A topsy turvy world
I first started writing this message looking out over the debris left by Storm Doris (yes remember her, she swept through the country on 23rd February bringing snow to Scotland and gale force winds to much of the rest of the country). There were trees strewn across roads and cars squashed under fallen debris looking like broken children’s toys. There were images on our screens of everyday scenes looking upside down and shaken up. In many ways our world seems topsy turvy not only in the natural world but also in the political sphere both home and abroad. It is easy to feel unnerved by all this lack of order but at the same time we believe in and follow a God who uses topsy turvy situations to enormous benefit.
In the Message version of Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 5: 3-10 it says:
“You’re blessed when you are at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are -no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves the proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
You’re blessed when you care. At that moment of being care-full, you find yourselves cared for.
You’re blessed when you can get your inside world – your mind and heart- put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.”
How incredibly counter cultural are these statements made by Jesus several millennia ago and yet how amazingly liberating, “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope…..” What a relief not to have to pretend for one minute that we have our lives sorted. Not only that, but there is even more of God in our lives precisely at the point when we have failed from a human perspective.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are -no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves the proud owners of everything that can’t be bought. ”
We live in a world that encourages us to constantly acquire and believe that we need everything we desire in order to feel satisfied. Jesus assures us that if we can liberate ourselves from the need to have more and more, then actually we gain something that money cannot buy…….contentedness. Please do not think I am saying that we shouldn’t have possessions in life, there is something very valuable in a beautifully designed object that does the job perfectly (a teapot that pours without dripping, for instance, or a raincoat that actually keeps out the rain) or a piece of art that does something inexplicable to your insides when you look at it. Let’s not fall into the trap though of being owned by our possessions.
So how do God’s counter cultural, upside down values help us in this crazy world of fake news, uncertain political futures, post truth and other alarming concepts?
Well, it is worth considering why we find such things unnerving in the first place. I suspect that the majority of us like to feel that we are in control of our lives. We find change that is out of our control worrying, precisely because we do not have the final outcome in our hands. It’s very clear in the Bible however that God doesn’t consider it healthy for us to be in control to the exclusion of him. Remember how Paul describes the situation with the thorn in his flesh.
2 Corinthians 12: 8-9 “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My gracious favour is all you need. My power works best in your weakness”.
It is the same principle quoted above, “With less of you there is more of God and his rule”.
We really need to learn that habit of “letting go and letting God”. Our God is reliable and dependable if we allow ourselves to trust him.
Psalm 34:19 reads, “The righteous face many troubles, but the Lord rescues them from each and every one.”
This verse is really important because it contains an important truth, we will have problems in life and it’s crucial that we understand and accept this basic truth about life. It is so easy to go through a really difficult time in life and be tempted to wonder why God has abandoned you whereas God clearly tell us that we will have difficult times in life. This should not be a shock to us. The enormous BUT is that there is resolution through God for each and every one of our troubles. The resolution may not be instant, easy and pain free but he promises to never leave us or forsake us and there is a way through it.
Finally, learn to practise the “divine exchange” with God.
1 Peter 1 v 7 “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about what happens to you.”
God loves us pouring out our hearts to him when life is rubbish. He has “broad shoulders” and when we offload onto him we can experience that divine exchange, we give him our anxiety and worry and, in return, he gives us his peace.