"Can I really be completely confident? I doubt sometimes. Life is hard. Sometimes I feel that my faith is hanging by a thread."
This week's "awkward text" is 2 Corinthians 5:6 where Paul seems to express a confidence that is way beyond us. If that is what is required we might be tempted to give up.
Well, here's what I think. It's a bit like listening to an accomplished pianist or watching an elite athlete. I see these people and I know that they got why they are by hard, persistent work. I also know that I could never get quite where they have got, but if I work hard and am careful to avoid injury I might just beat my Parkrun personal best.
Paul got to this place of confidence by going through a series of events that tested his faith to the limit. He found that God was there every time. In the end Paul knew that God is the God who raises the dead and he learned to rely on him. So Paul learned to be confident that the resurrection is real. He learned to live in God's forgiveness. And he learned that he was part of God's new creation that began when God raised Jesus from the dead.
Here's my suggestion: don't focus on Paul's confidence. Focus on the God that Paul believed in. And as Paul said, make it your aim to please him.
"The Bible tells us to be completely humble, gentle and patient, but it's hard when you're mad with someone.'
When I heard that sentence I had to agree. People tell me there is such a thing as godly anger, but if it does exist it is an endangered species. Human anger does not bring about God's purposes, as the Bible says. We see its devastating results every day.
Patience is about being prepared for the long haul. It's about hope that things will not always be as they are now, whilst being realistic about the way things are. It's about working passionately for change whilst accepting that it will take a long time.
The church is a training ground for patience. You see, it is God's plan to fill everything and he wants to fill us so the world can see what he is up to. He wants us to experience the unity that he has with his Son. If we are going to get there we are going to have a lot of patience.
So here's today's challenge: pick something that makes you angry. Ask yourself what you can do to express hope that things will change and what can you do to make sure that you stay patient if this doesn't happen quickly. Be practical. If world hunger makes you feel angry ask what changes you can make to your life. Can you present an example of how things could be different? Can you do this and pray passionately that the kingdom will come? Can you see what you need to do or say next? Can you do this and stay patient?
More on Sunday .....
The Apostle Peter tells us to cast all our anxiety upon God, because he cares for us.
Some of us find this hard to do. We get anxious. We find that we can't just throw this anxiety away. A text that is meant to encourage us becomes an awkward text and it seems to hurt us more than help us.
The first thing I want to say is that mental illness is not a sin. It happens to many of us and could happen to any of us. This text is not there to tell us off when we have mental health issues.
The main thing I want to say is that this text is about more than the thing we call 'anxiety.' I think the older translations get it better when they talk of casting our cares upon God. It means something like, 'cast everything you care about upon God.'
So what are things we care about? Our families? Our jobs? Our finances? Our health? These things matter but they can all distract us from seeking God. This is the idea behind the word that Peter uses. This isn't just about the times we feel anxious. It's about the times we feel excited, the times we feel determined, the times we are working hard and many other times. It's about all the times when the things we care about become more important than God.
These are the times when we need to trust that God cares for us and we need to know that God is bigger than us.
More on Sunday ....