(This is part of a sermon originally titled “This is Where We Failed” delivered last Dec. 3, 2016 at the PAC Youth Sabbath)
You gave them charge of everything you made,
putting all things under their authority—
the flocks and the herds
and all the wild animals,
the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea,
and everything that swims the ocean currents.
O Lord, our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth!
King David, in his poem of praise to the Lord, mentioned that we were given special focus by the Lord. He has given us a life that is worth living in His service. But sometimes, we do not act that way. Sometimes we discover that we were made to be limited and weak and frail. We break down, we fail, we sin, we destroy something good that God has done for us – whether it is a new shot at a new life, a good friendship, a wonderful relationship, a dream in life, or a good ministry.
God has created us perfect and in a perfect environment. I remember a quote from this Tom Cruise movie:
“John Anderton: There’s nothing wrong with the system, it is perfect.
Danny Witwer: [simultaneously] perfect. I agree. But if there’s a flaw, it’s human. It always is.”
Have you ever wondered where the breakdowns happen?
I am not going to talk about my personal life, or your life, but what I am going to share to you is a part of a collection of what I have learned from the youth ministry of PAC. It can be applied in any organization, relationship with other people or even with your relationship with God.
Listen carefully because this is where we fail.
The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”
Matthew 12:35-37 ESV
For someone who has studied countless communication models and experienced breakdowns on a daily basis, I can safely and correctly tell you that miscommunications happen when one or both parties fail to listen. It is easy to say that listening is the key to a wonderful relationship, but it is often hard to do.
When you are working in a ministry such as a youth group, a small group, a choir, an orchestra or what not, communication is often the key principle to make any event, project or effort happen well. Our words often become a two edged sword for or against our brethren.
With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.
James 3:9-10 NKJV
We are told that we ought to be careful with what we say and do. We ought to remember that our words must be gracious and full of love because our God in heaven causes us to love.
He who loves purity of heart, and whose speech is gracious, will have the king as his friend.
Proverbs 22:11 ESV
Do you trust your friends? How much trust would you put to them?
Once communication breaks down, trust breaks down. When we fail to communicate to others that we are frustrated or we are incapable of doing some tasks, we tend to lose a little trust. This happens little by little. One failed commitment to the next. One miscommunication to the next. Until eventually we snarl at each other in contempt. Once we fail to communicate our apologies and thanksgiving, we fail to empower our fellow brothers and sisters. When we fail to keep their secrets and share ours, we do not foster the environment that begets trust.
But it is true, trusting another person is hard especially if you had experience of someone breaking your trust. It becomes harder and harder to trust. When you open up to them, you expect them to keep your secrets. When you work with them, you expect them to communicate how you feel and what you want to do and vice versa. When you give them a part in the program, y mou expect them to show up.
You know what I realized?
It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the Lord Than to put confidence in princes.
Ps 118:8-9 NKJV
Often times, people break your trust. Once there was a ministry event proposed by a person. He was so passionate and convincing that everyone went on board with his proposal. Everyone assigned tasks and committees for the event. A few days before the event, everyone discovered that the person who proposed the event was not available on the dates he proposed. He said he could not commit and was not able to for some reason. The scenario happened several times that the people were not so keen on trusting him anymore.
It may happen in any ministry. People could not always be trusted to show up for certain reasons. This happens especially when the ministry involvement is voluntary. However, we are told that if we cannot trust people, we can always trust in God.
Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God (I will praise His word), In God I have put my trust; I will not fear. What can flesh do to me?
Ps 56:3-4 NKJV
There was also a moment when I asked some people to do a congregational prayer before the program. I was in charge of the whole program that I had to prepare for slides, songs and a short skit. On the day of the event, I was surprised that the person didn’t come so I had to do the prayer.
In God I have put my trust; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?
Ps 56:11 NKJV
You may find it hard to trust in your fellow man, but when you trust God, you discover the expectations you have in Him are fulfilled.
that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.
1 John 1:3-4 NKJV
In John’s first letter to the early Christian church, he tells how much important belongingness is. Fellowship is necessary. When we say fellowship, it is not about the program or the event. Fellowship is the coming together of people for a single purpose. It could be anything. It could be just to relax and enjoy. It could be to work and manage stressors at work. It could be to study and learn.
When you join a ministry, the instant question there is “do I belong here?” If I did join, will I feel that I do belong?
When you are working with people, especially if it is a group, you are contending with various personalities and preferences. One may enjoy the outdoors, while another may not stand sitting on the grass. One may enjoy sitting down to chill, but another is not so keen on staying put. We have to put this in our understanding, not all AY activities are fit for all people that is why we put variation.
Belongingness begins when you learn to put off your own personal preferences for a while to make way for others. Belongingness begins when you focus on that one thing that is common to each of us.
Anyone who denies the Son doesn’t have the Father, either. But anyone who acknowledges the Son has the Father also. So you must remain faithful to what you have been taught from the beginning. If you do, you will remain in fellowship with the Son and with the Father. And in this fellowship we enjoy the eternal life he promised us.
1 John 2:23-25 NLT
What is common to all of us is our fellowship with Jesus Christ. With our fellowship, first and foremost with Jesus Christ, we can learn to forgive some of our brethren’s faults and idiosyncrasies, and accept them as they are. When we focus our sight on Jesus, we learn to forgive our seeking friends and invite them into the fold.
So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God’s holy people. You are members of God’s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.
Ephesians 2:19-22 NLT
- Priorities and Purpose
When we work with various people, we often find that each one has a different agenda for themselves. It all depends on what the person prioritizes in their life. Some may bolt out of an important ministry meeting to attend to family. Others may stay and go on with the meeting despite circumstances and attend to it later. Some may find it their priority to go out with their friends first before being involved in church. Others may find it their purpose to arrange every event so as to benefit them only. Solomon tells us that everything we do and want to happen in our lives, including our priorities and aims are often all in vain.
On the other hand, we also make countless of plans. Others may be on board with our plans However we are told that “You can make many plans, but the Lord ’s purpose will prevail.” Proverbs 19:21 NLT
While most of our plans may not happen we are told that our sole priority should always be about God. A wise king thousands of years ago discovered that same conclusion.
Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty. God will judge us for everything we do, including every secret thing, whether good or bad.
Ecclesiastes 12:1, 13-14 NLT
Paul, in his loving letter to Timothy, reveals to young man what to expect in the coming days. He carefully describes each activity of man in the future.
You should know this, Timothy, that in the last days there will be very difficult times. For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. They will be unloving and unforgiving; they will slander others and have no self-control. They will be cruel and hate what is good. They will betray their friends, be reckless, be puffed up with pride, and love pleasure rather than God. They will act religious, but they will reject the power that could make them godly. Stay away from people like that!
2 Timothy 3:1-5 NLT
I do believe that what Paul has mentioned to Timothy is already happening now. More and more people have not known love or have gone cold in their love. Most have this corrupted and distorted notion of love that they do more harm to others and themselves.
Just look at the TV programs, the issues and the problems we have today. Does it not stem from lack of love for others?
I remember one time we were giving away free pamphlets and CDs about God’s love in a city street. While the activity may not be as effective as really getting to know a person and talking to them, we gave away anyway. I was amazed by the number of people who understood the concept that something is being given away for free. They could be counted by your fingers. While those who thought that they had to pay or that we were after donations were quite numerous. What more of the concept of unconditional love? Have they fully grasped the concept?
“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8
While we were sinners, God still showed His ultimate love for us. He decided to sacrifice Himself despite our sinful nature. He could have waited to find us more deserving of His love like most of us would do, but He never thought of that. Instead, He just offered Himself for us as punishment for our sins regardless of even we deserved it or not. That is part of what unconditional love is. More than that, I could not explain because I could not even comprehend it on my own.
Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
– Romans 8:35, 38-39 NLT
Being in a ministry is not easy. We fail because we are human. We often serve our selves even if we do not intend to do so. Yet we are comforted by the fact that God still looks down on us and gives us responsibilities and tasks because His love for us knows no bounds. All we have to do is move forward with Him and allow ourselves to be subject to His will.
Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived. But you must remain faithful to the things you have been taught. You know they are true, for you know you can trust those who taught you. You have been taught the holy Scriptures from childhood, and they have given you the wisdom to receive the salvation that comes by trusting in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.
2 Timothy 3:12-17 NLT