RENEW AND RESTORE
KEEP ME FIRMLY ON THE RAILS!
RENEW, RESTORE AND REBUILD
Part of our “Vision 2022” is a call for our lives to be renewed – to be made what we were always meant to be; for us to be restored to our position in relationship with God that we were always meant to hold; so that we can be in a fit state to rebuild the Church in this nation to be what it was always meant to be.
LIFE IS LIKE A TRAIN JOURNEY…AND WE NEED TO STAY ON THE RAILS!
In our last session we compared our lives in Christ to that of a runner of a race – not a sprint but a marathon. The challenge for us is to throw off the sin that so easily entangles and anything that hinders us so that we can “run the race of life” for God as we were always meant to.
In this session, we change our metaphor to that of a train journey. Our lives are like a train travelling from its start (our birth) to its terminus (our death). Along the way people who are dear to us – family, friends, colleagues and church family – get on the train with us and get off the train at various “stations” along the way. Sometimes the land we go through is beautiful and bountiful, other times it is barren and bleak. But one thing remains the same on this train journey of life…the train HAS to run on two rails that hold the train on its course from its beginning to its end. The train will not run on one rail. The train will be “derailed” if either of those rails is broken or damaged in any way – with consequent disaster.
We need to remain firmly on the rails; we must not “go off the rails”.
So…what ARE these spiritual rails in our “train journey of life”?
BLESSINGS AND BATTLES
It is said that life consists of two opposite experiences: blessings and battles.
Blessings are the good experiences of life – when things are going well, when the sun is shining and the world is all that I want it to be. Health is good, wealth is at hand, relationships are sweet, work is abundant, rest is delightful.
Battles are the bad experiences of life – when life is going badly, it is cold and miserable, the world is falling apart with war and famine. Illness consumes me, poverty overwhelms me, relationships are collapsing, work is exhausting, rest is far from me.
Now I KNOW what I want! I want the blessings – every time. I don’t want the battles of life.
Some talk of “seasons of life”. A time when all is good, followed by a time when all is bad, and then swinging round again. This view is pictorially seen as the “wheel of life” (see the picture in Rochester Cathedral) which goes round and round from good to bad and back again.
However, think about it…life is not really like this. Life is far more complex. In fact the reality is that blessings and battles exist together at the same time. My relationships can be really fulfilling at the same time as my health is totally collapsing. My leisure can be really enjoyable at the same time as my work can be really challenging.
Blessings and Battles run side by side in our lives – like the rails on which a train relies. They run parallel to each other. They never touch. But both are there.
This truth is clearly seen in the Bible – very clearly it is seen in the well-known story of Paul and Silas in the prison of Philippi. Let’s look at this story again in Acts chapter 16 and just simply see the truth that blessings and battles run side by side at the same time…
12 From there we travelled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that districtof Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.
13 On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. 14 One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshipper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. 15 When she and the members of her household were baptised, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.
16 Once when we were going to the place of prayer, we were met by a female slave who had a spirit by which she predicted the future. She earned a great deal of money for her owners by fortune-telling. 17 She followed Paul and the rest of us, shouting, ‘These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved.’ 18 She kept this up for many days. Finally Paul became so annoyed that he turned round and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her.
19 When her owners realised that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market-place to face the authorities. 20 They brought them before the magistrates and said, ‘These men are Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar 21 by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practise.’
22 The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. 23 After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. 24 When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. 26 Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. 27 The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. 28 But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’
29 The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 He then brought them out and asked, ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’
31 They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’ 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all the others in his house. 33 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptised.
Blessing: Lydia and her family became believers and were baptised and entertained Paul and Silas in their home – what a time of rejoicing and celebration!
Battle: Possessed slave causing trouble for Paul and Silas in the streets.
Blessing: Paul commands the spirit to leave her…WOW!
Battle: Paul and Silas are arrested, beaten, thrown into prison and secured by stocks in the inner cell – this is awful!
Blessing: Paul and Silas rejoice in the LORD even in prison – singing and praising; an earthquake from God opens the cells up, all are freed from their shackles – this is awesome!
Battle: Jailer would kill escaping prisoners or kill himself – a dangerous moment.
Blessing: Paul is able to tell the jailer about Jesus – he, and all his family, become Christians. Yeh!
Do you see the principle here? Not only do blessings and battles happen at the same time, but both
are needed for Paul and Silas’s journeys through life to be effective. The jailer would not have been
saved if the earthquake had not happened; Paul would not have had the blessing of seeing this household become Christians if he had not been thrown into prison.
BOTH BLESSINGS AND BATTLES ARE NEEDED!
Here is the lesson of the story of Paul and Silas in prison in Philippi.
Just like a train needs two rails to run on, so we need BOTH the “rails” of blessings and battles in our life!
If one of those “rails” is missing or damaged then we will go off the rails.
Remember that I said earlier that I wished I could have only blessings in my life…let’s imagine that I was able to take away the “battles” rail. All is always good. Whatever I do in work goes well. I get promoted, I prosper. My health is always perfect – no more arthritis, perfect hearing. My relationships are always wonderful – people fall at my feet in love and adoration. Well…you know what will happen. I am merely human, and before you know it I will be forgetting about my need of God. I will stop relying on Him and trusting in Him. Why would I need Him? I would be doing it all myself…right?
Beware! If I try to only run on the “blessings rail” I will swiftly go “off the rails”:
“The fool says in his heart ‘there is no God’” (Psalm 14: 1)
16 And he told them this parable: ‘The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. 17 He thought to himself, “What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.”
18 ‘Then he said, “This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. 19 And I’ll say to myself, ‘You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’”
20 ‘But God said to him, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (Luke 12: 16-20)
Oh no!!!! I don’t WANT the “battles rail”…but maybe (like Paul and Silas) I NEED the “battles rail”!
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1: 2-4)
Oh no!!! It seems that the “battles rail” is needed because it is GOOD for me!
HOW DO WE REACT TO BLESSINGS AND BATTLES?
The two rails of our lives are “blessings” and “battles” – they seem to happen at the same time. We need both of them. If we react rightly to both of them then all will be OK. If we react badly to either of them… then we will come off the rails.
Can you ever react badly to the “blessings rail”? Amazing as it might seem – yes you can! In my early days of working with Socially, Emotionally and Behaviourally Disturbed teenagers I worked with a young man called Mark. For whatever reason he had such a low opinion of himself that he could not accept good things, or praise, or success. This was most clearly seen in that he was a gifted artist, but if he was told that a drawing was really good, he would tear it up straight away.
Most clearly, however, we see in people a bad reaction to the “battles rail”. Problems arise and they are quickly overwhelmed, defeated and surrender – to the point of suicide. Like the person who sees a glass as always half-empty rather than half-full they only see the problems and the failures and the pain of life – they don’t even see the blessings that are before them – the job that they have, the family that love them, the health that they enjoy. And so the battles of life destroy them.
Embrace the blessings of life. React correctly to the battles of life. As one Christian singer/songwriter said “Now don’t you fret now child, don’t you worry, the rain’s to help you grow, so don’t try to hurry the storm along, the hard times make you strong”.
Let us enjoy the blessings, become stronger through the battles, recognise that we need them both, and be renewed in our spirits, restored in our position in Christ and so become again everything that God always meant us to be.
Don’t think that you must be searching always for the blessings and that these will be separate from the battles. Like rails they run together. Like rails they keep us secure on the “railway journey of life”.
So let us embrace both the blessings – be thankful for each one of them, learn to recognise them, hold on to them, be grateful for God who is the giver of all blessings; and embrace also the battles – don’t pretend that you love em! But be willing to accept them and see them for what God wants you to see them to be…opportunities to grow in the LORD and to be restored to the place you were always meant to be and to be renewed to become the person that God always planned you to be.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT – ON YOUR OWN OR IN HOUSEGROUPS
- What was said in this message?
- What have you learnt from this message?
- How are you going to apply this teaching to your life today and as you go forward?
Jeremiah 29: 11 is one of the most-quoted verses in the Bible:
“For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”
How does this tie-up with the idea that we need both blessings and battles in our lives? Maybe it might help to put this verse in context of the verses around it…what had been going on???