Summary: In times like these the very things we have created to solve human problems are easily swamped; but God wants His people to flourish and will build bridges over the difficulties.
In June of 1972 I was standing in the middle of Colesville Road, not far from my home. I was standing safely in the middle of the road because no traffic was coming through. Why not? Hurricane Agnes had done. Remember Agnes? We’ve had a lot of storms around here, but not many that did as much damage as Agnes did.
Our home is not far from the Northwest Branch reservoir. When Agnes dumped incredible amounts of water in the streams, the dam was drowned out. So much water came through so fast that it swamped the bridge. Great hunks of roadway were scoured out. Pieces of the bridge were swept far downstream. The very thing – a bridge – that was designed to get us across the water, had been swamped and torn to pieces.
Bridges can be swamped. But swamps can also be bridged. Our lives can be swamped with too much to handle. But there is one who can make an opportunity out of every difficulty. When you feel swamped and overwhelmed, look for God to make a way where there is no way. Bridges can be swamped; but swamps can also be bridged.
Just about one year ago I came to you with a message I believed God had laid on my mind. On June 27, I brought a message entitled, Of Florida Swamps and Brooklyn Bridges. I chose that title because Florida swamps and Brooklyn bridges represent two of the most ridiculous real estate frauds ever pressed on gullible customers. Florida swamps had been sold to unsuspecting people, years ago, who wanted in on the Florida land craze. They bought property, sight unseen, without knowing that the property was under three feet of water, unusable. Buying land in a Florida swamp was an image of a ridiculous, foolish purchase.
And the same with Brooklyn Bridges. In last June’s message I told you how swindlers would approach naïve immigrants on the street of New York, and give them the “chance” to buy the Brooklyn Bridge for whatever funds they had in their pockets! The fact that the Bridge was not for sale, and that the guy on the street didn’t have the right to sell it anyway, didn’t occur to somebody fresh off the boat. Selling the Brooklyn Bridge was my image for a steal and a swindle, a complete fraud.
But up against those images of Florida swamps and Brooklyn bridges, I pointed you to the prophet Jeremiah, buying a field at Anathoth. In a time of tension, God’s prophet bought property. In a time of uncertainty, he invested all he had. In a time in which Judah could not be sure that their conquered nation would be saved, Jeremiah put his money where his mouth was, and bought the field at Anathoth. In that message, I called us to do the same thing – to go beyond merely talking about the needs of people, and to put in our time and our resources to meet those needs. I called on us to demonstrate the same faith as the prophet Jeremiah – to believe that God would bring a faithful people to victory.
I hope you recall the four things I asked you to invest in. I called you to invest in deepened discipleship; in multiplied ministries; next, in winsome worship; and, finally, in systematic stewardship. I asked you to do what Jeremiah did when he made a real estate deal that looked crazy at the time: to put down your money, your time, your energy, and your very hearts to do these things. Deepened discipleship, multiplied ministries, winsome worship, and systematic stewardship.
A year later I praise God, because you are doing these things. In many ways, you have done exactly what you were asked to do. We have exhibited deepening discipleship, as more people have made serious commitments to know God’s word.
We have multiplied ministries! Something like thirty ministry groups are now in place. Saturday Club and Men’s Fellowship and Spiritual Recovery Force and Caregivers and Debt Retirement Team and on and on – you have demonstrated that that you can hear the Holy Spirit. We have surely multiplied ministries.
As for the call to winsome worship, we have done more with prayer than in any year I can remember. An intercessory prayer group; a time of concentrated prayer for a particular situation this past fall. We have much to do, especially toward starting a new service, but we are working at winsome worship.
And as for the call to systematic stewardship, well, the picture is dramatic. We are building a program to assimilate new members, we are developing a way to identify and use your spiritual gifts, and we are sharing our resources in record-setting amounts. We have not by any means done everything we envisioned a year ago, but we are headed in the right direction. We know where we are going – toward deepened discipleship, multiplied ministries, winsome worship, and systematic stewardship. We really have built some bridges.