Sunday, November 11, 2018

Sunday Praise & Worship Message - The Blessing of the Third Kernel of Corn: A True Friend

When you have a problem or a situation that has you depressed and you do not know which way to turn, you will often turn to your friends and family not just for advice but also for a sympathetic ear to listen to you. A true friend is someone who will not only listen but will also lend you a shoulder to lean on when things are hard to bear. The greatest gift we can receive from a true friend is a hug and the reassurance that things will get better. They remind us that we have a lot to be thankful for in our lives. When all we see is doom and gloom, they help us see the “big picture” and the blessings that we have received and continue to receive from our Heavenly Father. True friends are wonderful blessings from God.

As the Pilgrims endured the harsh winter and crop failures, they had their families and friends around them to lean on when things seemed to be darkest. Each pulling together and taking care of one another. Even in the darkest of times, we continue to experience the blessings of friendship not only from those around us but also from those that God will place into our lives. 

God brought the American Indians into the lives of the Pilgrims to help them learn about this new land and how to plant and where to find food. During the first Thanksgiving meal, a meal filled to overflowing with all of the bounty of this great new land, the Pilgrims placed five kernels of corn on each plate. Those five kernels of corn reminded them of the food rationing during the hard times that they endured. Each kernel had a blessing attached to it. The third kernel reminded them of God’s gift of friends. In their case, it was the gift of their new American Indian friends.

As I reflect on my illness and all of the hard times I have had to endure because of it, I found great comfort and the best medicine in the world in the hugs that I received from the nurses, nurse technicians, lab technicians, infusion specialists and so many other people. Those hugs and the words of encouragement that they shared with me got me through many difficult moments of setback. It seemed that for every one step forward in my treatment, I would take two steps back. Every success seemed to have a corresponding setback. I felt that I was not making any progress in my recovery. Treatments were extended and more medications were added to my growing list. When I thought I had turned the corner, I was back in the hospital for another week. Once again, I experienced another setback in my recovery plan. 

During each setback, I received a blessing from God, a new friend who would listen and just lend me a shoulder to cry or lean on. When I just needed to find the strength to go on, they were there to help me take that next step in my daily walk. I remember so vividly the day when I had to rely on a walker to move around my room and hallways in the hospital. I felt that my life was quickly fading and that my health would never return. The nurses would help me get to my feet when I struggled to get out of bed. They would walk behind me with a support belt to make sure I did not fall. When I completed my walk, they hugged me and let me know that I was well on my way to completely recovering from my horrible illness.

When I returned home, my home healthcare nurse, Karen, who had the responsibility of monitoring my progress, drawing blood for the battery of blood tests that had been ordered and changing the dressing on my PICC line, would continue to remind me that I was making progress in my recovery. Were there setbacks? I would be lying if I said there were not. I got through them by having friends who cared for me and gave me a hug or a shoulder when I needed them most.

In the book of Proverbs, there is one particular verse that sums up what a true friend ought to be in our lives. In Proverbs 18, the author writes, “24 There are "friends" who destroy each other, but a real friend sticks closer than a brother.” A real or true friend will definitely stick closer to you than a brother. That friend will be there when you need him or her the most. That friend will be there to support you when you take a step using a walker down a long, long hospital corridor. That friend will be there when others just disappear when times get tough. That friend is someone you can trust.

When you look at the characteristics of a true or real friend, you will see someone else as a close, dear friend. He is someone who will always be there with you when things are at their darkest. He is someone who will lift you up and show you the path of righteousness. He will provide you with salvation and be the sacrifice for your sins. If you have not guessed his name by now, let me tell you his name, Jesus. He was, is and will always be that true and real friend in your life if you will let him. He will walk with you daily and be the one who will stick with you closer than anyone else.

One of my mother’s favorites hymns was “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. The second verse of that beautiful, old hymn reassures me of how true of a friend he really is. “Can we find a friend so faithful. Who will all our sorrows share? Jesus knows our every weakness, take it to the Lord in prayer.” Each time I hear that hymn I think of the times I was in my hospital bed between midnight and two in the morning. Those two hours were the most difficult for me, because no one was there. I was alone in my dark hospital room and my mind would often wander. I thought about all of the things I had endured and wondered about all of things to come. I thought about my next breath and what would happen to my wife and family if that next breath and heartbeat did not come. 

It was at those moments that I called upon my closest and truest friend, Jesus, to speak to my heart and listen to my fears and doubts. Like a true and real friend, he listened to me, comforted me and hugged me when all seemed lost. I praise God for His love, a love so deep and profound that I can scarce take it all in. God loved me so much that He gave me His one and only son as my sacrifice, salvation and to be my true, real friend.

Jesus’ words comforted me and I found that wonderful peace that surpasses all understanding. My thoughts were no longer focused on what could happen but rather on my relationship with the Lord. It was his words that got me through the moments of fear, uncertainty and doubt. 

In Proverbs 27, the author writes, “9 The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense.” Having the words of Jesus firmly planted in my heart gave me the strength to take the next step down that long, long hospital corridor and the courage to wait peacefully in preparation for my surgery. His words were and continue to be sweeter than any perfume or incense. 

As I continue to recover from my illness, I will always remember the blessings of the third kernel of corn, the true, real friends who cared for me when I was in the hospital and the one true, real friend who stayed with me and continues to be with me daily, Christ Jesus. He is truly a wonderful friend. If you have not found that true, real friend who can minister to your heart and give a peace that is not of this world, you can find that friend in Christ Jesus. If you accept him as your personal Savior and Lord, he will be there for you every moment of every day. All you have to do is ask and you can begin that closer walk with him.

Once you have Jesus in your life, you will see the blessings of the Lord every day and stand firm in His grace when times are good and when they are tough.

May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.
~ Numbers 6:24-26 New Living Translation (NLT)

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