Peninsula Community Church
By Faith – Living as a Community of Faith
November 13, 2016
Hebrews 11:29-30 By faith the people crossed the Red Sea as on dry land, but the Egyptians, when they attempted to do the same, were drowned. By faith the walls of Jericho fell down after they had been encircled for seven days.
As we continue our adventure through the Hall of Fame of Faith, we come to a section of the study that moves us from focusing on an individual’s faith to the corporate faith of the people as a whole. So far, we have looked at the faith of individuals who stood tall among their peers. By faith they encountered major tests in their lives which they all passed. You see while one’s personal faith is critical we need to also recognize that corporate faith is just as critical and important. Notice in this passage, there is no mention of any one single individual. Instead, we find the Israelites were recognized as a whole for their faith. In mass, they had a faith that would sustain them and keep them. Their faith was based on a strong trust in God and what God had accomplished for them already.
In the Biblical economy of things, we find there are many stories related to the value of corporate faith. At the same time, we have stories where a negative response to faith was demonstrated. Remember the twelve spies (Numbers 13:25-14:5). Two of the spies walked in faith while ten of the spies were faithless and saw the size of the giants rather than the largeness of God. We find that ten of the spies gave a bad report and caused the people to lose faith. So instead of taking forty days to enter into the Promised Land it took them forty years. You see God had to move them to a place where they could trust God completely and God used the wilderness journey to make that happen.
There was also a time when Moses was on the mountain top where he received the Ten Commandments. Because it seemed that Moses was taking too long to come off the mountain, Aaron and the people decided to take things into their own hands (Exodus 32:1-16). Instead of following after God, the people decided to make a golden calf to worship. They refused God’s way and devised another way to reach God. These stories show us that on these two occasions the children of Israel lacked the faith they needed. They moved together as one body even if it was in the wrong direction. I am so grateful that in our passage today we have two stories of victory and a communal approach to faith.
In the first story, they had faith to follow Moses through the Red Sea and in the second story they were able to fight against Jericho without a shot fired, so to speak. They were obedient and God came through for them. As they approached the Red Sea everything was against them. The odds of them making it across the Red Sea was not very good. They were blocked in by Pharaoh’s army who was charging hard towards them. Pharaoh’s army would surely kill them or arrest them so that they would have to return to the bondage of Egypt. In Exodus 4:10-14 we find that they were filled with fear and regret. What were they going to do? They were struggling but when Moses spoke to them they were able to refocus their attention on God.
They also needed a miracle and that is just what they received. As Moses raised his staff into the air, the water began to part. Suddenly in front of them there was a pathway of escape but God did more than part the waters. He made it so that the ground they were to walk on would be dry enough so they could cross over on solid ground. As the enemy approached and tried to navigate the same path the Israelites had gone through, Pharaoh’s army was destroyed because the water returned to its original place. You see the Children of Israel had great faith while Pharaoh’s army had great courage but courage is never enough to succeed, we need faith and our faith must be focused in the right place.
The critical point here is that the Children of Israel journeyed across the Red Sea together. They walked on dry ground that had been wet and muddy just a few moments earlier. It is also noteworthy that they did not go ahead of God as they would have been bogged down in the Sea. They did not lag behind as they would have been sucked into the sea when the waters returned. They moved as one body in perfect rhythm to God’s timing. The Psalmist spoke of this kind of unity in Psalm 133:1-3 Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity! It is like the precious oil on the head, running down on the beard, on the beard of Aaron, running down on the collar of his robes! It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the LORD has commanded the blessing, life forevermore.
The lesson here is that it is good and pleasant for the people of God to dwell and move as one body. There is a godly anointing (the oil on the head) that comes from walking in unity. There is a refreshing spirit (the dew of Hermon) that comes as we serve together and we walk together. Notice this is not only a good idea for the body of Christ to walk as one body but it is an absolute necessity for this to occur. As believers, there is a power in being a community of believers rather than flying through life as a solo artist. You see we are stronger together than we are apart. By navigating through life together we get the privilege of encouraging one another in the faith. Can you grasp the opportunity that availed itself to the Children of Israel? Together they could encourage one another on the journey. They could pray for one another. They could pick up one another when they fell. They helped each other carry their burdens and the loads that weighed them down. They cheered each other in the midst of struggle and even possible death.
The classic passage that expresses this is found in Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. The word picture that comes to mind here is the coal briquette from the fire that gets dislodged and finds itself alone. Once this happens that ember begins to die out and it begins to lose its power as a source of energy and fire. Once reintroduced to the fire, the ember begins to burn brightly again. So it is with us, we can choose to be alone in our walk of faith but if we are not careful we will find ourselves isolated and the fire of the spirit can begin to dim. Helen Keller stated that “Alone we do so little, together we can do so much.” There is no greater place for this to happen than in the body of Christ. We are stronger together than when we are isolated.
In preparing this message, I can across an article entitled “Not Alone: More than A Slogan.” The article referenced a study completed by Eric Klinenberg for his book entitled “Going Solo.” His premise was that Americans are moving toward living solo and isolated lives more than any other time in their existence. He noted that 32 million Americans live alone. This represents 28 percent of all households. In cities like Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, San Fransisco, and Minneapolis 40% or more of all households contain a single occupant. Five million people in the United States between the ages of 18 and 34 live alone. This is 10 times more than in 1950. He noted that the largest category of single people are the middle-aged group of 34 to 64 year olds. He also notes that many times just because one is living in a house with others does not mean that they are connected and in a viable relationship. Too often in our homes today, we sit at the table with our cell phone, computer, iPad, or TV on and do very little engaging of those around us. Then after dinner we splinter off into our bedrooms or other places in the house with no engagement with one another or communication.
It is also noteworthy that the word for church is “ekkelsia.” This word means the called out ones. It is represented as an assembly and gathering that was focused on a unified vision. As a church we are unified around the cross. We are not unified around our specific personalities or the gifts God has given us. God brings all of our gifts and personalities together to form a body that can move forward to accomplish His will and His purpose. Together as one force, we can accomplish almost anything. Couple that with the power of faith, the work of the Holy Spirit, and we are invincible. Notice what the early church did together. They met regularly to have times of fellowship, to pray, and to study the word of God (Acts 2:42-47). The result was they were empowered, encouraged, and strengthened.
While this message is focused on the unity of the body and the faith that comes from community, it is noteworthy that each one of us have to make a choice to be a part of the community of believers. We must choose to do our part and engage with the community. It means that we must do our part to make the community a success as we trust God and follow after Him. As we come to know Christ, we make a decision to join with our brothers and sisters in Christ to accomplish God’s purposes and His will. As we skillfully use the gifts we have been given, the body grows and becomes more powerful as we fulfill God’s plan together.
Paul recognized the power of coming together and working together when he stated And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love (Ephesians 4:11-16).
Now as we go back to our passage this morning I am reminded that as a body we have some Red Seas that we must cross and some Jericho walls we must tear down. First of all, we have been called to reach this community for Christ. Sometimes this can feel like the Red Sea or a Jericho wall. People are closed off and not open to receive from God the best gift ever. As I look at this, I recognize that reaching our community can be like crossing the Rea Sea. We know it is what God desires but we can be filled with fear and the task can seem impossible. As we come together and each of us do our part, God will part the waters and we can cross the Red Sea and God will get the glory. As we face our Jericho where walls seem to be built up and many seem so fortified we must remember that no wall is impenetrable when God is on our side and we make a decision to move together as one body.
A second part of this is the fact that as the days we live in become more dark and it seems that evil is in charge, we need each other more than ever. Listen to Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” We need to be in the business of encouraging one another and challenging each other toward love and good works. That can only happen as we are working within the context of community. May we cross our Red Seas and may we tear down our walls together as one body and one community of faith.
For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14
Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom