Tag Archives: Fear

The Journey of Joy 

Peninsula Community Church 

The Journey of Joy 

December 17, 2017 

Luke 2:8-11 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

Let me begin this morning by asking you a question. Here it is. In life, what brings you the most joy? What ignites your heart with passion? I am sure that if we polled this room we would most likely get all sorts of answers and responses. I am sure that some would say their kids or grandkids bring the joy. Some would say a specific trip they have enjoyed. Others would say a certain meal or a dessert would bring joy. Still others would say sitting before a fire with a good book brings them the most joy. The fact is each of us has a different opinion as to what would bring us joy. This morning, I propose, however, that the greatest doorway to joy is a personal relationship with Christ. It does not matter what specific items or events bring joy, if those things are not founded in a relationship in Christ.

As we review this particular Christmas story this morning, notice if you will, the shepherds were in the field minding their own business. They did not expect or anticipant a visit of any kind, much less the kind of visit that occurred. You see, there was nothing extraordinary about these men. They were shepherds and perhaps the lowest of all people on the totem pole of social standing. People did not visit shepherds. In fact, most people did not associate with shepherds, as they tended to be an isolated nomadic group of people who hung out with people just like themselves. And yet, this is to who God chose to bring the proclamation that Christ was born.

If you will, look at their response with me. It is probably no surprise that their initial response was one of fear. Now these were tough burly men who had confronted lions and bears without giving it a second thought, but this encounter was a bit much for them. They were filled with fear because of the activity occurring that dark night. So, why were they afraid? For one, angels were speaking to them and that by itself was enough. What would you do if you encountered a real angel or angels in the middle of the night with a choir singing behind them? I would imagine there would be some fear expressed.

It is also noteworthy that this circumstance was enhanced by the fact there had been no word from the Lord for 400 years. Can you imagine that? There had been no word from the Lord for 400 years. This was a dark time in terms of a visitation from God. But now at the appropriate time, and at the right moment God chose to come to the lowly shepherds. Listen to the words of Paul but when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons (Galatians 4:4-5). At the right time Christ came to earth, and this was the right time.

The fear they were experiencing was happening on multiple levels. Their fear was a natural reaction this encounter. The angels were aware of this fear and they countered that fear with a message “Fear not…! Fear not…!” What a statement in comparison to the circumstances. Can you imagine what the shepherds thought? All this is happening and you want me to not fear. You just rocked my world and you want me to act without fear? You see this declaration to not fear was not some passive, unrealistic command, but was founded in the truth that God was up to something. To understand this, we must read the rest of the proclamation as this is directly connected to the birth announcement of Christ. The angels announcement was Do not fear, because, we bring you good news of great joy and this message will be for all people.

It is noteworthy here that the answer to their fear was a message of joy. This was a message that would counter the fear and anxiety of the moment. Even today, it is a joyful heart that neutralizes fear. For that reason, it is hard to be joyful and to be fearful at the same time. The fear I am talking about is the kind that brings bondage and prevents us from any forward movement in life. It is the emotion that for many has prevented them from experiencing life to the fullest. It is a fear of the future. It is a fear of failure. It is a fear of outcomes. It is even a fear of the good that God does. We fear that somehow we are undeserving of His blessing.

Know this fear binds but joy releases. That is why the Old Testament writer said that weeping may endure for an evening but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). Another writer spoke with conviction when he stated that the joy of the Lord is my strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Joy is an internal reaction to delighting in Christ. As we delight in Christ, He exposes us to His joy which is already resident in us.

Remember the movie the Wizard of OZ. I know that we all have our favorite movie around Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mom’s was the Wizard of OZ. Watching this movie was an annual event for us. If you have seen it, you will remember the main characters in the movie. There was Dorothy who had lost her way. There was the scarecrow who had no brains. There was the tin man who had no heart or emotions. Then there was the lion who had no courage and was afraid of his own shadow. As you watch the movie, you find that they made it to the great city of OZ where they made a request of the great wizard. They asked that he would give them a brain, a heart, and courage. But what we find in the end, is that each of them already possessed these characteristics, they just needed to allow them to be released into their life.

Today, the enemy of our soul has robbed us of joy and has filled so many with fear. One of the lessons of the movie the Wizard of OZ is that what we desire is often already in us. That is a Biblical principle and I am here to tell you that all that you need is already in you, spiritually. You see joy has come as a child but more than that it is a fruit of the spirit that is resident in our hearts because of the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Christ came, He died, and He sent us the Holy Spirit who would provide us with joy as it is one of the fruit that is resident in us as we receive Christ as our Savior (Galatians 5:22).

Since joy is a fruit of the spirit, we understand that it is therefore a work of grace for us to receive that joy. It might be noteworthy that we find that joy and grace come from the same root word in the Greek. The Greek word for joy is CHARA and the Greek word for grace is CHARIS. You see it is by grace that we have joy, and it is the joy we experience that shows us the grace of God in our life. It seems like a bit of circular thinking, but it is the truth as they are intricately connected in our spiritual being. Rather than walking in fear, we can walk in the joy provided to us by the grace of God. Rather than working at producing or manufacturing joy, we can realize that joy comes to us as a gift of God by way of His son. The fact is we have the potential for a joy-filled life because of God’s amazing grace.

Know this, Christ is the source of our joy. Most exciting announcements bring immediate happiness, but afterward, the emotional high evaporates, leaving us unchanged. However, when we believe the good news of Jesus’ birth and we accept Jesus as our Savior, the joy is lasting and it is transformative in its power. As we abide in Him like a branch in a vine, His life flows through us, and the Spirit produces fruit in us (John 15:4, 11; Gal. 5:22-23).

Perhaps the problem with our joy and the power of fear that overwhelms us is that we are looking to the wrong sources to provide our joy. So, where are you looking for joy? Are you trying to control the events of your life and the actions of the people you are invested in, only to find that the end result is more sadness and pain. How many times have we looked to things to provide us with joy to find that it is only a temporary joy that is easily lost, when the thing we look to is destroyed or no longer available? The reason for this is that joy, true joy, is not something we create but something we receive from a heavenly father that so desire. Listen to this: May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13). Our joy is a direct result of the relationship we have with Christ.

He is the source of our strength. When the shepherds heard about the Messiah, their elation propelled them into action. They could not keep the news to themselves. Christ’s joy is powerful, and as was true of the shepherds, it should likewise transform and motivate us to serve Him. A joyful life is the most appealing witness you and I will ever display to a lost and hurting world. People are searching for joy in all the wrong places, so when they see us going through pain, trouble, and conflict with calm contentment and peace of mind, the door opens to share the message of a Savior who came to give new life.

Finally, even if your circumstances aren’t perfect this Christmas, do not give up on your joy. It is a precious gift from Christ, and He wants you to live in joy to the full this day and every day. Just  remember, Christmas is just a preview of what awaits us in heaven. There we will have uninterrupted and uninhibited delight in the presence of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. That alone is a reason to celebrate, but we do not have to wait until heaven. We can experience that now through Christ. Are you ready? Is that the life you want to live? Let us pray.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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What Motivates You?

Peninsula Community Church

What Motivates You?

March 12, 2017

Nehemiah 2:9-12 Then I came to the governors of the province Beyond the River and gave them the king’s letters. Now the king had sent with me officers of the army and horsemen. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant heard this, it displeased them greatly that someone had come to seek the welfare of the people of Israel. So I went to Jerusalem and was there three days. Then I arose in the night, I and a few men with me. And I told no one what my God had put into my heart to do for Jerusalem.

This week I shared a story with someone about our son who was known for sleeping to the very last minute. Not only would he sleep to the last minute but he would also sleep so soundly that it would take a bulldozer to get him out of bed. This was an ongoing battle with him. But one Saturday morning I heard a rustling noise downstairs, so I got up and when I got downstairs I was surprised to find my son sitting at the kitchen table, dressed, and eating a bowl of cereal. Now mind you this was at 5:30 in the morning. I stood in front of him with my mouth and jaw on the ground because I could not believe that this was my son.

Why was he up this early? Why was he dressed and eating breakfast? He was motivated to do so. You see he was headed to an amusement park with his girlfriend and her family. Because he was motivated, he did not require much in the way of persuasion to get up and get dressed. It was easy for him. The motivation of his heart drove him to do what was necessary to get ready on time.

The truth of the matter is that we are all motivated by something or someone. The things that  motivate us aid in formulating our reaction to God’s will and His purpose in our life. In our story today, we see the comparison of two motivations. The motivation of Sanballat and Tobiah stand juxtaposed against the motivation of Nehemiah. As we look at Sanballat, we find that his motivation was based in selfishness, jealously, and fear. On the other hand, we find that Nehemiah’s motivation was based in an unshakable faith in God and the trust that God was in control of everything.

As you remember in our previous messages, Nehemiah had returned to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. He was in the center of God’s will and yet he encountered resistance from those who had been in the city and who were its rulers. He could have given up hope but because he was motivated by a higher calling and a deeper commitment to God, he did not give up nor did he give in to the pressures of life even though he would have been justified in doing so. Because of his faith, he was able to endure the testing of his heart.

On the other hand, we have two men who were antagonistic toward the rebuilding of the city. The reason for this was that they had a vested interest in the failure of the city. They did not want the city to succeed. It is noteworthy that Sanballat’s name means “bramble brush – enemy in secret.” It is also important to note, in his day, his name was most often used for a girl’s name. So you can imagine the life he had. He lived with a girl’s name which meant enemy in hiding. How many close friends do you think he had? Tobiah on the other hand had a very spiritual name. His name meant “God is good.” Here is the problem though. Rather than believe in the destiny that had been given him, his life was lived in opposition to what he had been called to. The problem was that he allowed people like Sanballat to distort and destroy His vision of God and of himself.

The enemy of our soul loves nothing more than to force us to live outside the destiny in which we have been called. He is good at getting us to believe the lies and the things spoken to us by others. How sad was the commentary of Tobiah’s life. Rather than living out his destiny he was falling short of and in fact was working hard to impact the work of God negatively. But why is this so? You see I believe it is because his motivation was misplaced. He lived in fear and had placed his trust in Sanballat who was being motivated more by fear rather than trust in God.

Notice the language of our text. We find three things that point to the motivation of Sanballat’s heart. We find that he was displeased with the fact that someone was taking a interest in the condition of the city and the walls around Jerusalem. Here is the clincher, he had been living there and had no concern for its condition until someone else came along to care for the city. His motivation was wrong because his heart was in the wrong place. Listen to Nehemiah’s words and how he described their heart. But when Sanballat the Horonite and Tobiah the Ammonite servant and Geshem the Arab heard of it, they jeered at us and despised us and said, “What is this thing that you are doing? Are you rebelling against the king? (Nehemiah 2:19). Do you see Sanballat’s and Tobiah’s heart here?

They despised what Nehemiah and Israel was doing. He jeered at them while they were building the walls. You see to jeer is “to taunt, mock, scoff at, ridicule, sneer at, deride, insult, abuse, or heckle.” He made fun of Nehemiah and the work to be done. They were also using false accusation. He accused them of wanting to rebel against the king which was far from the truth. In fact, Nehemiah had sought the king’s blessing before he arrived so his desire was far from  rebellion. You see when someone’s heart is wrong or their motivation is misplaced they will resort to tactics that wound and hurt rather than build up. They will seek to destroy others in their path so that they feel better about themselves. So you see the motivation of their heart was disconnected from the truth.

Before we close we must also look at Nehemiah whose motivation and heart was in the right place. He trusted God and we find this in his words. Then I replied to them, “The God of heaven will make us prosper, and we his servants will arise and build, but you have no portion or right or claim in Jerusalem” (Nehemiah 2:20). The motivation of Nehemiah’s heart was his trust in God. He knew that God would cause them to be successful. His motivation was founded in the fact that God was faithful and that He would keep his promises. Remember Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. It was at this moment that the reality of this promise was about to be fulfilled. God was going to keep His word and that is what motivated Nehemiah’s heart. Nehemiah also believed that God would empower them to fulfill His purposes. God did not lead them to this point in time without seeing the work all of the way through. Nehemiah was motivated by the promise and hope of God.

So what motivates you today? When our heart is not on God we will focus on the wrong things. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 6:21 that where our treasure is there our heart will be. Will we focus on that which is eternal or will we focus on that which is disposable and will be destroyed in the end? The things in this world will be destroyed but that which is eternal will last forever.

The fact is there is much emotion that can serve to motivate us. First of all, we can be motivated by anger. Anger is a poor motivator as anger is often based in hurts and disappointments that come from failed circumstances, broken promises, and wounded spirits. When we are motivated by anger the tendency is that we externalize the anger which results in treating the world and others as our enemy. In our anger, we often become self-righteous and blind to the truth.

We can also be motivated by fear. When we are motivated by fear we tend to lose our ability to think for ourselves. Fear unfortunately begins to drive our decisions and actions. Sometimes fear comes because we have tried and failed before and thus there is a fear in us that prevents us from trying anything again. Someone has said that we are born with two fears. One is the fear of falling and the other is a fear of loud noises. All other fears are learned or developed which means they can be unlearned. Uncontrolled fear binds us and keeps us from ever moving forward in the things of God. Paul reminded Timothy that we have not been given a spirit of fear but love power and a sound mind. Hear his words. For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands, for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:6-9).

We can also be motivated by passion and lust. The problem with passion and lust is that we desire what we cannot have.We want to consume things for ourselves. James reminds us that the reason there is so much turmoil in life is that the passions within us are at war (James 4:1). We want and cannot have so we murder and fight and quarrel. The result is division and more hurt and pain.

We are also motivated by guilt. Guilt is not nor has it been a good motivator for our actions. Guilt and fear are cousins. When we are motivated by guilt we do not know how to say no. We will do things not because we believe the are the right things to do but because we do not want to upset someone and or we fear rejection. We are fearful of failure so out of guilt we do the things that we do.

Finally, Paul reminds us that the love should compel us to obedience. We should be motivated by love. For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised (2 Corinthians 5:14-15). The motivation of our heart will determine our success. When we are motivated by God and His truth nothing can stop us and nothing can hold us back.

The problem with being motivated by love is that we forget or we can struggle to believe that God loves us regardless of what we have done or for that matter not done. We can believe that because we have committed a particular sin that we are no longer loved or accepted by God. You see when we are motivated by fear, guilt, passion, lust, or anger it is hard to have a right perspective of God’s love and therefore it is hard to believe that God loves us. I am reminded of one of the stories that Kyle Idleman shared in his book “Not a Fan.” Let me read the story from the book. Some of you today may be asking that same question of God. Do you still love me? You ask that question because you believe that the stain of your life is too great and can’d be cleaned but if you listen you will hear the emphatic cry of God’s heart. He loves us, Oh how He loves us.

As we focus our attention upon power of Christ to forgive and on the power of His love to redeem us watch this video which features Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village in Texas and John Piper, pastor emeritus of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota and the song Oh How He loves Me by the Crowder band. Use this as a time for spiritual inspection. Ask God to show you today what is your key motivating factor in living life. Is it guilt, fear, passion, or anger. Or do you truly love God and desire His love to be manifested in  your life.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Engaging in God’s Purpose

February 26, 2017

Pastor Bob Odom

Engaging in God’s Purpose

Nehemiah 2:1-5 – In the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, I took up the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had not been sad in his presence. And the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, seeing you are not sick? This is nothing but sadness of the heart.” Then I was very much afraid. I said to the king, “Let the king live forever! Why should not my face be sad, when the city, the place of my fathers’ graves, lies in ruins, and its gates have been destroyed by fire?” Then the king said to me, “What are you requesting?” So I prayed to the God of heaven. And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ graves, that I may rebuild it.”

Here is the question for us today. When you face difficulties in your life how do you react or respond? This is a critical question because how we respond or react to the trials and problems we face make a big difference. The fact is we all tend to respond in different ways at different times. Sometimes the events and circumstances we face will determine our response. Sometimes the people we are with will determine how we respond. Sometimes we continue to respond in certain ways based on our past experiences and how we have been conditioned or raised to respond.

We will return to this in a moment but before we do that lets peer into this passage so that we can begin to understand what God will teach us and accomplish through us. In Nehemiah 2, we find that Nehemiah had been a patient man and had waited almost four months before finally presenting his case to the king. We also find that in the meantime that Nehemiah had been faithful to carry out the tasks of being the cupbearer. He did not give up on the tasks he had to accomplish. Although the news he had received was dreadful and painful, he did not allow the news to cause him to curl up in a ball and shut out life. He continued live and press forward.

Finally and in the right moment, when the time was right, and it seemed that God had orchestrated everything in Nehemiah’s life it was time to present himself to the king. Life was more than he could bear and it was time to make a move. He could no longer hide his pain or his disappointment. In the moment that the king recognized there was a problem with Nehemiah, the  king responded to Nehemiah’s pain. In that moment Nehemiah had a decision to make in terms of how he would respond. When we were in the hospital this week Michelle read me a portion of a book she was reading. I thought what she read fit so perfectly with this message. The author of the book noted three ways we tend to respond to the events of our lives. We can endure the trial, we can escape the trial, or we can engage the trial.

Let us look at these for a moment. First of all, we can try to endure our trials but in doing so the tendency is that our trials can begin to master us, thus they begin to control us. The result is that we become hard and bitter. The problem with simply enduring the trial is that the trial or the problem we face tends to take charge and begins to rule our life. Left to its own devices the trial can become bigger than life. The result is that our complete attention can be focused on the trial and nothing else. While this is a natural outcome, we must be faithful to move beyond this.

The second way to to deal with the trials in our life is to attempt to escape the trials. The problem with using the escape mechanism is that when we try to escape the problem we often miss what God is doing and what He wants to achieve in our life. We run from the pain and in so doing we miss God’s blessing but we also postpone the difficulty until a later time in our life.

There is a third way and it is the best way to deal with difficulty. How do we do this? We enlist the difficulty or we engage it. When we enlist or engage our trails they begin to work on our behalf and thus they do not master us. We can overcome them and begin to see the benefits of the trial we face. This is critical as every trial we face serves a purpose in the economy of God. It pushes us closer to God, it can reveal sin in us, and it provides a deeper look into our heart.

Two passages come to mind as we consider these thoughts. The first of these is Deuteronomy 8:2-3. And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Notice here that God had orchestrated this plan in order that their hearts would be revealed and the truth of who they are was seen. Notice too that in this passage that the people experiencing the difficulty were not even aware of what God was doing in them. Without going through these difficulties, they would have never achieved the lessons required for them to learn: obedience to God, dependence on God for the provision of God, and the power of the grace of God.

The second passage is Romans 8:28. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Notice this passage does not say everything will be good but rather that everything will work together for a good outcome even if that is in the eternal perspective. Life is not good but God always is. He never fails. That is the exact point being made in this passage. Too many believe that because we are Christians no bad thing will ever happen to us but that is far from the truth. As we embrace the truth and the reality of our life in God, He can use these issues to form and shape us into what He desires.

My experience this past week with being in the hospital is in fact a perfect example of this. During the day on Sunday I began to experience a severe stomach pain. Through the day the pain began to become greater and more intense. At first I tried to endure the pain and do all of the home remedies that I knew without any relief. I could have chosen to endure the pain but the outcome in my life might have been different. It was beginning to control me. I could also have tried to escape and deny the existence of the pain but it would have mastered me and the results may have had a different ending. Instead I choose to engage the pain and drive myself to the hospital where we now know there was much more going on in my body.

Nehemiah decided to engage and face his problems. He took a chance with the king who could have had him banished and worse yet killed him. Nehemiah chose to engage the problem and meet with the king directly. Remember last we week that Nehemiah had prayed and fasted. He had received as much information as he could about what was going on with his homeland. At that moment he could have tried to just endure and continue to pray and fast but not do anything.  That would have been spiritually accepted but while the spiritual and religious steps we take are important there is a time where we need to engage the problem and seek godly results.

We also find that Nehemiah could have tried to to escape the problem and pretend that was just the way things were going to be and therefore there was no hope for change. He could have run from the trial and would have been justified in doing so. He could have passed the buck and suggested it was someone else’s responsibility rather than his responsibility. So which would you prefer? Your trials mastering you, missing out on what God has to teach you, or accepting the trial and then being positioned for growth and strength. I not sure about you but I prefer the later.

Nehemiah had no idea of what would transpire in the days to come but because he accepted his trial and did not try to run from it, God used him and positioned him to accomplish His will. Nehemiah could have been “spiritual” and stayed in his room to pray and fast but he engaged. After he prayed and fasted he realized that he needed to do his part and that is just what he did and that is what we must do. We need to engage and get in the game so that we achieve God’s highest will for our lives.

So what did Nehemiah do? First of all, he did not try to hide his problem. He was honest about his situation. He did not overvalue the problem but he certainly did not underestimate the problem either. Notice that Nehemiah was willing to share his concerns directly with the king. This is critical because he took his need to the one earthly person that could do something about the problem. He did not talk with a lot people. He did not mumble and grumble. He did not use negative  self talk to get himself discouraged. Sometimes we can engage with everyone but the one person that can help us resolve the issues of life. As a result of the relationship Nehemiah had with the king, he engaged the king and thus the king realized there was a problem. Even then Nehemiah had a decision to make. How much would he share? How honest would he be?

This leads us to the second thing that Nehemiah did. Nehemiah dealt with his fear. Fear is a natural outcome when we face trials and difficulties in our life. Fear is a God given emotion that can be taken to the extreme and cause us to shut down, run, or hide. Fear can paralyze us.   But fear can also cause us to get a head of God and we can sometimes even circumvent what God is doing in us as a result. Nehemiah however faced his fears. Let me ask you two questions as we close this morning. First, what are you afraid of? And secondly, what could you accomplish if you did not have that fear any more? God never intended for fear to control us or cause us to be bound by the unknown. Nehemiah was gripped with fear but he did not allow fear to control him. He pressed through his fear and spoke truth to the king and as we know by history and the word that Nehemiah cam through in a big way and had compassion.

As we close would you take a moment focus your attention on the video we will play in second. So much of our failure comes in the form of fear. But that was never God’s intention. But we know who stands with us. He is God and He is always by our side. He overcomes our fear and the closer we get to him the more fear will subside. This video is Whom Shall I Fear by Chris Tomlin.

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

Copyright © 2017 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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The Surprise of Christmas

Peninsula Community Church

The Surprise of Christmas

December 4, 2016

Luke 1:26-38 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. 

I do not know about you but I love Christmas and the mystic about the holiday. There are presents under the tree that have been carefully chosen and wrapped to maximize the surprise as the gift is opened. I am sure, like me, there have been times when you opened a gift thinking that it would be one thing only to find it was something totally different. What a surprise when you open the one gift that you have been longing for and you have no clue about the gift.

The story before us today is a story of surprise. In the story there is an event that takes a young woman in Nazareth totally by surprise. Mary, this young virgin teen, was engaged to Joseph. She was going about her daily tasks and was living life as she always had. She was preparing for her wedding day and helping around her home, just as she would have any other day. When she arose that morning she never would have guessed that she would receive a message that would shake her world and change her for the rest of her life.

Before we look at some of the specific details of the story, let me review some of the background to the story. Mary and Joseph had been engaged which was the first step in the marriage ritual for the Jewish people. There was a commitment to stay pure in terms of their sexuality. There was a commitment to begin to plan and put their household in order for their wedding day. In essence, according to Jewish law being engaged or betrothed meant they were already married but there was a process they had to follow in order to consummate the marriage on their wedding night. According to Scripture both Joseph and Mary had been faithful to their vows.

Mary was a young girl in the town of Nazareth. There was nothing special about Mary that would have given any indication that she would have been chosen by God for this amazing task. I don’t know why but God often chooses to use some of the most unknown and unrecognizable people to bring about His will. She lived in Nazareth a small town with no notoriety. Nazareth was not the kind of town that people expected to have a miracle take place. In John 1:45-46 Nathanael asked the probing question “Can anything good come out of Nazareth.” There was not much respect for the small town of Nazareth.

Can you imagine the moment this event occurred? She was minding her own business and suddenly an angel was greeting her. Gabriel met her with an amazing greeting that was about to rock her world. Speak of a surprise! How surprised do you think Mary was? The angel’s message was simply “You are favored and the Lord is with you.” The Greek word kecharitomene is an amazing word. It is made up of three parts. The root of the word is the word “grace.” We know that grace is the unmerited favor of God that is supernaturally endowed upon us. The suffix of the word is mene which indicates that Mary is the one being acted upon. Mary was not the one who brought herself into this state of grace but it was an action of God. The prefix ke indicates that the action has been completed in the past with its results continuing in full effect in the present. In other words, the work of grace has already been given and had been worked out on her behalf.

She was the recipient of great grace. In other words, she was having this encounter not because she somehow deserved it or had somehow merited the visitation. She was having this interaction for only one reason. She had been chosen by God. God saw her not as a young virgin girl but as a chosen vessel He could use to bring about His will. She was not perfect, but as we know from Scripture no one is righteous in themselves (Romans 3:11) because all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). She was no exception as she was chosen not because of her works but because of the work of God.

As you might imagine she was troubled by the announcement of the angel. It is noteworthy that she was not troubled by the angel or fearful of the angel but her fear and trouble was in the announcement itself. How would you have reacted to such news? She was to be the mother of Jesus. She was chosen to be the vessel through which Jesus, the Messiah, would be born and would change the world. Spiritually, God desires to do that through us today. He has chosen us as a vessel through which He can be manifested and His name can be known. He came to live in us so we would be like Him and the world would experience Him through us. We have His favor!

The angel responded to her fear by saying to her “Do not be afraid.” That is an amazing statement when you think about it. Here is Mary being approached an angel and Mary’s response was “How can this be?” In essence, what she was saying in the modern language is “Are you kidding me? Are you serious?”  The reality is that Mary was awestruck by the calling she was given. What was she going to do? She was perplexed by the news which speaks of her humility and honesty. Then again, it’s not every day that one gets a cold call from a divine messenger.

We do get this from time to time. It can be a moment in a sermon or in a conversation. It can be during a quiet walk in the woods or in prayer that God taps you on the shoulder and says, “Hey you. Yes, you the favored one!” It forces us to question ”Me? Favored? By God? You must have mistaken me for someone else.” No matter how many times or in what form we hear, “yes it is you and you are the favored one,” we have the hardest time believing we are the ones being addressed. For some, it is because their relationship with God is grounded in fear. For others, it is because their faith is overshadowed by the problems of life and the largeness of the calling.

Mary had so many questions and concerns. After all she was a virgin and how could she become pregnant without breaking her marriage vows? What would Joseph think? What would Joseph do? It was in his power to legally divorce her. If this happened, the community could reject her and in fact they could stone her if they chose. But once again, Gabriel responds with an amazing statement. He stated that the Holy Spirit will come upon her.

Here is what Gabriel is saying. While you are fearful and concerned, the Holy Spirit will come and fill you. Yes this is an amazing task for you to accomplish. It is an amazing calling but the Holy Spirit will be there to guide you and help you all along the way. When you falter He will be there to assist you and help you. The angel states that the Lord will be with her and that the Holy Spirit will come upon her. The angel is saying He is there and she is covered. She will be protected. When you think about this we see the Trinity at work. Jesus will be in her. The Holy spirit will be upon her, and God will be along side of her. How amazing and wonderful is that.

As Mary is pondering the question of how can this be, the angel makes another amazing statement. “Nothing will be impossible.” Then he announces that her aunt Elizabeth is pregnant. She had been deemed too old to have children but with God nothing is impossible. What Gabriel was saying is, if God can take a worn out, old, barren woman who is past her prime and give her a child, a miracle can be done in you as well. There is nothing too hard for God. If God can touch Elizabeth, then He can surely pregnant a young healthy virgin. In this story there are two great miracles: the birth of Jesus and the birth of John the Baptist.

In the final part of this verse we find Mary’s response and what an awesome response it is. She says: “Let it be according to your word.” She relents and accepts God’s calling and purpose for her life. What she his saying is God I don’t understand it and I don’t know how to put all of this in perspective but I trust you and I receive your word and your calling. I accept your grace and power to see me through this.

Notice the connection between the call of Mary and the presence of God in this story. We are reminded that His name would be called Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23). From the beginning of His life He is with us. The entirety of the Godhead is available to us for guidance, protection, and being guarded. When God calls you He does not make a mistake. He knows you and He knows where you live. He does not come and go; He is is with us always.

So what do we do with this story? We make it our own. We see that God can do the impossible in us. Are you expecting? Do you know that God can surprise us and call us to a miraculous walk with Him? The grace of God is seeking you today to let you know that He is in you, upon you and along side of you to reveal Himself to you. It may in the mundane that He comes but He is there.

Know this, you are highly favored because you have been called by God. He chose you because He had a plan and He knows you. His grace comes to us not because we are worthy but because of God. In every circumstance and stage of life, His grace comes. The enemy of our soul would rather you think that you are a failure and that there is not hope. But that is a lie. The enemy wants us to believe that there is no hope, that we have failed, and we are not worthy but that is not God’s calling or purpose for us.

Here is a second idea that we need to know about the grace of God. He knows where we are and He knows us, knows our problems, and He knows the depth of the pain and heartache you are experiencing. He knows your fears. He knows your doubts. He wants to come to you today and give you His grace. He wants to touch your heart. In the video we watched early in the service it is so easy to neglect and walk right by the gift of grace that God has given us. But don’t do that today. Open your heart to God’s grace. Mary did!

If you need or want the grace of God today I ask that you open your heart and do what Mary did. Her final reply was “Let it be according to your Word!” Whatever you need to do today “Lord I am asking you to do that. Give me grace to endure. Give me grace to speak truth in love.” His grace is a great grace and it is all we need today.

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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Strongholds – The Baggage We Carry

Peninsula Community Church

Strongholds – Baggage

April 17, 2016

Hebrews 12:1-2 Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

I ask your forgiveness in the beginning of this message. I know that it will appear that the message will be focused on my life and my testimony. But I ask that you bear with me because as I was preparing I thought there was no better way to express the power of the baggage we hold onto than through my personal testimony. As I share this I do not in any way want to take away from the Gospel but it is the Gospel and the power of Christ that I am where I am today.

With that said in 1979, when I moved to New York City after Bible College, one of the jobs I had was to help refugees resettle to the United States. In particular, we were helping Christians who came from Communist countries and had lost everything as a result of their stand for Christ. In that job one of my roles was to travel to churches to present the program and seek to have churches sponsor refugees. I enjoyed this because I was able to fly around the country and visit some exciting churches and meet some awesome people. On one such trip, upon my arrival back to New York I found out that the person who was suppose to pick me up was not able to do so and I would have to find an alternative way home.

So I began to consider how I was going to get home from LaGuardia Airport which was not as easy as it might seem. The problem was that I had a huge trunk, a large suit case, and a brief case because I had to carry all of the church presentation material with me. Upon investigating how I was to get home I found out that I needed to take a bus from the airport to the Grand Central Station. From there I had to take a subway to Penn Station where I would catch the Long Island Rail Road to West Islip. On the Long Island Railroad I was required to make one transfer. Can you imagine me pulling a 75 pound plus trunk (with no wheels), a large suit case, and my brief case onto the bus, down the stairs of the subway, up the stairs of the train station, and then down the other side to catch the Long Island Rail Road and then to do it all over at the transfer point.

Once in West Islip I called only to find that no one could pick me up. So I had to get a taxi to take me home. So now I had to wrestle with this stuff again. When I arrived home, I drug the trunk, the suit case, and the brief case into the house only to find the person who was to pick me up was watching boxing matches with his sons. Needless to say I was not a happy camper. By the way it took me almost four hours or more to get home from the airport. I laugh at that story now but the fact is the excess baggage I had with me weighed me down and kept me from being very mobile. I had to drag this baggage around with me in order to make any progress at getting home.

While this is a humorous story the fact is that many of us have baggage that tends to weigh us down as we take this journey called life. The writer of Hebrews expresses this as weights and sin. Both the weights of life and the sin (ongoing sin) that possesses us holds us back and causes us to be immobile and ineffective in this journey called life. It is of note that a weight in itself is not necessarily a sin but it is something that is cumbersome, annoying, and it holds us back from being all that we could be, otherwise.

I am sure that you know what I mean. Our collection of baggage begins early in life as we experience the ups and downs of life. For me, it began as a child because when I was just a year old or so I was rushed off to my grandmother’s house to live so that my mom could find herself in Texas. During this time my grandfather who was my best bud died. It was in that moment that I began to pick up the bag of rejection and abandonment. The problem of course was that as I grew older I began to stuff that bag with more and more rejection and abandonment. When I was six years old I moved back with my mom. While living with my mom we moved every year to two years until I was eleven because of my step dad’s drinking problem. At eleven years old I was moved to my aunt’s house because of the issues at home. And after one year with my aunt I suddenly found myself at the doorsteps of my dad’s home in Alabama. Each of these actions added to the baggage I carried. The bag of rejection and abandonment became much heavier. To make matters worse I began to filter everything through the prism of rejection and assumed that rejection and abandonment was going to be a way of life for me.

In addition to the baggage of rejection and abandonment, I also picked up a bag of abuse and wounds as my step dad was abusive physically, emotionally, and mentally. He would punish me with military type punishments. One such punishment was to have me stand six inches from the living room wall with one foot in the air for 45 minutes. If my foot dropped, he would slap me and the time would start over. This was just one case of the physical abuse. In many ways the physical abuse was nothing compared to the emotional abuse I encountered with my dad. By the time I turned eleven or twelve my self esteem was blown and I had experienced the power of insecurity in big ways.

This lead me to take on other baggage such as fear and guilt. I feared for my life as I did not know how my step dad was going to be when he arrived home. I also felt guilty because I felt I was the problem. After all my step dad would regularly remind me that the issues at home were my fault. He would say such things as I was never wanted and that I should have stayed with my grandmother. He would blame me for all of the problems he was facing and would blame me when he and my mom would fight which was often. At 7 years old I began to accept the idea that my parents issues were my fault.

Throughout my life I picked up more and more baggage until I was weighed down and had became immobilized by the baggage I carried. The fact is I knew no better. The fact is that people who were around me did not even know that I was dealing with this burden as I did a great job of hiding my real self. I assumed that this was just the way of life so I had to a accept it and move on. On March 4, 1974, as a teenager, I received Christ and through that action I thought that life would be grand. While I had been forgiven of my sin, I still carried the baggage I had collected throughout my life. In fact, instead of getting rid of my baggage I actual picked up another piece of baggage called religion. Even though I had accepted Christ and I was going to church regularly, I still carried the baggage of my past. Instead of living in freedom, I tried to obey the rules that had been given me. But as I continued my journey with Christ, particularly after my Bible college years, I began to realize that I did not have to walk with the baggage that was weighing me down. I learned that there was a better way of living.

Let me share with you a few of the Biblical truths I learned that helped me let go of the baggage in my life. First of all I learned that true forgiveness meant that none of my past issues had to dictate my present circumstances or my future life. You see I had accepted Christ but I had not accepted His forgiveness. I confessed Christ but I not taken what He had accomplished for me to heart. I failed to grasp what Peter had stated in 2 Peter 1:3-5. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. You see one of my problems was that I was relying on my own strength and I was good at keeping all of the rules to be a “good Christian.” I did not fully realize that God had already given me everything I needed to overcome the baggage in my life and that I could be a partaker of the divine nature of Christ which brings freedom.

Secondly, I learned that I did not have to walk in the fear of rejection or abandonment again. The words of Timothy reminded me that God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. You see I had so much fear that I could never be free or so I thought. I was afraid of everything. I was afraid of rejection. I was afraid of being abandoned. I was afraid of the future. But once I grasped the power of the words of Timothy, I now know that I do not have to walk in fear but I now have a power to overcome the baggage in my life.  

Thirdly, as I grew in Christ, for the first time in my life, I began to realize that I was accepted and received by Christ. Even though I had accepted Christ I still struggled with the fact that Christ really accepted me. What I did in life was in fact done to get Christ to love me and accept me. I did not want Him to reject me. After all I felt everyone else did so. As I began to grow in Christ I began to realize and grasp that I was accepted by Christ not because of who I was but because of who He is. Listen to the words of John 1:12-13. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. Look at this, Christ gave us the right. He gave us permission. He opened the door for us to be children of God. You see Paul is saying you are not just forgiven, you are accepted by God as His child.

Fourthly, I learned that I was not responsible for the actions or decisions of others. I also learned that I needed to take responsibility for my life, for who I was, and what I had done. While I had many things done against me I defaulted into the blame game mode. I had become  good at pointing out other’s sin and their shortcomings. I was good at blaming my parents, my step dad, my mom, my real dad, my step mom, my brothers and sisters for my sin and the wrongs I had done. But I had to take ownership of what I had done. I had to own up to my sin. I had to come to terms with the fact that I had allowed baggage to begin to dictate how I was to live.

Fourthly, as the baggage began to fall off, I realized that I had to fill my life with something. According to physics, a vacuum is never empty, it always filled with something. It is for this reason that Jesus Himself explains the need to be filled with all that God is and not to remain empty. “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came. ’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation (Matthew 12:43-45)

You see I can get rid of my baggage but I need to be filled with something good or else I will begin to fill my life with more baggage and I will find that seven more evil spirits will come. You see I need to be filled with Christ’s love and the power of all He has given me. I need to be filled with His word, His spirit, and His power. In so doing, I can let go of all of the baggage in my life and not worry about being entrapped by those things again.

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

Copyright © 2016 All Rights Reserved Robert W. Odom

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He Came to Live With Us

Peninsula Community Church

He Came to Live With Us

December 22, 2013

Matthew 1:23 – “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). 

When we read this portion of Scripture there is a need to understand the context in which it was written. You see Mary had received the news that she would be the vessel through which Christ would be born. In her and through her the seed of God would become man. In those days, the Jewish custom and the Rabbinical law allowed a man to select a bride. Once selected there would be a period of time of up to one year between the betrothal and the actual wedding. This is what we would consider to be the engagement period of our day. Today, we would give the bride a ring and there would be an exchange of commitments. The act of betrothal was a big deal in that day as both families would have promised wedding day gifts that usually involved property, money, and/or cattle.

During the betrothal period, the couple would promise to remain pure. This was a season of preparation for both the groom and the bride. It was a time to plan their wedding as well as to begin to prepare for their future home together. If the betrothal law was broken, divorce papers were to be filed and the wedding was to be cancelled. To file papers for divorce was a serious matter as it would be an embarrassment to the groom and to the families involved. This was an esteem and pride issue for the family, so this was a big deal. If the divorce papers were initiated as a result of unfaithfulness, the bride to be was to be stoned to death. While this seems unfair, it was the law of the land in that day.

It was this context that Mary approached Joseph to tell him that she was pregnant with God’s son. It is easy for us to look back at this story now and think that this would not have been a big problem. But it was. Once Mary shared the news, Joseph was conflicted because he loved Mary. He was caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand he knew the law and what was required of him but he also loved Mary. He wanted to honor his family, but he also wanted to protect his bride to be. Joseph was conflicted and filled with fear. 

The angel proclaimed the birth of the Messiah to Joseph. You see it was in this context that the angel came to Joseph and encouraged him with the words before us today. The angel came to Joseph in a dream. As he is sleeping or at least trying to sleep, God speaks to his heart. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us.) Matthew 1:19-22. 

The angel in essence is saying you can trust Mary and you can trust God. The angel is saying to Joseph, look she has not broken any law, she has remained pure and holy. That is why God had chosen her to be the mother of His son. 

Jesus – He will save us from our sin. In the angel’s communication he identifies two names for the Messiah. The angel stated that his name shall be Jesus for He will same His people from their sins. This is an awesome promise. Jesus came not just to forgive sin but to redeem men from their sin. There is a big difference in forgiveness of sin and redemption from sin. Forgiveness can be given to anyone but just because one is forgiven does not mean that they have been delivered from their sin. In fact it is possible for one to stay in their sin and to continue to live bound by the forces that come from the effect of the sin they have committed. But Christ came to redeem and to set man free from their sin and not just forgive them. Through the presence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, Jesus still lives with you and has the power to deliver you from the grip of any bondage. No sinful habit, painful past, or present struggle is too difficult for the God-Man to overcome. 

The second name the angel used is just as powerful. While the angel proclaims that his name shall be Immanuel, we don’t see this name used widely in the New Testament. It appears that rather than a name that would be used, it serves as a descriptive term of who Christ would be. The term is “Immanuel” which means that God is with us. It is noteworthy that one of the most common promises in the Bible is that God will be with us. We see this promise given to Moses before he led the children of Israel out of captivity. We see this promise given to Joshua before he led the children of Israel into the promise land. We see this as a promise to his disciples and to the church when he said “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” God is with us; that is a promise.

Listen to this, what the angel is saying to Joseph through this passage and by way of identification with the Messiah was to not be afraid of the future or what people may say because I am with you. 

While this passage is written to Joseph it is a critical for us to receive this passage into our life and understand that it is for us today just as it was for Joseph in his day. God was with Joseph and He is with us today. Joseph changed because he knew now that God’s will was being fulfilled in Him. He knew that Immanuel was with Him.

Immanuel, God is with us in the moments when we are confused and conflicted about the circumstances we face. God is there to give guidance. When things go awry and while we can be confused and conflicted, God is there through His spirit and through the Word to give us guidance and direction. What do you do when you are confused or conflicted? Do you go to God’s word? Do you pray? Do you seek godly counsel from those you know that love God? Through these resources, he reveals that He is with us.

Immanuel, God with us is when fear has overcome us. Have you ever experienced that gripping fear that binds you and keeps you reduced to faithlessness? When I was a kid, I always hated to take the garbage to the road. I would slowly drag the can to the curb and then I would run back as fast as I could. I told my mom about how scared I was. The next time I took the garbage to the road, I was not scared. Do you know why? My mom stood in the doorway and watched me take out the garbage, just knowing she was there I felt secure and safe. Know this, no matter what you walk through, God is there, you call feel safe and secure because He is watching over you. 

Immanuel, God with us when we are discouraged. When we are discouraged we turn our minds and our thoughts to the fact that is with us and that He will see us through. Discouragement is a mind game that is so destructive. Discouragement can lead us to a false image of who we are. Discouragement can lead us to want to give up. Discouragement can lead us to run and hide. But God is with us to bring hope and life.

Immanuel, God with us when we do not know what the future holdsThere is nothing more frightening than an unknown future, but with God we can be at peace. The angel spoke to Joseph in essence and told him don’t worry. You do your part. Marry Mary! I will take care of the rest. 

While God is with us when we face emotional difficulty, there is one other benefit to understanding that God is with us. When God is with us the way we view life is changed. I know that I am an overcomer by His word and by the fact that God is with us. When I realize that God is with me it changes the way I act. It changes the way I live. It changes the way I think. This is a positive because as a passionate follower of Christ, we have a desire to please him and to honor his name. 

Do you know that He is with you this morning? Do you know that He loves you? Do you know that he holds your future? Do you know He is with you wherever you go? Whether you believe it or not, He is there. Whether you feel Him or not, He is there. Whether or not you know Him, He is there and he desires to draw you to Him. That is a powerful promise and what a hope.

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Walking in the Will of God

Peninsula Community Church

October 27, 2013

Worship – Walking in the Will of God

Romans 12:1-2 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

As we look at this passage this morning, we see that as we live as living sacrifices and as we are being transformed by the renewing of our minds, our ability to understand God’s will is increased. While this may be one of the greatest challenges, understanding God’s will is possible. It is my belief that this portion of the text is often overlooked or is given a precursory review because of the grandeur of the preceding verses but this later portion is just as a critical as the previous verses.

Would you note a couple of things about this passage this morning? Notice, if you will, what Paul says here. Notice that God’s will is defined as what is good, what is acceptable, and what is perfect. In other words God’s will is good. It does not mean that it will be easy but it will be good. We will see more of this later in this study. 

Notice that he infers that we can discern the will of God. Notice the word “prove” or “test” that he uses here. It is a word that means to test or prove to determine reliability or truth. The fact is one way to begin to discern God’s will is to test what God’s will is. Through testing we confirm and understand God’s will and we can understand what it is not. While Paul does not give us a direct command, we do understand that we can learn to live in God’s will.

We must develop our ability to discern God’s will. Why is this so? We are not called to be living sacrifices just to put a check in that box of our life accomplishments. We are not called to be transformed by the renewing of the mind just so we feel good about ourselves. All this occurs so that we will be able to recognize that we have a purpose and that there is a plan for our lives. That is God’s will.

To test the will of God we lay what we are sensing against the word of God to be assured that what we are being called to do would counter what the word says. Second, we receive counsel from those who are knowledgeable in the area where we are being called. Third, we look to see what God is doing and join him in that effort. This is critical because too often we try to manipulate God’s will for our benefit but God’s will always has our best interest in mind.

The will of God for us can be simply defined as the purpose God has intended for us. This is a simplistic thought but it is one that we so often miss. A great part of God’s will is simply understanding the purpose God has for you. The problem with too many people today is that they lack purpose. They lack a vision for their lives. They fail to possess a forward thinking mentality as they are trapped by the past or held captive by their present circumstances. Their anthem is “there is no hope!” “This is just the way it is!” “Nothing will change!” These are the words of a defeated believer and a believer who does not understand their purpose. These are the words of one that has given up and has lost hope. But that is not God’s plan.

Let me make some observations on this subject. First, God’s will is good. We may not always understand it or even like it in the moment, but it is always good, perfect, and acceptable. The problem too often is that we complicate God’s will. We are afraid that we will be called to some forsaken place where no other human would dare to go. This is not to deny that this will absolutely not happen but that is usually not the case. 

The fact is too often we are so busy concentrating on what is yet to come in terms of God’s will that we miss what he is doing in the moment. It is like the old saying that “we can’t see the forest because of the trees.” We tend to believe that God’s will is out there. We believe that it is a destination rather than a lifestyle. I am convinced that if we were to enjoy the blessing of God in the moment and if we were to allow the reformation process to continue on a daily basis that we will be positioned to understand His will even more. In fact, the travail over His will is diminished when we live in the moment and are being transformed by the renewing of our minds.

Too often, we have the understanding of the will of God too hard and too cumbersome. We must understand that God’s will is to be enjoyed and not endured. It is a good, acceptable, and perfect will. When we are being transformed and when we present our bodies as living sacrifices, we will be better equipped to know and understand his will. To a large part this is a result of what we saw last week in Colossians 3:10 and Ephesians 4:24. When we are being transformed we will have a greater knowledge of God. This knowledge will be more based on a relational model rather than a intellectual model. While both is important, the relationship is most important. When we understand God’s will we will know and understand that what I do in this moment is God’s will. If I am faithful now and I am in God’s will then I will be in God’s will tomorrow.

Second, we must discern what we are passionate about. One of the things that I have found about the will of God is that God’s will and my passion are often connected. God has deposited in each of us a passion. Quite often these passions are manifested through the gifts and abilities we were given at birth. 

We must note here that there are time where we will be moved by someone or something but that does not mean we are to join the ministry. The problem here is that we will continue to be tossed and move at every new thing that comes along. Let me illustrate this way. I have a compassion for the work that Renee Bach is doing in Uganda. I am so excited to see the results of her faith and her obedience. But that compassion does not lead me to join her in ministry because while I have compassion I do not have a passion to serve in her ministry. There have been times where I have seen people who are reactive emotionally and join ministries when they are moved by compassion but I need more that compassion I need passion to serve God. Too often we are moved by emotion rather than a correct understanding of what God’s will is for them. When the emotion is gone, so is the passion and they now feel trapped in positions they never were to be in to begin with.

Third, there are elements to God’s will that are not negotiable. Salvation is not a negotiable. He wants us all to be saved. He wants us all to live a holy life. He wants us all to be sanctified. He wants us all to understanding His will for us. He wants us all to fulfill His purpose and His plan for our life. These are not debatable. Where we run into problems however is when the decision involves; where do I work? Where do I go to school? Who do I marry? Where do I go to dinner? These are the negotiable elements of God’s will. These are the items that do not need to be discussed or debated. 

When it comes to the negotiable elements of God’s will, we must understand that most often it is a matter of common sense. It is a matter of having good information, good counsel, and a sense of what God wants. Sometimes we forget that God has created us with the ability to make choices and those choices should be made with a common sense approach. 

Fourth, discerning God’s will is a process where there seems to be failure or things do not go the way we think they should. But when we are in God’s will we can trust Him, His word, and His plan. Look at the disciples who Were commanded to go into their boat to the other side of the lake.

Mark 6:45-52 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd.And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

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?”

Notice that they were commanded to go to the other side. God would not have commanded them to go there if he were not going to keep them. This was an opportunity for Christ to teach the disciples to obey God regardless of the circumstances they face. Too often we are afraid to to step out and do anything because we do not know what the future holds. Too often we are afraid of failure. Too often we are afraid that we have problems. The truth is we do not know what the future holds but that does not stop us from proceeding with what god calls us to do. The truth is we may fail but that does not mean that we are a failure nor does it mean that we are outside God’s will. The truth is even in the middle of being obedient to God’s will we will have trouble and problems. 

 

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