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Summary: This sermon was my last sermon at Wakelee Church. It uses a wheelbarrow for an analogy for the body of Christ in transition.

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“We Have Come This Far By Faith” – A Farewell Message

Wakelee Church ~ June 12, 2005

Hebrews 12:1-2 & Ephesians 2:8-9

(quotes taken from The New King James translation unless noted)

Theme: Over these past seven years, we have lived our faith. In the future, we will need our faith even more.

Introduction – Wheelbarrows…

Illus. - A guy decided to show off his skills by walking a tight rope over a waterfall. But before he began, he asked the crowd, “How many have the faith that I can walk this tight rope?” The crowd cheered him on, and when he made it to the other side, they cheered for him again.

He then silenced the crowd and asked, “How many have the faith that I can do it blind-folded?” The crowd cheered him on, and when he made it to the other side, they cheered for him again.

He then silenced the crowd, looked toward some construction equipment where there just happened to be a wheelbarrow. He asked the crowd, “How many have the faith that I can carry this wheelbarrow over my head, blind-folded across this tight rope?” The crowd cheered him on, and when he made it to the other side, they cheered for him again.

He then silenced the crowd and said, “I want to thank you for the enormous amount of faith you have shown to me, but I am not finished yet! How many have the faith that I can walk this tight rope, blind-folded, carrying this wheelbarrow…with someone in it?” The crowd began to cheer him on, but he stopped them with one last request… “May I have a volunteer?”

At the end of seven years of ministry…I can only look back and say it these past seven years have been an awesome wheelbarrow ride.

AnnMarie and I jumped into that wheelbarrow when we decided, and God’s Spirit lead us, into full-time ministry here at Wakelee.

You know…it takes a bunch of faith to ride in a wheelbarrow. They aren’t the most stable of hauling devices. One wheel in the front causes it to tip quite easily, and the handles, no matter how good of shape they’re in, always require a great deal of strength into to get the load moving.

Riding in wheelbarrows and faith…now there’s a great farewell sermon!!!

I – We’ve wrestled with our faith…

I was thankful for Karie’s special music this morning. The song she sung is considered to be one of Charles Wesley’s greatest hymns. You heard the story read from Genesis before she sang, but let me give you the rest of the story.

In the chapters preceding the ones read, we read of how Jacob stole some livestock, wives, and servants, but was able to make an agreement with the one he stole them from. But Jacob still wanted his brother Esau’s approval.

So Jacob sent out his servants to contact Esau, and Jacob was excited to hear from his returning servants that Esau would be coming, that is, until he found out that 400 warriors were coming too.

Needless to say, Jacob became nervous, so he sent out his whole flock all through the night, a third at a time as a gift to hopefully appease his brother.

After he sent his flock out to meet and appease, the story continues in what you heard already read. Jacob and God wrestle…Jacob wants a blessing…to know God’s name. God wants Jacob’s heart and even breaks his hip to get his attention. (Yes, there are times when God does not fight fair! )

All night they went back and forth (have you ever had those conversations with God?) All night Jacob and God struggled together.

This struggle of faith reminds me of our first two weeks in this area. Moving from the bustling area of Stevensville/St. Joe/Benton Harbor to Wakelee was a culture shock for us. There was a lot of wrestling between God and I during that time.

But just as Jacob and God finally finished…God broke my negative spirit to get me to see all the positives we could experience. As I think over the last seven years, I remember new relationships being formed. I remember a church that took care of my wife during the difficult pregnancies of our children and the struggle with my father. I remember a church that helped me get through seminary and now probationary membership in the West MI United Methodist Annual Conference.

Genesis 32:28 says “And He (God) said, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed.”

Just as Esau ran up to Jacob and gave him a big hug, letting Jacob know that he cared more about their relationship than his stuff, this church and this community welcomed the “traveler unknown” into their midst and for that we are grateful.

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