Sunday after Pentecost
October 12, 2014
Hill, Director of Youth and Family Ministries
"Therefore...How Are We to Live?
Fear & Faith"
morning! I'm going to warn you right off the bat that today
I promise I will take you outside your comfort zone. In
youth ministry, it is crucial to keep up with the ever changing
culture around me. And these days it changes faster than
ever. It pushes me outside of my comfort zone on a daily
basis. Things like the bands that were just emerging as
I was a child being played on the classic rock station,
my impending 10 year high school reunion, and the fact that
I find myself inadvertently using the phrase, "kids
these days¡" remind me that it takes active
effort to move beyond what I'm used to, to grow and stay
in tune with the present realities that make up teen life.
And so I am going to start off by broadening our horizons
and bringing us all in to 2013, which I understand to be
painfully out of date already. For many of you, we are about
to take your first selfie... #sermonselfie. #joestepintomyoffice.
With that being said, any time you see the word "fear"
in a sermon title, be afraid. Not because I'm going to scare
you, but because I am going to ask you to step outside of
your comfort zone. I'm going to ask you to join me in leaving
behind what we are comfortable with and stepping into a
place where God is going to reach in, take hold of your
life, and use its circumstances to transform you.
At this point in the service, I would like to excuse everyone
who is perfect. If you're a perfect person, you are welcome
to leave, because I don't have anything to say to you today.
But for those of us who are painfully aware of how imperfect
we are, who know that life far to often gives us things
we don't know how to handle, for those of us who know that
the kind of person we are and the kind of person we should
be don't always line up, get comfortable¡ but
not too comfortable.
Over the last 3 weeks we have been working our way through
a series entitled "therefore¡ how are we
to live?" This is a 5 week journey through Romans 8,
highlighting 5 paradoxes of the faith along the way and
exploring how we are to live at the intersection of the
kingdom of this world and the Kingdom of God. When God's
promises meet present realities, how do we deal? We started
with Guilt & Grace- the great exchange of our sin for
Christ's righteousness that took place on the Cross. Then
Flesh & Spirit- exploring how in the midst of a fallen
and broken world and sinful and imperfect lives, we can
be transformed and set free by the Holy Spirit. And last
week, Despair & Hope- living with hope when we are feeling
like there is none.
And today we move on to verses 28-30 of Romans chapter 8.
I want everyone here to grab a Bible from in front of you,
follow along with your neighbor, parent, spouse, or that
stranger next to you. I want everyone to have these verses
in front of you. Read them along with me. (Read verses here)
The paradox we find in these verses is this: we live at
the intersection of apprehension of the unknown and assurance
in God's plan. We live lives of both fear and faith.
The other day I walked in to the living room to find there
was a Sharks game on. I was met immediately with dismay
as I saw the Colorado Avalanche score not just one goal,
but 2 within 12 seconds with a 1:28 left in the game to
put them ahead 4 to 3. Now you avid sharks fans might be
thinking to yourselves- the Sharks haven't played the Avs
yet this season. Yes! I hadn't noticed the little "sharks
classic" logo in the corner. I put my stellar deductive
reasoning powers to work, taking inventory of the situation
and realizing what was going on- I was watching a replay!
And then more thinking, nobody refers to a Sharks game where
the good guys blow it in the last minute to lose as a classic.
Hey man, remember that game where the Sharks blew it in
the last minute of the game to lose? That was classic! Somehow
we must pull it off. My distress turned to excitement and
anticipation, not because I knew exactly what was going
to happen, but I did know how it was going to end. The Sharks
went on to score with just a few seconds left, and then
pulled through to a shoot-out win. The excitement was there,
but the fear was gone. I knew how it worked out in the end.
My fear was alleviated because I had been given a glimpse
of the outcome.
Our lives are often lived in fear. Fear of the unknown,
fear on the news, fear of what our kids are doing, fear
of what our friends really think of us, fear of the future.
Why is it so easy for our lives to be dictated by fear rather
than by faith? Before we can have this discussion we need
to address something that we often take for granted- what
We are reminded here that God can work through all circumstances
for the good of those who love him. That in feast or famine,
God can work for the good. So the first question we have
to ask is really, what is good? We tend to take this as
a given, thinking that it is obvious and so why debate it?
Because what our view of good is will determine what we
understand God to be doing in our lives!
We are bombarded with competing standards of what is good.
Tim Keller defines culture as the collective expression
of what is good, right, true, beautiful and just. It is
defined by our cultural artifacts- art, stories, tools,
architecture and much more. So Where can we look to find
what is good? Let's look to TV. We see a parade of superstars.
George Clooney's 1.6 million dollar wedding. "how to
look rich on the cheap" "how to get rich quick?"
"America's next top... whatever", luxury car pitches.
Affluence, wealth and fame are glorified. Those things must
be good. But when we look to life to give us those things,
so often we are disappointed. Does God really want the good
for me? If he does then why aren't I more successful, why
don't I make more money¡ why don't I make enough?
Perhaps because these are this world's pitch for goodness,
but not God's.
Maybe instead we can look somewhere else for what "good"
is. Let's look to music. On the iTunes music charts 3 of
the top 5 selling songs are about sex, one is about getting
over a bad relationship, and the other is about using sex
to get over a bad relationship. Subtle. Things like status,
power, safety, health, jobs and the list goes on. These
are good. But my life doesn't seem to be giving me these
things. Does God really work all things for the good? Or
maybe I do have them, but that is so fragile. An accident,
a bad investment, being laid off, or one little mistake
and it all comes crashing down. We are taught to lament
what we don't have and live in fear of losing what we do.
Culture gives us promises of goodness, and says that we
will be happy when we get them. Often happiness is sold
to us as good. Whatever makes me happy in the moment must
be good. Maybe you have heard the song, "clap your
hands if you feel like happiness is the truth." The
truth is defined as whatever makes me feel happy. And maybe
you have realized that instant happiness does not necessarily
lead to lasting contentment. The high is followed by the
hangover and we are still left asking, "what is good?"
What seems good for me may hurt those I love, or hurt those
that God loves. The pursuit of money has not led to all
being provided for, but to a vast chasm between the haves
and have nots. The pursuit of sex has not led to healthy
relationships, but to high divorce rates, broken families,
single parents, and the loss of extended family. The pursuit
of fame has not led to everyone being appreciated for who
they are, but for the glorification and worship and things
that draw attention- no press is bad press.
Romans 8 doesn't just tell us not that God can work this
mysterious "good" in all circumstances, but he
tells us what it is and that "good" is the plan
for our lives. This good is the destination set by God for
your life. Our culture has one idea of good, but God has
another. In God's plan, being formed into the image of Christ
is this "good" that we have heard of. And in God's
economy, our life experiences, if invested wisely, will
pay big dividends as we see our character transformed more
and more into the character of Christ! And that is truly
good. That leads to a contentment that is deeper than the
fleeting peeks and valleys of happiness and frustration.
It is the committed relationship of love that God has for
us, that grows deeper as we experience the ups and downs
of life together. And the result is that as Christ's likeness
is formed more and more in the lives of his people, the
good in the world grows. A good tree bears good fruit, and
as we grow through the seasons into strong trees as individuals
and expansive orchards as the Church, we produce an abundance
of good fruit!
God's good plan for us is to use the circumstances of life-
victories and defeats, strengths and weaknesses- to form
Christ's image in you. In this one, hindsight is 20-20,
but we can be spiritually farsighted. The things that are
long in the past seem so clear. Can you think of an experience
in your life where a negative circumstance turned out to
make you a better person than you were before? God was at
work there. But the present realities can be a bit blurry
and unfocused. I remember being in nights of my life that
I thought would never end, only to be able to say that I
would not trade that experience for anything because of
the work God did in me through it. God wants us to be refined
in the fire, not burnt by it.
With all that being said, let's take a step out of our comfort
zone. How's life going for you right now? Honestly. Is it
great? Do all of the ducks seem to be falling in a row and
it couldn't be better? How is God trying to use that circumstance
to form the character of Jesus in you?
Is life hard? Are you dealing with things that no one knows
about? Are family struggles, illness, unemployment, stress
or anxiety putting you in a pit so deep that you can't see
the top? It's at the bottom of the pit that we find the
gold. How is God trying to use that circumstance to form
the character of Christ in you?
The difference is all in fear and faith. Are we asking "what
are you doing in me?" or "why are you doing this
to me?" When we have faith in the outcome, we don't
have to fear the process. When we have faith in the destination,
we don't have to fear the journey, no matter how rocky it
So take a moment and pray, "God, how are you using
this circumstance to make me more like Jesus?" What
is He telling you? What are you going to do about it? God
wants to use your present realities to make you more and
more like Jesus. Where do you know for sure you're not like
Jesus? That's a great place to start.
The next step is to talk to someone about it- don't keep
it to yourself! Be proactive and accountable about your
spiritual growth. If you know someone in your life whose
faith you look up to, talk to them. Ask them to tell you
about their faith. Do it right now after church if they
are here. Call them up for coffee. Don't let this opportunity
fall into the category of great opportunities you never
That is the heart of discipleship. It is the culture of
spurring one another on to grow in the character of Christ.
It is learning from those who are more like Jesus than we
are, how we can be more like Jesus. Pray with them, keep
that conversation going.
When we live lives by faith, we don't have to fear, because
no matter where life takes us, we know where God's destination
for us truly is. "for those God foreknew he also predestined
to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, the he might
be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those
he predestined, he also called, and those he called he also
justified, and those he justified, he also glorified."
So where is the destination? It is sharing in the glory
of Christ. So now we are at a fork in the road. One way
is taken in fear, the other in faith. You know where God
is leading you. So will you get there by faith, or by fear?
Pray with me, "God, give us faith." Amen