I pushed the envelope last night in youth group. For those of you who don't know, I minister in the youth group most Wednesday Evenings. I have to admit it was a in your face kind of sermon. Most of you know what I am talking about. The kind that challenges you to step up and do what God wants you to do. So what did I do that was so challenging and what does it have to do with hope?
First of all it was about relationships. That we have it backwards when we value our relationship with other people as more important than we value our relationship with Christ. Now I didn't come out and say it that way. What I said was that it is wrong for your relationship with another person to hinder their desire to follow and serve Christ. We have, and always had, this codependency type of problem within churches that when one of us starts to grow in their relationship with Christ, someone fears the change that it will bring.
When our relationship with Christ comes first, He will is going to change our lives, our actions, even our personalities. It is one of the reasons what we can have hope in our lives. When we see Jesus doing something in us and through us - as our faith grows - we will feel the power of hope coursing through our veins. But when we place the value of any other relationship above our relationship with Jesus, whether it be friendship, marriage, professional, fantasy or romantic, we short circuit our relationship with Christ and potentially those with whom we have a relationship with.
20 years ago, there was a friend of mine who wanted to reach his world for Jesus. Especially those who were drug addicts, prostitutes and social rejects. He came from the streets and God had miraculously healed him and changed his life. As this transformation started to take hold in his life, his worship began to change. He went from quite and demure to vocal and expressive. He loved God and worshipped God the way God wants to be worshipped. One day a person in that church, who knew I was good friends with this gentleman, came to me to ask a favor. Could I tell my friend to tone the expressiveness of his worship down. That he was to loud and over the top. I was a young man, but fortunately for me I knew better. I couldn't allow my relationship with this gentleman to interfere with his relationship with God. I told the person I could not.
What happened? The gentleman was called of God to start a church in the inner city. Which he did and still does to this day very successfully. Many people have been saved, healed and delivered from a life on the streets. His friendship with this person of whom I spoke of? It did change and after time they drifted apart.
When we embrace Christ first in our lives, we will not be threatened by what He does in the lives of our friends, spouses, co-workers and others. Why? Because we rejoice in the knowledge that whatever God is doing, it is good. He is giving hope, love, peace, security and a host of other gifts to someone whom we care about. Yes, it will change them as He has changed us. We know we don't have to be afraid of it. But if we have never experienced this joy for ourselves, even though we may know Christ, we will instead fear and reject what is happening in our friends life instead of trusting God.