Grow into an Emotionally Mature Adult, 29 May 2016

Grow into an Emotionally Mature Adult
Series: Go Deeper
Luke 10:25-37

  • Series Theme
  • “Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This series is based upon the biblical themes of Scazzero’s book in an effort to help us better understand ourselves in order to better love God and others.

  • The Big Idea: The sixth pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality is to grow into an emotionally mature adult…to love.


    We’re nearing the end of our series Go Deeper. The purpose of the series is to get real—with God, others, and ourselves—in order to better love God and others. Many live in denial about their past, their struggles, their sins, and their pain.

    “Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero.

    Two weeks ago we talked about the rhythms of the Daily Office and a weekly Sabbath. If you’ve been experimenting with praying throughout the day and/or a designated day of rest, I’d love to hear about it. If not, I challenge you to pursue God in fresh ways and prioritize one, “unproductive” day of the week to rest, recharge, and renew.

    Today’s topic is growing into an emotionally mature adult. Many people confuse age with maturity. Just as the phrase “older and wiser” is not always true, so also “older and mature” is not necessarily reality. No matter how old you are, there is room for growth and maturity. Our ultimate goal is to look like Jesus.

    Many people overestimate their maturity. Specifically, they believe because they’ve attended a lot of church services and Bible studies they’re mature. Most people I know are educated beyond their level of obedience—including me!

    Maturity requires more than great faith, sacrificing your body, giving everything you have to the poor, having great knowledge, and speaking multiple languages (1 Corinthians 13:1-3).

    In the Church, many mistakenly believe that if they have spent decades attending a church gathering on Sundays, they will automatically become spiritual giants. Not long ago a local pastor mentioned how he is so frustrated by several senior citizens in his congregation that think they’re mature, yet they are mean-spirited, selfish, grumpy, and lack joy and the most important of all love.


    Few words are more misunderstood in our culture than love. Love is a feeling. I love ice cream and roller coasters. People say they fall into love and fall out of love.

    Years ago I saw a group from the UK called The Waterboys. They have a song in which they declare love “lives in the girl in the swing.” Deep!

    I remember a man telling me he had fallen in love with a woman, or so he thought. He wrestled with this question of defining love. He wisely turned to the Bible and discovered the answer in the book of 1 John.

    God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. (1John 4:16)

    God is love. Love is God. He is the definition of love!

    Many of you know John 3:16

    For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

    1 John 3:16 is similar.

    This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters. (1 John 3:16)

    The original Greek in the Bible uses three different words to describe three different types of love.

    • - eros (ἔρως), passionate
    • - philia (φιλία), friendship
    • - agape (ἀγάπη), unconditional

    One of the most famous of Jesus’ stories is often called The Good Samarian.

    The Good Samaritan—Luke 10:25-37

    On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

    “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” (Luke 10:25-26)

    Jesus loved to answer questions with questions!

    He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)

    These two commands were known by every Jew, found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

    “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28)

    Love God. Love your neighbor. So simple. That’s it. That’s why we’re here. That’s what First Alliance is all about…just two things: love God, love your neighbor. Simple. But so challenging…especially if your neighbor is…uh, unlovable!

    But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)

    This man thought he was mature. He thought because he was an expert in the law he’d pass any morality exam with flying colors. He should’ve just walked away, but instead he tried to “justify himself.”

    In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. (Luke 10:30)

    The journey from Jerusalem to Jericho is about 17 miles long with a descent of about 3000 feet. It was a dangerous road, frequently filled with robbers who hid along the steep, winding path.

    A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. (Luke 10:31-32)

    These two respected, religious, supposedly loving men ignore the victim of violence. Most likely the victim, priest, and Levite were all Jews. They studied what is known as the Torah, the first part of our Bible. It would make sense to help a brother in the faith, yet the two men were too busy or proud to be inconvenienced.

    But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. (Luke 10:33)

    It’s nearly impossible for us to understand the hatred of Samarians by the Jews. Samaritans were a mixed race of Jew and Gentile. The Jewish Talmud says that he who eats bread with a Samaritan is like the one who eats the flesh of pigs, something so offensive I can’t come up with a modern-day equivalent!

    He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ (Luke 10:34-35)

    The Levite was religious. He had probably memorized the first five books of the Bible! He had likely given sermons on loving others.

    Notice that this hated Samaritan loves, yet his love has appropriate boundaries. He doesn’t completely abandon his plans, but he seeks help, delegates to the innkeeper, and resumes his scheduled activities. He is generous. He loves.

    “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

    The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

    Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37)

    The essence of true Christian spirituality is love. This is not the feeling of love. It’s the commitment to seek the best interest of another, regardless of who they are, the color of their skin, the accent in their language, the clothes on their body, their age, religion, or gender.

    But love cannot just be in our head. It has to be in our heart and hands. One of Jesus’ three best friends said

    If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? (1 John 3:17)

    John narrows his focus to brothers or sisters, but Jesus says to love one’s neighbor, which is essentially anyone and everyone.
    Emotional Maturity

    Emotional maturity could be defined as loving well. Are you a good lover?

    Loving your neighbor may mean caring for their physical needs in a moment of crisis, but most often it has to do with our day-to-day relationships with those we encounter at home, work, school, or in the marketplace. Just as infants grow physically into adults, so also emotional infants can become children, adolescents, and adults. Look at these examples:

    Adult as Emotional Infant

    -- treats others as “objects to meet my needs”
    -- acts like tyrant and wins through intimidation
    -- unable to empathize with others

    Adult as Emotional Child
    -- acts out resentment through distance, pouting, whining, clinging, lying, withholding, appeasing, lying.
    -- does not openly and honestly express needs

    Adult as Emotional Adolescent
    -- cannot give without feeling controlled or resentful
    -- capacity for mutual concern is missing
    -- defensive, threatened by criticism

    Adult as Emotional Adult

    -- Able to ask for what they need, want, prefer – clearly, directly, honestly, respectfully.
    -- Desire for relationships to win. Seeks win-win situations.
    -- Able to listen with empathy.
    -- Willing to risk saying what is needed without attacking.
    -- Respects others without having to change them.
    -- Able to resolve conflicts maturely and negotiate solutions.
    -- Gives themselves and others room to make mistakes and not be perfect.

    The problem is that we live with us in the center of our universe. The Good News is that we don’t have to stay there.

    Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

    This is one of my favorite verses. Christ has the power to change and transform us. His sacrifice on the cross made it possible for us to reconnect with our Father, despite our sin.

    Salvation does not mean we are instantly mature, however. Just as a Christian alcoholic must take steps to address their addiction and a Christian who never finished high school might want to work hard to get their GED, so also our emotions may need some deliberate, focused attention. Sure God could just miraculously heal the brokenness from your past, but more than likely He will work through your efforts at wholeness—not salvation, but wholeness.

    This is one of the greatest challenges within the Church—denying our history and thinking that this verse means we’re instantly cured of every dysfunction in our lives when we encounter Jesus. We grow into maturity, it doesn’t just happen.

    So What?

    Take practical steps of discipleship to grow into an emotionally mature adult

    It can be terrifying. Some of us do not even know how to feel. Where do we start?

    We must follow the path of Abraham, leaving our pasts and families and cultures (the bad stuff) and turning to God. This is obviously impossible apart from God.

    We must repent (turn away) from our past and then move forward.

    If you want to run a marathon, you must train and build up to it over time. Becoming an emotionally healthy adult requires baby steps.

    Discipleship is a lifelong journey. It is hard. It takes time. It is worth it!

    The alternative is living your life as a prisoner of your past.

    We should love the best because we are loved the best.

    You can’t just love God. You have to love people, too. Loving God is more than reading the Bible, prayer, and church attendance. To obey is better than any sacrifice, and Jesus repeatedly taught us to love one another. Let’s face it, it’s relatively easy to love a loving God, but loving our enemies and neighbors is far different, especially since they are not perfect like Jesus!

    As a church family, we are beta-testing some discipleship strategies. Jesus said to make disciples and we are very serious about not only making spiritual disciples but holistic disciples that are vibrant, healthy, and contagious (yes, I used health and contagious in the same sentence!).

    What does an emotionally mature adult ultimately look like?

    Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. (Philippians 2:3-4)

    Jesus is our perfect example.

    In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

    Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2:5-8)

    Does that describe you? If not, there is room for growth!

    Jesus was the ultimate human being. He was the ultimate example of love. He was the most emotionally mature person to enter our world.

    The amazing thing is that His power is alive and well through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God is able to reside inside you, not to instantly make you perfect, but to help you grow in all aspects of your life. Growth takes time. It takes intentionality. It takes effort. It takes surrender to God.

    Perhaps you’ve had the fire and passion for God but you’ve grown complacent and comfortable. Maybe your next step this morning is to recommit your life to Christ, invite the Holy Spirit to live inside you, and give you the courage to confront your past and the strength to create a healthier, whole future.

    Maybe today is the day of salvation, the day you begin your journey, the day you learn how to love, knowing that you are loved…by God and by our faith family.

    Regardless of where you find yourself in the spiritual journey, I want to encourage you to take the next step forward, to know God more, to know love more, and to love God and others more. John said

    Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)

    Arguably the best way we can love others is by first reflecting upon how much we are loved by God. This is why time with God is so valuable.

    If you get nothing else out of this morning, know you are loved. You are precious to God. You were created in His image with value, dignity, and worth. We all have days when we are not all that lovable, yet God still loves us. In the same way we are to love the unlovable, sharing God’s love we have received with others.

    The measure of our maturity is not how many sermons we’ve sat through or how many Bible verses we’ve memorized. The real measure of our maturity is how well we love…God…and others.

    I don’t know about you, but I often struggle to love others. It truly requires effort, sacrifice, and intentionality. We love God because He first loved us. We love others because He loves them. We are able to love when desperately seek God and His love.
  • Credits and Stuff

    Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

    Series outline and ideas from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (Thomas Nelson, 2006).

    Some study questions from Lyman Coleman (
    The Serendipity Bible and The Serendipity Student Bible). Used with permission from the author.

    Other study questions from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Workbook by Peter Scazzero (Center for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, 2007).

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Daily Office & Sabbath, 15 May 2016

    Discover The Rhythms of Daily Office and Sabbath
    Series: Go Deeper
    Daniel 6:10-12; Exodus 20:8-11

    The Big Idea: The fifth pathway to emotionally healthy spirituality is to discover the rhythms of the Daily Office and Sabbath.


    The essence of this series is our lives are like an iceberg. Some of it is visible to others, but most is buried out of sight from the world, sometimes ourselves, but never from God. The sooner we can get real with ourselves, others and God, the sooner we will experience growth and breakthroughs. We’re all messed up and in need of help…which is where God and His people become so vital. We need God. We need one another.

    Author and pastor Pete Scazzero said his book
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

    “Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives.”

    We’ve been looking at emotional health and for the conclusion of this series we will be looking at contemplative spirituality, tools and practices that help us to know God and His Word and become more like Jesus.

    A Disclaimer

    I hope it goes without saying, but let me emphatically state our authority at First Alliance is God and the Bible. I pray that I will never preach or even say anything contradictory to the Bible…and if I do, I urge you to tell me. I do not have the final word, and certainly Pete Scazzero or Billy Graham or John Stumbo or any other pastor or writer has the final word. I don’t agree with everything Scazzero has written and I especially don’t agree with every author Scazzero quotes. If you read
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality or any other book, be careful. Read with discernment. Ask me, an elder, or your group leader questions if something seems off. Some of you have, and I greatly appreciate it. We’re not always going to completely agree about everything in the Bible, but we need to sharpen one another…and I never want to speak anything but truth.

    Connecting With God

    All of life is about relationships. Just as there are many ways I can build a relationship with my wife—date nights, texts, phone calls, conversations at the dinner table at home, vacations, etc.—there are many ways we can build our relationship with God.

    How do you connect with God? Many people engage in religious activities to learn about or appease God. The essence of Christianity, however, is a relationship with God. All relationships require time, effort, and dedication. Today we will be discussing two powerful tools to help you grow in your relationship with God. These are not two things to add to your to-do list. They are not a measure of your spirituality. If used, however, they will radically enhance your relationship with God and yourself.

    We begin in the book of Daniel. Allow me to set the scene. King Belshazzar, the king of the Babylonians, was slain and Darius became the new king. Daniel was one of his top assistants. In fact, we are told

    Now Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. (Daniel 6:3)

    This made his colleagues envious.

    At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent. Finally these men said, “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God.” (Daniel 6:4-5)

    They go to the king and ask him to make a law making it illegal to pray to any god or man except the king during the next thirty days.

    Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. Then these men went as a group and found Daniel praying and asking God for help. So they went to the king and spoke to him about his royal decree: “Did you not publish a decree that during the next thirty days anyone who prays to any god or man except to you, O king, would be thrown into the lions’ den?” (Daniel 6:10-12)

    If you don’t know the rest of the story, check out Daniel 6.


    Our culture knows nothing about rhythms. We live life 24/7, an expression that was unknown a decade ago. We use words like chaos, scattered, distracted, stressed, and overwhelmed to describe our existence. We are always on the way to something or somewhere. We strive for bigger, better, and faster.

    How do I have a calm, centered life that is oriented around Jesus?

    You were created to know and love God and be known by and loved by Him.

    We need to slow down to connect with God. How?

    You cannot jump off a moving treadmill. You must slow it down first.

    The Daily Office and Sabbath bring rhythm to our lives daily and weekly.

    The Daily Office or Fixed-Hour Prayer: daily rhythm

    The Daily Office is simply about making space throughout the day for God. Office (
    opus) means “work of God” in Latin. Our work is to seek and be with God.

    Daniel is essentially at the University of Babylon. His name is changed and the leaders attempt to take God out of him. Our culture is much like Babylon, trying to make us think and act like the world rather than God.

    Now when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before. (Daniel 6:10)

    Daniel prays three times each day on his knees. Do you?

    One of my favorite questions to ask of a biblical text is whether it is descriptive or prescriptive. Does it describe what someone did or does it prescribe for us today a behavior to imitate.

    I don’t think God commands us to go to an upstairs room, open our windows toward Jerusalem, and get on our knees three times a day to pray…but it’s not a bad idea!

    How do you meet with God each day? Reading the One Story Bible plan? Prayer at a certain time of day? A devotional?

    David wrote

    One thing I ask of the LORD, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple. (Psalms 27:4)

    That is David’s work. An office is about being with God, not trying to get things from God. Paul wrote to the church in Thessaloniki:

    Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

    I think that is a prescription. I believe it’s a timeless mandate for all followers of Jesus. But how can we pray continually? How can we be aware of and conscious of God throughout the day? One way is to stop and pause throughout the day to be aware of His presence.

    Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous laws. (Psalms 119:164)

    It is good to praise the LORD and make music to your name, O Most High, to proclaim your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, (Psalm 92:1-2)

    Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. (Psalms 55:17)

    The Psalms are a prayer book. The Daily Office is frequently associated with Catholics or highly liturgical denominations, but all followers of Jesus can benefit from books of prayer that incorporate Scripture and reflection. The issue is not what you do, but getting connected with God through Scripture and silence where you can be still in the presence of God. The idea of the Daily Office is to stop several times throughout the day to pause and remember God. It is a discipline to order your day to remind you what is important in life: God.

    Meals provide such a rhythm for many of us, praying three times a day at morning, noon, and evening. Bedtime is another common time to talk with God.

    The Daily Office may involve prayer, reading scripture, journaling, taking a walk, or whatever helps you connect with God throughout the day. There’s no magic formula, but intentionality is crucial. What’s most important in your life? Show me your calendar and prove it!

    If your only time with God is an hour on Sunday, you can’t possibly have a deep relationship with God. You will develop spiritual anorexia. Just as I can’t expect to have a great marriage by talking with my wife for an hour on Friday night, I can’t expect to truly know God by only “going to church.” It’s a great practice, but more is needed. Spend time with God daily…the Daily Office.

    Sabbath: weekly rhythm

    Knowing and following God is radical. It is counter-cultural. It is revolutionary. Few things are more radical than Sabbath, a 24-hour break each week during which we rest. The word “Sabbath” appears 116 times in the NIV translation of the Bible. The seventh day is the first holy thing mentioned in the Bible. Sabbath is found in the Ten Commandments. Without the fourth and longest commandment, you cannot do the other nine.

    God’s Top Ten: Exodus 20:1-17

    1. You shall have no other gods before me
    2. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
    3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

    4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord our God. On it you shall not do any work…For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” (Exodus 20:8-11)

    5. Honor your father and your mother.
    6. You shall not murder
    7. You shall not commit adultery.
    8. You shall not steal.
    9. You shall not give false witness.
    10. You shall not covet.

    God commands rhythm in our lives of work and rest. Do you know what the penalty was for breaking the Sabbath?

    Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. (Exodus 31:14)

    Notice the Sabbath is listed in God’s Top Ten ahead of murder, adultery, and stealing.

    I know, it’s the Old Testament. We don’t follow the Old Testament law, right? It seems to me Jesus not only followed God’s instructions, He made them more challenging. He called lust adultery (Matthew 5:28) and unholy anger equivalent to murder (Matthew 5:21-22).

    Jesus said,

    Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. (Mark 2:27)

    Sabbath is about
    rest. We need it. We were created to need it. Science merely confirms the wisdom of the Bible.

    [A study from Stanford] found that productivity per hour declines sharply when the workweek exceeds 50 hours, and productivity drops off so much after 55 hours that there’s no point in working any more. That’s right, people who work as much as 70 hours (or more) per week actually get the same amount done as people who work 55 hours. (

    Sabbath is also about
    trust. Do you trust God can do more with six days than you can with seven?

    My Story

    I’ve had good and not-so-good seasons of Sabbath. Presently, I try to devote Saturdays as my unproductive day. Just saying that word “unproductive” sounds so wrong, but I believe that’s the intention of Sabbath. It’s like a weekly “snow day!” It’s a day to play, to relax, to delight, to reflect, to do things that replenish, to be grateful to God, to enjoy family and friends. We taste heaven on the Sabbath.

    Needless to say, you must prepare for the Sabbath. You can’t just do it. It’s not a punishment but a gift. There is no place for legalism, it is to be a delight.


    We live in Babylon. Our culture is diametrically opposed to God. We are bombarded by subtle and not-so-subtle messages that seduce us away from the things of God.

    If you are serious about following Jesus, you will need to do radical, counter-cultural things with your time, talents, and treasures. An hour on Sunday is not enough to maintain a relationship with God. A quick prayer at dinner or bedtime is not sufficient either. None of us—myself included—are able to spend all of our waking hours in prayer and Bible study, but we can periodically incorporate Scripture and silence into our daily lives and pause for one day a week to do nothing.

    There are no shortcuts to relationships. Ever!

    We were created to know God. The Daily Office and weekly Sabbath are biblical, powerful, and revolutionary ways to breathe deeply, be with God, and become like Jesus.

    All healthy relationships require time, intentionality, and variety. Experiment. There are biblical patterns for daily time with God that include prayer and time studying the Bible. There is a biblical pattern for a weekly Sabbath, a day of rest and refreshment. The goal is not following a formula but rather following Jesus…day by day, week by week, year by year…until He returns.

    Questions for Discussion

    What does this text tell us about God?

    What does this text tell us about ourselves?

    How did Daniel’s prayers affect his work? His life?

    Are you willing to make the sacrifices necessary to truly know God?

    Why is silence so difficult for us?

    Why is Sabbath so difficult for us? What prevents you from practicing Sabbath?

    What difference would a weekly Sabbath make in your life?

    What small step(s) can you take this week to know God?

    A Sample Daily Office For Groups

    1. 1. Pause for two minutes of silence (Psalm 46:10)
    2. 2. Read aloud Psalm 90:4, 12, 17
    3. 3. Pause for 15 seconds of silence
    4. 4. Read aloud Psalm 33:20-22
    5. 5. Pause for 15 seconds of silence
    6. 6. Read aloud Matthew 6:9-14
    7. 7. Pause for 15 seconds of silence
    8. 8. Read aloud Isaiah 30:15 and Psalm 86:11, 13a
    9. 9. Pause for two minutes of silence

    For Further Reading

    Praying with the Church: Following Jesus Daily, Hourly, Today by Scot McKnight
  • Credits and Stuff

    Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

    Series outline and ideas from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (Thomas Nelson, 2006).

    Some study questions from Lyman Coleman (
    The Serendipity Bible and The Serendipity Student Bible). Used with permission from the author.

    Other study questions from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Workbook by Peter Scazzero (Center for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, 2007).

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
  • Grief and Loss, 1 May 2016

    Enlarge Your Soul Through Grief and Loss
    Series: Go Deeper
    Matthew 26:31-44

  • Series Theme
  • “Emotional health and contemplative spirituality, when interwoven together, offer nothing short of a spiritual revolution, transforming the hidden places deep beneath the surface of our lives,” says author and pastor Pete Scazzero in his book Emotionally Healthy Spirituality. This series is based upon the biblical themes of Scazzero’s book in an effort to help us better understand ourselves in order to better love God and others.

  • The Big Idea: Jesus was a man who expressed His emotions of grief and loss, setting an example for us to follow.

  • Introduction

    We’re in the middle of a series entitled Go Deeper. Our lives are like an iceberg. We expose only a small portion of our real selves to others. Some of us live in denial about that which we know is true beneath the surface. Perhaps another way to say, “Go Deeper” is to say, “get real.” Get honest. Until we face reality, we will never be able to heal from the pain, overcome the addiction, or strengthen the weakness.

    Last week we talked about how we can’t avoid trials. In this life, we will and do have trouble. We want to go over, under, or around but we must journey through the wall. Despite the courage involved, there are benefits to testing.

    - God uses trials so we will look out…to others.

    The book of Romans plainly says

    Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. (Romans 12:15)

    We are to

    Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

    In addition,

    - God uses trials so we will look up…to Him. He is with us…always. That’s a promise.

    At the Wall, God asks some tough questions.

    “What would you do without Me?”
    “What will you do without My blessings?”
    “Will you continue to seek Me?”
    “Will you seek the ‘Other’ instead?”

    At the Wall we learn a single truth that gets burned into us: life isn’t about us; it’s about God and His glory.

    You were created by God.
    You were created for God.
    You were created for God’s glory.

    On the Other Side of the Wall

    The Wall always changes us. We can be bitter…or better. The Wall offers us an opportunity to move

    - From pride to brokenness and humility
    - From pleasure to appreciation and contentment
    - From impatience to patience, able to wait for God
    - From more to enough
    - From immaturity to maturity

    Grief & Loss

    When we get to the other side of The Wall, it’s tempting to ignore the grief and loss that often accompany such a journey. Adrian Rogers said that everything in life relates to sin, sorrow and death. How cheery! How true.


    All of life is about loss. We lose the safety of our mother’s womb, youth, dreams, control, illusions, and ultimately our health.

    Grief and loss are done differently in various cultures and families.

    Two-thirds of the Psalms deal with grief. They are called laments. The books of Job and Lamentations are also filled with grief and loss.

    Scripture has been called the music of God. Here’s one famous passage:

    There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance…(Ecclesiastes 3:1, 4)

    Perhaps you were told, “Big boys don’t cry.” Maybe you heard the message emotions should not be expressed. Those are clearly not biblical ideas. Perhaps nobody demonstrated His feelings—especially grief—like Jesus.

    Matthew 26:36-46

    I think many people find themselves in the midst of suffering and wonder where they can find God, how God could possibly understand their circumstances, how He could just watch those He says He loves go through such pain and agony. He understands…and He is with us…always.

    Jesus’ followers were shocked to see the Messiah suffer, but His agony was prophesied centuries earlier. The prophet Isaiah said:

    He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. (Isaiah 53:3)

    That’s our God! He is familiar with grief and suffering, loss and pain. One of the most vivid examples is found in the Garden of Gethsemane, a place you can visit today in Jerusalem.

    Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:36-38)

    Jesus knows sorrow.

    Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

    He pleads for Plan B. He wants to go over, under, or around this Wall. Luke records this moment by saying

    And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44)

    Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:40-41)

    Last week we noted the value of community, of support, of family. What do you do when those you need most aren’t there for you in your moment of greatest need?

    He went away a second time and prayed, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (Matthew 26:42)

    He asks again for Plan B!

    When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing. (Matthew 26:43-44)

    Three times He begs the Father for a shortcut, for another path. He’s all alone. Can you imagine?

    Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us go! Here comes my betrayer!” (Matthew 26:45-46)

    Jesus is depressed, distressed, and sorrowful. Can you relate? The book of Hebrews says:

    During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. (Hebrews 5:7)

    In the Garden Jesus falls to His face to the ground. He is prostrate on the ground. His sweat was like drops of blood (Luke 22:44). He is experiencing loss, preparing for the loss of His life and, even worse, the loss of His connection to the Father. He will become sin, taking our sins upon Himself. He will bear the wrath and judgment of a holy God. He will lose his friend Judas. He will lose the support of His followers who will abandon Him. His creation will crucify Him…all in the name of God!

    This is not an attractive image of the King of kings and LORD of lords!

    One element of the Scriptures that lends to their credibility is the raw, honest portrayals of the “heroes” of the Bible. The writers are never afraid to tell it like it is, warts and all!

    This is not happy, successful, popular, wealthy Jesus!

    This is our perfect model of what it means to be fully human.

    Reactions To Pain

    Divorce, death, breakups, failures, disappointments, shattered dreams, painful memories, and other forms of grief and loss invade our lives. Common reactions/defenses to grief and loss include

    - denial
    - minimizing (admitting something is wrong, but not acknowledging its impact)
    - blaming others (or God)
    - blaming yourself
    - rationalizing (offering excuses and justifications)
    - intellectualizing (analysis and theories to avoid personal awareness/feelings)
    - distracting
    - becoming hostile
    - medicating

    Many bury their pain of grief with addictions that are followed by guilt and shame as we lose control. It’s just like satan to tempt us into something, only to turn around and accuse us of the very action!


    These four letters together were not recognized until 1980 when the American Psychiatric Association added Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to the third of edition of its manual of mental disorders. Grief and loss—especially if not processed appropriately—can wreak havoc in our lives. Traumatic events can impact us beyond our ability to cope…and affect us long after the experience.

    Biblical Grieving

    I want to offer a few suggestions to those of you who are grieving.

    Pay attention

    Don’t live in denial. Jesus was very real in the Garden. He held nothing back. His emotional burden was so great it had physical manifestations as He sweat drops of blood.

    Wait in the confusing in-between (Ps. 37:7)

    No matter what grief and loss you may be experiencing today, tomorrow is a new day. The story is not over. It’s SO hard to wait—for anything—but we can take hope knowing God is in control.

    Embrace the gift of limits

    In addition to loss, we are faced with limits in our life. Limits in our life include

    • - physical body
    • - family of origin
    • - marital status
    • - intellectual capacity
    • - talents and gifts
    • - material wealth
    • - educational opportunities
    • - raw material (personality, temperament)
    • - time
    • - work
    • - relationship realities
    • - spiritual understanding
    • - ministry

    Many of us find limits frustrating, but they are part of God’s plan. They cause us to rely upon Him. Paul had a “thorn in the flesh” God refused to remove. Undoubtedly it was to keep him on his knees, dependent upon God. Remember, life is not about us, it’s about God’s glory. When we are weak, He is strong and gets the glory.

    Climb the ladder of humility

    The word humility comes from the Latin humus which means “of the earth.”

    In the sixth century, St. Benedict introduced the idea of a twelve-step ladder for growing in the grace of humility. Here’s a modified version of it:

    Step 8: Transformation into the Love of God (no sarcasm, arrogance; content)
    Step 7: Speaking Less (“The wise are known for their few words”)
    Step 6: Deeply Aware of Being “Chief of All Sinners” (recognize our sinfulness)
    Step 5: Radical Honesty to Others About Your Weaknesses/Faults (quit pretending)
    Step 4: Patience To Accept The Difficulty of Others
    Step 3: Willing To Subject Ourselves To The Direction of Others (surrender power)
    Step 2: Doing God’s Will (not your own or that of others)
    Step 1: Fear of God and Mindfulness of Him (He is present)

    Where are you at today? I’m working on Step 1! Humility is a rare virtue. Most of us struggle with pride, manifested through arrogance or insecurity. Humility is not thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less. When our focus is on Jesus, we don’t have to impress others, mask our emotions, or fear failure. We don’t even have to be “successful” in the eyes of the world. We simply have to be obedient and faithful to God, His Word, and His will.

    Listening To The Interruption

    Jesus doesn’t deny his grief. Why do so many Christians?

    Jesus is real and authentic. He feels. He expresses His emotions.

    He listens to the interruptions of His life.

    Have you ever felt so bad that you could just die? That’s how Jesus felt.

    This passage is difficult for some people who want Jesus the superhero. For the rest of us, it is reassuring that He understands our struggles and trials and agony.

    It is human to feel and hurt. Jesus understands…and He is with us through the Holy Spirit.


    The beauty of dying to ourselves is the opportunity to be resurrected in Christ. This is beautifully illustrated in the water grave of baptism.

    I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10-11)

    We continue to celebrate the Resurrection, not merely one day of the year but every day. Jesus’ story did not end in the garden or on the cross. Death always precedes resurrection and new life.

    Learning To Fall

    I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24)

    The trash of the grief may smell, but there are diamonds in the mess that God can use.

    When we listen to the interruption and learn to fall, our souls will enlarge.

    a. our self-will breaks

    Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered (Hebrews 5:8)

    Jesus had a human will. He was fully God but also fully human. His humanity did not want to obey the Father. He did not naturally obey the Father. He wanted out. He submitted His will to the Father’s will.

    Jesus prayed three times for the Father’s will.

    You learn obedience through the struggle of grief.

    You lose control at the wall (last week’s message).

    Life is more than a series of problems we need to solve. Life is a mystery.

    b. we learn about prayer

    Prayer is the center of our life with Christ. David, Job, Jeremiah, Jesus grieved with God through prayer.

    c. we create space for God

    In emptying ourselves, we make room for more of God. When we give up control, we can lean into God.

    Questions for Discussion

    What does this text tell us about God?

    What does this text tell us about ourselves?

    What significant losses/disappointments did you experience

    • - when you were age 3-12?
    • - as a teenager?
    • - as a young adult?
    • - as an adult?

    How did you respond to each?

    How did your family deal with grief and loss when you were growing up?

    Share one recent loss in your life. How has it affected you?

    After leaving everything to follow Jesus, how did Peter react to Jesus’ shocking prediction in Matthew 26:31-36?

    What are some of the reasons that Jesus is “overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” in Matthew 26:38-44?

    How does He deal with grief and loss?

    Which of the common defenses do you use to protect yourself from grief and loss?

    The central message of Christianity is that death and suffering bring resurrection and new life. How have you experienced this? Be specific.

  • Credits and Stuff

    Unless otherwise noted, Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. All rights reserved.

    Series outline and ideas from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero (Thomas Nelson, 2006).

    Some study questions from Lyman Coleman (
    The Serendipity Bible and The Serendipity Student Bible). Used with permission from the author.

    Other study questions from
    Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Workbook by Peter Scazzero (Center for Emotionally Healthy Spirituality, 2007).

  • You can listen to this message and others at the First Alliance Church podcast here.
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