The best part of last Sunday’s sermon

July 13, 2011

I’ll post last Sunday’s sermon later, but I’m deeply disappointed that yours truly forgot to delete old stuff off of my Flip camcorder, which meant that it ran out of memory before the sermon ended, which meant that the best part of my sermon was cut off! Ugh! 

The exciting adventures of "Will she or won't she start?"

I liked it so much that I thought I would highlight it in this separate post. After I challenged the congregation to think of ways in which God uses suffering to produce patience, etc. (Romans 5:3-5), I said something along these lines:

One lesson I’ve learned in this past week is that God uses car trouble to teach me patience, which produces character, which produces hope. I’m not kidding! We went to the beach last week in the Tampa Bay area, and on our way, our Honda minivan broke down. We knew right away it was a transmission problem. Why did we know this? Because the exact same problem occurred one year ago, when we paid a lot of money to have the transmission rebuilt. And we knew one year ago that we had a transmission problem. Why did we know this? Because the exact same problem occurred a year before that, when we paid a lot of money to have the transmission rebuilt. This year, like last year, we were just outside of the one-year warranty.

Fortunately, our minivan broke down a few miles from the small town of Forsyth, where I pastored a church when I was in seminary. Some of my former parishioners there helped us. I was even able to borrow one of their cars to drive an hour-and-a-half back to Alpharetta, where Tammy Allison helped us by offering us the use of their minivan for the week. On our way back from beach, Lisa was able to drive the Honda—slowly but successfully—all the way back to our house.

So we had a great vacation in spite of the setback, and we got our piece-of-junk minivan back home. But the minivan still needed to be fixed. But I was feeling O.K. about everything—maybe on Tuesday, after the 4th of July holiday, someone from the corporate headquarters of this local transmission shop would agree to do the right thing and fix the car for free—or at a greatly reduced cost, and it wouldn’t put us out another three grand to fix it. Anyway, I thought, we’ll deal with that on Tuesday. Now to enjoy my holiday!

That afternoon, I was going to go to Publix and get some food and supplies for grilling—it was the 4th, after all. So I get in my 18-year-old Honda Accord, which is, after all, just two years shy of classic status and 1,500 miles shy of 300,000. And I crank it. [Imitate crank sound.] As I’ve mentioned in the past, the Accord does this sometimes in the summer heat. It would likely start up later, when it cooled down a little. I knew that.

But in that moment, I was thinking to myself, “We are driving two embarrassingly old Hondas—trying desperately to keep one of them running with bailing wire, chewing gum, cable ties, and duct tape, while the other is facing yet another expensive repair.” And we’re driving these two old cars, holding our breath each day, hoping that they will get us from point A to point B—and why are we doing this? Because I decided to answer the call into ministry eight years ago. I did not anticipate the huge financial sacrifice that it would require of my family and me!

So what am I doing, on this July 4th, sitting in my driveway, cranking my car in vain. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch. I’m feeling sorry for myself. Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch. I’m thinking, “I was doing fine as an engineer.” Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch. “We didn’t have to live on such a tight budget before.” Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch. “We could’ve bought a couple of new cars by now.” Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch. “We didn’t have these kinds of worries financial worries back then.” Ch-ch-ch-ch-chCh-ch.

So I go back in the house, and—I’m speaking to married men now—are you like me? Do you just know when you’re about to say something that’s going to start an argument with your wife? It’s like you see it coming—like the light of an approaching train at the end of a tunnel—but you just can’t get out of its way? Well, it happened… We fought.

Lisa told me, among other things, that I did not trust that God would really take care of us—that, despite what I preach, I live my life as if it’s all up to me. And she wants me to actually believe these pretty words that I tell you each week. And she reminded me of how much God has taken care of us so far, how faithful God has been to us, how happy and healthy our family is, how nice our home is, how we’ve made ends meet. And how, in spite of our car troubles, there hasn’t been a single time when we couldn’t get from point A to point B.

And even as she was saying this, I knew that every word she spoke was completely true. Surprisingly, this is not always the case… Not that she isn’t usually right, but that I fail to see it that way at the time.

And, although she had no idea what I was preaching on this week, she said, “Maybe God keeps sending us this car trouble, trying to get your attention, in order to teach you something about what it means to trust in him!” And I’m like, “Whoa!” I thought I was the theologian in this family. These words literally brought me to my knees. I did the best praying I’ve done in a while. And while this didn’t need to happen to convince me that she was right, the next morning, the corporate guy from the transmission place told us that they were repairing the car at no cost.

Praise God! What else can I say. I’m so full of foolish, foolish pride. I don’t want to trust God the way God wants me to, because it would be admitting that I can’t trust in myself. I don’t really want to be up to my eyeballs in debt to God. I want the ledger sheet to be in balance. I want to pay God back for all of his amazing grace.

But those aren’t the terms of this peace treaty that we agree to for when we place our faith in Jesus. It’s about the most one-sided treaty imaginable.

Oh, Brent,” God was saying to me that evening, “you’re striving in vain. Give it up. Surrender. Place your life in God’s hands. Learn what true peace is. Learn what hope really looks like.”

2 Responses to “The best part of last Sunday’s sermon”

  1. Nancy Says:

    Great message for all of us.

  2. Jane Rogers Says:

    This hit home with me, big time! Way to go Lisa! Someone has to be able to discern that this Christianity stuff is for real! Either we believe it or we don’t; either we live it or we don’t. Not that it’s easy! I wish you could have known my type A personality before God got my attention, you know, with the 2 x 4 upside the head? You could actually notice a peace-tranfusion!


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