These are uncertain times. And we don’t repeat this to create or promote fear, but it is our impression that people are pretty concerned about the selection of a new pastor, the process of the search committee, the people who may be leading the church, and what are we supposed to do while we wait for God’s timing? Ambiguity and anxiety.
The place to start is prayer, and last week, Beth very eloquently and accurately led us in a prayer of confession. I sat right over there with tears in my eyes contemplating the words spoken and the significance and importance of this prayer of confession over the congregation. We are called to get right with God. This is certainly no condemnation of the people in this congregation, because who among us cannot take a few more active steps getting closer to God, I mean, obeying his commands, denying self, taking up our cross daily, and following Jesus. None of us has arrived, and just the time we believe ourselves to already be right with God, or that we are holy and deserving, this may be a clear indication that we have much farther to go.
Today we look at what we need to be doing during this interim time. The temptation is to take charge of our own church affairs. But as I mentioned last week, if we truly believe that God is sovereign, and nothing catches him off guard, and he is looking out for the best interests of the church… and remember it is HIS church and not our own… therefore we must choose to cast our cares on him because he cares for us, resulting in our ability to rest in the fact that God has all of this sorted out.
There is an immediate strategy that we find in Scripture. Rather than seek ways to take control or manipulate events and outcomes, let us renew our commitment of surrendering ourselves to God’s leadership and timing. Remember that HE is in charge. Trust in God, yet also have confidence in your staff, the people whom God has gathered to serve alongside of you in this place.
Before I lead us in prayer, let’s look at the early church as an example of how and when they heard from God and then acted on his leading.
Acts 13:1-3, New International Version (NIV)
Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. 2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
- While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting – they were remaining faithful to that which God had called them to do, worship and prayer.
- Then they heard the Holy Spirit – during worship and prayer, THEN they heard from the Holy Spirit
- Then they took action, after fasting and prayer – after hearing from God, not before, they followed the Lord’s command.
Father, we come before you in humility acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers, nor do we deserve any of the answers. We are sinful human beings seeking your face, seeking your presence, and seeking your forgiveness. We are a people of faith, yet we plead with you to help us when our faith falls short. We are people that tend to worry and often do not exercise our faith nearly enough.
We are in a time of transition, which inherently means “to change.” We tend to fall back on the emotion of fear whenever we are confronted with change but Father, help us to acknowledge that all living things grow, and that growth necessitates change.
We are thankful that as we have grown older that our bodies did not stay the same, that our minds did not stay the same, that our emotions did not stay the same. In our relationships or in our marriage, we rejoice that we did not remain the same, but you caused growth, and change, and maturity, which brought our relationships to a whole new level. We are grateful for that change. You are a God who desires to bring change into your people’s lives, by offering salvation to us, the most undeserving human beings to walk the earth.
By reading of the example of the early church, we pray that we will be a people found actively pursuing the face of God through worship, Bible study, prayer, devotion, and even fasting. Let us be a people who will chase after YOU rather than chasing that which you can provide.
Help us to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit, and make it so plain that there will be no doubt, individually or corporately as a congregation. Just as sheep will only follow their true and authentic shepherd, we plead that you will drown out all the competing voices that hinder us from hearing your voice and recognizing your moving through this congregation. May you impede the plans of those who lean toward disunity or selfishness. May we trust you in all matters of life, and as a congregation, we pray that we will trust you to lead us through this interim time.
Keep us focused on worship and prayer, speak to us as we faithfully chase after God, humble us when we tend to rise up in pride, comfort us when we begin to fear, and help us to see your direction for us, in your timing.
We give this service to you, and like the church at Antioch, we pray that what we are doing here is pleasing in your sight, and that the Holy Spirit will speak to us as we continue carrying out the mission that you left in our hands. It is such a joy to know that we don’t go through life alone, but that you walk with us through it all. Our prayer today is not that you walk with us through this interim time, but that we walk with you.
This is our prayer, this is our heart, this is our humble request, in the powerful name of Jesus Christ our Lord, AMEN.