Summary: Liiving large in stressful times requires prayer. We are targets of a conspiracy of hate, but prayer makes us genuinely missionary. We are victims of self-centered religion, but prayer makes us compassionate. Montgomery Hills Baptist Church

(Singing): “Sitting by the window praying, waiting for the break of day; sitting by the window praying, waiting to hear what the Lord might say.” (Repeat)

The way to live large is not only to step out in faith, as Abraham did, leaving his comfort zone; and not only to get past old defeats, even when they were self-inflicted, as Joseph did. The way to live large and to make a difference is also to know one’s self, as Moses came to do, recognizing that when you listen honestly to the depths of your own soul you are listening to very God Himself; and then, like Joshua, to evaluate your failures and discover that you are not going to fail if you have followed God’s plan and depended on God’s strength. Living large, as all these Old Testament men came to do, depended on their being very human, not extraordinary at all, but human, and even, like King David, thrashing around, just trying to make something happen, but finding themselves sifted and refined into instruments useful for God’s purposes. Living large, how to make a difference. I hope we have learned much about that.

But what if you do everything right, you learn your lessons, you apply them all, but the world in which you are living spins out of control? What if the times become so terrible, the world so chaotic, that you are swept away? How do you learn to manage terrible times and still live large and make a difference? The last of our Old Testament characters will teach us; and what Daniel will teach us is that the final key to living large is prayer. When life goes well, pray; but when all things crash down, pray. For more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of – or than this world wants. Daniel – what did he do?

(Singing): “Sitting by the window praying, waiting for the break of day; sitting by the window praying, waiting to hear what the Lord might say.” (Repeat)

Of all the images that linger, nearly six years later, of the attacks of September 11, none is more haunting than the picture of people flying out of the windows of the World Trade Center. Do you remember that as those buildings burned with hellish intensity, bodies came out of the windows and fell to certain death on the pavements below? Were these victims blown out of the windows by the force of the explosions? Or did people break open the windows intentionally, and throw themselves out, preferring death by concussion to death by burning? I don’t suppose we will ever know. There is no way to know whether the windows were blown out by accident or were opened on purpose. Either way, however, men and women of all walks of life, rich and poor, young and old, had no choice but to throw themselves on the mercy of God. A terrible time.

But the truth is that in all terrible times, when you are undergoing great stress, there is never any choice other than to throw yourself on the mercy of God. Whether the windows through which you see this world are blown out by the terrible times in which we live, or whether you have yourself opened those windows for fresh winds to blow through, the mercy of God is available. Receiving God’s mercy depends on sitting by the windows to see this world.

I have used the phrase, “terrible times.” Those are heavy-duty words. But there are plenty of signs that ours are terrible times. They are terrible for the residents of Baghdad, who do not know whether they will be incinerated by a car bomb. These days are terrible for the people of a half dozen African nations, living under oppressive dictators whose soldiers use machetes to maim those deemed rebellious. These are terrible times for the residents of certain neighborhoods not very far from here, where gunshots ring out regularly and it is not the law that is in control, but gangs like MS-13. Terrible. Stressful.

And if you say, thank God none of that applies to me, I am so glad I don’t live in a place like that, think again. Think about how the accumulated stress of merely knowing that these things happen, plus being aware that they impact all of us, add the knowledge that we are aging and that some of the things we hoped we would do we will never do – think about all of that together and you will discover that indeed we live in stressful times, terrible times, times that try men’s souls.

This little difficulty I have had with shingles – and I do not dwell on it, because compared with what others go through, it is what the Bible would call a “slight momentary affliction” – but this little bout I have had with a lingering illness has taught me a lesson about stress. You see, the virus I have, which lay dormant in my body for some sixty-four years, may have been triggered by stress. So the physicians say, so say others who have had it, and so says my wife, whose word I dispute at home but to whom I admit in public sermons that she may be right! Stress. Frankly, I do not know what I have to be stressed about. I am retired from the pastorate and do not have to attend deacons’ meetings any more! My mortgage is paid and I do not have to pinch pennies any longer. My children are grown and married and settled, so that no longer do I have to get up in the middle of the night to deal with, “Dad, my car has broken down.” I have two or three little jobs, all of which I love, so what is the stressor on me?

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