Tag Archives: future

The Best is Yet to Come

Peninsula Community Church

The Best is Yet to Come

May 13, 2018 

Romans 8:18-25 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

A number of years ago I did the funeral for a lady in our church. In preparing for the service, the family had requested that at the end of the service I would place a fork in the casket before they closed it. When I asked them why, they stated that their mom loved dessert. When she would clear the table after dinner, she would always say “keep your fork because the best is yet to come.” What she meant was that dessert was on the way and for her that was always the best part of the meal. As we review this passage, we find Paul saying there is much that happens in life, but the best is yet come. 

With that understanding let us consider a couple of important truths. Paul begins Romans 8:18 with the word “consider” which means to make a numerical calculation. It means to reckon, compute, calculate, to take into account, to deliberate, and to weigh. The idea is one of careful study or reasoning which results in coming to a specific conclusion. So what is the specific conclusion Paul wants us to consider? It is this. Paul is saying I have weighed out the trials I am experiencing now and I have weighed out the glory that is to be revealed and what I found is that the glory to come far outweighs any problems associated with my present condition. Paul has “mentally and spiritually weighed” the evidence and has come to the conclusion that something better is coming and that brings him hope.

As we read this passage, we find that the word suffer is pluralized which means of course that there is more than one problem. Have you ever noticed that when problems come there is usually not just a singular problem but they seem to come in multiples? The point is that in life we will have sufferings. We will have problems, multiple problems. Our heart will be broken. We will sense the pain of sorrow and difficult issues which seem almost unresolvable. We will be confronted by health issues that blindside us. Our children and other family members will disappoint us and fall short of the potential we believe they have. There will be arguments, fights, and issues will arise that seem impossible to overcome. We will have sufferings.

Secondly, Paul clarifies that he is looking at the sufferings we face in the present time. He calls it “present sufferings.” Paul is saying this is not the suffering of the past. It is not some future suffering we may face. It is what we are going through right now. There have been some that I speak with that share their pain and suffering. When you dig into their story, you find that the problems they are discussing occurred sometime in the past, and yet they share the problem as if it is a current issue. The problem most often is that their past problems have begun to define who they are in the present. You may be divorced, but divorce does not have to define you. You may have had serious sin issues in the past, but that does not have to define you now. Get the point. There are others times that we are perplexed by future issues that may or may not even occur. We spend an exorbitant amount of time worrying over what may never happen. In this regard, I love the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:34. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Jesus understood that we have enough to worry about today, so there is no reason to be concerned about past issues or future problems.

Thirdly, Paul states that whatever we go through now, no matter how great or painful they are, they cannot be compared to the glory that is to be revealed. That future glory has not been revealed, yet, but it is coming. In other words, be patient and hold on. Just as the mom, who could not wait for dessert, would proclaim the best is yet to come, the glory that is to come also reminds us that the best is yet to come for us. Yes, we have problems, but the best is yet to come. One problem we encounter is that we are impatient. We want things now. We do not want to wait. We want instant healing. We want growth without pain. We want advancement without hard work. We want instant gratification and instant results. We are impatient people.

Paul lets us in on a secret in 1 Corinthians 2:9-10. He states, But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. God knows what you are going through this morning, and the best is yet to come.

Dr. R.C. Sproul writes in his commentary on Romans that The difference between the present degree of pain we experience and the blessedness to which God has appointed His people is so immensely different that there is no way to compare them. Any comparison we come up with falls short. When you are discouraged by your troubles, know that what is to come for you in Christ will be so much more wonderful than all of your pain. We see this in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. … we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

Paul stated that For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. Think about this. Paul is saying that hope is always in the unseen. That is why it is hope. Hope that sees the future is not hope at all. For that reason, God gives calls to hope in the glory that is to come, and not in the difficulties we face in this moment of time. In life, we face two great paradoxes: the futility of suffering and the hope of suffering. Paul does not minimize the suffering we face. In fact, Paul knew better than anyone what it meant to suffer for Christ. He knew what it meant to be beaten and be left for dead. He knew what it meant to be sick. He knew what it meant to pray for healing, but healing did not come. He knew what it meant to be betrayed by those close to him. He knew all of this and yet he could express such a hope in a future glory, because His hope was not in the circumstances or the events he faced. He had a “yet to come” perspective. 

In this matter, there are two things to consider in regard to the coming glory of Christ. One is that God’s glory is revealed on the earth, and second His full glory will not be experienced until we go to be with Christ in heaven. Perhaps, it would be helpful to understand the word “glory.” Glory has been defined as the manifestation of God’s presence. Here on earth there are moments when God’s presence is revealed in powerful ways, but His full glory comes when He brings us home with Him and we get to live in His presence for eternity. 

As humans, we experience pain in different ways. This is evident most often in the questions we ask. One of the great questions that is poised by so many of us is “How much more can I bear?” “What else is going to happen to me or them?” “Why is this happening?” “Why is this happening now?” “How am I going to make it through this?” “Why me?” “Why them?” And on and on go the questions. 

When we realize that the best is yet to come, we can endure the difficulties of the present time. The result is that we will have hope and we will be focused on a greater day and a greater opportunity for the presence of God to be manifested. So in the end, this all comes back to where our focus will be. Will we focus on the present problems, or the coming glory of God? Will we focus on the difficulties we face, or the promise that the best is yet to come? 

So where is your focus? Remember Paul started this chapter with the statement that “there is therefore now no condemnation in Christ Jesus.” When we are focused on eternity and the coming glory of God, we are less likely to be condemned by the our current circumstances, because our hope is in Christ. So what are you going through? Do you need some dessert? Keep your fork because the best is yet to come. How many are facing some difficult times right now? Who needs some dessert? I have some! 

Let us pray!

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Living Like Christ – What’s In Your Future

Peninsula Community Church

Living Like Christ – What’s In Your Future

January 29, 2017

Jeremiah 29:10-14 “For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

As I was considering the message for today I was moved by a number of ideas and thoughts. As I continued to pray, I was moved by the fact that it seems that so many people today are discouraged, depressed, and are feeling disenfranchised spiritually. The truth of the matter is that the enemy of our soul loves to get us into this stupor of depression and lost hope. It is a place where hope and faith are darkened and any forward movement in Christ is stifled. While this is true, the fact is this was never God’s intent. His intent was that we would live free and hopeful lives dedicated to serve God with all of our hearts.

We must remember that the enemy is no slouch when it comes to discouragement. He knows better than anyone the well timed opportunities he can use to discourage and cause us to feel desperate and depressed. Not only is the enemy at work but we are guilty of filling our minds and hearts with information that tends to pull us down rather than building us up. While we might feel discouraged and desperate for change, it is this desperation that drives us or at least should drive us to God. God uses the issues of life to get us to refocus on Him who is our hope.

As we look around us, there is so much to discourage us today. Financial issues, physical issues, emotional issues, relational issues, spiritual issues, political issues, and health issues all  seem to contribute to lost hope and depression. While these things are a reality it does not mean that is where He wants us to stay or live. The truth is, we can move beyond the issues and hold onto the One who makes us whole and complete. In the Old Testament, God responded to the despair of Israel by proclaiming that He had given them a hope and a future.  Because we know that all of Scripture is used to teach us the truth of God’s ways, we know that this promise is extended to us as well.

In the passage before us, there is so much that speaks to us today. First of all, notice that Jeremiah records that God proclaims that When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. What is being said here is there will be an end to the Babylonian captivity. The children of Israel had been dealing with this burden for seventy years and there seemed to be no hope for an end to the captivity but God promised that an end was to come.

The point being made is that we will have seasons of difficulty. We will have seasons where there seems to be no hope or no promise of a future. Our future is darkened by the events and the circumstances in our life. For Israel, God was offering this promise and yet they were still in their captivity and would be for seventy years. Notice they were in the middle of the captivity when this proclamation and promise was made on their behalf. The truth for us is that whatever issue we are facing most of them will only last for a season. The fact is we are not immune from the difficulties of life but God provides a way of escape. Sometimes this is a physical deliverance and sometimes it is an emotional deliverance. Either way we are delivered. In the end, it does not matter if we will face issues but it is how we handle them that defines who we are.

In addition to this, we find that not only will they make it through the captivity but God makes s series of promises to them about their future and the hope they have. Look at what is promised to the Children of Israel. The first of these promises is that God will keep His promise. The point here is that God is faithful and He keeps His word. God will keep them and will bring them back to their rightful position and place in the economy of God. One thing we can be sure of is that God keeps His promises to us. You can take that to the bank. He never fails us and He never gives up on us.

There are a couple of things that are noteworthy in this. First, the captivity is not the total story. It is certainly a part of the story but it is not the story itself. The issue you are walking in is a part of the story of your life but it does not have to be the story. The fact is their story does not end in captivity but it ends with promised victory and the promised welfare of the people. And as we know through history they were delivered and restored. I am sure there were moments when the Children of Israel thought their life was over and there was no hope beyond that single moment in time but God in His wisdom knew there were better days ahead. I am sure they thought the promise of being the chosen nation through which the Messiah would come was over but God never forgot and He did not give up on them.

Secondly, God promises them that He has a plan for them. The promise here is that what they are going through will not be for nothing. You see this is a promise but it is also a reminder that God has a plan for them. They were chosen as a nation through which Messiah would come. There is a plan in all of this. In the sovereignty of God there is a plan for them to be better and to achieve more for God than if they had not gone through the captivity. God has chosen us to also reveal the Messiah to all we encounter. In captivity, we can forget that God has a plan for us as we become discouraged and the light of the gospel is diminished in our heart.

Thirdly, God’s plan is to prosper them and He has plans for their welfare. He has plans not for evil but for the betterment of their life. As we look at this, we should make one observation about the word for welfare or prosperity. The word used here in the Hebrew is the word “shalom” which means peace. This is an important interpretation of this word as God’s plan is not just richness or a lot of money but his desire is to bring peace. You see there is so much more to prosperity than money or riches, peace is the focal point of what God is doing.

Fourthly, God has a plan for a future and hope. You see when we walk in peace, we don’t need riches per se. Peace will steer us to a proper perspective on our hope and future. The fact is without God’s peace there is no hope or a future. There are a couple of passages in the Bible in regard to understanding this peace.

Psalms 4:6-8There are many who say, “Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!” You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.

Isaiah 26:3-4You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.

At the end of the Jeremiah passage we find there is a balance between God’s sovereignty and our free will. God will restore us and give us a future but we have our part to play. Here is what Jeremiah defines as our part. First of all, we are to call upon the Lord and we are to come and pray to Him. Prayer is always the greatest option at our disposal. Prayer is a matter of refocusing our attention from the issues to focusing on the One we know is able to take care of the problems we face. It places us in a mindset where we draw upon the grace of God and the power of God. Praying moves God but it also moves us into the place of understanding God’s will and purpose for us. By focusing in prayer, we shift our attention from the problems we face to the One who can resolve all issues of life.

Secondly, we must seek God. We don’t just seek after what God can do but who God is. The promise is that if we seek Him we will find Him. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. In Matthew 7:7-11 Jesus says the following. “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” We are to ask, seek, and knock, and then we will receive, we will find, and when we knock we will have doors opened. This speaks of a persistent faith that never gives up and never gives out. That is our part of the plan.

The promise from God is that we will find Him and what we feel we have lost will be restored. That is the blessing that God gives. He gives us wholeness and completeness in what we do. So what are we saying today? We are saying that we will face issues in life. These issues  will feel much like captivity and desperation. It is interesting that when we are caught in the battle, it is hard to look to the future. We view everything through the eyes of the moment and the longer we deal with these battles, the harder it becomes to look to the future. We can be deceived into believing that this is the only world we will know and we can begin to give up on God and people. That is the defining mark of the enemy’s tactics in our life. He blinds us to the truth and prevents us from moving ahead to a better day.

In the end, God wants to deliver us from the captivity we face by giving us peace. It is a love and peace that passes all understanding. It is a peace that comes from God. It is a gift that we receive when we seek Him and pray to Him.

John 14:27-29Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

Philippians 4:4-7 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

So here is the deal this morning. We are facing and we will face great difficulty but in the midst of the difficulty God’s peace can overflow us and fill our hearts with peace. Peace may not change the circumstances but it certainly changes our outlook and our focus. Sometimes our lives feel like they are out of order and confused. It seems that nothing makes sense but when the great conductor of our lives steps to the podium life makes sense again. Watch this video if you will and then we will close in prayer.

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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Our Focus for a New Year

Peninsula Community Church

January 1, 2017 

Our Focus for a New Year

Philippians 3:12-16 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained.

It is hard to believe that we are entering a new year. It is so amazing that it seems like it was just yesterday that we were entering 2016 with all of its promises and the unknown of a new year. As the year unfolded so many of us have experienced deep emotions and events that have rocked our world. For some health news has changed the course of our life. Others have experienced the death of a loved one. Our hearts were broken and still suffer the pain of death within us. Still others have seen relationships fall apart and they are trying desperately to restore or at least get over the broken relationship. For some, we have battled the fears and disappointments of life and many issues that have discouraged and disheartened us. On the flip side many of us have encountered new friendships and many of us have overcome past issues that have brought pain and heartache. I have also spoken to some of you that have experienced incredible spiritual growth perhaps for the first time in your life this past year.

Today, as we stand on the threshold of a new day and a new year we look back at 2016 and we all have our memories: good and bad. We all have had those things that have impacted us in a way that we will never be the same again. As we look to the new year, the fact is we don’t know what 2017 will hold for us but we know that He, God, will hold us as we begin this journey. As we pause here at the start of a new year may we realize that we have a clean page and a new chapter to be written. The past is behind us and the future is ahead of us.

The passage we just read is one of the most popular verses used at this time of year. I must confess that I have used it a number of times myself. In fact, in looking over my notes from the past, I used this passage last year at this time. I struggled a bit with using it again but felt that this was the word that God wanted to speak to our hearts today. The reason is that this passage is one that speaks of new beginnings. It is one that calls us to recognize the goals we have and the vision that drives the motivation of our heart and our actions.

As a reminder, we see in this passage that Paul continues to press on as he does not settle for the current status in his life. He continues to press forward. He presses into Christ and grows in his relationship with Christ.  Paul states that a part of his success has been that is able to forget what lies behind and he continually strains forward to what lies ahead. To be honest he did not actually forget what is behind him, he simply did not allow the things in his past to dictate his future. Instead of looking back, he presses toward the vision and hope of a new day. And finally, Paul does not just press forward, he presses toward the goal of fulfilling the calling of Christ which is Christlikeness.

So with that in mind let’s unpack this passage together this morning. The first thing we notice here is that Paul is still working toward perfection. Paul unveils the fact that he has not reached perfection yet but he is continuing to live a life of being perfected. What we must understand in this regard is that our perfection is not so much in what we do or not do but it is about what we are becoming. Paul’s ultimate goal was to become more like Christ in everything.

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

Paul’s greatest desire was to be more like Christ and that is what we need today. That is the goal of our Christian existence. It is to exemplify Christ in all we do. The old adage “What would Jesus do?” is still apropos except that it should be more of what does Christ exemplify? Who He is more important than what He does! It is noteworthy that Paul wants to make this perfection his own and not someone else’s. It is a personal perfection. He can press toward perfection because he is in Christ. It is noteworthy that this is the same Paul who persecuted Christian believers for their faith. Paul is making the point that the same zeal that pushed him to pursue Christians he now uses to pursue Christ.

If you read just a few verses prior to the one we read today, you will see that Paul suggests that he is willing to give up everything that gives him any kind of religious or social status. His degrees, his genealogy, his education, his religious affiliation, and his successes did not define him. It was not an issue of whether or not these things were important or whether they had value but he wanted to define his life by his relationship with Christ. In essence, he did not want these things to get in the way of him getting to know Christ as that was his primary goal.

His greatest desire was to be more like Christ in every way. For that reason Paul stated that he was willing to forget what was behind him and he desired to strain toward what lies ahead. If we are honest, the fact is it is impossible to forget what has happened to us in the past. That is not so much what Paul is referring to. For example, for many of us we can focus so much on the past that we are hindered in our future growth. We are negatively impacted by an overdose of past regret, sin, and hangups. The enemy of our soul is so good at reminding us of our failures, our fears, and fruitlessness that we become powerless to secure a future hope. The enemy of our souls is so good at getting us to focus on our failures because he knows that we will not move ahead with any kind of faith. Fear can control us to the point that we never make any changes that will help us.

It is for that reason that Paul says that he strains toward the goal of maturity in Christ and Christlikeness. The idea of straining carries the idea of not giving up; that is there is a constant and consistent focus on moving forward in our relationship with Christ. Paul’s use of the word strain is not a mistake as we must press forward so that we are not bogged down by the past issues of life.

The problem too often is that we can give up before we cross the line to victory. This happens when we are overly focused on the past and not the future that is before us. A couple of stories illustrate this for me. For those that are a bit older you will remember that the big thing to do in the early to mid-70’s was streaking. There were a few of our high school friends who decided to do this at one of the grocery store parking lots. It was a parking lot that you could begin running on one end run all the way through to the other end to the car awaiting them. The problem of course is that one of the guys became so consumed with the cheering crowd around him that he did not see the grocery cart corral in the middle of the parking lot. Needless to say he ran into the upright bar full speed and he knocked himself out. He ended up on the asphalt without a stitch of clothing on. He became side tracked rather than pressing toward the goal. As second illustration is the story of Desean Jackson who received a pass and had a clear shot to the goal line. But at the 2 yard line he did the unthinkable. He dropped the ball as he began his celebration too early. He did not score the touchdown and in fact he lost the ball to Dallas who recovered what was considered to be a fumble.

The idea presented by these two illustrations is that we must stay focused and we must press onward to the goal of becoming more like Christ. With that in mind, what do we need to focus on individually and corporately? First, we must focus as Paul did on becoming more like Christ. The first action to be taken in this new year is to become more like Christ so that we exemplify His life in all we do. You see it is about becoming and not so much about doing as a focus. Secondly, we need to be about the business of lifting up Jesus in all we do. We lift Him up by our testimony, our actions, and our concern for others. Thirdly, we become more like Christ by reading His word so we understand who He is and what He exemplifies.

Fourth, the greatest focus we can have in 2017 is knowing Him and making Him known. I posted in the last e-blast that I would love to see the church double our attendance by the mid part of this year. The best way to make that happen is to make Jesus known. We make Him known in our lives, in our services, and in all that we do we must make Him known. After all, Jesus said it best when He stated that if He is lifted up then He will draw all people unto Himself. “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” We can not and must not lift the church up as much as we lift up Christ the Lord of the church. We can not lift up ourselves as much as we do Christ. He must be the focus and the one that we are lifting up. We have the promise that if we lift Him up that He will draw men to Him.

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 is Faith?

Peninsula Community Church

What is Faith? 

September 8, 2016

Hebrews 11:1-2 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the people of old received their commendation. By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews has been called the hall of fame of faith. It has gained this title because of the focus it gives to those who have given themselves to God regardless of the issues they may have faced in life. When you visit a hall of fame there are those who are enshrined there because they have contributed to a certain field of study, a field of science, or they were successful in a particular sport or profession. In the case before us today, we find those enshrined here because of their faithfulness and their trust in the one true God.

By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit this chapter has been included in the Biblical text to remind us that we can also make it through until the end even when we face great odds and problems beyond our control. Last week, we noted that we have people watching our lives. We have those in our daily lives that we encounter and who see us every day. We also have a great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us in death. It is this great cloud of witnesses that the writer of Hebrews is talking about. This is the hall of fame of faith. They are watching us and they are cheering us on in our exploits and our accomplishments for God. They are cheering us on when we fall short and we need special encouragement. How does this occur? It happens because we are challenged by their testimonies and their persistence to follow God whatever the cost.

I propose to you today that the thing that set them apart was their faith in Christ. The faith they possessed sustained and kept them through many different difficulties, adventures, and at time the unknown. You see none of these men were supermen in themselves. Each of them had faults and failures that could have negatively impacted them as a person and as one who was called by God. They were regular human beings who lived regular lives but each one was called with a supernatural calling for a supernatural task. You see they were ordinary men used for the extraordinary by an extraordinary God. The emphasis was on God and not them themselves. Their role was to exhibit faith and obedience to the call of God in their lives. They took the admonishment of Paul in Romans 1:16-17 seriously. “The righteous shall live by faith.”

But the question for us today is to understand why their faith was so important to them. Their faith was critical because it was the sustaining factor in their life. You see to have faith is to have complete trust or confidence in someone or something. As believers, our faith is in the one powerful amazing loving God we serve. You see it is not so much about faith itself as it is the person in or object of our faith. In fact, it is my belief that we can have more faith in faith than we do the one in which our faith is based. We become so concerned about the nuances of faith that we tend to focus on the act of believing itself so much that we forget that our faith is based in and focused on Christ and all that He has done. To understand faith the writer of Hebrews has attempted to clarify the role and purpose of faith in our life.

He begins by focusing us on what faith is. He says, faith is the substance of things hoped for. In other words, our complete trust and confidence in Christ becomes the foundational truth and basis of all that is to come. Faith is both forward looking but it is based in the evidence of what has been done in the past. There is a trust that is built and a security that is fashioned from a truth that the one in whom we place our trust and faith will guide us and keep us. He will not forsake us. Therefore, I can trust Him and have faith for the future.

We must recognize that faith is not about feeling good about ourselves nor is it an ideal that is subjected to our emotions and our erratic ways of thinking. It is based in truth. The fact is Christ died, He rose, and He is sitting at the right hand of the Father. He has promised us that He will be with us and we can take that to the bank. This is the problem with faith too often, however. We can teach faith as if it is some arbitrary concept floating in the heavens. Real faith authentic faith  is based on the reality and the truth that God is alive and that He is in control. Without Him there is no faith for the future. This is the value of trusting Christ.

It is for that reason that Paul made this incredible statement in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

Secondly, faith is the evidence of things not seen. How is faith the evidence of things not seen? It is in the relationship of knowing God and His ability to be faithful himself that causes us to trust in what we do not see and what we have been promised. This evidence moves me to do my part and then trust God for the rest. I trust Him, so I honor Him with my time and my faith. Rick Warren has noted the 80/20 rule of faith. If we do the 80% of what is clear he will show us the 20% that is unclear. The problem too often is that we focus on the 20% . We therefore become overly concerned with the 20% and we neglect the 80% we know.

We all have dreams and hopes. We want to see these things fulfilled and come to pass. My dream and vision is that this church will grow and become an influential part of this community. As we look round the room we see many empty seats and people who are missing. What Rick Warren is saying is that I can focus on what I do not see happening to the degree that I am stymied and frozen to do nothing when God is actually doing so much around us. Our faith is not based in what we might see but what we envision as each of us do our part to fulfill the 80% and then let God take care of the 20%.

That is why the writer of Hebrews states that without faith it is impossible to please God. The reality for us today is that we need to understand that our faith only resonates in us when we know God. In knowing God, we know His will and His purposes. Because we trust Him, we can be obedient to Him and thus we can please Him. Do you catch the concept here? To please God we need faith. To have faith we need to know God. Our faith, therefore, is built when we know Him and His ways. So therefore it behoves us to know God.

True faith is more than just a belief in something. It is to know something. Now you might ask how can you say that when we are asked to believe by faith that God created the heavens and the earth. We can do this because we trust God. We know that His word is truth because we have seen it in action. We know that nature itself shows us how all of creation was formed by someone greater than ourselves (Romans 1:19-20). Because the truth of God has been borne out in my life and yours then I can proceed to trust God with the things that I don’t see, feel, touch, or taste. Because of the truth of God is acknowledged, I can then go into the unknown with great faith and hope.

So this begs the question? How is faith built? Faith is built on the word of God (Romans 10:8-11). It is built on our testimonies (Revelations 12:11). It is built on what we have seen God do in us and through us. He has, He is and He will continue to deliver us (1 Corinthians  1:10). It is based on what we know to be true about God. Sometimes we can make faith mystical but it really isn’t at all. It is founded in something and that something is Jesus Christ, the author and finisher of our faith.

Even in saving faith or the act of faith that leads us to Christ there is still a foundational principle of truth about God. Paul made this statement in Romans 10:8-11. So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. We hear the Word which is truth. The Word by way of the Holy Spirit acts upon our life to receive the truth it presents. The Holy Spirit brings us to the place of understanding and then we acknowledge God and His work in us. That becomes the process of salvation and it is the process of faith. Notice the great salvation passage in Romans. Believe in your hearty and confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you shall be saved.

So what is faith? To summarize, faith is trust, assurance and confidence in God and in the work of Jesus Christ. Living faith is not just believing that God exists. It is demonstrated by one’s service and obedience to God. God will increase our faith if we fervently ask Him for it and seek to draw closer to Him in prayer and the reading of His Word.

That is why we gather today around the communion table. The Lord’s Table serves to remind us of what Christ did for us. It reminds us of what Christ is doing in us now. But it is also a promise of what is to come. It is what we pin our faith to. It is the hope of a greater day. That is where we focus our faith and where we place our hope. He did and we can. He is and we can be. He is to come and we will be with Him.

As we prepare our hearts would you listen to this song by Jeremy Camp about our faith. I would ask those who will be serving today to come forward at this time. As you receive the elements would you hold them until everyone has been served and then we will take them together after we pray.

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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Comforted to Comfort

Peninsula Community Church

June 5, 2016

Comforted to Comfort 

As I was preparing this message I was drawn to the doors that are represented through the Bible. In fact studying this I came across four doors that I believe are critical to our growth and our understanding of the love of God for us. These four doors also represent the ministry we have to those around us. I trust that you find them as interesting and powerful as I do.

The four doors that I am speaking of are represented by the door of hope, the door of faith, the door of opportunity, and the door of invitation. Over the next couple of weeks we will take a look at these doors and how they apply to our life. Before we do that, let me make a couple of brief observations about doors as a whole. First of all, doors are designed for privacy. For the most part doors keep some things in and other things out. In so doing doors provide an opportunity for protection and safety. Doors often define who we are and our status. In our home we all have those doors that no one outside the family will go through. And finally, doors represent a future for us because we never venture into our future unless we go through the doors presented to us.

With that said lets us look at the first door which is the door of hope. In Hosea 2:15 we find these words. And there I will give her her vineyards and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope. And there she shall answer as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. On a first read of this passage this may not seem like much but we must understand that the term or word for Achor means trouble or sorrow. So what is Hosea communicating? He is saying that the Valley of Achor or the valley of trouble and sorrow will become a door of hope. In other words, our sorrows and the trouble we experience can be the very thing that God uses to bring hope and life to us and subsequently to others.

Perhaps the best way to understand this is to go back to the original story that Hosea is basing his comments on. After the Children of Israel had crossed over into the Promise Land they had to confront the city of Jericho. Before they battled Jericho they had been given specific instructions on how to do battle with the first city they encountered. This came by way of prayer and by seeking God’s will as to what they were to do. As we know, they obeyed God’s commands and the walls of Jericho came down just as God had promised. They were obedient and God was faithful to protect and to do battle on their behalf.

Now lets fast forward to a few weeks later where we find Israel facing yet another city (Joshua 7). They now had to encounter the city of Ai which was another stronghold they needed to defeat. But as we read the story we find there are a couple of issues. First, during the battle with Jericho we find them seeking God and seeking His will about the battle. But at Ai there is no record of them praying or seeking God before they went into battle. It appears they were relying on their past exploits to get them to where they wanted to be. Instead of seeking God they just moved a head into battle. They were in fact prideful and lived like they did not need God. And as a result they lost big time. They were routed out of the city and many of their soldiers were killed.

Secondly, we find that not only did they not pray and listen for God’s will but one of their members were defiant and disobedient to God’s plan. God had commanded that during the battle of Jericho they were not to take any spoils of war. They were to depend on God for His provision and His protection. But they disobeyed. One member of their community disobeyed God big time. The man was Achan and he took from Jericho a fine garment and some of the gold and silver. This may not seem like much today but it was a matter of specific disobedience to God’s command. And God could not allow disobedience to reign in them.

Rather than trust God they began to trust their own ingenuity and their own abilities. The result of Achan’s disobedience and him taking of the spoils of war was that he and his family were stoned to death. This was a difficult time for Israel. Because of the sorrow and difficulty faced by Israel they named the place where Achan was stoned the Valley of Achor. As we noted before the name Achor means sorrow, disappointment, and trouble. Achor was an appropriate name because of the sorrow, the disappointment, and the trouble they were experiencing. They lost the battle at Ai, they lost loved ones, and now one of their own had to be killed because of disobedience. They were in sorrow! They were in trouble! The Bible defines this emotional moments as their hearts being melted and becoming as water (Joshua 7:5). What a illustration? They were destroyed emotionally. It was from this place of pain and hurt that Hosea proclaimed though they are experiencing deep pain and hurt God would transform the valley of Achor into a door of hope. The very trial they experienced would be used to deliver them.

But how does this apply to us? First of all my guess is we have all had a Valley of Achor experience. We have all faced disappointment and discouragement. We have been filled with sorrow because of the events of our life. We have experienced lost hope. We have all experienced our hearts feeling like they have melted and we have beed weakened by the pressures of life. But there is a promise of hope and life. God has promised that He will make our Valley of Achor a door of hope.

Perhaps you are going through a deep valley at this moment in your life. As a Christian, you might question God’s concern for you while you are walking through your personal valley of sorrow. Adoniram Judson, a great missionary to Burma, was in prison because of his faith. In prison he was taunted by his Burmese captors. They continued to ask him again and again, “How does your future look to you now?” Their desire was to further his discouragement and to use his sorrow against him. That is exactly what the enemy does to us. The enemy attempts to take our sorrow and use it against us. But in Judson’s case he had a strong faith in God and the Word of God. His response was this.“My future is as bright as the promise of God.” Judson depended on God and He trusted God to keep His promises. That is what he focused his future on.

While we might take a journey through the valley of sorrow we do not have to fear nor do we have to take up residence in the Valley of Achor. Why is that? It is because God is with us. He, Jesus came to give us life and to heal our brokenness. He came to give us a door of hope. Listen to the words of the prophet Isaiah 61:1-4. The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—  to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. To fully understand this passage we must know that in Isaiah’s day everyone knew when you were in sorrow and in trouble. How? you would put on sack cloth or burlap. You would smear ashes around your face and you would mope around town as if you were on your death bed.

I do not know about you but I am blessed by these words. My brokenness, my sorrow can be healed by God. No matter what I go through God can heal the brokenness and the sorrow I experience. Instead of ashes, we are given a beautiful headdress. We have been given the oil of gladness instead of mourning. Instead of a faint spirit we have given a garment of praise. The result is that we are called oaks of righteousness. This means we are strong and we can endure the trials of life. Here’s the deal through Christ we overcome.

But there is another aspect that bears our discussion in terms of the door of hope. It is that our sorrow and the difficulties we face are never wasted. What we think is our worse moment, God turns it around for our good. Listen to the words of Paul in 2 Corinthians 1:3-7. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

What is the plan of God? It is to encourage us and to deliver us so we can be a blessing to others. Carter Conlon the pastor of Times Square Church in Manhattan stated that “One of the reasons we will have tribulation in this world is because it is often the only way people around us will ever know that God is real. You and I will have to walk through the same fire, the same flood, the same difficult days as everybody else. However, the difference is that we have an inner source of strength that will carry us through and give us a song of praise.” What he is saying here is that in our tribulation we become real before those we encounter. By being real and allowing God to be real through us we have an opportunity to speak into others lives.

Let me let you in on a secret. One of the greatest tools for evangelism you will ever have is your testimony. We have all experienced God’s grace and His work in our life. You may not be a theologian but you have a testimony. You may not know the Roman Road but you know what God has done in you. You may not know the Scripture, but you know the promises that God has fulfilled in you. People want to know that we are real and that we serve a real God. We help them see that by sharing the sorrow we have experienced. We do so by letting God shine through us so that others see God and know His grace to us. You see you suffer so that others will see that you are real and that God is real as well.

This is not some mixed up plan from a diabolical God but it is a tool that He uses to bring life and to open doors of faith, opportunity and invitation to others. It glorifies God. Notice in the passage in Isaiah that read earlier. The Bible says that He gives us the oil of gladness, the beautiful headdress, and the garment of praise so that He will be praised and honored. That is our goal. That is our purpose to honor God and to let Him be honored through us.

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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