Hi everyone, it’s Mick here; with my wife Tricia we have the great privilege of leading STC Sheffield. Happy New Year and welcome to the first Podcast of 2020! Last September we began our reflections on how the early church grew by considering the story of Acts and then continuing with the letters of Paul to see how we as individuals and a church family can be encouraged and challenged through these bible passages as we journey through life as disciples of Jesus and pray for STC to grow!
Next week we will hear Liam who leads our Youth Church at STC with his reflections on the letter to the Philippians so do make sure you tune in. This week, we begin our new year by looking again at our Vision 2020; a reminder that as a church family we would look to invite others this year to Join Us for the Better Life’ and each day this week we will focus on a key foundation of this Better Life Jesus calls us to.
The General Election is over, hooray! – it was an exhausting time for everyone! Politicians of all persuasion spent time, effort and considerable amounts of money trying to convince us that their policies, their political ideology, their plan for the future was the one which would give us all ‘the better life’. The matter is now settled for five years – one side won this argument, the others didn’t. Practically all the arguments and political rhetoric equated this ‘better life’ to greater prosperity – in other words ‘better’ means ‘more’ which usually equals money! But the question I never heard asked was this – what if this ‘better life’ was more than prosperity and money? What if this ‘better life’ was more about a fully lived, holistic life in body, mind and spirit? Recognising the good things in my life; being content with what I have and not striving for more. Being at peace with who I am and so enabling me to face the challenges of life with confidence, receive the blessings of life with thankfulness and empowering me to play my small part in restoring and healing our society. Wow … a big call Mick; is this really possible?
It’s not wrong to want more out of life; to live a happy, healthy, joyful, good & abundant life. Jesus speaks constantly about this better life in the gospels and goes on to explain how we receive it into our lives. Listen again to Jesus’ words in the Great Sermon he preached on a hillside 2000 years ago – the Sermon on the Mount
Matthew 6:30-34 MSG
[30-33] … What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.  Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes. …
Jesus’ words are amazing, they are full of ‘invitation and challenge’ – he says ‘here are my words of life, now put them into practice!’ Jesus’ words to us are so clear, but the standards he sets seem impossibly high! However, the Bible reminds us time and time again that nothing is too hard for Jesus. Over these past days we have heard many times in the Christmas story the words of the angel to Mary that ‘nothing is impossible with God’. By all means let’s plan ahead, but let us never worry ahead! Faith is always the antidote to worry. As the missionary Corrie ten Boom said: ‘Worry does not empty tomorrow of sorrow; but it empties today of strength.’
We spend so much time worrying about things don’t we? our families, our finances, our health, our futures. It’s hard not to worry, it’s part of our human condition. So can you live Jesus’ ‘better life’ and still experience worry? I have been a Christian many years and I still have times when I worry, when I experience anxiety – usually about family or health, but strangely, even on a vicar’s stipend, very rarely about money! Over many years of following Jesus I have come to this conclusion; the answer to worry is consistently living a lifestyle of faith – a lifestyle whose building blocks are prayer, the bible, worship, Godly community and then living out the ‘better life’ of Jesus every day in small ways through simple acts of kindness, generosity, encouragement and hospitality. This enables us to trust God in all things, trust that he hears our prayers and trust that he will act.
What amazing promises Jesus makes to you and me; he says that as we commit to him and follow him daily we will never ‘miss out’ on anything; indeed we get everything, the whole Godly package – the full and better life. As the years go by Tricia and I are more convinced than ever that Jesus Christ IS this ‘better life!’ This is going to be an immense year at STC – as we step out in faith and begin trust Jesus more and more we will see his ‘better life’ bubble up within us and overflow out to our families, our neighbours, our friends and colleagues. This really is going to be an amazing year!
Lord Jesus, as we focus on you and the Better Life you offer, encourage and challenge us that we may ‘love you more dearly and follow you more nearly’ this New Year. Amen
BIBLE READING: Matthew 6:30-34 MSG
What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.