What do you do when you’re worried about the reliability of your car? You probably go looking for something to replace it. What do you do when you realize that your house is no longer ergonomically correct for you (you can’t navigate the stairs like you used to)? You go looking for a one story house with wider doors to accommodate a walker or a wheel chair. You don’t stay with the old car or the old house.
What do people do when they feel like their church isn’t meeting their needs? What do we do when we begin to feel like God is too distant from us? What do we do when worship doesn’t seem to meet our needs anymore? What do we do when our faith begins to wane? Do we stay or do we begin a search for something that will fill the void?
Abram began to wonder what was going to happen with his wealth if he died. He didn’t have any heirs so he was concerned that his chief administrator would be the one who would inherit his sheep and goats and cattle. And that’s not what he wanted. God had promised him and Sarai a huge family but they were getting on in years and it just didn’t seem likely that was going to happen. So did Abram stay with his God or did he go to find another? He stayed.
That’s not to say he didn’t have questions for God but he did have believe in God and that was enough. So he stayed.
The psalmist wanted nothing more than to be with God, to be in his house where it was quiet where he could contemplate God where he could get away from the noise of the world. He wanted to be sure that God could hear his prayers so he reminded him that he was shouting at the top of his lungs praying that God would hear his prayers and not hide himself from him. Even then he wanted nothing more than to be with God. He was going to stay with him even when all those around him doubted that he was real or that he could or would deliver on his promises. In fact he said that we should, “Stay with GOD! Take heart. Don't quit.”
Paul says about the same thing in his letter to the people of Philippi, “...keep focused on that goal… Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it… Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal… Don't waver. Stay on track, steady in God.” Even when things don’t seem to be what we wished they were Paul reminds us who we should be looking to as an example, who we should keep our focus on, “the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He'll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.” Paul tells us we should stay.
Notice friends the key word for us today is “stay.” Stay the course, stay with God, and stay focused. Don’t quit. Take heart. Believe!
When Jesus was warned by the Pharisees not to go to Jerusalem, they didn’t really care about his safety they just didn’t want him teaching there and causing people to question them, he was lamenting the fact that the city of Jerusalem, the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people, hadn’t stayed the course hadn’t listened to those whom God sent to warn them. In fact they abused, mistreated, and killed God’s prophets. And because of their actions God wasn’t going to stay with them, “…until the day you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of God.'"
As I said the key word that came to me this week was stay. Do we stay or do we go? You may be wondering “stay where” or “go where?” Friends it’s up to each one of us to answer these questions as they relate to each of us personally. Do we stay in this church? Do we continue to worship God? Or, do we find another church or another cause, or another God? Do we stay or do we go? Either way we are required to make a decision.
Jesus prayed his lament over the city of Jerusalem because they had made the choice not to stay. And so he said God was going to come back until they remembered and said the words from Psalm 118:26, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”
God’s people had strayed away from him. They neglected to keep his commandments to love one another, to care for the poor and the widowed, and to care for the foreigner in their midst. Even the religious leaders of the day weren’t focused on God but more on what they could get financially or politically. They were more intent on getting the things the world offered than on what God had for them. They weren’t staying with God, so God wasn’t going to stay with them.
Oh, he never left them. In fact he was preparing to make the ultimate sacrifice just for them. He was going to die for them. But they couldn’t see that. Their ears were deaf, their eyes were blind, and their hearts were hardened. But Jesus was staying the course. He was continuing his journey toward Jerusalem. He stayed because he loved them.
The question for all of us today is are we staying or are we going? Is our faith as strong as Abram’s even when we are filled with dread? Will we stay? Even when everyone around us is going in different directions are we going to keep our focus on Jesus? Are we going to stay with him? Are we going to keep trying to live as God’s servants?
Stay or go that’s the question. Only you know how you will answer. God is counting on you. He hasn’t given up on you. He wants you to stay. He made the ultimate sacrifice for you. Please stay.
Thanks be to God for his saving grace. Amen.