Monthly Archives: August 2017

The Glory of Knowing God

Peninsula Community Church 

The Glory of Knowing God

August 27, 2017

Philippians 3:8-11 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Last week we closed the message with the concept that the best way to overcome the influence of the thief’s schemes is for us to know God. Today, I would like to go back to that thought. In so doing, we will review the words of Paul in Philippians 3:8-11. Paul reminds us that his greatest aspiration in life was to know God.

Can you imagine the Apostle Paul asking for such a request? Here is a man by all accounts that was a master servant (Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1; Titus 1:1). The one thing we know about Paul is that he was deliberate about serving Christ’s purposes. He had dedicated his life to the service of Christ. From several perspectives, Paul was the last person anyone would think might have such aspirations. After all, Paul is the one who had been to the third heaven (2  Corinthians 12:2-4). Paul had been taught by some of the finest scholars of his day (Acts 22:3). His heritage was indisputable and his pedigree was nothing to scoff at. It was this same Paul who had a personal encounter with Christ that radically changed his life (Acts 9:9). And yet, Paul wanted to know Him more.

As we review this passage, we find there are three key things expressed. First, Paul begins by stating that he counted everything as loss when compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ. Paul is expressing that all of the earthly praiseworthy accolades cannot compare to a personal knowledge of Christ. He is saying that if the accolades and pedigree he possessed were to be put on one scale and his desire to know Christ were put on the other, his desire to know Christ would always outweigh whatever accolades and successes he might have had. Paul is saying here that his resume and his pedigree do not define him.

Now please don’t misunderstand me. God uses our education, our connections, and family to accomplish the work of the kingdom but those things must never cast a shadow over knowing Christ personally. You see God always looks at the heart of man. Remember David? He was anointed king by Samuel. David’s father was looking to his sons who had the credentials, the size, and the looks, but they were not qualified in the eyes of God. What God was looking for is someone who had a relationship with Him. You see David knew God! He had learned to trust God in all of his ways. In the end, David was chosen for his heart and not his outward resume.

With that said, Paul identifies two ways in which he wanted to know Christ. First, Paul wanted to know Jesus through His resurrection. What an awesome view of life. When we view life through the resurrection power of Christ, we determine there is nothing beyond His ability to accomplish. When we know Him in His resurrection power, we know His power and we know His ability. Think about it. Jesus was dead. He was not half dead or three quarters dead like in the movie Princess Bride. He was dead. As one who interacts with EMS personnel, the most challenging task today is to revive someone who has suffered a cardiac arrest. In the EMS world, you have about 4-6 minutes to provide medical care before the person begins to lose brain function. After 8 minutes death is most likely. Jesus was dead for three days. From Friday night to Sunday Morning he lay in a grave. He took no breath for three days, but on the third day He rose.

Paul wanted to know this resurrection power of Christ. For Paul and for us the resurrection power of Christ reminds us that there is nothing impossible with God. If a dead Savior can be risen in victory, whatever we face can be turned around for His glory. The enemy thought he had Christ. He thought he had won, but can you imagine the sounds coming from the little hill side in Jerusalem when the stone was rolled away. Jesus rose to give us power over sin and death. That is how Paul wanted to know Christ. Paul wanted to know His power.

Listen to the words of Paul in Romans 8:9-11 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. Paul wanted to know the resurrection power because he recognized that power brings life. So, do you know His resurrection power?

Secondly, Paul stated that he wanted to know Christ in His suffering. To be honest, this is where one I struggle. I don’t want to know Him through His suffering. I have enough of my own and that is too painful. The problem is that much of our theology today would avoid such a discussion. To listen to much of the theology being espoused today you might think we were to never have a bad day. We are never to have any problems and if we do, it is because somehow we are a failure and sinful. Contrary to this, nothing could be further from the truth. So what was Paul saying. Through suffering Jesus demonstrated humility, extended love, gave grace, and spoke with words of wisdom. That is the kind of man Paul wanted to be. He wanted to model for the world an attitude of Jesus.

Paul also knew another perspective of knowing Jesus’ suffering. Paul knew that in our difficult times we grow more and we experience the faith of God more than at other times in our life. It is in times of struggle that we get to know Him and His saving grace. It is in times of struggle that we either turn to Christ or we push Him away. If we are honest, it is in our struggles that we find the grace of God. It is in our struggles that we find faith in God. It is in our struggles that we find a future in God. By knowing Christ in both His resurrection and suffering we come to know the totality of who He is and who He is begins to define who we are.

So on a practical level, how do we come to know Christ? First and foremost we get to know Christ by knowing the Word. After all the Word is an active living force according to Hebrews 4:12-13. To know the Word is to know Jesus because the Word and Jesus are one. Through Jesus the Word became flesh (John 1:1,14). So to know Jesus we must get the Word of God in us. We read, meditate, and apply the Word to our hearts so that it begins to form and shape who we will be and how we will act. The purpose of the Word was and is to bring instruction, direction, warning, and hope according to 2 Timothy 3:16-17. It is the Word that speaks to us in amazing ways. The Word brings death to sin and life to hearts. Additionally, if you read the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, you find that Jesus was a mirror of the Father. To know Jesus is to know the Father (John 5:19, 6:38, 8:28, 10:30). What He did was a reflection of the Father’s will. What He said was a reflection of the Father’s heart. Know the Word and you will know Jesus.

Secondly, we pray. Why is prayer important? Prayer is important because it aligns our will with God’s will. In prayer we surrender ourselves, our will, and our ways to God. In prayer, we hear the voice of God as He speaks to our hearts. Greg Laurie stated “Prayer is our connection to heaven and heaven’s connection to us. That is why you should always keep the lines open.” If we take the model prayer, the Lord’s Prayer, we find is a testimony of who the Father is. Through this prayer we find that He is to be hallowed, reverenced, and honored. We also find that Jesus invites us to invite the kingdom of God in our current situation.

Thirdly, we worship God. Too many times we confuse worship as an activity relegated to a one hour time slot on Sunday, but the reality is worship should be a way of life. In worship, as we begin to proclaim the greatness of God, we experience something in our hearts. As we confess to God change happens. The very definition of worship is to ascribe worth to something. What we worship we give value. When we ascribe worth to God, we are drawn into a deeper relationship because we will value that relationship and we will value that person.

Finally, we come to know God by joining our hearts and minds together. That is why the word tells us not to forsake the coming together (Hebrews 10:25). That is why bible studies, Sunday school, and book clubs are so important. In these events we come together and we hear what God is doing. We watch each other grow. We navigate the difficulties of life together. It is not by chance that the Book of Acts reminds new believers to continue to gather together (Acts 2:42). It is in fellowship that we grow but the reality is we grow more than relationally, we grow in our knowledge of God because we understand God more when are in communion with one another.

So the question for us today is, do you what to know Christ more? You can! Read the Word, worship him, pray, and join together and your understanding of God will increase.

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Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Abundant Life Versus a Stolen Life

Peninsula Community Church

Abundant Life Versus a Stolen Life

August 20, 2017

John 10:7-10  So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

I love the Star Wars series. It is the ever existing battle between good and evil. The Star Wars saga serves as an illustrative review of what life is really like. Since the fall of man in the Garden of Eden there has been an ongoing battle between good and evil. In our society today, we see this played out in ways that we have not seen since the 1960’s. The Bible is clear about this sort of thing as Jesus proclaimed that there would be wars and rumors of war in this life, especially as Jesus’ return gets closer (Matthew 24:6). When you read the stories of Genesis, we find that just one generation after Adam and Eve sinned we have the epic battle of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4). Cain out of rage and an untempered jealously kills his brother.

So much of what we are experiencing today on the pages of the news and flashed across our TV screens is a result of man trying to live without God. The clashes at Charlottesville and other locations are just a microcosm of the heart of many in America today. Hatred and anger rule the day rather than love and Godward thinking. In so many areas of society, it seems that sin rules rather the positive moral affects of Christ’s life. Jesus, I believe, foresaw such a day and for that reason he wrote the text we have before us.

In this text, Jesus gives us a vivid comparison of life with Christ and one where we fall prey to the power of the enemy. In Christ, we have abundant life but the enemy’s primary task and goal has been and will continue to be to steal, kill, and destroy that abundant life. It has been said that Jesus never promised a long life, what He promises is a full life. Many have lived but have not had life. Jesus promises us that we can live and have life at the same time.

Let us look at the thief for a moment. First of all by virtue of the fact that he is a thief he has no legal right to what he is taking. We need to understand that today. The thief in our life does not have any legal rights to what Jesus has given us. He can only take those things by deception and by what we allow him to steal from us.

There is also something else about the thief that bears mentioning here. The thief never knocks at the door. He comes in the dark of the night to steal what is legally ours. It was said the thief in the old days would burrow underneath the walls of the tents or sheep pens. Their desire was to take in secret without the other party knowing what had happened. You see the enemy never stands face to face with us but uses others and all sorts of circumstances to impact what he wants to accomplish. Have you ever felt blindsided by someone who was close to you? Have you ever experienced rejection and you were not even sure where that rejection was coming from? Most likely this was the enemy of our souls coming in the cloak of darkness to deceive and destroy.

In this passage, we find three key tactics used by the enemy. One characteristic is that the thief steals. And one of the key things he steals is our joy and peace. To accomplish this he creates anxiousness within us. He gets us to look at the negative around us rather than being focused on the good that is happening. Now before you think I am not a realist, I am not advocating a head in the sand approach to life, I am simply saying that the enemy can steal our joy by causing us to focus on the worse case, on our fears, on our anxieties, and on our failures. The enemy loves to take territory in our life that he has no legal right to. Let me tell you today as passionately as I can, “the enemy has no legal right to your joy or your peace. It is found in Jesus and Jesus alone.

Secondly, the enemy loves to kill any hope we have in what God has called us to do and who Jesus says we are. I believe he does this in two ways. See if you agree. First, the enemy gets us to focus so much of the past that we cannot live with joy and peace in the present. We constantly look back at our failures and our mistakes. We repeat these thoughts over and over again. We do so so much that we can talk ourselves into believing that there is no hope and that nothing will change. The second problem here is that if the enemy cannot get us to live in the past then he will cause us focus on the future so much that we will begin to live in fear and anxiety. We will be anxious about the future and what will come. We will begin to be so worried that we can never enjoy the moment. The goal of the enemy is to steal our ability to live in the present where we celebrate the greatness of God even if the world is falling apart around us.

The third tool the enemy uses is that he loves to destroy relationships. He loves to use little things said or done to cause there to be unforgiveness and unrest. We see it all of the time. The enemy knows that if he can destroy our relationships then he can begin to destroy our effectiveness. He can punish us by using our families and friends to wound and hurt us. Why is this? It is because at our core we are relational. Relationship issues often cause us the greatest pain of all and it is relationship issues that are often the hardest to overcome. In the creation, God created man to have a relationship with him. That is why God came in the cool of the day to fellowship with man (Genesis 3:8-13). Through man’s fall that fellowship was broken.

It is not a mistake that Paul reminds us that we are to put on the full armor of God so that we can stand against the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11). What are his schemes? He causes us to believe that we are a failure and that no good can come from our life. He begins to get us to ignore the problem and pretend it does not exist. He gets us to think that the grass is greener on the other side. He gets us to think that we do not need God. He gets us to focus on the one negative problem in our life so that we forget there is a whole world before us.

While all of this is true, there is an answer. The answer is to know God and in knowing God you will be less likely to fall for the schemes of the enemy. Jesus reminds us here that we do not have to live in the grasp of the enemy’s devices. We can have an abundant life because it is a gift of God. The choice for us is to choose how we will live. Will we live defeated or will we walk in the victory that is ours? The enemy seeks to steal, kill, and destroy but Christ came to give us abundant life.

Jesus is the shepherd of the sheep. As the shepherd He is the door. As the door, He provides us with safety, abundance, and plenty. But here is an amazing thought. Jesus came not only to preserve us but to impart life. Jesus came to give us amazing powerful life. It is a life that is full of the presence of God. If we allow Him to, He will protect us from the advance of the thief. This does not mean that we will not face difficulty but we will be protected from the onslaught of the enemy. We will become more aware of the tactics the enemy uses against us.

Secondly, the more we know the shepherd, the more we will hear His voice, and the more we hear His voice, the more will have the ability to avoid the power of the thief to control our life. To know His voice, we must know Him. Listen to John 10:3-4. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 

The secret to standing against the enemy’s schemes has been and will continue to be knowing Christ. This is not to know about Him. This is not the ability to quote all of the fancy stories and Scripture found in the Bible but it is to know Him personally. It is to have a personal relationship with Him that is built through prayer, the word, and worship. If we do not know God, we will be more susceptible to the enemy’s tactics and schemes of defeat. I encourage you today to saturate yourselves in the word of God. Be steadfast in your prayer time. Focus on worship and honor God in all you do. You will be amazed. And you will begin to hear and understand His voice better.

You see Christ came to give us an abundant life. The abundant life that John 10:10 speaks of is not necessarily a long life, though it may be, but it certainly is a full one. Medical science seeks to add years to your lives, but only Jesus can add life to your years. So what do you choose today? Do you choose a life filled with deception, fear, and broken relationships, or do you choose life?

What has the enemy stolen from you? When the church was broken into a few months ago, the police took an inventory of what was stolen. They took fingerprints which were used to identify the culprits. They did that and they were caught. So let me ask you? Where are the fingerprints of the thief upon your life? Today is the day to catch the thief and put him in his place. Today is the day to take back that which was stolen. Take back your joy and peace. Take back your ability to live in the present. Take back those relationships destroyed by the thief. It may not be easy. It may take some time. But know that God is at work on your behalf. Get to know Him, I mean really know Him and you might be amazed at what He will do.

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Inside Out and Right Side Up

Peninsula Community Church

Inside Out and Right Side Up

August 13, 2017

Luke 11:37-41 While Jesus was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him, so he went in and reclined at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner.  And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.” 

I began my formal ministry in 1979. Immediately following Bible College, I moved to New York where I began to minister in a number of different ways to a number of different communities. One of the things I remember about my earlier days of ministry is that there were times where I learned more about what not to do in ministry than what to do from those who were around me. Now granted, those that surrounded me were not evil people, they just lived out of the distortions in their life. It was these distortions that directly impacted the way they did ministry. After a couple of years of ministry, I realized that some of those to whom I was connected loved themselves more than they loved God. They loved the notoriety of being a pastor more than they did the glory of God. They tended to use people for their gain, but did little to personally assist in the growth of individuals.

As I read this passage, I began to identify with what Jesus was confronting here. It is noteworthy that throughout Jesus’ ministry, He showed such grace and mercy to the sinner and the struggling believer. He did, however, reserve His harshest criticism for the Pharisees and the spiritual leaders of His day. At one point, Jesus described them as tombs that were painted white on the outside but were empty on the inside (Matthew 23:27). The idea presented by Jesus is that outwardly they appeared to have it all together, but inwardly they were empty. Because of the emptiness experienced by the Pharisees, they tended to focus more of their attention on their outward appearance than on their inward depth. Spiritually they were wide but not deep. Today, we will look at the attitudes exhibited by the Pharisees and then make an application of this truth.

First of all, we find that the Pharisees were empty on the inside so they flexed their spiritual muscle on the outside. Listen to Jesus’ words here. Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it (Luke 11:44). And then in Luke 11:46 Jesus had this to say. “Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers (Luke 11:46). Here is the bulk of the problem for the Pharisees. They burdened people with rules, laws, and requirements that they themselves were unable to obey or follow. I have often said that when our hearts are not right with God it is easier to make a law than it is to allow God to transform our hearts. Jesus is and has always been more about the transformation of the heart than He is about obeying man’s religious rules. The Pharisees missed this as they thought they could legislate morality but from my experience you cannot legislate morality. And for that matter you cannot legislate immorality. Legislation does not make right wrong nor does it make the wrong right. For Jesus, it was more about relationship than it was the law. Now unless you misunderstand, there are biblical, godly principles that we are called to obey but when applied correctly they are not burdensome but in reality they are very freeing and they move us to a place of growth and depth.

Jesus had the Pharisee’s number. He uncovered the fact that they not only forced others to obey these mandates but they did little to help others to obey. Those to whom Jesus referred to as lawyers, loved to weigh people down with laws and regulations. They were well educated, well trained people but they loved to place great burdens on others. The problem is that they imposed laws on others but were not willing to lift a finger to help carry the burden they forced on others. This is juxtaposed to Jesus’ desire for us to help each other, encourage each other, and push each other to do our best.

These actions were a result of their emptiness and dryness inside. Their emphasis was on the outward man and not the inward. As you know, I love football. To me there are two types of players. There are the ones who are puffed up and brag about how great they are and then there are the guys who go out on the field and prove they have the ability they say they do. That brings us to our second point.

The second characteristic related here is that instead of grace they functioned from a perspective of legalism and idolatry to the rules.But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others (Luke 11:42). They thought the rules applied to everyone else but not themselves. They felt they were above the law. They expected everyone else to tow the line. They expected everyone else to follow the rules. And yet, they bent the rules when it favored them. It could be said they worshipped the rules of God more than they worshipped the God of the rules. When this occurs, it creates a disconnect between what is true and what is false.

Notice here that they were good at giving gifts. They were dutiful and followed through with outward spiritual disciplines but they missed what was important. They attended church. They sang in the choir. They even taught a class but they missed the mark by failing to exhibit justice and love. These can be summed up in one word, grace. They lacked grace. They were well educated on the rules but missed the mark of loving others and showing others the amazing grace they had been given. Outwardly, they were obedient and rigidly held to the rules of the day, but inwardly they were empty and lacked spiritual depth. Here is a truth for us. Following the rules is great but to do so without grace and love leaves us cold and indifferent.

The third characteristic is that the Pharisees were all about control which was centered in a spirit of pride. They wanted the best seats in the house. They wanted to be recognized in the town. They would enter a room with great fanfare and pomp and circumstance. You knew they were in the room because they made sure you knew they were there. Once again listen to Jesus’ words. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces (Luke 11:43). The Pharisees were the type that would arrive late and would make a fuss coming into the building so that you would know they were there. They were the type that would continually remind you how important they were. Again this action was a means for them to cover up the emptiness within them.

The fourth characteristic of the pharisee, and this for me is the saddest one of all, is that they stripped people of the joy of knowing God. Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key of knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering (Luke 11:52). Because they burdened people with the law, they failed to minister with grace, and they exhibited a spirit of pride that stripped people of the joy of knowing God. The fact is they gave what they had, a lifeless, empty lifestyle. They stood in the way of others knowing the truth by virtue of their attitudes and actions toward others. Rather than seeking a knowledge of God by way of a personal relationship, they rejected that for an attitude of performance and outward visibility.

As we close this today, I am keenly aware that there two ways we can apply this passage to our life. First of all, we can look at this study and do an evaluation and then come to the conclusion that we often act as the Pharisees did. We want others to tow the line but we give ourselves grace and compromise on the very rules we set in place. We judge and condemn others while crying out for grace in our life. We are good at knowing the rules and we make sure that everyone else follows them when we fall short in accomplishing that ourselves. One way to illustrate this how do you respond when someone asks you about your Christian walk. Do you list your good deeds or do you list the good deeds of a heavenly father that loves us more than we will ever know or understand this side of heaven? Are we more concerned about following the rules, or receiving God’s grace which actually assists us in obeying the rules? Are you more concerned about how others follow the rules or do we come along side of others to help them grow in the knowledge of God.

The second way we can make application of this passage is to recognize that we often live under Pharisaical influences. We are subjected to the judgment and criticalness of one who knows the rules and expects everyone else to obey while they themselves fail to do so. They hold us to a different accounting than they are willing to hold themselves. The result is that we can become discouraged and weakened in our spiritual state. We are hindered by the words of others. But the truth is we don’t have to be. We can recognize that God’s grace is there for us and we do not have to be subjected to the emptiness of others. The fact is we must show the grace of God of those who show so little grace to us.

Here is the deal there is grace at the foot of the cross. There is grace to overcome the Pharisaical attitudes we express. There is grace to overcome the power exerted over us to obey the rules at the cost of a depth in Christ. In Matthew West’s song “Grace Wins Every Time” reminds that grace wins in every situation. We receive grace and we give grace.

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The Power of Prayer

Peninsula Community Church

The Power of Prayer

August 6, 2017

Mark 9:29 And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

If we were to poll the group gathered here today, I am sure that we would find that everyone one of us have an issue or problem that is exerting its influence upon our life. Too often, these issues are exert their influence which causes us to doubt our connection to God as a believer. It also move us to a place where we fail to recognize the power of God in our life, or at least we question His power. As we consider these issues, today, we will review one of the great principles of Jesus’ ministry. This principle is the power of prayer. It is a principle that can change us from having an ineffective and fruitless life to one where we live in the fulness of what God has done and is doing in us.

To understand this principle, we begin with the premise that there is power through prayer. Throughout Scripture there is a consistent and ongoing reference to the power of prayer. In the Bible there are illustrations of the power of prayer. There are stories of God’s intervention through prayer. There are statements made by Jesus and other writers that encourage us toward a lifestyle of prayer. The passage before us is one such reference. Here we find that Jesus makes a powerful proclamation of truth. He states “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.” Personally, I am grateful that Mark thought enough of this story to include it in his narrative of Jesus’ life. The result is that we are the benefactors of the truth expressed here. The result is that we come to an understanding that prayer has an impact on our lives.

Let me relate the story to you. The parents of a boy had a son who had a spirit attached to him. In those days many illnesses and diseases were defined as demonic or spiritual attachments. They did not know how to define it any other way. His condition was one that made him mute and at times caused him to be thrown to the ground where he would grind his teeth, foam at the mouth, and become very rigid. The symptoms experienced seem to describe some kind seizure activity. Regardless of the problem, this issue was pressing on the parents and it caused grief to the young boy. The parents had become tired of the activity and they wanted something to change. They wanted to get past this obstacle. They wanted their son to be free and they wanted to be free from the torment they realized as a result of his condition.

Because Jesus was busy teaching and ministering to others, the parents brought the child to the disciples in hopes they could bring some relief. The disciples did what they knew to do but were ineffective. They tried to cast out the spirit but were not able to do so. This was a frustrating moment for the mother, for the child, and for the disciples. What they wanted to do did not happen. They were frustrated that nothing changed. Nothing was different.

The only one in the story not frustrated was Jesus. In His review of the situation He ascertained that the problem lay in the fact that the disciples had tried to exert spiritual power without being connected to the source. For that reason, Jesus stated that the resolution to this kind of problem could only come by prayer. You see they faced a problem that was bigger than they were and it was a problem bigger than they could manage. It was a problem that devastated the family. They needed an answer and prayer was the one tool that was most effective in bringing needed results.

The fact is, in life, we are all confronted with problems that are bigger than us. We feel devastated and we fill powerless to accomplish much or overcome the difficulties we face. Let me bring this closer to home. We all have family members we want to see be better or do better. We all have issues that seem so large that it is almost impossible to overcome them. We all have fears and anxieties that loom large in life. These issues control us and neuter our ability to make progress in life. For example, here in Sussex County, as in many parts of our nation, we are facing a drug epidemic that is effecting everyone in some way. Recently, I met with some folks in regard to the drug epidemic and the overwhelming sense was that there was not much that could be done immediately. In their mind the problem is out of control without a solution. But I am convinced that through prayer even the drug epidemic can be dealt with. There is power through prayer.

Through prayer we can confront the problems we face. No matter what the problem is, there is hope. There is power available to us. We can overcome. One of my favorite stories in the Old Testament is the story of David and Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17, we find that the nation of Israel was neutralized in their power and were back on their heels. They were filled with fear and anxiety. Why? They had a giant that stood before them. Day after day Goliath, the giant, mocked them and ridiculed them. He did all of this without throwing a spear or actually attacking them in any way. He simply hurled insults and lies their way.

For forty days, all he did was throw out accusations and demeaning words at them. The children of Israel succumbed to these words which resulted in them standing powerless before the giant. They were intimated and were frozen in their tracks. You see the army of Israel and Saul were to be the protectors of Israel. Instead they stood cowering in the shadow of the giant. He had power over them and they gave him this power. He neutralized their ability to answer his attacks.

While they stood cowering in fear, a young boy shows up. David had no outward sign of being able to take on the giant. He had no armor. He had no professional training as a soldier. But he had something that no one else had. He had a connection with God that was missing in the army’s life and for that matter in the king’s life. This was no ordinary boy. He had a confidence in God’s ability to overcome whatever was thrown his way. He had an experience that far exceeded any training or education the army had.

What made the difference? Day after day David communed with God. He prayed to God. He worshipped God. He had a connection with God like no other in his day. How do we know this? We find that David had overtaken a bear. He had destroyed a lion that had gone after his flock. We see this through the Psalms that David penned. He proclaimed the greatness of God. He proclaimed the need to have a connection with God. The Psalms give insight into the heart of David. David was a worshipper of God and he was a man of prayer.

We should know that the army of Saul were not bad people. They were good at what they did. The disciples were not bad people either. The problem is that they missed a critical part of the mission to which they had been called. They needed to communicate to the one who was truly in charge and who had the power to bring the victory they needed.

The difference was found in their ability to pray and focus on God. Through prayer David lived in a reality that caused him to focus on a source bigger than himself and his problem. It allowed him to recognize the character of God. When we focus on a source bigger than ourselves, it allows us to see God for who He is. We will see Him as the one who is able to destroy every giant we face. Whether we face a spirit that demoralizes us or a giant that intimidates us, through prayer these issues are neutralized.

Listen to the words of David. “You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head. And I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with sword and spear. For the battle is the LORD’s, and he will give you into our hand” (1 Samuel 17:45-47). Powerful words from a man who had encountered a powerful God.

Through prayer we invite the presence of God into our lives. We can have Him in our heart but not allow Him to direct our life. Too often we try to live without God and then wonder why things are so messed up. The fact is we need God to be intricately involved in every aspect of our lives. Through prayer we are focused on inviting Him to do that in our lives. By having His presence in our lives, we are conditioned to hear the voice of truth rather than the lies the enemy tries to promote.

So what are your giants today? Is it anxiety? Is it fear? Is it intimidation? Is it family issues? You name it, we all have giants that want to intimidate us and destroy us if at all possible. We all have giants in our life that desire to minimize our impact for God. What is your giant? I can tell you that if you will focus on God in prayer that your giant will be diminished.

As we close take a moment and listen to a song by Casting Crowns entitled the “Voice of Truth.” Listen to words and recognize today that the giants in your life can and will fall when we hear the voice of truth and commit ourselves to focusing on God’s will and plan for our  life.

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Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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