A couple of weeks ago, I shared the message below with our congregation. Many people have since approached me to tell me that they were encouraged and applied the word immediately to their lives. That, of course, is the best news I could ever hear!
- Are you in a season that seems impossible?
- Are you facing an impossible challenge that’s pushing you to the breaking point
- Are there habits whose hold on you seem impossible to break?
God has promised to pour out a grace for the impossible, but we have to know what that is and how to access it.
If you’re facing an impossible situation, I’m praying that you will be encouraged by this message. I hope that you will find something in this message that will not only give you hope but that you can apply to your life starting right now!
Did I just say that out loud??
Do you ever have those moments when you say something and then realize what you said after you hear it come out of your mouth? Most of the time when that happens to me, it’s not a good moment of realization. It’s usually one where I stand there in embarrassment wishing the floor would open up and suck me in.
But now and again, I have really great moments of brilliance inspired by the Holy Spirit when I say something wise, or encouraging, or with a knowledge that I KNOW didn’t come from me! I’m just not that good! That happened the other night when I was leading a discussion / book group at a transitions home for women who are coming out of poverty, homelessness and drugs. Most of these women have children. When I look into their eyes, I see such potential and such promise, yet I know they are just one bad decision away from re-entering their destructive life. So I pour out everything in me on those nights, giving my all to demonstrate the immense love of God for these broken girls, most of whom have never known safety, stability, self-discipline and real honest love.
I don’t go up to that house with a plan. I bring a book that we’re reading together that deals with using God’s Word to bring emotional healing and changing destructive thinking to positive, overcoming thinking. We take turns reading out loud until I feel like we should stop and talk about what we read. Or until one of the girls stops me and asks a question. Every single week is different from the last.
Some girls have left the program…sadly. But more have joined the house than have left. And as our group grows, so does the amount of discussion and the number of questions that I’m fielding. So I lean heavily on the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom for the simple reason that I’ve never been an addict or homeless with my children. I have first-hand experience with addiction in my family, but that’s not the same as being the user and the one who now has to pick up the pieces with children in tow.
I am convinced that shame is the most debilitating, crippling tactic in the enemy’s arsenal and that millions of precious people are completely tortured by its taunts and bullying voices. I know what this is like and can attest that this is the worst kind of torment possible. Maybe you feel like you’re one mistake away from everyone finding out what a hot mess you are. Maybe you feel like there is something broken in you…that you are akin to a factory reject. Maybe you feel like you will never be able to please God, yourself, or others because of how flawed you are. Maybe you feel that everything that has gone wrong in your life is the courtroom evidence that the problem is you…and no matter how hard you try to fix yourself, you stay the same – messed up and broken.
“Those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.” So the saying goes. The meaning of this phrase is that people shouldn’t criticize or judge another person for a flaw when they struggle with the same thing. I would take that definition one step further and say that none of us should ever stand in an attitude of prideful judgment over another human being seeing as we have SO many flaws in our own lives. I may not struggle with the issues you do, but I’ve got a lifetime’s worth of my own issues I should be focused on. And so do you, by the way!
Let’s look at a version of this life lesson as told by the disciple John in the Gospel of John chapter 8, verses 3-14.
Jesus is just minding his own business when the Pharisees and teachers of the law drag a woman over to Jesus and throw her at his feet. These men were always trying to trap Jesus and make him do something they could accuse him for. When they threw her at Jesus’ feet, they wanted him to condemn her because she had been caught in the act of adultery. (Does anyone think it’s weird that they all knew where this woman would be and what she would be doing? How did they all appear at the scene of the crime at the same time? The Bible doesn’t go into those details, but I watch too many crime dramas not to be suspicious of a set-up!)
But anyway, these Pharisees say that their Jewish law demands that this woman be stoned and they ask Jesus, “What do you say?”
In John Chapter 12, there is a story about how six days before Passover, Jesus went to the home of his three friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus, for a meal. This story perfectly depicts the roles that these three siblings have adopted with Jesus. They each have a certain relationship with Jesus and their relationship is flavored by their unique personalities and approach to the Master.
John relates that Martha was serving and Lazarus was reclining with Jesus. These were usual roles for men and women in those days. And they were usual roles for both Martha and Lazarus. Earlier in the book of John, we saw Martha racing around serving food to a houseful of people, frustrated with her sister who was seemingly not helping her enough. And we saw that Lazarus was a close friend of Jesus by the way Jesus wept before he raised him from the dead.
So Martha is serving and Lazarus is chatting, but Mary is doing something different. She is doing something that no one has ever seen before. Mary takes a pint of pure nard – an expensive perfume worth a year’s wages – and poures it on Jesus’ feet and then wipes his feet with her hair.
Immediately, Judas Iscariot, whom we know betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, speaks up in protest that the perfume was wasted on Jesus. He says that the perfume could have been sold and the money given to the poor. This was a man whose hand was always in the till so that’s why he would have wanted to see the perfume sold.
But back to Mary – why did she do such a thing? What prompted her to take expensive perfume and offer it to Jesus along with the humble act of washing his feet with her hair? I think she did it because she had developed a habit – a lifestyle really – of worship and devotion. The only way that she could offer such an extravagant gift is because she had an extravagant love for the Lord. This was a love she had cultivated. It didn’t come overnight. She put herself in the position of allowing herself to be overwhelmed by the presence of Jesus so that she could be an extravagant worshiper.