Isaac Hunter (Summit Church, Orlando) spoke on “choose joy” yesterday, using James Chapter 1 as his text.
Isaac had spoken from this text before but this was different and personal. The whole family, but mainly his brother, Josh, and sister-in-law, Lisa, watched their beloved, Ava, go from a frolicking five-year old on family vacation a week ago to brain surgery. Grandfather, Joel, said it best last Sunday evening during worship at Northland Church, “What a difference a day makes.”
If you want to pray for Ava I’ve found reading Josh’s blog helpful and informative. Ava’s initial diagnosis is not good. Josh says, “This aggressive brain cancer is very resistant to traditional forms of cancer treatment.”
With that as background, Isaac had to return to being a pastor and speak on Sunday, one week after the surgery and diagnosis. People are watching. What will he say? How will he respond? It’s one of the challenges of leadership and the role God gives to any pastor. No matter the circumstance you have to feed the flock God has entrusted to you. With appropriate transparency, often it’s your personal struggles and challenges that are the most meaningful and helpful to the congregation.
Isaac has a unique (and I believe God given) ability to use transparency, humor, and a deep and meaningful understanding of God’s Word to speak into the hearts and minds of his congregation. He told us yesterday that last week, just after receiving this news, he and his dad, Joel, were together leaving the hospital. Joel asked Issac, “What are you preaching about next Sunday?” After getting his mind back around the question, (focus, Isaac!), he said, “Choose Joy, but I’m not really sure this is the time or the place.” According to Isaac, Joel didn’t hesitate and said, “This is exactly the right time.”
For those of us who have the privilege of speaking publicly from The Word, we know that many times we choose texts God is using to speak to us hoping that others in the audience can relate. Isaac did a great job yesterday of mixing his personal walk through this ‘valley’ and the text from James 1:2-3 “…when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.” That’s all theory until it becomes personal.
Isaac pointed out that we all have choices when adversity comes our way. He noted that anger is one choice. To be angry isn’t necessarily a sin.
We can compare our circumstance to others, “Why me Lord? I don’t deserve this…” The problem with comparison is that is always leads to disappointment and discouragement.
Joy is a choice…it’s choosing to believe in the deep abiding peace of God in each and every circumstance of life trusting that our future is in His hands. It’s more than a ‘feeling’ or emotion. It’s a recognition that He knows each and every day planned for us…and he knew them (planned them) before one of them was played out.
Isaac used one of Josh’s recent blog posts as an illustration. Ava’s left arm and leg were not working following the surgery and one day last week Ava began to have pain in her left leg. While everyone else was focused on the pain, Josh was focused on Ava’s left leg that was “bucking up and down like she was riding a rodeo bull.” Josh said, “I kept saying ‘her leg is moving!’ Everyone else seemed concerned with the pain…but I saw progress.”
Josh goes on to say, “I am guessing that is what we will be going through for the rest of our lives, cancer or no cancer…Life is full of pain and progress (it’s full of joy too…but I don’t know that joy yields the richness of God when there is no pain to compare it to).”
Most of us have not been tested as Josh and Lisa are being tested right now. Certainly Dallas and I have not. Each time I see something unforeseen visited, and something that seems so unfair, on a family like this I wonder, “What would we do?” Fair question, and I can’t answer it with certainty. All I know is that watching people like the Hunters walk this road gives me courage to know that our hope won’t be disappointed. He is faithful.