In the series “Road Trips in Scripture”

2 Corinthians 11: 25-27

By Cathy Davis, Minister of Pastoral Care

WOW, can you even imagine what Paul went through because of his service to Christ.  As I was writing this sermon I sat at my desk thinking, what would it be like to be walking into church and someone grabs me and then all of a sudden 15 or 20 people appear and surround me and start throwing rocks at me and they continue throwing them until I am near death and then they leave me to die.  It is so hard to even imagine that but, as I was, my thoughts went to Paul and how he endured such pain and hatred because of his faith. In some places people still endure that today, people are being shot in their own churches, people of different ethnic groups, people of the gay community, and even people because of their religious values are being ganged up on and beaten.   My thoughts then turned to prayer and I then prayed God please let me endure the minor hardships I may face because of my love for you.

Just as Paul was willing to offer himself completely for the sake of the Gospel, we can and should offer ourselves as well. Paul was sacrificing his life for the gospel, he was stoned, beaten with rods, 3 times he was shipwrecked, he was hungry, thirsty and cold and naked.  Many of us sitting here today have not been stoned or beaten, we aren’t left cold and naked along the side of the road, but we do experience flat tires, accidents, trials of loss through death, divorce, brokenness, we deal with sickness and we may even have to deal with rejection because of our faith.  BUT the trials and hardships we experience for the sake of Christ build our character, demonstrate our faith and prepare us for further service to the Lord.

Let us compare our faith journey and endurance to our travel experiences or hardships we have in our lives, now I’m not trying to minimize what Paul dealt with at all but I think we can relate to our summer travels and other hardships easier than we can to being stoned to death or shipwrecked.

One of the vacations I remember as a child was our family was going to Florida to visit my Aunt and Uncle.  We had a camper, so we were going to set up our camper in my Aunt and Uncles side yard at their lake house.  My parents always liked to leave early in the morning to avoid traffic and probably because me and my 2 brothers would sleep for several hours of the trip.  We get on our way and aren’t even to Lima yet and the camper gets a flat tire.  Dad, I’m sure wanted to just say forget it we are going back home, but he didn’t, he changed the tire and we were on our way.  We made it to Sweetwater Tennessee about 3 in the afternoon and Dad had a migraine and we had to stop for the night.  So, we sat the camper up and while Dad slept, Mom took us kids to the pool, and we all swam.  Again, Mom and Dad could have been so upset and discouraged but they made it fun for us and the next day we continued and made it to my Aunt and Uncles.  When we think about that trip, we always remember those 2 experiences, but we remember those and laugh at what happened.  I learned from my parents how to handle mishaps and disappointments with grace. 

So, when I was married and had a family of my own, Les and I planned a vacation to the east coast.  Our oldest son Matt who was 14 at the time and was an avid New York Mets fan, so part of our vacation was to attend a Mets game.  We left home and were almost to Arcadia and I asked Les, did you put the tickets to the game in my purse because I don’t see them.  He said No, I figured you picked them up, I said No you had them last and said you would take care of them.  I’m sure Les wanted to blame me and I wanted to blame him but, none the less, we didn’t have the tickets, so we turned around went home and got the tickets off the counter and started our trip all over again.  It wasn’t the way we wanted our vacation to start but we hopefully showed our kids that even though people make mistakes you move on, don’t blame and have a wonderful trip.

What about when we must deal with really hard things, like divorce or brokenness in a family, death, a terminal illness of a family member?  Like Paul, we must endure.  Whether we like it or not, when something tragic happens in our life or even something as minor as a flat tire or leaving tickets at home on your counter, as a Christian the world is watching to see how we handle it.  And because of how we handle things we can show and build endurance; we can build our character and we can grow our faith and service to Christ. I can think of so many couple here at church that have been dealing with some pretty serious health issues and they are showing endurance, and, in my opinion, they are building their character and putting their faith in Christ first.  They are giving God the credit for every positive test result and when things aren’t going in a positive direction, they still give the glory to God that they are still here and that God knows the big picture, we don’t.  When I see these folks, I am seeing endurance, I admire the character they are showing, and their faith is growing through this hardship and they are showing service to Christ.  Imagine the seeds they are planting when they show their faith and endurance to doctors, nurses and visitors. 

My family went through a very rough time in our lives back in 2011.  One morning my Dad woke up and had trouble seeing out of his one eye.  He and Mom went to the eye doctor and they couldn’t find the problem, they continued to search for the problem, he was sent to specialist in Columbus and Toledo, he had MRI’s, CAT scans, and week by week he was getting more symptoms and starting sleeping a lot and getting weak.  After about 3 months and another MRI, they diagnosed him with lymphoma of the brain and said their recommendation was to put him on hospice.  WE WERE SHOCKED to say the least.  After trying some rehab to regain some strength, we as a family decided to take Dad home under the care of hospice, by this time Dad was bedridden and had no use of his legs.  We got Dad set up in the living room in a hospital bed and for the next 9 months we cared for Dad, Mom slept on the couch 6 feet from his bed every single night, my two brothers, their wives and I were their everyday and one of us spent the night with them every night.  I learned a lot from my parents through this difficult time. My mom taught me and showed me, that when you take a vow that says in sickness and in health, she meant it.  She was a saint when it came to caring for Dad and she will be the first to tell you her strength came from the Lord.  Dad taught me that no matter your circumstances God is still your God and you praise Him even in the rain.  I remember a few times when a visitor would go to leave and asked if they could pray, Dad would say, you sure can but can I pray also, and he would pray for them and all of us.  Mom and Dad never lost their faith during this time.  Did we get angry at times? YES, did we question God? YES, but when one of us was angry or questioning God or feeling weary someone else in the family was always there to encourage us or lend a shoulder for us to cry on.  The doctors gave Dad only a very short time to live, but God blessed us with 9 more months after his diagnosis.  Dad went home to be with the Lord on Nov 7, 2011.  The day after his funeral on Nov 11, 2011, my grandson was born.  God showed us the circle of life that week, we lost Dad and gained a new baby boy who brought the family such joy.  We weren’t beaten or stoned for Christ but we went through something extremely hard for our family and believe me we felt beaten down at times but we endured because of our love and faith in Christ, we could have easily blamed God but we hung on to His hands all the harder. 

My point is, we all go through hard things as an individual and as a family, sickness, brokenness, loss through death or divorce, … I could go on and on.  How do we deal with these hardships?  Do we still have our faith in God and praise His name even in the rain?  Do we get angry with God and maybe sometimes yell at God, but when all is said and done ask God for help and admit we were angry, but God has brought us through.  Because no matter what we go through even something as minor as a flat tire or forgetting baseball tickets, everyone is watching how we react, are we reacting the way someone who professes to be a Christian and Christ follower should react?  Are we enduring our hardships with God holding our hand?

Let us learn from Paul.

What do we do when we are rejected for our faith, ENDURE

What do we do when we are made fun of for not following the crowd when they are doing things we disagree with, ENDURE

May we continue to endure for Christ.  May we learn from Paul and put our service for Christ first in everything we do.

AMEN

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