7th Jan 2012

Dear Friends - October 2011

By Andy Jarvis

In 1996, the BBC conducted a survey to find the Nation's Favourite Poem. The winner was Rudyard Kipling's poem 'If'. I like it's rhyme and rhythm,
''If you can dream and not make dreams your master;
If you can think and not make thought your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
and treat those two imposters just the same;
and that it portrays so many qualities we aspire to, ''If all men count with you, but none too much...''. So hold that thought as 'If' is this month's theme.

I hope that all of you, who went on holiday, came back having had a great time. I'm sure that some wished they could have stayed away longer, but I also know that many enjoy coming back to the familiar and routine. There is something very comforting in what we are used to. The disciples found this after Jesus' death and first resurrection appearance. A week of bereavement, and disappointment followed by resurrection and incredulity had taken its toll. Peter decides to go back to what he knows-fishing. So three of the disciples go out after sunset and fish throughout the night, without success. They are professionals, not hopeful amateurs. Time after time they throw the net out and haul it back in, but there are no fish in it. I know that when something's going wrong, when we're getting frustrated, the last thing any of us wants is someone else, with less understanding of the situation, telling us to do something different. A figure appears on the lake shore, points out their lack of success and suggests throwing the net in a different place. Perhaps because the man is a hundred yards away on shore they don't give chase to throttle him. Perhaps in desperation they throw their net where he suggested and find that they've caught so many fish they can't haul the net in. At that point, Peter realizes that the figure is Jesus. This story is probably included in John's gospel to confirm the resurrection and power of Jesus, but it may also remind us that 'If we do what we've always done, we'll get what we've always got' and that obedience to Christ brings blessing.

I share this story with you because I want to remind you of the verse that God has kept before us in the last year;

''If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.'' 2 Chronicles 7:14

If you are wondering when we are going to start seeing the local people turning to God, healing evident in all kinds of ways and God's blessing on the land, I feel that I should remind you that the promise starts with that little word 'if'. It is a promise with a condition. God will keep his promise when we fulfil the conditions. I'm not saying it's easy to allow and accept God's Spirit revealing sin in our lives or then to change. Neither is it easy to depend on God when we are so well equipped and well used to doing our own thing. But it was not easy for the fisherman to accept the advice of a stranger on the shore. However, God's word assures us that the Spirit will help us;

''If by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.''
Romans 8:13

Moreover, we are encouraged by those who have experienced it for themselves;
''For no matter how many promises God has made, they are ''Yes'' in Christ.''
2 Corinthians 1:20

God calls us to fulfil the condition, in order that He might fulfil the promise. Let's not do what we've always done, that what we might get 'immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine'.

With love,


Andy was a schoolteacher for eleven years before training for ministry, while based on a large council estate just outside Portsmouth. Originally from Brighton, Andy has been the Minister at South Molton Baptist Church since 2001. He is married to Helen and has three children and a granddaughter.