Sermon by Tony Hobbs – 4th February 2018
DEALING WITH CHANGE
FOLLOWING GOD, SERVING GOD, INVOLVES DEALING WITH THE UNFAMILIAR
Engaging with the unfamiliar
Faithfully following the Lord requires us to engage with the unfamiliar.
We will changes places. We will say good-byes and say new hellos. We will be called to do things that are unfamiliar and thus uncomfortable, and our subconscious minds will beg for the security of the familiar!
Home as an identifier?
Many people identify themselves and others by where they come from. It’s often one of the first things we ask when meeting someone. (eg It’s a common question when introducing people on TV.)
How we introduce ourselves may depend on circumstances, but our feeling about our origin tends to be focused on small rather than big: Continent? Region? Country? Town?
Home is where the heart is?
Assuming it doesn’t have dominating unhappy memories for us, our home base usually has a familiarity that’s comforting.
It probably is a major factor – often subconsciously – in our personal definition of what’s ‘normal.’
A sense of belonging
A sense of belonging, somewhere we’re accepted, is fundamental to the human condition.
It gives us a sense of safety and security.
Places, language, cultural behaviour, shared norms, all contribute to this sense of being accepted.
Israelites defined by relationship
In social terms, the Israelites were defined not by place but by tribe. That is, by relationship, not geography.
But in spiritual terms they were defined by relationship with God. Specifically, that He had redeemed them from Egypt.
Their very essence is that God had called them from the familiar to significant unfamiliarity! The known to the unknown.
Deconstructing the security of the familiar
It’s interesting that as the Lord was teaching the redeemed Israelites about relationship with Him, after the unchanging familiarity of life in Egypt, He doesn’t allow them to settle in one place.
They need to learn their security is in Him.
Even after entry into the Promised Land, they have much to do that involves regular movement.
The underlying hope for familiarity and security of place can only come when they’ve learnt more about trusting in the Lord.
The impact of Jesus’ great commission
When Jesus calls His followers to go into all the world, to the ends of the earth, to proclaim the Gospel and make disciples of all nations, He calls them to something psychologically tough.
Especially so for Jews, who had come to associate physical Israel as they place where God was most active, the place where He delivered His promises.
Their experience of walking with Jesus would have reinforced that.
Faith to overcome psychological security
We can see in the NT one key aspect of following the Lord, of walking in faith, is sometimes being called to go against our natural temperaments and inclinations.
One important example of this is learning to find our security in the Lord and not in the familiar, the normal.
Psychological discomfort can be an indicator of spiritual growth.
From one phase to another
In this passage we see a transition in Paul’s ministry: one important phase has come to an end. It was a world-changing phase and would logically have seemed important to continue with it.
But Paul knows it’s time for the next phase.
He knows little about its different nature, only that it will involve personal suffering and pain.
Paul looks back …
Paul is keen to ensure that the work he has done, the people to whom he has ministered, remain focused on Jesus.
He has trained, developed and mentored the leadership: Paul’s work here is done.
Here we see a NT example of the key role of Elders: ensuring the establishment and continuation of true Christian doctrine; rooting out false teachers and teaching.
Paul looks forward: Intimacy of relationship, not reliance on the familiar
Paul and his companions had had great success – although it probably didn’t always feel like it at the time!
His commitment isn’t to proclaiming the Gospel in a way that’s obviously worked well, but in following the leading of the One who is the centre of that Gospel.
The next phase of his ministry involves doing things very differently. He approaches it with confidence – not because he knows much about what lies ahead but because he’s secure in his relationship with the Lord.
Home is where the heart is
If our heart is rooted in this world, then trying to walk in God’s ways will always be a struggle.
But if our heart is focused on Jesus, we look forward to an eternal home that we have not yet seen; a place of which we only have tiny glimpses.
But of course our security shouldn’t be in a place but in a Person: the One who (so to speak) left His home in Heaven to come to earth to die for us.