August 25, 2019: The Four Secrets of Life Abundant - The Trajectory to Trust

August 25, 2019                                                                                Rev. Rhonda Blevins, DMIN

The Four Secrets of Life Abundant 
Secret Four: The Trajectory to Trust 
Philippians 4:14-19 

You Philippians indeed know that in the early days of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you alone.  For even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help for my needs more than once. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the profit that accumulates to your account. I have been paid in full and have more than enough; I am fully satisfied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will fully satisfy every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

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 One of my favorite movie scenes of all time is in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade starring Harrison Ford. Let me try to describe the scene without giving any spoilers to those who haven’t had a chance to see the film (since it was only released thirty years ago). Indiana Jones is on a quest to find the Holy Grail, the cup that Jesus supposedly drank from at the Last Supper. In addition to being a highly sought after artifact, the Grail is said to have healing powers for those who drink from it. The quest for the Holy Grail takes on added urgency as Indiana’s father Henry (played by Sean Connery) has been shot and needs the healing powers of the cup. When Indy finds the temple where the Grail resides, basically a cave on the side of a cliff, he has to navigate through numerous traps designed to kill anyone not worthy of the Grail. Many have perished before Indiana, and now it’s his turn to risk it all for the Holy Grail.

 In my favorite scene, we find Indy inside the temple cave, at the edge of a massive cliff—the Grail is across a bottomless ravine—hundreds of yards across the divide. Breathless and dripping sweat Indy looks in his journal containing the clues, “Only in a leap from the lions head will he prove his worth.” He looks down. He looks across. He whispers to himself, “Impossible. Nobody can jump this.” “It’s a leap of faith.” In the background, we see Henry (Connery) lying on his back, dying. He whispers, “You must believe boy. You must believe.” Indy takes a deep breath. He lifts his foot into the air. He steps into nothingness, but to his great surprise, his foot lands on something solid. Invisible to him from his angle was a rock bridge, camouflaged to make it “invisible.”

 “The path of God,” Indiana calls it. A leap of faith.

 Welcome to the fourth and final installment of our series, “The Four Secrets of Life Abundant.” We’ve been digging into the final chapter of Paul’s letter to his favorite church, the church at Philippi. This closing section of Paul’s letter to his friends is rich:

·         In week one of this series, we talked about the pathway to peace. Banish worry, a pathway to peace. 

·         Week two we talked about the journey to joy. Banish negativity, and you’ll embark on the journey to joy. 

·         Last week, the conduit to contentment. Banish attachment to material things, a conduit to contentment. 

·         This week, we’ll see what it takes to place our lives on the trajectory to trust. To believe, like Indiana Jones, that everything’s going to be OK though we can’t, at the moment, see how. Trust: a critical ingredient of life abundant.

 Before we go to much further, let me name that the kind of trust I’m talking about is trust in God. Trusting people is a different conversation. Today I’m talking about trust in God. If you prefer spiritual or secular language over religious language, you can call it trusting the Universe or trusting Life.

 In the scripture lesson we read together a moment ago, we remember that we’re reading a letter written by Paul to his friends in Philippi. Paul is writing from prison. Although the Paul doesn’t use the word “trust” in this part of the letter, it is surely implied. It is in this part of the letter that we realize this is a “thank you” note—Paul is thanking the church for sending him a gift, as well as confirming his receipt of the gift sent by the courier Epaphroditus. Here’s where I see trust implied in the passage:

 ·         The church trusted Paul with the gifts they sent; they also trusted the courier, Epaphroditus.

·         Paul trusts God when he assures the church that their needs will be met.

·         The church also trusts God, believing that their needs will be met. If not, they would have hoarded their resources instead of sharing with Paul. This is what I want to focus on for the next few moments.

 In this passage, we learn that every other church Paul related to failed to share their resources with him. The church at Philippi was the only church that supported his missionary efforts at that point in time. The other churches kept their resources to themselves. They hoarded their resources, and Paul recognized this.

 I’ve mentioned to you before my fascination with the show called “Hoarders.” How whenever I want to feel better about my life, I’ll just watch an episode of this show and suddenly realize, “You know, my life is pretty good.”

 This reality show puts a spotlight on those who hoard goods . . . things like collections or magazines or car parts . . . you know . . . stuff. Their living spaces become so overrun with stuff that they can’t move around in their homes, can’t sleep in their beds. Sometimes local authorities come in and threaten to condemn the house unless serious changes are made, which is often quite painful to the homeowner. Occasionally, the hoarder will lose custody of the children, a particularly sad development.

 Hoarding has been recognized as a psychological disorder, making it into the DSM 5, the most recent edition of the psychological diagnostic manual. Hoarding of stuff, most would agree, is a socially unacceptable lifestyle.

 But what about socially acceptable hoarding? “Almost 10 percent of American households are renting at least one storage space, often for an overflow of stuff.”[1] “It is now possible for every American to stand comfortably, at the same time, under the total canopy of self-storage roofing.”

 Another socially acceptable form of hoarding is the hoarding of wealth. King Midas hoarded gold. The richest 400 Americans own more wealth than the bottom 150,000,000 Americans.[2]

 To have is not the problem. It’s the holding on that becomes problematic.

 Back to Paul and his favorite church at Philippi. The other churches held onto (read: hoarded) their resources, while the church at Philippi shared freely of theirs. Why? What was different about this church at Philippi?  

 I think it boils down to trust. The church at Philippi trusted that their God would provide for their future, enabling them to share with Paul. And their sharing was selfless. Had they been “smarter” according to the world’s definition, they would have held onto their resources. Instead, they selflessly gave their resources, presumably to a cause they believed in, and we’re still talking about them 2,000 years later for it. 

 Jim Wallis, editor of Sojourners magazine, says:

 We live in one of the most self-centered cultures in history. Our economic system is the social rationalization of personal selfishness. Self-fulfillment and individual advancement have become our chief goals. The leading question of the times is, “How can I be happy and satisfied?” Not surprisingly, our self-centered culture has produced a self-centered religion. Preoccupation with self dominates the spirit of the age and shapes the character of religion.[3]

 If Wallis is right, and I suspect he is, I am a product of that kind religion and culture— we are products of that kind of religion and culture.

 I may not be able to change my culture, and my impact within a religion of over 2 billion people will be minimal. But here’s what I can change: I can change me. You can change you. We can choose to turn from self-centeredness toward the life abundant that Jesus promises. We can . . . we must let go of that which we hold onto out of self-centered fear in order to claim the freedom that comes with trusting God for our future.

 It’s like the little kid . . . so scared to jump into his parent’s arms at the swimming pool. When he finally gets up the nerve and lets go of the ground underneath him, a whole world of summer fun awaits him. It’s like Indiana Jones on the edge of a cliff, taking a leap of faith and landing on solid ground even when he couldn’t know how in the world he would survive. 

 The Bible tells us to trust in God—listen to this word from the book of Proverbs 3:5-6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct your paths.” Like peace, joy, and contentment, trust is a critical ingredient in our search for life abundant.  

 Without trust . . .

·         . . . we are anxious and afraid.  

·         . . .  we attach ourselves to the stuff of this life and the stuff begins to own us instead of the other way around.  

·         . . . we lack the belief that everything’s going to be OK which is the recipe for depression and despair. 

 With trust . . .

·         . . . we can step boldly into our future even when the path is unclear. 

·         . . . we can rest, we can relax and let go of our compulsions. 

·         . . . we can give more fully of ourselves. We can more fully support others who are making the world a better place. We can secure our legacy, just like the church at Philippi secured theirs. 

 So as we close this series, “The Four Secrets of Life Abundant,” let’s recall the four main ideas I’ve presented:

·         Banish worry, and you’ll be on the pathway to peace. 

·         Banish negativity, and you’ll embark on the journey to joy. 

·         Banish your attachment to material things, and you’ll find yourself in the conduit to contentment. 

·         Finally, banish selfishness. Simply let go of that neurosis. Life will become more filled with trust. 

 So here’s the practical application this week to set you on the trajectory to trust. Perform one selfless act by the end of this week. Let go of something you’ve been clinging to . . . now I’m not talking about cleaning out your closet. I’m talking radical generosity here. One selfless act . . . a gift of some tangible resource like money or a possession, or some intangible resource like time or emotional availability. Selflessly give up something you’ve been holding onto, trusting that everything will be ok. You can do that, and by doing so, open yourself to life more abundant and free.

 I hope you’ve enjoyed this series. My hope and my prayer is that you might indeed experience, just a little more each day, the abundant life that Jesus promised. Little changes are often all that is needed to experience life more abundant and free. But it may require some intentionality on your part. So make your decision. . .

 . . . get rid of worry. Just stop it.

. . . get rid of negativity. Just stop it.

. . . let go of your attachment to the material world.

. . . let go of selfishness.

 In doing so, may you claim the life abundant that Jesus came to offer.

 

 

 

[1] https://daily.jstor.org/whats-causing-the-rise-of-hoarding-disorder/

[2] https://fortune.com/2019/02/08/growing-wealth-inequality-us-study/

[3] Jim Wallis, The Call to Conversion: Why Faith is Always Personal But Never Private.

Debbie Wilson