To Bear Or Not To Bear
Believe or not, Preaching has become a science of how to’s and what not to do’s. Textbook after textbook has been written to help a person be effective in their delivery of a message. There are professionals who do nothing else other than teach people how to preach. They call those people homileticians. The study of preaching is called homiletics.
Just like that of any other profession, there are do’s and don’ts of the profession. One of the don’ts of preaching is to never preach something of which you are emotionally attached. Don’t preach off of emotion. Another rule is to never preach in reaction to an event that has happened. That is called reactionary preaching. The thought is that if a person preaches out of emotion or in reaction to something, the message will be self‑serving and lack rational thought. This may be true, but today I am going to disregard those rules for my sake and for your sake. Let me explain.
It will be for my sake because I do have a personal agenda, but my agenda directly affects your lives. It will also be for your sake because it is a scriptural lesson that we all need to adhere to. Today’s message is about bearing one another’s burdens. I felt I could not honestly stand before you and ask you to allow me or others to bear your burdens if I did not give you the opportunity to bear my burdens.
Last week, while at home, I was able to see my sister’s two little boys. I think they are 4 or 5 and 2 years old. They were staying at my mother’s house while my sister was working at a nearby hospital. One night I was over there because I wanted to spend a little time with all the family. One of the little boys had just come in from playing outside. He had a splinter in his finger and it was sore. He wanted his moma to take the pain away from him. So she looked at his hand and told him he had a splinter and that was why his finger was hurting. He didn’t know anything about a splinter, he just knew his finger was hurting. So my sister got her splinter removing equipment together and proceeded to remove the splinter. After a lengthy and delicate operation the splinter was removed. But little DJ couldn’t understand why his finger still hurt.
His mother told him that it would take a bath and a nights sleep for it quit hurting. Next thing we know DJ is off to wash his hands, again and again and again. He wanted the pain to go away. Before I knew it he was in my lap showing me his wound and explaining to me he had a splinter. Before leaving my lap he asked me to do a very important thing. With the most sincerity in his eyes and the most truth spilling forth from his heart, he asked me to kiss it and make it better. Who could refuse such an important invitation as that, an invitation to bear his pain?
You see, at even such a young age, it is important to be able to lean on those people around you and ask for assistance. He can’t even read or write. He can barely speak full sentences. Yet he has this inherent ability to know that other people can help him. He knows that he doesn’t have to bear the burden of a sore finger alone. He knows that those people around him are willing to make it all better. Kiss it and make it better. What an innocent way to ask for help.
With as much sincerity and truth that I can muster forth from my inner being I stand before you asking you to bear my burden. I have really been wrestling with something lately. The last four weeks or so have really been difficult for me. Some of that difficulty can be attributed to the fact that I have been sick. Some of that difficulty can be attributed to the fact that a lot of assignments have been due at school. And still some of my difficulty could be related to the fact that we are in the Holiday Season and though many people gain a spirit of joy during this season, some people get a spirit of loneliness. At any rate, I have been struggling lately. To give you an idea let me read you an excerpt from a letter I recently wrote to a friend.
I wrote it to a friend of mine that has served as kind of like a mother to me for the last 3 1/2 years. I wrote:
I really miss you. I miss your family. I miss your motherly talks. I miss asking Brad so many questions about church and life. I miss all my friends. I feel like life is passing me by. I am miserable up here.
I really love the church and I love the people in the church. I really love preaching and I love the ministry I have. But I am in dire need of friends and companionship.
Usually when I pray about my anxieties, God gives me peace. But my anxiety is getting worse. I have prayed earnestly and often, yet I don’t feel better about the situation. I feel burdened for this church and these wonderful people. They really need and deserve a good minister. But I can’t stand feeling so lonely. I am really confused!
Well, I said it. Please know that I am not looking for your pity or your sympathy. I need you to help me carry this burden. I need you to pray for me. When I am weak, I need for you to be strong. It is a biblical principle, one that we all need to learn. One that I think we all fall short in doing. As I said earlier, I could not honestly stand before you and ask you to allow me or others to help bear your burdens if I was not able to give you the opportunity to bear mine. You know my burden, now I want to know yours.
Sometimes I preach certain topics to help people. Sometimes I preach certain topics because there may be a problem. Usually my sermons don’t purposely try to step on toes, but today’s sermon will. I want to step on your toes. I want the Holy Spirit to convict you and transform you. We need to allow other people to get close enough to us to help us bear our burdens.
I have been somewhat disturbed since starting my ministry here by the lack of communication you have in times of need or sickness. On the one hand you are all very caring and loving and will do anything you can to help someone else in need. You have gone out of your way to make me feel at home. You have helped me in ways I never would have expected you to help. On the other hand you don’t want anyone to know when you are in need. You don’t tell anyone when you are sick and if you do tell someone you ask them not to tell anyone else. Some of you have had surgery and been in the hospital, and I was the last to find out. Some of you have been sick and didn’t want anyone to know. Some of you have needs, but don’t want anyone else to know about it.
What is the problem? Who are you putting out? It blows my mind to think some of you have been in the hospital and didn’t want anyone else to know it. Why? You say you don’t want to bother anyone. You don’t want anyone to go out of their way. That is nothing more or less than foolish pride. We know that foolish pride is a sin. When you fail to let others help you, you are failing to do what the bible says. The bible is clear on this topic. I want you to know that as an adult you have the prerogative to decide what you want others to know, but I also want you to know that your decision is not biblical. Let me show you:
Galatians 6:2 says, “carry each others burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”
We fulfill the law of Christ when we carry each others burdens. That is what being a part of the body is all about. We are all connected, like it or not. If one part of the body is weak then the whole body is affected. That is how it goes. We can’t carry the burden if the burden isn’t made known.
Romans 15:1 says, “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.”
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak. Not only does this say we need to help the weaker brother or sister out, it indirectly implies that someone is weak. Why else would there be a rule about helping the weaker person if there weren’t any weaker people? And we don’t help the weaker person to please ourselves. We don’t do it to rub it in or show how good we are and how weak the other person is. We help the weaker person because that is how we are obedient to Christ. We fulfill the law of Christ when we carry the burden of another person. It is part of the nature of a Christian. But this command presumes that the burden is known. When you withhold your needs from the body, you don’t allow the body to function properly.
II Cor. 12:9‑10 says, “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weakness’, so that Christ’ power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness’, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
One way God’s providence is worked out here on earth is through people. God uses one person to be a blessing to another. The rich give to the poor. Those who rejoice help those who mourn. Those who are strong help those who are weak. That is God’s plan. God’s grace is made perfect in us when we are weak. There is nothing wrong with being weak. There is nothing wrong with being tempted. There is nothing wrong with being sick. There is nothing wrong with having to go to the hospital. There is absolutely nothing wrong with having to ask someone for help. That is how God works. He works through one person to bless another.
Paul said we should boast and delight in our weakness, because that is when Christ’s power is all the more at work in us.
I Thess. 5:14 says, “And we urge you brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone.”
We are commanded to help the weak. We cant help if we don’t know. I cant fulfill my ministry if I don’t know that you need help. We cant pray for you if we don’t know your need. We cant help each other unless we know who needs help. The body is not functioning properly when one part of it is weak and the other parts are unable to help it out. The body becomes dysfunctional. There is no need for that.
I Cor. 10:13 says, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”
When you are tempted, not just with sin, but with anything that causes you to be weak, he will provide you with a way so that you can stand up under it. Nine times out of ten God uses others to help us do that. Two, three, four or more people can carry a load a lot easier than one person can. God is waiting to help you, but your pride is stopping you from asking for help. I forget the verse, but if says “you do not have because you do not ask.” I don’t have ESP, I can’t read minds. I don’t know that you are in need unless you tell me.
Colossians 3:12‑13 says, “Therefore as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the lord forgave you.”
Bear with each other. Again, this assumes that there will be something to bear. We are God’s chosen people. We are holy and dearly loved by God. He doesn’t want to see us weak. He doesn’t want to see us not caring for one another. We will all fall short at times. We will all be in need at some time or another. It is expected.
I can keep going with countless examples of this in scripture. The early church was eager to help each other out. They would all sell everything they owned so that everything would be distributed evenly among them. They wanted everyone to be equal. They went out of their way to make sure that there wasn’t one person in need. And it wasn’t just about being in need of money.
If a person was having a problem with sin, they helped that person out. If a person was having a problem with another person, they tried to make the situation right. If a person was sick they helped that person get better. No one was left to fight their battles alone. They were a community of people who had everything in common. We have been called to that same kind of community.
The only thing we are called to bear as Christians is the cross. We are also called to bear fruit. But no where in the bible can I find a place where we are called to bear our burdens alone. What is also true is that we aren’t called to bear the cross alone either. We were given the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us bear the cross. We were also given the Holy Spirit to help us bear fruit. We are never called to stand alone. Never called to stand alone.! Why in the world do we try so hard to do so then? Why do we insist that we can handle it? And why do we decide that we just don’t need to bother anyone? No one is bothered.
I will be the first to tell you it is hard to be vulnerable. The world has programmed us to keep it to ourselves. The world has programmed us, not Christ. It takes a humble spirit to make yourself vulnerable, but it is necessary. Paul has this same discussion with the Corinthians in II Corinthians 6:11ff. Which side of this discussion are you on?
“We have spoken freely to you,. Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange I speak as to my children, open wide your hearts also.”
It wasn’t easy for them either. They had a hard time revealing their hearts to Paul. I have a hard time revealing my heart to people too, but I know that it is necessary and it is part of our growth as children of God.
Paul knew how to say, “You are important to me, I love you.” Paul wasn’t afraid to make himself vulnerable and open himself up to being hurt. But I was just as afraid as many of you are. I probably shouldn’t have said a word to you about my struggles. I have now opened myself up to your judgment. We all have fears though. But it is difficult to fight off our pride. We need to learn to swallow our pride and reveal ourselves to other people. That is as much a biblical principle as love God and love neighbor.
Please hear me. I didn’t get up here this morning to draw attention to myself. This sermon isn’t about my problems. This sermon isn’t about your individual problems either. This sermon is about us. Everybody in this room makes up us. We are us. This sermon is about us. This sermon is about the people of God. We are those people. We are called to live together as a unit, not as individuals. Sure, we all have separate lives, but we are all still connected. We are all still apart of the same world, joined together by one spirit and one body.
Tear down those walls of pride. Take off those masks that you all wear: “Everything is great. Everything is wonderful, don’t worry about me.” And in the back of your mind you are scared to death because your doctor is concerned about some tests he ran on you. You are worried about a certain situation in your life. Things have been badly lately, but hey everything is wonderful. . . bull hockey.
If you are sick, I want to hear about, and before you get better. And although I don’t have to reveal what it is that is wrong with you, you just better expect that I will ask the church to pray for you.
If you are going to the hospital or the doctor for any reason what so ever, I want to hear about, before you go, not after the fact. And you can expect that I will ask the church to pray for you. That doesn’t mean that they have to know all the details, but at least as a church we can all rally behind you.
If its nothing serious then we can all rejoice with you that your health is good. If it is serious then we can all rally behind you asking God’s help and doing whatever we can to help the situation be better.
If you have a certain sin in your life that is holding you captive, I want to hear about it. I want to try to help you out in any way possible. That doesn’t mean that I will always be able to help, but it does mean that you will never have to fight against sin alone. And you can expect that I will ask the church to pray for you. It doesn’t mean I am going to tell them all, it just means that as a congregation we can lift you up in prayer.
If you have any need what so ever, I want to hear about it. It doesn’t mean that I can fulfill that need, but at least I can share your burden. At least I can pray for God’s help. And you can expect that I will ask the church to pray for you. It doesn’t mean that they have to know everything. But we have to hold one another up. We have to be a whole body.
God did not intend for us to be burdened. He did not intend for us to stand alone. We are a body. We are a unit. Bear each others burdens. Why want you respond to the invitation?:
“Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”