Why Standing Stones?

Why Standing Stones?

In ancient Israel, people stood stones on their end to commemorate a powerful move of God in their lives. It was a memorial to something God spoke or revealed or did. Often these standing stones became reference points in their lives. Today, we can find reference points in the written Word of God. Any scripture or sermon can speak something powerful into our lives, or reveal something of the nature of God. In this blog I offer, what can become a reference point for Christians, taken from God's ancient word and applied to today's world.

Monday, September 22, 2014

The Fundamentals of our Faith: Overcoming

Editor’s Note:  This is from a series I have been preaching entitled the “Fundamentals of our Faith.” 

There it is!  That’s your life isn't it?  All of these obstacles in front of you, and you have to jump over them to get anything accomplished.  Do you want to raise your children to be productive adults?  You have to jump over hurdles.  Do you want a better job?  You have to jump over hurdles.  Do you want to do something for God?  You have to jump over hurdles.  Life is like an Olympic Event.

Have you ever wondered why nothing is easy?  It’s like one thing after another.  You’re trying to get somewhere in life and it’s one obstacle after another.  It’s one thing after another.  We all have to face obstacles in life.  We all have to face roadblocks in what we want to do. 

Sometimes, it’s the devil.  He hates you and doesn't want you to succeed at your dreams, especially if it involves God’s will for your life.  Other times it’s you and your flesh.  You just want to give up and quit, or you just can’t find the energy to persevere. At still other times it might be God doing a work in you. checking your faith, or teaching you to overcome.

Today, I want to post on being someone who can overcome the obstacles of life.

Romans 8:35-37 (NKJV)
8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

When it’s Worthwhile it’s Hard

God’s promises are not always easy to receive.  Very often these things look like struggle, turmoil and adversity taking place in your life.   God promised the people of Israel a “Land flowing with Milk and Honey,” but they were going to have to fight for it.  They were going to have to move out the current inhabitants of the land.  The PROMISE was there…but it was going to be difficult to receive.

Nothing in the world is worth having or doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty…I have never, in my life, envied someone with an easy life.  I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well. – Theodore Roosevelt

Let me break this down for you into Christian language. Let me tell you what he’s saying in Christian speak:  Blessing comes through struggle.  It’s a principle of life – The harder it is the more worthwhile it is.

For example, raising kids is hard.  It’s really hard, and the bigger they get the harder it is.  My dad told me when my daughters were babies, “When you have little kids you have little problems, when you have bigger kids, you have bigger problems.”  He’s exactly right.  When your kids get older you don’t have problems like whose toy it is, or a scraped knee, or a wet bed.  You have problems like: Are they going to get pregnant?  Are they going to get killed while driving?  How am I going to pay for college?  Are they dating/marrying the right guy?

It’s not easy.  It’s expensive, you have to discipline, and sometimes you have to remember. “I’m supposed to be the mature one here,” when it would be easier to just kill them.  Is it easy? No, it isn't.  Is it worth it?  Yes, it is.

My daughters are a HUGE blessing, now.  They weren't always.  My mother and sisters always tell me what great kids they are, and they are.  It wasn't easy to get them there, though.  It wasn't easy for me, and it wasn't easy for them, but we all persevered.  I have two grown, beautiful daughters whom I believe will make it in life.

The difficulty and struggle was worth it.  Receiving the promises of God is also worth it, if you can overcome all the obstacles.

There are three places that obstacles come from.  The first is that lying devil.  How many know that the devil’s a liar.  He wants to keep you from God’s plan for your life.  The second is your own flesh.  Your fears, your feelings of inadequacy, laziness, or whatever keeps you from doing what you need to do to see God’s plan work out in your life. The third is God, Himself, checking your faith; whether or not you can believe God for His promises.  I can illustrate this from the Bible.

Taking the Promised Land was no Piece of Cake

There is a story in Numbers Chapter 13:  Israel has left Egypt.  They've finally made it to the Promised Land.  They've arrived at the promise of God to Abraham.  Moses has sent out spies into the the land to check it out and they have come back with their report:

Numbers 13:32-33 (NKJV)
13:32 And they gave the children of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, "The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great stature. 33 There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight."

That Lying Devil

So, here’s the devil lying to them.  “There’s too many obstacles…it’s too hard.  You’re weak and puny, like little baby grasshoppers.  What can you do against GIANTS?”

How many times have you heard that voice in your head say, “You can’t do it.”  Or, “You’re not good enough.  You’re not smart enough.  You didn't go to a good enough high school or college”?  Maybe someone even actually spoke those things to you.  That’s the devil trying to work in your mind.  He’s trying to sow unbelief or doubt into your heart.  You can trust God for His promises, but the devil says, “No!”  He’s doing the same thing he did to Eve.  In the Garden of Eden he said, “Did God really say…?”  He cast doubt about the Word of God into Eve's mind.

In our text, when they saw the giants, the devil said, “Look at them, You’re puny little grasshoppers.  These guys will eat you for breakfast.”

Verse 32:  “The land through which we have gone as spies is a land that devours it’s inhabitants.”
Verse 33:  “We were like grasshoppers in our OWN sight and so we were in their sight.”

The spies were just telling the people what the devil told them.  The devil said there are obstacles and you’ll never overcome them or conquer them.  God may have promised it, but there are GIANTS!

Believing the Lie

Let’s continue with the Bible’s narrative:

Numbers 14:1-4 (NKJV)
14:1 So all the congregation lifted up their voices and cried, and the people wept that night. 2 And all the children of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron, and the whole congregation said to them, "If only we had died in the land of Egypt! Or if only we had died in this wilderness! 3 Why has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt?" 4 So they said to one another, "Let us select a leader and return to Egypt."

None of them is willing to fight for the promise.  God doesn't say it’s going to be easy.  Nowhere in the Bible does he say that.  We have to be willing to fight for His promises, but we get discouraged.  We become defeatist.  Have you ever said this, “Nothing ever works out like I planned.  Why does it always have to be so hard”?  The devil lies to us, but we don’t have to believe him.  In our text the people of Israel believe the lie. 

The devil lies to you and sometimes you listen to him.  You say to yourself, “This is too hard.  Nothing ever works out for me.  I might as well quit!”  Quitting is the easy way every time, but what’s the reward of quitting:  Wasted time, wasted money, shame, guilt, letting yourself down, letting others down?  Those are the rewards of quitting.  Making it through the obstacles will be harder, often much harder, but what are the rewards of succeeding?  Aren't those rewards much easier to live with? 

Israel stands to receive a great inheritance.  God has a covenant with them, to bring them to this place.  It’s called the Promised Land, because it’s promised.  God promised it, but the devil tells them, “You can’t do it,” and the people all say to themselves: “You know he’s right.  We’re not strong enough to defeat giants.  Those cities are fortified; we can’t break in.  Let’s beat up Moses, and find a new leader to take us back to Egypt”  Which one would be a better ending:  Owning a land flowing with milk and honey?  Or going back to a land of slavery and oppression?  Here’s the reward for Israel quitting on the promises:

Numbers 14:34 (NKJV)
14:34 According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection.

Forty years of wandering in the desert until the whole generation died.  All of the adults died in the desert, never seeing the promise of God play out in their lives.  Let’s go back to the Promised land:

Numbers 14:36-38 (NKJV)
14:36 Now the men whom Moses sent to spy out the land, who returned and made all the congregation complain against him by bringing a bad report of the land, 37 those very men who brought the evil report about the land, died by the plague before the Lord. 38 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh remained alive, of the men who went to spy out the land.

Faith Activates God

So, the people of Israel wandered the desert for forty years, because they didn't believe the promises of God.  The whole generation never saw the promise of God except Joshua and Caleb.  They made it into the Promised Land, but why them?  Why did they see God’s promises?    Why weren't they like all the others? 

Numbers 14:6-8 (NKJV)
14:6 But Joshua the son of Nun and Caleb the son of Jephunneh, who were among those who had spied out the land, tore their clothes; 7 and they spoke to all the congregation of the children of Israel, saying: "The land we passed through to spy out is an exceedingly good land. 8 If the Lord delights in us, then He will bring us into this land and give it to us, 'a land which flows with milk and honey.'

The entire congregation of Israel, all the people gave up.  They all wanted to quit.  They believed the devil and all of his lies and doubted God.  All of them except Joshua and Caleb.  They wanted to go and take the land.  “God promised it, so let’s go get it.”

The people of Israel made their decision based on their own strengths, but they left out something important:  THE GOD FACTOR.  God can do what we can’t.  God is more powerful than us, AND he’s more powerful than the devil.

It may look impossible to you.  You may think, “I can never do this!  I can never make this happen.  I can never have God’s promises, because I’m not strong enough to do it ”  You may be right.  You probably can’t do it on your own.  In fact, I’m pretty sure that what God has for you is too hard for you to do on your own.  You can’t do it...but God can.  I guarantee it’s not impossible for God. 

Luke 18:27 (NKJV)
18:27 But He said, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God."

So knowing that the question is:  Can you believe God for His promises?  That’s what God is looking for.  He wants to show Himself strong.  He wants to win your faith and trust.  If God wants to show himself strong why would rely on YOUR strength?

If Arnold Schwarzenegger wanted to show you how strong he was, he wouldn't tell you to lift up the weights.  He would lift them.

Joshua and Caleb understand that God is a God who cannot lie.  They know His promises are real – They’re promises.  So, they believe God for what he’s promised and because of that they are the only ones to see those promises play out in their lives. God fought with them to take the land.  Their faith activated a move of God and they succeeded and received the promise.

What about you?  Do you want to see God’s promises for your life?  It’s our faith that activates a movement of God.  We need to believe Him; we need to speak like Joshua and Caleb, and live like we believe what we've spoken.  Most of all we need to have faith that the promise IS a promise. 

We are more than Conquerors

Our text promises us that we are more than conquerors:  That we can overcome the lies, and the flesh to see for ourselves the promises of God.  All it takes is faith and a willingness to fight for it.

What is it that God has promised you?  Provision? That’s a promise.  Your family saved?  Salvation is a promise.  A Plan for your life?  It’s a promise.

What is your role in receiving the promises?

  1. You're going have to believe God for the promises, and
  2. You’re going to have to fight for it.
God has a promise for your church as well.  People get discouraged:  They’ve seen people leave the church.  It seems like no one responds to the outreaches.  It seems as if the church is falling apart.  So, is God mad at us?  Is the devil too strong for us?

Here’s what’s happening, first, the devil is lying.  He says, "People can’t get saved in Taoyuan City.  It’s too hard for them.  They won’t believe Jesus.  They won’t go against their parents.  The traditional religion is a giant, we’re too small and weak to make a difference."

Second, people believe the lies.  Some of the people who've left have left because of that.  They believed the lies.  Some others are discouraged, “Why bother with outreach, it doesn't work here.”  Others even say, “I wanted to do something for God, but I don’t see it happening (in my time-frame).  So, they give up?  That’s happening in the church and it’s happening in people’s lives.

We need to be like Joshua and Caleb, “Hey God promised this… Let’s go and take it.” 

Let’s face it, the devil’s big and bad...and ugly...and mean...and nasty.  He’s a liar and the father of lies.  He WANTS you deceived and discouraged.  He wants to see you give up on the promises of God for your life and for the church.  But look at this promise:

1 John 4:4 (NKJV)
4:4 You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Are you ready to give up?  Well don’t!  Maybe it’s hard right now, but anything worth doing is hard.  It’s life – It’s hard!  That’s the way life is, but if you want to see the promise of God you have to be willing to fight for it.  You have to be willing to have faith.  I’m willing – We can take the Land.  We can also see God’s triumph in YOUR life.  Let’s go get the promise.

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