God Didn't Create Junk
(Luke 5:1-11)

In our Gospel reading this morning we encounter Jesus beginning to call his first disciples. He came upon Peter's boat at the shore by the lake and asked Peter to take him off shore to teach. After teaching Jesus instructs Peter to go out to deeper water and to throw his net over the side of the boat, and before he knew it the net was filled with fish. You see Peter had been fishing all day and caught nothing, yet within a few minutes he had more fish then he could handle.

Peter was awestruck at the miracle Jesus had just preformed, and his first response was "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" Peter felt insignificant in comparison to Jesus greatness.

Now by this time Peter had certainly heard that Jesus had healed the sick and driven out demons, but he was amazed that Jesus cared enough about him, his daily routine, and that Jesus understood his needs. Peter was amazed that Jesus even noticed him, a simple fisherman, living a simple life. Do you ever feel like this? Do you ever feel like your too inadequate for even Jesus to care about you, that you're just a small pebble on a lakeshore of many? Have you ever felt so unworthy that you believed you didn't deserve to be in the presence of God? Have you ever wondered why God would even care about you, the simple and sinful person you are?

I know I have, and I'm sure many folks have at one time or another. It's not uncommon to wonder from time to time why God would care about us.

Well the truth is none of us are worthy; none of us deserve to be in the presence of God, we're all sinners and don't deserve God's love. Harsh words aren't they? But it's the truth.

Yet the Bible teaches, although we aren't deserving, although we are sinners, because of God's grace we are freed from the devastation sin brings and we are able to seek the presence of God. Why, because of God's grace.

God sacrificed Jesus so that we could be made right in the eyes of God. God sacrificed Jesus so that our sins might be washed away. God sacrificed Jesus so that we might be made whole again. And God sacrificed Jesus and raised him from the dead so that we might receive eternal life.

So why is it many people find it difficult to understand that Jesus loves them no matter who or what they are, that Jesus cares about them, that Jesus wants to help them with their daily living?

It's unfortunate that many folks see themselves as a composite of all their failures. When they look in the mirror they only see a dishonest person, or someone who has lost their job for the tenth time, or an angry loner. But even though many folks can't see beyond the disappointments or failures in their lives, this is not the way God views us. As a loving Father, God looks past our shortcomings, mistakes, and disappointments.

Can you imagine a loving parent introducing his or her child by saying, " This is my daughter, Matilda, who stained the carpet with prune juice when she was two years old"? Or, "This is my son Barney, who broke a valuable lamp last week." If loving parents don't have a need to memorize their children's failures, you can rest assured our loving God has no use for such memories either. When we accept God's forgiveness through Jesus Christ, he forgives our failures, mistakes, and disappointments.

But lets face it sometimes it's hard for us to see how God's grace transcends all our shortcomings, and that God does love and care about us, no matter what we're going through.

I suggest one reason for this kind of thinking is we, from time to time, lack a healthy self-esteem. We get into this funk, a time when we don't think too much of ourselves, or we're so disappointed with our lives we can't forgive and move on, we just spend time spinning our wheels unable to get traction, unable to get going again. Our lives become a series of ruts, keeping us stuck where we are, rather then our lives becoming a series of events that we learn and grow from.

Maintaining a healthy self-esteem is a big issue today; given all the ways we can degrade and tear people down. On an individual level think of the bullies in school, particularly elementary and middle school. They spend many a day looking for people to pick on, upset, and just literally tear down. I know of some kids who have ended up in counseling because some bully kept picking on them and abusing them, making them feel worthless, and in some cases suicidal.

This past week I called the guidance counselors at two Frederick County Public Schools to find out what there policy was on bullies. They told me they have a zero tolerance policy and they take bullying very seriously. I'm certainly thankful this is the case. As a matter of fact one of the schools in Thurmont has their sign out in front of the school reading, "Be a friend, not a bully."

I remember when I was in elementary school I was constantly picked on by two boys, Eric and Bobby. They would throw my books all over the school hallways; they would jump on me and tackle me at recess. They picked on me because I was a small kid and wouldn't fight back. They told me I was essentially worthless and enjoyed degrading me.

And think about it, if someone constantly tells you you're worthless, at some point, you begin to believe it, because you hear nothing else. But I was blessed because I had a loving family, great church friends, and other school friends that continued to encourage me.

Then as the years went by and I began Junior High School, I started to grow, I started to gain confidence in myself, and I no longer tolerated being picked on. Now I didn't retaliate physically, I just stood my ground. I showed confidence in myself, and soon the cowards who enjoyed picking on me left me alone.

When I look back on it now, I learned a lot from those encounters, I became a more confident person, I became satisfied with who I was, and I knew others were satisfied with who I was.

But I would have never made it through those couple of years if I didn't have friends reminding me I wasn't worthless, I was important, and that I was loved, even by God himself.

There's a story of two students who sat next to each other in math class. Yet in reality they lived worlds apart. The boy seemed to have everything going for him. And the girl had a lot to over come. The boy came from a family of good looks, grew up in an expensive neighborhood, and had many of the social privileges usually associated with wealth and success. The girl on the other hand was rather plain in appearance, came from a working-class family, and had to work hard to make passing grades.

But there is another way they were different. The boy was full of self-doubt, didn't like the way he looked, and suspected that others paid attention to him only because of his family's money. The girl was amazingly happy, well adjusted and though aware of her limitations was determined to go further in life than others thought she could.

They were two people with two different ways of looking at themselves. What the boy had in material advantage, the girl had in self-esteem and self-respect. What the boy had in appearance the girl had in self-acceptance. Together they remind us that we all have a way of looking at ourselves that influence whether we feel adequate or inadequate, likable, or unlikable, valuable or worthless.

What we need to understand is, the way we feel about ourselves doesn't just depend on our appearance or abilities. Much more important, our opinion of ourselves depends largely on how we have learned to think about ourselves from important people in our lives, like our parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, friends, church family, and yes GOD.

If these important people in our lives help us feel important and loved, we will be inclined to have a healthy opinion of ourselves. Yet if folks give us reason to feel inadequate and unneeded we are apt to find ourselves thinking: " There's something wrong with me " I don't belong here " I don't like myself " I don't have what it takes " No one loves me " I'm worthless " There is no hope

Poor self-esteem is devastating. If you feel as if you have nothing to offer, then you'll act as if you have nothing to offer. If you think poorly, you'll act poorly. I think you get the idea.

By contrast, a healthy self-esteem is a blessing. Those who believe they have something to offer are more likely to make a positive difference in other people's lives. People who have a healthy sense of self-respect are more likely to pursue relationships and challenges. Those who think well of themselves are more likely to fulfill their own and God's expectations. Every one of you here today has every reason to think well of themselves, and to think well of those sitting near you.

But there is a watch out. We need to be careful that our positive self-esteem doesn't lead to judging others, self-righteousness, big headedness, and so on. We must maintain a healthy and well-balanced self-esteem, which means having the confidence to say: " My life has purpose and meaning " I belong here " I can love and be loved " I need others as they need me " I will seek forgiveness for my sins " I can be anything God wants me to be " I know God loves me " There is always hope " So what happens when folks have a low self-esteem? Often times they tend to gravitate to anyone or anything that will accept them. This is one reason kids turn to gangs; gangs will readily accept them. Belonging to a gang gives them an identity, a reason to live. A gang gives purpose and meaning to life when no one, or nothing else will.

Lets face it when your parents give up on you, your friends ignore you, and you don't know Jesus Christ, where else are you going to turn. Unfortunately the answer becomes, gangs, cults, or other people whose purpose is to take advantage of vulnerable people. Regrettably, by affiliating with these groups or people, folks actually become more hurt, abused, and their feeling of self-worth diminishes even more.

The same can be said of nations as well. Nations can have low self-esteem and suffer many of the same consequences that individuals can.

Take for example the nation of Germany after their defeat in World War I. They were craving an identity and wanted to be seen as a nation of prominence once again. Well, in step the Nazis to give them what they wanted. The Nazis came to fill the void Germany was feeling, they took over and gave Germany an identity. Instead of turning to God for identity and reconciliation they turn to idolatry, they turned to an Arian way of life. And much like individuals who seek anyone that will accept them, the Nation of Germany fell even further from prominence, and unfortunately took many lives along the way.

When we individually or collectively experience low self-worth, feel hopeless, or feel an identity void we search for something, anything that will fill that void. Well God is the only way to fill that void. God created us, and God desires to be in relationship with us. God gives us identity, God gives us purpose, and God gives us love.

And lets be honest in order to follow the two greatest commandments, to love God, and to love others as we love ourselves, we have to have a healthy self-esteem. We can't love if we don't feel loved.

So when you have self-doubt, when you're going through some tough time, when it seems no one cares, know that your church family is here for you, and know you have the assurance that God loves you unconditionally. Go to your friends to seek advice and encouragement, go to God and seek his forgiveness, seek cleansing of body, mind, and spirit, and be made whole again. Thank God for his goodness and grace.

God called his creation of humanity, not ok or good; he called his creation of humanity very good. Humanity is the pinnacle of his work, and God in creating us didn't create junk!

Everyone in this world is important to God our creator, every person is of sacred worth, every person is worth praying for, every person is worth loving and caring for, and every person is worth saving.

So give yourself permission to be the unique person God created you to be. Do the things God's grace allows you to do. Don't march around in vicious circles of fear, self-doubt, and hopelessness. Stop marching and start flying with Christ. Allow God to raise you up to new heights of assurance so that you can be more than you can be.


Read other messages by Pastor Wade