Summary: Is it possible to alter our memory cycles? When you can't hep remembering, what can you do?
“Xtreme Faith: When You Can’t Help Remembering”
1 Sam. 7:2-13
Why is it that the things I want to forget I remember and the things I want to remember I forget? It has something to do with the fact that the negative and painful are often more powerful than the positive and soothing, especially when the negative and painful are unresolved; when unresolved they just keep growing larger and more powerful. Is it possible, then, to alter our memory cycles? When you can’t help remembering, what can you do? 1 Samuel 7 guides us.
The reason we even raise the question is because there is so often A STIRRING UP. (2) Israel was tired of living in the shadow of defeat and despair. Israel had gone through a difficult period when the Ark of the Covenant – the presence of God – belonged to foreigners. It had been captured and carted off. They finally recovered the ark and for 20 years now it had been back in their possession, but little had changed. They had the presence of God but didn’t live as if they had the presence of God. They were learning that having the ark in their territory didn’t automatically solve their problems. They still were wallowing in difficulty, defeat, and despair. It had been so long since they had seen God do something powerful that their memories were all negative and painful. All they had were mournful memories so they begin to seek the Lord.
Mournful memories – something with which we are all too familiar. We have no problem REMEMBERING FACES, CIRCUMSTANCES, AND EMOTIONS that stir up negative and painful feelings. We remember our failures, or the comments and treatment by others that cause us to feel our inadequacy. We recall hurts we’ve received and hurts we’ve inflicted. And we are often filled with a mixture of hate, fear, guilt, and anger – the very things that lead to heart disease and degenerative illnesses.
Our minds react in a number of ways. WE FEEL REMORSE; we repeatedly ask ourselves why we did or didn’t do certain things, or how we could have been so stupid. We might EXPERIENCE REGRET and start wishing we could have a do over as we replay the faces of those we’ve hurt or who hurt us. Sometimes we are FILLED WITH RECRIMINATION. We experience a burning desire to punish, to get even, to blame others – to not forgive them and make them pay. All the while we keep nursing these memories, which is, as Lloyd Ogilvie pointed out, like taking a constant dose of poison.
Israel’s healing began when there was A CALLING UP. Samuel preached the Word of God to them. (3) “If you are returning to the Lord with all your hearts” (if you are really serious about seeking the Lord) “then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only…” Check your hearts; check your lives; don’t pay the Lord lip service; show you’re serious. Samuel was ready to lead them into re-establishing the covenant – to re-committing themselves to God. He knew that healing only begins with a return to the healer. So we will offer a time for healing after God speaks through His Word.
Similarly, we must BE WILLING TO OPEN UP OUR HEARTS AND LIVES TO GOD. We must truly desire to do the hard, perhaps even painful work of identifying who or what we hate, who or what we fear, when we sinned, and where our anger began. It’s my prayer that our worship this morning will prepare your heart to do just that, to respond to the call of Isaiah (1:16-17) “…wash and make yourselves clean. Take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right.” Be willing to get rid of whatever stands between you and God, to stop doing whatever keeps you from receiving the full blessings of God.
The Calling Up led to A CLEANING UP. The Israelites immediately showed their desire to change by tearing down and putting away their idols (4). Then Samuel led them in a time of confession and repentance. (6) “…they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, ‘We have sinned against the Lord.’” Forgiveness is the pathway to a richer future – AND WE CANNOT FORGIVE ANYONE ELSE UNTIL WE HAVE FIRST RECEIVED AND ACCEPTED OUR FORGIVENESS. That’s why we spent time in confession this morning, to prime the pump of confession, to open up the flow of God’s forgiveness into our hearts. While there is value in privately confessing our sins, God provides a special healing when we together, corporately confess our sins and pray. Isaiah called out (55:6-7) “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.” James stated it very clearly (5:16) “Therefore confess your sins to another and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” In fact, GOD WILL NOT LISTEN TO OUR PRAYERS UNLESS WE HONESTLY REPENT. (Ps. 66:18) “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened…” (Ps. 51:17) “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” The bottom line is that WE WILL NOT EXPERIENCE HEALING OF OUR MEMORIES UNTIL WE HAVE FORGIVEN OURSELVES AND OTHERS.