Barry H. Corey: God’s Tailwinds Are Stronger Than Life’s Headwinds [Biola University Chapel]

Posted By on September 21, 2019

[upbeat music]>>Ever been in one of those windstorms when you can barely walk? Irritating head winds, umbrellas invert, trees bow, newspapers
scatter this way and that. Some of you NCAA cross country
athletes over there, um, you know when you’re running into the wind you lose seconds, sometimes minutes, off of your would-be times. Those of you who cycle
may know the phrase, “They’re only headwinds, “no matter which direction you bike.” Pilots tell you about jet streams slowing down westward heading flights. I once tried windsurfing a few times. I’m terrible at it, actually. Here I am, last month,
struggling to keep my balance. Yeah, it was a calm day. My wife, Paula, is over
here to testify to my, uh, inabilities to windsurf. Um, I’m not really sure why I’m so bad. Um, but as you can tell, I am. I don’t know if it’s my
equilibrium, or my arm strength, or lack of, or my ability to
maneuver around the board. If you’ve ever tried
windsurfing, given my strapping five foot nine inch frame. [crowd laughing] You know, it’s probably
a bit of all of those. But more than anything, I
actually don’t think I know how to navigate headwinds. The winds flipped me around. They point me in a direction
I don’t want to go. The winds pull the sail rope
out of my very tired hands. The winds, they swell the waves
that knock me off the board, and finally I paddled
back to shore, a quitter. Winds can be a nuisance. They can be pernicious. They can actually even be deadly. This morning, Florida,
Georgia, and the Carolinas are bracing for tropical force winds as Hurricane Dorian bears down
on the U.S. Atlantic coasts after reeking havoc on the Bahamas. In April 1991, as a study
abroad student in Bangladesh, I saw how ferocious winds from a cyclone mercilessly toppled
buildings, surged tides, and killed 130,000 people in one night. Winds that hit you head
on, they can slow you down. They can knock you down. They can even lay you down. Headwinds render life very difficult. Making progress seem impossible
no matter what you do. I want you to hear me
on winds this morning. Not meteorologically, but metaphorically. When I talk about headwinds,
those gales gusting in your face, I mean
when pressures seem to be blowing against you and
blowing against me so hard that life gets much more
difficult than we expect it to be or that we want it to be. And maybe you’re a student here today, who no matter how hard you
try, the headwinds seem to keep holding you back. You’re in that storm-tossed
season that seems to keep you from moving forward
and you know the headwinds. Tough relationships, too
many things on your plate, financial challenges,
intensifying fears, inner angst that you don’t even know
where that’s coming from and any particular reason at all. Maybe even feelings
you’re somehow not enough. And by the way, you are enough in Christ. You don’t have to prove to anyone your dignity and your worth in God’s eyes. As Philip Yancey has said,
there’s nothing that you can do to make God love you more. There’s nothing you can do
to make God love you less. He loves you. And let me add, for
those of you who are new or as a remind of those
of you who are returning, we actually have teams
here at Biola that help you in your headwinds. We have res. life staff. We have pastoral care
teams, student care teams. Biola Counseling Center,
Center for Health, Marriage and Relationship Health Center, Holy Spirit Center, Global
Students and Diversity staff, faculty advisors, as
well as friends you have and friends you’ll make. Headwinds, they can make life difficult. I certainly have faced
them in recent years. Those of you, maybe especially
the faculty who have been around for a while,
have heard me lament on more than one occasion about how we, as a Christian university,
seem to be facing stronger headwinds than ever. These cultural and political
winds have intensified in the 12 years since Paula,
and I, and our three kids moved from Boston to California
to take on this new role. And what it took to remain
steadfast, a decade ago, requires a lot more effort today. I don’t, I’m not gonna
rattle off the list of where these headwinds
have hit the hardest. But, trust me, they’re there. And if I can be completely
honest with you, which I try to do, like,
this is not my favorite part of the job, leading
into these stiffening winds. Because sometimes these
squalls, they fan my anxieties. They make it feel like I’m
struggling to move forward and maybe making no progress at all. About three months ago,
June 13th to be exact, I was in one of those funks
wondering about the headwinds that I felt like were
there or were coming. And a thought entered
my mind as I was sitting at a conference table,
right here at Biola. And this is what I sensed
in that, what I felt to be a Holy nudging. The Spirit’s tailwinds are
stronger than life’s headwinds. So, rather than tweeting
what I sensed might be from the Holy Spirit, I
decided, which sometimes we do maybe a little prematurely,
I decided to do what Paul, uh, instructs in 2
Corinthians when he said, “Take every thought captive for Christ”. So, I took captive those words. I imprisoned them, so
to speak, for some time to discern if they were biblically true. ‘Cause this is what we do, right? If it was the Holy Spirit
prompting me that day, guiding me into all truth,
then it was the Holy Spirit. Because that’s what the Holy Spirit does. And Jesus says that in John, chapter 16. So fast forward, and I’ve come
to believe that on June 13th of this year, the Holy Spirit
was truly speaking to me. Just what I needed to
hear, saying, “My tailwinds “are stronger than your headwinds.” And I’m telling you, the
abiding peace that has since come from that truth has been freeing. Because I do believe that
the winds blowing for me are stronger than the
winds blowing against me. Paraphrasing 1 John 4. And this has, frankly,
emboldened my leadership. It’s made my summer much less stress-free. And it’s strengthened my life. And if you look at scripture,
the word wind is often the same as breath or spirit. Dr. Pickavance read this
morning from Ezekiel’s vision in chapter 37, “The hand
of the Lord is upon me, “and he brought me out
by the Spirit of the Lord “and set me in the middle of a valley. “It was filled with bones and he asked me, “‘Can these bones live?’ “And Ezekiel answered,
‘Only you know, Lord.'” God was saying to his
servant, “I’m the only one “who can breathe life
into these dry bones.” So God told Ezekiel in verse nine, “Prophesy to the breath and say to it, “‘Come from the four winds,
O breath, and breathe into “these slain that they may live.'” And those valley bones
represented the people of Israel, dried up, cut off, hope gone. And when the wind came and breathed life into these dead bones,
God says to these bones, “I will put my Spirit in
you, and you will live.” And there was a noise. It sounded like this
rattling sound of bones coming together and ribs and skulls, and femurs, and hips, and ankles. And in Ezekiel’s vision,
these bones grew tendons, and they grew flesh and skin. And finally, with the breath came the life. It wasn’t the bones. It wasn’t the tendons, the flesh, or the skin that gave life. It was the breath. It was the wind. And that dried bone valley is a vision that parallels creation. In Genesis 2, “God created
man out of the lifeless dust “of the ground and he breathed
into him the breath of life, “and then he became a living creature.” At Biola, we are nothing
without the breath, the wind. And I believe that the Spirit of God will sovereignly breathe
into this campus, his people. As we earnestly pray toward that end, it’ll come like a wind of
hope, of renewal, of revival. And tailwinds come, I believe, when the headwinds are the strongest. I will breathe my spirit
in you and you will live. Words right out of Ezekiel. Jesus said the same thing. After his resurrection, “Jesus
breathed on his disciples “and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.'” With the breath, with the
wind, comes the Spirit. The early group of Jesus’s followers are facing some headwinds. Jesus had ascended. They were alone. They were bewildered. They didn’t know what was next. They were wondering about their future. So 120 of them, they packed themselves, crammed into an upper room to pray. Acts 2, and as they did,
they began to hear a sound. That sound wasn’t like the
rattling bones coming together. But the sound was of a
rushing wind coming upon them. A wind that came from heaven. And they were filled with the Holy Spirit. And began to speak in other tongues as they were enabled by the Spirit. It was the wind of the
Spirit that breathed life into humanity at the
creation of the world. It was the wind of the Spirit that brought to life Ezekiel’s
vision of dry bones. It was the wind of the
spirit that empowered these followers of Jesus
to live the Gospel, and preach the Gospel, and
those upper room dwellers to even, in many cases,
die for the Gospel. So I come back to that question. And I pondered of the Spirit on June 13th, “Why don’t you spend more time, Barry, “allowing yourself to
be moved by my tailwinds “than by obsessing with your headwinds?” You know, there’s a lot of
things I’m hoping for at Biola. Working toward, praying about this year. You know, good things,
things that I call, like, our bones, our tendons,
our flesh, our skin. Athletics, and the arts,
and good career planning for your students, and
lectures, and new programs, and rigorous academics, and research. But with all of this, we are nothing without the breath. Genesis 2, Ezekiel 37, John 3, Acts 2, remind us that we are lifeless without breath, without the wind animating us. And I pray that the
breath of the Spirit moves in you students, in our
faculty, in our staff. And gives you life, gives us life. And if you ever notice
a refreshing breeze, it often happens when
you’re standing still and not when you’re moving. So I’m gonna encourage you
to just stop, and feel it, and wait for it. One way you can do this is to go to Fives chapel,
Tuesdays and Thursdays. Packed yesterday, but just
a chance to pause quietly in prayer, led by our
spiritual life teams, and allow yourself to, like, decelerate. So that you sense that
the breath of the Spirit is breezing over you. And we need to allow the Spirit
to give life to our bones. You know, we can’t breathe
breath into ourselves. I watched, this summer,
an episode of Mythbusters. [crowd murmurs] What that, you know, this
episode was trying to do was prove whether or not your fan on your boat can actually blow your sail. Did anybody remember
seeing that one? [mumbles] It’s actually testing Newton’s third law. And, basically, the pair of these forces, now I’m not a physicist, so
you guys can correct me later if I’m wrong, but these forces
the fan against the sail, they offset each other. So it like, your own breath
can’t blow you forward, basically what it’s saying. And I couldn’t miss this opportunity to tell you about Mythbusters. In other words, you
can’t cause and sustain a spiritual momentum by creating
your own wind, so to speak. Self help techniques with some God add-on. And I hope you students,
like you, I know you’re gonna try your hardest, do
your best, get back up when you fall, here at Biola. So you’re gonna have
that go-for-it spirit. But don’t buy into the bad
bumper sticker theology that God is your co-pilot. It’s not like 60% you, 40% God. You know, despite your
abilities and gifts, which you all have,
don’t see the Holy Spirit as a turbo charged switch to
flip on when it gets tough. We must allow ourselves
to be fully yielded to the wind of the Spirit. R.A. Torrey, he was a
Yale educated theologian and Biola’s dean a
century ago, wrote this, “If we think of the
Holy Spirit as many do, “as merely a power or
influence, our constant thought “will be, ‘How can I get
more of the Holy Spirit?’ “But if we think of
him in the biblical way “as a divine person, our
thought will rather be, “‘How can the Holy
Spirit have more of me?'” You know, you’re part of
an educational community, here at Biola, of Jesus followers and you’re born of the Spirit. And Jesus said to his
come-by-night visitor, Nicodemus in John chapter three, he said, “The wind blows wherever it pleases. “You hear its sound, but you cannot tell “where it comes from
our where it’s going.” And so it is with everyone
born of the Spirit. Our chapel theme this year
is the preposition “with”. Spirit of the truth
dwells with you, John 14. And that’s the same spirit
who breathes in you. So may we move in concert
with the blowing winds of the Spirit. May we be compelled by the Word of God. May we be propelled by the Spirit of God. And because we are one in the Spirit, may we be known to the
world by our spirit-infused, counter cultural,
unconditional, relentless love. May, even, we surprise the world by loving those who are generating the
greatest headwinds against us. And in a culture that seems more angry and polarized than ever,
we, Biola University, can be different. We do our best moving with the Spirit and not against the Spirit. With the wind of the Spirit moving us, you can help heal a fractured world. You can foster civility. You can bring compassion
to a warring public square. You can enrich lives, rather
than tear people apart. With the wind of the Spirit,
you can surmount obstacles and upend the enemy with
the wind of the Spirit. You can move, with confidence,
into your headwinds and live the Gospel in word and action, with the wind of the Spirit. You can spend less time being worried about the other winds
and draft in God’s winds, with the wind of the Spirit. You can discern how to act
when you face difficult, and sometimes compromising decisions, with the breath of the Spirit. You can see truth with your
mind as the Spirit leads you into all truth. And even in your academics,
I encourage you to pray this prayer, “Holy Spirit
as I sit to study, to read, to write, to enter a lab or a classroom, I pray that you lead me into truth.” With the breath of the
Spirit, the fading embers of your soul can ignite
into a blazing fire. It’s what the Oxford
professor, Edwin Hatch, was getting at in the
lyrics of his classic hymn, “Breathe on me breath of
God, ’til I am wholly thine. “Until this earthly part of me
glows with thy fire divine.” And remember, Biola, in
Ezekiel’s vision it just wasn’t one skeleton coming together. It was a community of bones. A community that came to life
and stood up on their feet. In verse 10, it said, “The
prophet said that there “was a great army that came
out of those dry bones.” Biola, God’s tailwinds are
stronger than your headwinds. And he can breathe his
Spirit into our community and make us into a vast army. An army where the weapons we wield are the fruit of the Spirit. As we inhale the Spirit, we
exhale love, and peace, and joy, and kindness, and patience,
and faithfullness, and gentleness, and self
control, and goodness. And this will set us apart among other colleges and universities. Being people of the Spirit means thinking and living Christianly. Committed to excellence in your studies, and in your vocation, and in your life. Students, I don’t know where you’re going. You may be going into law, into politics, into health sciences,
education, corporate life, journalism, art, film, whatever. There is a culture out there with forces whipping up wind against your faith. And as you go there, remember
God’s tailwinds are stronger. Don’t be duped to believe otherwise. Open yourself each day to live in the air stream of the Spirit. Commit to submit to move with the momentum of the great wind of the
Spirit, blowing powerfully around the world today. Chris, get up here and start
playing something spiritual, ’cause we’re ’bout to end this thing. [crowd laughing] A recent parent wrote me,
few months ago saying this, is a Biola parent, “I’ve
been in the Middle East “all week listening to
stories of people turning away “from radicalized Islam to
the tender love of Jesus. “The sheer number of these
stories, and the momentum “building in the region,
rivals what we read in Acts. “I thought you would be interested to note “the three common themes in these stories. “One: Supernatural encounters
through dreams and visions. “Two: The kindness of Jesus’s followers, “freely extended at great risk. “And three: A clear message of
forgiveness and repentance.” Biola, don’t underestimate
the power of the Spirit in your life, in this
community, throughout the world to move people toward
the tender love of Jesus. Not long after I started here,
12 years ago, it was 2007, I gave an assignment to
Professor Richard Rigsby, now with Christ. I said, “Find a verse to help
me develop some of my thinking “about Biola’s future.” And this elderly scholar
came by the office and said, of the 31,000 verses in the
Bible, God kept prompting him toward one from the
obscure book of Zechariah. “It’s not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, “says the Lord.” You can find that verse
etched in the window of Talbot East building. Look for it and believe in it. Not by might, not by power,
not by our academic rankings, not by the name recognition
that we might have, not by our beautiful grounds,
not by expanding buildings, but by my breath. By my wind. My breathe-life-into-dry-bones
Spirit, says the Lord. So may the wind of the
Spirit, the breath of God, resuscitate us at Biola,
so that all we do, Christ may be exalted and glorified. May we be woke by the Spirit of God. God has used colleges in the
great spiritual awakenings of our Nation. I would like believe he is doing this again today at Biola, through us. The Christian faith may
seem under siege in culture, but the Gospel is hardly receding. The spirit of the age
may be alive and well, but the Spirit of the Living
God will be triumphant. The kingdoms of this world
may have had their day, but one day they will cede
to the kingdom of our God, and of his Christ, and he
will reign forever and ever. God is breathing his breath
into Biola University. And if you let him, he will
use you to reach the nations for his glory, in any of
your vocational callings. So students as you develop
intellectually defensible ideas here, which you will, may
you also walk in the humility of the Spirit, drafting in God’s wind. And as you do, the force of change, and the world through
you will be immeasurable. So we will not retrench
from being who we are, a university of words centered
in Spirit-empowered faith, will not roll over. Thinking because the
headwinds are just too strong, we’re gonna give up. This is defeatism. The Spirit’s tailwinds are stronger than any of our headwinds. So breathe on us, breath of
God, ’til we are wholly thine, until this earthly part of us glows with thy fire divine. Stand with me before the benediction. We sing about the breath of God and those bones coming back to life. [upbeat music]>>Female Narrator: Discover
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