One word: out. It affects everybody here some time or another. You’re in - someday you’ll be out. Or you’re out - you were never in. How do you feel when you’re out? I tell you I’m going to think about that this morning.
Here’s the text that I leave with you. Isaiah 55 verse 12: “You shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace.” Where do you go from out? I dedicate this message today to, including two of my grandchildren who just graduated from the University. This is the time of the year when students are going out. They’ll never go back. You say maybe as a teacher, but then that’s not the same person. They are different people with different roles and when we go out, we can never come back. We are changed.
I was taught years ago in seminary that it’s impossible for a minister to ever preach the same sermon twice. If you did, you’re not the same and the people who are listening are not the same. We’re all moving, we’re all on the go; slow or fast. How do you live with the outs of life?
Well first of all I want to give you four principles. Number one: you can go out with joy if you have fixed frame of reference. That means something is not going to change. Your values will not change. Oh you can change them but then that’s your fault. It’s your decision. Maybe some should be changed. You can go out with joy and keep moving through life from one phase and stage to another. A family now, you’re married, and then a child comes and another. Then you become a family with children all living in the home. And then finally one leaves and another and before you realize it’s what they call an empty nest, they’re all out, never to return.
You can go out with joy if you have a fixed frame of reference and what does that mean? That means first of all that you have solid ideals and values and commitments and goals that you live with and will never abandon or violate. You know, you can be sure of one thing that if you begin to leave an ideal or a moral or a value or an ethics, in that moment you invite age to replace youth. MacArthur said it: you are as young as your ideals. You’ll never feel old if you stay with your youthful ideals and goals and values and morals. I don’t feel any older than I did when I was sixteen. I’m the same guy. What was a sin to me then is still a sin. My morality hasn’t changed. My values haven’t changed so at the deepest level, life has not changed. You can go out with joy if you have a fixed frame of reference.
You can go out with joy if you have a faith that is solid and never abandoned. If anybody picks up a faith as a child, develops it in the teenage years and then during adult maturity, as long as they hold on to that faith and don’t try to chip it away or water it down or ignore it they remain strong. You can go out from one decade to the next with joy from your teenage years to your twenties, twenties to thirties, the thirties to the forties, the forties to the fifties, the fifties to the sixties. I’ve lived this so listen: the sixties to the seventies, the seventies to the eighties and that’s where I am and through all of these years and all of these phases and stages of my life this joy has not abandoned one bit because your joy is tap rooted in the values of the faith and your faith keeps you young. You never feel old, not at all.
The problem with getting older has its problems. The biggest problem I want to say and this is not a sermon on this, I shouldn’t mention it, but is the biggest problem with getting old is I miss friends. I’ve outlived a lot of friends. I think of them a lot, more than I know. When I hear a piece of music or see a piece of architecture or look at a book. But I still go forward with joy because the memories are there and they’re happy memories and ultimately, as far as I can tell, the bottom line of living is called memories. And I’m looking across this great group of people here and the bigger crowd earlier this morning growing older. I’m collecting more memories and they’re good. You shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace.
Where are the outs that we have to go through? For some of you a spouse is no longer with you maybe through divorce, maybe through death. Where do you go from that out? For some of you, your career is progressing, but now you’re going to have to step aside. The company won’t keep you when you reach that age and then you’re gone. One man, whose name would be known by all of you but I can’t name it, said the toughest thing about having to retire, the telephone doesn’t ring anymore. He doesn’t get those telephone calls. Where do you go from out? This is a bible verse that God wants you to remember from now till your end. It’s His promise you shall go out. You will. Every single human being listening to the sound of this voice without exception, you shall go out with joy and be led forth in peace.
What do we need to go out with joy? Well we need to have that fixed frame of reference which is our faith. And if you have a faith that is positive it keeps you an optimist. Every new stage will have its peculiar blessings that you didn’t experience prior to that. And the new blessings that are in each new phase are enough to keep you an optimist believing that God is blessings. That’s how you can go out with joy. And you can go out with joy when you see a future. No matter what your stage in life, there’s a future. And I can tell you as you get to the senior years and you look to the future, the future looks different. It looks different to me now then it did twenty years ago. In my case, it’s very exciting because I happen to be richly blessed with five children and nineteen grandchildren and I’m looking forward and I see there’s a graduation there, oh and there’s a marriage there, and there’s an anniversary there. How many of you do not have that privilege? But you do have your own future and look for it and you can find blessings waiting for you in the tomorrow’s you’ve never lived before. So be positive, be expectant.
Yes, you can go out with joy if you have a fabulous future. And that everybody can have because you make the decisions of what you’re going to do. You make the decisions of where you will live, where you are or when you move. You have the decision about what clubs you will join or what groups you’ll become a part of. You have a future. Find it, shape it, mold it, make it great.
And you have a future if you have a friend. Yes the greatest thing in going out is not going out alone. And every person in the sound of my voice can have a special friendship with God and then you will never go out alone. Christ can be to you what He has been to me and what He is to me. He is my best friend and therefore I don’t go alone. He is there ahead of me. I live with a hymn I learned as a little boy, “what a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and grief’s to bear. What a privilege to carry everything to Him in prayer. Oh what peace we often forfeit. Oh what needless pain we bear all because we do not carry everything to Him in prayer.”
I don’t know where you’re at today, but I have a strong feeling that people, not a few, quite a few sitting here and you’ve never really embraced Jesus Christ as your personal friend, Lord and Savior. I invite you to do that today. He is alive. He listens to you when you talk to Him alone. He’ll walk with you through the good times and the bad times and most of all through the out times.
Here I am, Lord. I feel You within me. Here they come from there, there, from there and there you come. Embrace Jesus Christ. He’s alive. You can feel His presence in this place. Yes you can and you will be His friend. And then when the time comes and the bell rings and it’s time for you to move on and you come to the end, you’ll discover the end is a new beginning because every time you go out, you’re going to be going in. Where? Depends on you.
Oh Lord, here You are. And we didn’t invite all these people Jesus. Who brought them here by the hundreds? Who are they? They’re out but they have come in to a place where You can embrace them and be their best friend forevermore. Hallelujah, Amen.
Let us pray.