by Anita Wansley
May 29, 2005
Our family went to the beach this past weekend. Against my better judgment, we ended up bringing home 6 hermit crabs. The girls fell in love with these little critters. On the way home, again against my better judgment, I allowed Hanna to get out her favorite, Polka dot, a baby one about the size of a penny. About 15 minutes later I hear Hanna and Brittany moving all over the back seat—Polka dot was lost. They looked as we drove. Chris looked for almost 30 minutes when we got home, even ripping out the spare tire cover and moving all the seats. We gave up for awhile, trying to resign ourselves to the fact that little Polka dot was truly lost. As we were playing with the others after supper, I decided to go down and look one more time. As I reached the truck I prayed aloud, “Okay, Lord, we would really like to find this creature you created. I know that you care about even the smallest thing and I ask that you let us find this crab so we can care for your creation.” I climbed up in the truck, saw the hole for the seatbelt, lifted the lid off the compartment and reached in. I pulled out what I thought must be a rock. No, it was polka dot!!! I ran in the house to tell the girls. They were so amazed and excited. I thought for a moment and then told them about the prayer. They right away claimed a miracle on 38th street!
When I tell this story, my first instinct is to be reluctant to say about the prayer and attribute this event as a miracle of God. How absurd is that reluctance!! We know that we serve a God that cares for the birds of the air, that takes care of us, that knows all and can do all. So I am convinced that God in His awesome ways used this little creature and my prayer as an avenue for my girls to experience the living God.
I have been on a journey of realizing this concept of not being ashamed of my spirituality and its impact on my life, but even more to be able to proclaim it loud and clear in my everyday doings. This sermon is a few of the thoughts that God has been pointing out to me—maybe they are for you, too!
Romans 1:16 and 17 says, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes… For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last.”
Okay, so we are not to be ashamed of the gospel… what is this gospel? There could be so many definitions of the gospel, so many thoughts on its theology, but here is what God is revealing to me about this gospel.
1. For me this gospel is about amazing grace.
- a. Phillip Yancey in his book What’s so Amazing about Grace? defines grace: Grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us more—no amount of spiritual calisthenics and renunciations, no amount of knowledge gained from seminaries and divinity schools, no amount of crusading on behalf of righteous causes. And grace means there is nothing we can do to make God love us less—no amount of racism or pride or pornography or adultery or even murder. Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.b. Grace makes it possible for us to receive the gift of forgiveness that Jesus gave us on the cross, a gift we do not deserve.
c. Because Jesus gave us this gift of salvation that we don’t deserve, we can, by His grace, live out this upside-down concept of grace in our relationships with others. Because of Christ we can do this most unnatural act of forgiveness and release the bonds of resentment, anger, and revenge.
d. Grace for me took the form of being able to give the gift of grace to the person who hurt me the most in my life. Over this past Easter season, Jesus moved in mighty and obvious ways to reveal to me that it was time to give the gift of grace and finally be at peace with all my anger and hurt.
2. For me this gospel is also about a God who works in mysterious ways and works all things for the good of His people.
- I have become convinced that God is a God who works things out for His glory. When things seem to be out of control, when things get overwhelming, God will step in in His time and in His way and it will be to His glory. And yet we can call to Him, claim His power, and allow His spirit to flow in our lives in the midst of waiting on Him.
So if this gospel is so amazing and so great, why are we ashamed? What prevents us from shouting from the rooftops all that our God is doing?
1. The first thing that comes to mind is logic and reason.
- a. Wave and dolphin story: One night while we were at the beach I was putting my eldest to bed. We were saying our prayers and thanking God for the sun, the sand, the waves, the people we were with. Thinking what a neat spiritual moment this could be, when we were done, I commented how awesome God is to create the waves that were so fun to play in. She looked at me with that look of, “Oh, mom doesn’t get it again,” and said, “No, mama, that is not how it works. The dolphins do it. The dolphins make the waves. You know when they jump out of the water!” and she used her arms to illustrate her point.b. How many times have we been in a discussion and the spiritual perspective could easily be refuted with logic? We end up worrying about how we will sound to claim God in the situation.
c. Many times I have been in a conversation and when beginning to talk about spiritual things, I preface all of it by saying, “Now I am not usually this ‘God this and God that’ about things…” What if what I am about to say doesn’t make sense to the listener, what if what I was about to say sounds too pat and simple? What if I come across as some religious fanatic? Logic and reason go against God’s way sometime and go against what seems to make sense.
2. Our own questioning / lack of understanding can also make us ashamed or limited in conveying this gospel.
- i. How can I make a statement about God if I just met him?
ii. Nobody will listen to what I say
iii. What if I say the wrong thing?
iv. What if people think that I am just new to this and I’ll see it differently with more knowledge, experience?
v. I don’t have the words—Emily’s story: My sister-in-law, Emily, has met God in a new and exciting way in the past couple of months. She was talking to me one day about all the exciting things she was learning, the Bible stories, the truths about God’s love, forgiveness, His salvation. I was blown away with her words. Then she stated she wanted to share all this with someone that she had been praying for that hadn’t experienced this rebirth. She kept saying to me, “But Anita, I don’t know what to say, I am just beginning to learn, I don’t have the words.” I said, “Oh, yes, honey, you’ve got the words!!! The spirit of God is speaking through you right now and will continue to give you the words!”
a. It seems to me that past experiences can either propel us to God or make us question him. I wonder how many of us have had experiences with seemingly unanswered prayers—so many people were praying, why didn’t God answer this way or that. When we doubt God it can make us less likely to talk about His spirit and even the spiritual things we are sure about.b. It seems to me that some of us get caught up in questioning if we are good enough to talk about God. Will we come across hypocrytical? How can I pray with someone when that someone has heard me curse? How can I claim God’s spirit when someone listening might know some sin in my life? We don’t want to sound like some who spew empty/selfish God-talk.
c. Some of us get caught up in feeling inadequate in our Bible teaching, or Bible/religious background. You’ve heard or may have said the following statements:
So what would we look like as a people of faith if we were unabashed about what God is doing?
Deuteronomy 11 says to fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds: tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down, and when you get up.
What would our lives be like if we had what God is doing in an obvious place for people to see, what would our lives be like if we constantly taught what God is doing to our children, if we talked about them when we sat at home, when we walked down the road, when we went to bed and as soon as we got up?
- 1. In our recent book club book, Riding Through Shadows by Sharon Ewell Foster, the character of Mother Johnson often said, “The power of life or death is on the tongue.”2. What life-giving things are we talking about? What “God-thing” have we shared with others lately?
3. In this book there were two characters that prayed the power of God for many people. These characters had been through great hardship, but were still convinced of God’s power and love for all and the power of prayer to fight the spiritual battle that is waging all around us. Although fiction, it made me begin to think about my prayers and not just the ones that I pray silently in my own home or the ones I pray along with at church. For example, when my sister called this week feeling very upset about life circumstances and asking for prayer, I prayed right there on the phone with her. (Not a typical thing at all for me!!!) It wasn’t just a “please, God, be with my sister.” I yielded to the Spirit and I prayed unabashedly. I was able to pray God’s peace that passes all understanding, I was able to pray God’s power in this situation, and I was able to pray God’s glory to be revealed. The next day she told me how much that meant and helped her through that moment.
I want to make clear … this being unabashed and not ashamed is not a sure bet to controlling circumstances in our lives. But rather our speaking God’s truth into Satan’s lies, our calling on God’s spirit, our being about and talking about God’s business on a daily basis, may open up avenues for the Spirit to work in our own lives and the lives of others.
Let us begin to claim and live out what Isaiah says in Chapter 61, “The spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives, and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve —to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”
And as Mother Johnson would close her prayers—-And then while you are at it, Lord Jesus, loose your spirit in our lives—give us more love, more joy, more peace, more kindness. Amen.