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« Are Traditions Good or Bad in the Church? | Main | Let It Flow »

You Are Not Normal 

“But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. 1 Thessalonians 4:13

I grew up in a pastor’s home, so I had a pretty good idea from the outset that preachers were not normal. I mean, who goes to church four or five times a week—that is, in a “normal” week—because, some weeks we went to church eight or nine times? No television, no playing on sports teams, no dating girls that weren’t in the church? It wasn’t normal.

Then, when I entered the ministry, I found out that missionaries were not normal either. Missionaries have to have mutated genes to pick up and move their families thousands of miles away from their children’s grandparents and hope that Skype or FaceTime will compensate for the distance. And then, deputation for two years? Very abnormal. 

But, guess what? After I had been pastoring for several years and really had a chance to learn people, I found out that Christians were not normal either. I mean, everybody knows that seeing is believing, but Christians walked by faith, not by sight. Everybody knows that when you are in Rome, you do as the Romans do. There are certain customs, mindsets and worldviews that just are—that’s the way it is and you have to go along with it. But, no. Not Christians. They don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but they want God to transform them into a new person by changing the way they think. They say that is God’s will for them, and they believe it is good and pleasing and perfect. Romans 12:2 (NLT). 

1. adjective; normal 1. conforming to a standard; usual, typical, or expected.  “It’s quite normal for puppies to bolt their food”; (of a person) free from physical or mental disorders.   2. noun; the usual, average, or typical state or condition. “Her temperature was above normal.” 

I cite these definitions, not that I don’t think you know what the word “normal” means, but because we don’t always evaluate the context of our behaviors, or we are not always aware, or cognizant of the circumstances that evoke certain responses from us. 

In other words, in the wake of certain events, we often react in what we would call “normal” ways. The problem is that we accept the human or secular kind of response in our own lives, and justify them as “normal.” 

Loneliness. This is a “normal” feeling we experience when we are isolated, especially from loved ones. 

Irritation. This “normal” feeling shows up when our peace is disrupted by petty behaviors of other people or events. 

Many kinds of feelings plague us. What are some of the causes of the following emotions?

  • Anger.
  • Fear.
  • Jealousy.
  • Resentment.
  • Disappointment.
  • Depression.
  • Confusion.
  • Hurt.

The dilemma of caregivers is that they attempt to help people overcome the very emotions and feelings that they themselves are battling. If we justify these feelings as normal or human, as though they are legitimate, then we degrade our ability to truly help others. 

Before we go any further, let me issue a disclaimer. I am not saying that we are immune to these emotions, or that, if we experience them, we have somehow lost our Christianity. I am saying that we do not have to be conquered by these feelings. 

The closest analogy I can give is to picture two swaying bridges across a deep and dangerous ravine. One has handrails, the other does not. Which one would you like to cross? We need to understand that God does not pick us up and miraculously transport us across to the other side. Rather, He provides something to hang on to while we are slowly making our way from one side to the other. 

When circumstances elicit certain responses from you, do know why or do you just say “I’m only human! I can’t help it. It’s just a normal response.” 

Let’s look at a familiar passage of scripture to illustrate what I mean, Psalm 23. But let’s not read it for its face value. Let’s do some analysis and dig deeper. Each statement David makes is predicated upon a condition of need. When he says, for example, “The Lord is my Shepherd,” he presupposes that the reader understands that he is in a wild and dangerous wilderness, with hazardous conditions all around. “Danger” is normal; having a “Shepherd” is not normal, at least for those in the world. 

Psalm 23:1-6

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Normal response: Worry. I need something and I don’t know where I’ll get it.)

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: (Hunger; everything is brown and barren) 

he leadeth me beside the still waters. (Thirst; the water is too turbulent to drink) 

3 He restoreth my soul: (I’m a mess; I don’t have the strength to take another step) 

he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Nothing is good; impossible) 

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. (I’m overwhelmed with sadness; no joy) 

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: (Frustrated; enemies triumph) 

thou anointest my head with oil; (I have no spiritual authority, no touch of godliness.) 

my cup runneth over. (I am empty) 

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: (I don’t see any way out of evil and vengeance) 

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (I don’t belong here.) 

Let’s look at some “normal” responses in the lives of the disciples.

35 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. 36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. 37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. 38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? 39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? 41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him? Mark 4:35-41. 

If you have ever been on the high seas in a storm, you know what fear is. A man in our church was in the US Navy. He told of being in a storm when eighty foot waves beat against the ship. He prayed, “Lord, if you get me through this I’ll go to church when I get home.” He got home and missed very few services until the day he died, even though he didn’t get the Holy Ghost until he was in his seventies. You see, fear of storms is normal. Jesus wasn’t normal. He didn’t want his disciples to be normal. 

Our beginning text spoke of the normal response to death: sorrow. All of you here today have been touched by the death of a loved one. It makes us sad. Depending on who has died, it may also evoke feelings of anger, resentment, bitterness, doubt and fear, along with sadness. Those are the “normal” responses. But Paul said, “We do not sorrow as others which have no hope.” In other words, we’re not normal. Oh, we have the tendency to be normal. Normal is our default position. Normal makes us feel like we are at least human. Normal puts us on the same plane as everybody else. And, therein, lies the problem. 

It is when we cave in to normal feelings that we lose all the advantages of being a Christian. 

Let’s just go ahead and say we are to be abnormal. When we reach out and grasp the abnormal position as a response to the vicissitudes of life, we increase our ministerial effectiveness exponentially! It is when we keep our heads on straight when everyone else is losing control that we exercise quiet power. 

The New Testament is dedicated to teaching us how to be abnormal in a normal (and sometimes sub-normal) world. 

7 And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure. 8 For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me. 9 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong. 2 Corinthians 12:7-10  

That’s not a normal response. Normal people don’t take pleasure in infirmaties, reproaches, etc. They get mad, bitter, disillusioned, outraged. They develop toxic attitudes, they complain loudly, they draw comparisons between themselves and others in the same profession. 

12 Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13 But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14 If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. 16 Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. 1 Peter 4:12-16 

That’s not normal. Normal human beings don’t rejoice or break out in a glad dance when they get beaten down. They withdraw, they pull in their horns, they say “never again.” 

We know what the “normal response” is to these feelings. But, what are the abnormal responses? 

“To live is Christ; to die is gain.”  

“And at midnight, Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God…”  

Don’t be normal. Normal people wallow in self-pity and defeat. Normal people quit and have good reason to do so. Abnormal people hang in there against all odds. 

Be peculiar. 

6 Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. 7 Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, 8 And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light: 1 Peter 2:6-9 (KJV)

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