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Imagine

• Greg Boyd

How does a person keep their faith when facing an unfixable situation? In this sermon, Greg speaks to the question by examining his family’s own struggle with having an adult son with autism. Knowing that he can’t fix the problem, Greg describes how his vision of the solution provides a solid foundation for faith.

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As Hebrews states, faith is the substance of anticipated things, the conviction about things not yet visible. Faith becomes a type of vision that we have about the future. John Lennon had faith. A faith that saw a world that was free from wars, religion, and countries. As Christians, we have faith in Jesus that points towards a future free from wars, religion, countries, pain, sin, suffering, and death. However, the question that remains is this: how do we keep the faith when we face an unfixable situation?

Nothing determines the quality or direction of life than the faith one holds. For a parent of an autistic child, it can be extremely difficult to have faith when seeing that child struggle with life and become angry, frustrated, and depressed. It becomes infuriating, frustrating, and sad for parents to watch. This process of living life while facing an unfixable situation causes massive grief for all involved. What then, in the middle of that grief, does faith look like?

It can be easy to give up when facing unfixable situations. It can be easy to become cynical and angry when facing unfixable situations. Yet, God calls us to have peace and gentleness. There are essentially two outcomes when facing a difficult situation—a person either can follow in faith or a person becomes angry, bitter, and hostile towards this world. As Christians, to follow in faith, is to remember the story that we live in.

Whenever an unfixable situation comes up, it is natural for people to picture the consequences of that situation. This is especially true around election time when it seems that one half of the country is preparing for heaven and the other half is preparing for Armageddon, only to reverse roles when the next election comes around. The way to keep faith in an unfixable situation is to remember the story that God has promised to us. We must picture the world the way that God sees it, and not the way that we might see it.
God paints us a vivid picture of the future. There won’t be nationalistic tendencies that lead to wars between nations. There won’t be a lack of food for anyone. There won’t be sickness, despair, or death. Yet, when facing our situations in life, we sometimes get sidetracked and begin to see the future as something that is dark and dreadful. A parent can begin to see no hope in the future when their child has autism, and they can miss the mark of where the future is headed.

This vision that God gives us of the future is central to our faith. To hold faith during difficult times, we must remind ourselves over and over again of where God is taking us. Regardless of cancer, disease, war, famine, and depression, we have a God who is lovingly guiding us to the promised land of a new heaven and new earth where no more tears will fall. We must imagine what that looks like when we stare at the ugliness of this world. Instead of imagining what the future looks like because of the ugliness, we imagine what the world looks like in spite of the ugliness.

We imagine the world as God says it will be. We must imagine ourselves as the image of our loving God. Imagining this God who came to earth out of love, forgave us in our sinfulness, restored us, and defeated the evil forces of this earth—only then will we find faith. We imagine the fulfillment when everything will be purposed harmoniously under Christ. This harmony will have no more wars, no more famine, no more autism, and no more death. Living in this Kingdom story is the only way to keep faith when facing an unfixable situation. We keep pursuing no more wars, no more disease, and fixes to the problem of this world, but we aren’t discouraged by the results that we might find. We aren’t discouraged because God has already set in the motion the ultimate fixing of this Universe.

Faith is the substance of anticipated things, the conviction about things not yet visible. We only need to look around a short while to see that the world can be an ugly, disheartening place. It is easy to be fearful, disheartened, and angry. Frustration is the name of the game when trying to change this world. Yet, there is hope in the story that God says will come true. When we put our focus and heart into that story, we can have faith in the midst of the unfixable world we live in. We imagine this world the way God is going to rebuild and redeem it. We imagine and have faith.

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Topics: Faith, Hope, Pain & Suffering

Sermon Series: Faith and Doubt


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Focus Scripture:

  • Hebrews 11:1

    Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

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19 thoughts on “Imagine

    Anke says: Tuesday February 8, 2011 at 1:11 am

    This sermon was very much what I needed to hear at this time. I have a progressive neuromuscular sickness for which I have had much prayer and intercession, but over time have (had to!) come to a place of acceptance and trust that, “Thou God seest me” (Gen.16:13). I was however recently confronted by a well-meaning Christian who assumed my attitude to be a lack of faith for healing and that I was giving up on the “quest”. All this did cause me some battles, but Greg’s sermon very much helped to clarify and encourage – thank you so much.

    Reply
    Rick Nelson says: Tuesday February 8, 2011 at 1:42 pm

    Anke,

    You reminded me of the Beatitudes:

    http://nasb.scripturetext.com/matthew/5.htm

    I also thought about the Holy Spirit and found this:

    http://nasb.scripturetext.com/john/14.htm

    I believe the Spirit is with you Anke, and me, and Woodland Hills. We have the gift to imagine, be lifted by the Spirit and be at peace.

    This to me comes without strings, no guilt complex, we can live by faith in an all encompassing love.

    Reply
    Ann Thakkar says: Tuesday February 8, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    I do not know where I would be without the honesty, integrity, and faithfulness of Greg’s teaching. How badly I need to know that the Lord is able (and willing!) to handle the difficult realities that life has asked many of us to face. I have personally needed to hear, over and over and over again that no matter what happens Jesus always speaks the truth. He is present. He knows. He grieves with me and welcomes me no matter the state of my heart. He can handle it….He can handle me. Thank you Greg, again.

    Reply
    Nicole says: Tuesday February 8, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    It warms my heart so much to hear Greg ‘s opinion of John Lennon. I have long believed that The Beatles as a group and as individuals had a direct line to God, that would be through their faith; I think they all had that. They may not have expressed it through Christianity but I think they just needed to have a personal experience of God which they didn’t have – at least not through the conventional Christian ways. I think they did know God through their own spirits and talents, they just didn’t give God the credit for what they had. Maybe they didn’t know how to do that. But Paul now sings about Jesus which gives me a huge thrill!

    I so love listening to Greg!

    Reply
    Lilly says: Tuesday February 8, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    I remember watching the small, seemingly insignificant, basket of a relative’s ashes disperse on the waves as he was buried at sea. It was his belief that in death he was nothing–annihilation. Without a hope for his future, life seemed meaningless.

    With the pain and suffering in this world, how else could anyone have hope except in Christ. This issue–suffering– is, I believe, the major stumbling block to faith; but concrete faith, faith that is not pie in the sky but Spirit-infused imagining, grounded in what is true, gives the world-weary a hope for a future with God and hope and purpose in a broken and floundering world.

    I appreciate the tender vulnerability of Greg’s personal story. There are many who share similar pains and benefit from a message that is real and not just theoretical. Thanks.

    Reply
    Jean says: Friday February 11, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    God’s delay is not God’s denial.

    Reply
    Anne Scott says: Saturday February 12, 2011 at 8:44 am

    Greg, weeping over the “unfixable” world reminds me of Jesus weeping over Jerusalem…”blessed are those who mourn…”

    Just two days ago, I was finally faced with the reality of my “unfixable” relationship with my one and only adult son having sought reconcilliation with him for over 20 years.

    I thank Greg for reminding me that Jesus is our only true Consolation and our Hope in this life and in the next..

    I believe that these are the final days spoken of in the Bible when men and women who are true “sons” will weep over the land, their cities and their children…for the days are short…The Son of man is coming soon.

    Reply
    holly says: Sunday February 13, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    I was thinking about the sermon and thought of an analogy for dealing with the difficulties in unfixable situations. It is like when a loved on is suffering from chicken pox, or the flu. You KNOW that they will recover/be healed, and by knowing that you can put the pain and suffering into a more tolerable perspective. It doesn’t mean that the fever, throwing up, achy muscles, etc. aren’t happening and aren’t AWFUL, but you KNOW that they will recover and you go on with life and plans with that loved one based on knowing they will not always feel as they do at the moment they are ill. I’m reminded of a sermon of yours Greg, long ago when you talked about MUONS, and the significance of a fraction of a second to a Muon as compared a fraction of a second to a human. Your analogy may be applicable to the unfixable situations we deal with. What makes them so difficult may be that they last so long! It’s harder to deal with suffering when they last for long periods of time. But maybe it just seems long because we are more like muons compared to God’s time. Regardless, we know that God’s healing is the final outcome and so doing our best to make the best of a seemingly unfixable situation is really desirable. Like making chicken soup for our loved one with the flu, and doing whatever we can to alleviate some of the discomfort.

    Reply
    Michelle says: Monday February 14, 2011 at 10:42 pm

    Just like there is a fine line between contentment & complacency, there is a fine line between realism & pessimism. Peace & growth will come from the acceptance of reality. Approach situations without expectations. Do the best with what you are presented with & take comfort in it. That is all we can do. Then the beauty presents itself! 🙂

    Reply
    Greg says: Friday February 18, 2011 at 1:23 pm

    Had to watch this again. I so much want to fix things that are unfixable. But I will keep letting go because God won’t put anything into my hands if they are full of my worries. I also came across this quote; “God is giving us a strong incentive to anticipate heaven. He wants us to dream about heaven and do some spiritual salivating to keep heaven as our ultimate goal.” – Lynn Bradley

    I will strive to imagine. 🙂 G

    Reply
    Harlen says: Wednesday March 16, 2011 at 7:52 pm

    I was reminded of a quote from Karl Rahner, one of the most influential Roman Catholic theologians of the 20th century. He said, “What is grace but that man can stand in the face of incomprehensibility.”

    Reply
    kate says: Tuesday March 29, 2011 at 7:56 am

    I feel really hopeless after listening to this sermon. I dont believe that god would want us to just ‘put up’ with our situations/circumstances, with the hope of heaven as our goal. I suffer from mental health problems/ depression and the thought of being healed is my only hope, and the reason i get through each day. Although to greg, his son maybe unfixable (in his way of thinking) god is big enough to give gregs son whatever he needs to make his life a fulfilled one.He is not unfixable for god! I dont believe for one minute that god wants us just to accept our lot and struggle on through this life being unhappy until its our time to go to heaven.

    Reply
    Greg Boyd says: Wednesday March 30, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    Hi Kate,
    I’m sorry the message left you feeling hopeless. My goal was exactly the opposite! I certainly don’t want you or anyone to just “accept their lot” and be “unhappy until its our time to go to heaven.” But sometimes the way we find joy is by accepting rather than constantly trying to change our circumstances. We need to always be seeking God for wisdom to know what we should try to change and what we should accept as “unfixable.” I guess it comes down the whole serenity prayer thing: “Lord give me the courage to change what I can change, the serenity to accept what I cannot, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

    Reply
    kate says: Thursday March 31, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    Thanks for replying greg, i think i was a bit hasty in writing that comment. i’ve had a few days to think about it and your reply has really helped too. thankyou

    Reply
    Shawn Gardner says: Saturday April 16, 2011 at 10:54 pm

    Oh Greg! My wife and I love you so much and are so blessed by Lord’s use of your life. We have a son (Caleb) who suffered anoxia while we served as missionaries in Mozambique and he is quite brain damaged as a result. Nearly four years into this it continues to be an enormous adjustment. This message obviously deeply touched us. My wife especially can identify with Shelley. It was soon after Caleb’s tragedy that we found you on the internet. The Lord has used your writing and speaking to minister to us throughout these years. Praying for you and Shelley. Come Lord Jesus! Come!

    Reply
    Greg Boyd says: Monday April 18, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Shawn, I’m honored to be used to impact you and your wife in a kingdom way. It’s pure genius the way God uses our pain — when we are open with it — to minister to others in pain. It’s probably true of every kind of pain, but only those who have children with special needs can fully understand the unique challenges it presents — AND the uniquely beautiful way God can work within these challenges.

    Stay centered in his love!

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    Joy says: Monday June 13, 2011 at 12:54 pm

    Our 3-year-old has special needs and this message spoke to my heart in February at church. I needed to hear it again today. Thank God for archives!

    What a deep comfort, and also a gracious preparation that we will continue to grieve throughtout our son’s life.

    Reply

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