Let Jesus calm turbulent times, Merrell tells Chapel
Story by Rick Vacek
Photos by Travis Neely
GCU News Bureau
The Chapel schedule at Grand Canyon University is set months in advance, but the timing of Ron Merrell’s message Monday morning couldn’t have been better.
It came at a time when so many things seemingly couldn’t be worse.
On the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, in a turbulent era exacerbated by yet another hurricane, making “into each life a little rain must fall” seem sadly understated, the teaching pastor of Heights Church in Prescott delivered a passionate talk about pain and suffering to a packed crowd of students and staff in GCU Arena.
“You sit with people long enough and you hear about the difficulties of what it is that they have experienced, and it is overwhelming,” he said.
“… I don’t need to make a case for pain and suffering. But why I’m here today is because I’m really, really burdened for your pain and suffering, because I believe that Jesus is really burdened for your pain and suffering.”
Merrell shared some of the challenges he has encountered, from a rough childhood to his current battles with seizures to being one of the pastors in the room in 2013 when families were notified that 19 members of the Prescott Fire Department’s Granite Mountain Hotshots had been killed while fighting a wildfire.
“I feel like I’ve had a front-row seat to pain,” he said.
Everyone else has, too, he emphasized. “One thing I can guarantee you is that you’ve experienced some pain, you’ve experienced some suffering,” he said. He left no doubt where they should go to try to exit that pain.
“We are stuck in a broken, fallen world, and the ripple effects of that are everywhere,” he said. “… When your soul, when your heart gets damaged and wrecked, when it is darkened, then you and I need to run to Jesus.”
Merrell likes to inject skits and props into his talks, and this was no exception.
He began by re-enacting the classic case of the kid who’s always picked last for the team.
“I imagine that there are some of you here in this room today that you can think back to a moment in your childhood where you experienced some sort of difficulty, some sort of challenge, some sort of pain,” he said. “… It was real. It wasn’t just an inconvenience. It was no small thing.”
He used pitchers of a dark liquid (representing sin) and water (representing the light of Jesus) to demonstrate the futility of turning to the failed remedies of this world in the hopes of soothing ourselves.
“There’s no amount of self-help that can help that,” he said. “Only Jesus can go to work there.”
He utilized a guinea pig from the audience, Center for Worship Arts student Ronnie Petkovich, to show how we don’t pull our load with Jesus alongside us or by carrying Him. Instead, He carries us.
“I’ve got to tell you, this is a much better situation,” he said from his perch atop Petkovich’s strong back. “And Jesus will carry you through whatever it is that you are going through. He wants to carry you. He loves you that much. Let Him carry you.”
Merrell also cited two Bible passages while making his point:
- John 16:33 – “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
- Matthew 11:28-30 – “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
In a mini-preview of his talk beforehand, Merrell said he hoped his listeners would pray and seek the Lord more than ever after hearing what he had to say.
“It’s in prayer but also in His word and getting Godly counsel,” he said.
That counsel can include a Chapel talk on a day to commemorate a dark day from the past and dark times in the present.
● To hear a replay of Chapel, click here.
● Next week’s Chapel speaker will be Warren Stewart Jr. of Church of the Remnant in south Phoenix.
Contact Rick Vacek at (602) 639-8203 or firstname.lastname@example.org.