Monthly Archives: August 2018

God Uses Everything

Peninsula Community Church 

God Uses Everything 

August 19, 2018 

1 Samuel 17:31-37 When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul, and he sent for him. And David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him. Your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him, for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.” But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you!”

Today, we continue our study of the Old Testament battles. The goal is to understand how these battles prepare us to do battle against an enemy that is very real and powerful. It seems that we either deny or minimize his existence, or we see and blame the enemy for everything. The truth is we have an enemy who is battling us, but the battle is not ours, it is the Lord’s. It has been and will continue to be His battle. When we fight His battle, His way, we will always be successful. We saw this with Moses, with Joshua, with Gideon, and today we see this with David. 

Our focus will be on how God uses our past experiences to effect positive outcomes in the present. He uses our past successes and experiences to empower us to be victorious in the present. As a shepherd in the desert, David was prepared to face the giant of the battlefield. David’s confidence was secure in what He had witnessed God do in the past. That confidence  allowed David to step up and beat the giant with the simplicity of a sling shot and a stone. 

As we dig into this story, we find that the Philistines had been tormenting the Israelites. There has been no real fighting, only words had been exchanged. Most of the verbal attacks had come from Goliath, who was a giant of a man. He was 6 cubits and a span. In English, that means that he was about 9 foot, six inches tall. It has been suggested that he may have had the blood of  the Anakites who were considered to be giants in their day. In Deuteronomy 9:1-2, we find God warns them they would encounter giants, and Goliath was just such a person. How big was Goliath? He was big enough to handle a shield that weighed 78 pounds and the shaft of his spear weighed 15 pounds. He wielded these things as if they were nothing at all. It is noteworthy that he was well armored for a giant, which is interesting to me. As a giant he could probably take anyone single handedly, and yet he still stood behind his armor. 

Notice what Goliath did. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” And the Philistine said, “I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.” When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid (1 Samuel 17:8-11).

Two points are worth mentioning here. First, the enemy is good at taunting us. He is good at slinging insults and accusations at us. After all, he is the accuser of the brethren (Revelation 12:10). He knows that if he can accuse us long enough we will succumb to the feelings of fear and defeat. In this case, Israel was already defeated because they refused to confront Goliath. They were intimidated and neutralized to the point of inaction. They allowed the accusations the enemy to defeat them before they even entered the battle. Psychologists tell us that when confronted by issues, we will resolve them by flight, fight, or we will freeze. In this case, Israel was frozen to the point of inaction because of fear and intimidation.

Second, Goliath used compromises and purported agreements to discourage and defeat the children of Israel. He was trying to get Israel to agree to something that would place them under bondage to the Philistines for life. For Goliath, it was all or nothing. He assumed that whoever they would match up with him would be defeated, and it would be easy to place them under bondage to the Philistines. Our problem is that we often make agreements with the enemy that cause us to be in bondage to his ways. 

Now let’s contrast David to the army of Israel. David was the son of Jessie. He was the youngest of seven brothers. David’s three oldest brothers had already joined Saul’s army and as a concerned father, Jesse would send David to his brothers on a regular basis. This served a twofold purpose. For one, Jesse could shuttle food and provisions to them, but this also gave Jesse an opportunity to check up on the brothers vicariously through David. For David, this was an opportunity to be close to the army, so he could see what was happening on the battlefield. It was on one of these trips that our story unfolds and God’s will is played out for David and Israel. 

When David saw what was happening and as he listened to the threats of Goliath, he was inspired to take down the giant. This was met with accusations and laughter which lead Saul to meet with David where he rejected David’s idea because he was too young. David countered this false perception of his youth by expressing to Saul what qualified him for the role. David began to detail the number of times that God intervened on his behalf when he was watching his father’s sheep. He shared the times a bear and a lion had come to take one of the sheep. Through God’s power and strength he attacked and killed the predator. This empowered him with a confidence in God, and in that confidence, he could overcome the giant that was now battling the Israelites. His experiences had taught him well, and had prepared Him for this moment in time.

Saul agreed to allow David to fight Goliath. We know the story, he offers David his armor which would not fit David. Saul was trying to fit David into his way of fighting but that was not David’s way and it certainly was not God’s way. David rejected the armor of Saul and proceeds to take five stones from the stream near by. These were carefully chosen stones that would be used to deliver the death blow to Goliath. As he approached Goliath, Goliath tormented him and spewed slurs against him. 

What does David do? First, he proclaims the majesty of God. “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. (1 Samuel 17:45-46). He then loads the sling with a stone and winds up his arm and let’s the stone go. It struck Goliath in the forehead and he fell dead before the Israelites and the Philistines. Why? It is because David came in the might and power of God.

As we close, let me give you three things about David’s experiences that are applicable to us. First, our experiences build faith and confidence in us. David overcame the lion and bear through the strength of God’s power. Listen to David’s words in 1 Samuel 17:36-37. Your servant has struck down both lions and bears, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, for he has defied the armies of the living God.” And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” God will fight our battles. We can look back to see battles already won in our life. That gives us faith and courage to face any new battle that comes our way. So what bear or lion have destroyed because of God’s strength. Paul understood this and we see his confidence in expressed in 2 Corinthians 1:10. Paul stated He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. That is the confidence we have. What He has done in the past, He will do again. He has delivered us, and He will do it again.

Second, God never wastes anything. No matter how bad or how horrible the events of our past might be, God can use them for His glory. Remember the story of Joseph. He could have lashed out at his brothers, and he had every right to harm them. He did not do that because his experiences had taught him to trust God and walk in forgiveness. His experiences had taught him about the bigness of God. Listen to Joseph’s own words in Genesis 50:20. As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. Our experiences will cause us to be bitter or better. It is our choice.

  

Third, the intervention of God in our experiences show the world the majesty and supremacy of God in our lives. The army was afraid and frozen and stood before Goliath without any action on their part. David, as a result of his experiences and his witness to the power of God to kill the lion and the bear, was able to step up when everyone else was frozen with fear. When we step out in faith and confidence because of battles already won, those around us will take notice and God will get the glory. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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God Prepares the Army

Peninsula Community Church

God Prepares the Army

August 12, 2018 

Judges 7:1-7 Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the spring of Harod. And the camp of Midian was north of them, by the hill of Moreh, in the valley. The LORD said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and trembling, let him return home and hurry away from Mount Gilead.’” Then 22,000 of the people returned, and 10,000 remained. And the LORD said to Gideon, “The people are still too many. Take them down to the water, and I will test them for you there, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ shall go with you, and anyone of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the LORD said to Gideon, “Every one who laps the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set by himself. Likewise, every one who kneels down to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hands to their mouths, was 300 men, but all the rest of the people knelt down to drink water.  And the LORD said to Gideon, “With the 300 men who lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hand, and let all the others go every man to his home.”

Last week we looked at the preparation of the man to lead the army. God transformed Gideon from a weak, intimidated, and fearful man to one who was ready to lead the army against the Midianites. This week will focus on the army that God will use. As we see in this passage, Gideon had 32,000 men that were trained for war but that was not in the plan of God. Think about this scene for a moment. Gideon finally musters enough strength and faith to assume command of this army and then God does the unexpected. God requires that the army be slimmed down to the bare bones. 

It is noteworthy that the odds of them winning this battle was against them, even with 32,000 warriors. Based on Judges 8:10 Midian’s numbers exceeded 135,000 warriors. How would you like the odds they had been given? With135,000 men versus 32,000 men, the odds were certainly against them. The odds were 4:1. But, God does something that amazes Gideon and still amazes me in many ways. You see the 32,000 were too many for God to use effectively. So he began a process of slimming the army down. As we will see, the army would be reduced to 300 men. This increased their odds of winning to 400:1.  What a reduction? What a decrease? But, with God nothing is impossible.

We find in this story a paradox. It is this, less is more! It is amazing how many paradoxes there are in Scripture. To be rich, you give away. To be lifted up, you go low. We conquer by yielding. We find rest by taking on a Christ’s yoke. We reign by serving. We are exalted when we are humble. We become wise by being fools for Christ’s sake. We are made free by becoming bondservants. We gain strength, when we are weak. We triumph through defeat. We find victory by glorying in our infirmities. We live by dying. And to do more, we become less. It seems that all of these are against what the world would propose as a way to success. It runs counter to the prescribed ways of winning, but it is God’s mode of operation here. Less is more. 

Look at the people God uses. God commanded Noah to build an ark in the middle of a desert. God commanded Moses to lead the Israelites through the Red Sea, rather than going around it. God sent a teenage boy with a slingshot and five stones to take down a giant. God sent Samson to take down 1,000 Philistines, armed with nothing but the jaw bone of a donkey. God commanded Elijah to have the servants soak the wood on the altar before He sent down fire from heaven and consume it.

As we look at the paradox before us, today, we see that Gideon and his army are about to fight one of the fiercest enemies they will ever face. To make this even more interesting and seemingly impossible God tells Gideon he has too many men. I wonder if in Gideon’s mind that he was thinking, I do not have enough to fight as it is and now you are asking me to reduce the number I have. How crazy and absurd that is, he thought? Are you sure God, you know what you are doing? Are you sure you are aware of the enemy’s size and might? Are you sure you are aware of how few there are of us already?

Through this, we learn a valuable lesson. God is in control and He has a plan. God wanted Gideon to have men who were ready for battle. He wanted an army that would be aware of their surroundings and would not walk in fear. He wanted an army that would not fight in their might but in the might of His power. The army had to be slimmed down. You see there were two key ways God would reduce the numbers. First, God said that the ones who were fearful and trembling could return home. As a result 10,000 men left to go home. Secondly, God wanted those who would be aware of their surroundings and would be observant of the enemy coming their way. So, he chose those who would lift the water from the stream and lap the water from their hands. These men would stay while everyone else could leave and go home. It is estimated that 21,700 men returned home as they failed God’s terms for enlistment. 

You see, God wanted an army that would fulfill His words of Deuteronomy 8:17-18. Beware lest you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gotten me this wealth.’ You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. God wanted to use this reduced number to glorify and honor His name through victory. After all, this has always been the goal of God. He wants us to trust Him and He wants to get the glory and honor for His successes.

It is here that I thought of John the Baptist and his words in relationship to Jesus in John 3:30. He proclaimed that He must increase, I must decrease.  This is one of the great paradoxes of the Bible. To win, we get smaller. To be successful, we go with less. God is saying to Gideon that He needs a smaller, leaner army. Gideon’s army needed to decrease, so that God might increase. He was forcing Gideon and his army to a place where they would be totally dependent on God and not their individual ability or power. This reminds me of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:7. …we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. Outside we are weak, but inwardly we are strong, because within us is a power that belongs to God. He fills us and anoints us to accomplish what only He can do.

I wonder today if God is calling us to get smaller so that He is glorified and honored in our life. I wonder if He is calling us to let go of some things so He gets the credit for the victories in our life. Perhaps, we need to let go of pride that is preventing the healing of a relationship. Perhaps, He wants us to let go of the need to control outcomes. Perhaps, we need to stop worrying about who gets the credit. Perhaps we need to let go of false expectations, hurt or rejection, the distractions of life, and personal intimidations. Too often, we tend to hold onto these things and we continue to lose battles. 

God is calling us to decrease that He might increase in us and through us. We give up these things so that He is glorified and so that He is honored. In essence, we fight the battles we face with a different spirit. What we give up is matched by God. Instead of forcing our way, we rely on God to make a way. Instead of relying on our ability to negotiate, we rely on God. Instead of moving from the position of pride, we move from a position of humility. 

Now let’s look at the rest of the story. What did God call them to do? Gideon divided the 300 men into three companies and put trumpets into the hands of all of them and empty jars, with torches inside the jars. And he said to them, “Look at me, and do likewise. When I come to the outskirts of the camp, do as I do. When I blow the trumpet, I and all who are with me, then blow the trumpets also on every side of all the camp and shout, ‘For the LORD and for Gideon (Judges 7:16-18). When the army follows the lead of Gideon, the Lord confuses the Midiantes and they began to kill themselves. The rest of the Midianites began flee, fearful of their life.

Gideon called for the rest of the army, who had gone home, to go after what was left of the Midianites. You see, those who went home were blessed by the obedience of those called by God to battle against the Midianites. Here is the truth we learn from this. When we get small and allow God to be honored, we bless others in return. Others are blessed and are encouraged to enter the battle because of our obedience. We encourage others when God is revealed through us. That was God’s purpose. He wanted to show Himself strong and that those who surrender to His ways are blessed and victorious. 

You see if they had battled in their own strength, they would have been royally defeated. But in their obedience, God was honored and His name was glorified. How about you? Where do you need to get smaller? Where are you trying to control? Where are you trying to move in your own power, when God wants you to humble yourself so that His power is revealed through you. 

So are you ready to get small so that God is magnified? Are you ready to decrease so that He is increased? Are you ready to see Him glorified and through you glorify others? His goal is to transform our fear, intimidation, and trials into amazing testimonies of God’s grace. Are you ready? God prepared an army and He will prepare you. 

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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God Prepares the Man

Peninsula Community Church 

God Prepares the Man

August 5, 2018 

Judges 6:11-16 Now the angel of the LORD came and sat under the terebinth at Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, while his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the winepress to hide it from the Midianites. And the angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O mighty man of valor.” And Gideon said to him, “Please, my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all his wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has forsaken us and given us into the hand of Midian.” And the LORD turned to him and said, “Go in this might of yours and save Israel from the hand of Midian; do not I send you?” And he said to him, “Please, Lord, how can I save Israel? Behold, my clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” And the LORD said to him, “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.”

As interesting as Gideon’s battle is, because there is so much to cover, I will be splitting this sermon into two parts. The fact is it is impossible to deal with everything that needs to be considered in one sitting. The two parts of this message will the preparation of the man, and the second part will be the preparation of the army. Both of these are important and we will look at these over the next couple of weeks. Let us begin by looking at the preparation of the man. 

As we consider this story, we find that Israel had become intimidated by the Midianites. The Midianites had been ruthless and had caused the Israelites to walk in fear and trepidation. It is noteworthy that the Midianites were descendants of Abraham. So in essence, this was family against family. They had become an enemy of Israel and the enemy of Israel is always an enemy of God. They might be fighting against Israel, but God was ready to fight against the Midianites. 

This situation however did not happen in a vacuum. In Judges 6, we find the people of Israel did what was evil in the sight of God. What is critical here is that their sin was in the open. They did not even try to hide it. The result of their sin was they had been given over to the Midianites for seven long years. Their evil acts put them in the position to be manipulated by an outside force, rather than being lead by the power of God. In this, we are reminded that our decisions have consequences. When we reject God, there are consequences. When we go our own way, there are consequences. When we believe we do not need God, there are consequences. Here is the problem, Israel, like many of us, began to allow the Midianites to control their lives, their emotions, and actions rather than surrendering to the power of God to achieve His purposes. They willfully submitted themselves to these outside influences. The result was fear and intimidation had snared them. In Judges 6:2, we find the Midinaites had overpowered Israel. Israel had become so intimidated and fearful of the Midianites, they were driven into the mountains and caves. The Midianites were stealing and robbing them blind not only emotionally, but physically as well. When they planted crops, the Midianites would come in and take the crops they needed, and would destroy the rest. They would take their live stock and left them without anything to eat. 

Israel was desperate. In Judges 6:6, we see they were at a low point in their life and “… the people of Israel cried out for help to the LORD.” They had given territory to the enemy because of their disobedience before God. When we give territory to the enemy, we can feel intimidated and robbed as well. When we are disobedient to the word and ways of God, we give up territory to the enemy. We become trapped by the lies, the pride, and actions that are opposed to the ways of God. Throughout Scripture, we find that disobedience by His people led to destruction and bondage. 

At this point, Israel felt hopeless, but God was working behind the scenes. Listen to Judges 6:7-10 When the people of Israel cried out to the LORD on account of the Midianites, the LORD sent a prophet to the people of Israel. And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I led you up from Egypt and brought you out of the house of slavery. And I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all who oppressed you, and drove them out before you and gave you their land. And I said to you, ‘I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell.’ But you have not obeyed my voice.”

In those days, God appointed judges to rule and lead for short periods of time. Israel was in a cycle of obedience and then disobedience. It seemed that Israel would do their own thing, walk in sin, and then become desperate. God would then appoint judges to rule over them to save them. Then they would return to obedience and His ways. In our story, we see God calls Gideon. What is noteworthy is where God finds Gideon. He is beating out wheat in a winepress so that he would not be discovered by the Midianites. He, like Israel, is intimidated and afraid. He is hiding in the hopes that the enemy would not find him and steal his food. But God knew where he was, God knew what he was doing, and God had a plan for His life. 

You might question God’s choice here, but before we question God’s choice and chastise Gideon for his emotional bankruptcy, we need to be aware that many times we have reached this place of discouragement and despair. We often reach the place where we feel overwhelmed and intimidated by the events and the issues of life. We have become more intimated by the enemy and the problems we face than we should be. The enemy has gained more territory than he should have in our lives. The truth is this does not have to be the case. We can live in victory and the power of God’s grace. 

When Gideon is called to rescue Israel against the Midianites, he does what many of us would do. He rejects the calling of God. He felt he did not merit or deserve what God was asking him to do. In Judges 6:15 we see his response. “How can I save Israel? Behold my clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I am the least in my father’s house.” Too often we are defeated before we even get started. We believe we are powerless to accomplish anything of merit. But, God does not see us through our eyes, He sees us through the eyes of what Christ has done on our behalf. God does not see Gideon as weak and demoralized, He sees him as a mighty man of valor. God does not see Gideon as defeated, but as victorious. Therefore, to overcome, we must see ourselves as God sees us. We must see ourselves in light of God’s view of us.

Know this, God does not see us as weaklings, because in our weakness He becomes our strength.This reminds us of Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. In our failures, He becomes our success. He becomes the power we need to act on His behalf. Look at the Lord’s response to Gideon. “But I will be with you, and you shall strike the Midianites as one man.” Here is the point God is making. If He is with you and you are doing what He called you to do, you have already won. Notice God says “You shall strike the Midianites as one man.” Together, we will overcome. We will be victorious. 

In the New Testament, we find that God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong … (1 Corinthians 1:27). Here is the point. In relationship to the world’s wisdom and idea of leadership, Gideon would have never been chosen. They would have chosen someone already proven and who had already won many battles but, God does not do this. God sees in Gideon, what Gideon did not see in himself. 

As we bring this to a close, let me make a couple of final points. First, God equips those He calls. It has been said that He does not call the equipped, He equips the called. We see this in the case of Gideon. God is preparing Him and working in Him. God is equipping him for a mission.

Second, God had to deal with Gideon’s heart before He could use Gideon. Gideon is called to tear down the altar of Baal and the Asherah pole. This was a test for Gideon and a work of the Lord to build confidence in Him. Notice, Gideon does this under the cloak of darkness. He does it so no one sees him. He goes at night because he is still afraid and scared of the Midianites. The success of his mission builds confidence and hope in him however. You see, sometimes, God calls us to do small things behind the scenes in order to be successful in the open. Our hidden successes become outward successes. 

Thirdly, God prepared his heart and moved him from fear and intimidation to peace with God. How do we know this? In Judges 6:23-24, we find the following. But the LORD said to him, “Peace be to you. Do not fear; you shall not die.” Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and called it, The LORD Is Peace. To this day it still stands at Ophrah, which belongs to the Abiezrites. Though, inwardly, he continued to have fear and was still dealing with intimidation, he stepped out in faith to accomplish the will of God. 

Here is what we need to know. God has a plan for our life. God has something for you and nothing can stop that but ourselves. We may be fearful. We may be intimidated. We may feel less than capable of doing what we have been called to do but God equips us and God gives us all we need.

For an audio of this message go to http://pccministry.org/media.php?pageID=14

Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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