Summary: A Pastoral Care message based on the text’s narrative challenging God’s people in my care to put their faith in Jesus into practice.
Theme: Practical Faith
Purpose: to be the Holy Spirit’s second witness challenging God’s people in my care to put their faith in Jesus into practice.
Response: Individuals will indicate their desire to grow in the practice of their faith by requesting a “NEXT STEPS” handout.
Pattern: A Pastoral Care message based on the text’s narrative
IDENTIFYING THE PROBLEM
Many of us here today are spiritually sick. We are Christians. We have received Jesus as our Lord and Savior but we are not spiritually healthy.
1. Martin Luther King Jr. understood this when he wrote, "There is so much frustration in the world because we have relied on gods rather than God. We have genuflected or bowed down before the god of science only to find that it has given us the atomic bomb, producing fears and anxieties that science can never mitigate. We have worshipped the god of pleasure only to discover that thrills play out and sensations are short - lived. We have bowed before the god of money only to learn that there are such things as love and friendship that money cannot buy and that in a world of possible depressions, stock market crashes, and bad business investments, money is a rather uncertain deity. These transitory gods are not able to save or bring happiness to the human heart. Only God is able. It is faith in Him that we must rediscover."
2. In an earlier sermon, "Rediscovering Lost Values" (1954), King points out the position of our society: though full of knowledge and scientific discovery, we must go back and rediscover precious values we have lost.
He names two specific values: FIRST. That this is a moral universe, the laws of which we violate at our own peril; SECOND. That there is a God over all, whom we unconsciously have drifted away from through our materialism. As King puts it, "We must remember that it’s possible to affirm the existence of God with your lips and to deny the existence of God with your life. The most dangerous form of atheism is not theoretical atheism but practical atheism."
Citation: Kevin Miller, " A Letter to American Christians: A powerful message from Martin Luther King, Jr.," Leadership Newsletter. © 2001 Christianity Today, Inc.
3. Society as a whole is not the only patient stricken with “practical atheism.” One pastor readily admits, “There’s a lot of atheism behind my ministry. The kind of sermons I preach--you don’t have to have a divine intrusion to make them credible. The kind of pastoral care I do--you don’t need a miracle to make it work. I told them, "Look, you say you want the budget increased 10 percent next year. That’s crazy. I mean, we were 2 percent behind this year. The economy, Republican administration, and everything else--you’re crazy. There’s no way the budget can go up 10 percent!" But the lay people went ahead and agreed to the 10 percent increase. They had a visitation campaign, and two months later, a lay leader gets up at a congregational meeting and says, "I want to announce that we not only subscribed next year’s budget in full, we went 2 percent over." The place broke out in applause.
Citation: William Willimon, "Evangelical Laughter," Preaching Today, Tape No. 137. © 2001 PreachingToday.com / Christianity Today, Inc.
4. This spiritual illness is not new. Jesus faced the same illness in his day. According to Him, “what is wrong with the world is precisely that it does not believe in God. Yet it is clear that the unbelief which he so bitterly deplored was not an intellectual persuasion of God’s non-existence. Those whom he rebuked for their lack of faith were not men who denied God with the top of their minds, but men who, while apparently incapable of doubting him with the top of their minds, lived as though he did not exist.”
Citation: John Baillie in Our Knowledge of God. Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 14. © 2001 PreachingToday.com / Christianity Today, Inc.
5. Oswald Chambers, who wrote “MY UTMOST FOR HIS HIGHEST” warns Christians to avoid the same trap. “Beware of worshipping Jesus as the Son of God, and professing your faith in Him as the Savior of the world, while you blaspheme Him by the complete evidence in your daily life that He is powerless to do anything in and through you.”
Citation: Oswald Chambers, Christianity Today, Vol. 37, no. 11. © 2001 PreachingToday.com / Christianity Today, Inc.
RECONSTRUCTING THE PROBLEM
So, what are the symptoms of this spiritual disease so many of us have contracted?
1. Let me begin by eliminating DOUBT as a symptom. Many of us would have expected that to be at the top of the list of real problems for faith. But having doubts and questions is natural.