Summary: This sermon deals with pushing past the pain caused by tragic events, such as the death of a loved one.
Opening story: A little boy was seen digging in his yard by a neighbor. The neighbor approached and inquired what the young man was doing. “I’m burying my goldfish and having a funeral for it”. ‘O, I’m sorry,’ said the neighbor who continued: “That’s an awfully big hole for a goldfish, isn’t it?’ The boy patted down the last heap of earth and replied, “That’s because he’s inside your cat”.
On Wednesday morning as I put the information on the bulletin to give it to my Secretary, I thought of all of us who have suffered the pain and heartache of losing a loved one. Like Ray and BJ whom both had children murdered. My brother Daryl who was killed at age 13. Father’s and mother’s and friends who have died way to young, and sometimes way too tragically.
Sometimes, it seems we get held hostage by the pain of the past, and so I I decided to preach about it. I quickly jotted down the Scripture and sermon title “Pushing Past the Pain”. Ray Fletcher was standing in Barbara’s office at the time and we both departed to meet in about an hour for lunch in Kerrville and then to go on to the Hospital to see Jean and Earl Bryant. I had no earthly idea, that when I jotted down that sermon title “to help somebody else with their problem” that within hours, I would be trying to swim past the swirling pain that was encircling me, and the friends and family of Ray Fletcher regarding his sudden and tragic accident that took his life.
On Thursday, I showed someone the title, and they asked “Are you going to preach it?”. I could only say “God must have been preparing this message, and I must be faithful to it”.
Before I get to “pushing past the pain”, I must somehow explain my “theology” and “philosophy” about life. Some people, when they talk about the “sovereignty of God”, Rick Warren included, they seem to theologize, that in order for God to be sovereign (in control), that God has to plan everything, including every bad thing, and including even your every sin. In this theory, God’s plan for your life goes A-Z and includes every broken leg; knee scrape and even your death, by whatever means. Anything else, in this line of thinking, questions God’s sovereignty, and is unacceptable.
I myself am not a follower of this type of theology, and though words can hardly describe it, the best picture that I can paint about it, is that of a King. A King for instance does have sovereignty, but generally shares his authority with people to help him govern: Dukes’, Earl’s; Governor’s and the like. The King is still in control, but he chose to share that authority, though ultimately retaining the right to be King. Likewise, God shares this authority over our lives with humanity. He takes part of his “rule” and gives it to us in what we call “free will” or “free choice”.
God does have a plan for our life. He knew us in the womb. Formed us, and he has a desired plan for our life. Woven then, into that plan is “free choice” and “life itself”. Not to mention, once your life is set in motion, there is the “free will” of others that can invade your space. That does not mean that there are not God caused events, because some events are. Then there are catastrophic natural disasters; terrorist; murders; drunk drivers. To me these are not all God planned events, but they are God allowed.
I do not believe for a New York minute that God planned for “terrorist” to fly airplanes into buildings on 9-11. But he gave them “free will”, and God was at work on that day, as fewer people were in the Twin Towers than should have been, many delayed by traffic jams (etc.). You know those stories and you well know what I am talking about.
Someone told me recently, “God always has a plan B”. Like when Joseph’s brothers sold him into “slavery” God used it to bring about the brother’s salvation. Joseph says it like this “What men intended for evil, God used for good”. So what I hope that I am conveying to you, is that God does have a plan; and God remains sovereign, though choosing to share it with us. And as we live out our lives, God seeks to bring about his plan. Sometimes life’s events are painful; either God caused, or God allowed. And we often wonder “why?” God allowed it? Why would God allow Ray Fletcher to die in this manner? Unfortunately, as I said yesterday “I do not have that answer”.
What I do know, is that these events that happen in the course of our normal lives often grip us with pain. At the Hospital the other night, I read a sign that said something like “20 people a day go on the waiting list for organ transplants”. (Now that might have been just one kind of transplant for all I know). And what that says to me is that 20 or more families a day are gripped with the life and death struggle, and may be experiencing emotional pain.