That’s what you’re going to have to do….
At least, that’s what I hope you’re about to do.
You see, I’m standing. I’m standing because I find that it’s time to face my fears. I’m standing, because quite frankly, it’s time to take a stand.
I’m standing now to declare that Jesus wins. That love wins. That grace wins. That the resurrection wins. That the resurrection matters. No, it more than matters, it makes a difference, the difference in this world.
I’m standing because I can’t sit anymore. I can’t hide it. I can’t pretend it doesn’t exist. I can’t wish it away. I can’t ignore this any longer.
So I’m going to stand.
Will you stand with me?
Stand if you’ve ever been addicted to something. I have been, and I still am. I’m addicted to food, and when I get stressed, I eat to make myself feel better. I have a problem with sugar, as I’m sure you all well know. Sometimes, instead of seeking God, I seek frosting. My self-medication of choice is gluttony.
So I’m going to stand, because I don’t want that to be the case anymore.
Is anyone willing to stand with me?
Have you ever been addicted? Maybe you use food to cope too, if you do, stand. Maybe it’s not food. Maybe it’s alcohol, drugs, sex, power, status, or shoes. If you’ve ever been addicted to something, will you stand?
For those of you standing, thank you. This may very well be the most important first step you’ve ever taken. For those still sitting, a question. It may not be an addiction that you struggle from, but my guess it it’s something. Do you need others to be happy? Maybe you’re afraid to be alone because you don’t like the thoughts you have when you do. Maybe you struggle with the way you look, how much you weigh, the shape of your nose, the color of your hair, or the number of freckles you have. Maybe this issue, whatever it is, has made you so insecure that you cover it up with manipulation. You use others and exploit them to make yourself feel better. You seek positions of power, authority, or control so that you don’t have to feel. You do this so you don’t have to be afraid. You do this so you don’t have to question or wonder. You do this to keep away the pain.
If that’s you, would you stand? Please? Would you decide, right here, right now, to stand in the face of God who knows this and wants to heal you? He knows your thoughts, your fears, your worries, and he loves you. He accepts you. He cherishes you. He likes the way you look, the way you did your hair this morning, and counted each one of your freckles as he placed them on your face. He knows you, even better than you know yourself, and he likes you. So if you’d like to find freedom from what has been keeping you trapped, scared, or afraid, would you please stand?
Decide this moment that fear doesn’t have to ruin your life any longer.
I see we have a few holdouts, so let me try one more thing, for those of you still sitting.
Have you ever been hurt? Has someone else ever done something to you that made you upset, feel vulnerable or afraid or scared? Have you experienced the pain of death, separation, bitterness, anger, jealousy, or worry? Have you been the butt of someones cruel joke? Have you seen the look in someones eyes and you know that they don’t like you, or worse, they might even hate you? Have you ever felt the pain of being unloved, forgotten, or alone? Do you know what it’s like to lose someone you love too early and stay awake at night because the pain hurts too much to sleep?
If you have, please stand. Please join us.
Look around church. Look to your right and your left. Look in front of you and behind you. Lock eyes with someone. You see that person? They struggle with a hurt, a habit, or a hangup.
At the beginning of the year, the elders approached the church about beginning a ministry called Celebrate Recovery to help those in need around us, and one question that we were asked was, “Is it needed?” Look around church. Right now, we have just admitted that 100% of us need it, and we haven’t even left the four walls of our sanctuary yet.
Over the next eight weeks, we are going to work our way through the beatitudes of Matthew chapter five and see how those can help lead us to freedom from our hurts, habits, and hangups. Though your body may not sit, I pray your soul will stay standing.
When we stood, we acknowledged our willingness in the situation we find ourselves. By standing, we declared that denial is no longer an option. And when we are willing to step out of denial, it is also a step towards healing, towards recovery, and towards wholeness because stepping out of denial is stepping towards Jesus.
Out of denial and into what he has to say about us. But the first step is out of denial. We can only hear what he says when we’ve been honest with ourselves. We can only pursue the promised land when we’re willing to step out of enslaves us.
How are you enslaved? Perhaps you are known primarily by your emotional state: unbridled anger, depressing fear, constant worry. Maybe your day is gripped with the regrets of the past. That mistake you made that leaves you burdened with guilt and shame; that relationship that never worked out; the anxiety of what might happen if we are ever found out as a fraud.
Denial also isolates us, because as long as we are willing to live alone, we are unable to find our true identity. You see, true identity can only be found in community. We have those around us that echo back to us who we really are, they act as the voice of God to encourage and shape us. Denial short-circuits our relationships. We live alone, unable to love or be loved.
And here is the real kicker about denial: it makes the pain last longer. Thing about it in terms of your health. That pain in your back, that skin rash you developed awhile back, whatever it is, denial “it’s not really there” makes it last that much longer. Only by going to the doctor and getting a prescription that we have the relief of a cure.
Emotional denial is the same. We try to pretend that it’s not there. The pain, the worry, the fear, the doubt, the anger. We try in vain to convince ourselves that it isn’t there, hoping that we will wake up someday and it will just miraculously be gone.
But it doesn’t work like that.
The only way out of denial is to work through it.
To work through the pain of why they did that to you…
To work through the fear of what might have happened if…
To work through the anger of how you could have let this happen…
So we’ve seen the stress that baggage causes.
We’ve talked about the trouble with denial.
Only one thing remains. Who will stand with me?
If you’re ready, please stand.
If you’re ready to step out of denial and into wholeness. Please stand. If you’re ready to release the pain, fear, hurt, anger, worry, doubt, frustration, or bitterness, please stand.
Stand to acknowledge that we cannot live in denial anymore. We cannot live in denial for the sake of ourselves, our families, our church, our community, and the Kingdom of God that we represent. The only way forward is to admit that we all hurt, all struggle, all fear, all have pain, doubt, worry, and separation. We all have a problem with sin and brokenness and we won’t take it anymore. The world, this broken and fallen world is counting on it.
So if you’re with me, please stand.
The preceding is an adaptation of a sermon given at Garden Park.