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Functional Believer - By Pastor Thomas Engel


Most people want to be functioning at a high level most of the time. It’s how we get things done.

Hour after hour, day after day, we are hitting the hard pavement of going to work and school to complete projects and assignments. We pay the bills, clean the house, do the laundry, shop for groceries, and cook the meals.

The list goes on and on. Doesn’t it?

We are not doing these things with a half-hearted effort. No way. We go all in at a high functioning level.

What would happen if we didn’t work at a high functioning level?

Things start to slide down. The dirty laundry starts to pile up. We are going through the drive thru every night instead of eating home cook meals.

Too much play time in front of a screen with controls in hand and the grades go down. Too much unresolved conflict at work that raises tensions that lead to decreased motivation to make the situation better.

All we see are steep mountains of problems ahead that make us so tired that we feel we are just going through the motions without fulfilling any purpose.

Granted, because we are humans and not robots, we are not able to function at the highest level all the time. We all need a break because we just get tired. Getting tired is what humans do.

We need to sit down, drink a cup of coffee, and take a deep breath; a day off would be nice to unwind, and when we can get it, a long weekend would make for a big relief.

For our perspectives that can get driven down into the dark, we need to take time to turn on some lights to brighten them up.

I still remember a cartoon years ago on the opinion page of a newspaper. It had an older man sitting next to a younger man on a commuter train. The older man saw an anxious look on the younger man. The older man said to the younger man, “I’m still running in the rat race, but I’m not out to win it any longer.”

Keeping things at a steady pace seems to work best. The pace is not always at the highest but mostly a high level.

One can ask a couple questions, “What would my life be like if I really had my act together that kept it all balanced?” “How would I be doing if I was always functioning at a reasonable level?”

No stress. No anxiousness. Just relaxed. Easy going. Yet, moving along in a functional way that gets everything done as it needs to be done.

I’m happy. My family is happy. Work is happy. Everyone is happy.

Can we get to that point?

Happiness all around. No worries. All is good. Life is balanced. Things are getting done, and I’m not feeling tired.

Is it possible?

Well, not to sound to much like a smart- aleck, but, “Good luck with that.”

Maybe for a time all falls into place, but if I’m functioning just right, it’s not for long.

Of course, we don’t want to be functioning at the lowest level at all.

You know that level that just makes it through a day. Things get done but just barely. It’s not even going to get fast food, but it’s eating peanut butter and jelly every night.

To talk about how you and I function, I would like to talk about how some others function.

The term for these others is not in an official medical diagnosis, but we hear it when we talk about people who have an addiction

Some people with addictions can still carry on basic normal lives.

These people are “functional addicts.”

Some people can be users of drugs and still function at a level that pays the bills, although they are usually getting behind on them, they can maintain a house, although things are starting to fall apart, and they can have relationships with others, although they are often strained.

Going back to those questions we asked earlier, a person with an addiction might ask, “What would my life be like without my addiction to drugs?”

Now, I’m going t go out on a limb here and be a little daring, but I hope you see it is for a good purpose.

I don’t want to be offensive, but I think I can dig deep into each one of you and find something that makes you a functional something or another.

Here are some prompts for you:

Are you a functional worrying?

You worry a lot about things you can’t really do anything about.

Are you a functional procrastinator?

What would life be like if you didn’t keep putting things off until the last minute?

Are you a functional pessimist?

Or, a functional optimist?

Do you go too much to the negative side of or to the positive side of things that don’t help you to see the true picture of things? Because you are not seeing reality, you are not able to make sound decisions that have solutions fitting the problems.

We all have some kind of something that keeps us from functioning at our best level.

I can say that we all have something that hinders us our functioning at a full level because we are all human.

As we talked earlier, we get tired, and we have our faults like impatience, frustration that leads to anger, and lack of understanding and empathy. That list can go on and on.

We are not perfect people, and our imperfections can keep us from functioning at our best all the time.

The reason we are not perfect is because we are sinners living in a sinful world.

We will do things that will not make us the functional people that we are capable of.

Each of us has something that we need to be working on.

Every Sunday after Easter we have the reading that talks about Thomas and his doubt.

We always ask why on this Sunday, one week after we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, do we talk about doubt?

Are we still not flying high on the celebration of Easter?

But, the truth is that we go down quickly.

We go back to our lives and to this world, and we begin to function as doubters.

I think we can agree that we are all functional doubters.

Thomas was somewhere else when Jesus appeared to the disciples to bring them assurance that he did indeed rise from the dead.

A week later, Jesus did come to Thomas, so he would no longer doubt.

Thomas was a functional doubter. He still came around, but he kept himself at a distance.

As we talked on Easter, the Marys were functional in their grief. They went to the tomb early that first Easter morning to anoint Jesus’ body as with the custom, but they didn’t need have been thinking about Jesus’ dead body.

As the disciples hid out in fear of the Jews. The disciples were functional cowards. Their fear stopped them from acting like people of bold faith.

During that first week of Easter, if the disciples, Thomas, and the women kept in mind all that Jesus had told them about his death and his rising on the third day, they would have saved themselves a lot of heartache.

How would we be doing if we didn’t have any doubts about our well-being and situations? Could we be saving ourselves lot of heartache if we lived more by faith?

Notice what happened that first week of Easter. The angels came to the women at the tomb to remind them of what Jesus had told them about his rising from the dead.

Jesus appeared, although the door was locked, to his disciples to show them he had risen.

Jesus came to Thomas and gave into his demands to see his scars to show him that all was as he said it was about his death and resurrection.

After Jesus’ ascension into heaven, all the disciples went out into the world to spread the Gospel.

At times, they faced hard persecution. The disciples could only do this work as functional believers.

For us, how about this morning?

What is happening with us?

Has not Jesus come to us this morning in Word and Sacrament to help us to be who are to be, functional believers?

Jesus’ whole purpose is for us to be functional believers.

From our baptism to this day when hear his Word and we eat and drink his body and blood given to us for the forgiveness of sins, for everlasting life, and the building up our faiths, we can be functional believers who can go out into our lives and this world and get through it all quite well.

The beauty and amazement of all of what Jesus does for us is that he is doing it even when we are are acting like functional worriers or functional whatevers.

A little spiritual logic here:

If Jesus conquered sin, Satan, and eternal death by his death and resurrection, he has made a way for us to function at a such a level that we believe we can make it through all that comes our way.

This verse in the hymn, “What a Friend We have in Jesus,” always hits the point for me of how I cause myself so much needless heartache:

Oh, what peace we often forfeit Oh, what needless pain we bear All because we do not carry Everything to God in prayer

The thing is that we don’t take everything to God in Jesus Christ.

At times, we are functional people of fear, functional doubters, and the list goes on to how we go about our lives as functional whatevers.

How about we go about as only functional believers who know that our victorious Lord and Savior is always going before us?

We might not always be so good at functioning as we should as believers, but God in Jesus Christ will be sure that He will always come to us, so we have all the benefits of faith: joy, peace, and comfort.

In all of our doubts, Jesus will always come to us to tell us who we are, functional believers, and how we can live as functional believers.

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