Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 6th December, 2020
If you were here last week, you’ll know that I probably connected a bit too much with the story of the soldiers in Flanders Fields. It’s quite an emotional story.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about – do a google search for the poem – “In Flanders Fields.” It captures the heart of a soldier who gave his life for a massive cause – much bigger than himself – but it also speaks to us right now, of just how valuable and precious every day of life is that we have together.
It’s so valuable, that I believe God is saying to us how vital it is that we live fully in the now – taking up every opportunity – that we live in and make the most of the time we have today.
And I want to expand on that a bit this morning.
Last week I touched on the fact that if we are going to live in the now, we are also going to have to leave behind some things that keep dragging us back into the past.
And I want to take that a bit further today and say there are things that God simply wants us to let go.
Letting go isn’t easy. Especially if you want to do it well.
If you have had young children or grandchildren over the last few years, you’ll probably know all the words to the theme song from the movie Frozen.
Don’t you hate it when someone puts a song in your head and you can’t get rid of it. Well the song “Let It Go” is one of those songs.
Poor Elsa has had enough of everything and everyone and she takes herself up into the mountain and says to herself:
Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold back anymore
Let it go, let it go,
Turn away and slam the door.
I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway!
Elsa locks herself away from everyone in an ice castle in the mountains.
She let go alright. She became bitter, angry, sad and lonely. She blamed everything and everyone else for how she was feeling. She built an ice wall between her and the life and people she knew.
And as much as we’re talking about a fairy tale – I think we all know people who have pretty much done the same thing in real life. Perhaps you’ve done it yourself.
But Elsa wasn’t just letting go. She was completely cutting off. And cutting off places you in a self made prison. Actually Elsa was being even more bound by her past and her own inner world.
The letting go that I’m talking about this morning sets you free to live more fully now and in the future. In fact it unlocks your future to become something extraordinary.
There wouldn’t be one person in this room who hasn’t had to deal with disappointment and heartache in some way.
We’ve all prayed for things that have turned out very differently to what we’ve believed for.
Whether that’s to do with a job, a relationship, finances – praying for a loved one to be healed….
But the real problem arises in how we respond to that unanswered prayer – to that person who let us down – to the one we love hurting us so badly something within us seems to die….
If we continue to harbour feelings of hurt, pain, mistrust, unbelief, disappointment, anger and grief…. Those things are definitely going to rob us of life going forward.
And it begins to affect who we are. That’s the real danger of not letting go.
We can become a person who is bitter, resentful, full of self-pity. Just like Elsa in the movie, we can blame everyone else – maybe even ourselves – and ultimately we can put the blame fair and square on God Himself.
We’ll get to some scriptures in a second, but I thought I’d check out what a couple of other pastors have said about why this happens – why terrible things happen to good people – and why prayers don’t get answered the way we think they should.
And do you know the answer I found? They simply don’t know.
But I thought it was interesting that one pastor said – actually God doesn’t consult me about these things. He doesn’t ask me what I think. And to be honest, that’s not part of my role description.
I’m not God’s PR man. I’m not here to defend Him or to try and coerce people into seeing things His way.
I think that’s a fairly healthy approach. No man has all the answers.
But that doesn’t stop the Holy Spirit Himself doing a deep work in our hearts – He is the convictor of our hearts – the one Who is the revealer of the deep things of God. But even the Holy Spirit leaves some things a mystery.
All I know is:
1 Corinthians 13:12
New King James Version
“For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.”
One day. – all things will become crystal clear.
Letting go of some of the deepest hurt and pain that we experience is far from easy – but we have to do it.
There’s a season for grief – for crying out to God in prayer – for allowing the tears to flow freely…. It’s a season that’s different for everyone. But if you get stuck in grief because of something unresolved with you, it will have a devastating affect.
We all know David had a heart after God’s own heart. He’s always a good example of how to respond to life – especially how to deal with challenges, failures and heartache.
Look at how he coped and dealt with the tragic sickness and death of his own son.
2 Samuel 12:16-17
New King James Version
“David therefore pleaded with God for the child, and David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground. 17 So the elders of his house arose and went to him, to raise him up from the ground. But he would not, nor did he eat food with them.”
David did everything he knew to do to try and intervene for his son. He grieved even before his son died. He was totally heartbroken and in distress. Grief has to have a way of being expressed. It’s part of our humanity. And wrestling with God about these things is part of the process.
But look what happens next.
2 Samuel 12:18-23
New King James Version
“Then on the seventh day it came to pass that the child died. And the servants of David were afraid to tell him that the child was dead. For they said, “Indeed, while the child was alive, we spoke to him, and he would not heed our voice. How can we tell him that the child is dead? He may do some harm!”
19 When David saw that his servants were whispering, David perceived that the child was dead. Therefore David said to his servants, “Is the child dead?”
And they said, “He is dead.”
20 So David arose from the ground, washed and anointed himself, and changed his clothes; and he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped. Then he went to his own house; and when he requested, they set food before him, and he ate. 21 Then his servants said to him, “What is this that you have done? You fasted and wept for the child while he was alive, but when the child died, you arose and ate food.”
22 And he said, “While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether [b]the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ 23 But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.”
What extraordinary faith and trust in God. And even in that moment – David made a choice to let go…. He chose to let his son go…. But he knew it wasn’t the end. He said – I will go to him, but he shall not return to me. David was already putting his focus on the future. And because he was focussed on God and eternity, he was able to live and function in the present.
In other words – the story isn’t over – but that chapter in life is. David knew the reality and truth of eternal life. He knew that God was far greater than this tragic experience, and that one day he would be reunited with his son.
And I think that this story is an inspiration to us in how to respond to whatever terrible, painful and difficult circumstance may have happened to us personally in the past.
Of course, it’s extraordinary that David was able to rise up so quickly. For most of us, grief is a longer process over time. I’m sure David did still grieve, but he didn’t allow the grief to define who he was.
I’m not talking here about letting go of memories – of letting go of love – of letting go of anything – except the things that would keep us bound to the past and unable to move into the future.
Has your life been full of disappointments? Do you still hold on to unfulfilled dreams – what you believe were God dreams? And yet they still haven’t come to pass.
Are there things you have been believing for that have never happened – and don’t even look like happening?
There’s something very powerful about the principle of letting go.
There’s something powerful about dying to self – and dying to how you think things should work out. We don’t know how these things work – but they do. They are spiritual principles that are eternal.
That principle is revealed in:
The Passion Translation
“Let me make this clear:[a] A single grain of wheat will never be more than a single grain of wheat unless it drops into the ground and dies. Because then it sprouts and produces[b] a great harvest of wheat—all because one grain[c] died.”
Straight away my thoughts go back to those soldiers buried in Flander’s Fields in France.
Their lives were like a grain of wheat – and they were buried in the ground – so that multitudes of people – you and I included – could live in freedom.
They literally died to themselves – their family – their future – their hopes and dreams… but their hopes and dreams multiplied and came to life in others they would never ever know.
And of course I think of Jesus Himself. His life was like a grain of wheat that died and was placed in a tomb. But because of His death – there has been a harvest of multitudes through salvation in His name – in generation after generation.
We haven’t yet been called to die – but we have been called to let go of the things that have caused us pain and hurt, disappointment and offence.
When we hold on to things – they affect the way we live – they hinder the way we are able to love – they rob us of hope – they imprison us in an ice tower of resentment and self pity.
But when we die to these things – let them go – hand them over to God – and release them from the tight grip we have on them – it makes a way for God to then bring a multiplication and a harvest from the very things that we give up.
It even applies to the good things – the things we dream about – the things we are believing for. Sometimes God calls us to let go of the dreams we have – because His dreams for us are even better.
Is He calling you to let go of something special that has a tight grip on your heart? But holding on just keeps taking your focus, your energy, your time, your passion…
I know that principle is true from my own life.
We gave up the life we knew and loved here on the North Coast to go and serve God wherever He wanted us to. We left our extended families. Venese will tell you that on our trip to Brisbane at the end of 1994, it was like something was dying…. We truly believed we would never live here again. But we had to let go…
Six years later we found ourselves back in Ballina – pastoring a church that we could have only imagined being part of.
When we left Brisbane to come back – we left our three daughters behind. They had made their own lives for themselves in that six years we were there. Another experience of having to let go. Again, Venese probably felt the true depth of that even more than I did at the time.
I was so focused on the overwhelming task ahead, that I buried those feelings of grief and separation…. That’s not a good thing…. And it always catches up with me when I do that. But catch up with me it inevitably does.
But over time, one by one, the girls came home. First Megan. Then Shannon. And now Renae is only an hour away on the Gold Coast. All married to wonderful young men. All loving God and serving Him in their own way. And our family has multiplied in a way that is beyond measure.
We have found that you cannot out give God. Whatever you let go of, He multiplies and blesses.
I don’t know how he does it in your life – but the principle works.
Let it go.
Just a quick side thought here about letting go. The saying “let go and let God” which we’ve all heard people say – it can be a bit deceiving.
When we let go – we then have to move forward with whatever God is telling us to do. It’s not all about saying a prayer – letting go – and then expecting to be able to just sit back and watch God perform a miracle.
Sometimes He does.
But more often than not, we have to proactively takes steps ourselves.
God can heal someone of cancer in an instant. Other times he heals through a course of chemotherapy.
Sometimes He plonks a job in our lap – other times we find an awesome job by searching out and chasing after our dream job by hard work.
I won’t go into all the scriptures here – but there are numerous times when David would pray and ask God to give him victory over the enemy. And then he’d go out and sharpen his sword and go on the attack.
Whether David gave his all – or whether God obviously supernaturally intervened – David always declared in his psalms that God was the victor – he always gave God the Glory and the thanks for overcoming the enemy.
In whatever way it happens – it’s a miracle – it’s a divine encounter.
I want to finish with a bible story that we all know well – but maybe haven’t read it on the basis of what it means to let go.
We know all about the prodigal son.
The one who became sick and tired of just working on the family farm. He thought he could do better out in the world on his own – but with a big initial helping hand from his father.
New King James Version
“Then He said: “A certain man had two sons. 12 And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the portion of goods that falls to me.’ So he divided to them his livelihood. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together, journeyed to a far country, and there wasted his possessions with [a]prodigal living.”
Talk about letting go.
The father must have been heartbroken. We can only imagine his plans for his son’s future and for the farm – for the next generation to continue building the property – not to mention the wealth that was squandered.
But we know that the father didn’t ever go running after him – following him into the sordid places where he wasted the family fortune.
What he did do, was keep watching daily for the son to return. We know that because when the son finally returned – with nothing left – starving – smelling like a pig pen – the father saw him afar off.
I can picture the father lifting his eyes every few minutes – watching – waiting – hoping…
New King James Version
“And he arose and came to his father. But when he was still a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.”
Families can be our greatest place of love, care, support, encouragement…. All those good things we thrive on. But they can also be the place of the greatest heartbreak. The greatest pain. The greatest disappointment.
The story we have here reveals a father who lives out the principle of continually “letting go.”
It’s also the story of our Heavenly Father, graciously accepting his wayward sons and daughters back into the family – as the they come repentant, humble, and broken – seeking even the lowliest of places back with those to whom they truly belong.
We’ve no doubt all felt like the prodigal son at some stage in our life. If not him – his brother.
This story has a lot of messages for us. But today, the message is about laying down the harsh judgements, letting go of what has been lost, and reclaiming the future for what it still could be.
The other son in the story of course has his own hissy fit, and gets all self righteous and resentful that the father would so willingly open his heart and home again to the one that had once rejected it.
One son had been rebellious. The other one, resentful.
The father had a lot to contend with. Both his sons had caused him pain. Both had been dysfunctional in their own way.
But the father simply spoke the truth to them both.
To the rebellious one, who came back completely broken and rejected – the father spoke over him his true identity again and restored him to his rightful position as a son.
To the resentful one – the one who wasn’t able to even see what he had always had with his fathers provision – the father reminded him that he also was a son – and everything he could ever want was already there. He could have accessed all that surrounded him any time he wanted.
The father could have just knocked their heads together and got angry and disappointed with them both. But instead – he let go – and focussed again on what was ahead. He was more interested in creating a future than holding onto and rehashing the past.
Aren’t you glad we have a heavenly Father who is willing to let go of our past sins and failures – the moment we turn back to him and run to him with a repentant heart.
I want to ask you – are there resentments, rejections, painful experiences in your family that God is asking you to let go?
Some things you shouldn’t let go of. Some things need to be held accountable and dealt with. They need to be resolved before they can be let go.
But you’ll know in your heart if the Holy Spirit is prompting you to lay down some things – let go of some things – for the sake of building a new future in your family that is founded on healing and restoration.
Perhaps there are things you have never understood – things you have questioned God about – maybe blamed him for.
As we celebrate communion together this morning, this would be a perfect time to lift your faith in Who He is – a loving and gracious Father – a Good Father – a caring Father – a kind Father…
And even though you don’t understand – and you see things through a glass dimly – this moment in time – you have the opportunity to lay down and let go the things that have been holding you back.
Your hurt. Your pain. Your resentment. Your rebellious attitude. Your bitterness. Your rejection. Your betrayal. Your unbelief and confusion. Your disappointment. The things that have complicated your grief and sadness and kept you bound to the past.
Whatever ice castle you have build up around yourself – or around your heart – now is the perfect time to simply let it go.
Make a decision. Even if you don’t feel like it. Make it a step of faith. Make it a decision to trust God completely with not only your past, but with your future also.
Jesus gave His life – He became that grain of wheat that died and was buried. But out of that dying came a harvest of wheat – a harvest of souls – that was such a multitude that it went on from generation to generation and spread all around the world – and still spreads into the last untouched places of the world today.
As you take this bread and wine – let it be a powerful act of faith – a powerful prayer of healing and restoration. Because there is an incredible future ahead for everyone who believes in His name.
Our future is ultimately about resurrection power and resurrection life.
Let’s not be held back by one thing that would rob us from all of its fullness.
Let’s take and eat together.
In Jesus name. Amen.