Jump Start # 2284
Matthew 16:18 “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it.”
I’ve got a book that’s been sitting on my desk for some time. I pick it up once in a while and read from it, but most times it just sits there. The book is written by an elder or shepherd in a church. The subtitle tells it all: “100 tough problems church elders have faced.” And, that sums it up. Each short chapter begins with a difficult situation. From that, the author answers the problem. I assume these were all real problems. Some are not so tough. Others would make a person pull his hair out. Many of these problems and situations I have never encountered nor heard about. It makes a person wonder, what would be the best course of action if this happened.
Our verse has much to do with the concept of this book. Jesus came to build the church, which is people, saved people. The church is a work in progress. We are people on a journey, a journey to Heaven. Building people, like building a house or store, takes time. A new store is being built in the little town I live in. It’s taking a long time, especially with the rain and then mud these past few days. There is finally some lights on the inside of the building. It will be months still before it is opened. It takes time. Building people takes time.
Each of us are unique, and come with our own story, background, issues and experiences. Rarely are two the same. This is why a book like I have on my desk can be dangerous if not understood. It can’t be used as a manual. In this situation, turn to page 45 and this is what we need to do. Can’t do that. While the story may seem the same, people are different and the approach must reflect that. The Gospel isn’t a manual. We come to understand that in the teachings of Jesus. What Jesus did with Nicodemus in John 3 was not the same as the Samaritan woman in John 4. These people both needed Jesus, but they were at different places in their understanding and their background. Jesus always started where people were.
Having a book that works like a manual sounds great, but it keeps us from digging into God’s word. How easy it would be for a group of elders to refer to the manual book rather than the Bible. In time, the manual is more used and referred to more than the Bible. That is the danger of such things. God’s word provides enough situations for us to refer to without needing a manual.
One thing I have found when I have read a few of these situational examples is that I sometimes did not agree with the conclusions that the author came up with. Putting myself in those situations made me come up with different approaches, different passages to use and different ways to bring up conversations. Rather than being useful, I found myself disagreeing with what the author concluded. Now, that creates another situation, which one of us would be right? What the book said, or what I felt?
It also occurred to me that most elderships have enough real problems that they do not have the time, nor heart to read these other problems from this book. Life is real. Things happen. One doesn’t have to imagine what might happen, because they are too busy dealing with what really happens. It’s like laying awake in bed and imagining what would happen if my house burned down. What would I do? What would I grab first? Why go there? Why have such thoughts? The Philippians were told to let their minds dwell upon the things that were lovely, pure and of good repute. Imagining firing the preacher, or the church going bankrupt, or a zillion other horrid thoughts isn’t healthy nor is it where life is. We deal with the present. We learn from the past. We set our course for the future based upon where we are and what we know. A person can dwell upon the “what ifs” in life all day long. What if I was divorced? What if I lost my eyesight? What if I had my car stolen? I doubt the apostles thought, “What if we were in a storm on the sea?” Or, “What if a demon possessed man came running towards us, screaming?” Those things happened. Our faith in Christ is where we live. And, that’s where we must develop our heart and trust in the Lord. Imagining problems isn’t a place where one needs to go. There are enough troubles in a day, is what Jesus said. Don’t worry about tomorrow. And, don’t make up more problems.
I expect most of the grand Bible stories that we love involving people of faith happened without any future knowledge or planning. I doubt Noah thought about living in a boat for a year while the rest of the world died. I expect he never dreamed that would happen. I doubt David ever thought about facing a giant. But he did. Will I face cancer? Will I face the end of my life alone? We build our faith and trust in the Lord and come what may, we face it. We don’t have a manual nor a crystal ball that gives us insight into what we ought to do if this situation arises. What we do know is that we will continue to worship the Lord, trust Him with all of our hearts and know that He is always there for us.
Every church, as is every family, as is every person, faces different things. What you go through in life I may never experience. What I journey through may not be what you experience. My story may not help you. Your story may not help me. But the Lord’s word will help us both, no matter what we face. Strength, faith, ability, attitude, those all factor into how we face problems. Snow storms are not the same as thunderstorms. Tornados are not the same as earthquakes. Loss of job is not the same as loss of a child. Tears over a broken marriage are not the same as the tears over a broken bone. Pain hurts. We all endure pain. I may not understand what you are going through, but I can understand pain. You may not relate to me, but you know pain. And, we also know, the One who loves us, cares for us, and can help us—Jesus.
The best thing is to build that foundation upon the rock. Storms come. That house will stand. That’s the promise of God.