Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Bethany Bullet - July 10, 2012

My friends, I am weak.  Last Monday I returned from our mission trip to Alaska.  While we were there, we had the opportunity and privilege to share the message of Jesus Christ, to foster new relationships, and revive old friendships. But coming home, I realized that I am weak.  I am not the only one, I heard many stories from my fellow team members of long naps and exhaustion had the best of us. 

In Alaska we faced some hardships and difficulties; long days (literally) zapped us of our strength, the challenges of logistics, transportation, and finances, not to mention shopping, cleaning, and witnessing. 

But in our weakness, we were made strong.  Our text comes from Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians, the 12th chapter, starting at verse 10, “…for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.  For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (1 Corinthians 12:10)

I would love to boast about Alaska, its breathtaking beauty, the majesty of the mountains, and the serenity of the scenery. I could boast about my many adventures in the land of the midnight sun, doing things that many never get a chance, but I would be giving in to the devil’s schemes and give way to pride.  No…not today…or any day…today I will boast in weakness, and about what God has done.

Through the 28 missionaries sent from Bethany, Christ was proclaimed, God was acclaimed, and the devil’s power was chained.  And through the financial efforts, and prayer vigilance of this congregation, the grace of Jesus will remain on those who have heard, and even in our weakness the team was sustained with everything we needed.   

Even in our weakness, the power of Christ rested upon us and in a real, tangible way; we experienced what Jesus said to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

In our nine mission trips to Alaska, we have seen the grace of God first hand, and have seen the evidence of His mercy upon our team and those we minister to.  We have experienced financial shortfalls, broken windows, seats, and doors on our rental vehicles.  We have been locked out of buildings.  We have bickered amongst ourselves; we have been cold, tired, hungry, sick, disappointed, mentally exhausted, and our travel has been delayed. 

In fact one year our plane had a mechanical problem and we were forced to stay in Anchorage for another night. It was well past three o’clock in the morning and we were shuttled to the hotel in maintenance vans because all of the busses and shuttles were done for the night. We got about two or three hours of sleep that night and in the morning faced a hotel that did not want to redeem our meal vouchers. Upon our arrival in Seattle, we were told that we were not going to make it back to Los Angeles that day, so off we went to another hotel. With an early morning departure, we retired to bed only to be woken up at 4:00AM in the morning to the fire alarm and had to evacuate the hotel that was rapidly filling up with smoke; wailing sirens brought the fire department and sleep was not to be had.

This year I returned to the lower 48 with either a rash or a series of bug bites in the middle of my back that have made it difficult to sleep at night and painful to even sit in a chair, but even now, I am strong in Christ.
We have indeed experienced what Paul talked about earlier in 2 Corinthians, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; knocked down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9)

Before each trip to Alaska I tell the team the same thing, “You are a missionary, and the devil doesn’t like it!  He will try anything to knock you off your feet, you will be tempted and he will do everything he can to feed on your weakness and stunt your ability to succeed.”

Perhaps I am not doing good PR work to recruit people to join us in Alaska, but despite our setbacks and challenges, almost everyone who has ever been on the trip would do it all again in a heartbeat.

Because when we are weak, we have been made strong in Christ.

What makes you weak? 
  • Is it worry, envy, apathy, or do you feel knocked down? 
  • Do you wallow in your inabilities?
  • Do you make excuses when things don’t go your way? 
  • Do you feel abandoned?
  • Have you been kicked to the curb of life?

Take heart, you are not alone. Jesus himself became weak for you. He willingly gave up His majestic position in heaven to wallow in this sin filled place. He experienced all that this place had, His arms took the nails meant for you and me, and he was killed in your place.  The prophet Isaiah spoke of the weakness of the coming messiah:

3He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.  (Isaiah 53:3-5, 7)

But in this apparent weakness, great strength was revealed; strength to conquer the weakness inherited by us all in sin; strength to defeat death and the devil; strength to get through the trials of temptation; strength to live eternally.
As the psalmist wrote in Psalm 46:
God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way  and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

Like Paul, we can delight in our weakness and fall upon the grace given to us in Christ for power is made perfect in weakness.  So take heart, rejoice, and delight in your weakness, because through it, Christ’s power will rest upon you. 

In reality we live a life of weakness.  Insults, hardships, persecutions, difficulties, all make us weak, but our weakness does not inhibit the power of Christ.  We are called to be WEAK.  By that I mean we are called to: 
  • Walk 
  • Everywhere 
  • Acknowledging the 
  • King

You will be weak, but in your weakness, walk everywhere acknowledging the King.  In your words and in your actions, walk everywhere acknowledging the King.  This is not a weak position, but a position of strength. 

In Alaska we were weak, but we can boast in our weakness and in the strength of Jesus.  Allow me to boast in our weakness for just a moment.  One of the children that have been coming to our VBS program for years was struggling with the faith.  He was not really sure about Jesus. He came to church because his grandmother made him, and for a number of years he sat at VBS rather apathetic. He was not happy to be there. It was just a few years ago, one of our Alaska team members was bold enough to send him a Bible and a handwritten note of encouragement after we came back home. 

In talking with his grandmother this year, it was that single event that changed the course of her grandson’s life in Christ. Someone actually cared enough to personally give him the gift of the Word and take the time to personally encourage him and remind him of the love of Jesus.  A moment of weakness?  NO!  A moment of strength in Christ!

From that moment on, his countenance changed, he has been going to church…on his own, he has been active in the youth activities and Sunday school; he brings that Bible with him every week.  His face is filled with smiles and he now walks everywhere acknowledging the King.

You are on a mission trip as well, it is called life and mission trips are exhausting, financially taxing, and lessons in patience.  At times you will feel weak and unwilling to go on, but in our weakness we are driven to our knees in prayer and thanksgiving for how God continues to strengthen us in our weakness and confess, “Your grace is sufficient for me!”

We continue to boast in our weakness and the wonder of Jesus in whom we delight, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

-Pastor Seth Moorman


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