Living Life To The Full - Suzie Gray
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
When you commute to work everyday like I do, it doesn’t take long to realise that most of the people on the train in the morning are more or less sleepwalking. I’ve found that the only way to cope with the hideously early starts is to stay in a zombie like state for as long as possible, preferably until the time you reach your desk. So, every morning, you get to the station, fall onto the train and immediately fall asleep. If you one of those really irritating people that talks loudly into their mobile or has their iPod so loud that people in Kent can hear it, you get glared at, but most of the carriage will be asleep by the time you reach the first stop. The train gets to London, you all fall out and make a beeline for the nearest Starbucks, where you get your skinny double latte with an extra shot of espresso, or whatever it is that you need to get you through the day, and, with a bit of luck, you wake up enough so that you can give the boss a reasonably cheery greeting when you walk through the office door.
Sure, a major reason that I spend the first part of the morning half asleep is that I have to get up about 2 hours before I really want to, but the other reason that if I was fully awake I’d probably get very bored by sitting on a train every day, and frustrated by the pushing and shoving on the tube. If I can make it into the office without being particularly aware of what’s going on around me, it makes it bearable. Being on autopilot makes the journey easier to cope with.
Being on autopilot…. Looking around you can see lots of people that live life on autopilot. Life can get rather mundane and the little things start to grind us down. Perhaps things don’t turn out quite the way we’d hoped, and we get a bit disheartened, disappointed. God seems far away and we don’t hear much from him anymore, not like we used to. So we slip into some mild form of autopilot to make things seem easier- so stuff doesn’t get to us quite so much, so we don’t get quite so disappointed. To be frank, we stop hoping for so much.
Jesus said: I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full. How different is that to how things seem to be most of the time. Life to the full- doesn’t sound like sleepwalking through life- like being on autopilot. Don’t be deceived, Jesus made it perfectly clear that this isn’t what He wants for anyone of us. And, if we’re honest, somehow deep down we know that there’s more to life than the daily grind- we know that we were made for something more than that. There’s something in the way we are made, something God put in us deep down in our cores, that tells us that, as sons and daughters of the High King, we were meant to have fullness of life, a life that’s really worth living. We were built in the image of God, and therefore we were meant to have a life that is significant, a life that matters.
So how do we get this life to the full then?
There are two things we need to think about. Firstly, and most importantly, we were made to know God and to be known by him. We were made to have a close relationship with our heavenly Father, and this is often our first problem- we’ve let the mundanity, the ordinariness of our life slip into our faith and our relationship with God. We’ve lost the fire, we’ve lost the closeness, and we don’t bother spending much time with Him anymore. Sure, we did once, but then it got a bit hard, and God seemed to stop talking to us, and, well, life just got in the way really.
It’s not just life that gets in the way. You see, if you’re a Christian you have an enemy, someone who really hates you. He will do anything he can to stop you getting the most out of life, and to be frank, if we give up trying with God, we let him win. The last thing the devil wants is a church full of Christians who want to have lives that are significant- he hasn’t got a chance against that.
Two of Jesus’ closest friends when he was on earth were 2 sisters called Mary and Martha. Jesus went to visit them once and Mary immediately sat down with him to spend some time listening to what he was saying, whilst Martha rushed about worrying about what they were going to have for dinner. Martha saw her sister with her feet up on the sofa and got annoyed. She started nagging Jesus- why aren’t you telling her to help me? The dinner won’t cook itself, you know! Jesus said to Martha- you worry about many things, but Mary has chosen the thing that’s more important, the thing that really matters.
Now, this story wouldn’t be in the Bible if it wasn’t something that was really important for us to know. Jesus knew how easy it would be for us to get sucked up in life and forget the most important thing, which is spending time with him, learning from him. And the truth is that, not only does Jesus want us to get back to the close relationship that many of us once had with him, he wants us to go deeper. Like any relationship our relationship with him won’t stay static, it will either get closer and deeper, or, if we don’t work at it, it will get more distant. Jesus is always calling us to go deeper with him- even in the times when it feels like he’s disappeared and left us. What often happens is something a bit like the parents of a child that is trying to walk for the first time- he goes to the other side of the room, holds out his arms and says “come on, come to me” But, even if you can’t feel him, you can’t hear him, you can guarantee that he’s always calling us onwards. Jesus said many times that he would never leave us - and he isn’t in the habit of lying.
So how can we make this happen? It’s not rocket science to work this one out- by praying and spend time talking to him. Half the time it doesn’t really matter what you say to him - he wants to be part of your life and wants to hear from you. Pray for yourself, pray for your friends, tell him how you are feeling, tell him what you thought at school or college today, whatever. Read his bible- see what he has to say to you through that. Listen to him - in prayer, in music, in nature, through your friends, in silence, in whatever way that you find it easiest to connect with him. And if it’s hard work, keep going. Don’t give up.
Another way that we can connect with God is when we meet with his people. In my group last week when we were talking about prayer, loads of people said that the place where they found it easiest to pray was at Legacy. That wasn’t anything to do with the building itself, but it was because this is your community, these are your friends, and quite often it’s easiest to hear what God’s saying to someone else rather than ourselves. In U2's song One there’s a line in that says 'we get to carry each other'. Originally the line was going to be 'we have to carry each other', but Bono changed it to 'we get to carry each other' because it’s a privilege and it helps us as much as the person we are carrying. This is the way things were meant to be.
The final way we can connect with God, and this often starts to happen once we start talking to God, is to think about the way we live. Now I’m not talking about being holier than thou- make no mistake, God finds that as repulsive as we do, but I’m talking about making sure the walk matches up to the talk. So think about what we do with our time, what we do with our bodies, what we do with our money. We need to take God’s words about justice seriously and start thinking about how we can use our influence, through our spending and time, to make the world a better place.
As we try to do this stuff, and it may take a while, God will start to draw us forward in our journeys with him. Which takes me to the second thing- I believe that God at the moment is calling us to go deeper as a community because that’s what we’re made to do and because it’s time for the next stage in our version of his adventure- it’s time to move on.
You see, the most obvious way to live a life of significance is to take part in an adventure. And the Kingdom of God is an adventure- the greatest story ever told, and the story is still unfolding. Here’s an outrageous fact for you- everyone has a part to play in the adventure that is the kingdom of God. Every single person in this room has a unique part, a unique role that no one else can fill. It won’t be the same without you. Without any one of you.
Oh, you may not feel like you have anything to offer, you may not even know that you want an adventure, but it is the only way to be fully alive. And, if we really love God like we claim to do, we’ll take his call to adventure seriously. Contrary to what most people think about Jesus, he didn’t come to make us nicer people that don’t do naughty stuff- he came to restore our relationship with God so that we stop living half lives for ourselves and start living full lives for God. And that means taking our place in the story.
In the Old Testament somewhere there’s the story of Gideon, whose only claim to fame (apart from his rather silly name) was that he was a complete nobody. Now at the time a rather vicious tribe called the Midianites kept attacking Israel, killing loads of people and stealing their food. Now Gideon was from a farming family, and he wanted to keep his crop for himself, and preferably avoid getting killed in the process. He was so scared that he was threshing wheat to in a wine press, as he figured that the Midianites wouldn’t look in there. It’s the equivalent of the little kid at school eating his lunch hiding in a cupboard so the bigger kids won’t find him. Anyway, Gideon’s working away, and this angel turns up and says “Greetings, mighty warrior, the Lord is with you”. Gideon’s thinking 'That’s funny, I could have sworn I was the only one in here...' You can imagine the angel kind of coughing and repeating himself, until Gideon realises that he’s actually talking to him. The angel goes on to tell Gideon that he’s the one that is going to fight the Midianites and get them out of the Israelites' hair. Gideon finds this a little hard to believe, to say the least, and argues with the angel about how he couldn’t possibly mean him and how God couldn’t possibly be with him because of all the bad stuff that’s happening to his people. (How often do we do that?!) Gideon then really pushes his luck, and, despite all the stuff that the scriptures say about not putting God to the test, arranges this silly test with a sheep skin and dew to find out if the angel is telling the truth or not. In fact, the only thing that Gideon gets right is that he doesn't say ‘no’ outright, and that’s probably only because he was too much of a coward to do that.
Yet God takes this loser and does indeed help him lead Israel to one of their greatest military victories. Gideon was an ordinary guy doing extraordinary stuff because God was with him. And we can be like that too.
You might say- what can I do? There really is a place for everyone, and our community is weaker without you- we need you. The Bible often uses the imagery of an army, probably because Israel was occupied at the time and there were lots of Roman soldiers around. The thing with the Roman army is that, yes, it had it’s generals and its commanders and its cavalry, but it also had it’s foot-soldiers, and although they were relatively weak as individuals, as a unit in the tortoise formation were the most feared part of the whole army, because when the soldiers worked together it was virtually impossible to stop, And the army didn’t only have soldiers - it had doctors, it had people to look after the horses, it had people doing the planning, it had engineers to build the roads, it had farmers to provide food for long campaigns, it had scribes to make records and to pay the wages- there really was a role for everyone. The Kingdom of God is exactly the same.
We don’t even need to know exactly what our role is at first, we just need to be moving along with God so he can gently nudge us in the right direction. God doesn’t always tell us exactly what we are going to end up doing, probably because it would terrify us too much if we did. So, again, we need to pray, we need to read our bibles, we need to spend time with our friends, we need to look at our lives and see if there are ways in which we can start making a difference. The bible tells us that if we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly before God, we can help bring God’s kingdom to earth a little bit more- in other words, we can change the world.
I’m not claiming it’s easy. I’ve already said that we do have an enemy, that despises you and will try to rob you of your inheritance and paralyse you so you don’t live life to the full, so you don’t live a life of significance. And, if you let him, that’s exactly what will happen. The question is, will you let him, or will you stand up to it?
So that’s the two challenges tonight, and they are linked - firstly, are we going to dive into all that God has for us, are we going to immerse ourselves in the life God has for us, or are we going to paddle round the edges and never really get wet? Sure, if you want, you can carry on drifting through your life. You can say “ I can’t be bothered” and let apathy win- but I can guarantee you that you’ll miss out, and that there’s a high chance that one day you’ll look back and regret it. Secondly, are we going to be bold enough- are we going to love God enough- to live for him however that pans out for us, and take part in the great adventure. Are we going to take our place in His army, be that as a general or as the catering staff, and make a difference, however small that difference is.
It’s time to wake up, people.
What was Jesus like?
The Character of God
How do we know what God is like?
The Authority of Scripture
How should we obey what the Bible teaches us?
The Wise Mans Tragedy
What can we learn from Solomon?
What can we learn from the mother of Jesus?
Cain and Abel
What can we learn from the first murderer?
Who is Aslan? Who is Jesus?
When the Fire Burns Low
How do we cope when we have grown tired of God's way?
Fix Your Eyes
How do we look for God?
Why should we look after the world God has given us?
How do we know who we are in God?
Lent - Pride, Doubt and Jealousy
What is the period of Lent all about?
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the House of God than dwell in the tents of the wicked...
How do get to have intimacy with God?
Can we feel the breath of God?
Hearing From God
How can I hear what God wants to say to me?
The Story We Find Ourselves In
The Bible tells the story of all creation - what is my part in that story?
What does Passover mean to us as Christians?
What does it mean to say that Jesus is alive?
What is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?
Teaching for Christmas Eve...
What does it mean to have authority?
What can we do when it all seems like too much?
I Will Be With You
What does it mean to say "God is with us"?
What are angels, and what can we learn from what the Bible says about them?
A contemplative service for Pentecost
A creative/contemplative baptism service
How do we know what we should do?
A creative prayer/worship service
The Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
A Relationship With Jesus
What does it mean to have a 'relationship' with the Son of God?
The Pilgrim's Progress
If we keep our eyes on the prize, what a journey it could be!
Heroes, Promises and Trust
How does our relationship with Jesus realy work?
A liturgy for masculine prayer
Living Life to the Full
How do we get the most out of life?
What is so speacial about the faith of Abraham?
The Presence of God
What does it mean to say God is present?
How Do I Know My Faith is Real?
We all wrestle with doubt, so how can we cope?
Who is Jesus?
...and what does he want from you?
To Act Justly Every Day...
What does the Lord your God require of you?
Sex and Self Image
Don't you know how beautiful you are?
Will you let Jesus be in charge?
Would you know him if he met you on the road?
The Person of the Holy Spirit
Who is the Holy Spirit, and what does (s)he do?
The Passion of the King
What does Jesus really want?
How can we really 'count it all joy'?
More Than Words
"... but words can never hurt me"?
The Armour of God
What tools does God give us to protect us from the Enemy?
The Heart of the Gospel
The Kingdom of Heaven has drawn near to you, therefore...
Do you really want to follow him?
How should I prepare to give a sermon?
The gift of healing comes from the Holy Spirit, but how does it work?
The People of God
What does it mean when we say that the Bible is the Word of God?
Jesus Part 2: The Deity of Christ
How can Jesus be God and Man at the same time?
Jesus Part 1: Who Do You Say I Am?
Who is Jesus, and why does He matter?
How do we resist?
What is holiness and how do we try to achieve it?
The Art of Spiritual Warfare
We're in a constant battle, so how do we try and prepare to fight?
Forgiveness Part Two: Forgiving Others
What is forgiveness and why do we need to forgive others?
Forgiveness Part One: Forgiven by God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part Two: Receiving From God
Why does it seem so often that God is a million miles away?
Prayer Part One: The Lords Prayer
We look in detail at the Lords Prayer
It's one of the spiritual gifts, but what exactly is it, how does it happen?
Becoming a Christian
What is a Christian, how do you become one?
Basics of Christianity
Here we delve into the Nicene Creed