I want to thank Paul Lambert for allowing me to repost his blog on my recent sermon entitled "Put Up or Shut Up." Paul is one of the producers of the new Broadway show "First Wives Club" and an honorary west coast member :) of our family at Madison Avenue Baptist Church. You can hear the podcast of the original sermon here!
Last Sunday I attended one of my favorite Churches in NY pastored by Susan Sparks. This church has a wonderful congregation with an interesting and diverse crowd. Every time I attend I feel a warmth and unity among its people and the love of God present among this unique body of believers.
When I looked at the morning bulletin I saw that Susan’s sermon title was “Put Up or Shut Up”. I thought … wow, what a title. What followed was power-packed.
The theme of it was when we are saddled by heartbreaking events or a heart stopping circumstance ... that is the time to use our faith as a lifeboat. In those moments of struggle and extreme helplessness, we can say "Why me God?” … or “Use me God”. According to Rev Sparks at these times we can "blame God or turn to God."
In book of Job we see one of our Lord's most faithful servants and a shining example of virtue. When the book opens Job is about to loose everything — his children, his property, his wealth, his good name, and even his health. That pretty much qualifies as a complete package of disaster doesn't it?.
So the question of why do bad things happen to good people surfaces. It is obvious the “world" is not an entirely safe or predictable place. But God runs it - all of it.
God created the universe, God runs the universe, and said to Job “You don’t know the workings of the universe”. But the real lesson in all of this becomes clear. God is alive, God is here, God is active, God cares, and God is capable. Job starts to grasp this and says "Surely I spoke of things i did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know.”.
Suffering and a sudden crisis is hard to accept unless or until God reveals the divine purpose of them. Isn’t it true that after a personal storm blows through there comes a time when we gain a better understanding and perspective of things. Often we see what happened was for good … but only later, much later.
At the end of reverend Sparks' sermon she revealed that in the front of the Church sat a lady named Nancy along with her family. This past week Nancy’s daughter was suddenly killed in a car accident. Poof - she was gone. Pastor Sparks called to comfort her right after it happened and asked "how are you doing?” Nancy, a Mother whose daughter had just been snatched from her, said “Well Pastor it’s time to put up, or shut up”. I couldn’t hold back the tears. Wow.
That’s what we all have to do at our worst and most challenging moments - “Put Up or Shut Up” - if you’re facing a huge struggle or unexpected crisis, turn it into an timely opportunity to use your faith as a life boat and trust, trust, trust God. (Rom 8:28; 2 Cor 12:5-10; Heb 12:4-12; John 16:33 ) Wow, what a sermon, what a circumstance, and what a wonderful lady. I was changed and really helped by this. I hope this can be helpful to you too.
From Madison Ave Baptist Church in New York … Paul