by David Phelps
“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
Earlier this year, I slipped and fell on the ice at work. It was a disturbing experience and I wouldn't want to repeat it, especially since I broke my left wrist in the process. As I got out of my car, I could see that there were patches of ice on the parking lot. And as soon as I stepped on a patch of ice, I felt my feet start to slide. I wondered if I could make it to the door. And sure enough, I didn't. The pavement that had been so firm beneath my feet was no longer quite as solid. I felt myself begin to fall and then I was sitting on the pavement, holding my sore wrist, just a few feet from my car. My little world had almost literally been “turned upside down.” Fortunately for me, a coworker saw my predicament and came to help.
An accident or illness, the loss of a job, or a sudden change in a relationship can all take away our sense of security and well-being. The ground begins to shift beneath our feet. Our footing is no longer sure or certain. Our position is suddenly precarious. We can feel our world moving, shaking, trembling. And with it, our hearts also tremble.
When Jesus appeared, things became uncertain for the spiritual leaders and the “righteous” folks of his day as well. He disturbed their comfortable lives and upset their certainties.
Nicodemus, one of the Pharisees, thought he had the answers. But when he heard about Jesus, Nicodemus knew better. He approached Jesus late one night (John 3:1-21). The night can be an uncertain place, with shadows, gloom, and disturbing dreams. Surely, for Nicodemus, this was no ordinary night. He said to Jesus, “‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him.’” (John 3:2b NIV). Possibly, he expected Jesus to tell him he was going the right way, or to offer a simple prescription. But what Jesus said only confused him. Be “born again?” What kind of answer was that? “‘How can a man be born when he is old?’” he asked (John 3:4a NIV). This wasn't what Nicodemus was expecting. Things were becoming slippery; his feet were sliding. The foundations of his world were trembling.
By the time you read this, our church will have a new pastor. For six years, we've been used to the way Allen does things. Now we have to get used to Jeff, and the way he does things. At this point, I haven't met Jeff but I believe God has sent him to us for a reason. Perhaps it was time for us to be “shaken up.” Maybe we need a change. Perhaps I need a change. I know that the folks in St. Clair are getting a fine pastor and I wish them -- and Allen and Cheryl -- well.
But God doesn't just upset our worlds and provide uncertainty. God also provides a sense of certainty and stability. When the world is shaking around us, the solid rock of God's promises provides a sure foundation for our faith and our lives. The one who said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:1a NIV) speaks to us today. In all our circumstances, through all our fears and uncertainty, God is there for us.
Someone you know is experiencing uncertain times. Perhaps you're experiencing them yourself. God can be your rock. God can be your lifeline, your certainty in times of doubt. God's promises will not fail. The world around you might tremble but God won’t let you fall. And once you’re securely “standing on the promises,” you can reach out to someone else and help him or her to stand fast.
“‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
“‘You heard me say, “I am going away and I am coming back to you.” If you loved me, you would be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe. I will not speak with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father and that I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.’” (John 14:27-31a NIV.)