Pastor Edgar Mayer;
For more sermons and other writings check out pastors homepage: http://www.geocities.com/mayeredgar
The nations greatest leader had just
died. His name was Moses and the Bible says about him Deuteronomy 34:12:
one has ever shown the mighty power or performed the awesome deeds that Moses
did in the sight of all
Moses the great leader was dead. Yet, Joshua
and the nation of God were not to shrink back not to pull their head in not to delay but cross the river
Only a few months ago as a church congregation we crossed the
But back then did we think about
any boldness that would be required in the new year? As
a church we do want to take new territory expand the
Maybe its not immediately clear in what sense we are meant to be strong and courageous. So far for most of us church has been a risk-free enterprise. Here in Toowoomba there is no risk of dying for our faith. No risk of losing our jobs or homes because we confess Jesus Christ. Church has been a safe environment with viable numbers and an attractive program. What then could it possibly mean for us: to be bold, to be strong and courageous as we step out into something new as a church.
Let me share two experiences of Rees Howells who was born in a Welsh mining village in 1879. God put a call on his life where he was to serve him (in preaching and prayer) but not earn a wage and not ask anyone for donations.
[Abbreviate and retell this section from Norman Grubb: Rees Howells
This is getting closer to living with a sense of courage. What if you need money (like Rees Howells) in a few days but are not meant to earn a wage or petition anyone. You are meant to pray and rely on God for his provisions. Would you have the courage would I have the courage for this kind of faith adventure when it involves hard cash and payment deadlines. [And by the way, did you notice the principle by which Rees Howells prayed until he had the faith for receiving the money. When the faith came the boldness and certainty of faith he knew that God would give according to his faith.]
Consider how nerve-wrecking this can be. [Abbreviate and retell this section from Norman
Grubb: Rees Howells Intercessor,
now the time for the train had come. The
Spirit then spoke to me and said: If you had money what would you do? I said:
Take my place in the queue at the booking office. Well, are you not
preaching that My promises are equal to current coin?
You had better take your place in the queue. So there was nothing I could do
except obey. There were about a dozen people before me. There they were passing
by the booking office one by one. The devil kept on telling me, Now you have
only a few people in front of you, and when your turn comes, you will have to
walk through. You have preached much about Moses with the Red Sea in front and
the Egyptians behind; but now you are the one who is shut in. Yes, shut in,
I answered, but, like Moses, Ill be gloriously led out! When there were only
two people before me, a man stepped out of the crowd and said, Im sorry I cant
wait any longer, but I must open my shop. He said good-bye and put thirty
shillings in my hand! It was most glorious, and only a foretaste of what the
Lord would do in
Would you and I have the courage to live
like that? No money in the pocket but queuing to buy a train ticket to
We are entering into a season where we will need courage, if we want to go forward. Only two months ago in November I finished preaching the six-part sermon series on healing. For more than a year we had been wrestling with what the Bible says about healing Matthew 8:16-17: [Jesus] healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases. James 5:14-16: Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well Matthew 10:7-8: [Jesus] gave them authority to heal every disease and sickness [and he said:] As you go, preach this message: The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick John : [Jesus said:] I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these and according to the truth of these Bible verses there were some notable healings among us even tumors disappeared Bronte: silenced by autism spoke her first word (joy) but now we find out that Greg Storey is diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas which has spread into his liver and the question is whether as a church we are ready for the magnitude of his sickness. Would we be so bold as to believe in his healing by the prayer of faith?
I have Gregs permission to speak openly about his condition and what is involved for us as a church. We need to think this through. How bold do we want to be? There is a part of me that all of a sudden is getting very nervous. Let me explain.
It does not seem to be good pastoral practice to raise expectations of divine healing when the medical opinion and medical experience suggests a more dire outcome of the disease. Why risk raising the expectations of Greg and his family and risk raising the expectations of a church when hoping for a miracle cancer cure looks so much like setting everyone up for failure. The other day I shared this predicament with some of my colleagues in Toowoomba and I shared my own nervousness and the need for boldness. After the meeting one or two other pastors came up to me and spoke to me with measured words of balanced reasoning. One pastor told me that he also had a church member who had suffered from cancer and that it was such a great witness to the family to watch him die as a Christian and dont I think that this was also of God? I replied: Sure. But what about having faith for more? What about having faith for the cancer to be healed?
Then this same pastor queried me about putting it on people that they may not have enough faith for being healed. I responded by saying: Put aside for a moment the problem of how people might deal with the challenge. As a theologian you have to admit that the Bible is absolutely clear about the importance of faith and the failure of faith which can frustrate Gods good intentions. I cannot recall a single instance where God put any pressure on any sick person but the disciples were clearly told many times Matthew 17:20: [You couldnt heal the boy] because you have so little faith Then the community and as a church we are such a community the community and its lack of faith is sometimes clearly identified as the problem Mark 6:5-6: Jesus could not do any miracles there And he was amazed at their lack of faith.
Are we bold enough to go there? Do we have the courage do we dare to face the truth about how much or how little we trust God and how much or how little God can achieve through us by faith (cf. Hebrews 11).
It would be so much safer and less people would get upset with Living Grace (and me), if we agreed to be more balanced and reasonable. Why not simply say: God, we pray for healing but we want your will to be done and not ours? Isnt this a good prayer. It seems so submitted to God and lets us off the hook (lets me off the hook) but its not faith. It is unbelief because God has already declared his will and his declared will is to heal Matthew 8:16-17: [Jesus] healed all the sick James 5:14-16: the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well Matthew 10:7-8: [Jesus] gave them authority [and said:] Heal the sick
There was one time when Jesus prayed Luke 22:42: Father not my will, but yours be done but even in this instance, Jesus knew very well what God the Father wanted. It was only that he was anxious about getting arrested and tortured and for that reason he prayed to be spared. Yet, he knew that he was meant to die as the sacrifice for our sins. He knew the plan and had himself announced the meaning of his death only a few hours earlier, saying to his disciples at dinner Luke 22:20: This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you Therefore, when he prayed: not my will, but yours be done , then this was not the model prayer for Christians who choose to bypass the radical promises of the Bible. This was not the model prayer for Christians who choose the comfort of praying without the need for boldness: God, whatever you want.
Can you see how this kind of talk can get me into trouble and you? Then, someone always points out that the apostle Paul himself was suffering from a thorn in his flesh which could have been some kind of sickness. Therefore so goes the argument not every sickness is meant to be healed. However, this is what the Bible says 2 Corinthians 12:7 I read what Paul writes about his thorn: To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations [Paul had just shared how fourteen years ago he had been taken into heaven] there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me. The thorn was a messenger of Satan not a direct blessing from God and was only allowed to remain with Paul (as some sort of blessing in disguise) because it kept him humble: To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations Therefore and this is my take on this most of us should be quite safe. We are not in the same league of Paul and his surpassingly great revelations and therefore the normal rule of thumb applies to us: Messengers of Satan have no business tormenting Christians. 1 John 3:8: The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devils work.
Please, dont think that I have all the answers. I dont. We must all die and therefore at some point there will be a sickness unto death but in the case of Greg at the age of fifty-two this seems to come before his time and with a young family depending on him he needs to live. What I do know what I am certain of is that if we had brought Greg to Jesus two thousand years ago when Jesus was walking the earth in human form, then Greg would have been healed. Jesus never said no to a single healing request. He would have restored Gregs body.
Today the problem is that Jesus wants to work through us. When he ascended into heaven, he commissioned us: You go and preach the kingdom and heal the sick, which means that now we are the ones praying for Greg we are the ones laying hands on him with the consequence that the outcome is not quite the same as if Jesus himself did it. Our healing success rate is not quite the same as the 100% of Jesus.
But and this is where the need for boldness comes in we are meant to grow and become better in healing people. We are meant to become like Christ (cf. Galatians 4:10; Galatians 4:10; 2 Corinthians 3:18) which includes a growing measure of holiness, faith and healing power a closing of the gap between what people received when they came to Jesus and what people receive when they come to us.
How are we feeling about this? Is it time to pack up and join a more balanced church? God said to Joshua: Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people Be strong and very courageous Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. God challenged Joshua and he is challenging us to do the impossible but the good news is that we are not having to do anything in our own strength. We are only meant to be available so that God can work his power his might through us.
God promised Joshua: I will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not
be terrified, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. And God is promising the same to us. He is
with you. He is with me. Jesus told the disciples not to attempt anything
before they had not received the infilling with the Holy Spirit. He said
Do not leave
And so it happened for them. And so it happens for us. God is with us never leaves nor forsakes us as he fills us and refills us with the Holy Spirit. One incident in the Bible explains how this works in practice. Two Christians Peter and John had healed a cripple which became the talking point of the entire city. The authorities asked them Acts 4:7-13: By what power of what name did you do this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved. When they say the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished
So far so good but then the authorities commanded them to cease speaking in Jesus name and threatened them which chipped away at the disciples confidence. The whole church became anxious and nervous. Therefore, this is what they did Acts 4:24-30: they raised their voices together in prayer to God. They prayed: Sovereign Lord, you made the heaven and the earth You spoke by the Holy Spirit Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain in this city [people] conspired against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed. They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen. Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.
The church prayed. A fearful bunch of Christians intimidated by threats and nervous about the consequences of going forward they cried out to God in prayer. They prayed together. They took courage from meditating on Jesus. They remembered how everyone conspired against him but salvation was won because nothing happened against Gods plan. Then they came straight to the point making this request: Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.
Then God confirmed his promise never to forsake or leave us Acts 4:31: After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness.
None of us can be pep-talked into
boldness. None of us can cross
In practice this means that we need to pray more. If we as a church want to take new territory in 2009 and want to see Greg healed, then we must come together and cry out in desperation the same request as those that have gone before us: Now, Lord, consider what is before us and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal and perform miraculous signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus.
Do you agree with this need for church prayer? Lets be honest. Le me be honest with you. After wrestling for so long with the Bible and the learned opinions of scholars I am convinced about Gods healing will for Greg its in the book but somehow at the same time as much as my heart goes out to Greg and the whole extended family I struggle to have the faith for his healing. Im not really confident that God is actually going to do it. I know that I need prayer. I havent come through yet. I need our prayer watch the three hours that we want to pray together as a church.
In conclusion, I may add that I remain joyful and secure in trusting that heaven is my inheritance no matter how much I am currently lacking in maturity. I may be a little disappointed in me as a pastor but none of us has to despair and doubt the goodness of God in his life. We are free without any condemnation to give it a go.
Do we want to be in this together? Can
we hear God saying to us:
Be strong and courageous
? And then respond to him by praying
together: All right, Lord,
Stretch out your hand to heal
Can we give it a go? Now that we have crossed