First Baptist Church of Rahway, 177 Elm Ave., Rahway, New Jersey 07065 is a multi-cultural congregation that has a Blended English Service on Sunday Mornings, a Latino Service at 12:00, and a Service in Telugu at 3:30PM. For more information, call (732) 388-8626. Or click here to send an email. If you wish to help the Mission and Ministry of First Baptist financially click the Donate Button.

Friday, June 17, 2011

When Miracles Don’t Happen


The sad news was finally revealed on May 31, 1997, by San Francisco Chronicle’s religion writer, Dan Lattin:

"Incapacitated by a series of strokes, Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross sits in a cluttered corner of her home in the desert, smoking Dunhill cigarettes, watching TV and waiting to die…Kuebler-Ross revolutionized the way Americans look at death and dying, but decades of work with the terminally ill has done little to ease her own transition into the great beyond…Her mood is feisty, but her German-accented voice is faint and tinged with bitterness. `For 15 hours a day, I sit in this same chair, totally dependent on someone else coming in here to make me a cup of tea,' she says. `It's neither living nor dying. It's stuck in the middle. My only regret is that for 40 years I spoke of a good God who helps people, who knows what you need and how all you have to do is ask for it. Well, that's baloney. I want to tell the world that it's a bunch of bull. Don't believe a word of it…I can’t wait to die.'"

(1 Kings 19:1-5) Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them." Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.

What these two people have in common is crushing disappointment. Elisabeth Kuebler-Ross told people that God would take care of them no matter what. Then she found herself crippled and totally dependent upon others. Elijah won a great victory against the prophets of Baal. Immediately he was threatened with execution. Both of these people must have had high expectations which ended up unrealized. Instead of the restoration of true worship – flight into the desert. Instead of victory in Jesus – slow death in a chair. I have experienced disappointment like this. I have been under that broom tree demanding an explanation from God for the disaster that occurred. Have you been there too? If you haven’t there is a good chance that someday you will. When the unthinkable happens – what do we do?

(Ruth 1:16-18) But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the LORD deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

This is one of the great stories of faith from the Hebrew Bible. Faith is the willingness to plunge into the unknown with only the conviction that everything is going to be ok. When things don’t work out, faith is what keeps us from giving up. Ruth and Naomi starve for a while before Boaz rescues them. What if they hadn’t met Boaz? From the above statement, I doubt Ruth would have given up.

(John 6:26-27) Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”

After the miracle of the loaves and fish, Jesus goes off by himself. Some of the witnesses of the miracle follow him and ask him for another sign - another wonder. Jesus tells them; forget about it. He offers them faith instead. Faith in God will survive long after all of the earthly signs and wonders have been forgotten.

Too often we demand results from our efforts. Too often we demand miracles / prosperity / success from God. The mega-churches of today are full of people who go for the show. Miracles are performed right before our eyes, prosperity is promised, success in every undertaking is assured. If you have faith, God will give you what you ask for! Just the message we all want to hear. This is why the mega-churches are mega-full. Unfortunately, faith has nothing to do with any of this.

True faith in God is when we are under that Broom tree feeling sorry for ourselves, and we hear that quiet voice inside of us telling us to get up and get going. True faith is when we are laying in a bed dependent upon caretakers waiting for the end, but still praising God for the gift of life. That is the great blessing of faith – to be hopeful and thankful even when disaster strikes. I have known many people who have had that kind of faith. They have strengthened me far more than any claims of success or miracles.

God Bless You,

Pastor Bill Whitehead

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