- STAY PUT
- Hebrews 12:2; Ruth 1:15-16 and 2:11-12; Galatians 6:9
- Lyndol Loyd August 27, 2017
One day, maybe years from now, you’re going to tell a story about this season in life. Maybe you’ll tell a story you are proud of, maybe you won’t, because sometimes you have to keep going when you’d rather give up. Sometimes you have to stay put when you’d rather leave.
Today, we’re in the third week of a four-week message series called, “This Is Your Life”. If you missed the last few weeks, let me catch you up. We’ve been working with the idea that there is no dress rehearsal, that this is indeed our one and only life that we have to live.
Because of that, the decisions that we make today, determine the stories that we’ll tell tomorrow. The reality is, that eventually, you’ll look back and you’ll tell a story about this season of your life. The good news is, a lot of you will tell a story that you’re proud of. The bad news is, some of us will look back to this season of our lives and we won’t be proud of our story. The decisions we make today, determine the stories we tell tomorrow.
Now, the reality is that for many of us, during this season of life, we’re going to run up against an obstacle or a challenge. Maybe it’s a job that you don’t think you can endure another day, maybe it’s a relationship that turns south and you think, “Hey, maybe it’s not even worth staying in this relationship.” Maybe it’s a dream or a vision, something that you’re trying to accomplish, and you think, “This is never going to happen.” You’re going to make a decision, “Do I stay the course or do I walk away?”
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, we need to acknowledge that there are times to walk away. There are times in our lives where we need to let a chapter end and start a new chapter. Sometimes, the best decision you can make is to stay when it would be easier to go.
I can promise, many of you are in this season of your life, you’re going to have to make such a decision. For some, it will be later on in life. The big question we’re trying to answer in this series of messages, “How do we live a story worth telling?”
The answer is found in a great little verse in Hebrews 12:2 “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus the author and perfector of our faith.” Notice it didn’t say fix our eyes on the situation. We fix our eyes on Jesus. How do we live a story worth telling? Well, we fix our thoughts and our hearts on Jesus, the Son of God, who is the Author, who helps us live the story that He wants us to tell.
I just want to say, that for a lot of us, the decision to stay will be the most important and most difficult that you ever make. Some of you are going to listen and say, “Okay, I don’t really have any decisions like that today.”
But one day, at some point, you’re going to hit an obstacle, and you don’t want to stay in there. I’m going to ask you to keep your eyes on Jesus, and ask yourself, “What story do you want to tell?”
Many of you are going to realize the right thing to do is to stay when it would be easier to go. There’s a tremendous example of this in the Old Testament in a story about Naomi and her two daughters-in-law. You can read the story in the book of Ruth.
Naomi was the mother-in-law; she had two daughters-in-law, Ruth and Orpah. Unfortunately, Naomi’s husband died and then tragically, her two sons died. That left Naomi, Orpah and Ruth without husbands.
In society, during that time, this was a tragedy because they couldn’t go to Starbucks and get a job. They were almost unemployable, and they didn’t have a man to take care of them. It would reduce them almost to the status of beggars or a little lower than slaves.
Naomi, the mother-in law, said to the daughters-in-law, “Hey, go back home; it’s easier there. Maybe God will provide a husband for you there. Go back home.” Orpah did that, no shame in it. That was the easy thing to do, that was the logical thing to do, it made sense.
But Ruth decided to do something very different. She decided to stay when it would have been much, much easier for her to go. Naomi tried to talk her out of it again, very graciously. In Ruth 1:15-16, we read, “‘Look,’ Naomi said to her, ‘your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and to her gods. You should do the same.’ But Ruth replied, ‘Don’t ask me to leave you and turn back. Wherever you go, I will go; wherever you live, I will live. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.’”
Ruth decides, “You know what, we’re family. I’m choosing your God, the one true God. I’m committing to Him and I’m committing to you. Even though it makes sense to go, I’m going to decide to stay.” I can’t tell you how costly that decision was for Ruth because she became a little lower than a slave; she was a beggar.
She would go to work in the fields. There was this rich guy, Boaz, an incredible guy, who owned these fields. She’d go and pick up food after the workers had picked it up. If they left any, she got to eat and if they didn’t, she didn’t get to eat.
Boaz, this amazing guy, heard about her and for some reason, had compassion on her. He said, “Hey, give her some extra food.” He said to the guys working in the field, “Don’t you lay a hand on her.” Because he knew that if there was a woman of her stature out there, that they’d take physical advantage of her and that was just the cost of doing business.
So, he said, “Don’t touch her.” It raises the question, why would this rich land owner show compassion on this no-name girl?
The answer is because he had heard her story of how she stayed with Naomi when it would have been easier to go. Watch his response.
In Ruth 2:11-12 it reads, “‘Yes, I know,’ Boaz replied. ‘But I also know about everything you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband. I have heard how you left your father and mother and your own land to live here among complete strangers. 12May the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge, reward you fully for what you have done.’”
He pronounces a blessing. Neither one of them realize how big this blessing would be. Because, through a series of unusual events, Boaz ended up marrying Ruth and suddenly this girl, who had no future whatsoever, in making this faithful decision, now she’s one of two women who had books of the Bible named after her. If you trace the lineage of Jesus, you will see that He came from her bloodline.
Her total life is changed. Why? Because she decided to stay when it would have been easier to go. Now, don’t miss the power of this. She didn’t stay, hoping God would bless her. She stayed because she believed it was right, and God blessed her because she did what was right.
All of us, at some point in our lives, we’re going to come to a crossroads, and we’re going to have to make a decision, “Should I stay the course when it would be easier to walk away?” The big question we’ve been asking in this series of messages, and I want to ask it again and have you think about it, should be a relatively easy question to answer.
“What does God want you to want?” You should be able to answer that when you look at your life. There’s something in your life that’s not where it could be, should be, where God would want it to be.
It might be He wants you to spend more time with your family, or to help develop them spiritually, or to maybe develop yourself spiritually because you’re not really growing as a follower of Jesus. Or for some of you, it maybe to stop pursuing your own dreams and surrender something to God. Or it may be to stop living for things that don’t matter. It might be to spend more time at home.
In light of what God wants you to want, where does God want you to stay? Where does God want you to stay the course so that you can live the story that God wants you to tell? When does God want you to stay the course when it would be easier to walk away?
Let me tell you a story from my own life. In May of 1998, Joni, Abigail and I moved to Hot Springs Village, AR. There wasn’t a Madeline yet. I had been sent there to start a new United Methodist Congregation. I was thirty years old and had a two year old. Somehow we found ourselves living in America’s largest gated retirement/resort community.
When my district superintendent told me that I was being sent to HSV it was with the understanding that the other two UM churches would be paying for my housing allowance and insurance package as a way of supporting the start of our new congregation.
The first week we lived there the senior pastors from the other two churches asked me to meet them for lunch and proceeded to tell me “I don’t know what you’ve heard, but neither one of our churches is going to offer any financial support. Our churches don’t want you here.”
This was followed by many unpleasant encounters with people out in the community who were upset that we were starting a new church. I received hateful letters and angry phone calls.
One day, a retired UM pastor took me to breakfast and said, “Lyndol, this isn’t your fault. The bishop should have never sent you here. Just take this year and focus on writing your dissertation and loving your family. Then at the end of the year ask the bishop to move you to a new appointment. There is no shame in that.”
Life in HSV was such a rough experience; that year, in the Christmas letter, I wrote to family and friends about how during that year we had more than our shares of days when it would have seemed better to us simply work at McDonalds and ask people if they would like fries with that?
The thing I wanted to do and the thing that would have been easiest to do would have been to move on. But instead, as difficult as the times were, I felt like God’s word to us was to stay put. Our time in HSV was eight of the most challenging years of my life, but because we stayed, there is now a thriving UM church filled with many people, previously unchurched, who are now living in relationship with Jesus.
Sometimes, you’re going to come to a place where it doesn’t look easy, the road back seems like it’s too difficult. I’m here to tell you that God is going to call you to stay the course when you would rather go the other way. I want to ask you, in light of what God wants you to want, where do you need to stay? In light of the story that God wants you to tell, where do you need to stay the course when it seems so much easier to walk away?
It could be in any number of different places. Some of you, it might be a problem that comes up in the church one day. You get your feelings hurt; someone does something and you think, “Well forget them, forgot that. Christians, they’re all a bunch of hypocrites.” Let me just tell you, church is not perfect. If you ever find a church that is perfect, whatever you do, don’t join it, because when your imperfect self comes, you’ll screw it up.
You get your feelings hurt. “Well, I’m leaving the church. I’m going to show them, I’m walking away. I’m not staying in this stupid church.” That can be your story; it’s a lot of people’s story. Or, “I just stopped going to church and I got busy. I used to go to church.” That can be your story.
Some of you, your story will be disillusioned with God. Something’s going to happen in your life and you don’t like it. You don’t understand it and suddenly you think, “God, if you’re going to let this happen, when you could have stopped it, then forget you.” Your story can be you walked away from God just like people all over the world. “God, if you’re going to let that happen, I can’t believe in you.”
Or you might decide to stay with God as God will always stay with you, because he will never leave you nor forsake you. You tell Him, “I don’t understand it; this doesn’t make sense to me, but God, I realize I’m not God and you are. So, I’m choosing to believe in you even when I don’t feel your presence.” Time goes on and something happens inside of you, and you start to look back at that thing that you hated and you realize you didn’t know it at the time but, God actually used that in your life to make you different.
What the enemy meant for evil, somehow God used for good. Now, I know God and His faithfulness in a way that I didn’t before. Now, I’m living for Him and for His glory in a way that I never thought possible, and this is my story because I decided to stay with God when it would have been easier to walk away because I didn’t understand.
Some of you, it will be in your marriage, and let me spend a couple of moments here. As I do, let me say two things before I talk about your marriage. Number one, I don’t want to make you feel guilty about past chapters in your story because we can’t change the past. Number two, if you’re being abused, if someone is beating you, I’m not telling you to stay and be a punching bag. I’m telling you to get away where you can be safe, where you can be healthy, where they can become healthy, and then you can work on it in a healthy way. I’m not telling you to stay and let someone hit you.
What I am saying is, over and over and over again in our society today, we see one or the other spouse say, “Well, I’m not very happy, so we might as well cash it in. He’s not meeting my needs and the trainer at the gym sure compliments me a lot.” Or, “She’s kind of boring and the girl at work is kind of fun, and so, I’m walking away. He didn’t make me happy.” “We gave it a shot for a little while, but it just didn’t work out.” When your marriage gets to that point, a struggle, because they all get there because we’re sinful people, you need to ask yourself what story do you want to tell. “Well, kids, we gave it a shot for a little while but we just weren’t happy.” That can be the story and it’s a lot of people’s story.
Or your story might go like this, “We didn’t like each other; we hated each other. I mean, it was hell like you wouldn’t believe; it was the worst thing ever. But you know what? We made a covenant before our God, so we hung in there. We got counseling and we got help. We made a church a priority, and we got a life group and they spoke into our lives. It didn’t happen overnight, but over a period of time, God started to change us.”
Some of you, right now, have been faithful for a long time. You’re in the same boring job and you feel like a failure. You’re stuck in the same boring marriage and you feel like a failure. What I want you to hear is sometimes the greatest act of faith is faithfulness, staying where you’re planted.
And you may not see your Boaz immediately. But I’m telling you what, Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”
The decisions that we make today, determine the stories that we tell tomorrow. Sometimes, the best decision you can make is to stay when it would be easier to go.