Saturday, October 18, 2008

Facing the Future Without Fear

October 19, 2008

And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses. Deuteronomy 34:9
A new leader and a new day are ahead of God’s children. For Joshua and the children of Isreal, there was fear about the future.

Now lets look at Joshua 1: 1-9:
Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
Franklin D. Roosevelt said: “...the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”
The children of Israel were at a crossroads and their leader had died. They did not know what the future held for them. God gave the new leader, Joshua, encouraging words:

So I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. (v.5)
Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. (v. 9)

Lets look at these statements.
A. “I will be with thee.”
B. “I will not fail thee.”
C. “Nor forsake thee.”
D. ”For the Lord is with thee.”
That is what the Lord promises Joshua and the children of Israel.

Now let’s look at what He commanded them to do.
A. “Be strong.”
B. “Be of good courage.”
C. “Be not afraid.”
D. “Be not dismayed .”

Wrapped up in our scripture are four very powerful words which are:
Purpose, Promise, Power, and Presence.

In this lesson this morning I want us to think about two things:

1. The Fear of the Future for the Children of Israel.

Be strong and very courageous! This is a statement that God gave Joshua for what lay ahead.
I asked the question to myself: “why did God tell Joshua to be strong and courageous?” The answer? Because God knew what was ahead. Let’s look at at verse 2:

Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast. There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
Now this was wonderful! Just get up and go across the river and I will give you the land that you cross! I will even go with you! Boy, that is wonderful! Nothing to worry about, right? Wrong!
The reason God told Joshua to be strong and unafraid was that God knew the future and what it held.

If they had known what the future held, we might have a different ending to this story.
There were to come many places and things that God would lead His children through. Whenever they followed His leading they would win. When they didn’t follow His leading, they lost. I won't take time to tell about all of what they went through but know this:
Every step of the way there was a battle to win and enemy to overcome and God kept His promises to them! He gave them His presence!

2. Our future.
Go with me now to the gospel of John chapter 14:1-3, 15-18.
Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.
vs. 15-18
If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.

It seems that lately I keep coming back to these verses to find help for these last days. So please forgive me if you are tired of reading this. However, I think we need to have a clear understanding that we are going to need the presence of the Holy Spirit for what lays ahead.
We don’t know what tomorrow holds but I can see that this world is changing before our very eyes and it does not look like the changes for the best for God people.

Let’s look at Matt. 24:3-13.
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?’ And Jesus answered and said unto them, ‘Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilence, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Then look at 2 Thess. 2:1-12 from the N.I.V.
Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers, not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by some prophecy, report or letter supposed to have come from us, saying that the day of the Lord has already come. Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God’s temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

Don’t you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? And now you know what is holding him back, so that he may be revealed at the proper time. For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work: but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

The future does not look very bright for this world that we are living in, right? Lets read on.
Look at 2 Thess 2:13-17. We find out that God does keep His promises!
But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle. Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father, which hath loved us, and hath given us everlasting consolation and good hope through grace. Comfort your hearts, and stablish you in every good word and work.

I want us to look again at the eight statements that you read at the beginning of the message:
Let’s look at these statements.
A. “I will be with thee.”
B. “I will not fail thee.”
C. “Nor forsake thee.”
D. ”For the Lord is with thee.”
That is what the Lord promises Joshua and the children of Israel.

Now let’s look at what He commanded them to do.
A. “Be strong.”
B. “Be of good courage.”
C. “Be nor afraid.”
D. “Be not dismayed .”

Conclusion: This story is a little long but I want to share it because it has the message wrapped up in it.

The passengers on the bus watched sympathetically as the attractive young woman with the white cane made her way carefully up the steps. She paid the driver and, using her hands to feel the location of the seats, walked down the aisle and found the seat he’d told her was empty. Then she settled in, placed her briefcase on her lap and rested her cane against her leg.It had been a year since Susan, thirty-four, became blind. Due to a medical misdiagnosis she had been rendered sightless, and she was suddenly thrown into a world of darkness, anger, frustration and self-pity. Once a fiercely independent woman, Susan now felt condemned by this terrible twist of fate to become a powerless, helpless burden on everyone around her."How could this have happened to me?" she would plead, her heart knotted with anger. But no matter how much she cried or ranted or prayed, she knew the painful truth her sight was never going to return. And all she had to cling to was her husband Mark. Mark was an Air Force officer and he loved Susan with all of his heart. Finally, Susan felt ready to return to her job, but how would she get there? She used to take the bus, but was now too frightened to get around the city by herself. Mark volunteered to drive her to work each day, even though they worked at opposite ends of the city. At first, this comforted Susan and fulfilled Mark’s need to protect his sightless wife who was so insecure about performing the slightest task. Soon, however, Mark realized that this arrangement wasn’t working - it was hectic, and costly. Susan is going to have to start taking the bus again, he admitted to himself. Susan was horrified at the idea of taking the bus again. "I’m blind!" she responded bitterly. "How am I supposed to know where I’m going? I feel like you’re abandoning me." Mark’s heart broke to hear these words, but he knew what had to be done. He promised Susan that each morning and evening he would ride the bus with her, for as long as it took, until she got the hang of it. And that is exactly what happened.For two solid weeks, Mark, military uniform and all, accompanied Susan to and from work each day. He taught her how to rely on her other senses, specifically her hearing, to determine where she was and how to adapt to her new environment. He helped her befriend the bus drivers who could watch out for her, and save her a seat. He made her laugh, even on those not-so-good days when she would trip exiting the bus, or drop her briefcase.Finally, Susan decided that she was ready to try the trip on her own. Monday morning arrived, and before she left, she threw her arms around Mark, her temporary bus riding companion, her husband, and her best friend. She said good-bye, and for the first time, they went their separate ways. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday... Each day on her own went perfectly, and Susan had never felt better. She was doing it! She was going to work all by herself! On Friday morning, Susan took the bus to work as usual. As she was paying for her fare to exit the bus, the driver said, "Boy, I sure envy you." Susan wasn’t sure if the driver was speaking to her or not. After all, who on earth would ever envy a blind woman who had struggled just to find the courage to live for the past year? Curious, she asked the driver, "Why do you say that you envy me?"The driver responded, "It must feel so good to be taken care of and protected like you are." Susan had no idea what the driver was talking about, and asked again, "What do you mean?" The driver answered, "You know, every morning for the past week, a fine looking gentleman in a military uniform has been standing across the corner watching you when you get off the bus. He makes sure you cross the street safely and he watches you until you enter your office building. Then he blows you a kiss, gives you a little salute and walks away. You are one lucky lady."

God watches over us in just the same way. We may not know He is present. We may not be able to see His face, but He is there nonetheless! Be blessed in this thought:

"God Loves You - even when you are not looking."
People of faith can face the uncertain future with certainty. We can face each day as Joshua did, with God’s purpose, promise, power, and presence.

“How Firm a Foundation”
Fear not: I am with thee. Oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My gracious, omnipotent hand.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

God's Comfort

October 5 , 2008

God’s comfort
II Corinthians 1:1-11
Some days ago God lay this scripture on my heart. The statement in verse 3 jumped out at me:

The God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulations.

The original meaning of this word which we translate as comfort, literally means: “to come alongside and help.” The word Comforter is applied to the Holy Spirit in John 14 and 16 and means: “Strengthener” . The English word has the same root as the verb to fortify. Beacon Bible Expositions says:
“The comfort of God establishes, restores, and quietens one’s fears, speaks peace, reassures and refreshes the soul.”

“He comforts (consoles and encourages) us in every trouble (calamity and affliction), so that we may be able to comfort (console and encourage) those who are in any kind of trouble or distress, with the comfort (consolation and encouragement) with which we ourselves are comforted by God." (II Cor. 1:4)

When Paul wrote these words to the church in Corinth, his purpose was to encourage them in a time of great trial that no matter what they faced in life, God would be by their side
Today, this truth has not changed. God is here with us and has come alongside you to help you through every difficult time in your life. If there was ever a day when we need the very presence of God in our lives to comfort it’s now!

Many of us feel like Joseph Bayly who wrote in his Psalms of My Life:
I cry tears to you Lord tears because I cannot speak.
Words are lost among my fears, pain, sorrows, losses, hurts, but tears.
You understand my wordless prayer, You hear.
Lord wipe away my tears, all tears not in a distant day but now here.”

Life is unpredictable. We do not know what tomorrow holds because no one can know the future. However, we can know the one who holds tomorrow and who is in control of life.
Life is precious. Each and everyday that we are given is a gift from God almighty and He will give us new strength with each passing day. We must choose how we face each day. Whether we face each day with dread or we face it with hope is up to us!

The words to the song Great is Thy Faithfulness speaks to me here:
Great is thy faithfulness! Great is they faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed thy hand hath provided.
Great is thy faithfulness, lord unto me!

Today, I want us to think about the fact that God will allow His presence to rest with us to comfort us in this very moment.

1. The comfort of God’s presence that brings peace to the troubled.

When Jesus left the earth he left behind a most wonderful gift. Look with me in John 14: 15- 18:

“If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.”
Verse 23 says:

“Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”

Now you talk about a hard time in life, the disciples were facing some hard times ahead! Jesus would be gone; no longer could they call upon Him when trouble came. No longer would he be there to turn water into wine. No longer would he be there to calm the sea during a storm.

They would face some very hard times…But! But! But! Jesus said
“I will not leave you to face life alone but I will send unto you the Comforter to be with you and in you at all times.”

Read with me John 14:25- 29
“These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye might believe.” (emphasis mine)

2. The comfort of God’s presence in times of trouble.
II Corinthians 1 : 8-11
“ For we would not, brethren, have you ignorant of our trouble which came to us in Asia, that we were pressed out of measure, above strength, insomuch that we despaired even of life: But we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God which raiseth the dead: Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us; Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf. (emphasis mine)

While Paul does not reveal what the trouble was in Asia, he does share that it was severe enough that he “despaired for his life”. It was while Paul was going through this time of trouble that Paul found this comfort and the Comforter to help Him. Paul found, and so will we, that we can have total reliance upon God to comfort us through times of trouble. Paul came to a point where he had no other recource but to fall back upon the resources of God’s grace. What a resource!
We all need to learn that when we come to the end of our strength or the end of our knowledge, the end of ourselves, or the end of our resources then we can depend upon Him. Isa 40:28-31 reads:

“Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Now I can find comfort in that! Can’t you?

Annie Johnson Flint wrote:
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater;
He sendeth more strength when
the labors increase.
To added affliction He addeth His mercy;
To multiplied trials , His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
His love has no limit; His grace has no measure.
His pow’r has no boundary known unto men.
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus,
He giveth and giveth and giveth again!”

The Psalmist found comfort in God. Psalm 116:1-9:
I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications. Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live. The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul. Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful. The Lord preserveth the simple: (Boy does that include me) I was brought low, and he helped me. Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee. For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living. (emphasis mine)

When we give our troubles to the Lord we will find comfort!

3. The ability to share comfort with others.
Remember what comfort means: to come along the side of and help!
Verse 4-6:
…that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God. For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also aboundeth by Christ. And whether we be afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effectual in the enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer: or whether we be comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. (emphasis mine)

Oswald Chambers wrote:
If you are going to be used by God, he will take you through a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all; they are meant to make you useful in his hands.

Look at verse 4 again: “Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may comfort those who are in trouble.”

This tells me that God was using Paul’s tribulation to help or comfort others. Could it be that what we go through in life could comfort others? We must be a tool in the hands of God! Paul saw himself as a tool, an implement in God’s hand. He used Paul to comfort others. In all of it, his purpose was to use Paul as his tool to comfort others. God wants to comfort the people around you because he is the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. (v. 3)
How did God comfort the people around Paul? Through Paul! Paul was a conduit, a pipeline of comfort. The comfort of God came to him and he let that comfort flow into the lives of others. How do you suppose Paul received God’s comfort? We have to guess a little, but I would suppose he was comforted by others who had been comforted by people who had been comforted. But mostly He was comforted by God Himself. That is how God usually does it. I am not saying it is the only way, but that is how Paul tells us here it happens. So, how do you do that? How do you share the comfort? What do you do? What do you say when you don’t know what to say?

Here is something you might want to make note of: P.T. Forsyth said: “You must live with people to know their problems, and live with God in order to solve them.” Now there are lots of those kind of people in the world. Have you ever noticed that it easy to help some people (that is to comfort them) but others it not so easy. I have found that there are some that only want comforting when they are in financial trouble. They just want something from me. They think that the only way I can comfort them is to give them money. Otherwise they don’t want anything to do with me or my God.

I have come up with a list of ways to comfort others.
1. Use wisdom.
2. Sometimes it might call for money.
3. Showing them you love them.
4. Just being there and listening to them.
5. Above all other things we must pray for them.

Now in order for us to be used of God as a comforter, (which we cannot be by ourselves) we must let the Holy Spirit which is the great Comforter, flow through us. Philippians 2:1-5:
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.

The song by Audrey Mieir expresses the Christian desire:
I've a yearning in my heart that cannot be denied,
It's a longing that has never yet been satisfied.
I want the world to know the One who loves them so,
Like a flame it's burning deep inside.
To be used of God, to sing, to speak, to pray;
To be used of God to show someone the way.
I long so much to feel the touch of His consuming fire;
To be used of God is my desire."

That was the desire of a group of young people in California. They spent three months preparing and planning to go to Mexico during Easter break to help the poor. They had prayed that God would use them in some mighty way, so in anticipation of His answer they set off to help a small church in a small village. They had a desire to be used of God; they had a desire to benefit someone. On Sunday morning when the young people arrived in the village, they saw the church building. It had been badly burned, the roof was caved in and only four walls remained standing. They cautiously made their way in to find a discouraged preacher leading nine worshipers in a song service. This was nothing like they had envisioned. They had not been prepared for the dilapidated and run-down building or the weary, discouraged people they would encounter. But shaking off their first culture shock and bracing themselves to do what they had come to do, they determined to be of some benefit whether it was easy and comfortable or not. The young people had left the comfort of their own homes to come to a place strange and foreign to them. They found a situation beyond that for which they had been prepared. The congregation eyed the young people suspiciously and at the end of the hymn the preacher approached them and asked, "What are you doing here, and what do you want?" It became quickly evident that there had been a communication break-down and that their letters explaining their plans to come and serve had not reached the preacher. He was as bewildered as they were. Finally, one of the group spoke, "We are Christians, and we are here to serve." The preacher explained that some of the villagers had burned the building and that the congregation had been praying that God would send help but they had given up hope that help would come. But the answer came in the form of young people who believed that God had called them to help someone and who were willing to obey that call. They were not motivated by simple humanitarianism; they were there to do the Lord's bidding. The students wanted to serve Christ and encountered a situation unlike any they expected. But they had come to serve, and serve they would. When the students heard that the congregation had been praying for someone to come help, one of them said, "I can't believe it. We're an answer to prayer!" They were an answer to prayer because they sincerely wanted to be used of God.

We can all be the answer to someone's prayer if we live by the last verse of Audrey Mieir's song:
When I think about the shortness of my earthly years,
I remember all the wasted days, the wasted tears.
I long to preach the Word to those who've never heard
Of the One who can dispel all fears.
To be used of God, to sing, to speak, to pray;
To be used of God to show someone the way.
I long so much to feel the touch of His consuming fire;
To be used of God is my desire."
To be used of God,
To sing, to speak, to pray
To be used of God to show someone the way.
I long so much to feel the touch of His consuming fire;
To be used of God is my desire

Is that your desire today? Do you want to be used of God? Would you like your life to count for what lasts?

My prayer today is from another familiar song:
Lord , Lay some soul upon my heart and love that soul through me.
And may I always do my part to win that soul for thee.

I want to finish with our text from the Message Bible:

All praise to the God and Father of our Master, Jesus the Messiah! Father of all mercy! God of all healing counsel! He comes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, he brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us.