Tag Archives: obedience

The Potter and the Clay

Peninsula Community Church

The Potter and the Clay

October 22, 2017

Jeremiah 18:1-6 The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.

Last week, we discovered that we have a great treasure in jars of clay. What a powerful realization! We have His treasure, the treasure of grace and mercy, in clay pots which are fragile and easily broken. This was done so that we understand the power within us, a power that surpasses all other powers. It is the power of the living Christ. He chooses to fill us with His power, so we are empowered in our weakness to do the impossible and do the unimaginable.

Over the next couple of weeks, I would like for us to look at Jeremiah 18 and the story of the potter and the clay. In this process, we will look at the calling of Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house. We will look at this story from the perspective of the potter and then from the perspective of the clay. In so doing, the goal is to establish our identity in Christ and understand the calling we of God on our life so that we are able to accomplish all that He has for us.

To be honest, I wanted to jump right into the subject of the potter and the clay, but as I was reading this and was preparing for the message, I was struck by the calling of Jeremiah to go to the potter’s house to see what God was doing. One of the things that struck me about this is that God uses the everyday mundane things to teach us about His love and His grace. He wants to use the everyday things we encounter to show us deep spiritual truths. The problem, however, is that we can miss things in the busyness of life. We can ignore the instruction of God, because we are blinded to the truth being revealed. We can miss what He is saying, because our focus is on our problems and not on the will of God.

So with that in mind, let us take a few moments to look at this passage. First of all, note that Jeremiah had been given a word from the Lord. Here is the deal, God spoke and He continues to speak to us today. He speaks through His word. He speaks through the impressions of our hearts that are confirmed through His word, in prayer, and through counsel.

God calls Jeremiah to do the following. “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” It is interesting that in the ESV that God says He will “let” Jeremiah hear His words. Notice this, the word of the Lord was spoken to Jeremiah to arise and go down to the potter’s house so that he could hear God’s word. In other words, I am speaking to you to go to the potter’s house where I want to teach you a powerful lesson.

In this regard, let me make a couple of comments for our inspiration and spiritual growth. First, we must know that God speaks but let us be sure it is God speaking. I have had people come to me to say they have a word from the Lord about doing certain things. This may or may not be true, but we must use the phrase “a word from the Lord” sparingly, as we can potentially blaspheme the name of God if we use this term lightly or under false pretense. The problem I have is that we use this phrase as spiritual blackmail, by using it to leverage our will against another’s will.

We must be careful and know that God is speaking when we infer that He is. Using this phrase unwisely is a form of control, as we believe that if we say we have a word from the Lord then it forces the hand of the person to which we are communicating. It is a form of pride, as we can present this in a way that infers we have a corner on hearing God, while others do not.

We see here that the first thing that God calls Jeremiah to do is to arise. It is my belief that God is asking Jeremiah to be attentive to what God is calling him to do. The word arise is a word that calls for action. In other words, do not be passive. Do not sleep or slumber when God speaks and shares a word that will forever transform our life. The Bible warns us about being asleep and missing what God is doing in us and through us. In 1 Thessalonians 5:6 Paul warns us So then  let us not sleep, as others do, but let us  keep awake and  be sober. Therefore, arise in this instant speaks of having a listening ear and an open heart to what God is doing.

Then Jeremiah was called to go down. To understand that God is calling us, requires an action on our part. God wanted to position Jeremiah so he would hear and receive a word. This was an act of obedience. Notice Jeremiah did not move until he was called by God. He heard and he responded. He went where God called him. So many times, we have the nudge from the Holy Spirit. We have that voice that is calling us to do something and act on God’s plan for our life. We can hear from God, but we must also be positioned to obey what He is calling us to do.

To go down is the very essence of faith in action. Notice that Jeremiah did not know what the end result was, He only knew that he was to respond to the calling of God. This is not a passive faith where we sit back and wait for something to happen. When He speaks, we act. We are obedient to what He calls us to and no more. We do not do anything, unless we hear His voice.

The third part is that God promises that if Jeremiah does this, God will let Him hear His words. Here we find a couple of lessons. One, if we listen, God will speak. The question is do we have ears to here what He is saying. Are we too busy, self absorbed, or uninterested? If so, then it will be extremely hard to hear God’s voice. His voice will get lost in the noise of life.

Secondly, God is always communicating. I love this. He is communicating through His word. He is communicating through the people we encounter. He is communicating through our experiences in life. He is communicating through nature. God is in the communications business. He is communicating and He wants to communicate with us in very real terms. The question to be addressed is, are we listening? Are we listening to the noise around us or to the voice of God? Have we become deaf to the voice of God? Notice too that it is “my words!” It is God’s words and not man’s word. It is not the pastor’s words. It is not a friend’s word. It is His word. Now God can use all of these, but we must be sure that it is God’s word confirmed through Scripture.

In all of this, there was a required action. Once Jeremiah understood the call, He had to act on that calling, one step at a time. There is a tendency in the church to speak about the sin of commission, but do not address the sin of omission. The sin of commission are things like lying, stealing, murder, and the like. The sin of omission is knowing God’s will, or knowing what God’s word says about a certain thing, and failing to react to that word in a positive way.

James reminds us whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is a sin (James 4:17). If we do not respond to that which we know to do, then for us it is a sin. Remember the quote; The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. So sin is not just in the doing, but it is neglecting that which we know to do and that which we have been called to do. Like all sin, there is redemption and forgiveness at the cross for those sins committed and those that come by way of omission.

There is no neutral ground, we are either actively obedient or disobedient. We are never neutral. We cannot be on the fence. We must decide what we will do. That is why Jesus stated that we will be either cold or hot but we cannot be lukewarm. Lukewarm water is spewed out of the mouth of our Lord (Revelation 3:16). Joshua understood this principle when he stated that Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD (Joshua 24:14-15) Joshua confirms we are to decide whom we will serve and then serve that person with all of your heart in obedience to His will and purposes for our life.

Notice that Joshua states, whatever you choose, it does not matter, but I am going to choose to serve God with all of my heart. May it be with us also. No matter what everyone else does we will choose to follow after God. We must choose whom we will serve and why. Will we, like Joshua, make a decision to fully engage our lives in obedience? If we do, the benefits will be out of this world. If we do, God will show us some amazing things in our life. He will reveal things to us that we could not achieve on our own. So, are you listening the voice of God? If so, are you hearing and responding to that voice?

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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Small Steps – Big Dividends

Peninsula Community Church 

Small Steps Big Dividends

October 1, 2017

Proverbs 16:9 The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.

Have you ever found that following the will of God can be confusing, frustrating, and seemingly unknowable? How many times are we frustrated with the knowing the will of God because we do not get the whole plan or purpose of God at one time? If you are like me, I want to know the beginning, the middle, and the end of what God is doing. To be obedient to His will, I tend to want to have all of my ducks in a row. But, the fact is, most often when obeying God, I do not have the whole story or the whole plan. The result is that sometimes I can be confused and frustrated. This is even more confusing because there are times where He has detailed what He wanted but that is a rare occasion. So I have to obey what I know. I must take the small steps I know in order to move toward the destination of God’s purposes.

With that in mind by using our text as a baseline, we can make a couple of observations about making decisions that result in obedience to God’s will. Note the simplicity and profoundness of this statement. We make plans in our heart, but God directs our steps. As confirmed by the words of Solomon, we make plans in our heart. The fact is we all have an idea or a vision of what could be or at least of what we hope could be. You see without plans, hopes, and dreams we live a miserable life. In fact, the Bible says that without a vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). To prevent perishing, we must have the right kind of vision and the right kind of goals. We must have vision, but it must be God’s vision. We must have hope for something better, but it must be a hope in God and who He is as our creator.

Notice that Solomon addresses the heart first. We all make decisions in the heart. Decisions in the heart can be good, but they can also be nonproductive. The reason for this is that the heart is the seat of our emotions. While we make decisions from the heart there is a problem. Our heart is not always the best source for making decisions because as Jeremiah says our heart is deceitful (Jeremiah 17:9). The heart by itself is not a good decision maker.

Let me ask you a question. How many times have you made an emotional decision that did not work as well as you would like or you thought it would? How many times have we made decisions based on the emotion of the heart which resulted in more problems than was resolved. Let me illustrate. If I am angry at someone, I can make choices in that moment that may not be aligned with God’s will. I can be convinced that I am doing the right thing. I can even convince myself that it is God’s will. Unfortunately, our emotions can affect our decisions and can affect us in a way that derail what God is trying to do in our life and in the life of others. We must understand that our emotions, by themselves, are a poor guide to decision making. Today, much of the craziness in our society is a direct result of misplaced emotions.

Too often we hear people say “follow your heart” but that can be bad advice when we depend only upon an emotional erratic deceptive heart as a resource for decision making. Remember Jesus words. “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be” (Matthew 6:21 & Luke 12:34). You see it is so easy for us to follow the emotions of the heart that can be deceptive and can lead us to the wrong destination. If our treasure is misplaced or our values are misguided this can lead us to make bad decisions that do not honor God’s purposes for us. We can easily be emotionally driven to make decisions which down the road do not have an eternal positive affect.

A number of years ago Michelle and I had taken a trip to upstate New York with friends of ours to look at some property. The plans were to build chalets on the property which was near some of the beautiful ski resorts in the Adirondack mountains. The salesman was quite convincing and he began to tug on our emotional heart strings to buy this property and all the advantages that would come with the property. He was really convincing and almost had us. Emotionally, we were about to give in, but we had promised each other that before we made a major financial decision we would spend 24 hours considering the purchase. We are so glad that we took that action. As we considered the purchase, we prayed and looked at all of our options. After doing so, we made the decision not to purchase the property. We are so glad we did because the whole project went bankrupt and the property was devalued to the degree that no one was able to recover their cost. If we had made the decision solely on our emotions, which we were close to doing, we would have lost our investment because we would not have been able to sell the property. In fact, we understand that the property sat there for years and those who made an investment lost it all.

Now don’t get me wrong, plans born of the heart are not altogether wrong, but it is wrong when that is the only motivation or factor used to determine God’s will. When the heart is the only motivating factor, we can get ourselves in trouble. In fact, Solomon recognized there were plans made in the heart, but those plans must be submitted to God, who will direct our steps to fulfill His purposes. We make plans in the heart, but He directs our steps.

That brings us to the second part of this passage. God directs our steps. Remember we stated that so often we do not always get the full benefit of knowing what God wants us to do. The problem is that too often we have a great vision, but we get frustrated when the details of the vision are not revealed or accomplished immediately. Over the last couple of weeks, our guys have been studying the book “Greater.” One of the points Steve makes in the book is that we need to have a large vision and a greater view of what God wants for us, but we must take small steps to see God’s will accomplished.

So how does this idea of taking small steps work. Because He directs our steps the first step we must take is to pray. To ascertain God’s will, the best first step for us is to pray. Sometimes, if we are not careful, we can minimize this vital step. Without prayer, we can miss even the most simple steps that can lead to obedience. Without prayer, our focus can be misguided. Through prayer, we will have God’s direction to what steps we can and should take. I can tell you from a personal experience that when you pray God will direct your steps, He will change your mind, He will redirect your attitudes, and refocus your thoughts.

Beyond prayer, fulfilling God’s will always begins with small steps of obedience. We step where we know to step. We step where God shows us. As we take the small, known steps of obedience, we will see God begin to unfold and reveal His ultimate purpose. We must understand that God wants us to dream big and have a large vision of what He can do in us. But every dream and vision, no matter how large, must begin with smaller steps.

Perhaps you have a vision of being a better student of God’s word. How much are you reading now? Are you reading at all? Let’s say that you are not reading the word at all, but you know that it is critical that you read the word and allow the word to direct you. So if you are not reading at all, take a small step and begin reading for 5 minutes. Perhaps you want to become a faithful giver/tither which is an act of obedience to God. Perhaps, financially it scares you to start with 10%. So why not start with a small step and give 5%, and then grow your giving to 10% or more. We know that tithing is a biblical principle and one that we are called to do. So start somewhere.

Do you have a relationship where you need to see healing and restoration? Perhaps the small step you can take is to write a letter that is bathed in pray, love, and grace so that you express your need and issue in love. Perhaps a step you can take is to forgive the other person that has wounded you before they move toward you in forgiveness. Perhaps God has called to lead a ministry or teach a class. Perhaps the small step you can take is to talk with people to see if there is an interest in your subject or the ministry you want to start. Perhaps the small step is to sit in on current classes or assist someone with teaching a class. Small steps.

Small steps centered in God’s will brings huge dividends. We may not know the full extent of what God is calling us to, but we can be obedient to take the small steps that point us in the direction of God’s will, and brings us closer to the fulfillment of His plan. We make plans in our hearts, but God direct our steps. So, start somewhere. Do what you know to do that honors God. Sometimes God will take our small steps and do something amazing, something that is beyond our imagination or belief. That is why things do not always turn out the way we think when we obey God.

A number of years ago I was asked if I would visit a family member of someone in our church. I agreed to do so and headed off to the hospital. Small steps. I had no clue how this would turn out. I stopped at the information desk. Small step. I went to the room and met with the individual. Small steps. I spent several minutes with him. Small step. During the conversation we spoke about the need for him to accept Christ. Small step. By the end of our conversation we prayed and he accepted Christ as his personal savior. Small steps, but huge dividends for eternity. I wish that was the end of the story but it is not. As I left his room, I was on cloud nine. As I turned the corner, I ran into the family who was there to visit their uncle. I noticed however that they were headed in the opposite direction from where I just had been. I asked them what they were doing and they said they were going to visit their uncle, but I said his room was in the opposite direction. To my amazement the information desk had given me the wrong room number because they had two patients with the same first and last name. You see I made plans. I took some small steps. But, God directed my steps and that day a man who I did not know came to Christ and eternity was impacted.

So what about you? What are some of the small steps you need to take? Small steps, big dividends. Maybe you don’t know what to do. Begin with prayer. Ask God to give you a large vision but then pray for God to direct your individual steps. If we will, He will.

As we close, I ask that you take a piece of paper and do this. Write a couple of words that would define what you need or where you believe God is calling you. Then under that write down one or two small steps you can take now in obedience to God.

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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By Faith: God Provides

Peninsula Community Church 

By Faith: God Provides

October 30, 2016

Hebrews 11:17-20 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back. By faith Isaac invoked future blessings on Jacob and Esau. By faith Jacob, when dying, blessed each of the sons of Joseph, bowing in worship over the head of his staff. By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones.

As we continue our journey through the Hall of Fame of Faith we will turn our attention back to Abraham and a story that seems to be filled with major contradictions. We will look at these in a moment. While it is true there appears to be a series of contradictions, we also see that this is a story of faith and trust like no other.

In our earlier discussions, you may remember that Abraham had been called out of his homeland to go to a new place that God would reveal to him only as he was obedient to God. In other words God would let him know when he arrived at the destination (Genesis 12). In the story, we find that Abraham obeyed by faith and he found the place God wanted him to abide. In the process, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. He would be progenitor of what was to come. As we continue the story, we find that he and Sarah tried to take things into their own hands and he had a son with Hagar. This never worked out the way he thought and he had to move Hagar and Ishmael to the desert.

Here is what I love about the story of Abraham. He was a man of faith but he was not a perfect man. He had his foibles and his failures. Throughout his life he passed many of life’s tests and yet he failed so many others. We might be critical of Abraham but before we become too critical of him if we are honest we do the same thing. We pass some of the tests of life with flying colors while we fail at some of the others. In fact, at times I can be amazed at what tests I pass and which ones I fail. In the story before us today, we see a major test that Abraham was given and how he passed it with flying colors.

As I noted before, this story is filled with several contradictions. In a recent message by Pastor Tony Evans, he noted five contradictions in this story. First, he noted that theologically God had made a promise to Abraham but now Abraham was being asked to kill the promise that was given to him. For Abraham this was a major contradiction. Secondly, from a Biblical standpoint God had condemned murder in Genesis 9:5-6. Now God is asking Abraham to do the very thing that is condemned by God. On one hand God is calling for Abraham’s obedience and yet on the other hand he is being asked to break God’s command. Emotionally, Abraham faced a huge contradiction. He loved his son, his only son, but he wanted to please God and honor God with his whole life. Abraham was having to make a choice about giving up what he loved and his obedience to God. Can you imagine the turmoil that evidenced in Abraham’s heart.

Relationally, we see the contradiction of his love for Sarah and the struggle he would have in explaining all of this to her. Perhaps that is why he arose early in the morning. By leaving early he would not have to confront her with his mission. And then finally, we see a spiritual contradiction. Do you see it? He is being asked to sacrifice his son and yet at the same time he was being called to worship God. This story begs the question of how can we be obedient to God, and yet worship Him with a broken heart. These were the issues Abraham was being confronted with and yet he passed the test.

Think about this for a moment, God the creator of the heavens and the earth, the one who gave Abraham the promise of a son now has him positioned to take his son’s life. What turmoil and what pain he must of felt. All at once he was experiencing love, pain, confusion and so much more but instead of rejecting God we see a man who had faith that God would provide. How do I know that? Let’s look at three key passages that express the heart of Abraham.

First of all, Abraham tells his servants to stay below and that he and Isaac would go up the mountain to make a sacrifice to God. Once the sacrifice was complete they would return. Notice he did not say I will be back but instead he made the proclamation that “we will be back.” Here are his exact words. Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you” (Genesis 22:5). There was a confident faith expressed here. He knew that God would fulfill His promise. He trusted God and he knew that God would provide even against all odds.

It is noteworthy that Abraham prepared for the sacrifice. He prepared the wood. He brought the rope. He brought everything he needed for the sacrifice and yet there was an assurance in his heart that God would provide an appropriate sacrifice. That is why he could proclaim that we are going up the mountain. I am going to be obedient to God and we will come down the mountain together.

There is a second reason that I believe that he had a great faith in God’s ability to fulfill His word and keep His promise. Listen to what the writer of Hebrews had to say. He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back (Hebrews 11:19). By faith, Abraham knew that even if the worst case scenario was to happen and he followed through with the offering of his son upon the altar, he knew that God had the power to raise him up again. He had a confidence in almighty God that He would keep His word and His promise to make him a father of many nations.

This vaguely sounds like the echo of Job’s heart when he faced the loss of everything that mattered in his life. Do you recall what Job proclaimed in Job 13:15? Here are Job’s words. Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face. Listen to the faith of Job. Though God were to take everything from him, even his life, he vowed to serve God and to keep Him first in his life. He was saying that no matter what happens he would trust God and would hope in His promise.

As I think about this I am not so sure that I would have had such confidence in God. I think I would have been the one who would have been trying to find another way to help God out. After all, this could not be God’s will. Certainly, God must not know what He is talking about. I wonder if we are honest with ourselves, how many times do we react to the commands and promises of God that way. Through His written word and those strong impressions of the heart we know the voice of God, but we try to help God out because He certainly cannot know or mean what He is saying. I am so grateful that God does not put us to that kind of test everyday. I am so glad that God is patient with us when we do not believe Him or have faith in Him.

Abraham had an incredible faith. He obeyed. In his obedience he passed this major exam. The exam was a measure of his heart and the capacity of his heart to trust God to provide an appropriate sacrifice. One of things that helped Abraham pass the test is that he was more in love with God than he was the promise of God. That is the real test. The big question for us today is will we be more in love with God or more in love with what God does for us? It is so easy for us to slide into this kind of mentality. After all God gives and does so much for us that we could easily take Him for granted. We can easily become more in love with what He does than who He is.

And then thirdly, we have the words of Jesus in John 8:56. This is an amazing statement by Jesus but it helps us understand Abraham’s heart and mindset. Jesus said this. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” Do you get what this passage is saying? Abraham with confidence looked across the generations and through the years to see the ultimate fulfillment of God’s plan. God’s plan all along was to provide a Savior that would redeem the world and would redeem mankind. Abraham knew in his heart that he had a role to play in that process.

Through the eyes of faith Abraham looked over the horizon of history yet to be written to see the coming Messiah. He focused on the coming Christ. Here is the beauty of this. In essence, it was this forward thinking of faith that kept Abraham focused on Christ and keep him in an obedient stance before God. In many ways the story of Abraham and Isaac resembled the story of Christ. Jesus was the only son of God who was sacrificed upon the cross for our sins. It was Jesus who became the substitute for our sin. It is also amazing that this story took place on Mount Moriah which was only a few yards from Golgotha where Christ died.

Think about it if you will. Later in the book of Hebrews, the writer admonishes us with these words in 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. Notice that the challenge here is for us to stay focused on Christ. The difference for us is that we have the historical record upon which we can base our faith but Abraham based his faith on the unknown and yet to be.

So let me ask you today? How is your faith? When difficulty comes into your life, what do you focus on? Where do you put your faith and confidence? Isaiah had a revelation of this truth in Isaiah 26:3 You 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. Do you hear it? He gives peace to those who focus on God. Abraham had that peace. He had that confidence. His focus was on the future hope of the coming Messiah.

So what does all of this mean for us today? It means that we too can have a confidence in the risen Savior, Jesus Christ. We can focus on Him knowing that He will provide all we need to survive the tests of our lives. We can have a confidence that even if God takes the promise from us that He will cause it to rise again in greater and more powerful ways. So I do not know what you are facing. I do not know what you need faith for today. But I know this God will provide a means to get through the difficulty and He will provide a means where we will survive the test. He is Jehovah Jireh, the God that provides. If we trust Him, He will provide a sacrifice. He will provide the answers we need. We focus, He answers!

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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By Faith: Obedience To the Calling

Peninsula Community Church

By Faith: Obedience To the Calling

October 9, 2016

Hebrews 11:8-10 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

Today, we continue our journey through the Hall of Fame of Faith. So far, we have examined the story of Cain and Abel, Enoch, and last week we looked at the life of Noah. Today, we look at the story of Abraham and God’s calling and promise to him. As we examine the lives of those who have been inducted into the Hall of Fame of Faith, we find that the one key denominator in all of these stories is a unswerving faith in God. Each of these success stories is based on the individual’s faith and trust in almighty God.

The story of Abraham is no different. In the text we just read, as well as the account in Genesis 12, we find that Abraham was called to pick up stakes and move to a place he knew nothing about. We find that Abraham obeyed God because of His faith. Abraham was called by God to move outside of his comfort zone and what was familiar to him. For us personally, there are times where God will challenge us and shake us so that we are moved into a new perspective, a new way of thinking, and a new calling or service to God.

As I think of this story the question that comes to mind is “How many of us love to play it safe?” Too often we choose to live in a place of comfort and contentment. We put stakes into the ground and huddle around that which is comfortable and that which is familiar rather than stepping outside of our comfort zone. Abraham was definitely called to move outside his comfort zone in order to accomplish God’s will and purpose. He was called to move to a place he did not know and to a people he was not familiar with. In fact, I would argue today that Abraham could not fulfill God’s promise where he was, he had to move. He had to go to where he could be best used for the Kingdom of God.

For us today we must recognize that God moves us out of our comfort zone for several reasons. For one, sometimes, we need to be shaken out of our comfort zones because we have become so comfortable with our current status that we don’t do anything to better ourselves or those around us. Sometimes, we need to be moved out of our comfort zone because God cannot use us as much as he can when we live in that place. God does this because He has a better plan for our life. And finally, God has to shake us from our comfort zone because in our comfort zone we can become self-centered and inwardly focused. The result is that too often we become ineffective in our service to God.

Listen to Abrahams’s story in Genesis 12:1-5. Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” So Abram went, as the Lord had told him, and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran. And Abram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his brother’s son, and all their possessions that they had gathered, and the people that they had acquired in Haran, and they set out to go to the land of Canaan.

Listen to the process involved with the call of Abram. God called him to leave the country of his kindred, the place of his heritage, and he was to leave his family and he was go to the land that God would show him. Think about this. We all have an infinity toward our families but what would you do if God called you to pack your bags, leave home, and go where he wanted you to go but you would not know where you were going until you got there? Would you go?

God calls Abraham to leave everything that is a part of his identity. He was called to give up his cultural identity, his family identity, and his inheritance. In a sense, this reminds us of the words of Paul in the book of Philippians and his desire to give up things for God. Paul said this But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 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 (Philippians 3:7-11).

Do you here the echo of the call of Abraham in these words? To make Paul’s words even more significant, we must look at the preceding verses to see that Paul had just given the church at Philippi his resume. He listed his degrees. He detailed his family heritage and his family genealogy because that was what made a man in that day important and it gave him status in the land. But in the end, Paul stated that he counted all of that loss. He counted that as rubbish or garbage when compared to what he was to gain through a personal relationship with Christ. You see Paul weighed out the fact that he wanted a personal relationship with Christ more than he wanted to be known by his degrees or his heritage. Through Paul, a new standard was being set. It was a standard that measured our importance not by our social status but by a personal dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ.

As we look at this lesson this morning let me make a couple of observations. First, it is noteworthy that we do not have much of a response from Abraham.  All we know is that God called and Abraham obeyed. There is no discussion on Abraham’s part. He does not argue with God. He simply obeyed the call of God. The question for us is how many times do we argue with God about something He is calling us to do? We debate. We argue. We think of every excuse we can come up with as to why we should not do the thing or things that God has called us to. Sometimes the arguments are based in genuine issues but we if we are not careful we can argue obedience away. I would also note that God does not generally call us to give up everything necessarily but He may call us to step outside of what we are familiar with.

The second lesson here is that true obedience to God is an expression of faith in God. It has been said and I wholeheartedly agree that our faith is expressed in our obedience. We are saved by faith and not works but it is our faith that drives us toward obedience to God’s word and to His calling upon our life. So in essence, our obedience to God is in fact our faith being expressed. While our works do not save us they do demonstrate our trust and confidence in God.

James had it so right when he made the following statements in James 1:22-25. But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

Abraham was promised a great blessing if he responded in faith to the call of God. Abraham did his part and God did His. You see for us today the greatest act of obedience we can have is our obedience to the Word of God. We read, we listen, and we obey. In James 2:14-24 James stated the following. What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Here is what James is saying. Put your money where your mouth is. Abraham was truly saved by faith but his works testified to the fact that he had faith to trust God with his life. In our story today, we see the faith of Abraham expressed. He responds to the call of God to go. Why, because he had faith. What is amazing is that Abraham did not have the whole story at his disposal and yet he was fully and completely obedient to God.

As we look at the life of faith we must underhand that the call of God does not come without obstacles and issues. God had promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. This was all great except that both Sara and Abraham were past their prime as it related to having children. Abraham was 75 years old. But their faith was focused not in their age but in a God who was big enough to do what He said He would do. They had a confidence in God that nothing was impossible with God. Even if he was too old, God could work in miraculous ways to fulfill His promise and His word. He was to become the father of many nations and God would fulfill His promises whatever it take.

So what does all of this mean for us today? When God calls us we can step out in faith and believe that He will fulfill His will in us. Sometimes the unknown can and will scare us. But if our faith in God is bigger than our fear of the unknown we will survive and will be sustained in great and powerful ways. Our job is to be obedient and God will do the rest. Sometimes it means that we observe a need in the church and we become the vessel and channel through which God provides and uses us to touch others. Perhaps it is serving in a ministry that we do not feel comfortable with but we see a need. We hear the call and we obey by serving Him. Are you listening because God is calling and He is speaking 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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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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Do You Have Risky Faith?

As I was preparing to write this, the thought that came to my mind was that faith is risky. Now please don’t assume that I am a heretic or that I mean that we are to be presumptuous in our faith. But what I want to communicate is that there is a huge element of risk involved with walking in faith.

Let me define what I mean by risk. When God calls us to do something or to step out in faith there is an inherit risk because when we obey we are not sure of what the outcome will be. But we go for it because we have faith. Imagine the thoughts that might have been going through the nation of Israel as they began to march around the walls of Jericho? What about Gideon who had a trained and equipped army but God said to pare it down to just 300? And then there is David who was just a teen but had more faith than all of the armies of Saul. He faced the giant with five smooth stones and a sling shot. What about the disciples who left their jobs to follow a man who called them to follow?

Throughout the record of biblical history, godly men and women had their quiet lives interrupted by a call to act courageously in obedience to God. They were given a call

which asked them to leave the serene security of their lives to accomplish a work that God has set aside for them to do.

In all of these circumstances they had no idea of what the outcome would be. What if on the seventh day and the seventh time around Jericho the walls did not even vibrate? What if the walls had not fallen? Imagine the glee of the inhabitants of Jericho? Imagine the laughter and ridicule that would have come from the city? Imagine the sense of failure on the part of Israel?

But the nation stepped out in obedient faith. In fact, each step they took was a step of faith. It was a risk but it was worth it. The reason they could take the risk is that they had a promise and a plan initiated by one greater than them. In Joshua chapter 1 we see why they had such great faith to do something so wild and crazy.

First of all, in verses 2-3 they had a word from God that the land they were to possess was theirs already; all they had to do was take it. They could take the risk because God was leading them and their success or failure was not in their ability to accomplish the task but to trust God. In fact, in verse 5 they had been given the promise that they would succeed because they had the presence of God with them. He would not allow them to fail.

Secondly, their success was predicated on their obedience and willingness to follow God with a whole heart. Joshua their leader had received and had communicated to the nation that they could and should be strong and courageous. They did not have to fear the enemy. As they obeyed God the walls fell and they totally conquered Jericho. The enemy had been destroyed.

But a problem occurred as they ran to take Ai. The problem is that they did not seek for God’s direction; they simply ran on their past successes to defeat Ai. The sad commentary is that they were defeated in the process. The people of Ai routed them out of town. The Israelites that were once victorious now bowed their heads in defeat.

The risk in faith is that God does not always do the same thing in the same way. Read through the Bible and see how God moved upon men to accomplish great things for Him. In each case, God uses a different method and a different means to accomplish His tasks. The lesson for us is that faith requires us to fully trust God for He has a plan and a way designed for our victory.

As individuals, we are in a place where we must trust God fully for His will to be accomplished. As he moves, the way His will is fulfilled may be totally different than anything that we have seen in the past. The key for us is that we hear God, obey His call and then be faithful to see it through. To us that may seem totally risky because it might be outside of our comfort zone but if God is leading let’s do it. So, are your ready for risky faith.

Points and questions for consideration:

  1. Do you have a risky faith or are you content to stay in your comfort zone?
  2. Think about a time where you had to take a risk. What emotions did you experience?
  3. Share with someone about a time when you took a risk and God did something totally awesome through the risk.
  4. Take some time to read the many Biblical stories of men and women who stepped out in faith based on the call of God. What is God showing you through these stories?
  5. Are you in a place that you need to have risky faith? Ask God for His strength and the courage to step out.

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