Teaching Series: All Being Well?
Find true wellbeing
The Series: There is no doubt about it. For many of us, these last few months have been pretty tough. So, how are you, really? This summer teaching series helps us take a deep and refreshing look at how you’re really doing. And, we’ll begin to discover what true wellbeing looks like for your life right now, regardless of the chaos around.
Bible Focus: Using the stunning words of encouragement from the book of Hebrews in the Bible (Chapter 12, verses 1-3) as our backdrop, we will consider some incidents in the life of the first disciples as we do a summer health check and unpack how to stay spiritually and emotionally fit for the journey ahead.
Session 1: Not Alone
Realising you’re not alone
Hebrews (Chapter 12, verse 1)
Mark (Chapter 6, verse 7)
Acts (Chapter 15, verse 36-40)
Galatians (Chapter 6, verses 1-5)
We are better off with others. In the words of John Wesley, ‘The bible knows nothing of solitary religion.’ Jesus sent his disciples in pairs, and so too we need to be supported by others and be good supporters of others. In Hebrews, we are reminded that there is a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ cheering us on. Perhaps that’s why the first disciples always travelled in pairs! As we emerge out of lockdown, we need to plug into group life.
Pause for thought:
We all need people to cheer us on. Who have you got that is spurring you forwards? And who are you able to inspire and give courage to?
The Office of National Statistics have recently released some data about how we’ve all coped emotionally during lockdown. 25 million of us in the UK have experienced what is called ‘high anxiety’ and that’s been particularly high amongst those who are married.
40% percent of those married said it’s been a highly anxious time. For those who are over 60, which is normally an age group where emotional wellbeing is relatively OK. Actually, they’ve been one of the highest groups that have struggled the most. 75% of those with disabilities have been particularly affected, with huge worry about their own circumstances. Seven and a half million people in the UK said that loneliness during lockdown has been an incredible burden.
So for these five weeks here at Riverside in our online services, we’re going to be asking a pretty big question. The question is this: how are you? how are you really? This series we’re beginning today is called All Being Well?, where for these five Sundays in August, we’re thinking about our wellbeing and we’re going to be looking at a passage in the Bible that was read to us earlier from the book of Hebrews, a beautiful beautiful little section. And from that, we’re going to be unpacking a few different directions about how we might find true wellbeing so that as we emerge out of lockdown, we’ll discover what true wellbeing really might look like. So do join us for these coming weeks.
1. The importance of each other.
Today I’m here in my local park because I want to focus on the first thing from that passage. This is the importance of each other! About how we know, and we need to know, that we’re not alone!.
When I was young I used to love going to my local park like this one. I used to love going on a Saturday morning to just watch people playing football until I was old enough that I could then join in. What I used to love was, yes, the sport but I also used to really enjoy the kind of teamwork, the sense of camaraderie, watching mates playing together and the kind of rough and tumble of it together. The writer of this book in the Bible is saying something very, very important that we can easily miss because it’s almost so obvious.
Let me read it again; Hebrews Chapter 12, verse 1.
‘Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses’
What he’s simply saying is there is some people, ‘a great cloud of witnesses’, who can spur us on. Before we begin to think about who those people are, let’s just remember and remind ourselves of something that is so important for us to remember, particularly now. How important each other is! How important it is to make sure that we’ve got people around us that can help us carry the load.
You see, we all know, don’t we, that during lockdown it’s been particularly challenging. For some of us, we live on our own. For others of us, we’re not on our own, but our relationships have been really difficult. How important it is to have people around us who can speak into our lives to help us carry the pressures that we face. Because when we’re thinking about our wellbeing, the old saying ‘no man is an island’ is so important, we know it’s true. None of us ultimately can go it alone. We need other people.
That’s why here at Riverside, we’ve got a whole host of groups that are so important. And we know that during lockdown, it’s been quite challenging, hasn’t it? Some groups haven’t been able to meet at all. Some have only been able to meet occasionally on Zoom. Some I know now are beginning to try and work out what they would look like. And we’d simply encourage all those within Riverside, to really think about their groups and getting plugged in to group life because we need each other. We can’t do this on our own.
2. Other people can point us in a healthy direction.
So that’s the first thing. But there’s a second thing when we begin to reflect on who this great cloud of witnesses are, that comes at the beginning of Chapter 12 and it begins with the word ‘therefore’.
‘Therefore, since we’re surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses’ and of course, therefore, he’s looking back to the chapter before. In Hebrews Chapter 11, there is this amazing story where there is a big long list of some of the heroes in the Bible. Names that we would know of, that are the kind of the people we look at as being ‘the greats’. So it’s easy for us to think, ‘yeah, well, if those kind of people were around us, everything would be great because they would inspire us.’
What’s astonishing is what the writer says about this great cloud of witnesses (Chapter 11, verse 39), just before Chapter 12, he says this; ‘these (all these heroes) were all commended for their faith. (Great!) .. ‘Yet none of them received what had been promised since God had planned something better for us, so that only together with us would they be made perfect.’ What’s astonishing about this group, that’s supposed to encourage us, is that they’re encouraging to us because they had faith, even though they didn’t receive what was promised.
What’s encouraging about them is precisely what they didn’t get. And I think that’s so freeing. Here were a group of people who hadn’t, life hadn’t been what they hoped it would be, and yet they hadn’t given in to temptation and walked away from God. They’d pushed through that. It’s precisely that, that is so inspiring. So as well as just having people who speak into our lives, other people can also help point us in a healthy direction, particularly when life hasn’t worked out how we wished and for some of us during lockdown hasnt that been the case?.
Things have been so challenging. That’s why as we begin to come out of lockdown, it’s so important to think ‘who is it in my life that can help me when things don’t go according to plan?’. Who is it I’ve got around me who I know life hasn’t worked out for them, but they’ve stayed clinging on to Christ? Those are the kind of people that we need to speak into our lives. Why? Because they help us see just how good Jesus really is! That he really does care that even though life doesn’t look like what we hoped it would do, he’s worth enduring for.
3. Other people can support us when things don’t go to plan.
However, we all know that relationships aren’t straightforward and sometimes the people around us can be the ones who let us down. There is an amazing story in the Book of Acts in the Bible that reminds us both of how normal it is that people let us down, but also something really important that’s so encouraging. In Acts 15, which was read to us earlier, we have got this account of Paul and Barnabas, two of the giants in the early church, basically falling out of relationship. In Acts (Chapter 15) we read of this disagreement with them. Where basically they’re about to go telling people about Jesus, and we read in verse 37; Barnabas wanted to take John, who was also called Mark, with them. Though Paul didn’t think it wise to take him because he deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in their work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Imagine for a moment being Mark! (John-Mark), he’s let Paul down and now Paul says, I don’t want you coming with me again! You would feel so awful! Paul the giant is doing amazing things!
You’ve let him down and now, that’s it, no way back! However, we read these astonishing words; look at what Barnabas does (verse 39). They made such a sharp disagreement, they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, and Paul chose Silas and left!
So even here, where John-Mark had let Paul down, Paul doesn’t go alone. He goes with Silas. Barnabas, good old encouraging Barnabas, gets alongside Mark!. It’s just that reminder that other people can support us when things don’t go to plan. That’s why it’s so important to have people in our lives that are there speaking to our lives, able to encourage us and spur us on, particularly when things don’t go according to plan.
So who is it in your life? Who have you right now got speaking into your life, giving you encouragement in these challenging days?
4. People who may have let us down in the past, maybe the most helpful people right now!
But there’s something even more astonishing because of this major disagreement, Paul clearly is not that impressed with Mark. The New Testament carries on and in one of the last letters that Paul wrote, we get to some astonishing words. Let me read to you from the book of 2 Timothy (Chapter 4, verse 11). He says this; ‘only Luke is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you because he has been helpful to me in my ministry.’ Do you see that? We did have Paul saying ‘he’s no help, we don’t want him coming with us.’ But now, clearly, Mark is really helpful and it’s just a reminder and the fourth thing I want to dwell on.
Just a reminder, that somehow and sometimes, some people who maybe have let us down in the past maybe the most helpful people now! Others who you may have written off, may be more helpful right now than you know. There may be people in your life that used to be a support to you, but have let you down, but now you know deep down, they might be the people that you really need right now to spur you on. Don’t write them off.
5. Even in broken relationships, God is at work.
As we come to a close, there’s one other thing that I think is so breathtaking, that changes everything. It’s the fifth thing, because let me read to you from another bit of the New Testament. No longer from Paul now, but Peter, in the letter of 1 Peter, as Peter’s writing to some Christians, we have an amazing little moment. (1 Peter Chapter 5 verse 13) ‘She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings and so does my son Mark.’
Now, I don’t know if you know who wrote Mark’s gospel? Most scholars think Mark’s gospel was written by Mark, who has been informed by Peter. In other words, the snapshot of Jesus and all that he did in Mark’s gospel is through the lens of Peter, told to Mark. I think that’s such an encouraging thing. That here at the end of the story, we’re reminded that even though they had a major disagreement, God might be doing something so amazing in our lives that even through a broken relationship, that is then clearly come back together, God is at work in the life of Mark and in his relationships with those around him, that he’s the one who writes one of the gospels. It’s just a beautiful reminder for you and for me that in our relationships, they can be so important that God might use them in incredible ways in your life, in mine, and in other people. So as we begin to emerge out of lockdown, who is it that you’ve got around you speaking into your life, pointing you to Jesus, spurring you on in your relationship with him?
Also, who is it that you’re able to spur on? Maybe that’s somebody you need to phone or to text or to drop a little note to, to just give that gift of encouragement to say keep going because God might be doing amazing things.
Let’s pray together. “Father, we thank you for each other, please help us to spur other people on and please bring people around us to spur us on. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.”
- How are you, really?
- Read Hebrews 12:1-3. And then flick back to Hebrews 11. What strikes you about that ‘great cloud of witnesses’? How do you they spur you on?
- Read Hebrews 11:39-40. Why is this such an encouragement? Who is there in your life who can encourage you to keep pressing on?
- Read Acts 15:36-41. Relationships aren’t always straightforward, are they?! What is encouraging to know that even though there were challenges for the early Christians, that God still worked in amazing ways through them?
- As you reflect back on Tim’s talk from Sunday, what is so freeing about the ending of the story for Paul, Barnabas and John Mark?
- Who is there in your life to spur you on? And who are you able spur on too? Take some time to pray with and for them.