This has been one of the strangest Thanksgivings on record for our family. While I know many of you have suffered, and are suffering, much greater trials than this, I am writing only to share the perspective I have received these past days.
I have been dealing with some strange ailment that has kept me mostly down with strong headaches, and …intestinal issues, for over a week now. Trips to doctors and the ER have left me feeling like I’m living in an episode of some spinoff of House. As I have (all too slowly for my liking) began to recover my strength, it is hard to accept that I still have a long way to go before I could ever hope to digest my fair share of a Thanksgiving feast. Graciously our family has chosen to postpone our annual turkey coma until Saturday (today) in hopes that I will be more or less myself. All this is background for you and really has very little to do with what I’m learning.
When I spent more than half of last Saturday in the ER getting scanned, prodded, medicated and rehydrated, I had no expectations that I was still going to present the sermon I had prepared for the next morning. But, lo and behold, at 5:00am on Sunday I awoke feeling normal. Praising God for his miraculous work in my body, I got around and made the preparations to preach after all. I had prepared to speak our final sermon on a series covering Kyle Idleman’s book, not a fan. In his closing chapters he challenges us to look at what our response is to Christ’s invitation: “follow Me.” He illustrates for us three ways we all need to respond with our “Yes Lord”: Wherever; Whenever, Whatever.
Wherever: So many Christians are willing to follow Christ, as long as they don’t have to move out of their comfort zone. They often feel reluctant to pray for a meal in public, share their faith with an inquisitive co-worker, invite a neighbor to a church service, etc. “Yes Lord, I’ll go wherever you want me to go… except maybe to serve at the smelly nursing home.”
Whenever: All pastors would be rich if we had a nickel for every time someone said “Oooo. If it were any other time, I’d love to help out.” The truth is, most Christians will sacrifice much more of their weekly schedules for sports, hobbies, or mind numbing leisure activities, than they are willing to offer Christ in service to His people, or their community.
Whatever: All of what we have and hold dear. Of all the things we consider precious, are blessed with, or the accomplishments that have given us satisfaction (dare I say… have filled us with some pride). Of all those things you filled your Thanksgiving list with …would you give them all up to “Follow Christ?” Are there any of those things that you hold out in reserve as “yours,” while you offer everything else to Him? That kind of sacrifice is what Christ calls us to. All… is what we are required to surrender.
As I spoke last Sunday, and felt the strength draining from me like a leaky balloon, Christ asked me to consider what “whatever” I was holding too dearly.
You see for the last several months I have been on a personal journey to improve my overall health. I have lost some weight, gained some strength, and improved my systems to the point that I no longer need some of the medications I was taking last winter. It has often been difficult, with setbacks and plateaus, and I still feel I have a long way to go. But, if I may confess to you, I have a certain sense of pride as to how well I have done thus far. Because of how much I (…and God, of course) have accomplished, I believe I may someday reach my health goals. And there I was, after hours in the ER the previous afternoon, standing before His church speaking His message to His people! P.T.L.
“Ahem.” Christ whispered to me as I spoke, “Will you surrender your health to me, or do you expect it is something you have now earned?” I had no glib response to Him. He was serious! As I felt my strength depleting while I stood there, He was asking if I wanted to grasp after it …or Him?
You see we all have some things we struggle to surrender. For some it’s our “wherever,” for others our “whenever,” and still others it is our “whatever.” Over the years, Christ has pointed me to each area, and asked: “Will you follow Me?” This week He asked me to lay down this one more “whatever” and follow Him with my whole-self, even if would mean doing so without health or strength. Yes, I confess, I struggled for a few moments. Yes, I felt that His request was unfair. But, before our worship time was over, I had placed this one more “whatever” into His hands.
What I have realized is that my wherever whenever, and whatever, are much better served under His Lordship than my own. This Holiday season we could (again) let ourselves become distracted from “Who we celebrate” by focusing on “how we celebrate.” Instead, let me encourage each of you to consider fully surrendering your leadership and energies to following Christ. Serving and ministering in His power and name with all your: Wherever, Whenever, and Whatever.
Blessings, Pastor Tim