little things, for the basic things we often overlook, no matter what was happening to him personally.  For Paul believed by faith God went with him every step of the way and that God could use all things for good according to God’s sovereign plans and will.  Paul told the church at Ephesus to “always give thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ…;” (Eph.5:20)

            And what really amazes me is how Paul, in his final imprisonment in Rome, right before his execution, where he was beheaded, wrote his second letter to Timothy, his adopted son in the faith.  The Lord sustained Paul to the very end.

I don’t know all of the things that all of you are going through right now, the stress and pressures you are facing.  I can’t tell you what life will be like next week, or a month from now, or when all of this will be over.  However, I can offer this word of encouragement.  It’s a word of encouragement to step out and trust in the same God Paul trusted in. For I believe we serve a faithful God Who will walk with us and bless us not only when things are going great, but during the most trying and stretching times you and I will ever face.  God’s strength will uphold you.  God’s provision will meet your needs. 

            I share all of this with you because I believe we still have some challenging times ahead of us.  According to the medical experts, the next 3 weeks will tell us a big part of the story as the virus peaks and then hopefully levels off.  And yet, you and I know over the next three weeks, the news may be rather disheartening, and life will be far from fun. 

And while all of this is taking place, I want you to be the church ready to go like the Red Cross.  For I believe this could be our shining moment to bring comfort to others who have been devasted with loss; to come along side of them and let them know they are not alone.  We can help people with meals, perhaps a utility bill, or drive someone to an interview for a new job.  What if we discover the funeral homes have a backlog of memorial services, how might we best help?  We, as a church, can help to bring the light of Christ after so much darkness.

And when the day finally arrives where we can safely be together again, my dream is to have us all combined for one huge service of victory in our family life center.  I want us to raise the roof in praise.  I want us to have such a great time together the tears of joy will flow.  That is my dream.  And that day is coming dear ones, guaranteed.

So, for now, as we are hunkered down and we are practicing our faith and trust in our risen Savior, while learning to be content in all matters, and thanking God for the simple things about us, this is when God can grace us with His gift of peace and calm our fears and give us the inner confidence and hope we will be alright.  We will make it.  Why?  Because we are not alone.    

For you see, whether in this life or the next, God remains a constant.  He’s always with us – no matter what.  And when you know that in your heart, that’s when life stands tall bursting with the reassurance “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me; knowing my God shall supply all my needs according to His riches in glory!”  Amen.