This past week we’ve had a church full of kids for Vacation Bible School. I’ve had the time of my life talking with the kids and our incredible volunteers, taking pictures of million dollar smiles, and listening to our kids sing, with all of their heart, about Jesus. Each day of Vacation Bible School the adults and kids have focused on a theme. All of the themes the kids learned about have to do with tough situations we find ourselves in as we experience life.
I want to ask you, have you ever felt lonely? That’s really a silly question isn’t it? Who has not felt lonely at times during their life? The crazy thing is, you can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. That’s not an adult or kid problem, that’s a universal human problem. Here’s another question for you…Have you ever been worried about a situation you were facing in life, an upcoming decision, a relationship that was out of sorts, or a health issue you or someone you love was facing in life? Maybe you are here this morning and you are worried. On day three the question we asked of the kids was, “Do you ever struggle?” Let me tell you, whether you are 8 or 80, the struggle is real. I heard some stories this past week about little ones who know what it means to struggle with some really tough situations in life. Here’s another question, “What do you do when you do wrong?” Have you ever messed up? Have you ever messed up and others wouldn’t let you ever forget it? Last of all, on day five, the theme was, “What do you do when you feel powerless?” In some of the situations we face in life we can feel powerless which can lead us to worry and sometimes our worrying, with no help in sight, can lead us to feel lonely. The troubles of life can pile up on us can’t they?
We don’t have time to take a look at each of the themes of VBS this past week, but I would like to focus on a couple during the time we have together this morning. As I mentioned earlier, the themes the kid’s focused on are not exclusively kid problems at all, they are part of the human predicament that all people, all over the world face at various times throughout our lives.
Loneliness seems to be in the news on a pretty regular basis. Most of us wonder how can any one of us ever feel lonely when we live in a world of 7 billion people? I was reading an article in USA Today this past week. I’d like to share a little of it with all of you.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat. Email, text, instant messages, cell phone calls. There are more ways than ever to connect with others—yet many of us know the hollow ache of loneliness. Loneliness isn’t constrained by age, gender, marital status or job title. CEOs feel it. So do cubicle dwellers. As do new moms, granddads, recent college grads and elementary school students. (Laura Petrecca. “Why Do We Feel So Lonely?” April 30, 2017. USA Today.)
From the youngest among us to the oldest, we all have or will feel lonely from time-to-time, sometimes for prolonged periods of time. A 16 year old in the USA Today article wrote about her feelings of loneliness and isolation.
I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere, and I have no friends. I hate being this unhappy, but I can’t control it. I feel so alone. Whenever I think about the future, I get scared that I’ll always be by myself because I’m not good-looking or funny enough. (USA Today)
In all of the years I’ve worked with people in the church I’d have to say some of the loneliest people I’ve talked to are people who have lost a spouse after years of marriage and people who, after having been married for years, have had their husband or wife leave them. Their norm has been radically altered. Their life dramatically changed. People today talk about how social media and technology are increasing the sense of loneliness in people. That may be true, but loneliness has been part of the human predicament for as long as there have been people. In Genesis 2:18, after God created Adam, He said, “It’s not good for man to be alone…” And then God created Eve so that Adam wouldn’t be alone any more.
If you turn through the pages of the Bible you will find the lonely. Jeremiah the prophet suffered from loneliness because all of the people turned against him. Hannah was married, but she felt isolated because she was barren and Peninnah constantly ridiculed her because she had no children. Elijah was a faithful man of God and yet he said,
10 …”I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (1 Kings 19:10 NIVO)
Elijah felt all alone. Even David, the greatest King in the history of Israel suffered through times of loneliness. In Psalm 25:15-17, he wrote,
15 My eyes are ever on the LORD, for only he will release my feet from the snare. 16 Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. 17 The troubles of my heart have multiplied; free me from my anguish. (Psalm 25:15-17 NIVO)
What do you do when you find yourself in a lonely place? How do you find your way out of loneliness? I’ll tell you about some of the best solutions I’ve found for those times I’ve felt all alone. David said, “My eyes are ever on the LORD…” But, you may wonder, “What does that mean? Where is the Lord that I can look at Him? How can I fix my eyes on the Lord?” Those are great questions! The place I look, when I want to fix my eyes on the Lord, is to look in the pages of His Word. It is in His Word that I discover that I am never alone. Let me give you a couple of examples. Turn with me to Deuteronomy 31:6 and let’s read together.
6 Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIVO)
He will never leave me or forsake me. I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve had the opportunity to share that truth with those who felt all alone? Some of the most heartbreaking situations I’ve dealt with are kids who have been abandoned by their parents for a variety of reasons. Yet, God has a word of comfort for those who have been left by a parent. Psalm 27:10 says,
10 Even if my father and mother abandon me, the LORD will hold me close. (Psalm 27:10 NLT)
5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. 6 God sets the lonely in families, he leads forth the prisoners with singing; but the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. (Psalm 68:5-6 NIVO)
Feelings of loneliness will come, no doubt about it, but when those times come we can turn our eyes to the Lord, we can open the pages of His Word and be reminded that we are never alone. God is with us and He has also given us a family of faith; men, women, boys, and girls given as a gift from God so that we will never be alone. Remember what the Psalmist said, “God sets the lonely in families.”
There is another universal experience, experienced by all people, from all walks of life, and in every nation on the planet, and that is worry. What is it that is worrying you this morning? I got a phone call from a friend this past week who was worried about her friend that was getting ready to go into surgery, a major surgery. I heard about one of our VBS kids this past week who was worried that her family was going to lose their house, another who was afraid that he would be taken away from his mother, and another who was worried because one of her parents is going to have to go to prison. Kids and adults alike know what it is to worry, but there are a variety of things we can do when we are worried aren’t there? Worrying, the anxiety we experience because of the problems of life, can paralyze us, lead us to make bad decisions, and keep us up at night. The Bible has some great advice for the kids who were with us this week in VBS and it has some great advice for all of us who are here this morning and are worried. David was afraid for his life when he wrote these words:
4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears. (Psalm 34:4 NIVO)
“He delivered me from all my fears.” That about covers it doesn’t it? What fears are you dealing with this morning? If we bring our fears, whatever fears we have right now or will ever have in the future, to God, He will replace our fear with trust and peace…if we keep taking them to Him every time we are fearful and worried. Isaiah says God will “keep us in perfect peace…” Let me show you what I’m talking about. Turn with me to Isaiah 26:3,
3 You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! (Isaiah 26:3 NLT)
There’s a man in the Bible that I’ve come to love. He challenges me and reminds me to go to God whenever I’m afraid, whenever I’m worried about anything in life. The man’s name is Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was the King of Judah 2900 years ago. That’s a long time ago and yet, the lesson that I’ve learned from him has everything to do with what to do when we are worried and afraid. Turn with me to 2 Chronicles 20. While you are turning there I want to set the scene for you. Jehoshaphat was king over Judah for 25 years, but there was a time when the report came that an alliance had been formed by the Moabites, Ammonites, and the Meunites and they were on their way to destroy the King and his people. Jehoshaphat’s army was outnumbered and would be overpowered. Now, let’s read the story found in 2 Chronicles 20:1-4.
1 After this, the Moabites and Ammonites with some of the Meunites came to make war on Jehoshaphat. 2 Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, “A vast army is coming against you from Edom, from the other side of the Sea. It is already in Hazazon Tamar” (that is, En Gedi). 3 Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah. 4 The people of Judah came together to seek help from the LORD; indeed, they came from every town in Judah to seek him. (2 Chronicles 20:1-4 NIVO)
Now, just imagine that we got word today that armies were on their way to overpower and overthrow our own nation. What would we do? What would our leaders do? I’m pretty certain President Trump would call the Pentagon, huddle up with our military leaders, and decide the next step. There’s no doubt in my mind that he wouldn’t even think about calling everyone to the church for prayer, but that is exactly what King Jehoshaphat did. Did you notice verse 3? Look at it again: “Alarmed, Jehoshaphat resolved to inquire of the LORD, and he proclaimed a fast for all Judah.” The Hebrew word “?????“ (yare’) is the word, “alarmed,” in English. It means “fear, to be afraid, or to reverence.” The word is found 368 times in the Old Testament. There were many who were afraid in the Old Testament and Jehoshaphat was one of them. Yet, when he was afraid he sought the Lord. He didn’t run and hide from the invading army, he ran to God in prayer. Jehoshaphat, with the people of Judah around him, prayed. You can read his entire prayer in 2 Chronicles 20:6-12. I want us to pay special attention to the end of his prayer in verse 12. Read it with me.
12 O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12 NIVO)
“We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” How many times have I been at a crossroads and didn’t know whether to turn to the right or to the left? How many times have I been in a situation, I mean in the middle of a scary situation, and had no clue what to do? Jehoshaphat reminds me that I’m not the first to find myself uncertain and afraid. I want to be straight with you and let you know that many times I’ve made other inquiries before inquiring of the Lord. I’ve sought help from others before seeking help from God. There is no help like the help the Lord can provide for you and me.
We all have questions, kids and adults alike. In the society we live in today there are many answers to the questions we have in life, but sadly, God is oftentimes not even on the list of possible answers for most people. At Britton Christian Church our ambition, our passion, is to point people to Jesus. People who are lonely, people who are worried, people who can’t find their way, can come to Jesus and He is a comfort unlike any comfort, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life for all people. Jesus said,
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIVO)
Jesus says, “Come to me…” We’ve just finished Vacation Bible School for our kids and kids we’d never met before this past week for the purpose of introducing them to Jesus. In just a few weeks we will begin an exciting opportunity for adults who have questions about life and it’s called Alpha. Alpha is not a five day opportunity, it’s an opportunity that takes place over 10 weeks, on Sunday nights from 5-7 pm here at Britton Christian Church.
We’ll talk more about Alpha next Sunday, but before we get out of here I want to introduce to someone who was greatly impacted by Alpha. Dakoda grew up in Portland, OR. He could have benefited greatly from VBS this past week because as a young kid Dakoda felt both lonely and afraid. I’ll let him tell his story…
Jesus said, “Come to me…” I would have never come to Jesus on my own, it was a friend who led me to Jesus. I’ll never forget that friend and what he did for me. I’m so grateful to God and my friend that I want to spend the rest of my life sharing Jesus’ love with those who don’t know Him. Maybe you are here today and you have never asked Jesus to come into your life. I want to give you the opportunity to do that this morning.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 22, 2018