Sunday, June 29, 2008

Two Minutes Under The Fig Tree

**I know this looks long, but it’s worth the read!! The sermon was awesome!!**

Last Friday, Chad and several others left for a mission trip to Guatemala (all prayers for the team, and for the people of that country, are greatly appreciated!). Therefore, someone else got to preach today. That someone was Tony Chaney. Some of you may remember that he used to be one of our lead pastors (and our youth pastor) before he was called to serve elsewhere. He is also the father of Haley Chaney; whom you may remember as the one I was requesting prayers for a few months ago. Haley was in a really bad car accident and had severe injuries (especially to her brain). Though, I am proud to report that Haley is doing phenomenally well!! (PRAISE GOD!!). I even seen her for the first time when I was in the prayer room a few weeks ago. When I saw her, I just hugged her as the tears of awe and joy flowed like rivers down my cheeks. I then took a step back just so I could look at that beautiful smiling face of hers which radiated with the light of Jesus. To see her, and all God has done in her, just blew me away as I beheld the glory of God‘s goodness. I couldn’t help but feel like I had just hugged a walking miracle. If you want to read and see for yourself just how far she has come, check out her online care page (free registration is required in order to view).

Anyways, Tony began the sermon by expressing his immense gratitude for all God has done, and for all the church (and the community) has done to help support his family Thank you to everyone who has prayed for Haley. Your continued prayers are appreciated!

It was so nice to see and hear Tony preach again. He has always had a special gift for communicating God’s truth in such a loving, peaceful, and gentle manner. God’s living water just flows effortlessly from him, and I am one among the many who were just overjoyed and blessed by his sermon today!! I STRONGLY recommend hearing it for yourself when it’s uploaded on the church website!!

The text Tony used comes from John 1:43-51 which reads:

43The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, "Follow me."

44Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida.

45Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph."

46"Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?" Nathanael asked. "Come and see," said Philip.

47When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false."

48"How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you."

49Then Nathanael declared, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel."

50Jesus said, "You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that."

51He then added, "I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

Tony explained this scripture the way that he often does - through his real life experiences. He talked about how he has a “fig tree” just like Nathanael; a place where he goes to get quiet and alone with God. He said that back in April, when he was sitting and praying in his favorite chair, he felt his chair move. He waited to see if it would happen again; it did! He said that the walls seemed to shake as well as everything around him. He realized that he had just experienced a mild earthquake (my fellow Hoosiers might remember this; though I didn’t experience it because I was in South Carolina at the time). He said that because he was quiet, still, and aware, he was able to experience those tremors that rose up from deep within the earth. He said since it was so early in the morning, many people probably slept right through it and didn’t even notice. He expressed his awe at being able to experience that little display of power because it reminded him of how God’s powerful tremors flow directly to us. If we are still, quiet, and open to it, we will notice and experience that power from God. But, if we don’t take the time to have those quiet moments with Him, we are going to miss it!!

That story really resonated with me. It was exactly what I needed to hear because I have always struggled with having quiet and still moments. Though, I have had a friend that has been gently urging me to take just two minutes a day to be still and quiet. No distractions or noises, just two simple minutes to think about absolutely nothing and experience peace and rest. She told me that I would learn to enjoy the quiet more and more and work my way up to longer periods of time. She’s right. I am learning to enjoy it The more I relax in the quiet stillness of God, the more wisdom, understanding, peace, etc. I receive from Him. If I learn how to hear God’s whispers in the stillness first, I will be better able to hear His “still small voice” speak to me in midst of all the noise in my every-day life.

This blessed stillness is what Nathanael had likely been experiencing while under that fig tree. The fig tree was probably his quiet place where he could get alone with God and pray. He might have even been praying about the arrival of the Messiah. During that time period, everyone was anxiously watching and waiting for the Messiah to come. So, Nathanael should have been overjoyed when Philip came to tell him that the one they had been waiting for had been found. However, this wasn’t the case. His immediate reaction was “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nazareth’s reputation wasn’t very good, and so, Nathanael had his doubts. Nazareth wasn’t the kind of place he expected the Messiah to come from. Little did he know that his perspective was about to change!

Nathanael’s doubts were put to rest when Jesus encouraged him with the fact that he knew who he was and that he walking in truth. Nathanael asked, “How do you know me?” Jesus told him that He had seen him while he was STILL under the fig tree. It was right after Jesus said those words that Nathanael openly declared Jesus as the Son of God.

That’s a pretty big change isn’t it? What was it about Jesus’ reply that instantly broke Nathanael and assured him of who Jesus was? It was the fact that Jesus KNEW him and KNEW about his stillness in that quiet place. Who else but the Son of God would know about what he was doing under the fig tree?

Because of Nathanael’s quiet moments, he was able to see God’s revelations. If he didn’t have those timeouts from his busy days, he likely would have missed the things that God was trying to show him.

Tony illustrated that concept with yet another story. It was about how his wife and Haley had gone out to eat after Haley’s rehabilitative therapy. He said that Haley had noticed an older couple praying over their meal at the restaurant. She pointed it out to her Mom who instantly had a prompting from God that she should pay for their meal. Tony said that she wrestled with it for a while, but finally decided that she would obey. She told the waiter to give her the bill, and he seemed surprised. He asked if she knew them and she said no. He seemed perplexed, but he gave her the bill and she paid it. Then, when they were going to pay for their own, he asked her what made her do what she did. Angie’s simple response: “God.” The waiter was clearly amazed. I’m sure that gave him something to ponder for a while!

Next, Tony said a waitress came over to Angie. Apparently, she had been watching them and she said she felt she should give Angie a necklace that she had made (which she was wearing). She took it off and put it around Angie’s neck. Angie asked her why she would do that and amazingly, the waitress had the same answer: “God.”

Tony said that through that experience, Angie felt like God was showing her that listening and being obedient brings God’s blessings. He showed her that He was in control and taking care of her. Isn’t that amazing?

Think about all the lives that were touched because of those simple acts of obedience. God only knows what effects those actions had on that couple or that waiter! Think about how the quiet moments in our own “fig tree” places condition us to listen to God. We learn how to be aware of the opportunities He brings our way when we are sensitive and open to His voice. When we are quiet in His stillness, we learn to hear the whisper and can then hear it even amongst all the noise in our every day lives.

Tony asked us to close our eyes and think of our own “fig tree.” Even if we don’t have a special chair or place, our fig tree can be anywhere we are because God is always there. Like the song we sang today “you never let go….through the calm and through the storms….” We never have to reach very far to be with Jesus because He is already there; already holding us because HE NEVER LETS GO! We may let go of Him, but He NEVER LETS GO OF US!!!

Experience Jesus in your own “fig tree moments” this week; whether in a special place of solitude or even in the midst of waiting in line at the grocery store, doctor‘s office, etc. If quiet is sometimes hard for you, like it is for me, do what my friend suggests and start with just two minutes. Can you spare a mere two minutes of silence per day to just be still, quiet, and put everything out of your mind? Two minutes; that’s all. Think of nothing else but the peace and tranquility of God that fills your heart as you take time to “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10). Be still. Be quiet. Just “be.” Just two minutes under the fig tree. Just you wait and see how it makes a difference in your day (and in your life!). Like Nathanael was told that he would see even greater things, so will you!! Just wait and see. Wait…….and see!!!

I pray that all of us will have lots of “fig tree” moments this week (and every week)!! May we all learn, grow, and build from those two minutes!! May our time under the fig tree increase as we learn to cherish those blessed moments of stillness!! Grace and peace to all of you….today, tomorrow, and always!! God bless you all!!

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