Preaching: Becky Mueller
Date Presented: Sunday, June 25, 2017 & Monday, June 26, 2017
Scripture Reference: John 3:16
Sermon: My Journey to Love
Jesus loves me this I know – the Bible tells me so – from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 this is the message of God’s love story to me. I knew this and believed it. Matthew 28 promised me that God would be with me always even to the end.
I seemed to always know that God loved me from little on. I considered myself a child of his and he watched over me and wanted the best for me. After all he was my heavenly Father.
For years that was enough for me. God went with me to Houston when I was 18. He led me to a loving husband after knowing him for only 6 weeks. He was with me as I drove downtown Houston every day for work. He provided me with an ‘Angel’ that always saved me a parking spot in his lot. I just left the keys in the ignition and picked them up after work. (I didn’t realize that wasn’t the thing to do especially with a stranger in downtown Houston.) God protects his children! We started a family, bought a new home, found a church family. Life was good. Jesus loved me. I felt this was enough of a relationship with God.
Until one Sunday sitting in my usual pew my relationship with God became more personal. I was ready to begin my journey down the Roman road. I began at the point that All have sinned – and I was part of ALL. (Romans 3:10 & 3:23) Next I realized that the penalty for sin is death. (Romans 5:12 & 6:23) I deserved to die for my sins. I just couldn’t be good enough on my own. Somehow I hadn’t really grasped this idea or realized that it was for me that Christ hung on the cross. This was a sobering thought. Praise God he sent his son to die in my place. (Romans 5:8) and all I had to do was to confess Jesus is Lord and I would be saved. (Romans 10:9, 10, 13) For everyone (me included) who calls on the name of Lord will be saved. It wasn’t enough that I tried to live a “Christian life” or lived with a Christian family. Salvation doesn’t rub off from your spouse or Pastor. It was not enough to sit in a pew and sing hymns. I needed him in my life and my heart. It wasn’t enough to acknowledge God was real – I had to know he was REAL to me in a close personal way and that I was real to him. We had to be in relationship together. I had finally punched my ticket for heaven!
Yes, Jesus loved me and now I loved him back. The Bible stories became my stories. I could talk to him and he would answer. His hand was holding my hand. I had a desire to do his will and do good in his name. Yet, I was still a baby in my faith and my journey.
Then it Came to Pass (remember that phrase from Genesis) that my relationship with God was tested. My 32 year old husband started having strokes, my mentally ill mother-in-law moved in with us, we had 2 boys less than 3 years apart, I was going to college full time and working to support my family, and on and on it went. Then Grandma Jo died on my couch while watching my kids. I did not react well to this. My baby faith wasn’t enough for these challenges. I did what every 2 year old would do. I blamed God. I yelled and screamed at him. I wanted to know WHY – Why me? Why this? Why now? What happened to our loving relationship? Where were you God when I needed you? How did we go from walking in the rose garden with you to walking in the Garden of Gethsemane and the valley of the Shadow of Death? It wasn’t fair. On and on it went. I blamed God for everything that was going wrong.
And God let me rant and rave until I couldn’t anymore. Then he answered me – just like the Rabbis of the Bible – with a question. Why Not You? Weren’t you born in a fallen world with a sinning nature? Didn’t I have to send my son to rescue you? Wasn’t he discouraged, betrayed, challenged, beaten, humiliated, ridiculed, suffered pain and despair, and hung on a criminal’s cross for all to scorn. I had to turn my back on my own beloved son because he had taken on your sins. But in all this Know that I love you and forgive you. I am holding your hand.
I grew up a lot that day. I eventually learned that others have the same pain and feelings of despair. I didn’t have the answers but I knew who held my hand and could call on him to do the same for them. I could hold onto their hands until they could feel God’s presence. I could understand some of what they were facing. Was I being called to be a comfort to them and a hurting world? I also started on my journey of knowing that sometimes the best thing you can say is NOTHING. Just being there is sometimes the best gift we can offer. This is really hard for me. I like having all the answers.
I am learning not to judge a person or their circumstances. I learned this by being on the receiving end. It was hard to forgive those well-intended friends who believed that God would heal my first husband. (I lived in the Bible belt during the heyday of Oral Roberts and others who had healing ministries.) It didn’t happen – Ricky died after suffering multiple strokes and their after-effects over 20 years. My friends believed the healing didn’t happen because I didn’t have enough faith. I needed to prayer harder. For someone already struggling with faith issues – this was devastating. Hopefully this memory for keep me from making the same judgment call on others. This is still a work in progress.
God wasn’t finished with me.
Next God asked Why was I focusing on Why instead of WHO? Who was walking with me, who was feeling my pain, who wanted the best for me even though I kept rejecting his counsel? Yes, Who was the important question. Who had given me gifts and talents that needed to be developed? Who wanted more from me than a baby faith? Who had a plan for my life that required me to grow in my spiritual life? Who was with me always as he had promised?
God continued to hold on to my hand as I struggled with these questions and answers. He held tight to me until I was ready to hold tight to him. Yes, Jesus loves me and I was finally learning to love him back – in all circumstances – not just when things were easy and going my way. Our relationship was evolving and changing as I grew in my faith.
Some days we celebrated together, often we cried together, we laughed and learned on our journey. I read the Bible in a new way, read other Christian authors, exposed myself to new ideas, and opened myself up to serving others. I learned more about my gifts I had been given and what those gifts were designed for. It is an ongoing journey. I wanted more than just a ticket to heaven. I wanted to an active participant on the way. I wanted God to be pleased with me and what I had done in his name. I wanted to be one of those about whom he said “well done you good and faithful servant”.
A bonus I hadn’t expected was God’s willingness to give me the desires of my heart. Desires that sometimes I couldn’t identify or begin to describe – I have been truly blessed – I can’t begin to count all the ways. I have been blessed by the love of 2 good, kind men who love me just as I am. I have been blessed with wonderful children and grandchildren. I have been blessed with family and friends. I have been blessed with a good church home that encourages my spiritual growth. I have been blessed with opportunities to serve in his name, to take on leadership positions and so much more. I have been blessed by this chance to share my story. I have been blessed with a God who loves me when I am unlovable, in the midst of joy or despair, as I continue to struggle to become the person that he designed me to be. I have been blessed with the opportunity to serve in this world in multiple ways until he calls me home to be with him in my heavenly mansion he built just for me.
As you can tell I am still on a journey. I have a desire in my heart to serve my Lord to the best of my abilities. I don’t know what form that service will take or where or for whom or when or for how long. All I know is that God holds my hand and loves me so much that he sent his son to die for me so I can have eternal life. I am so richly blessed.
I want to thank all of you who have gone on this journey with me thus far. I pray that you are on your own journey to fulfill God’s unique plan for you. Please pray for me for discernment and courage to continue on this path God has set me on. Let us walk together in love as we work together to serve God and each other.
Yes, Jesus loves me and you. Amen