I Don’t Do Religion: It’s Not Over

Religion_March_2013

What do you do when something you have invested in does not succeed?

We all know how to celebrate success: Horns and vuvuzelas; play mugiithi from a Probox with an open boot and speakers in the back; others enjoy special offers at the bar;  many dance and others shake hands with everyone passing, out of extreme happiness.  But how do we deal with the times when life throws a curve at us? When we experience setbacks, failures, disappointments and even loss? Religion teaches us what to do for life to go well. It gives formulas for success. But if it does not work it does not tell us how to respond. In life we use religious formulas to help us get what we want.

So what happens when our best efforts to be successful fail to bear fruit? How then do we resolve failure, and disappointments? Maybe you worked hard to attain a certain grade, but you didn’t get what you wanted. Or perhaps you invested in a relationship but you have been disappointed. Or maybe you worked towards a certain promotion but you were passed over. Or perhaps invested in some financial opportunity that has not materialized the profit you expected.

We forget that God is God in times of celebration, but he also invites us to interact with him in defeat and failure. Jesus is without doubt the most celebrated person who has ever lived. And the most famous event in his whole life was the way it ended. He was executed in agony on a cross around AD 30. Ever since, no death has been so talked about, so depicted in art and music, and had so many books written about it.

Turn with me to John 12: 20-33

What do we learn about life’s most perplexing questions? This passage shows us one of the most important moments in the life of Jesus, when he began to help  his disciples understand his mission. He lets them know that he would carry it out through humiliation and defeat.

  1. How would the disciples have heard this piece of information? What would you do if someone who had sold you a vision suddenly tells you he is folding things up? They might have felt that Jesus was giving up.  They would have felt confused. How selfish can you be? We have given up everything? What is the next thing for me? Let me attempt an answer to that question: The cross spoke of shame,  of pain and of failure. If a man ended up on the cross he was an undoubted failure. It was the penalty for slaves. The condemned man was  scourged; The body’s position hindered circulation and caused terrible pain in the chest. A raging thirst set in brought on by the burning sun. It was a lingering and agonizing death.
  1. When it did happen,  the disciples were extremely dejected. Their candidate had lost big time. This guy had sold them a vision and  one day said this is the end. He came and told them it’s over. He said: cheers we have had a good run. All of you can now go home.  They had spent time, money, energy , cars;  These disciples had literally resigned their careers to support Jesus; they had aligned their future to support him, because they believed it would advance their prospects in life. Only for him to be executed as a criminal!

Where else in life do we see people experiencing setbacks, defeat and failure? We experience setbacks with regard to our health. Many of us have experienced investments that have just gone strangely wrong. Others of us have experienced or are experiencing relational setbacks. You thought it was the right person then it blew up in your face. Many of us have trusted God for some things and he just didn’t come through for us. Perhaps it is an illness and you are someone who is serving the Lord. Perhaps your loved one fell sick and you trusted God for healing and the person still died. Life has its ups and downs and its moments of great successes and great highs, but it also has its moments of sadness and distress. Sometimes you will be high and sometimes you will be low, in a season of questioning and doubt and how God intersects with those moments is at the cross.

It’s not over

What transformed the experience of the disciples into glory is they had an encounter with Jesus that helped them grasp the fact that it was not over. After the resurrection two of the disciples were walking to Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. When Jesus asked them what they were discussing so intently, they stopped short, sadness written across their faces.  Luke 24:25-6 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?

Take a long view of things: don’t dwell on this failure.

It is not over.

The disciples thought it was over. The reason is because when we experience a setback we are in tunnel vision. We only see the problem we are encountering. The disciples had experienced so many things with Jesus. They ought to have realized there was still somewhere he was taking them.

You may have lost your job, you may have lost someone, you may have lost an opportunity but it is not over. What Jesus Christ does that is that he takes those moments in our lives when we have invested hope, time, money, energy and our efforts have not borne fruit. And he transforms our disappointment and failure into glory.  In God’s mathematics, suffering is the path to glory; suffering gives way to glory.

It’s not over.

 Many of us are walking along the road of life talking about everything that has happened. And sadness written across our hearts if not our faces. Mistakes we made, or losses we have incurred, perhaps financial, perhaps relational, perhaps opportunities.

i.            What are the events that have happened in your life and you have walked in sadness and not released them? You can go before God and surrender everything.

ii.            We find it hard to believe that suffering has anything to do with glory. It is easy to transpose humiliation and defeat into something that is more manageable. We look for a way to explain things away so that it does not feel as bad. We shift blame and allow our feelings of disappointment to turn into accusations and into blame.

This Easter, the Lord invites us to bring our experiences of humiliation and defeat to Him. If we have the courage to place our trust in God, the situations which in human eyes may appear to be moments of defeat, disappointment and failure will in reality be blessed by God.

Take a moment to humble yourself before God. Ask Him to remove your blindness and to help you see every failure, every defeat, every disappointment not as an option but as a necessity. Then ask Him to glorify himself in every circumstance and to bring multiplication.

We are too foolish to understand how God will use our failures for His glory.

When we feel defeat, we try to disengage with it. We try to get away from it and to use religion to get away. We can stop and allow Jesus to connect with it at. It’s ok to fail. When you are defeated, you beat yourself. WE think there is something wrong we have done and that we should have done better. We begin to apply religion to make the pain go away. We don’t have to apply religion anymore. It is okay for you to fail. God still has a plan.

It’s Not Over.

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8 Responses to “I Don’t Do Religion: It’s Not Over”

  1. Frankastro Says:

    Touching and definately challenging

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  2. You know, its so funny that this message came at a time when i am going through something difficult. Thank you for helping me realize that is okay to fail, that it is not sin on my part that had lead to this situation.
    Also I need prayers. like superpowered ones coz the last few months has taken a toll on my faith. There is this lecturer who made it his point to come up with blasphemous accusations about religion and Christianity, and I feel like it has shake my faith to some extent coz every time i come to God, i find myself asking these questions and it just makes me feel bad and distant to God.

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  3. Very encouraging!

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  4. What an amazing space for self actualization.The sermon was eye opening and now i am getting to that state that i have been striving to actually occupy being me but all’s getting ‘thiswaythatway’ but then again Philippians 4:19.Thanks Pastor Linda.

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  5. The moving part for me was when you put it in words like”Where are you God?” My best friend had previously told me a very moving story,I had asked that specific question when she told that story. Having been raised around a family that did more religion than anyone i know,for instance, while growing up looking back while mass was going on was a crime punishable by you possibly doing the dishes that day while the house steward took her sweet time.The first time in Mavuno My friend checked a verse from the online bible,using her phone while service was ongoing, I was like,”Where is the confession booth, I don’t have someone to give me the chores after service.”
    But moving on to experiences that make one really feel beaten down, you feel like,”God,I told you this in good time,I filed my petitions constitutionally, followed the regulations to the letter,but you’ve not come through for me.” Keep going,and doing what you doing. Lives are being changed,that i can assure you,someone is keenly following.Cheerz en i”ll be waiting in the congregation to hear more of the word.

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  6. Greetings! This is my first comment here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out
    and say I really enjoy reading through your articles.
    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same topics?

    Appreciate it!

    Like

  7. Your mode of explaining all in this piece of writing is in fact fastidious, every one be able to effortlessly know it, Thanks a lot.

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