Summary: A Christmas sermon from the story of Anna on the idea that God is not finished with us yet.
>>> The great composer Wagner had just listened to a performance of his composition “The Ring” when a friend entered the room. Wagner was sitting alone in front of a writing table and thinking. Seeing his friend, Wagner rose and spoke of the performance with discouragement: “No, that isn’t what I imagined. It falls far short of what I intended.” The friend, thinking Wagner was criticizing the orchestra, defended their work. Wagner answered, “It’s nothing to do with that. I know the people are doing their best; but what I have written is not what lived in my imagination.” (adapted from The Book of Musical Anecdotes)
It certainly is a major understatement to say that life does not usually turn out the way we expect. Thankfully, sometimes we can say that as a positive thing: a job or a relationship or a move to another city turns out better than we expect.
But inevitably throughout our life there are going to be times (probably a lot of times) when things don’t turn out the way we expect in a negative way. Times when we look at what has become of our life and we say, as Wagner did concerning that piece of music he had written,
“No, that isn’t what I imagined. It falls far short of what I intended.”
We look around and we realize: things have not turned out the way we expected, events have not progressed in the manner we’d hoped, the situation we are in is not the one we had anticipated.
I want to focus this morning on those times when we have such feelings about our relationship with God. Although the specific words we choose might vary from person to person, the sentiment we feel can be summarized in two words:
Things have not turned out the way we intended and as we look at the way they have turned out, there’s no doubt that we’re finished. As I think of that feeling that “I’m finished” coming into our relationship with God, I think in particular this morning of two groups of people that I want to talk to.
The first group of people feel like they’re finished because they’re “too far along.”
It’s been (it could be just about any number) 10, 20, 25, 30, 50 years since they originally made their commitment to the Lord. As they came to that altar and prayed to receive Jesus into their hearts, they were filled with excitement and a sense of anticipation about what all God was going to do in their lives.
But, now, well, it’s been so long or it seems like it’s been so long, and as they look back over that time, they don’t see what they had originally hoped for.
Maybe they originally thought they were really going to make a difference in people’s lives, but it turned out that they just never seemed to find the time to get to make an impact in others’ lives the way they’d hoped.
Maybe they originally envisioned themselves becoming people whose total faith and trust was in the Lord, someone totally sold out to God, but it turned out that the daily worries and stresses of life undercut that dream of complete devotion to God and today they find that their faith wavers more often than they care to admit publicly.
Maybe they originally wanted to become a deep person of prayer like those stories they had heard about of other Christians who were so close to God and could make miracles happen through their humble prayers. But it turned out that the effort to start a daily prayer time died off after two weeks and then the second attempt lasted a month. Today (far from being a powerhouse of prayer) their prayer life is sporadic and of little visible impact.
They started out with such excitement and such a sense
of anticipation at what God was going to do, but now the years have sped past since that day (whether it’s 50 or 20 or 10 years - the number is unimportant). As they look back and see that things did not at all turn out the way they intended, there is that sense that: “I’m finished. I’m too far along to change anything now.”
The second group say the same thing (“I’m finished”), but for them it’s not the feeling that they’re “too far along”, but rather that they’re “too far gone.”
Probably the simplest way to understand the way this group feels is to think of taking a glass bowl and dropping it to the ground. It shatters into hundreds of pieces that cannot be put back together. The damage cannot be undone.
This group of people feel like they’re “too far gone,”
that the mistakes they’ve made and the sins they’ve committed have done damage that cannot be undone.