Sermons

Summary: Let’s talk about the blessing of a burden (From Craig Groeschel's book, "Weird: Because Normal Isn't Working")

HoHum:

Charley McCardle- a man I stayed with in the hospital until he died and gave me a burden to go into hospice work

WBTU:

Blessings come in many shapes, colors, and sizes. It’s natural to give thanks for good things: “Thank you, God for blessing me with good health.” “I’m so grateful- I got a raise!” “God has blessed us with another child. This time it’s a girl.” “God gave us a great deal on a new home. What a blessing!”

God’s blessings, however, aren’t always bigger, better, and beautiful. In fact, I truly believe that God gifts us with some unusual blessings. Might not even call this a blessing, more like burden

Thesis: Let’s talk about the blessing of a burden

For instances:

What’s our burden?

Remember Popeye the Sailor Man. “I fights to the finish, ‘cause I eats me spinach- I’m Popeye the Sailor Man! Toot! Toot!” Whenever his archenemy, Brutus, attacked, kidnapped, or insulted Popeye’s girlfriend, Olive Oyl, our hero would finally reach his limit and shout, “That’s all I can stands; I can’t stands no more!” So he’d swallow a can of spinach and crush Brutus

May God give us a Popeye moment. A moment when God blesses us with a holy burden: something that bothers us so deeply, we are moved from complacency to action. My God bless us with something that unsettles us, disturbs us, and upsets us. If we let him God will show us something that makes our hearts ache. He will bless us with a burden

“Why in the world would I want a burden?” Most of us feel good when we avoid burdens- after all, isn’t life hard enough? It’s natural to want to avoid pain- even others who are in pain. But God didn’t put us here on earth just to feel good and enjoy ourselves. He doesn’t give us our lives so we can master techniques in avoiding pain. He puts us here to make a difference.

If we want to grow closer to God, if we want our values to be his values, then we need to become vigilant for opportunities where he wants to bless us with a burden. He wants to move us beyond our self focused, natural understanding of his blessings and into an others focused, extraordinary experience of his character. What is your burden? Share 3 areas that provide some spinach for our Popeye moments and might help us to identify our burden

1. Building blocks and broken pieces

What breaks your heart? What is it in life that moves us to tears or turns our stomach? What injustice crushes us and, if we let it, will keep us awake at night?

Nehemiah is a great example of a heartbroken man blessed with a holy burden. When he found out that the walls of Jerusalem were destroyed, he became distraught. God’s people were vulnerable to attack, and Nehemiah could barely stomach his discomfort: “They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire.” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven.” Nehemiah 1:3, 4, NIV. Nehemiah was moved to tears and for several days he denied his body food so he could pray. Nehemiah was discovering that God was blessing him with a burden to rebuild the walls.

We see so many people in need today that we can easily become callous with acceptance and indifference. When was the last time we felt our hearts pierced by the suffering of another person? At the intersection when the homeless woman looked us in the eye? When we met the fifth grader embarrassed because he’s never learned to read in his inner city school? When the young teen girl giving a manicure shared about her unexpected pregnancy?

What is it that strikes a blow to our hearts when we hear about it?

2. A holy discontent

What makes us angry? I know that anger can get us into trouble so what makes us upset?

Not talking about pet peeves, nor am I talking about things like war, terrorism, or our sinful condition. These things may be good starting points, but I’m hoping we will uncover something specific that makes us upset (dare I say angry), something that moves us on behalf of God.

Moses offers us a picture of a person channeling his holy discontent. Since he was a Hebrew raised in an Egyptian home, Moses had a heart for his people. One day he happened upon an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, something inside him snapped. He had a Popeye moment and couldn’t “stands it no more.” Unable to contain his emotion, Moses unleashed his outrage on the Egyptian, taking his life (Exodus 2:12). While this calls for another sermon (on anger), Moses demonstrated the passionate power needed to lead his people’s exodus from the land. So it’s not surprising, then, years later after God had humbled him, that God chose Moses to confront Pharaoh and demand his people’s freedom. Just as God used Nehemiah to do what others considered impossible, so God used Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery- simply because God ignited a burden in Moses’ heart.

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