by Emily Sharp
“Church is hard, when you have to wait upon the Lord”
Hi everyone in the St. James family! I have changed my original sermon a little bit to include current events. I am filming from my car because I have had to quarantine myself and my family. I work at a school that has students that are suspected to have the Coronavirus. I may have come into contact with the student at the elementary level, so for the safety of the community, I am following the suggestions of the CDC.
I want to thank Pastor Mike and Pastor Andrew and any administration involved in the decision to close the church. I know it must have been a very difficult decision. I believe they are setting a good example for us to follow in order to slow the spread of the illness.
My sermon today is called, “Church is hard when… you have to wait upon the Lord.”
Together, as a nation, we must wait to find out how widespread and serious this illness will become. Many of us, including myself, are trying to remain calm and prayerful as we wait upon the Lord during this time. Even if we are not concerned for ourselves, many of us are thinking of extended family members that could possibly be at a higher risk for complications.
This time of waiting reminds me of all of the times in my life that I have had to wait upon the Lord. I thought that I might share those experiences with you. It is my hope that your faith may be strengthened in knowing my faith journey. These waiting periods are the times in my life when God has truly revealed himself and his love to me.
In my early 20s, I doubted God’s existence. I went far away from the Father, much like the prodigal son. Early adulthood was exhilarating and I enjoyed the freedom of making my own decisions. I did not want to be told by anyone what to do or how to do it. I made some really bad choices and went pulled away from God. The farther away I got, the more I knew I needed to return home. However, I was afraid that I had passed a point of no return. Even if God existed, I thought my sins were too egregious to be forgiven. I prayed that if God was real, that he would reveal himself to me in a way that would be undeniable to me that he existed. I prayed that prayer and then I waited upon the Lord.
God did reveal himself to me. He spoke to me directly through a sermon that was so specific to me, that it not only confirmed that God was real but that he was listening to me. He made it clear to me that none of my sins were too horrible for the welcoming arms of a God that died for me.
It was also during that time that I was working for a daycare in a Christian school. I was in college studying to become a dental hygienist when a preschool teaching position became available. The principal of the school, a Roman-Catholic nun, really wanted me to take the position, because she said I was a “natural with children.” She believed God was calling me to teach, but I was not sure if that was a career I wanted to pursue. Everytime I would try to turn down the position, she would say, “Just pray about it.” One day she told me to go into the church at the school to pray and ask God what he wanted me to do. I didn’t consider myself a strong Christian at that time. I sat in one of the red,velvet cushions staring around the empty church, waiting upon the Lord for an answer as to whether or not to accept the position. My boredom set in and my mind started to wander. So I grabbed a Bible in the pew to try to stay focused. I prayed that God would speak to me as clearly as he had done in that sermon that brought me back to Christ.
I randomly turned to Isaiah 54, which reads:
“Sing, O barren one, who did not bear, break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in labor. For the children of the desolate will be more than the children of her who is married,” says the Lord.
At the time, I wasn’t married, I didn’t have any children, and I was most certainly desolate. It was as if God were saying, “These students are your children and through teaching you will have many children.” I changed my major to education and accepted the teaching job.
Also, at that time, I did not know this, but I was in fact barren. Even though I didn’t know that I could not have children, God knew. I did not find out that I would struggle with infertility until years later when my husband, Jamie, and I wanted to start a family.
I have always wanted to be a mother, so waiting upon the Lord for a child was one of the most difficult waiting periods of my life. I waited and prayed. No children came. I waited and prayed and went to see a doctor. No children came. Even with medication and surgery, no children came. I went through an entire cycle of in vitro fertilization, and no children came. While waiting upon the Lord, I grew impatient, angry and then hopeless. The doctor said that it was a possibility that I may never have children of my own. I went to my husband, Jamie, in tears. My body was broken and I didn’t want my inability to have children to stop him from having a family. But Jamie never gave up on me. He stayed by my side and walked with me in my brokenness. He was my comfort in my deepest despair.
Waiting upon the Lord really tested my faith. I started to give up hope when I received a word from the Lord through a stranger at a Christian music concert. Through divine intervention, I was invited backstage to meet the band. There are too many details to go into, but I ended up sharing my infertility journey with the group. One of the lead singers of the band said, “I feel like the Lord is telling me to share this verse. She quoted Genesis 22:17.
“I will surely bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like the stars in the sky.”
Around the time that Jamie and I were trying to start our own family, Jamie began doing a lot of genealogy research on his Dad’s side of the family. Jamie’s grandfather, Robert, was Jewish. He escaped the Holocaust in Germany through a program called Kindertransport. Robert, an only child, was put onto a train by his parents at the age of 15 or 16. Robert said goodbye to his parents not knowing that he would never see them again. They died in Nazi concentration camps.
Through Jamie’s research, he was able to connect with a distant relative that sent him a copy of his family tree, on a long scroll of paper. Many of the people listed on the family tree perished in the Holocaust as well. Jamie’s grandfather, Robert, changed his last name from Scharff to Sharp and immigrated to the United States. Robert, again, an only child, went on to have an only child, Howard. Jamie is Howard’s only child as well. The scroll with the names on the family tree ended with Jamie. When I saw the end of the lineage on the family tree, I understood what every barren woman in the Bible felt. I faced the same heartache and desperation to have a child. I especially wanted a son to carry on the legacy of a family that would never live to see the next generations. A family nearly wiped out by evil. It seemed that because of me, there would be no more names added to the Family Tree.
I had a lot of guilt and shame. I wondered if this was a punishment for all the times I doubted God and strayed away from Him. I confided my feelings to a relative of mine. He listened and offered words of support. We ended our telephone conversation and agreed to talk again. A few days later, my phone rang at around 3 or 4 in the morning. I immediately thought something was wrong. It was my relative. He called to tell me that, when he was praying, he received a message from God about me. He quoted Genesis 22:17.
“I will surely bless you. I will multiply your descendants beyond number, like stars in the sky.”
I was groggy and annoyed that he called me in the middle of the night. I didn’t give it much thought until I realized that I did not tell him that someone else had shared that same exact verse with me. I think this was God letting me know that he had not abandoned me as I was waiting upon the Lord.
The more time went by, the more impatient I became. Out of desperation, I did something I had never done before as a Christian. I prayed to Mary, the mother of Jesus. I was not raised as a Catholic, so praying to anyone except God was totally foreign to me. Despite being out of my comfort zone, I felt that I had nothing to lose. I asked Mary to intercede on my behalf, to her son, so that I could have a son to continue on the family name. If anyone could understand not having a son, it would be the person who lost the most beloved of sons, Mary-the mother of Jesus.
Shortly after that prayer, I went through another cycle of IVF, and again, I waited upon the Lord. Soon I found out that I was carrying TWIN BOYS! I was thrilled to have two sons, but little did I know that God was not finished yet. When the twins were a little over a year old, I found out that I was expecting another baby naturally, This time we had absolutely no medical intervention. God was surely multiplying my descendants as he promised that He would.
I am sure you can imagine what having three babies in 22 months with very little sleep is like for a young couple. Jamie and I really struggled to keep our heads above water. There was very little time to devote to our marriage. We developed small fractures that only became larger with time. We had many warning signs that our marriage was at risk, but we did not change our behavior.
In the spring of 2017, we reached a point where we thought that our marriage was broken beyond repair. Jamie and I were both ready to go our separate ways. I felt God telling me to wait on Him again, but I was tired of waiting. I didn’t think God would be able to fix a relationship that was totally shattered. There were too many broken pieces, and no amount of waiting could make Jamie and I whole again. At the time when I was most determined to leave, God kept telling me to wait.
I asked God to speak to me and tell me what to do. I prayed and then, I waited upon the Lord. God spoke to my heart and reminded me of how Jamie did not give up on me in my brokeness.
I prayed and waited some more. I realized at this point that God has always spoken to me through scripture during times when I was asked to wait. I read every scripture on divorce and nothing clicked. So I prayed and waited some more. It is always when I am ready to give up that God comes through and reveals himself to me. There was one scripture that I didn’t know about, that I had somehow missed. I found it at the exact time I needed it. The verse was from 1 Corinthians 7:15-16. It reads:
On the other hand, if the unbelieving spouse walks out, you’ve got to let him or her go. You don’t have to hold on so desperately. God has called us to make the best of it, as peacefully as we can. You never know, wife; The way you handle this might bring your husband not only back to you, but to God. You never know, husband; The way you handle this might bring your wife not only back to you but to God.
It was at that point that I realized that God could heal our broken marriage like he had healed my broken body. I felt that scripture was telling me to wait so that God could work on Jamie’s heart. So I waited. And I prayed. I knew we could not do it without God’s help. One of the agreements that we made, was to attend a church regularly. Jamie picked St. James, and we have been attending church pretty regularly ever since.
It didn’t happen overnight, but slowly our hearts began to change. We decided to recommit ourselves to repairing our marriage, and together with God and with a lot of prayer, we are still married three years later. I think Jamie would agree that God not only healed the fracture that was there, but He also strengthened the bonds of our marriage when we allowed him to be the third cord woven into our relationship. As it says in Ecclesiastes 4:12
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple cord is not easily broken.
It is only now that I look back on all these times that I had to wait upon the Lord that I realize that God was waiting with me. I was never alone. God showed me that he can create life from death. He can heal what is broken. He can bring us out of our darkest hiding places into His light.
I have seen many miracles while waiting upon the Lord. And now that we are in an extremely worrisome and challenging season within our world, our country, our communities, our churches and our families.
I know from experience that Church is hard, when you must wait upon the Lord. So I will leave you with this scripture on which to meditate. I hope it brings peace to you and your family. It comes from Isaiah 40:3.
Those that wait upon the Lord will gain new strength; They shall mount up with wings as eagles; They shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.