Sermon: 10th July 2016

Sermon: 5th June 2016

2 Timothy 2. 1 – 13


For those of you who’ve been to our house, there’s an old bench in the front which was very rickety! No longer… A few weeks ago, instead of replacing it, we decided to try to mend it. At which point, Roger rang Tim. Now, it’s as sturdy as can be with new slats and screws. Roger asked Tim where his skill and confidence at repairing things came from. His Dad apparently. But, Roger’s dad was very handy – mending things, he build their conservatory. Somehow, Tim’s dad passed on his skills and can-do attitude to Tim – but Roger didn’t pick this up from his dad. Useful as DIY skills are, Tim’s dad also passed on to him his faith in Christ. That is of infinite value.

A message to hand on 2.2baton

Paul was like a father to Timothy and tried to pass on all his knowledge, understanding and love of Christ to Timothy. But, he didn’t want it to stop there. He wanted Timothy to pass this all on.

Here’s the verse that I want us to take as our key verse for this series.

2.2 ‘Take the teachings that you heard me proclaim in the presence of many witnesses, and entrust them to reliable people, who will be able to teach others also.’

Teachings? What are these teachings? Look back to chapter 1. Understanding the Good News is important, v.9 – that God has an eternal purpose to save and call a people and he does this through the death of Jesus – but it must not stop there. In v.10, the word ‘reveal’ is used twice. When we respond to God’s invitation, Christ is revealed to us and we discover, v.10, that he has ended the power of death and brought life and immortality to light. The gospel is not just about Christ – it is Christ.

There are four stages in this relay.

Paul received the message from Christ. Then Timothy heard it from Paul (as well as his mother and grandmother) – but it was Paul who raised him up as a leader. Timothy is to entrust the message of Jesus to… who? Reliable people – both men and women.

Paul is concerned for the teaching of the gospel – but he knows that it goes hand in hand with a life of discipleship. Timothy, teach it and teach others to teach it. Live it and teach others to live it and teach them to teach others. Paul not only taught Timothy the faith – but he lived it with him. Paul was a disciple-maker. He took Timothy with him on his journeys. Timothy learnt his discipleship through being with Paul – in relationship with him.

Jesus told the disciples to be disciple-makers – this handing on the baton of Christ from one generation to another, one disciple teaching another who teaches another. That is why what we do in our Barnabas Groups is so important. We learn from those who are more mature in the faith as we study the Bible, pray together but also see one another live lives of discipleship. God calls us – not just to be disciples – but disciple-makers!

In the Church of England, we are not very intentional about making disciples. Maybe, it’s shyness or not wanting to badger people. We don’t want to be a pain. It’s right to trust in the work of the Holy Spirit to draw people to Christ.

I was very challenged when I read Michael Griffiths (who led OMF, the organisation that the Perry’s work with) say that it took an average of 20 visits to a Japanese home before anyone came to church and an average of 100 visits before anyone came to faith and baptism.

Maybe there’s one person at the moment we can particularly help and support in their Christian journey. Either quietly (but intentionally) see them regularly – and when you do, share something of what you’re learning – and pray together. Or, you can be clear, ‘Why don’t we meet and encourage each other?’ And let me know.

A message worth working for 

When we are involved in passing on the Good News of Jesus, it’s costly. There is sacrifice and suffering. When we follow Christ, we follow a Saviour whose path cost him everything.

Jesus warned,“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Matt16:24)

Paul uses three pictures to help us understand why the Christian life is so demanding – but worth every minute! Why does he choose soldiers, athletes and farmers?

All are people who sweat and work hard.

All pass on what they have learned to others.

All see results only if they persevere over a long time.

They see the goal they are aiming for.

When we keep our eyes fixed on our goal, our own hard work seems worthwhile. Our goals – to glorify God through our lives, to bring others to know Christ and live for Him and to see that it’s eternity with God we’re headed for.

The dedicated soldier v.4 solider

Active service, it’s a tough life of utter dedication. The relationship with the commander is key; his goals are your goals; you must trust him and obey immediately.

And, here Paul says, not to get ‘mixed up’ in civilian pursuits – or ‘entangled’. An entanglement – anything which stops us from serving Christ wholeheartedly. Are there things which are entangling us?

An old friend of Roger’s got hooked on windsurfing, going out whenever he could. He knew his responsibilities at church were suffering. He realised he needed to stop.

For some, it’s sport or even family and social life, TV – that become entanglements. And we need to teach our children too. We don’t say ‘yes’ to every invitation.

It’s costly – being a soldier for Christ. Jonathan and Lucy go and visit several families each week, going where they sense openness to Christ, building relationships. It’s hard when they’d much rather stay home. It’s hard coming out to meetings to plan the All Age services – or even to a Barnabas Group, or church.

‘without sacrifices there are no victories’

The disciplined athlete v.5 athlete

…trains long and hard, obeys the rules. In recent years some athletes have been stripped of their titles because they were found to have taken drugs. They did not compete according to the rules. Jesus said, ‘If you love me, you will obey my commandments’ and ‘a wise man hears God’s words and puts them into practice.’

We won’t grow as Christians if we don’t follow the guidance God gives us, and train as Christians, if we don’t read the Bible, pray and be disciplined in being part of the Christian community, if we don’t set our hearts on growing and serving Christ and his kingdom. The people who do those things will grow as Christians and be effective. Is our goal to hand on the Good News? Do you long to see people become followers of Jesus?

The athlete is so focussed, he wants to win the prize. It really helps – having a goal. Our daughter, Mary Jane, decided that it would help her get fit again after her second baby, if she entered for a marathon. When she came to stay with us, we’d go running. But, when she left, I didn’t run so much – but she did – and so she completed the marathon. I didn’t!

For Paul, he said, ‘I have fought the good fight, I have run the race. I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me, the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge will award me.’ (4.7-8) That’s our goal and prize. But, we will see that that is not the only thing which motivates Paul.

‘without discipline there are no prizes’

The diligent (hard-working) farmer v.6 farmer

Roger and I stayed in our caravan up on Bungdalehead Farm near Riveaulx in early May. John and Sheila looked exhausted. They’d been lambing for the past few weeks – one taking the day shift and the other the night shift.  We were up there again last week. They looked a lot better – and the lambs in the fields were getting big. But their hard work won’t be over until they get them to market.

Producing food is hard work as we’re finding on our allotment. A farmer needs to work hard for there to be a harvest. For there to be harvest of people becoming Christians, becoming disciples, there’s hard work.

Robert and Sandra, instead of putting their feet up in retirement, came and put their time, energy and experience into St Barnabas. Dan, after a long and demanding day at work, was sorting leaflets for distribution.

During Sentamu’s Pilgrimage I went to one of the Prayer Times. He spoke on The Lord’s Prayer. ‘Forgive us our sins.’ He made the comment that our sins are less what we have done, than what we have failed to do, our sins of ommision. Think about that – the things we fail to do.

‘Without sweat there is no harvest’

A message worth suffering for 2.4, 2.9 1.8

Paul was in prison, tradition says, the awful, underground Mamertine Prison – because he preached the gospel, v.9. He was old, lonely, soon to be killed. He’d suffered so much for the gospel. But, he said (v.10), ‘I endure everything for the sake of God’s chosen people – that they too may obtain the salvation that comes through Christ Jesus and brings eternal glory.’

Paul endures and suffers so that the church may be built up – and many sons and daughters brought to glory. He sees eternity in his soul, that’s where his mind is focussed, not just for himself – but so that many will be caught up in Christ’s glory.

Every disciple of Christ will have to endure and suffer. For us, in the West, it’s more about perseverance than the persecution many of our brothers and sisters have – the path to glory, leads through the cross. But, Paul starts this section, v.1, reminding him of the grace which is ours in Christ. Be strong, Timothy, Christ’s grace is with you. It’s only in the action, when we get going in obedience to Christ, that we experience his strength. Christ gives us the strength, when we need it (not before), when we obey, his grace pours into us (just what we need).

Let’s pray. We’ll use this prayer of Ignatius of Loyola: St Ignatius

Teach us, good Lord,

to serve you as you deserve;

to give and not to count the cost;

to fight and not to heed the wounds;

to toil and not to seek for rest;

to labour and not to ask for any reward,

save that of knowing that we do your will.

Sermon: 1st May 2016

Persevering in Prayer – Submission

Your will be done on earth, as in heaven.prayer with teddy

Romans 8. 25-28; Luke 22.39-44

Let me tell you the story of an Irishman called Joseph Scriven who in 1842 graduated from Trinity College Dublin. He went back home and fell utterly in love with a girl. They planned their wedding and future with great excitement.

The day before their wedding, Joseph’s bride saddled her horse to visit him. Joseph saw her riding towards him; joy filled him. Suddenly, as she crossed a bridge over the river, her horse bucked and threw her into the river below. Joseph ran and plunged in after her. But it was too late. She was already dead.

Heartbroken, Joseph emigrated to Canada, where, in time, he fell in love again and planned to marry Eliza. Sadly, she fell ill and they had to keep postponing the wedding. She died.

Joseph’s mother was ill but also very worried about her heart-broken son. One night, he wrote a poem which he sent to comfort her. Several years later, a friend found a copy in a drawer in Joseph’s house.

The poem goes,

‘What a friend we have in Jesus, All our griefs and pains to bear!
What a privilege to carry Everything to God in prayer.
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry, Everything to God in prayer.

Let’s pray….

The pain in prayer
Someone at Alpha this week asked, ‘What do you do when God doesn’t answer prayer?’

What do we do? Each of us have known struggles and disappointments – in our jobs and work, demands of home and family relationships, illness and disability, financial difficulties. And around the world, others struggle with drought and famine, huge political upheavals, persecution, injustice.
And we pray, as Christians, we pray for our issues; we pray for people around the world.

In this series on Prayer, we are looking today at that phrase in the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven’ looking at how perseverance in prayer is not going on and on until we get what we want, but going on and on until we see what God wants.

When things don’t go as we’d like them to, how do we react?
There’s denial: I don’t believe this is happening to me.
Anger – I don’t deserve this. God’s not fair.
Bargaining: Please, God, if you heal me, I’ll do anything for you.
Depression: What’s the point? My situation is hopeless.
Blame: God is against me. He is weak/cruel etc.
There is one final stage on the journey: Acceptance. Submission. Sometimes God’s will can only be achieved through accepting something we do NOT want – like suffering.

Pete Greig is one of the people behind the 24/7 Prayer Movement (Prayer Rooms where there’s constant prayer) and has written a superb book on prayer, ‘God on Mute’. In it he tells the story of when he met Floyd McClung at a Spring Harvest conference. Floyd was one of those of the hippy generation who travelled overland to Afghanistan – but they did it to tell the hippies about Jesus. Then he set up an outreach in Amsterdam’s red-light district. A big person.

Late one night, Floyd got a phone call saying that his daughter in the States was unconscious. She was in labour for her second child when everything started to go wrong. Amniotic fluid had escaped into her blood stream causing her heart and lungs to collapse. This has an 86% mortality rate and even if mother and baby live, they can be brain-damaged.

The next day, Floyd disappeared for a long, long time. When he returned, Pete didn’t know what to say to him. He’d been on the beach, wrestling with God.
‘I’ve been begging God for my daughter’s life, as any father would. I’ve been reminding him of unfulfilled promises for her future. But, I also knew I must give her back to God.’ He had been facing his Gethsemane – and he had got there. He had been able to release his daughter into God’s hands – whether she lived or died. That’s submission. (Incidentally both mum and baby lived, no damage. The medical staff had never known both to survive without severe damage).

Jesus, on the night before his death knowing that he is going to be crucified, goes to the Garden of Gethsemane with his disciples. His heart was overwhelmed with sorrow – to the point of death. Luke describes how his sweat was like drops of blood. In extreme anguish, blood vessels can burst and mix with sweat. He pleads with his Father God. (here he calls him, ‘Abba’, ‘Daddy’), a deeply intimate moment when we see Jesus’ feelings laid bare. ‘Everything is possible for you.’ ‘Take this cup from me.’

He longs for support from his friends – but he’s alone. No-one can walk this way with him. He must bear it. In our lives, friends can support us, but in the end, we have to go through it.

It drives him back to his Father in prayer. And there’s that moment of acceptance, of submission, ‘Yet, not my will but yours be done.’

That is the pivotal moment in human history, when Jesus submits to the Father’s plan to save the world, to die for the sins of the human race.

The path of prayer
Why do we find it so difficult to submit? Firstly, we’re not honest with God.
Jesus is utterly honest with God. He pours out his fears. We need to be honest with God. I find that hard to do. I somehow think he must be disappointed in me, that I need to appear in my best spiritual clothes. But, it’s only when I’m honest about my weaknesses and fears, my doubts and helplessness, my hopes and desires that I begin to see myself more as God sees me. I’m ready to repent of my faults and recognise how much I need God, that my only hope is in him.

Sometimes, I don’t know how to express what I’m feeling, but, as I try to and as I bring myself before God, Paul says, ‘The Spirit helps us, weak as we are. For we don’t know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express.’ And the Spirit pleads with God on our behalf and in accordance with God’s will. Ro 8.25-27 The Holy Spirit helps us.

One way to help us be honest with God is to write a letter to Him. “Dear God, this is how I’m feeling.” Tell him.
Some people think of Jesus sitting in the room with them, picture him listening.
I often pray on my knees and it’s as if God is putting his hand on my head.

Trust in God. The other thing that happens when I come to God in honest prayer, is I see God more as he is. When I’m vulnerable and helpless before him, God comes and I see his love and kindness. I also see him as Almighty. My trust in him deepens.

It can be hard to believe those words which were in our reading, ‘We know that in all things God works for good with those who love him.’ Ro 8.28 But, we catch glimpses -and we begin to learn that God is sovereign. In every detail of your life, God is at work. God will take even your mistakes and work them out for your good. He reigns. In everything he works for good for those who love him. God makes all things, wanted and unwanted, work for good. We don’t know how – but God does.

Supremely, the cross demonstrates that just as God took the very worst event in history and turned it into the very best; he can take the worst things in your life and use them for good.

Submission. When I’m being honest with God – and trust him, submitting becomes possible. A 3 yr old (or 13 year old!) doesn’t understand why his dad says ‘no’ to some things but ‘yes’ to others. But he trusts him – and learns to obey him. Jesus trusted his heavenly Father in the Garden – and obeyed him.

Is there an issue in your life which you’re finding very hard to accept? You’re allowed to ask God questions – but you need to listen to Him for his answer. See what he says to you – it may not come then or be what you want or expect. It may be that God wants you to hand the issue over to him (like Floyd knew he needed to do). Hand over the result, accept whatever his will is and come to a deeper level of trusting him.

I’ve been at St Barnabas now for six years and we’ve seen some good growth, but, of course, I’ve longed to see more people come to faith in Christ. God hasn’t answered my question of ‘why?’ but he’s shown me that he’s worked in me – more patience, it’s not all down to me, learning how a parish like this works – all sorts of great lessons – and for Roger as he visits tough areas, he understands from the inside.

So, when you pray, ask God to show you how to pray.

If we can’t say, ‘thy will be done’ from the bottom of our hearts, we will never know any peace. We will try to control people and our environment. Yet, this is beyond our abilities and we become bitter, despondent and hardened. Joseph Scriven accepted his losses and knew that Jesus was his friend – and that it the greatest gain in the world.

The profit of prayer
When olives are put under huge pressure, oil flows out which was used for all sorts of things in the ancient world. Gethsemane means ‘The oil press’ and for Jesus that garden became a place of intense pressure as he battled in his soul to say ‘yes’. But, as he prayed he was strengthened by an angel and was able to get up and face his accusers.

What does submission in prayer lead to?
Perspective. In prayer, God gives us his perspective, or we catch an insight as to what he’s doing in our lives – or someone else’s – like getting to the top of a hill and suddenly seeing the land.
Self-Knowledge. As we pray, God shines the spotlight back into our lives. He pulls back the layers of our heart and we see what’s really going on – our own pride and self-centredness.

Surrender: And this leads us to surrender to God.

Trust: and increased trust.

and from that Strength. Like Jesus, through prayer, God gives us enough strength to go on.

Presence of God – and his presence.

god's hands