Baptism of Peter Brandt
Cor’s sermon on Sunday, as he, and the other Pastors often do, spurred me on to do something. To provide a Gospel Story, from an “older person’s” perspective – or as we prefer at Hope “oldsters”. He was outlining ‘Barriers to Renovation” and one was “Is it worth it?” – number 7. In his description of this barrier, he explained that at Hope, there is one group that may not feel “with it”, “wanted”, “accepted” – those of us over 29. Seriously, I’m much over 29, will be 57 this Fall. The thing is, I don’t feel “old” – have you heard the expression 50 is the new 30? I largely still do all of the things I did, when I was in my 20’s and 30’s – and hopefully view the world from a young attitude. But, we Oldsters do have a unique perspective on the “Is it worth it?” barrier, as we can look back, and provide an answer.
When I first visited Hope over two years ago now, I came from my comfortable home in the suburbs, with the relatively new church/building I was attending a block away from my home, to see this marvelous expression of God/Jesus in a 100 year old downtown Minneapolis building, 25 miles away from my home, with all these folks who did seem a bit younger than either my wife or I. In fact they were my son’s age (he invited us) – mostly college, early career types..with a few “oldsters” hanging around. It probably happened in that very first service, it hit me – wow, this entire church is an opportunity for “Youth Ministry”! You see, I had grown in my early Christian life in youth ministry, Young Life, Youth Forum, then a Church youth ministry some years later. I had once considered ministry full-time, but opted instead for ministry being my avocation versus my consulting career as my vocation.
So, the Sunday sermon challenged us – what are the barriers to living the Christian life – to this process of sanctification that God pulls us into once we’ve accepted Him. Wow, acceptance, being saved, quite a beginning – and what follows, after we’re saved, is often the hard part we’re now hearing about in the current sermon series.
Again, one of those barriers to living the Christian life was – “Is it worth it?”
It’s almost as if we can really decide that. We are in control, right? We get to choose, and one of our criteria for joining this Christian Club, is what do I get out of this? Is it worth it?
For me, unfortunately, the question and answer have never been relevant. So, I’m going to tell you what was relevant for me when I became a Christian 36 years ago, and has been since. Though this, I can now answer the question – break a barrier for some of you, but this is not how I have thought about my walk.
When I became a Christian, I was encountering one of those times we all go through. I was in college, the girl of my dreams broke up with me. My thoughts were consumed with woe is me; where do I turn, what’s life about, is life worth it? I had all but rejected Christianity in high school. But, in desperation, I went to the Catholic priest who was my advisor at the time (I went to The Universary of St. Thomas), just to talk. And, he, being a priest, brought up the subject of God – asked where my “relationship” with God was. Upon hearing that it was more or less nowhere, he asked me if I thought I needed God. I replied “probably”. He led me Christ. And, the reality, the reason for my faith step, that day, and every day since, was not “was it worth it?”; rather, “I need Him”, “Wow, do I need Him”.
As I’ve lived my faith, I’ve always gone to God “in need” – whether its because I’ve gotten terribly off-track from where I should be going, or some kind of crisis has come, or I’ve been in the God groove – practicing my spiritual disciplines, and feeling very in-relationship with Him. And, lately, I’ve seemed to need Him more and more.
I now actually look at the question – “Is it worth it?” – as a pretty arrogant way of approaching the God of the universe – the creator of everything, our creator. It frankly doesn’t matter if it’s worth it – it just is! I need God, I need to have a relationship with God, I need to be connected with Him, with Jesus as my savior. Without him, I die. I either die figuratively here, and live a godless, unworthy, short life; or I die, and do not spend eternity with Him, actually spend eternity away/banished from Him (I think that place is called Hell).
In the spirit of being specific – I’ll list a few examples of how I have needed God in my life:
- In ministry:
- Early in getting along in the ministry I was involved it – lots of attacks on my early Christian walk – doubts, fears, temptations.
- And, then of course I knew I needed him, for forgiveness, as I succumbed to some of this.
- In my marriage:
- My wife De and I have been married 32 years this summer.
- Between 10-20 years of marriage, I had become career obsessed, focused only on work, traveling all the time, lost my way.
- I put my marriage seriously in jeopardy.
- I/we went back to God – I knew I needed Him. As my wife De says, the only reason we’re still together is because of Jesus.
- In my health:
- Up until 6 years ago, I had been in perfect health.
- 6 years ago, I developed such severe back issues that i could no longer walk. I was invalided and spent two months in a lounge chair. Further, during this same time, I got pneumonia, and a variety of viruses to the point I thought I was going to die. Imagine that conversation with God: “do you want me now? or later?”
- 5 years ago, after battling this back issue, I was finally diagnosed with a form of blood cancer that happened to affect my bones – the bones in my back were literally being broken down, and caused severe immunity issues (for example pneumonia). Starting out, I found out that this kind of cancer had a 5 year survival rate of 40%.
- What ensued was lots of prayers by lots of people; some relatively mild treatment, for cancer; and a quest to improve my immunity through nutrition, exercise, sleep, etc. (what I call my healthy lifestyle).
- The good news is I’m a rare patient of this disease, I went into complete remission 18 months later, and continue to be. God evidently wants me up there later, He’ll keep me around here for a while.
- My need for God was so great it’s hard to describe. This has been the point where I truly and completely gave up, accepted His will, and ability to meet all of my needs, as it was up to Him whether I lived or died.
- In my career:
- I’ve been very fortunate, lucky, blessed (well, that one’s hard for me to buy) in my career. I’ve been successful in the business/information technology consulting business.
- Three years ago – I left the technology company I had been with for 9 years, to join a “hotter” technology company.
- Within a year after I started, I was let go in a management reorganization out of my control.
- I quickly caught on with a smaller IT consulting firm in a leadership role . I’ve now left there due to “cultural differences”.
- As someone who has been career obsessed, this has been very hard. My progress has looked something like this: Learn, learn more, about being humble. Learn, learn more, to be patient. Listen to God, listen harder, no really listen.
- And, I’m still listening, and learning to be humbly patient, trying at 56, to determine what I want to be when I grow up – where is God leading, what does He want me to do?
In each of these areas – the common attribute has been “I need God”, followed by Him leading, teaching, orchestrating that phase/area of my life here. Has some of this been really ugly, confusing, hurting, hard, trying – oh yes! But, could I have made it through without God? For me, the clear answer is NO!
I need God, I need Jesus, I need God’s forgiveness, and a relationship with Him!
So, for me, in hindsight, looking back, Is is worth it? In my human, arrogant manner, I answer, I shout OH YES, because I need YOU.