Sunday’s Sermon

“My Way, Not Yours”                                          Feb. 28, 2021

Our scripture for today is found in Isaiah 55:8-9 (NIV) which says: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

There is a story about a man who wanted to climb the highest mountain. After many years of preparation, he was ready to make the attempt…but he wanted to have this glory all for himself, so he decided to go alone.

As daylight gave way to night, the darkness of the mountain was overwhelming. He could barely see his hands in front of him. The moon and stars were blocked by the heavy clouds. Everything was black…zero visibility.

He was almost to the top, only a few feet away when he suddenly lost his footing and fell. As he fell into the darkness, sucked by gravity, all he could see was darkness all around him. Certain that he would die, he began to reflect upon his life.

As he resigned himself to certain death, wondering how much longer he would have before hitting the ground, he felt the rope around his waist suddenly tighten and stop him from falling. As his body was helplessly dangling from the rope in the quietness of the night he suddenly cried out “Help me God!”

All of a sudden a deep voice came from the sky, “What do you want me to do?” The man cried out “Save me God!” The voice answered, “Do you really believe that I can save you?” The man said “Of course I really believe you can.” The voice answered, “Then cut the rope.”  There was a moment of silence.  The man pulled out his knife for a moment, then put it away.

The man decided to hold on with all his might to that rope. The story ends with the rescue team finding a frozen, stiff body dangling from a rope, only 10 ft above the ground!

The question is – how attached are you to your rope? Are you willing to “cut the rope” in faith? Do you really trust God or only give Him lip service?

Looking back on my life, I can see how God was working on me way before I realized it.  If you knew me 30 years ago you would have seen me as a quiet, shy person. You would not think of me standing before a group of folks doing public speaking.   

But for several years before I answered God’s call to ministry, he had been working on me in little ways.

As many of you might know, at that time I was my church’s secretary (admin. assistant).  As a church secretary I had learned to wear many hats.  I did everything from fixing the toilets to running the soundboard and helping with funerals and weddings, besides doing all the office work of printing bulletins, putting together monthly newsletters, answering phones, keeping track of attendance and whatever else was needed.

Little did I know that God was slowly preparing me for pastoral ministry. 

I kept feeling that God was calling me to do something, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. I thought that maybe it had something to do with music – like a choir director or something. But I really couldn’t figure it out.  I kept trying to figure something out on my terms, not God’s.

And then someone from my church insisted that I go on an Emmaus Walk, which I had no idea what that was. But she kept bugging me about it and finally I said I would go. The walk was coming up fast and I didn’t have a chance to change my mind. She arranged everything, from making sure my family was taken care of while I was gone, and even driving me there.

While on the Emmaus Walk I answered God’s call for me to go into the ministry.  Now, let me just say this…just because you go on an Emmaus Walk doesn’t mean that you will be called into the ministry, the Emmaus Walk is to help you get closer in your relationship with Christ and thru my getting closer, I was able to finally answer His call to ministry.

 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” Before answering his call, I had been trying to second guess what God had planned for my life. I kept trying to think on my terms as to what He was planning.  I just didn’t want to turn my life over fully – release my control – over to God.

But once I turned everything over to God – once I said, “Okay God. I’m all yours. I will do whatever you want me to.”  God has opened every door for me since.  Has it been easy?  NO! Absolutely not!  But he has helped me all along the way and continues to do so. 

I think that we often try to figure out what God has planned for our lives and many times we insist on doing what we think God is thinking –not His thoughts, but our thoughts.

In the Old Testament there is the story of Jonah and the Whale, one of the oddest accounts in the Bible opens with God speaking to Jonah, commanding him to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh.

Jonah didn’t to want to do this as the people there were one of Israel’s fiercest enemies. So Jonah got on a boat that was going directly away from Nineveh. The Bible tells us Jonah “ran away from the Lord.”

In response, God sent a violent storm, which threatened to break the ship to pieces. The terrified crew determined that Jonah was responsible for the storm. Jonah told them to throw him overboard. First they tried rowing to shore, but the waves got even higher.

Afraid of God, the sailors finally tossed Jonah into the sea, and the water immediately grew calm. Instead of drowning, Jonah was swallowed by a great fish, which God provided. In the belly of the fish, Jonah repented and cried out to God in prayer.

Jonah was in the fish three days until God commanded the great fish to throw up Jonah onto dry land. This time Jonah obeyed God. He walked through Nineveh proclaiming that in forty days the city would be destroyed. Surprisingly, the Ninevites believed Jonah and repented so God didn’t destroy them.

Jonah thought he knew better than God and he ended up in the belly of a huge fish!  Eeww! Thank goodness that didn’t happen to me.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

You see, God has a plan for you.  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) says, 11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

We tend to see life only as we know it, but there were thousands of generations before us! And millions of people! And God had plans for every one of them!  We don’t understand how God thinks. His ways are higher than ours.

In Romans 8:28 it tells us, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”

God promised He’ll never leave nor forsake you. Don’t just dangle on the side of the mountain. Cut the rope! Trust God – he has a plan just for you.

I would invite you all to pray each day asking God to show you the direction he wants you to take, study his word and allow God to take you to a place well beyond your own understanding, for his thoughts are not our thoughts, and neither are his ways our ways.

Let us pray…

O God,

You have called us together in the whole family of humankind. Remind us of our ability to love and be loved, so that we may reflect a measure of your inexhaustible love. As each of us stive toward the heights of our potential, we know that you are with us not only in our success and in our failure, but you are also with us in our striving. May your will be done in us, and among all those who love you. Amen.