DTR on Revival Ch.3 "A Crisis of Faith"
PK here: I offer the following sermon by my friend, the Reverend David Ryan, pastor at www.hopelandumc.org. Pastor David and I are simultaneously preaching a series based on Adam Hamilton's book "Revival". Here is what Pastor David has to say:
Last week, we left Rev. Wesley helping us
The difference between being an “almost Christian”
And “an altogether Christian” –
Our aim of course, is to be an altogether Christian –
One who is fully surrendered, yielded to God
And living their live in a way that pleases and serves God.
But….how do we get there?
That was a question that Wesley struggled with for a long time – maybe it’s one that you have struggled with too.
If that’s the case…you will especially want to give a listen this morning!
Wesley was doing his best.
He was reading his bible. He was teaching Bible and Theology to others. He was leading and participating in a small group of believers. He’d been ordained a Priest in the Anglican Church…
I’d say he was doing everything a person could do to be right with God….except one thing
And it was that one thing that he took a long time to figure out.
Wesley had everything in his head.
He had lots of knowledge.
He knew lots of stuff about God.
He practiced the disciplines of faith…
But…by Wesley’s own admission…
It was all here…up in his head.
It wasn’t making it down to his heart.
To help close that 12 inch gap…
The distance between the head and the heart…
God would use a storm.
Our friend John Wesley did not like
Being on a boat….much less a ship
Out in the middle of the Atlantic.
But in his day…that was the only way to
get to America – to the colonies.
And Wesley had a calling to go –
A mission to fulfill.
Georgia had just been established as a British Colony…
And they needed some clergy.
The folks at Oxford sent Wesley.
John convinced his brother Charles
And a few others to go along with him.
He’d been afraid of the sea…but…
If that was where God was leading…
He was willing to follow.
On Oct. 14 1735 he boarded the Simmons
And set off for Georgia.
It took three months to make the journey!
I know some of you don’t like to fly.
At least a flight is usually not three months!
Can you imagine…having to do something that
You really were not comfortable with –
For that long?
But Wesley did it.
He really did love the Lord
He really did want to serve him
He really did want to minister to others.
And so he did it.
But oh the storms.
They shook Wesley to his core.
He was certain he was going to die.
And it caused him to doubt his faith.
He wondered…how genuine was it
If he was not ready to die?
You see, I think God was there in the storm
Waiting for John to see Him.
Waiting for John to be drawn to him.
But John didn’t quite get it then.
But what He noticed was that while he and the other English on the ship were terrified….
There were a group of Germans – Moravians…
who were calm – reportedly singing a hymn….
Now these were folk John admired.
He couldn’t see God…but he saw them.
He thought a lot about them during his time in Georgia –
Which really didn’t turn out so well.
Lots of things happened.
He didn’t make as much headway as he thought he would.
Fact is, he was a little rough on people.
He offered a 5 am prayer meeting…
Which…is not a bad thing in and of itself,
But he said that you could only share in communion
If you attended these early morning services.
He once had a parishioner tell him
“I like nothing you do..indeed there is no one in this town who is going to listen to you. You can preach all you want, but no one is going to come”….
Those are words that warm a pastors heart! Not!
He also fell in and out of love –
And the woman he had fallen for married another –
Not long after that, John headed back to England…
But he never forgot that storm –
And those singing Moravians.
Wesley knew they had a faith that he did not possess.
They knew God was in the storm…he did not.
He was on the brink of quitting preaching all together –
But the Leader of the Moravians – Peter Bohler encouraged him not to quit.
He said…Preach faith till you have it, then because you have it, you will preach it!
But Wesley could not forget that storm –
And that was a good thing –
Because there are things every one of us can learn
From the storms that come into our lives.
We look at scripture –
And we see all kinds of folk who had to deal with storms.
Think about Noah – 40 days and 40 nights of flooding.
Jonah – all those days in the belly of a whale.
The disciples – who terrified by the storm
Even while Jesus lay asleep in the front of the boat.
Or Peter – being swamped over by the stormy waves
As soon as he took his eyes off Jesus.
Most of us don’t like storms –
Especially not the emotional kind.
Yeah..the literal lightening and thundering
Can make us jump, but those storms soon pass
But our emotional storms seem to hang on longer
those times in life
When everything just seems to be going wrong.
When it seems like you are getting hit on all sides
When it seems like everything is coming down on you at once.
When it seems like things you have been working so hard on
Are all falling apart.
When it seems like we don’t have a friend in the world.
Those times when your spirit just wants to call out
Where are you God?
Have you abandoned me?
Have I done something so wrong that your are punishing me?
Giving up on me?
If you get to that point when you want to call those things out….
Call out and ask God where he is…
Because I think you will hear him say…
“I’m right here”.
“I got you”
“I’ll help you get through this”.
Can you imagine John Wesley not wanting to preach?
Feeling like he didn’t have it in him?
His storm lead him to Aldersgate Street –
Where the Moravian folk were studying
An Intro to the book of Romans that Martin Luther wrote.
Luther too had been through a storm –
His was a literal one –
He had clung to a tree and prayed with all his might
That if the Lord would deliver him
He would serve him…and the Lord did deliver him
And Luther did serve the Lord.
In that intro to Romans,
Luther was saying…that its by faith that we are saved.
Not by our works
But by our Faith.
You know who wrote the book of Romans?
A guy named Paul.
Paul too had his share of storms to get through –
Both spiritual and physical.
He was shipwrecked once…
But God saw him through.
He had lots of spiritual storms
He was imprisoned for his faith.
He was beaten…he was put on trial
Eventually he was killed for his faith.
But I don’t think Paul would have traded any of that
Away – because of what it taught him.
Paul tried all kinds of ways to be right with God
Before he met Jesus.
He called himself a Pharisee of Pharisees.
He knew the law
He did his best to live the law.
But he wasn’t happy.
He didn’t have joy or peace or really love.
There was no grace in his life.
What turned things around for Paul was when
He really met Jesus.
That too was in a time of crisis.
God had struck him blind!
But he had the ears to hear God….
And God got a hold of his life
And poured his grace in…
And Paul was a changed man.
So changed, his name was changed –
It used to be Saul – it got changed to Paul.
Now sometimes Paul gets a bit convoluted in his writing
In Romans – at least it feels that way to me –but he was trying to communicate some really big ideas..
So I guess we can excuse him.
In our scripture for this morning,
Paul is writing about Abraham…
And how Abraham was said to be a righteous man
Even though he didn’t work towards that.
Again…remember that Paul, and John Wesley who was a lot like him…had done all kinds of work trying to earn that state
Paul says if you work for something, you should be able to expect
That a fair wage be paid.
It’s like…you get hired for a job, you do the job, so at the end of it, or when payday rolls around…you have your hand out saying –
Hey – I did my part – now pay up.
Some folks think of their spiritual life like that.
They do all this work and then they expect God to pay up.
Only…there is this big problem.
God does not pay up for inferior work.
And guess what…all our work is inferior.
We can never be good enough to earn
All that God wants to give to us.
So what are we to do?
Nope. There’s good news.
We can’t earn God’s blessing.
We can’t see our way out of the storms
That life hits us with on our own.
We can’t earn the righteousness….
But we don’t have to.
Because God loves us.
He treasures us above all else.
He’s got grace for us.
And he gives it away
You heard me right
I know…its hard to believe.
But it’s true.
That’s how much you are loved.
All you have to do is trust in that love
At first…trust in that love to bring you into
Right relationship with God.
Cease your striving
Cease your doing
Stop trying to earn it.
But it’s yours anyway.
And when the storms of life start raging all about you….
Cease your striving
Cease your doing.
His love is with you.
Nothing changes that.
I know that’s hard to believe…
But it’s true.
Stay faithful in the storm.
Let the storm bring your closer to God.
I know that every other love can let you down.
At some point, every other love has its breaking point
We do our best, but sometimes we let each other down.
We are not God.
But God is God.
How’s that for profound?
God is God.
Amen and Halleluiah!
God is God
And God is Good.
Nothing is as bad as God is good.
No storm out storms God’s abundant Grace.
If you find yourself in the midst of a storm
And you feel like you are drowning
And you almost feel like you can’t make it.
Cling to this truth.
God is God.
And because he is God and because he loves you
He will see you through.
You will get wet.
You will swallow your share of sea water
And that can be nasty.
But God is God
And He’s got you.
Let that trust, that knowledge
Flow from your head to your heart.
John Wesley said it was like his heart was strangely warmed.
When he stopped trying for righteousness…he found himself
One that came not from his own striving
But from that marvelous grace of our loving Lord.
To know that
To experience that grace
Well…its just the best thing there is.
My heart cries
My eyes cry literally.
When I think of that amazing love.
John’s brother came to this same experience
About the same time.
He tries, in many of his hymns to find words
To express what happened to him
To my heart, one of the best is the hymn
We know as
“And Can it Be”.
Listen to the Amazement that such a marvelous
Reality can be ours…
Charles Wesley asks…
1. And can it be that I should gain
an interest in the Savior's blood!
Died he for me? who caused his pain!
For me? who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
2. 'Tis mystery all: th' Immortal dies!
Who can explore his strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
to sound the depths of love divine.
'Tis mercy all! Let earth adore;
let angel minds inquire no more.
3. He left his Father's throne above
(so free, so infinite his grace!),
emptied himself of all but love,
and bled for Adam's helpless race.
'Tis mercy all, immense and free,
for O my God, it found out me!
4. Long my imprisoned spirit lay,
fast bound in sin and nature's night;
thine eye diffused a quickening ray;
I woke, the dungeon flamed with light;
my chains fell off, my heart was free,
I rose, went forth, and followed thee.
5. No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine;
alive in him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach th' eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Oh my friends.
God is so good.
His love so full
And its directed to you – your heart is where he wants to dwell.
Are there storms in your life right now?
If so it’s ok. Meet God in the storm.
You will find Him True and Faithful
And the only one able to bring you through.
There is grace enough for you.
Come to Christ, my friend.
Do not hold back.
You’ve been trying on your own for far too long.
Now is the time
Now is the day.
Let Christ into your heart.