Thursday, September 1, 2011

A lesson from the audience

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you were supposed to be the one teaching others and you end up being the one who was given a lesson! This happened to me this past weekend.

Whenever I speak to a group I like to start with a question. This past Saturday I was speaking at the local mission and my passage was the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7. I started out asking what I though would be a simple question that would draw my audience of about 40 or so homeless, unemployed, and mentally unstable bystanders into my text. I said "Who can tell me if they have ever heard a story in the Bible about a storm?" Surely they would hone right in on my passage...wrong! One lady shouted "Noah!" I smiled and said "True, but that's not the one I was thinking of!" another one shouted "Jonah!" I smiled again and said "That also was a storm story but it is not the one I am thinking of!" Yet another said "How about the guys in the boat with Jesus!" I began to get a little flustered at this point but politely smiled and said "Yes, that's a great storm story also but it is not the one I was thinking about!" I went about my message about the wise and foolish builders wondering if they were a little disappointed at my storm story.

Later that day I could not help but think about all of the storms people went through in the Bible and how God cared for them. Starting with Noah in Genesis, God clearly took care of him and his family during this massive global storm. In Jonah's story he disobeyed God got on a ship and ran into a massive storm. You probably know the story, Jonah is thrown over board and is swallowed by a fish and three days later he was puked onto dry land. Moving into the New Testament Jesus is sleeping in a boat with "the guys" aka the disciples when a storm comes upon them only to have Christ to tell the storm to be still. Finally there is the storm that my audience did not mention, Paul's storm in Acts 27. Paul and over 200 people/prisoners set sail for Italy and ran into a massive storm that lasted 14 days. God, through his angel, told Paul he would be fine because he had a divine appointment for Paul to meet with Caesar.

So where am I going with this? Good question. These stories of shipwrecks bring me to a series of verses that many Christian's don't want to read because they show that God allows his followers to go through some really tough stuff. They fly in the face of the prosperity Gospel folks who think that God wants nothing but health, wealth and prosperity for his followers.
II Corinthians 11: 24-27 - 24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked.
Wow! This is God's chosen servant. Yet he had to go through not only storms at sea but storms in life. Paul never complained about these storms. He wrestled with God when he prayed three times in II Corinthians 12 to have the thorn removed from his flesh. But God gave Paul incredible insight to suffering and storms. I hope the attitude of Paul is one that I can one day have:
II Corinthians 12: 7-10 - 7 To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. 8 Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. 9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
My audience turned the tables on me Saturday and taught me much more than I probably taught them without their even knowing it. The storms of life are difficult and they can seem to be unending at times.  Are you trusting God to see you through? Are you looking for Christ's power to rest on you as Paul did? Are you trusting that in your time of weakness Christ will strengthen you? We have a captain who is experienced at navigating through the toughest seas anyone has ever experienced. We need to rest in this truth as Paul did.


  1. Thanks, man! I needed this one today.

  2. Just goes to show there is always room for more learning!
    Enjoyed your post!