James 1 v 2-4 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,3because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
This week I have to begin with a huge confession. I love the aliens, the stories, the characters and the adventures. I’ve admired Kirk, smiled at Spock and McCoy and laughed out loud at Scottie. Yes…….I am a great big massive Trekkie. For as long as I can remember I have loved the amazing adventures of the star ship Enterprise and its intrepid crew. Even now at the ripe old age of……(mind your own business) it still thrills me as much as it did when I was a young boy. (Which, for those of you wondering was not so long ago and did involve a colour T.V). As a child I can still see myself battling unfriendly life forms on distant planets in my Parents back garden. Armed with nothing more than a stick (couldn’t afford a phaser) I’ve battled countless invasions and always saved planet earth (nothing in the honours list so far for my efforts).
I think that Star Trek is one of those rare T.V series that you could class as universal. It’s universal because whether you love or hate it you have to acknowledge it. Everyone knows the Star Trek theme tune for example. If you played the musical introduction I can guarantee that 99% of people could name the show it came from. I expect that nearly every person could name the shows much loved catch phrase “To boldly go where no man has gone before”. (Or woman of course).
The great appeal of Star Trek is difficult to define. I think all of us fans have something that appeals to us as individuals more than as a group. Our personal appeal may be the fantasy aspect, the technology, the Utopian future, the limitless possibilities or just the chance to escape from the sometimes mundane and difficult lives that we lead. For me it’s the prospect of having the courage to “Boldly Go” . I say that because for much of my life I have “Boldly stayed!”. Those who are closest to me will confirm that I am a creature of habit. I go to bed in the early hours and I rise in the early hours. I start work at 8am and I finish at 5pm. I always fill my car with petrol when it’s nearly empty and I travel very poorly. I am a man who lives by the clock. My life is governed by my routines. Unplanned situations and circumstances have a huge mental and physical impact on me. Change (as well as home DIY) is not something that I do very well.
Before everyone starts ringing up the nearest psychiatrist (to have me committed) I don’t think my behaviour or my habits are that unusual (I can hear those phones ringing off the hook now). To some extent were all happy with routine. It provides stability, comfort and reassurance. It can be our defence mechanism against unwanted nasty surprises which we all like to avoid. Above all I think it gives us control, although, of course, in reality, it is very much a false sense of control that we really possess.
Desiring orderly control isn’t wrong. Being organised isn’t a sin. I don’t want anyone to feel they have to fall prostrate before God because they own a Filofax or use a diary. There is, however, something that we all need to acknowledge and accept. Sometimes, as Christians, God requires us to step out of our comfort zone. He requires us to break with routine and ritual. There are times we will be asked to “Boldly go” not “Boldly stay” (Joshua 1 v 9)
It’s easy to be a Christian and “Boldly stay. I will be the first to confess this. It’s easy to slip into something we’re comfortable with and allow fear to stop us from boldly stepping into something new. It’s easy to turn a blind eye to that new path that God wants to take us down. It’s simple for us conveniently bypass Gods will in favour of our own. When we boldly stay we allow our fear to paralyse us. We become the individual that never moves, never advances and will never know the true blessings that God has for us. Without travelling we cannot get to a destination. If we boldly stay the destination God has planned for us will never be reached. (Jonah chapter 1)
I want to share the story of the missionary John Stott. Prior to a major preaching engagement at the University of Sydney….he lost his voice. John was very concerned. This was very much out of his comfort zone and out of his control. That night John decided to boldly go and this, in his own words, is what happened.
Once when he was to preach at the University of Sydney in Australia, John Stott lost his voice. He says:
“What can you do with a missionary who has no voice? We had come to the last night of the [evangelistic campaign]. The students had booked the big university hall. A group of students gathered around me, and I asked them to pray as Paul did, that this thorn in the flesh might be taken from me. But we went on to pray that if it pleased God to keep me in weakness, I would rejoice in my infirmities in order that the power of Christ might rest upon me.”
“As it turned out, I had to get within one inch of the microphone just to croak the gospel. I was unable to use any inflection of voice to express my personality. It was just a croak in a monotone, and all the time we were crying to God that his power would be demonstrated in human weakness. Well, I can honestly say that there was a far greater response that night than any other night. I’ve been back to Australia ten times now, and on every occasion, somebody has come up to me and said, “Do you remember that night when you lost your voice? I was converted that night.”
If John has decided to boldly stay that night the outcome of that meeting would have affected the lives of many people but not for the better. His decision to boldly go proves that when God is with us, nothing, especially our circumstances, can be against us. (Romans 8 v 31).
The bible is full of great men and women who prove the above point perfectly. They aren’t great because of their personalities, their gifts or their articulate natures. They are great because they were ordinary men and women who choose to “Boldly Go”. They shepherd Boy David boldly went to face Goliath and became King of Israel (1 Samuel CH 17). Moses boldly went into Egypt and rescued a nation (Exodus CH 14). Joshua boldly went and led the children of Israel into the promised land (Joshua CH 1 v 9). Daniel boldly went into the lion’s den and triumphed over his enemies (Daniel CH 6). Mary choose to boldly go and gave birth to Christ (Luke 1 v 26 -56). The Samaritan women at the well chose to boldly go and become one of the first evangelists for Christ (John CH 4 v 1 – 42). Esther chose to boldly go and risked her life to save her people (Esther 8 v 3). What makes these people so different from you and me? The answer is simple. Ordinary people become extraordinary people when they choose to boldly go in the most desperate of circumstances.
Acts Chapter 16 v 15 – 40
Acts 16 v 25- “About midnight Paul & Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the other prisoners were listening to them”.
Acts Chapter 16 v 38 – 40
38 The officers reported this to the magistrates, and when they heard that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, they were alarmed. 39 They came to appease them and escorted them from the prison, requesting them to leave the city. 40 After Paul and Silas came out of the prison, they went to Lydia’s house, where they met with the brothers and sisters and encouraged them. Then they left.
As we return yet again (apologies for sounding like a broken record) to Acts 16 we can see some similarities between Paul and Silas’s prison experience and this week’s topic. We’ve already talked about the Roman citizenship they both held. We know for a fact they made the choice not to use this to escape their situation. In acts chapter 16 we read of the mighty life changing outpouring of Gods power in a seemingly impossible situation. We read of lives changed that day and countless lives touched in the 2000 years since. It happened because 2 men made the choice to boldly go where God wanted to lead them. Where God led them was life threatening, desperate and difficult. Despite this, they still choose to boldly go. That is what transforms these 2 ordinary human beings into extraordinary ones. This is what turns this situation and all its impossibilities into great and glorious victory. Acts 16 v 38-40).
If you want to see extraordinary things God doesn’t ask you to be special. He doesn’t require you to be talented or gifted. You don’t have to be a great leader of nations. He doesn’t require your intelligence and intellect. You don’t have to be a great apostle, evangelist, preacher or teacher. He just requires one thing and one thing only. He just asks that you boldly go….
This week I want us all to “Boldly go. Regardless of what faces you this week take that step forward. For you to truly become who you are destined to be is not the responsibility of God. It is our responsibility. We must take that first step.
If your sick….boldly go. If your unemployed….boldly go. If your in emotional turmoil…..boldly go. If your in financial difficulty….boldly go. Whatever you face today…..boldly go. Take that first step, face that situation and boldly go in the strength of God. Remember, like the children of Israel, we’re not meant to live our whole lives in the desert of difficulties. We each have a promised land. But it’s a journey. A journey we have to make going forwards. I can testify that if Gods brought you to it he will surely bring you through it….but only if you boldly go.
Only those who “boldly go” can truly “consider it pure joy when they face trials of various kinds” James 1 v 2.