Commentary on the Sabbath School lesson for 3.26.11
“How interesting, … that in recent years reputable studies are showing that those who attend and participate in church services (compared to those who don’t) on a regular basis are: •less likely to suffer from substance abuse
•more likely to be sexually responsible•less involved in risky behaviors
•more likely to practice business and work-related ethics•more likely to enjoy a richer social network and group support•more likely to display higher levels of self-esteem and personal efficacy•more likely to cope better with losses (death of dear ones, calamities, health complications, and so on)•more likely to harbor positive emotions (love, forgiveness, contentment, and so on)•less likely to harbor negative emotions (guilt, fear, hostility, anger, and so on).”
Does any of the information in that quote startle you? Not at all? Maybe a little? Maybe for other churches but not for your own? Truth is, those studies shouldn’t surprise any of us, because we know that the closer any one of us comes in relationship to Jesus, the more emotionally stable healthy we become.
We have to be like Peter and step beyond what we know about what is possible and impossible and put ourselves completely in the Hands of Jesus, only then can we begin to become who He wants us to be. We can break down that process into several interlocking elements:
“prayer, corporate worship and community involvement, forgiveness, service, and trusting God,”
“Some things make you successful whatever path you take … You need to be with God daily. You need to be in constant prayer. You need to incorporate God's Word into your life, constantly evaluating your life to make sure you are following God's lead. You must be in fellowship with a body of believers with mutual accountability and genuine friendship.”
Have you ever noticed that the folks who seem the most critical of what’s going on around them, are often those who are not participating fully with their community of believers? The more we isolate ourselves from our brothers and sisters in Christ, the less satisfactory is the rest of our life in general, and the more difficult it becomes to remain committed to our mission (spreading the gospel).
“In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell tells the strange story of Christopher Langan, a genius with a staggering IQ of 195. (For some perspective, Einstein's IQ was 150). During high school, Langan could ace any foreign language test by skimming the textbook 2-3 minutes before the exam. He got a perfect score on his SAT, even though at one point he fell asleep. But Langan failed to use his exceptional gifts and ended up working on a horse farm in rural Missouri."According to Gladwell, Langan never had a community to help him capitalize on his gifts.Gladwell summarizes the story of Langan in one sentence: ‘[Langan] had to make his way alone, and no one—not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses—ever makes it alone.’”
Sometimes we hold back because we think we can manage on our own; sometimes it’s because we get so comfortable that we don’t want to make any unplanned moves. But what if Peter had stopped to think about comfort instead of stepping out of the boat to come to Jesus? What if he had waited for someone else to go first to see how they did? Being part of the community includes leaving our comfort zone.
Jesus and His disciples didn’t lead a comfortable life, even according to the standards of their day, but they did have everything they needed to be emotionally and spiritually stable and mature: “prayer, corporate worship and community involvement, forgiveness, service, and trusting God.”
The notable exception was Judas; he held back. He didn’t really move beyond his own plans and ideas. He never fully committed his life to Jesus.
I’m afraid that I’m hopelessly mixing metaphors here – stepping out of the boat and being an active part of the community of Jesus. But I think that assumes that being a follower of Jesus will always be a comfortable experience. I don’t believe it will be (and in some parts of the world, already isn’t). We have to believe like Peter did: If Jesus says I can walk on water, I can walk on water. And that no matter how dangerous things look from our perspective, the absolutely safest place we can be is on our way to Jesus.
That’s something we need to remember as the time for Jesus to come gets closer, because we can’t really prepare for exactly how things will be. We only know that we need to hang on to Jesus.
Mark Mitchell explained it this way:
“Several years ago I ran a marathon. I trained hard to be as prepared as possible, but there's a part of a marathon that's always hard to prepare for. A marathon is just a little over 26 miles, but experts tell you not to run over 20 miles in your training. That means the last six miles of a marathon are ‘no man's land.’ You don't know what you're getting yourself into. You may hit a wall. You may have cramps. You only know that it's going to be tough. But you also try to believe that if you train hard enough, you will be ready and will be able to cross that glorious finish line.“We read a passage like Luke 21, and it's like we're reading about the last six miles of a marathon. We know it's going to be hard, and we know that there is nothing we can do now to replicate what it will be like then. But Jesus has told us what to look for and how to be prepared—how to cross the finish line. We prepare by being wise and discerning about the false claims of religious hucksters. We prepare by resting in the fact that God is sovereign and whatever happens to us is part of his plan. We prepare by trusting that he's creating opportunities for us to bear witness, and he'll give us the words we need when we need them. We prepare by learning to endure hardship so that when greater hardship comes, we don't fall by the wayside. We prepare by refusing to allow ourselves to buy the lie that the things of this world are the most important things. We prepare by praying each day for God's strength to face whatever the last six miles of life may hold for us.”
 Dan Solis, “Partnership with Jesus”, Jesus Wept: Adult Bible Study Guide, March 19-25
 Kay Coles James, Marriage Partnership, Vol. 11, no. 2.
 Malcolm Gladwell, Outliers (Little, Brown and Company, 2008), p. 115
 Mark Mitchell, in his sermon "Ready or Not, Here I Come!" PreachingToday.com