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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.