From Epic to Epidemic

Okay. I’ll admit it. You know those people who adopt ‘cool’ words and just say them over and over again? That’s 100% me. I don’t even mean to—I just get sucked into word trends and then spend the next six months with nothing but ‘awesome’ or ‘rad’ in my vocabulary.

One word I used to say WAY too much is ‘epic’. I loved it and it became a word used throughout our youth group. Everything was ‘epic this’ and ‘epic that’. Soon the word became a little redundant. I wasn’t the only one either—the majority of my youth group seemed to have ‘epic’ at the top of their vocab list.

I remember one day in a leader’s meeting, our youth pastor said it’s time we take our ministry from ‘epic’ to’ epidemic’. Suddenly the word had a whole other meaning—way more than before. My pastor went on to unpack this statement and, in doing so, brought it to our attention that, by chasing after the ‘epic’, we were really only doing things that benefit us in the here and now.

When you focus on the ‘epic’, you focus on the current situations, the things that are going brilliantly right now. It doesn’t really stretch deeper than that. The word epic actually means a large tale—something far greater than ourselves. But if I’m being honest, the last time I used the word ‘epic’ I was talking about discounted yoghurts. A little above ordinary at the most but not even near deserving of a word used to describe great heroic tales or incredible characteristics. By using it in such throwaway instances, we’ve really limited ‘epic’ to just the here and now.

But an epidemic reaches and impacts others in a way we could never imagine. We often hear the word ‘epidemic’ used in negative statements in the news or in regards to natural disasters. That’s because when an ‘epidemic’ hits, it’s often not contained to just a few. It affects many. When many lives are impacted—be it in negative or positive way—it’s hard to keep it to yourself.

Imagine what would happen if the hope of God was widespread and extensive in your community?

Now I get that ‘epidemic’ is usually used to describe something terrible whereas we often use ‘epic’ to depict something as really great. However, when using ‘epidemic’ as an adjective, the synonyms listed are along the lines of ‘widespread’, ‘extensive’, ‘rampant’ and ‘sweeping’. Just think about that.

Imagine what would happen if the hope of God was widespread and extensive in your community? What if we chose to be a generation with rampant love for one another? What would it look like if God’s grace swept over your family, university, school or even your workplace?

It’s easy to read those words and get your faith stirred up, the tricky part is working out how do we take your faith from epic to epidemic without getting lost in the hype of it all.

So let’s get practical—three ways to take your faith from epic to epidemic are:

RENEW YOUR MIND

First and foremost, you need God to renew your mind. See Romans 12:2 NIV: ‘Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.’

This is because the space between epic and epidemic requires a shift mentally. It requires an expansion of your thoughts, taking a step away from inward and potentially selfish views and towards a selfless thought-space—one that sees the bigger picture. This could be as simple as choosing to see your church or youth group not as a place you need to go to but somewhere you get to go to. Then apply that to everything else: you don’t have to worship, you get to worship. You don’t have to pray; you get to pray. Perspective is everything. When you see your walk with God as something you are thankful for and not something you drag your feet to do, you’ll be surprised how much you grow spiritually!

GET OUT OF THE BOX

Epidemics are never contained. A small ocean wave may ripple at your ankles but a tsunami crashes on the shore.
It takes just one person stepping out of their comfort zone to change a life completely. Take me, for example. My story is like many others—
a friend told me about her youth ministry, Jesus met me there and the rest is history. If our goal is to have a widespread faith that will impact many, we need to be big and bold about the way we approach life. You can’t expect to have a life-changing impact if you’re too scared to break the ice with someone new. So what’s something you could do today or tomorrow? Pray about it then do it!

DON’T FEAR WHAT YOU CAN’T CONTROL

The best part about God being in control is that we don’t need to be. That doesn’t mean we float aimlessly through life but rather can continue our walk with Him confident that He has it under control.

In John 6:44 NIV, Jesus said: ‘No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws them and I will raise them up at the last day.’ Take heart in this because it takes the pressure off you. At the end of the day, we don’t change lives—God does. We may drop the stone but God causes the ripple.

Being Heard: 1

‘The common people heard Him gladly.’ Mark 12:37 NKJ

The Bible says concerning Jesus: ‘The common people heard Him gladly.’ Why? Because His words were backed by these all-important things: His character, His conduct, and His concern for others. In short, Jesus earned the right to speak. Have you? Getting people to listen calls for: insight. When what you say truly helps somebody, you form a connection. Benjamin Franklin is one of the most admired figures in American history. Although he was known for his homespun wisdom, he had little formal education. He attended school for only two years, yet he was highly respected because of his knowledge and keen insight. An avid reader, he became expert in a remarkable number of areas: printing and publishing, politics, civic activism, the sciences and diplomacy. He was an inventor who founded the first public library in America and helped draft the Declaration of Independence.

His biographer, Walter Isaacson, called Franklin ‘the most accomplished American of his age and the most influential in inventing the type of society America would become.’

People felt a sense of connection when Franklin shared his wisdom. Now here’s how his story applies to you. When you love people, work hard, study, develop and share your expertise in a given area, they learn to respect and listen to you. And when it comes to listening, you don’t get what you demand, you get what you earn.

SoulFood: Isa 38–41, Luke 2:34–40, Ps 74:1–11, Pro 2:6

word4today an adaptation of The Word For Today is authored by Bob and Debby Gass and published under licence from UCB International Copyright © 2019

Today’s Readings

Isaiah 38–41 ()

( to me in silence, O coastlands;
    let the peoples renew their strength;
  let them approach, then let them speak;
    let us together draw near for judgment.
  Who stirred up one from the east
    whom victory meets at every step?
  He gives up nations before him,
    so that he tramples kings underfoot;
  he makes them like dust with his sword,
    like driven stubble with his bow.
  He pursues them and passes on safely,
    by paths his feet have not trod.
  Who has performed and done this,
    calling the generations from the beginning?
  I, the LORD, the first,
    and with the last; I am he.
  The coastlands have seen and are afraid;
    the ends of the earth tremble;
    they have drawn near and come.
  Everyone helps his neighbor
    and says to his brother, “Be strong!”
  The craftsman strengthens the goldsmith,
    and he who smooths with the hammer him who strikes the anvil,
  saying of the soldering, “It is good”;
    and they strengthen it with nails so that it cannot be moved.
  But you, Israel, my servant,
    Jacob, whom I have chosen,
    the offspring of Abraham, my friend;
  you whom I took from the ends of the earth,
    and called from its farthest corners,
  saying to you, “You are my servant,
    I have chosen you and not cast you off”;
10   fear not, for I am with you;
    be not dismayed, for I am your God;
  I will strengthen you, I will help you,
    I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
11   Behold, all who are incensed against you
    shall be put to shame and confounded;
  those who strive against you
    shall be as nothing and shall perish.
12   You shall seek those who contend with you,
    but you shall not find them;
  those who war against you
    shall be as nothing at all.
13   For I, the LORD your God,
    hold your right hand;
  it is I who say to you, “Fear not,
    I am the one who helps you.”
14   Fear not, you worm Jacob,
    you men of Israel!
  I am the one who helps you, declares the LORD;
    your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
15   Behold, I make of you a threshing sledge,
    new, sharp, and having teeth;
  you shall thresh the mountains and crush them,
    and you shall make the hills like chaff;
16   you shall winnow them, and the wind shall carry them away,
    and the tempest shall scatter them.
  And you shall rejoice in the LORD;
    in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.
17   When the poor and needy seek water,
    and there is none,
    and their tongue is parched with thirst,
  I the LORD will answer them;
    I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
18   I will open rivers on the bare heights,
    and fountains in the midst of the valleys.
  I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
    and the dry land springs of water.
19   I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
    the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive.
  I will set in the desert the cypress,
    the plane and the pine together,
20   that they may see and know,
    may consider and understand together,
  that the hand of the LORD has done this,
    the Holy One of Israel has created it.

21   Set forth your case, says the LORD;
    bring your proofs, says the King of Jacob.
22   Let them bring them, and tell us
    what is to happen.
  Tell us the former things, what they are,
    that we may consider them,
  that we may know their outcome;
    or declare to us the things to come.
23   Tell us what is to come hereafter,
    that we may know that you are gods;
  do good, or do harm,
    that we may be dismayed and terrified.
24   Behold, you are nothing,
    and your work is less than nothing;
    an abomination is he who chooses you.
25   I stirred up one from the north, and he has come,
    from the rising of the sun, and he shall call upon my name;
  he shall trample on rulers as on mortar,
    as the potter treads clay.
26   Who declared it from the beginning, that we might know,
    and beforehand, that we might say, “He is right”?
  There was none who declared it, none who proclaimed,
    none who heard your words.
27   I was the first to say to Zion, “Behold, here they are!”
    and I give to Jerusalem a herald of good news.
28   But when I look, there is no one;
    among these there is no counselor
    who, when I ask, gives an answer.
29   Behold, they are all a delusion;
    their works are nothing;
    their metal images are empty wind.

Luke 2:34–40 ()

()

34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

Psalm 74:1–11 ()

()

A Maskil of Asaph.

74:1   O God, why do you cast us off forever?
    Why does your anger smoke against the sheep of your pasture?
  Remember your congregation, which you have purchased of old,
    which you have redeemed to be the tribe of your heritage!
    Remember Mount Zion, where you have dwelt.
  Direct your steps to the perpetual ruins;
    the enemy has destroyed everything in the sanctuary!
  Your foes have roared in the midst of your meeting place;
    they set up their own signs for signs.
  They were like those who swing axes
    in a forest of trees.
  And all its carved wood
    they broke down with hatchets and hammers.
  They set your sanctuary on fire;
    they profaned the dwelling place of your name,
    bringing it down to the ground.
  They said to themselves, “We will utterly subdue them”;
    they burned all the meeting places of God in the land.
  We do not see our signs;
    there is no longer any prophet,
    and there is none among us who knows how long.
10   How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?
    Is the enemy to revile your name forever?
11   Why do you hold back your hand, your right hand?
    Take it from the fold of your garment and destroy them!

Proverbs 2:6 ()

()

  For the LORD gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;

Sat 12 January, 2019


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