It Is Finished

Peninsula Community Church 

It Is Finished

August 26, 2018 

John 19:30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. Colossians 2:13-15 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Today, we have our sixth and final installment in our series “the Battle is the Lord’s.” Specifically, in this study we will focus on the battle won by Jesus on the cross. It is noteworthy that some, in today’s anti-Christian and anti-Jesus society, have tried to deny the fact that Jesus died on the cross. They purport that either Jesus never died on the cross, or this was a false narrative made up by the disciples to cover up the claims that Christ would die and then rise again. However, to remove the cross from history would be to make us powerless over sin, and would place us in an untenable position of having to face our battles without Christ.

Let me ask you. What, most often, is the greatest battle we face? I would suggest that, for most of us, the great struggle of our life is the impact of sin. Sin robs us and strips us of so much of the vitality and power we have been freely given. We constantly battle the work of sin. While we may not be personally engaged in the big ten of sin, we are often impacted by the power of sin. 

To fully understand the work of the cross, we must go back to the beginning of what we know as time. We must come to an understanding of how we got to where we are today. In Scripture, we find that satan was cast out of heaven because of his pride and his desire to usurp the authority of God, which is a foolish proposition. Because of his sin, he was cast down to earth and has been the nemesis of all humankind ever since.

As we look back in time, we find the story of creation and that everything God created was good. However, the one who had fallen from grace, and was now an accuser and deceiver, was waiting to corrupt all that was good. Since creation and until today, the enemy’s ploy has been to corrupt all that God made good. This hit me like never before, as I was preparing for this message. Satan’s primary goal is to corrupt all that God made good. Think about the things that have been corrupted in society: relationships, families, marriage, our view of God, the sanctity of life, morals, sexuality, addictive behaviors, religion/spiritual things, our thoughts, and so on. All of these has been corrupted by satan. 

Almost immediately after the creation, Satan was at work and through deception man disobeyed God’s will and sin was ushered in. This resulted in man being cast out of the Garden of Eden. The woman was cursed and now suffers the pain of childbirth. The man was cursed and must now work the ground by the sweat of his brow. For the deceiver, a prophetic curse was placed upon him. God stated, I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel. God recognized that from that moment of time there would be warfare and confrontation with the enemy, until he was finally subdued at the end of time. 

While that is true, in this passage we find a promise to bruise the head of the serpent. The serpent will wound the heel that crushes him. He will afflict humanity and bring suffering and persecution. He will attempt to corrupt that which is good but, at the right time, Christ will put His foot on the head of the serpent and he shall be bruised. This is critical because the serpent’s poison is in its head; and a bruise on that part of the serpent would be fatal. The fatal blow occurred 2000 years ago when Christ died on the cross. In the Garden, the enemy bruised the heal. On the cross, the head of the serpent was bruised. Christ won!

In our first passage, we find the culmination of this prophesy in three powerful words. “It is Finished!” In that moment of time the head of the serpent was bruised. In this act of great love, the future was changed forever. The Greek word for “it is finished” is TETELESTAI. We could get into the weeds of the grammar used here, but instead let me give you some insights based on the grammatical structure of the word. First, the action has been completed, and the results of the action are ongoing and in full effect. The work of Christ was completed that day and that work continues today.

Second, the word insinuates this was not for the one taking the action, but for the one who was receiving the action. Here is what is amazing, we are the benefactors of the cross. The work of the cross was completed on our behalf. We continue to benefit from that action today. Christ died not for Himself, but He died for us. He who had no sin died for “our sin.” He took all of our sin, shame, and the accusations of the enemy upon Himself that day. He did that for us.

The third truth is this action was an actual event that occurred. This was not the figment of someone’s imagination. It was a reality. It happened and all the world was changed. Through the cross, the ceremonial law was fulfilled. Through the cross, the head of the serpent was not just bruised, it was crushed. Through the cross, we have redemption and the forgiveness of sin. Through the cross, sin was overcome. Through the work of the cross, the rulers and powers of the world were disarmed. What began in the Garden was completed on the cross. 

In preparing for this I came across this interesting information and thought I would share it.  nowThe work was finished! In the Greek, this word is used in different ways but some of these may help us understand the power of the statement “It Is Finished.” An artist might proclaim Tetelestai! when he finished a painting. He would announce “the picture is perfect.” A servant might confidently proclaim Tetelestai! when asked by his master if the work he had been assigned to do was complete. The servant would say, “Yes, master. I have finished the work.” A judge might say Tetelestai! when he conferred a sentence or when issuing a ruling that a sentence had been completed. The judge would say, “Justice has been served.” A merchant might say Tetelestai! after stamping a bill “the debt has been paid.” A soldier might shout Tetelestai! as a battle cry toward a vanquished foe. The soldier would yell, “You are finished!”

You see, the artist had the last word as to the meaning of the painting, not the art critic. The Servant knew if the work in the house had been completed and approved by the Master, not the stranger who entered the house. The Judge determined the sentence and it’s execution, not the convicted criminal. The Priest determined if one’s sacrifice was acceptable to God, not the penitent one. The Merchant determined if a debt was paid, not the debtor. The Victorious Warrior determined the future of his combatant, not the defeated enemy. Jesus Christ is the Artisan, the Servant, the Judge, the Priest, the Merchant, and the Victor, you are not. Your religion is not. Your intellect is not. He has determined that you are free and that all your debts have been paid because of who He is and not who you are.

In our second passage, we find that the power of satan has been neutralized and diminished. We see this in the word disarmed which means to put off completely, to undress completely, and thus render powerless. It carries the idea of stripping the clothes off of a deposed official. At the cross, the leaders and authorities of satan’s force and his kingdom were stripped of their authority and power.

In the death of Christ, Satan was stripped of the power to accuse us of the guilt we try to carry. He was stripped of the power that causes us to believe there is no hope. Because of the cross, we no longer have to walk in the accusations of the enemy. We are empowered to walk in the confidence that He overcame the power of the enemy to falsely accuse us. The result is that there is nothing that can defeat us, and nothing can separate us from the love of God. Nothing, no nothing has the power to do that. Since satan’s power has been diminished, we must remember that satan can only take what we give him. He has no right to take anything. He has no right to accuse us. He has no right to torment us. And yet, he does it over and over because we allow him that territory in our life. He knows his destiny and he desires more than ever to weaken our spirits and our hearts by false accusations and false identities of who we are. 

Too often, we are fighting battles already won. Too often, we are giving up ground we do not need to give up. Many years ago during the days of the settlers, a father and his son were traveling west when they encountered a huge fire that was burning all around them. The son was terrified, but the father placed the son in the middle of where the fire had been burning. At first, the son could not understand why he did this, but the father explained that the fire would not burn the same spot twice. He would be safe because the fire had already burned a safe spot for him. Here is the point. The Savior has paved the way for us. He has conquered ground on our behalf which means the enemy cannot touch us when we are standing on ground already secured by the Son. After doing all we can do to stand firm, we can take on the promise that the head of the serpent has been bruised and he does not have power over us as believers. 

So what ground are you giving over to the enemy? Where have you allowed the enemy to deceive you and take ground that has already been won by the Savior on the cross? Where have you allowed the name to corrupt that which is good? Do not allow the enemy to deceive you or accuse you any more.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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Overcoming Strongholds

Peninsula Community Church

Overcoming Strongholds 

July 29, 2018

Joshua 6:1-7 Now Jericho was shut up inside and outside because of the people of Israel. None went out, and none came in. And the LORD said to Joshua, “See, I have given Jericho into your hand, with its king and mighty men of valor. You shall march around the city, all the men of war going around the city once. Thus shall you do for six days. Seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark. On the seventh day you shall march around the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, when you hear the sound of the trumpet, then all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city will fall down flat, and the people shall go up, everyone straight before him.” So Joshua the son of Nun called the priests and said to them, “Take up the ark of the covenant and let seven priests bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the LORD.” And he said to the people, “Go forward. March around the city and let the armed men pass on before the ark of the LORD.”

This morning we will continue to take a look at the battles of the Old Testament. How these battles were won will give us insight into how we should fight the battles we face. As noted last week, each battle described in Scripture is different in scope, different in how it was fought, and different in how God intervened each time. God used different experiences to show how He would intervene and work on our behalf. Each battle won was in fact a miracle that only God could do, so that His name would be glorified and honored. 

Today, we will look at the battle of Jericho. As we review this story, we find an amazing opportunity for God’s power to be revealed. To understand this story, we must begin with the truth that God had commanded Israel to take the land. They had been on the wilderness journey for forty years and had crossed over into the promised land. When they crossed over into the Promise Land everything changed. In the wilderness, God provided for all of their needs. He guided them with the cloud by day and the fire by night. He gave them food, water, and their clothes did not wear out.

You see while they had been given the land, they had to possess what already belonged to them. They had to drive out the enemies that lived there so that they could set up their homes and become the nation that God had called them to be. God would be there for them as He promised in Joshua 1. Listen to the words God spoke to Joshua.“Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given to you, just as I promised to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go.They are in the promise land, but they have to put into action what they had been told to do by God. They were to possess the land. 

This brings us to their first encounter which was the city of Jericho, an impenetrable city. History tells us that Jericho was a walled city with walls wide enough for two chariots to race around the top of the wall. Some historians have suggested that the walls were so reinforced that it would take even the most powerful force over a year to penetrate the wall. They also had enough provisions stored up to last them more than a year. It was a mighty fortress and Israel was ill equipped to take the city. To take the city, God had to intervene.

As Israel approached the city, we find that the testimony of God’s power and His exploits had preceded them. The residents of Jericho knew who they were and what they could do. They ran into the city for protection and safety because they knew the power of God. They knew that God was on their side. In our journey, we need to know that whatever enemy we face is more intimidated by God than we could ever imagine. 

As we look deeper into the story, we find that Joshua sends in a reconnaissance team to survey the land. He wanted to know the enemy and he wanted to know the odds that were against him. What they already knew was confirmed by the team. Their enemy was large, well equipped, and powerful. The city was well fortified and would not be easily taken. The odds were against them, but God was on their side. That is all that mattered. 

After the report is given, Joshua does what all of us need to do when we encounter an enemy that is too big and fierce. He prayed. He sought the Lord. And, because He sought the Lord, God gave him a plan to take the city. Even today, if I had received these orders I would have been concerned. I might have even laughed at the prospect of doing what He commanded. After all, no one had done this before and this was outside the parameters of known warfare methods then and now. Walk around Jericho once a day for six days and then on the seventh day march seven times without a sound or a word. Then on the seventh day and the seventh time they were to sound the trumpet and lift a powerful sound of worship to God.

They received unusual orders, from an extraordinary God. As we know, Joshua obeyed and the walls came tumbling down. Out of obedience to God’s will, the walls began to fall and they crumbled like match sticks. Not a shot was fired. Not a fist was thrown. Not a sword was used. Israel did nothing but be obedient to God’s way of doing things. Israel was victorious because God wanted His name to be made known and because of the promise to Israel that He would be with them and keep them. 

As we look at the city of Jericho, we find that it is representative of the strongholds we face. The way the battle was won was God’s way of saying that their battle was not against flesh and blood, but against the forces of darkness. This walled city represented the principalities and powers that Israel would face. But those walls fell. So will the walls and strongholds of our life, if we are obedient to God.

The question therefore is how do we overcome the strongholds we encounter? I believe that this story gives us some clues. First, we must know our enemy. Joshua wanted to know his enemy and that is why he used a reconnaissance team to spy out the land. He wanted to know the workings of the enemy. The Bible tells us that our enemy is not flesh and blood, but it is the principalities and powers in our life. The enemy we face is liar and he is the father of lies. Strongholds are developed most often by us believing and accepting his lies. Here is a truth however, the enemy of our souls seems to be a formidable enemy just like Jericho, but he will fall because he has already been defeated by God upon the cross. 

Second, we must know what the strongholds in our life are. To know the strongholds, we must know what a stronghold is. Strongholds are reoccurring destructive habits that ultimately lead to our demise. Spiritual warfare’s main playing field is our mind, our thoughts, and our imaginations (2 Corinthians 10:5). A stronghold is a controlling spirit. These controlling spirits come in all sizes and shapes. They come packaged in the form of fear, anxiety, addictive behaviors, false humility, regrets, failures, self esteem, and so on. Someone has said that the things we try to hide and do not want anyone else to see is the stronghold that most affects us. We try to hide our fear, anxiety, and sin. We put up a good front and yet these things left to themselves become the nemesis in our life. They develop into strongholds. That is why the enemy we most often face is not flesh and blood, but it is a power that overwhelms us. 

Third, we must fight God’s way. We must begin in prayer and then take every thought captive to the glory of God. The battles in our life most often begin in our thought processes. We entertain thoughts that do not honor God or serve to move us closer to His purposes. You see it works something like this. We see, hear, or read something that is negative or destructive. Rather than examining the thought through the template of truth, we entertain that thought. Rather than using Paul’s template, in Philippians, we meditate on the thought or idea and rather than consider God’s way we make other choices. How should we process our thoughts? Paul in Philippians 4:8 said this. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Do you see it? Our mindsets and our attitudes make all of the difference. Too often, we relive the lies and the falsehoods that have been propagated. These strongholds become the walls that surround us and the result is we do not live like we ought to. We do not respond to others like we ought to. We walk in discouragement and disappointment rather than in the victory that is ours through Christ. But, if we are obedient to God’s way, the walls can fall. Anxiety will be gone, fear will be dispelled, and sin will be forgiven. Down come the walls. 

So, what are the walls in your life? What walls have been built up so that you are captivated by the power of the stronghold? We must know that God loves us no matter what and he desires to set us free from every stronghold and bondage that is before us. 

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We Do Not Have to Battle Alone

Peninsula Community Church 

We Do Not Have to Battle Alone

July 22, 2018

Exodus 17:8-14 Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim. So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.” So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword. Then the LORD said to Moses, “Write this as a memorial in a book and recite it in the ears of Joshua, that I will utterly blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven.”

Throughout the Bible, we find stories of battles fought. It is noteworthy that every battle described in Scripture was different in its scope, different in how it was fought, and different in how God intervened each time. The bottom line is that each time a battle was fought and won, those in the battle had to commit to God, follow His will and His way, and trust Him no matter what they were asked to do. Many times, God had to clear the way of their fears, their hesitations, and their concerns in order to focus them totally and completely on His ability to fight for them. In so doing, each battle was won in amazing fashion and certainly not in what we would consider the usual ways. Each of these events were in reality a test to see how much those in the battle would surrender themselves to God and to His ways. 

As we review these battles, we find the battles that ensued were not a fair fight. The army confronting Israel was always bigger, more powerful, and better equipped than the armies of Israel. In a human sense, there was no way they could win. There was no way they could overcome the odds against them. In a human sense, they were already dead and were already defeated, before the battle even began. The truth, however, was that the God who was fighting for them was always greater than any enemy that could ever confront Israel and for that matter confront us. That is why John could unequivocally state in 1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 

Do you grasp that this morning? The God we serve, the God who has redeemed us, the God that is living in the depths of our hearts, has and continues to overcome every enemy we encounter. Here is the question I need to answer and so do you. “How different would I live if I truly grasped the concept that God has the power to overcome every situation in my life?” Would I live in fear and faithlessness, or would I live a humbly fearless life fully confident of God’s power and ability to fight every battle I encounter. Sadly, too often, we do not live with that expectancy.

To help us address this question, over the next couple of weeks, we will look at some of the Biblical battles found in Scripture so as to learn how they were won. We will also consider the lessons we can learn that will help us fight the battles we face with greater clarity, wisdom, patience, and grace. By grasping these lessons, we can have a greater understanding of the God we serve and who is on our side. Remember what Paul said in Romans 8. We are more than conquerors in Christ Jesus. Notice this, we are not conquerors in ourselves or our ability, but in Christ, the one who gave His life so we could live in the abundance of all He has done. 

As I was preparing for this, I was wondering, how often do we live in less than the full power of God? I think that too often we try to live off of the crumbs and the morsels rather than pulling up to the table to live within that which has been prepared for us. Some years ago, a man had saved all of his money to travel to America. This happened before the invention of airplanes. He purchased his ticket and the day came to board the ship and head to America. 

Each evening he would retire to his room where he would eat the canned fish and crackers that he brought with him for the trip. Towards the end of the trip, he was on one of the decks and he met the captain of the ship. The captain introduced himself, and after some discussion the captain stated that he had missed him at dinner each night. The man seemed confused and explained that he could not afford the meals and that that he had brought his own food. The captain shook his head in disappointment and said you must have misunderstood. You see your ticket includes the meals each day. The sad part of this is the man was not living from the fullness of what was already provided for him. How many times do we do this? Sometimes we face battles only to be reminded that we have an abundance of blessing from God.

Today, we will briefly look at the battle fought by Israel against the Amalekites in Moses’ day. In this story, we find that Israel encounters the Amalekites at Rephidim. They were about to go to war. It did not matter what they did, they were going to have to face this enemy. So based on the news that war was unavoidable, what does Moses do? He commands Joshua to choose men and go and fight with Amalek. What did Moses do personally? He went up on the mountain with his staff or rod, as well as with Aaron and Hur. From there, he watched the battle below, but he was not inactive. Notice that as long as he kept his arms lifted with the rod in his hands, Israel was winning the battle, but as soon as his arms were lowered, they began to lose. As the day progressed, Moses became tired. He was weary. He needed help. Aaron and Hur stepped up and became the support he needed in that moment. 

This speaks to us that we do not have to be martyrs when it comes to the battles we face in life. We need to allow people to come around us to hold us up when the battle is overwhelming us.  We need to remove the mask of self-sufficiency and admit we need help. You see the enemy loves to get us to do a couple of things when we are tired and battle weary. First, we have a tendency to give up and concede the battle. The problem is that the enemy realizes that if he fights hard enough we will concede, so, he learns not to give up his fight. He will continue to fight us with all that he has because he knows we will eventually give up. But we do not have succumb to this, but rather we can stand and when we have done all to stand, we can stand in the armor that God has given us. 

Secondly, we often engage in battles that are not ours. Here we see the battle was Joshua’s to win. Joshua was the warrior and Moses was the intercessor. Joshua was the one who was to fight the battle, but Moses was to pray and to support Joshua and the warriors. This can be the hardest position to be in. There is a battle but it is not our battle. There is an illness. There is a personal issue. There is problem. And there is nothing we can do but pray. But prayer is the most powerful tool in our arsenal.

Thirdly, we may not give up, but we begin to isolate and hide. In isolation, we are a target for the enemy to attack us and minimize the work of God in us. Sometimes isolation is good for a time of reflection and prayer, but too often we can become so isolated that we do not let anyone in to help us. We reject the help of others and try to fight all alone.

So what do you do? It is at this moment that we have a choice to make. Will we isolate, or will we engage with others who can assist us? One of the greatest problems we face is the pride and fear of going it alone in life. It is prideful to say we do not need anyone to help us. Fear also moves us to fight alone because in fear we do not trust others. We believe we are tough, independent, and capable of handling things on our own. Conversely, we need to take off the mask of self-sufficiency, pride, and fear to acknowledge that we need help.

I am reminded of the story of one of the greatest preachers in history, Charles Spurgeon. Many of you do not know him, but his sermons today continue to be referenced by modern pastors. He pastored one of the largest churches in London, England for years. People were coming to Christ and the church was growing every year. He was a successful pastor in every sense. While on the outside his ministry seemed to be effective, inside he had a battle raging. You see, he dealt with a heavy depression. You see, he was being criticized for his ministry. Even though the church was growing, he often felt ineffective and felt that he was failure. At 22 he was preaching and a prankster started yelling fire. Chaos ensued and that night seven people died because they were trampled to death and 28 others were severely injured that night. His wife proclaimed that she thought he would never preach again. 

With all of this, he knew he could not fight this battle by himself. So, he asked a group of intercessors to meet in the room just below the platform where he would be speaking. Their job was to pray for him as he was ministering the gospel. They were in essence lifting his hands in battle. They were supporting him. The result was he was able to preach with even greater victorious power.

So this morning, are you isolating yourself when you really need help? Do you feel trapped because you are engaged in what seems to be a losing battle? Does it feel the weight of the world is on your shoulders? Do you feel overwhelmed? You see as powerful as Moses was, he needed help. He needed people to come into his life. Rather than isolate, we need to invest in others who will share hope and will encourage us. Do not be afraid to let others in. The fact is fear is a liar. Because of fear and anxiety, we isolate and we disconnect. Moses gives us the example however that we need help. We need people to engage with us as we fight the battles we face. Will you?

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Control is an Illusion

Peninsula Community Church

Control is an Illusion

July 15, 2018 

Mark 4:35-41 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Last week we looked at Jehoshaphat and how God protects us and keeps us. The focus of our study this morning will be on what happens when we do everything right, and God does not hold up to His part of the bargain? What do you do when it feels that God has let us down? Or at least we think He does! What do you do when things are out of our control? In other words, what do you do when you lose control of a situation, event, or person?

This issue of control is seen in the story before us today. Three of the four gospels have some version of this story that impacts the disciples. Let us look at this story and then make a few comments. After a day of ministry, we find that Jesus tells the disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side of the lake. Jesus joins them and off they go. On their journey, they encountered a storm! Imagine this picture with me. Jesus commanded them to get in the boat and go to the other side. He is right there with them. He commanded, they obeyed.

Jesus was with them, and yet they encountered a fierce storm. It should be noted that this was not a normal storm. We find the disciples were greatly afraid. To understand their fear, we must remember that most of the disciples were fishermen and they had been out on this same lake many times before. They had encountered all kinds of storms in the past, but this storm was a different storm altogether. It effected them to the core of their being. We find the storm was so massive and powerful that water was overflowing into the boat. This could result in the boat sinking and them losing their lives. They were afraid. How many times have you faced a storm that rushed in and overpowered you? It was so powerful that you risked death or you felt like you would drown.

In 1980 I had boarded a plane that was headed from Atlanta to La Guardia airport. I was in God’s will as I was traveling around the US for the ministry that I was leading. It was a normal day but after we took off the weather turned nasty. I had flown many times before and was on other planes when other storms had hit but this flight was different. The plane we were on began to be tossed. We continually felt the storm causing the plane to rise, fall, and shake. I can tell you there was some fear that arose and I was not feeling very safe. I had never worried about crashing before but that thought crossed my mind many times during this flight. I was so excited when we finally landed at LGA. I literally got on the ground and kissed it. 

In this story, we find the disciples had been obedient to Jesus’ command. They had gotten into the boat and had begun to travel to the other side of the lake. What they did not anticipate was the storm that was to blow in. You see they could control the boat. They could control their actions, but they could not control the storm, nor could they control the outcome of the storm.

Even though the disciples were right where they were suppose to be, they encountered a great storm. They were in this situation because they were in obedience to Jesus’ command. One of the great lies propagated by the enemy is that if we encounter a storm, there must be something wrong with us. The enemy of our soul loves to take the storms and issues of life that are beyond our control, and use them to demoralize us and make us feel that we have failed or we are in some state of error. There are times when the storms we face are a result of our actions or our decisions. We face storms because of our failures and because of the sin in our life, but in this case they were right where God wanted them to be. 

For the disciples, notice here they were powerless to control the storm nor could they control Jesus. It is noteworthy that even the best of us can be overwhelmed by the storms of life. We can be a old salt as a Christian so to speak. We can navigate almost anything but then there is that thing, that one event or series of events that rock our world and unsettles us to the core. Lack of control can result in fear which is a powerful emotion. All of us deal with such things at some moment in time. There is the fear of loss. There is the fear of the unknown. There is the fear of pain. There is the fear of death. There is the fear of a hostile world. The result of fear is that we can either be motivated to act in positive ways or it can paralyze us.

Because of the entrapments of the enemy, we are all prone to wander from God’s plan and purpose for our lives. I love the old hymn Come Thou Fount of Blessing. There is a line or two in there that speaks to this. The writer states Bind my wandering heart to Thee. Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love; Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above. The point here is that we often try to control that which we cannot control and that is tiring and wearisome. It is fruitless.

We are most often effected by what we cannot control. When we feel we have lost control our world gets turned upside down. The fact is we all love to control things to some degree or another. We all love to have things in order and we love to control our destiny. The problem is when our plans do not always work out, we can get bent out of shape and feel distraught.  

Where was Jesus in all of this? He was asleep on the stern of the boat on a cushion. He was not effected by the storm but the disciples were. They panicked and they called to Jesus. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Notice, they felt that Jesus is not responding to their needs. The disciples who were seasoned fishermen and were acquainted with storms and problems on the lake panicked. For them, everything was out of control. They could not control the storm and they could not control Jesus. 

I wonder if they thought, Jesus, we did our part but you are not living up to your part. We got in this boat because you told us to. If we are honest, we probably all face a moment where we feel that Jesus has failed us. We question whether Jesus is actually with us and whether He is in control. Sometimes, when the pressures of life are overwhelming and seem to overpower us, we can believe God has failed us. We can feel that God is not doing His part. We too can proclaim and at times scream in our hearts, “Oh God where are you?” 

Listen to the words of the disciples. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” There is so much in this statement. Do you not care? Are you just going to sleep through all of this? Do you not see what is going on here? It is at this point in our walk with Christ that our faith is tested. Do you ever feel that way? 

Notice what Jesus does after this. Scripture says And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Notice that in a moment Jesus spoke to the wind and there was calm. The storm that moments before was overflowing into the boat, was now calm. The storm that once seemed as if it was going to sink the boat, was now carrying them across the lake to the other side, which was their destination to begin with. While Jesus may seem distant, He is there all of the time. He is on the journey with us. He is near to us. He has not left us nor has He forgotten us. 

Jesus addresses their faith and their fear. Rather than trust Him, they had moved in fear. You see faith and fear are opposed to one another. Faith is opposed to fear and fear counteracts our faith. Fear causes us to be out of focus. For the disciples, they had seen the miracles of God, they had received the teachings of Christ, but these things had not impacted their faith. We can go to church every Sunday. We can go to conferences. We can read books. The question, however, is “Have we grown in our faith?” What we do must cause us to develop a greater faith in Christ. 

In this story, I am amazed at the response of the disciples, once the storm is calmed. You would think they would have been overjoyed but instead they are afraid. But this is a different kind of fear. Their fear of the storm turned to an awe inspiring fear because of what Jesus just did. He spoke and the winds ceased and the storm was abated. And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

They were amazed and they walked in the awe of the miracle God had provided. Their fear turned from worry to being overwhelmed with the power of Jesus to control the storm. Their loss of control turned to victory, and their confidence in Jesus to control every problem we experience. So let me ask you? Where is Jesus? Do you feel He has left you? The truth is He has not left us. He is in the boat. He is at peace. He is in control. We can rest in that. 

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Copyright © 2018 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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