Over the past 7 weeks we have been working through questions that were submitted by our community. We started off with two foundational weeks, and then we jumped into the questions. This whole series has been a melding together of the dozens of specific questions. Now today we circle back to the end with another foundation.
I am going to ask you a question leading into where we are going today: what is something that you have been better at than you are right now, and what would it take to get back to your best? This may be something physical, or relational, or intellectual… It’s probably something obvious, and something that others can identify with. Let's have some fun in this:
What is something that you have been better at than you are right now?
What would it take to get back to your best?
We did it. We are about to finish the questions series. Time for a victory lap! Time to celebrate! We are finishing the questions series and therefore we have everything figured out
Have you ever felt this? When life is supposed to be figured out or at least make more sense–Wait, I just don’t know how to do…this.
In 2000 Rick Ankiel was a rookie pitcher for the Saint Louis Cardinals. He had a great rookie year, with 11 wins, and people saw him as one of the great up-and-coming talents in the league. And then game one of the playoffs in the third inning, he had a meltdown.
Rick has done interviews about this meltdown. What happened? The monster got him. He called the voice in his head THE MONSTER, telling him that he could not do it. And the internal not only impacted him internally.
You probably are not a major league pitcher, but the voice can still get to us. I just don’t know how to do this–whatever the “this” is.
Let's process in dialogue for a moment. I am not going to be asking you to pinpoint something specific, but to pull out and process the emotion.
Someone comes to you and uses the sandwich method. They say some nice things to you: You’re great. You have a great heart. You are valuable. And then they drop a bomb: I have noticed some things. You are not very good at… [Long pause] And then the other slice of the sandwich: But don’t forget that I think you are great!
Maybe it doesn’t even take a person. Maybe it’s the ‘monster’ in your head.
What do you feel when you are “reminded” that you are not very good at something?
No one really loves to be reminded of the things they are not good at. So the obvious answer is to know everything, be great at everything!
So let’s pretend. Let’s pretend you have the answer to everything. No more confusion. No more wondering. You know math–all of it. You know money–all of it. You know parenting–all of it. You know relationships–all of it, how to have a healthy relationship with your grown kids, your spouse, your friends, your girlfriend or boyfriend, your co-workers, your boss. You know the answer to how to handle people different from you. You know the solution to that problem in your relationship. You know what your career path should be. You know the best way to build your faith. You know everything
We know that knowing it all is not an option. But along with that, we also know what it is like to have a relationship with someone who is a know-it-all. As much as we know that it is not possible to know it all, as much as we know that it is not pleasant to have a relationship with a know it all–why is there still pressure to know it all?
Why is there pressure to “know it all?
Why is there pressure to be good at everything?
We look in the Bible and we see these characters that remind us of our own fears and inadequacies. People that God called on. People that God believed in. People that God used.
When the Israelites were held as slaves, God called on a man named Moses. Moses wasn’t perfect, he didn’t have all the answers to bring the people out of captivity, but still God called him.
Moses was afraid. He didn’t believe God would use him. He didn’t believe that he was capable, he didn’t believe that anyone would trust him.
Moses answered God, “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11)
Moses objected, “They won’t trust me. They won’t listen to a word I say. They’re going to say, ‘God? Appear to him? Hardly!’” (Exodus 4:1)
Moses raised another objection to God: “Master, please, I don’t talk well. I’ve never been good with words, neither before nor after you spoke to me. I stutter and stammer.” (Exodus 4:10)
He said, “Oh, Master, please! Send somebody else!” (Exodus 4:13)
Another time Israel was held captive by the Midianites. The Midianites destroyed all their food sources, destroyed their crops, and killed their animals. They destroyed their country.
God found Gideon, a judge in Israel and someone who’s described as timid. God told him He was with him. He told him to go in strength and save Israel from Midian. But Gideon thought they were too weak–he said, “We are the weakest clan and I am the least in my family.”
When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” “Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.” (Judges 6:12-15)
In the book of Jeremiah, when God called him to be a prophet, Jeremiah’s immediate reaction was, I’m too young, I don’t know how to speak. How can I do this?
“Alas, Sovereign Lord,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” (Jeremiah 1:6)
There are moments over and over again of people in the Bible feeling unworthy, afraid, inadequate, untouchable, weak, rejected. Just not knowing how to do it. Not knowing the answers.
How am I going to save Israel? I can’t speak, they won’t trust me. Please, just find someone else to do it.
How am I going to fight the Midainites? We are the weakest clan. And I am the weakest one in my clan. How am I ever going to know how to lead these people and win?
There is no way I can be a prophet. There’s no way I’ll know what I’m doing. I’m too young. I can’t speak. How can I ever do this?
And I know that these stories aren’t our stories. We aren’t learning the best way to respond based on these characters. But it is encouraging to read stories in the Bible of people that felt like the task God was calling them to do was impossible. And they had no idea what they were doing.
As you are walking into something that you feel you are not ready for; when you don’t know enough or it’s beyond your skill set; when it’s bigger than you and feels impossible; when you just don’t know how to do this…
What would be the worst thing that God could be whispering in your ear as you are facing a challenge? (I just don’t know how to do this moment)
But before we even go farther:
What do you think God is whispering in your ear as you are facing a challenge? (I just don’t know how to do this moment)
In moments like this, I might be saying to myself, I thought I would be better at this by now. Don’t mess this one up. Why are you still struggling?
Or, God, just tell me how to do this. Please whisper in my ear what to do when I don’t know what to do…
What is God saying? I don’t think God wants us to fail. But I don’t think He is surprised by it. I don’t think God wants us to be aimless. But I don’t think He is worried about it. I don’t think God wants us to struggle or suffer… Well, maybe!
Paul puts it in perspective:
We also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3-5)
Wow, I just don’t know how to do this–but feel hope: In 2 Samuel 11, David blew up his life in a moral failure, but it was not over for him. In 1 Kings 17, Elijah lost all of his confidence and ran away, but it was not over for him. In Acts 13, John Mark abandoned Paul and Barnabas, co-laborers, partners in ministry who needed each other, but it was not over for him. In Luke 22, Peter denied three times that he even knew Jesus as Jesus is being interrogated and tortured, but it was not over for him. In Judges, 16 Samson proved again and again that he was not that bright as he was blinded by his ego and tricked by Delilah, but it was not over for him. In Genesis 3, we see from the beginning that failure is an option as Adam and Eve fail, but it was not over for them.
In the chaos of life, HOPE. It’s not over. HOPE.
So what am I supposed to do in the I just don’t know how do this moments? I don’t think God is going to whisper line-by-line instructions in your ear! But I do think He believes in you and wants you to have hope in the highs and the lows.
Prescriptive faith doesn’t really work. If it was supposed to be a list of “how tos,” wouldn’t we have been given a “Chrstianity Handbook” instead of a collection of stories of real people? The goal doesn’t seem to be making a bunch of carbon copies or drones that all look, act, believe, experience, and interact with the world in the same way.
But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, but one body. (1 Corinthians 12:18-20)
The “image of God” is not a perfected version of yourself or myself. Perfecting myself isn’t the image of God. The image of God is collective. It is togetherness in our differences. It’s seeing Christ in the parts of others that might be missing from you.
while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. (1 Corinthians 12:24-26)
Faith is kind of like a plant. If you care for it, invest in it, water it, make sure it gets sun and so on, it grows. If you ignore it, it dies. What things can you do to continually invest into the process of faith?
The “how” question of faith is really difficult. I could use my experience and tell you what worked for me. I have even experienced faith where the goal was not to imitate Christ but it was to imitate the pastor. While sharing what works for me, or you, is definitely important, we should be careful that we are not prescribing our faith to others.
Faith is the most individualistic communal experience there is. It’s my responsibility to walk my relationship with Christ out, and that should often be done in a communal setting. My faith is my own, yet its benefits are for those around me.
So what do we do? Let’s look at Hosea.
Hosea wrote this book to remind the Israelites—and us—that ours is a loving God whose loyalty to His covenant people is unwavering. In spite of Israel’s continual turning to false gods, God’s steadfast love is portrayed in the long-suffering husband of the unfaithful wife. Hosea’s message is also one of warning to those who would turn their backs on God’s love. Through the symbolic presentation of the marriage of Hosea and Gomer, God’s love for the idolatrous nation of Israel is displayed in a rich metaphor in the themes of sin, judgment, and forgiving love. It’s a letter showing God’s relentless love for His people. What does God whisper in their ear?
For I delight in faithfulness, not simply in sacrifice; I delight in acknowledging God, not simply in whole burnt offerings. (Hosea 6:6)
God would rather have right hearts, full of truth and mercy, than sacrifice.
I just don’t know how to do this…
The goal of faith isn’t completion, perfection, or being done. It's a commitment to process over time. Heart over expertise. God is whispering: Focus on your heart. Don’t give so much energy to what to do. Focus on your heart….
What does it take for a person to focus on the heart as opposed to focusing on the external?
So what should I do when I don’t know what to do? Great question. Focus on the heart. Focus on your inside. Focus on your character. Incrementally these things will nudge you in what to do.
When Moses didn’t feel like he was enough, God told him He’d be with him.
He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” (Exodus 3:12)
What small steps have led you to where you are?
What small internal steps will help you in your external life?
Take it Deeper Questions
- Read Exodus 4:1-17 or Judges 6:1-18.
- When is a moment you felt brave?
- Was it uncomfortable, scary, or awkward before you did the brave thing?
- What is something that feels awkward but is good?
- What is something awkward, brave, and kind that you can do?
- What is a step in your faith you can take this week?
Bible Reading Plan
- 1 Chronicles 6
- 1 Chronicles 7
- 1 Chronicles 8
- 1 Chronicles 9
- 1 Chronicles 10