Abide in Christ

Learning to abide in Christ is an essential but not an easy thing. Last week I talked about the New Horizons we face as a church, so today I want to drill down into that and look at how we as individuals can make a difference in this world this year, and see true fruit that lasts in our ministries, church and lives.

 

As I started my Bible Reading Plan last week, I read Psalm 1, and it refers to the man blessed like this:

Psalms 1:3 (ESV Strong's)

He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season,

and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

 

Wouldn’t you love to see that as a description out your own life, and this church? So how can we prosper in everything we do, and yield huge amounts of high quality fruit that lasts?

 

John 15:1-10 (ESV Strong's)

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.

 

ABIDE IN CHRIST

 

The word translated abide in John 15 is the Greek word menō which means to stay, endure or remain in a given place, state, relation or expectancy. It means to wait and remain attached to the vine. So what was Jesus saying?

 

The image of a vine was often used for the nation of Israel, but in this case, Jesus clearly identifies Himself as the true vine, and us, you and I, His church as the branches. To summarise the chapter, Jesus is saying stay attached to Him, don’t separate and go it alone, and that you either bear fruit, or get prune off and destroyed. Does this mean I grow apples out of my ears?

 

Jesus was talking about living a fruitful life, but what does He mean by fruitful?

 

Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV Strong's)

the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

 

Living a fruitful and prosperous life is about producing those qualities, what we might call positive, active attitudes on a daily basis in our lives. And Ignite Church’s fruitfulness is the sum of all of us producing said fruit in our lives personally.

 

John Maxwell in his book, “Be All You Can Be,” suggests that when we abide 5 PRs appear…

 

  1. POSITIVE RESULTS: When you begin to inject these fruitful attitudes into your society, you’re going to see constructive, tangible and positive results.

 

  1. POSITIVE RELATIONSHIPS: You will begin to develop fruitful relationships with others, and people will love being around you.

 

  1. POSITIVE REACTIONS: When your attitude is positive, even if things go badly or someone unjustly attacks you, your reaction is going to be positive, and before you know it, other’s reactions to you will be positive also.

 

  1. POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT: Life is like a mirror; what you show is what you see; what you put in is what you get out. When you encourage others, you’ll find that they will encourage you. Attitudes are contagious.

 

  1. POSITIVE REJOICING: Jesus said in John 15:11. “These things I have spoken to you that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”

 

HAPPY TO BE FRUITY?

 

Christians often tell me they’re not really happy; they say they’re unfulfilled. They talk about not having joy in their lives. I get the impression that seeking joy has become their main purpose in life. But here’s the thing… joy (or happiness or fulfilment) comes to us not when we seek it, but when we put the right principles into practice in our lives. Joy and happiness and not ends in themselves, they are by-product of doing what is right, of abiding in Him and seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness!

 

So how do we as the branches know we can be fruitful, and sustain our fruitfulness? Here’s 7 things about the vine…

 

1.      OUR POWER SOURCE

 

We need to realise that our potential for fruitful living is unlimited because of our power source. Jesus says in John 15:1 that He is the power source, He is the vine.

 

Galatians 2:20 (ESV Strong's)

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

Many of us try to live a good life, but we have it all wrong, because we cannot do this in our own strength. It’s not my resources, but Christ’s resources in and through me!

 

I remember on one rare occasion I vacuumed the house, that I stretched the cord and then found my appliance died. I thought, “Oh great, now the vacuum is dead,” but then I realised that it works better if plugged in, and I had accidentally unplugged it. My vacuum became a broom because it was disconnected. Unplug from the power source, and you cannot produce the fruit you want to produce in your own strength.

 

2.      OUR PROPRIETOR

 

In John 15:1, Jesus says that He is the vine, but God the Father is the vinedresser. But God is more than an employee, He is the actual owner of the vineyard.

 

Ever heard the term, “Skin in the game?” It means you have ownership, and suddenly when you own it, the results become very important, because you’re invested! No one washes or services a rental car before they return it, but if you own a car, especially if you’re a rev head and cars are important to you, you service and clean it regularly.

 

Some Christians fear connecting to God  because think that if they abide in the vine then God will make them endure pain, adversity and strife instead of joy. They forget that God says,

 

Jeremiah 29:11 (ESV Strong's)

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.

 

Ownership makes a difference. God owns us, so when he looks at our lives, he looks at them not as a casual observer but as an investor, and He is invested in us prospering and producing quality fruit!

 

3.      OUR PRUNING

 

Our potential for fruitful living is unlimited because Jesus is our source. The fact that God is our owner or proprietor adds to that potential. One of the things God does as skilful and knowledgeable vinedresser is to prune or purge us. He knows that pruning, while it might be painful at the time, greatly increases our potential for fruitful living.

 

John 15:2 (ESV Strong's)

Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.

 

The Greek word for prune is kathairō;  meaning to cleanse, to prune; to purge of filth impurity, or to prune trees and vines from useless shoots. Your Father as the vinedresser, removes everything that hinders your usefulness. He knows that if he doesn’t cut back the deadwood, all of our resources will go toward producing more wood and we won’t be fruit producers.

 

I have found that fruitful, productive people are continually being pruned, going through whatever God the experts sees fit to make them more fruitful.

 

And God knows exactly what to prune from our lives. He might even now be placing His finger on a persistent sin in your life, or a destructive relationship that always stops you being fruitful. It might be a dependency, it might be a comfort zone, but whatever it is, let Him prune it away, however painful, because that is how God produces fruit and that is the end game!

 

4.      OUR PARTNERSHIP

 

Our potential for fruitfulness is also tremendous because of our partnership. We do not sit idly by watching the fruit appear, we are an active part of it and we too need to be fully invested!

 

I am a terrible gardner, and I stand in awe of people like Betty who seem to have a green thumb. I’m not a bad gardener because I lack intelligence, and with google and garden centres, none of us really lack the knowledge. I’m terrible because I just don’t care! I stick something in the ground, and it’s Gods problem from there.

 

A pastor one time looked at a beautiful garden and commented to the gardner how awesome God was creating all that. The gardener replied that he had a part in it too, and you should have seen the mess when God had it to Himself!

 

John 15:4 (ESV Strong's)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.

 

Ten times in verses 4–10 we see the word abide. Basically Jesus is saying, “Connect with the vine, and everything will be fine.” It is our privilege to partner with God in bearing fruit.

 

This should affect how we see everything. The growth in this church… it’s all His, not mine or yours. Your family, your job, your home, your finances, you must realise that it’s not all about you, it’s your willingness to partner with Him that bears the fruit. Don’t take all the credit!

 

John Maxwell tells the story of the mouse who crossed a bridge over a deep ravine with an elephant.  As the elephant and the mouse crossed the bridge, the bridge shook.  When they reached the other side, the mouse said to the elephant, “Boy, we really shook that bridge, didn’t we?”  Of course a mouse can’t shake a bridge, but when it teams up with an elephant, yes it can.

 

 

5.      OUR PROMISE IF WE ABIDE IN CHRIST

 

John 15:7 (ESV Strong's)

If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

 

Notice two things, first that the promise is conditional: if we abide in him. Second, our asking needs to be according to his Word.

 

What Jesus is really saying is that if we abide in him, then our delight will be in him, so much so that we will ask all things according to his will. This verse is not, as some will tell you, a formula for getting what we want from God. I’m so sick of hearing people trying to manipulate God into doing their will instead of them abiding in Him and doing His will!

 

God is not your celestial Santa Clause. He does not have to bring you what you want, and all your prayers, good behaviour or manipulation does not make Him your servant!

 

Psalms 37:4 (ESV Strong's)

Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

 

I get up every morning and have a quiet time. I spend the first hour or so with the Lord almost every day, and I do this because I want to abide in Him! I am reading through the Bible plan. I cannot tell you how many times something I read in my quiet time comes out in my day somewhere. I just delight in God and His Word every morning, and He leads and guides me through the day, and my desires merge with His!

 

6.      OUR PURPOSE

 

John 15:8 (ESV Strong's)

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

 

Our purpose in life is not to pursue happiness but to bear fruit and thus bring God glory. In the same chapter Jesus says,

 

John 15:16 (ESV Strong's)

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

 

We must not be floundering around trying to be rich or famous, or just trying to survive the day and get through life. No, we have been chosen, appointed by God, for fruitful living. Those active, positive attitudes, like love, joy, peace, etc, ought to be becoming a part of our lives. Then others notice and want them too!  The problem so often with us Christians is that we do not show these positive attitudes that can make us salt and light in our world. Christians should be like tea bags… our true colour comes out in hot water. We don’t bear the fruit God wants us to, because we are missing our purpose!

 

Billy Sunday said, "More men fail through lack of purpose than lack of talent."

 

7.      OUR PRIORITISING OBEDIENCE

 

No Christian becomes fruitful without obedience. Our potential for fruitfulness is tremendous only when we prioritise obedience.

 

John 15:5-7 (ESV Strong's)

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.

 

Clearly God is pretty serious about obedience, and that little word “if” is disturbing. Jesus doesn’t say, “If I do not abide in you.” He’s promised He is there for us. His question is, “Are you going to be connected to me? Jesus has the power; He has the strength; He has the wisdom to implant in us; He has all the resources that we need to become fruitful, and he’s ready to deliver. All we need to do is to stay connected him. It takes effort, and it takes obedience!

THE COST OF CONNECTIVITY

 

Why don’t we always abide in Him? Why do we disconnect? Pure lack of obedience!

 

We think that we can do it on our own; we begin to have an unhealthy self-confidence instead of confidence in Christ.  When we do not have active, positive, fruitful attitudes, it is because we aren’t plugged into the vine. Christians should not have to psych themselves up every day or get inspired once a week at church, we should stay connected every day and develop active, positive, fruitful attitudes… every single day!

 

If we prioritise obedience, becoming fruitful will be as natural as breathing because  the relationship is right, and the connection is right.

 

Why should God lead you into a full productive life if you refuse to obey Him? If you think you can achieve everything God wants for you in your own strength, go ahead, knock yourself out! You will quickly understand that, if you are disconnected from the vine that is Christ, if you are not obedient in spending time with Him, spending time with His people and obeying Him, then you are destined for disaster. And even if you achieve success, you will discover the prize worthless ultimately!

 

Listen I know that connectivity costs, but we must not focus on the cost, but focus on the fruit, the destiny God has for you. Nothing is achieved by anyone without cost.

 

FORMULA FOR FRUITFULNESS

 

Jesus gives us a three-word formula for fruitfulness in John 15. These three words are the ones I want you to remember, because they are the key to fruitful living.

 

  1. REMAIN: The first word is remain.

 

John 15:4-5 (ESV Strong's)

Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 

Throughout John 15, Jesus tells us to remain. “Remain in Me,” Jesus says.

 

What is Jesus referring to? He’s talking about our willingness to take time with him in prayer and in study of the Word. We need to let Him begin to be part of our lives and work on our lives. If you really want to live a fruitful life, there is no short cut. Come, join us in the Bible Reading Plan, start it and determine in your heart to not stop, even if you get discouraged. I promise you, no, God promises you that your life will never be the same if you read His Word and pray daily.

 

  1. RECEIVE: The second word in the formula is receive.

 

Jesus says in John 15 that if we remain in him, we will begin to receive certain things. What we’ll receive is good, fruitful and yes, prosperous living.

 

Jeremiah 29:11-13 (ESV Strong's)

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.

 

When you seek Him, when you remain or abide in Him, then you prosper, and not just financially, but in every way right through your life, relationships, destiny and everything!

 

  1. REPRODUCE: The third word is reproduce.

 

If we remain in him, we’re going to receive what he has for us; then and only then will we begin to reproduce such fruit in our lives. When we obey and remain in Him, others will see the difference and want what we have. We begin to reproduce fruit in the lives of others, and Ignite Church is the sum of all of our fruitfulness. We can and will grow and produce fruit in the lives of our community if we all learn to abide in Him.

 

THE 30, 60, 100 FOLD FOLLOW UP

 

I often hear Christians asking God for fruitfulness, and claiming the promise Jesus talks about in the parable of the sower…

 

Matthew 13:23 (ESV Strong's)

As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

 

God sows His Word into our hearts, that is what the parable is about, and He wants to see fruit. So if you want to make a difference in this world, if you want to see spiritual fruit which lasts for eternity, long after your job, your business, your success and everything else, then here’s what you must do…

 

COMMIT TO A PRODUCTIVE LIFESTYLE

 

Step out in faith, try something different, something scary. Climb out on the limb; that’s where the fruit is. All great accomplishments have to begin with an initial decision, so join me now and make up your mind that you’re going to be a fruitful Christian, that you’re going to begin to reproduce for Christ.

 

COMMIT TO THE WORD

 

Last week I challenged you to commit, with me, to Reading our Bible Reading Plan every day. Today I repeat that challenge… if you want to truly start abiding in Him, the first, tangible step is to commit to spending time with Him. So join us in our Reading Plan, if you don’t already have one?

 

What you plant determines the fruit, so plant the right thing. Plant Gods Word into your heart, starting right now, and let’s commit together to growing fruit here at Ignite, in our homes, in our businesses, in our relationships and in our eternities.

 

John 15:8 (ESV Strong's)

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.

 

What promise are you asking God for this year? What fruit are you seeking to bear, and what are you planting?

Today is Mother's Day and is I would like to study and celebrate the phenomenon of a mother's faith.

A MOTHER’S LOVE

 

Now we know that a mother's faith is born out of a mother's love, and I know in my case my mother's love is to a large part the reason I stand before you today.

 

Many a night as a teenager I went out and my mum’s prayers protected and sustained me. She prayed and protected me from my own stupid decisions and actions. And the grace of God got me out of some difficult situations. I'm sure most of you can relate to something like that.

 

But your mum may not be a Christian, and your upbringing may not have been part of your salvation experience. I mean, you may not even like your mum. You might have wished you were born into slavery rather than your family, but mums, today is the day we want to make it right for your kids!

 

We know what love is, or at least we think we do, but how many of us know that a mother's love for her children is something very special. But when we discuss love, English is a poor way to do it.

 

Think about it… I love my wife, I love the Broncos. I love my mum, I love Vegemite! Love in English is so universal and misused isn't it? I mean, we talk about “making love” when often the two parties don't love each other at all and they are using and abusing each other for sex. That's not love, folks! In the movies or in real life.

 

So to understand a mother's love, let's have a look at the 4 Greek words for love…

 

IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME!

 

1.      STORGE

Not used in the Bible, it refers to love, empathy or affection for something, mainly family members. “I don't like him, but I guess I have to love him!” The same word is used in loving your country or a sporting team. Or Vegemite.

 

2.      EROS

This is sexual love, from which we get the term erotic. Plato suggested that it also applies to attraction without the expression of sex, leading to the term platonic to refer to non sexual relationships.

 

3.      PHILIA

Affectionate regard or intimate friendship is referred to as philia, and it denotes loyalty, friendship and brotherly love. I'm guessing this approximates our concept of mateship.

 

4.      AGAPE

This is the highest form of love or charity, the type God has for man, and embraces a universal, unconditional love that transcends and serves unconditionally regardless of circumstances. It is not affected by whether it is returned or not, it is unconditional love. Usually this is reserved for God's love for us, but not always.

 

John 3:16

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

 

Interestingly, though storge fits for family love, a mother’s love is often referred to, especially in great acts of exceptional motherly love and charity as agape. It's  the unconditional, unassailable, undefeatable, love that is independent of anything you do, say or become, and true motherhood exudes this!

 

Great mums are fiercely protective of their kids. Most mums always see the good in their children, despite what everyone else thinks, and sometimes despite the facts. Sometimes a mother's faith can be misplaced.

 

Mums want to believe in you, whether you believe in you or not. They see the good in their children, even if no one else does. Hitler’s mum Klara took him to church and wanted him to be a civil servant. Napoleon’s mum was married at 13 and accompanied him into exile on the island of Elba.  Osama Bin Laden’s mum wanted him to stop fighting the west and come home to Saudi like a good boy. Donald Trump described his mum as smart as hell and  he said he's had trouble finding women to marry who compare to his her!

 

I read about Ted Bundy’s mother Louise, who loved her son so much that she refused to believe he was a killer, until a series of death row confessions of 36 murders put the matter beyond doubt. These mums saw the best in their children when others saw them as tyrants and killers.

 

Mums believe in us when others give up on us. Mums always want the best for their kids and grandkids, as I bet every mum in this room does. So let me look at a few positive instances of motherly love and motherly faith.

 

St Augustine’s mother was a godly woman who lived around 350AD. She loved her wayward son, and the young Augustine lived with a girl and had an illegitimate child, then followed this by joining a heretical sect for 9 long years. He refused to listen to her, and she was so distraught she prayed and prayed and God gave her a dream that settled her heart, and then a mother's faith checked in.

 

A short time later Augustine came to Christ, and became one of the most significant church fathers of his generation! He was once lost, but then through a mother's faith he was found.

 

That's the great privilege of being a mother. A mother's faith is stronger, your love is stronger and God loves the faith of a mother! And He bestows not only faith but wisdom…

 

MUM’S WORDS OF WISDOM

 

My mother had a great deal if trouble with me, but I think she enjoyed it… Mark Twain

My mother thinks I'm the best, and I was raised to always believe what my mama tells me… Diego Maradonna

Phyllis Dilla: I want my children to have all the things I couldn't afford… then I want to move in with them!

Erma Bombeck: when your mother asks if you want a piece of advice, it's a formality. Whatever you answer, you're going to get it.

One mum said, My kids call it yelling when I raise my voice. I call it motivational speaking for selective listeners.

Another said, My nickname is mum. My real name is mum, mum, mum, mum!

 

Another quote I found which is what you have to put up with as a mum sometimes… Benjamin Spock: there are only 2 things a child will share willingly. Communicable diseases and their mother's age.

 

So that's mother's wisdom, let's zero in now on a mother's faith.

 

A MOTHER’S FAITH

 

Scripture has many examples of faithful mums, mums who made a difference in the lives of their children and even the world in which they lived. Moses’ mum is one example, placing him in the little basket in the bulrushes, then becoming his nanny when Pharaoh’s daughter adopted him. Rahab, whose faith saved her family. Mary, Elizabeth, Hannah even Deborah, who was described as the mother of Israel and led her troops to a great victory over Sisera.

 

But today I want to concentrate on one situation, recorded in Matthew 15, where the faith of a Canaanite woman saved and set her daughter free from demonic oppression. A mother's faith was tested and commended by Jesus.

 

The background to this passage is that Jews hated gentiles, and actually called them dogs! If you think right back to Joshua and Judges, these were the remnant of the evil nations that the conquering Israelites failed to dislodge. Jews considered them lower than a wombat’s basement.

 

Matthew 15:21-28

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

 

Mums, on this your special day, I want to speak directly to you and ask you about your children, your husband, your family and those you care about. We see in this story that the woman had plenty of obstacles, but she stood in the gap for her child. As I share around this passage, take a moment to think about someone you know in your family that isn't walking with the Lord… and let your mother's faith rise!

 

1.      THIS MOTHER TOOK A CHANCE

 

The Canaanite woman knew the social stigmas. I mean, she knew everything was against her…

 

Certainly her race was against her: She was a Gentile. Her sex was against her, because most Jewish rabbis paid little attention to women. It seemed that the disciples were against her, and even Christ’s words might have led her to believe that even He was against her.

She could have stopped, she could have given up even before she started… oh, it's all too hard!

 

But hey, it was her daughter we're talking about here. She decided not to give up on her child, and should you! A mother's faith never gives up!

 

And sometimes we look at people we love who are not walking with the Lord and it all seems too hard! They're doing things we don't approve of, they're making bad decisions, they're breaking our hearts. They might even been attacking us or pulling away from us!

 

Listen mums, this mum took a chance, and I want to encourage you to do the same. Sure, our wayward kids may seem distant from you now, they may be ignoring your advice or rebelling, but the faith of a mother is worth much! This mother's faith won the day, so you need to take a chance and trust God!

 

2.      THIS MOTHER ASKED THE QUESTION

 

This mother's faith drove her to ask the question. They may accuse you of being pushy or overbearing, but sometimes asking a simple question can make people think.

Sometimes even just a look will suffice. I remember being caught doing things as a kid, and mum didn't even have to say anything, she'd just look, and I'd know she knew. Mums do that!

Trust me, guys, you can't fool mum. Mother's know, they have wider fields of view and eyes in the back of their heads. They see everything l hear everything and read between the lines well. And trust me. I'm married to a mother who is a psychotherapist, sometimes more psycho that's therapist.

 

So this Canaanite mum asked the question…

Matthew 15:22

And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.”

 

Speaking to Jesus, she addressed Him as the Lord, the Son of David, a title which only the Jews used in speaking of the Messiah. Although Jesus was the Son of David, a Gentile had no right to approach Him on that basis. That is why He did not answer her at first.

So she had no right to approach, but she did it anyway. And that's the thing: a mother's faith will push through and ask the question, so mums, step up and ask for your wayward children… you'll be surprised at what God wants to do for you!

 

3.      THIS MOTHER SUFFERED ATTACK

 

Listen ladies, if you step out and ask God, expect opposition. You might get it from your kids, you might get it from their dad, their partner, their friends, somebody. You will find your own feelings being attacked, periods when you even doubt that God hears you. It might even come from people in the church who don't believe with you. And just like this mum faced…

Matthew 15:23-24

But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

 

The disciples didn't want her around, and she may have even thought Jesus wanted her gone. But she stayed!

 

When you face attack, react like this mother of faith did! He came and she said…

Matthew 15:25

But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.”

 

And mums, I encourage you to just get real and honest with the Lord this morning. Today is Mother's Day, and I sense the heart of God for faithful mums right now. So get real, get honest and say with all your heart, “Lord help me.” I believe that the prayer of a mother's faithfulness for her kids and grandkids is going to be answered by God.

 

4.      THIS MOTHER’S FAITH WAS TESTED

 

Jesus then decided to probe her faith.

Matthew 15:26

And he answered, “It is not right to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs.”

 

Now it might sound a bit nasty, but in context Jesus wasn't having a shot at her at all. A little but of Hebrew comes in handy here…

You have to remember, she wasn't a Jew, she was a gentile. The Jews looked upon the Gentiles as scavenging dogs, prowling the streets for scraps of food. However, Jesus here doesn't use that particular word when He says dogs. Instead, He used the word for little pet puppies. He didn't call her a rabid street dog or mangy mongrel, He called her a little puppy.

 

The question was, “Would she take offence or acknowledge her unworthiness to receive the least of His mercies?”

 

Mums, don't take offence at anything that say and do, even your own kids. Love them, pray for them, believe for them and claim them for Jesus. I'd rather be offended and see my kids saved than silent and distant!

 

5.      THIS MOTHER PERSISTED

 

This mum’s  reply was not to crawl away and be insulted that Jesus tested her faith, but to press in and persist…

Matthew 15:27

She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters' table.”

 

In these few words she was humbling herself for the sake of her daughter. She was persisting and believing because she loved her child and wanted to see her set free.

 

She said, in effect, “You are right! I am only one of the little puppies under the table. But I notice that crumbs sometimes fall from the table to the floor. Won’t You let me have some crumbs? I am not worthy that You should heal my daughter, but I beg You to do it for one of Your undeserving creatures.”

 

Some of you mums here have prayed for years for your kids, and seen little result. Sometimes it seems so discouraging because they never seem to change, even into adulthood. Maybe they're lost in a bad relationship or substance abuse, maybe they are good people but they've crowded God out of their lives and have no time for Him.

 

Your see, you can be a really good person, a super nice guy, but when you die you'll miss going to eternity in heaven and be the nicest guy in hell. How nice you are, how good you are, how generous to charities or your kids you doesn't get you to heaven. The Bible is clear…

 

Ephesians 2:8-9

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

 

Christian mums here today, you know that, and for many of you this truth leads you to pray for your wayward kids, whether they are successful corporate CEOs or cellar dwelling drug addicts. I want to urge you today to keep praying, to do like this lady did and never give up on your kids, grandkids and even husbands or exes. I can't change them, you can't change them, but God can. You must persist!

 

6.      THIS MOTHER’S FAITH WAS REWARDED

 

And here's the thing. Jesus was so delighted with her persisting, He commended her!

Matthew 15:28

Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

 

Jesus commended her for her great faith. While the unbelieving children, the Jews, had no hunger for the bread, here was a self-confessed “doggie” crying out for it. A mother's faith was rewarded; her daughter was healed instantly. Interestingly Jesus never complimented the religious leaders or the disciples like this, only a gentile, despised woman.

 

And that, mums, is my challenge to you today. Whatever you are believing for with your family, partners, children or grandchildren, I believe that today is the day when you can stand and believe, and we want to stand with you.

In a moment, I'm going to ask all the mums to stand and come forward and let us pray for your wayward children, grandchildren or even husbands. Let's join together and believe for God to reward your mother's faith today!

 

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY… TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT, WHAT YOU REALLY, REALLY WANT?

 

The Spice girls said it, but I'm saying it today. So tell me what you want, what you really, really want! Today some of you got breakfast in bed, and many of you got presents, cute things, special things, things that are great but will never last. But I know the heart cry of many of you mums is the salvation of your children and grandchildren. That will last forever.

 

You may have been fighting for them in prayer for years, but I'm going to ask you to stand for them, and let us as a church fight together! If you as a mum have a child or grandchild on your heart and you are praying specifically for their salvation, I'm going to ask you to stand, come to the front and our elders will pray and believe with you for the greatest Mother's Day gift of all… your child coming to Christ.

Easter Sunday-Hope is Alive!

Welcome to resurrection Sunday, where hope is alive. On Friday we remembered the sacrifice of Christ dying on the Cross for us, but today we celebrate the joy of His rising again, and now hope is alive in the hearts of believers.  After church 3 people are going to share their baptism with us, and they will illustrate this very time of year. They will go under the water dying with Christ, then come up again to rise with Him.

So let's start our celebrations looking back at Good Friday. On Friday we talked about Christ’s pain, suffering and sacrifice for us. But what I want you to do now is to put yourself in the place of the disciples that terrible Friday.

 

They'd seen it with their own eyes, the death of the One they love. They heard Him cry out, they'd seen the spear thrust into His side, they saw blood and water pour out . They knew He was dead, that He'd been placed in a tomb, wrapped in cloth with spices. They’d surely seen the massive rock rolled across the entrance. They probably were aware of the guard on the tomb.

 

HOPE DIES

 

On that dark day hope died. All the dreams of the disciples, all the plans, all the good times had come to nothing. Jesus had healed people, He'd challenged hearts, He’d spoken of eternal life, of His Kingdom to come. He'd fed 5,000, raised the dead, challenged the hierarchy… He'd promised big, but on that dark, miserable Friday He'd died, just like any man might. The centurion said truly this man was the Son if God, but all the disciples saw was a dead body.

 

Today here perhaps your hopes, like those of the disciples, have died. Your dreams of a successful business, your hopes of a loving, perfect partner in life, your hopes of a together family, your inner desires for ministry. Maybe today they lay shattered in the ground. Perhaps you lost that job, maybe your marriage broke down, maybe your family looks ok on the surface but behind closed doors it's falling apart. Perhaps that child you love so much is breaking your heart.

 

Like those disciples so long ago, maybe you've lost hope. Like them, perhaps you feel like you're standing on the boulevard of broken dreams, standing outside the tomb of everything you've hoped and believed for, burying the hopes you once had. The disciples were there, they saw everything crumble right before their eyes, and despair won the day.

 

That Friday Jesus laid His life down for your sin, but thanks be to God He didn't stay there.

 

HOPE IS ALIVE

Hope is alive because the tomb is empty! Today hope lives because Jesus lives!

Buddha is buried somewhere in a tomb. Mohammad , Confucius, they're buried somewhere, but Jesus is not. 3 days later, Jesus exploded out of the tomb. He's alive, and everything He promised those disciples, and everything He promises you, is alive as well.

 

 

Matthew 28:5-6

But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.”

Hope is a word that we like to kind of throw around. I hope this works, I hope you feel better, I hope for this or that, I hope tomorrow will be better.  The true essence of the word gets cheapened sometimes. Webster’s defines hope as: to cherish a desire with anticipation of obtainment. To the world, hope is to long for something, it’s to anticipate something that you want with all of your heart to be fulfilled. But to the world, hope is often dashed!

Someone has been quoted as saying: We can live forty days without food, eight days without water, four minutes without air, but only a few seconds without hope.

Turn on the news, and hope disappears with every terrorist bomb, every financial forecast, every loss, scandal or controversy. The world’s version of hope is based in what's happening around you, what you want, what you can get, your desires, your needs. It is based in things that do not and cannot ultimately satisfy. But God's hope is completely different. You can trust it because Biblical hope is alive and well!

Hebrews 10:23

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

BIBLICAL HOPE

Biblical hope depends not on events, and not on how much faith you can muster. Biblical hope depends on God’s faithfulness, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ celebrates exactly that! Biblical hope can be defined as this: a sure expectation based on the promises of God. This hope is different! This hope is eternal and won’t fail us. Hebrews says that:

Hebrews 6: 19

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

The hope that God offers is something to build on, it’s an anchor, it keeps us from drifting after this and floating after that.  It is the rock upon which the Christian stands, one that cannot be moved or shaken. This is the hope of God, and this magnificent hope is alive, forever bound up in the resurrection of Christ that we celebrate today.

When the Bible talks about hope, it is not a maybe, it is a surety.  Hope is alive for the Christian, and that's an absolute fact, it is something we can live for, even something we can die for!

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

 

THE HOPE VORTEX

In the midst of their darkest moment in life, the disciples were told by Mary and the women that Jesus was alive, but they couldn't believe He had risen. That's what lack of hope does, it steals from you the belief that somehow, someway your dreams might come true!

That's what the devil wants … he wants to bleed your faith dry, and some of you have experienced that. He wants to suck hope out of you so you can't see any way forward. Satan is a hope vampire, a hope vortex, and he wants to suck the hope right out of you. That's what the devil tried to do with Job, and some of you here can relate to feeling like Job at times..

Job 17:11,15

My days are past; my plans are broken off, the desires of my heart. Where then is my hope? Who will see my hope?

Do you feel like that today? Has despair sucked your hope from you? Listen, you're in good company, with Job, David, Joshua, the disciples, Paul and many others sharing the same experience. Without the resurrection, all of us would be without hope. But with it hope springs eternal!

If you feel like your hope is gone today, if you're walking through the valley of the shadow or death, keep walking. Don't camp there, and don't give the devil a foothold. Today, Easter Sunday 2017, is the the day when your hope is alive again, resurrected, if you are willing!

HIDDEN HOPE

Sometimes hope us hidden. God doesn't take the route we expect Him to take. The disciples learned that. Their hopes, their dreams seemingly crushed, yet in God’s economy, a setback is a setup for a comeback. Sometimes hope is hidden, but just because you can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there!

God’s great gift of hope took a cross, the very symbol of death and despair and a tomb, the epitome of hopelessness and turned them forever into symbols of life and hope for the believer, that whoever believes in what was accomplished upon that cross and believes in who it was that walked out of that tomb would be saved.

That’s the hope we have. As Peter writes:

1 Peter 1:3

According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

Today we celebrate the fact that Jesus is risen. And risen with Him is our hope, the true hope, the surety of eternal life, starting the moment we ask Jesus into our life, the hope of living in victory, the hope of restored families, the hope of healings and miracles and fellowship and ministry.

So if you feel lacking in hope today, if your faith is struggling or weakened, look to the empty tomb and see hope resurrected with Christ. For some of us, we need to stop trying to generate faith, and for some we must stop trying to make it happen and do God’s job for Him. Look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, because He is alive and hope is alive with Him!

If your hope is truly in Christ this day, let Him live His life through you.

HOPE FOR NOW

Godly hope is alive and has 2 aspects… hope for now, and hope forever!

Whatever you face in life right now, whatever fear, whatever drama, whatever pain, sickness, tiredness, conflict or pressure, because Jesus rose again and because He lives you can face tomorrow, because He lives all fear is gone, because I know He holds the future and life is worth the living just because He lives!

Because Jesus is alive, hope is alive, and we now have absolute hope to live each day in the power of His Spirit.

Isaiah 40:31

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

HOPE FOREVER

Titus 2:13

waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and saviour Jesus Christ,

Because He is alive, we know He will soon return. And He's not coming back as a baby this time, but He will return for those who believe Him in triumph and in majesty and in power. We know from His resurrection that we have a hope not only for His return, but also for life abundantly, eternal life with Him in heaven. That's His promise…

1 Corinthians 15:17-20

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.

He said if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile, and your hope is dead! But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. This day we remember the Jesus is alive, and we will live forever with Him.

 

HOW TO DISCOVER HOPE IN YOUR LIFE TODAY

 

So how can you discover true hope today, whatever situation you face?

 

1.     BELIEVE IN CHRIST

 

Unless you believe in Christ, unless you ask Him into your life as Lord and Saviour, His power to live a victorious life remains unavailable to you. If you are overwhelmed by your troubles, if you are perpetually down or depressed, don't stay there. Believe in Jesus, believe in what He achieved for you in dying on the cross to bring you back to God, and most of all believe in the resurrection. He can save you today, and it's a free gift, if only you accept Him.

 

John 20:31

but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

 

If you feel hopeless, if you're living without hope, ask the God of all hope to fill you with His Spirit right now!

 

2.     SPEND TIME WITH JESUS

 

You cannot live in hope and live in power if you are disconnected from the Lord. He has a plan and a hope for your future, but you need to stay close to Him and be obedient. If you wander off and do your own thing, not only do you miss God’s best for you, but you stumble away from hope. Take time to pray regularly, set time aside to read and study His Word, and do it every day.

 

John 15:5

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

 

If you want true Biblical hope in your life, plug into God today. Let resurrection Sunday be the day your hope is renewed... hope is alive.

 

3.     LISTEN TO GOD

 

Most Christians say they believe, but most often never pause to listen to what the Lord wants. Like Joshua at Ai, we think, based on previous experience, that we can just go ahead and blunder in and expect His blessing.

 

4.     BELIEVE GOD’S PROMISES

 

 

God lays out promises in His Word, and as we listen to Him and apply those promises they come to pass with the hope and power of the resurrected Christ.

 

2 Corinthians 1:20

For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

 

All God’s promises, Old Testament and New, hinge upon the power of the resurrection of Christ. In Him they are yes and amen, in Jesus you can have true hope for the future. The whole of history and all the promises of God revolve around the sacrifice of Good Friday and the resurrection power of Easter Sunday

 

5.     STAND TOGETHER

 

There are so many Christians these days who are not part of a church. They've been hurt, disappointed or bored out of their brains in church. For many, their hope struggles because they are trying to stand alone. Hope is alive, but only just

 

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!

 

The Bible commands us to not give up meeting together. So find a church to be a part of, here or anywhere. Ephesians talks about the shield of faith. But what many don't understand is how the Romans used their shields. They didn't try and fight alone, but joined their shields together to withstand the attacks of the enemy.

 

Your faith, your belief, your hope is strengthened when you join it together with other believers. So if you want to see true hope in your life, join together with like minded believers and start believing for miracles in your life!

 

 

6.     FEAR NOTHING, INCLUDING DEATH

 

 

Resurrection power means we no longer have to live defeated lives. In the power of God, when we are controlled by His Spirit, we can face any foe without fear. Governments, terrorists, mortgages, people attacking us, anything life can throw at us we can face without fear, including the biggest fear we all have… the fear of death.

 

Death for the Christian is not a full stop, it's only a comma. As I watched my Dad die a few years ago, I sat by His bed for days as he lay dying, and I saw this hope in His heart. Christ's rising from the dead gives us an unassailable hope for the future, forever and ever.

 

Romans 6:8-11

Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

 

You may not believe that there's a life after death, you may not believe that there's a heaven or hell, but trust me, 10 seconds after you die you'll find out, as will I. If I'm right, I get the share eternity with God in His heaven, and you get to spend eternity separated from Him in hell. If you're right, and there is nothing after death, then I've been blessed to have had a great life, full of hope, full of joy, full of blessings and satisfaction that you'll never know. And you will have existed, nothing more!

 

Steve McQueen accepted Christ and asked to meet Billy Graham. He was heading to Mexico for filming, and shared a short ride to the airport with Billy Graham. He was fighting cancer at the time, and asked Dr Graham how he could be assured of eternal life. Billy Graham underlined

 

Titus 1:2

in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began

 

And gave his Bible to Steve McQueen.

 

The actor passed away a few weeks later. His body was flown back to LA, and he was buried at his request with Billy Graham's Bible open on his chest, and his finger pointing to this verse…

 

Titus 1:2

in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.

 

Easter Sunday is not about rabbits, Or chocolate eggs. Today, resurrection Sunday is about hope. Hope restored, hope to face anything, hope that fills us, hope that is alive just as Jesus is alive today!

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is not just a historical event, and it's certainly not a fairy story. It was the resurrection of hope for those disciples, who moved from despair to abundant joy, and from fear to incredible courage. Of the 11 disciples who witness the death and resurrection of Jesus, the 11 who cowered in fear in an upper room, they were so inspired, they were so filled with hope that 10 of them died martyrs deaths for what they believed.

 

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the resurrection of hope, the hope that will never fail. It's the rock on which we stand, it's the power by which we live, it's the hope we have for all eternity. This hope is here today for you, if you want it!

 

Colossians 1:27

Christ in you, the hope of glory.

The Good Shepherd is Calling You

The Good Shepherd is calling you... Do you know Him?

Two men were called on, in a large classroom, to recite the Twenty-third Psalm. One was a professional actor,  trained in speech technique and drama. He repeated the psalm in a powerful way.

 

Psalms 23

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

When he finished, the audience cheered and even asked for an encore that they might hear his wonderful voice again. "Then the other man, who was much older, repeated the same words--'The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want...' But when he finished, no sound came from the large class. Instead, people sat silently in a deep mood of devotion and prayer.

 

"Then the first man, the orator, stood to his feet. He said. 'The difference between what you have just heard from my old friend, and what you heard from me is this: I know the Psalm, my friend knows the Shepherd.'"

You probably know the Psalm… But do you really know the Shepherd?

 

This morning I want to look at Jesus the Good Shepherd…

 

John 10:2-6

But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

 

Throughout the Bible leaders were frequently described as Shepherds. Kings, prophets and holy men were considered shepherds. In Ezekiel 34, the Lord condemns selfish shepherds who exploited the flock for their own ends, who abuse and mistreat them and who scattered them leaving them open to attack. He says He will remove them, and replace the, with Good shepherd, who will lead with integrity and honour, caring for  the sheep, laying his life down for them. David was the expression of this shepherd, pastors should also be that type of shepherd, and of course, the ultimate expression is Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

 

Ezekiel 34:31

You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord.’”

 

WHY SHEEP, HE SAYS SHEEPISHLY

 

1 Peter 2:25

For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

 

Why would God call us sheep? I use to have sheep, so I can tell you how stupid they really are. No child pretending to be an animal ever chooses to be a sheep. Can you think of a sporting team mascot of a sheep?

 

Let's face it, calling us sheep is not exactly romantic or complimentary is it? So why would God liken us to sheep? Think about what sheep really are…

 

  1. Stupid and stubborn-

 

I mean, have you ever seen a trained sheep at a circus? They are simple-hearted, not the brightest bulb in the box, and if you try and lead them anywhere, they stubbornly stop.

 

  1. Dirty and Wayward-

 

They easily wander away, do their own thing, get lost and never learn from their mistakes. The follow the crowd, like a sheepish mob mentality, and will blindly follow their leader, even if they are being led to certain death.

 

  1. Easily frightened and confused-

 

Easily led astray, known to panic and be irrational, known to plunge off cliffs in their fear and confusion. They stubbornly wait and resist, then panic and freak out.

 

  1. They are well known for clinging to habits, often walking the same track until it becomes a rut, or staying in the same paddock even when all food has disappeared.

 

  1. Desperately need guidance and protection.

 

They do not fend well for themselves. They don't find good pastures, they don't fight off predators.

 

Hang on, did I say sheep were stubborn, stupid, irrational, confused, wayward, fearful and in need of guidance and protection? Does that sound anything like human beings?

 

Ok maybe calling us sheep is not too far from the mark! We are all those things, and while the illustration may not be too complimentary, I think we can agree that we share many of the stubborn, foolish, pig headed traits of sheep.

 

So enough about the sheep, what about the shepherd? Let's look at those chapters in John to learn more…

 

ABOUT THE GOOD SHEPHERD

 

In ancient Israel, caring for sheep was a lot different compared with shepherding today. Back then, they did not have sheep dogs to round up sheep. They didn't bark and scare the sheep and drive them. Back then, they called, and the sheep knew the voice of the shepherd and they came running.

 

So what is the Good Shepherd actually like?

 

1.     THE GOOD SHEPHERD IS THE ONLY DOOR OR GATE

 

John 10:1-3

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeepers opens.

 

In ancient Israel, they would often house the sheep in a natural pen.  So they might have a gully, for example, where they build a fence at one end, and then the shepherd would lie across the opening like a door to protect the sheep.

 

Jesus says that if someone is a bad guy, they will not try and get in via the shepherd but will try and sneak in, and when they do this they are bent on destruction.  The only way to get into the pen legitimately is through the gate guarded by the shepherd.

 

John 10:9

I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.

 

John 14:6

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

 

No great philosophy , no other religion, not being nice to people, or kind, or not sinning very much is enough. Only Jesus can save you. Only a relationship with the shepherd can lead to eternal salvation. You can't earn it, you can't fake it, you can't get it pushing a plow… Matter of fact… You need to come to Jesus now!

 

So Pastor Darin, are you saying that Muslims, Buddhists, Charity leaders and nice people don't get to heaven? YES! But I'm not saying it, Jesus said it, and that's good enough for me.

 

If you've never asked Jesus into your life, today the Good Shepherd calls you to enter into the gate of eternal life!

 

2.     THE GOOD SHEPHERD KNOWS THE SHEEP WELL

 

Ancient shepherds were born into the job, which means they grew up with the sheep and knew them, with all of their little eccentricities and odd ways, intimately. The young shepherd trained for the position all his life, so it wasn't just a job, it was a passion.

 

That's why the Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.

 

Obviously Jesus is the Good Shepherd, but there are other shepherds or leaders who should show the same dedication.

 

Bill Newman often talks to pastors and says, “Jesus Christ did not die on the cross to give you a job.”  So as your pastor, I need to model myself on the true Good Shepherd and work hard, love lots and lay my life down for you.

 

The Good Shepherd know his sheep. He knows them by name, He knows their faces, their habits, good and bad, their characters, their natures. And they know Him, and His voice…

 

John 10:3-5

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice.”

 

In ancient Israel, shepherds would often join several flocks together in the pen for the night. Have you ever joined a bunch of sheep together. We use to have a small flock, and they would just huddle together, shaking and non responsive! They are almost impossible to separate in any kind of ordered fashion!

 

All the Good Shepherd does is call. No matter what other sheep are there, they recognise His voice and He recognises them. Strangers they run from, the Good Shepherd they run to!

 

Do you know His voice. Are you reading His word every day?

"I can find ten men who will die for the Bible for every one who will read it!" --Charles Spurgeon

 

Can you hear the voice of the Good Shepherd? Will you run to Him this morning? This very morning the Good Shepherd is gently calling you. That still small voice in the heart, that word of a sermon or song, that Bible reading that leapt off the page at you… All these are the voice of the Shepherd.  And this morning He is saying His favourite word… Come!

 

 

3.     THE GOOD SHEPHERD KNOWS THE NEEDS OF THE SHEEP

 

 

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

 

Life abundantly, that's what the Good Shepherd promises, and He know exactly what you need each and every day!

 

Matthew 6:31-33

So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

 

Why worry about the things of this life? Do you worry about the next dollar coming in? About what someone thinks of you? About paying bills, fighting for your rights or arguing with family members?

 

The Good Shepherd knows, He understands, He is listening and willing to care for you. He knows what you need, that's why The psalmist says,

 

Psalms 23:1

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

 

The Hebrew word for “not want” is HASER, which means I shall not be in need, I shall lack nothing or I shall not decrease. He know the needs, can you trust the Good Shepherd to care for you and provide for you?

 

We've seen it in this church in recent days. I cannot believe that the God who prospers us as a church family will let me or you down. We stand testimony to the love and care of the Good Shepherd!

 

 

 

4.     THE GOOD SHEPHERD LEADS THE SHEEP

 

Psalms 23:2-3

He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name's sake.

 

The Good Shepherd is a leader, and He will lead you if you will let Him.

 

At times He leads you into battle, and He leads you to triumph. At other times He knows you're tired and weary, in pain and in distress, and He leads you in these moments to lie down in green pastures. Green pastures are lush, they have abundant food, they are cool, they are soft. The Hebrew word used here means fresh shoots.

 

He also leads you beside the still waters… Waters of peace, of gentle not turbulent flow. Why gentle waters?

 

Did you know that sheep cannot drink from noisy, running water? A sheep’s nostrils are so close to its mouth that if it starts to drink and the water is moving, it will choke and could perhaps drown.

 

To provide for the sheep, it is necessary for the shepherd to dam the stream until a quiet pool is formed, and the moving water becomes still. Then the animal can put its muzzle into the water and drink without choking and gasping for air.

 

“He leads me beside the still waters.”

 

Some of you here need to find the still waters this morning. You love the Good Shepherd, you hear Him, you trust Him, but you need to find the peace that passes all understanding. You need this morning to sit a while at the still waters.

 

 

5.     THE GOOD SHEPHERD PROTECTS THE SHEEP

 

The Good Shepherd values every single one of you. In John 15, He leaves the 99 sheep to look for the one who has strayed. Is that you this morning? If you have strayed, if you have sinned, if you don't know the Shepherd are have walked away, this morning the shepherd is calling your name. He's out looking for you. Don't run, don't hide, come.

 

 

Psalms 23:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

 

We all face valleys of darkness like this at times. When all seems hopeless, when everything seems lost, when everyone and everything seems to conspire against you. When you're hurt, discouraged, let down, lonely, miserable, on the verge of giving up.

 

The Good Shepherd walks with you through these times.

 

The rod was an instrument of authority that was also used by shepherds for counting, guiding, rescuing and protecting sheep. The staff was an instrument of support.

 

The ancient shepherd also used his staff to guide the sheep, directing them and setting boundaries for them. He also used his rod as a weapon against predators. By guiding them into safe places and by fighting enemies, the shepherd’s rod and staff were a comfort and protection for the sheep.

 

Whatever you face in life right now, the Good Shepherd walks with you. He doesn't transport you over or around the valley, He walks it's you thought the darkest vales, protecting and comforting you, caring for you.

 

Do you need the Good Shepherds comfort and protection today?

 

6.     THE GOOD SHEPHERD LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR THE SHEEP

 

John 10:11-13

 

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

 

If I am to shepherd you, I must lay my life down and pay a price. The Good Shepherd laid His life down for you. He didn't run. You're His, so He fought for you, and died in your place.

 

Jesus chose to die in your place because He loves you. He is the Good Shepherd, and you are the ones He loves.  He hung on nails for 6 hours one Friday to pay for your sin and mine. He suffered unspeakable agony to purchase our souls back, that we might spend eternity with the Father.

 

He gave up the riches of Heaven to come to earth and die a criminal’s death. Nails did not hold Him to the tree… It was the love of the Good Shepherd. He laid His life down for you.

 

 

7.     THE GOOD SHEPHERD PROVIDES A HOME FOR THE SHEEP

 

 

Psalms 23:6

Surely your goodness and love will follow me

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

forever.

 

Yes, heaven awaits. Eternity with the Good Shepherd beckons us.

 

John 14:2-3

My Father's house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

 

Heaven awaits those of us who follow the Good Shepherd, but why wait? Why pray for pie in the sky when we die by and by when we can experience life to the full and a taste of heaven right now?

 

Today, the Shepherd calls you out. Today, He leads you in paths of righteousness. Today, He walks with you no matter how dark and terrifying the road you face. Today He protects and cares for your needs.  Today He prepares a table in the presence of your enemies. Today His arms are open to invite you to His eternal home.

 

Today, the Good Shepherd says come! Come to me you who are weary and burdened. Come to me those who hurt. Come to me those in need of encouragement. Come to me those who need a Saviour.

Adversity, as we have seen, comes to us all, and is part of God's training and equipping in our lives. If you are struggling or facing tough times today, you are not unique and you are not on your own.

 

We have learned that the question is not whether you will face trials, because we all will, but rather how you will face them. Can you face them with joy, and can you trust your Heavenly Father to do the right thing by you?

 

OUR PAIN, HIS PURPOSES- TRAINING AND EQUIPPING

If you want God’s best for your life and if you truly desire to be used by Him, at some point you will have to travel the road of adversity. All sunshine makes a desert, hard crusty and unproductive. Rain and storms are what produces lasting fruit in your life for Jesus.

 

This means that God can and will use adversity in your life for a good purpose—and yet, sadly, many people view adversity as only negative and defeating. You don’t have to be among them!

 

In the presence of trouble, some people grow wings; others buy crutches.—Harold W. Ruopp

 

 

Perception is how you see things, not just what you see. So when you face Adversity, do you just see the Adversity itself, the pain, the hurt, the hopelessness? Or do you see what God sees?… That He is using tough times to train and equip you for greater and more powerful service in times to come!

 

Romans 8:28

 

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

 

God has designed adversity, regardless of its source and irrespective of the pain and discomfort it causes, to become a turning point from which you will take your greatest leaps forward in spiritual growth. His aim is spiritual growth and maturity, and He is not afraid to break a few eggs to make a beautiful Omelet.

 

If you face trials right now, I want to offer you wonderfully encouraging news… They are not without restriction, but fully controlled by God.  He allows adversity into your life only as long as it takes until He accomplishes His purpose in you. He will not keep it in your life one second longer than is necessary.

 

ONLY AS LONG AS IS NECESSARY

 

In 1 Samuel 30 David, on the run from King Saul, faced a tough situation. Amalekite raiders had attacked his camp, carrying off all the wives and families of the men, including his. The men were not so merry and turned on David, so David turned in his adversity to the Lord...

 

1 Samuel 30:6

David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the Lord his God.

 

If you look at Christians facing trials, you will see different types. Some people are almost wiped out by trials, while others learn to stand in the confidence of God’s faithfulness. Some blame God, or at least whine and complain about the situation, while the others have an overwhelming sense of stability and immovable strength, that God is training and equipping them for serving Him.

 

Some run from the storm, refusing the learn from their adversity, lurching from crisis to crisis. Others weather the storms, heads held high, confident, bold, and not discouraged by any obstacle that comes along.

 

Graduates of Uni-Adversity feel absolutely certain that God is going to see them through the heartache and bring them out whole, joyful, and more mature on the other side. Look around at Christians you know who have persevered through adversity, you'll see the maturity. If you see a Christian that you admire, I guarantee you that they have faced more then their share of Adversity, pain and heartache. Gid has spen a lifetime training and equipping them, building character into them.

 

Adversity has an unusual habit of showing us where we stand in our faith. This is part of the training and equipping process.

 

Do we doubt God? Do we thank Him for His faithfulness during the stressful, heart-wrenching times? Do we trust that He will never leave or forsake us? Do we trust that He knows best, even if it is beyond what we think we can bear?

 

Adversity is God’s most accurate measure of our faith—it reveals our endurance level. It clearly displays our trust, or lack of it, In Him. None of us knows how much difficulty we can withstand until we are tried. Like an athlete in training, we must learn to push through the pain if we are to one day stand on the winners podium.

 

Quitters never win, and winners never quit!

 

TAKE IT TO THE LIMIT ONE MORE TIME

 

Right now, whatever you face, however overwhelming your adversity, remember this: God has put a limit on all adversity.

 

Because you are a child of God, the Holy Spirit is living inside of you, and He knows how much you can bear. The psalmist said:

 

Psalms 34:19

 

The righteous person may have many troubles,

but the Lord delivers him from them all;

 

He won't push you too far, and He won't let you suffer longer than is necessary. If you can trust Him in this one, simple point, you can trust Him for everything in your life as He trains you!

 

When we learn and mature in the midst of tremendous adversity, God is pleased because He sees His purpose being fulfilled in us. Every difficulty we face, He sees our destiny rolling out ahead of us. We are growing spiritually, becoming stronger in areas of weakness, and increasingly being conformed to the likeness of Christ. We learn the secrets of ministering to others who might be in pain. We are undergoing training and equipping for His service.

 

In short, God is thrilled when we respond correctly to adversity!

 

WHAT CAN WE LEARN AT UNI- ADVERSITY?

 

Here's  principles we can learn when we are trained and equipped through our adversity: and remember, learning these correctly will limit the time we have to spend going through the tests!

 

1.     ADVERSITY BUILDS YOUR CHARACTER

 

Adversity is God’s and tool of choice for building godly, spiritual character, and training and equipping the saints. Until we experience heartache, disappointment, and pain, we are not properly undergoing training and equipping for service. He uses adversity to mould and shape us; He does not bring it into our lives without purpose.

 

Romans 5:3-4

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

 

Whatever struggles you face, the prize is not relief of pain. The prize is persevering and winning, whatever the cost, and that is the character God seeks.

 

Rick Warren says, “Every problem is a character- building opportunity, and the more difficult it is, the greater the potential for building spiritual muscle and moral fibre.”

 

2.     ADVERSITY INCREASES YOUR AVERSION TO SIN

 

When we face adversity we often also face our own human weaknesses, and this causes us to realise how sinful we are. Many times the difficulties are of our own doing, maybe something we have said or done, so our sin is again exposed to us.

 

In a crisis, even many sinful people decide to get right with God in the midst of their adversities. Some remain angry, sure, but many want to connect with a God they know is in control of things.

 

When we face trials and tests they produce pain and sorrow. We must make sure that the sorrow we feel is Godly sorrow which turns us from our sin, not worldly sorrow, which makes us self-centred, depressed and draining.

 

2 Corinthians 7:10

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.

 

3.     ADVERSITY OFTEN HITS YOU WHERE YOU FEEL MOST CONFIDENT

Adversity often comes in the areas where we feel the most confident. God wants to break our self reliance, and build our absolute trust in Him. He is training and equipping us for life!

 

Psalms 9:10

Those who know your name trust in you,

for you, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek you.

 

He made us for a loving, intimate relationship with Himself, and He uses adversity to remind us of the fact that we must be fully dependent upon Him.

 

And the more we know Him, the deeper our trust will be. That's why I have you reading the Bible reading plan. To know Him is to trust Him. To trust Him is to not rely on yourself, but to follow Him where ever He goes, whatever He asks and however much He decides to put us through.

 

Knowing Him intimately makes you realise that you can trust Him, even where pain is involved. As you grow closer to Him you realise that He will never, never leave you!

 

4.     ADVERSITY REMOVES PRIDE AND SELF-CENTREDNESS

 

Paul writes,

2 Corinthians 1:8-10

 

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us,

 

Paul clearly says that the Adversity was great to teach them not to rely in themselves, but on God. This was the  Apostle Paul, one of the humblest men eve, who speaks as though he was full of pride. He had learned the lessons of UNI- Adversity in this case! He had passed his training and equipping exams!

 

All the water in the world

However hard it tried,

Could never, never sink a ship

Unless it got inside.

All the hardships of this world,

Might wear you pretty thin,

But they won't hurt you, one least bit

Unless you let them in.—Author Unknown

 

Doing things in life our own strength is like letting the water in. Doing it in God’s strength is the way to conquering your Adversity, and His way of training and equipping you!

 

5.     ADVERSITY DEMONSTRATES GOD’S FAITHFULNESS

 

We sang the song earlier, but what a tremendous lesson to learn…

 

Lamentations 3:22-23

 

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

 

That’s the thing. You face trials, and you recognise you cannot stand on your own, you need to fall upon the limitless and awesome faithfulness of God. And here’s the thing… Every time you do this, you learn more and become utterly convinced that God is faithful,… He is totally dependable, He will never let you down.

 

This is my testimony, after facing our adversities… God is faithful, He has never and will never forsake me… Or you, if you walk with Him.

 

Psalms 37:25

 

I was young and now I am old,

yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken

or their children begging bread.

 

You can’t tell me any different, because I just know! That is faith!

 

6.     ADVERSITY ENABLES YOU TO COMFORT OTHERS

 

When you have a revelation of how faithful God is, when you have been through Adversity and out the other side as a victor in Christ Jesus, then you can help others who face the same thing. Your pain opens the door to help you minister to others in their pain. He is training and equipping you for service.

 

2 Corinthians 1:4-5

who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.

 

So when we learn the lessons of UNI- Adversity, we in turn can be used of God to teach others. Maybe we should pray not for God to remove affliction from us, but to empower us by affliction, that we might minister to others.

 

In this room many people have suffered or are suffering. I believe God will use this suffering to empower you, and this church is committed to making a way for you to bless others in and through what God has taught you in UNI- Adversity!

 

 

7.     ADVERSITY IMPROVES YOUR SERVE

 

If you want to become an effective servant, and this is one of the key aims of my entire life, then adversity is God’s way of training and equipping and moulding you into a mature and effective servant.

 

When you know Jesus Christ as your Saviour, God sees you as a son or daughter.  You might struggle at times, sometimes falling, but He sees you as  justified, redeemed, forgiven, and reconciled to Him.

 

When God looks at you He sees someone full of His unconditional love, indwelt by His presence, sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, whose name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.

 

And He also sees all of your potential—all the good you could accomplish for His kingdom.

 

Romans 5:3-4

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,

 

So take comfort—adversity won’t take up permanent residence in your life. But when it’s present, it can develop good things if you’re willing to trust Him. Therefore, no matter what dark moments you may walk through, be confident that He’s going to bring you into the light. And when He does, it will certainly be worth it.

 

 

8.     ADVERSITY GETS YOUR ATTENTION

 

 

When adversity comes against you, you most often cannot choose how it happens or through whom it happens, but, you can choose how you respond.

 

So many people face adversity, and all they do is focus on the trial and the pain. People in pain tend to be very self centred and self focussed, because this is what pain does to you. It fills your mind, it takes over your life, and you feel like no one understands what you are going through.

 

You can choose to get discouraged, you can choose to give up. You can choose to be angry at a person, or God or both. You can choose to fight hard or curl up into a ball and cry. Or you can choose to trust God and discover what it is that He wants from you in this situation!

 

You can choose what gets your attention. So what do you focus on when you face tough times? How is He training and equipping you?

 

Colossians 3:2

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

 

 

God’s ultimate design is not to give you a comfortable, wonderful life, but to conform you to the likeness of Jesus. Through adversity, God develops the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22, 23)—in us.

 

A traveller in Africa saw one of the large butterflies of the tropics struggling to free itself from the cocoon. He took pity on its struggles and with his knife cut the cords at which it was straining, and it came safely and easily out. But all the brilliant colouring was gone! The anguish of the struggle was necessary for that. The beautiful colours of the soul are won in the struggle with, and the victory over, trial and adversity.

 

So if you are facing pain today, physical, emotional, relational, or financial, it’s time to take your eyes off the Adversity and place them firmly on Jesus…

 

Hebrews 12:1-2

 

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

Turn your eyes upon Jesus

Look full in His wonderful face

And the things of earth will grow strangely dim

In the light of His glory and Grace!

 

 

Today, as you face Adversity, what are you looking at!  If you’re in the middle of trials, tests and pain it’s so hard to drag you focus off your troubles. But if you learn these lessons, you will be blessed beyond measure, made mature and complete and become a blessing to many. Adversity is training and equipping you for your greatest impact on the world!

 

Adversity comes into your life, but God has a purpose for you. His primary aim is not to make you happy. Not to make you comfortable. Not to give you success in business, in your family, in your ministry or finances. His aim is that you grow spiritually continuously your entire life. He never intends for you to arrive. He continually trains and equips you for the future, and He uses 2 main tools to do this...His Word and circumstances…

 

WELCOME TO UNI-ADVERSITY- The University of Adversity!


God’s purpose for us is that we grow and become more like the Lord Jesus Christ in our daily lives to reflect more of Him and less of us.

 

This is Uni-Adversity, where God uses adversity, trials, and tests to educate you and complete your education, to make you Christ like!

 

Today’s message is like the course overview, the orientation as to what God is going to do over the next several weeks.

 

Let's face it, sometimes we plateau, we hit a glass ceiling in our spiritual growth. We get mature and think to ourselves, “I no longer have a need to grow or go any deeper in my walk with God.”

 

God will allow adversity to come into our lives to move us forward in our walk with Him and cause us to grow in the things that really matter.

 

How we respond to our trials will either make us or break us. If we will submit ourselves to God during times of adversity we will discover something about our God and ourselves.

 

If we fight Him, we are in for a rough ride and a whole load of pain, and probably a lot longer course too.

 

It's in our interests to pay attention in class at Uni-Adversity. I'd rather not have to resit some of the exams to be honest, especially the painful ones. No one wants to take 20 years to do their bachelor degree, do they? If you learn fast it is to your advantage.

 

The brook would lose its song if we removed the rocks. So here's your chance to learn how to make the best song of all!

 

So let's start Uni-Adversity right now. Turn to James 1:1-12,

 

But before we look at James, lesson 1 is clearing up something right at the start…

 

LESSON 1: THE RESPONSIBLE PARTY FOR OUR ADVERSITY

 

I have often heard it said, and preached, that God is a good God, and He would never let anything bad happen to you. All you need to do is positively confess and believe, and nothing bad will ever happen. If something bad does happen, then you are either in sin or lack enough faith.

 

This view is wrong. Bad things happen to good people in our fallen world. It's that simple, and if you don't face some sort of adversity or testing, check your pulse to see if you're still alive!

 

Don't get me wrong, I'm happy to live a life where nothing ever goes wrong. But the problem with this doctrine is that, by extension, if something does go wrong, then you must be in sin, or at least have a lack of faith. This is where something in me rises up, because I believe this is one of the most destructive and hurtful doctrines in the church.

 

I was sharing with some young people recently about meeting Joni Erickson, a quadriplegic from age 16, and one of the greatest alumni of the University of Adversity. I saw a man pray for her healing, she didn't walk, and he accused her of not having enough faith. She said she did, perhaps it was him who did not have enough. Good answer!

 

Only once in Scripture do we ever see into the inner workings of God and Satan. It is in the book of Job.

 

Now some say that the reason all those bad things happened to Job is that he lived in fear…

 

Job 3:25

What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me.

 

But that is taking one verse completely out of context. He lived a holy life, and still all this bad stuff happened to him. So why did his finances, family, health and whole life fall apart.

 

The Bible clearly tells us why. The devil didn't start it, God did!

 

Job 1:8

 

Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

 

God allowed Satan to have his way with Job, but God set limits. If you are facing tough times right now, don't blame yourself, and don't blame God. Satan is the guy who does this, but only if the Lord lets him, and only as far as God lets him. God never loses control, but He can and will use Satan to try your faith, teach you to trust and create Christ like character.

 

LESSON 2: THE REALITY OF ADVERSITY

 

Adversity, hard times, disappointments, discouragement… They’re going to come. You cannot simply wish or positively confess your way out of them.

 

TRIALS ARE INESCAPABLE

 

James 1:2

 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

 

Not if you face trials, but whenever you face them. There is an implied certainty about that. You're going to face them, time and again, so don't think you're  immune. If you don't have problems, check your pulse and make sure you're still alive and breathing.

 

1 Peter 4:12

 

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

 

So if you are facing trials right now, don't be shocked! Be joyful. Yes, be joyful and be thankful, because God is training you to become someone greater than you already are!

 

 

 

TRIALS ARE UNPREDICTABLE

 

 

Secondly, trials are not easily predicted. The Greek word used in the verse for face literally means to fall into, and you know when you slip and fall it's totally unpredictable. The same word is used of the man who falls into the hands of thieves in the Good Samaritan parable.

 

And trials are like that, right? We don't see them coming, and we don't expect them to escalate. You don't predict a flat tyre, or a breakdown. You cannot plan out when an appliance is going to blow, or what another driver will do. You can't choose when you want to get sick or when your child comes home crying. Trials are random.

 

 

TRIALS ARE MULTICOLOURED

 

Problems in life come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colours. Some are minor inconveniences, some are major dramas. Some are short lived, others last years. Some you don't even recognise until you're in it, and some you construct yourself.

 

The Greek word used in James 1:2 for many kinds is literally multicoloured.

 

Have you ever tried to match colours at a paint shop? This bewildering variety of trials you face is a pretty good description.

 

 

LESSON 3: THE REASON FOR ADVERSITY

 

But why do we face trials like this in life. Can't we just come to the Lord and disappear to heaven, never to face another trial, problem or drama again?

 

Here's the thing… God has not saved you for your comfort. His highest priority is not giving you a comfortable, cushy life, free from problems, pain, sickness and trials.

 

James 1:3-4

because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

 

This pain, this adversity you face, it has a purpose. God has a reason… He is working a mighty work within you.

 

He's making you mature and complete!

 

Pain can produce positives. Pressure can produce perseverance. Suffering can create something positive and wonderful.

 

No adversity happens to you except with a purpose in mind… Your maturity of character, your completeness in Christ likeness. You are not facing trials and pushing though pain for no reason, for God’s amusement or pleasure. No, He always has a reason. Welcome to Uni-Adversity.

 

The Eucalyptus and Banksia, have serotinous cones or fruits that are completely sealed with resin. These cones/fruits can only open to release their seeds after the heat of a bushfire has physically melted the resin. No fire, no heat, no seed, no fruit. And it's the same with you.

 

OK, so what possible reason can God have for putting me through what He's putting me through?

 

  1. Problems purify your faith.

 

James uses the words “trials and testing”. These are the same words to describe the process of purifying gold. You heat the gold to the point where the impurities – the dross – are burned off.

 

Zechariah 13:9

This third I will put into the fire;

I will refine them like silver

and test them like gold.

 

Trials test us, sure, but they refine us, they purify us, they make us more mature and give us more character.

 

Christians should be like tea bags. Their true colour comes out in hot water.

 

When faced with a very adverse situation in the purchase of our building, your leadership decided to step up and believe God. We could have collapsed and cried woe is me, but we didn't. It's a test.

 

Now most often you cannot choose the test, but you can always choose the response!

 

  1. Problems produce perseverance.

 

When you face trials and decide to see things through, you produce perseverance. You learn persistence, staying power, a never give up attitude.

 

You discover hidden reserves of strength you didn't know we're there. You find an endurance you previously never though possible. You see it through, keeping your eyes on the goal and then discover the incredible feeling of triumph that only perseverance gives.

 

  1. Problems help us mature.

 

Age is inevitable, but maturity is optional.

 

Trials and adversity help us to grow and mature into the people God wants us to be. We can become mature and complete, not lacking anything.

 

And strangely, God is far more interested in your character than your comfort. He wants to produce maturity not a meal ticket. He wants you complete, not conveniently cushioned.

 

Through the Word of God and trials we are matured. And you need both. You can't get away from one, so you'd better start reading the Word or you won't mature as well or as fast as God intends.

 

Trials don't mean that God doesn't love you. They mean He really loves you, so much He wants to make you something mature and amazing! He has a plan for you. God’s long range goal goes way beyond your comfort.

 

 

LESSON 4: THE REACTION TO ADVERSITY

 

This one is a hard one. Our response to our trials will either make us or break us. What does the Bible say?

 

James 1:2

 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,

 

Hang on a minute… What do you mean joy? That's not the normal way people respond to adversity! Most often the response to adversity is to get angry, at whoever is doing it, or at God, or both! The next response is to collapse and say, “Why me, Lord? It's not fair!”

 

Ok, joy… I guess that means to paint on a happy face and pretend that everything is peachy when inside our life is falling apart, right? Positively confess? Fake it till you make it?

 

The Greek word for consider is hegeomai, which means to consider, govern or account for… Hence some translations say count it all blessing.

 

Accountants add things up and balance the books. Sometimes our trials and adversities just don't seem to add up or make sense. But counting it as blessings means that, no matter what the trials are, we can add them up to joy and something positive in our lives.

 

Joy in the Greek means gladness, calmness, happiness. It's not saying get deliriously happy because the trial is so hard, but rather have a quiet sense of joy, not that you face the test, but that you face the test knowing the teacher, and knowing the test is going to yield a great result.

 

You may not feel any joy, but if you know the teacher, and know that the teacher is on your side and not out to fail you, there is a sense of joy. I'm not glad that our church faces a more difficult financial situation to get this building, but I am glad that this trial is already producing amazing fruit in the lives of leadership and church members alike.

 

 

LESSON 5: THE RIGHT RESPONSE TO ADVERSITY

 

Rather than react, how do we respond to the trials and tests we face?

 

In the midst of pain, suffering and adversity, how can you genuinely respond with joy? Pray and ask God for wisdom… and you will get it when you need it…

 

James 1:5

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

 

Ask the Lord, is there something I need to be learning here? Ask for wisdom, don't try and fake it on your own. Say, “Show me how to respond to this trial in a godly way.”

 

I recommend immersing yourself in the Bible. Pray, ask God for wisdom then ask for a word in season, directly from the Bible. In my hour of need, He just delivers in spades from His Word.

 

God promises that these trials and tests will not be beyond what you can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13). They might seem too hard, but He knows you better than you even do. And He will not prolong the pain any more than is necessary to achieve the purpose He has, which is to develop your character.

 

So the right response to adversity, the fast track through Uni-Adversity, is not just to be faithful, but to be joyful…

 

Habakkuk 3:17-18

Though the fig tree does not bud

and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails

and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen

and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior.

 

LESSON 6: THE REWARDS FOR ADVERSITY

 

The reward for attending Uni- Adversity is not just intellectual knowledge but practical and applied experience that provided 3 fantastic rewards…

 

  1. Personal growth and maturity

 

You get to learn from the trials you have triumphed over, or if you flunked out badly, you get to sit the exam all over again. Either way, you gain valuable knowledge that is practical, powerful and applicable to every aspect of your life. You gain maturity.

 

 

 

Romans 5:3-4

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

 

The Greek word here for glory means boasting or pride. Now normally these are not good traits to have, but in this context it means the satisfaction of knowing it's been a job well done. You feel good, feel triumphant and begin to feel more mature in Christ. Combine this with reading the Word every day, and you have the double whammy, you have the 2 proven tools that yield great maturity.

 

In good times we can survive with a shallow root system, In tough times our roots must go deep. In good times we can stand alone, but in tough times we need to interlock our root systems and send them down deep!

 

As Christians face the winds of adversity and the storms of trouble, they rise like the skylark. They are like the trees that survive the storm because their roots are driven deep. They are like the trees that grow on mountain ridges—trees battered by winds, yet, trees in which we find the strongest wood.

 

The skylark, the flowers, the trees—all these illustrate Job’s words: “When he has tested me, I will come forth as gold” (23:10 NIV).

 

The Christian who understands this aspect of God’s nature can find comfort in his suffering and peace in his pain.

 

Job 5:17-18

 

“Blessed is the one whom God corrects;

so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.

For he wounds, but he also binds up;

he injures, but his hands also heal.

 

Growth and maturity means not blaming God, but staying close to Him and learning the lessons of Uni-Adversity!

 

  1. The Ability to Help Others

 

Experiencing trials and adversity gives you empathy with what others are going through. But graduating and  triumphing in your Uni-Adversity course gives you powerful, proven strategies to help others in their hour of need.

 

I didn't enjoy losing all out money and nearly going bankrupt in the GFC. I certainly did not enjoy losing out family home. But we kept trusting God, and I am really rejoicing in what this has done in my life, Fiona's life and even our finances. God is so good!

 

Thus when the church fell short financially, I had no hesitation in encouraging the eldership that God will do this for us!  I can face our financial future and the future of Coast Church with real confidence, because I've been there, done that, got the T Shirt and have experienced God coming through when we needed Him most.

 

Jesus does the same with us. He suffered, understands, empathises and can show us strategies to triumph too…

 

Hebrews 2:18

Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

 

  1. Eternal Rewards

 

James 1:12

 

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.

 

Make no mistake, every time you face tough times and trials, when you triumph you are building a reward in heaven. You are laying up treasure that lasts eternity…

 

Matthew 6:19-21

 

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

CONCLUSION to University of Adversity

 

In this series I pray that you will find the reason for the trials you face, the response and the reward that will bring you through to true spiritual maturity.

 

God has a purpose for every trial that comes into your life. Nothing happens to you without His  approval or purpose. He has the power to work things out to your good, regardless of the circumstances you are facing.   God’s perspective is not the same as yours. God sees the end point clearly, the purpose and outcome of your trial, while all you and I see is the pain and the problem. He sees the future while all you and I see is the present.

 

So what do you seek? God’s command or your comfort. Spiritual maturity or sensual monotony? At Uni-Adversity, God is going to develop a people that have been tried and proven, who have learned to grow through adversity and are willing to follow Him and change whatever is necessary to graduate.

 

I know some of you face terrible trials right now, and we as a family want to support you and face them with you. If you face trials that seem big, ugly and unassailable, come forward and let us stand with you!

 

Specifically, if you face health trials come forward. If you face financial trials, come forward. We are going to pray not that God takes them away, but that God accomplishes what He wants to do in your life through them.

Whispers of Love

A young child tries to walk… Takes a couple of steps, then falls awkwardly. Dad picks her up and whispers words of encouragement to her. She tries to walk again... whispers of love.

 

A mother and her young son are sitting on a train. The train enters a tunnels, and suddenly everything goes black. The boy cries out for his mother, and she whispers, “I'm right here sweetheart.” Whispers of love.

 

A man holds the reins of a horse and leads him through the undergrowth. Suddenly a twig snaps, and the horse reacts by pulling back and rearing up, fear in its eyes. The man calms the horse, and whispers gently to it, and the horse begins to settle. Whispers of love.

 

A couple walk along a beach at sunset. They stop and embrace, and whisper in each other’s ear, “I love you.” Whispers of love.

 

These are whispers of love.

 

In the noise and pace of our modern society, we mostly don't hear whispers. They are swamped by the racket of living in the 21st century, but they're still there, still being whispered, but not often being heard.

 

We have the horse whisperer, we have the dog whisperer, but where oh where is the person whisperer?  Where are the Whispers of love for you and me?

 

THE STILL SMALL VOICE

 

1 Kings 19

Elijah was a powerful prophet of God. He stood against the wickedness of Jezebel and King Ahab, and proclaimed holiness when his life was in great peril. He had a huge victory over the bad guys on Mount Carmel, but coming down off that huge high, he ran in fear of his life.

 

Down, discouraged, miserable, he fled to a cave in the mountains, and God sought him out and found him there. He needed God to connect with him at the lowest point in his life.

 

If you're down and low today, you need God to connect with you. If you're discouraged, overwhelmed by life, wishing you could run away, then guest what, you're in good company, because you're just like the prophet Elijah.You need to hear a whisper.

 

Let's look at his encounter with God…

 

 

1 Kings 19:11-13

 

The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”

 

 

All the noise, the clamour, the earthquakes, the fires, the thunder and lightening… And where do we find God? In the still, small voice, in the quietness, in the gentle whisper of love.

 

Whispers of love are there, all around us, if we can quieten our hearts enough to hear them. But are they always God, and how can we be sure?

CARELESS WHISPERS

 

Some whispers don't encourage you, they discourage you. Who among us has never been the victim of gossip like we read about in these passages…

 

Psalms 41:7-9

 

All my enemies whisper together against me;

they imagine the worst for me, saying,

“A vile disease has afflicted him;

he will never get up from the place where he lies.”

Even my close friend,

someone I trusted,

one who shared my bread,

has turned against me.

 

Or this…

 

Lamentations 3:62

what my enemies whisper and mutter

against me all day long.

 

How do you feel when they whisper about you, then stop why you get close? Sometimes whispers can really hurt, if you're not in on the conversation.

 

As Errol Flynn said, “It's not what they say about you, it's what they whisper!”

 

Another whisper is really creepy. I believe in God and the devil, I believe in angels and also demons. Job describes an incredible encounter with a demon…

 

Job 4:12-17

 

“A word was secretly brought to me,

my ears caught a whisper of it.

Amid disquieting dreams in the night,

when deep sleep falls on people,

fear and trembling seized me

and made all my bones shake.

A spirit glided past my face,

and the hair on my body stood on end.

It stopped,

but I could not tell what it was.

A form stood before my eyes,

and I heard a hushed voice:

‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God?

Can even a strong man be more pure than his Maker?

 

I have experienced this phenomenon. It's absolutely terrifying, you cannot move and the terror that runs up and down your spine is beyond the worse horror movie you've ever seen. You have no doubt that this is not from God, because the evil presence is palpable. Demons are real, but the Bible says,

1 John 4:4

the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

 

So not all whispers are the Lord, not all whispers are of love, some are just, to quote George Michael, careless whispers.

 

IT’S THE WHISPER

 

The Hebrew word for whisper used in the Isaiah passage means a voice… It could be a loud, commanding voice, a whisper, a crying out. But the word is preceded by a Hebrew word literally translated as thin, gaunt or dwarfed. So the voice of God here is not a commanding thunder,but a thin, still small voice. Why? Because the quiet whisper is a sign of affection. It's a Whispers of love.

 

Whispering doesn't work very well if you're speaking to someone who's standing on the other side of the room. God doesn't want a long-distance relationship; he wants a close, intimate one.

 

Christianity is not a religion, it's not a set of rules, it's not the Ten Commandments or fire or brimstone… Christianity is relationship, between God and you, one on one, intimate, close, loving, special.

 

HOW TO HEAR A WHISPER OF LOVE

 

How do you begin to hear and recognise God's voice? In the noise and hustle and bustle of life,how can you hear the Whispers of love from God?

 

1.   SEEK GOD

 

To hear the gentle whisper,you need a heart that's seeking God.

 

I bet that's you, right? I mean, why are you here at church? Why do you come back? What is it that draws you here? Is it so you can meet friends, so you can have our awesome morning teas or coffee, or are you seeking the Lord?

 

Do you have a seeking heart?  In the Old Testament, David had this kind of heart. He once wrote, "In my heart, I long for you, as I would long for a stream in a scorching desert" (Psalm 63:1, CEV)

 

If you want to hear God's voice, you need to seek him like David.

 

Seeking God is about being honest with him. Tell him any frustrations, fears or doubts you may have about hearing from him. Ask him to give you ears to hear and eyes to see the ways he is speaking to you. Ask him for the ability to recognise the difference between his voice and your thoughts.

 

Don't  be a fake. Some people believe in the power of positive pretending. Fake it till you make it.

 

Listen, God doesn't honour lying, to someone else or to yourself. Don't try and fake faith, don't try and talk yourself into what you want God to do for you. If the Lord says it, you can believe it. If you tell the Lord what He's going to do, if you think God is just there to do your bidding, then you're  in for major disappointment. Don't try and conjure what's not there, for goodness sake, just be honest with yourself and with God.

 

Here's a promise:

 

Jeremiah 29:12-13

Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.

 

That's His promise… Seek Him, and you will find Him! Listen, and you will hear a Whispers of love.

 

2.   READ YOUR BIBLE

 

 

If you want to hear the whisper of God, you need to learn His language. When you study the Bible, you open yourself up to the very heart and personality of God. It's like learning to speak a heavenly language. God will speak to you from His Word.

 

As you study the Scripture, keep your eyes open for teachings and stories that reveal who God is and what He's like. Ask Him to help you understand and apply what you're reading.

 

Isaiah 55:11

so is my word that goes out from my mouth:

It will not return to me empty,

but will accomplish what I desire

and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

 

God speaks to me nearly every day from His Word. As I read from the Bible Reading plan, you would be amazed at how many verses jump off the page at me… Every single day! The Whispers of love!

 

3.   PRACTICE LISTENING

 

To hear a whisper you need to be a good listener. Hearing God's voice requires you learning the skill of listening.

 

This may sound easy, but actually making time to sit still and listen in your heart can be a challenge in our super-busy world. It is hard to get quiet and even harder to stay that way.

 

How often have you tried to wait on God, only to be interrupted by a "hold on a sec …" because the phone rings, a Facebook message pings, or someone's at the door. What keeps you from really stopping and waiting on the Lord. The phone? Facebook? The TV?

 

You can also practice hearing the Lord all through the day

 

Isaiah 30:21

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

 

That small voice. That little prompting. That tiny though that pops into your brain, that you know is not you. The more you practice listening, the more easily you will hear His voice. The more you know Him, the more you recognise His voice, and the more you are ready and willing to trust Him and obey.

 

Hearing from God is about more than just turning off the cell and closing down your Facebook app. It requires a quiet heart. Settling those thoughts, putting aside the urgent things of the day. It means becoming still enough on the inside despite the craziness on the outside.

 

4.   LEARN TO BE PATIENT

 

Hearing the whisper of God takes time, effort and patience. Learning to hear, recognise and understand the ways God speaks, like the shampoo commercial, doesn't happen overnight,  but it does happen.

 

It may take several years of practice, and patient waiting on God, before you're completely comfortable with hearing and recognising God's voice. No matter how long it takes, be confident that he has heard your prayers and will respond.

 

Being that close to God is worth the wait!

 

Waiting is a different concept for God. It does not mean sitting, wasting time, bored and twiddling your thumbs.

 

Psalms 27:14

Wait for the Lord;

be strong and take heart

and wait for the Lord.

 

Waiting in God’s dimension means being strong, taking heart and continuing to do what you do until God steps in and makes it happen. Waiting to hear the whisper is like that… Be strong, take heart and keep listening, waiting and seeking God. He will not let you down. He promises He will answer.

 

5.   ALWAYS BE OBEDIENT

 

Hearing God’s whisper doesn't mean much if we don't obey. Many people constantly wonder if what they hear is really from God, and this constant wondering paralyses them, so they never take action.  This keeps them from taking action. The fear of being wrong prevents them from ever having the opportunity to be right.

 

Remember, God looks at the heart. When he sees you stepping out in faith—even if you're heading in the wrong direction—he can lovingly correct you, pointing you in the right direction. It's easier to steer a moving ship, so step out, be obedient and take action about what you believe God is whispering to you.

 

If God whispers to you to buy a coffee for a homeless man, or ask a guy at the bank if you can pray for him, why not step out and listen and be obedient?

 

Ultimately, far more important than your religious devotion, your going to church or your Christian jargon is your obedience.

 

1 Samuel 15:22b

 

To obey is better than sacrifice,

and to heed is better than the fat of rams.

 

As you're obedient in small things, so the Lord will lead you into greater things.

 

Luke 16:10

 

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.

 

Through a pattern of obedience, you begin to develop a confidence and assurance that you really have heard from God. You can't really explain it. It's internal. Someone may ask how you know you're supposed to do something in particular. You respond, "I can just sense it inside. I just know." You have learned to hear the Whispers of love from God.

 

You should always have a yardstick concerning what you hear. The Word of God is our yardstick, against which we measure and judge every whisper. God will never whisper something that contradicts His revealed will in the Bible. He just won't!

 

CHINESE WHISPERS

 

We've all played this game at some time. You start with a whisper, and the further along the line it gets, the more twisted and crazy the whisper becomes.

 

And that's often what it's like hearing the whisper of God. The further away from the source you are, the less distinct the voice is. If you only ever hear God in a sermon, in a you tube clip or from your friends, then you are missing out.

 

You need to be able to hear His whisper, and even more than that, to recognise it, to be familiar with it. Then you need to obey it, to be ready to act upon what the whisper says, and to live moment by moment in constant communication with God.

 

John 10:3-5

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger's voice.”

 

The Greek word used in this passage for voice is the word phone, from which we get the English word phone. So when His sheep hear His voice, it's like a personal phone connection between you and God!

 

Can you recognise the Whispers of love from God? Do you live in His presence moment by moment? Do you want to?

 

 

PRACTICE THE PRESENCE

 

It is not enough to hear on occasions, when we have a need or a problem to face. We need to have an open line to the throne of God every moment. We looked earlier at this verse from Isaiah…

 

Isaiah 30:21

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.”

 

I you can tune your heart to that still, small voice, if you can live moment by moment in communication with God, sensitive to His every whisper, then your entire life will change. You won't approach decisions, business, family or anything in the same way. You will start to see everything God’s way, and you will begin to walk in victory every moment!

 

CS Lewis once said,, “Prayer doesn’t change God; it changes me.”

 

How profound and true that is! Your communication with God is your intimate connection with Him, it's your lifeline direct to the Father who loves you, who whispers His love to you. His Whispers of love.

 

Then, when you are getting closer to Him, He allows you to participate in the work that He is doing and even to see His actions in relationship to your prayers. God hears and answers every prayer, but His purposes in prayer go far beyond giving you the answer that suits you!

 

God wants to transform your life through the process of prayer, through the familiarity of hearing and recognising and obeying His holy Whispers of love.. Your personal relationship with Christ is deepened and enlarged when you spend time talking to Him, and listening to His voice.. As you come into His presence with reverence and a quiet heart, ready to listen, He begins to purify your heart, change your perspectives and sift your priorities. You develop a passion for obedience to God, and you begin to see Him as the Provider for all your needs.

 

Most important, you experience the peace that comes from knowing God is in control (Phil. 4:6-7). Your anxiety melts away as you learn to trust Him. These are just some of the ways God uses prayer to change your heart. The more you pray, the more transformations you’ll discover. The more you recognise God’s Whispers of love, the more you obey His still, small voice, the more you will live in the peace that only comes from being at the centre of His will and purpose.

 

Hebrews 4:7

“Today, if you hear his voice,

do not harden

It's MOTHER’S DAY and today we want to celebrate Super Mums, and teach you how to love your mum the right way!

 

For many of us we have great mums, and often we are closer to them than our fathers. But whether you have a great mum or a shocker, whether she is alive or dead, near or far, today is a day to celebrate the good things about your mum.

 

So did you give her a gift? A card? A phone call? A cuddle?

THE ORIGIN OF MOTHER’S DAY

 

Mother’s Day was the idea of Anna Jarvis of Philadelphia in 1907, after her own mother had died. She wanted a special day to celebrate motherhood, and within 4 years every US state was celebrating Mother’s Day, and it was travelling around the world.

 

Yet within a few years she was shocked at the commercialism that had evolved around it. In fact, in 1923 she sued to stop a Mother’s Day celebration, saying it should be a day if sentiment, not profit.

 

Abraham Lincoln said, ''No man is poor who has a godly mother.'' Mums, there's a challenge for you on this your special day.

 

And the challenge to all of us with our mums is to honour them…

 

Ephesians 6:1-3

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise), “that it may go well with you and that you may live long in the land.”

 

THE HEART OF A MOTHER

CC BY-NC-ND by kjallryland

Mother’s hearts are different to others… Most often there is something in them that is nurturing and loving, despite many times their own difficulties and idiosyncrasies. In Lily House reunification of families is central to what we do. These girls could have been into drugs, prostitution, homelessness, illicit affairs, lying, cheating, alcoholism, whatever. But when they come to us their almost universal cry is, “"I want my kids back!”

 

Any woman can become a mother, it is a biological consequence of a sexual Union of some kind, good or bad. But becoming a great mother involves a lifetime of caring, sacrifice and hard work.

 

In a class one day the kids were given a maths question: state your answer as a fraction:  If there’s 10 at the table and one apple pie, how much does each one get?  One ninth! Say a child.  “Don’t you know your fractions?” Asked the teacher.  “Do you know my mother?  If there’s that many at the table and only one pie, she don’t want none!”

 

And frankly, we often don't really appreciate what our mothers have done, or sacrificed for us. We often concentrate on the negative. Yet, despite whatever problems they may have, there would not be a mother in this room that doesn't feel something special for their children.

 

Mary the mother of Jesus was like that…

Luke 2:51b

And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

 

HOW TO LOVE YOUR MUM

 

Loving your mum is a priority. It was in the Old Testament, and it was for Jesus.

 

Pauls sites the Ten Commandments and says,

Ephesians 6:2

“Honor your father and mother” (this is the first commandment with a promise),

 

Jesus, hanging on a cross in agony, still cared for his mum…

 

John 19:26-27

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

 

So how you should love your mum, today and every single day. Love is not a gooey feeling, it's an act of the will, so no matter how good or bad your mum might be, you can decide right now to love her.

 

And how should you love your mum? I believe we need to love them as God loves you. So here's 8 ways to love mum like God loves you…

 

 

  1. LOVE YOUR MUM VERBALLY

 

God tells you He loves you. The entire Bible is God telling you He loves you…

John 16:27

the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.

 

What you say reflects what's in your heart…

 

Luke 6:45

The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

 

What you say to your mum and about your mum reflects how you feel about her. Guys, women need to hear the words, “"I love you,” regardless of how much you show that you love them.

 

There was a couple in counselling where the wife complained that her husband never told her he loved her. He replied, “"Woman, I told you I loved you 40 years ago when we married, and if I ever change my mind I will let you know!”

 

Men especially, tell your mum that you love her. It's not weak or sissy, it's actually pretty cool. Regardless of what your mum has said or done, this Mother's Day tell your mum you love her with your words. Write her if you can't verbalise it, and she will cherish that note forever.

 

My kids made myself and Fiona little photo books highlighting what they think of us and what they remember as kids. I look at them from time to time and cherish them.

 

  1. LOVE YOUR MUM DEMONSTRATIVELY

 

You can talk until the world ends, unless you demonstrate your love it is worthless. Many times we demonstrate the opposite of what we say. A man says "I love you,” then hits his wife. A child says “I love you,” then disobeys his parents.

 

God doesn't just say He loves you, He backs it up with actions. He demonstrates His love for you…

 

Romans 5:8

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

 

Ask yourself, how can you demonstrate your love for your mum today. A phone call or a visit? A card or a present? Spending money or spending time, or both?

 

Demonstrate your love for mum just as God demonstrated His for you.

 

  1. LOVE YOUR MUM PATIENTLY

 

2 Peter 3:9

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

 

Let's face it, everyone can be irritating at times, including you, and including your mum. 1 Corinthians 13 tells us that love is patient, so especially as she gets older, be patient with your mum. Love your mum patiently.

 

Mum can be a pain. She might call at the most awkward times, say slightly offensive things, have her own particular, peculiar way of doing things. I adore my mum, but she's a classic for odd things said, like, “your dad would be taller if his legs were longer,” or, when we are all thinking but not saying a family member’s dress might be inappropriate, “"Don't wear that, it makes you look fat.”

 

I know mums can be irritating, but hey, she's your mum and deserves some patience! When she says the same thing 12 times, when you've heard the story a dozen times already, just love her patiently. I mean, Fiona's had to endure my latest fishing story a dozen times already!

 

  1. LOVE YOUR MUM AFFECTIONATELY

 

Deuteronomy 7:7-8

 

The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery.

 

God sets His affections on you. He loves you affectionately, and He’s not afraid to show it. So why not decide right now decide to show your mum some affection, more than you ever have before.

 

Women are usually pretty touchy-feely. They love hugs, kisses and the like from those who are special to them.  In our current culture, everyone suspects something sinister behind a hug, especially from men. But most often, women can sense if a hug is genuine and pure, they are wired that way.

 

So when’s the last time you gave your mum a big hug spontaneously, without her asking for it…or a kiss on the cheek, or just sat on the couch and held her hand for a change?

 

Think of this… Your mum is the first person who ever touched you… you were inside of her for 9 months, and when you were born the first overwhelming things she wanted to do was to hold you, cuddle you, settle you and care for you.  She changed nappies, cleaned up after you, fed you.

 

She touched you, even when you were grubby, smelly and screaming. She may not have always been there for you, but she did her share of touching when you needed it.

 

A mother’s love involves physical touch, so it's time to be affectionate back in love!

 

If you visit a nursing home! You will often notice old ladies want to touch you. They want to hold your hand, have a hug, etc. this is often because they are starved for that simple, innocent brand of love.  Their physical needs are covered by nursing staff, but that's not the same as the right touch.

 

  1. LOVE YOUR MUM PROTECTIVELY

 

Psalms 32:7

You are my hiding place;

you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance.

 

Particularly as your mum grows older, you need to protect her. Love your mum protectively.

 

2 Thessalonians 3:3

But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen you and protect you from the evil one.

 

As mums get older, many people just fob them off and ignore them. If mums are older, or single, then you need to go out of your way to protect and cherish them.

 

NBC America filed this report…

A 4-year-old boy may have saved his mother's life when he managed to unlock her iPhone and call his father for help after he found her unconscious on Sunday night.

 

Dr. Jeremy Vaughan was at his office when he received the frightening call from his 4-year-old son, Camden. "[He said,] 'Daddy, you need to come home! Mommy can't wake up,'" Vaughan told ABC News.

 

Vaughan dropped everything and rushed home to his wife Misty, where he found her unresponsive. He called 911. She had suffered a mysterious illness and had a seizure.

 

Hey, if a 4 year old can look out for his mum and protect her, I think we all could do the same, don't you?

 

  1. LOVE YOUR MUM GENEROUSLY

 

God is not a stingy God, He lavishes blessing upon you. He not only provides the bear minimum, He blesses you in thousands of ways. A home, a car, friends, fun, you don't scratch through life as a Christian, He promises life to the full!

 

Deuteronomy 7:13

He will love you, bless you, and multiply you. He will also bless the fruit of your womb and the fruit of your ground, your grain and your wine and your oil, the increase of your herds and the young of your flock, in the land that he swore to your fathers to give you.

 

Your Heavenly Father loves to be generous. In fact, many mums are generous to a fault, especially with their kids and grandkids. My mum could be tough where needed, but unbelievably generous. My mum and dad gave me my first guitar, and they gave me a slap on the backside when I was out of line. They gave me my first little bomby car at Uni, and they gave a hard time when I dated the wrong type of girl.

 

But years later, I want to be generous back to my mum. It's Mother's Day, buy the lady a present. Buy her a decent present, maybe one that actually costs a little bit! Love your mum on her special day.

 

I heard about a wealthy son who decided to do something very special for his mother on her day. He went to a pet shop and saw a very expensive talking bird. This was an unusual bird. This bird could whistle Amazing Grace and quote the Lord’s prayer. It was an unusual bird. Sure, it might cost $30,000, but he was wealthy so what did he care? He bought the bird, and arranged for it to be delivered to his mum.

 

On Mother's Day he called her, ''Mother, how did you like the bird I sent you?'' She said, ''O, it was delicious, son.''

 

Hopefully your gift fares a little better than his!

 

1 John 3:1

 

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

 

So don't be stingy with your mum, be generous with your money, and your time. The second one is often the hardest, because we all live busy lives. But I urge you to lavish some time on your mum. Take her out to dinner on a date, sit with her, relive the good times, listen to her whines and aches and pains, but decide to be lavish and generous because God is generous with you!

 

  1. LOVE YOUR MUM FAITHFULLY

 

Faithfulness is not a common thing in our modern world. Friends, spouses, elected officials, no one seems to be faithful these days.  When the going gets tough, most people disappear!

 

Lamentations 3:22-23

 

Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed,

for his compassions never fail.

They are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

 

God loves you with great faithfulness, and do you should love others with the same faithfulness, especially your mum on Mother's Day.

 

I saw a documentary on death row, where the interviewer spoke to men going to execution and their mothers. Invariably the moms would say, “He’s really such a good boy, he has a good heart, etc.” he may be an axe murderer, but she faithfully sees the good in him.

 

Now for most of you your mum has been there for you for at least part of your life. She's believed in you and even given up what she wanted for you.

 

Now the boot’s on the other foot, and it's payback time. Does your mum know you love her faithfully?

 

 

“But, she’s always complaining”…yes, just like you did! (Have you ever asked “"Are we nearly there yet?”) She talks about herself and asks same question over and over… just like you did as a kid or as a teenager, right?

 

One day, folks, you will be old too. You will experience the same fears, anxieties and pains your mum currently does.  Lets treat our mums as we’d hope to be treated when we are in their shoes!

 

 

Let's love them faithfully as our Heavenly a father loves us!

 

 

  1. LOVE YOUR MUM SACRIFICIALLY

 

God your father sacrificed for you because He loves you. He gave Heaven’s best for your worst sins, to win you to Himself!

 

King David knew how to love God. We tend to try and bargain with God like we do at the markets, trying to get the greatest blessing for the least price. David refused to do that, insisting that he would not offer sacrifices that cost him nothing…

 

1 Chronicles 21:24

 

But King David replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying the full price. I will not take for the Lord what is yours, or sacrifice a burnt offering that costs me nothing.”

 

True love is sacrificial. This flies in the face of modern love, which is all about “"What's in it for me.” Your mum loved you sacrificially at some point, and I believe that that is the way we should love our mums, and also God.

 

Sacrificial love hurts to bless another. It thinks beyond its own needs or wants or comforts to put someone else first.

 

When you visit your mum, she will want to talk about her pains, her dramas, her situation. She won't want to discuss the footy results. She probably won't want to talk about what you do. She might even make you miserable or mad or frustrated or even exhausted. When you put her first this Mother's Day, when you sit through this or give her a special gift or take her somewhere special, you are loving her sacrificially.

 

You might not like your mum. You might say that she doesn't deserve to be loved like that. She did this or that when I was young, she abandoned me, hurt me, destroyed my life! Sure, maybe your mum doesn't deserve your love, but neither do you deserve God’s love. That's what grace is, it's being loved when we don't deserve it.  And to give you grace God sacrificed the best of Heaven for you, to win your soul back from death to life.

 

Sacrificial love doesn't mean it is deserved!  When you love your mum despite what she might have said or done to you, you love her sacrificially, you love with the same love Jesus had as he hung on nails for 6 tortuous hours for you!

 

He laid His life down. He sacrificed Himself when you did not deserve it. If you love your mum in this way today, despite whatever she has done or said in the past, if you realise that this is not about what she deserves but about who she is, your mum, and about your sacrificial love, then this could be the best Mother's Day she's ever had!

 

Jesus died sacrificially one day hanging in unbelievable agony, for you. You don't deserve life, you deserve eternal death in hell, but He did it because He decided to love you. Not to make you into someone better than you are, but because He decided you're worth it!

 

Jesus Christ didn't die to make bad men good, He died to make dead men live. How will you respond to His sacrificial love for you today, and how will you show that love to your mum today?

 

 

In God We Trust... I Think!

As Christians we claim to trust God, we say "In God We Trust", we claim we're trusting the Lord in this situation or that, but are we really walking the walk or just talking the talk?

 

Psalms 33:16-18

 

The king is not saved by his great army;

a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.

The war horse is a false hope for salvation,

and by its great might it cannot rescue.

Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him,

on those who hope in his steadfast love,

 

Hebrew word for hope is yahal, which means to hope, to trust, to wait patiently, to tarry. This psalm is highlighting the fact that we would often rather trust in what we can see or touch tangibly instead of truly trust God!

 

Church is typical of this. We claim we are trusting in God, then our actions indicate we are following a church, or a denomination or even a man!

 

Blondin was a famous 19th century acrobat, especially famous for his tightrope act 160 feet above NiagaraBlonden Falls on a rope which was over a thousand feet long.

 

In 1860 a Royal party from Britain saw Blondin cross the Niagara Falls tightrope on stilts, and even blindfolded. Next he wheeled a wheelbarrow from one side to the other, and returned from the Canadian side with a sack of potatoes in it.

 

Then Blondin approached the Royal party. He asked the Duke of Newcastle, "do you believe I could take a man across the tightrope in this wheelbarrow?"

 

"Yes, I do" , said the Duke. "Hop in, then" , replied Blondin. Needless to say, the Duke declined Blondin's challenge. You see, he might have believed Blondin could do it, but he wasn't about to trust him with his life.

 

When it comes to trusting God, we often show this kind of belief. We believe in principle, We know He can do it, we're just not sure He can do it for us. But God is looking for followers who will trust him with their lives.

 

WHAT DO YOU FACE RIGHT NOW?

 

What is it that you are facing right now? Is it your health, financial loss, relationship breakdown?

 

However big the biggest thing you face right now, the question is not how big your problem is, it's how big is God and how faithful is He?

 

Honestly, we can talk about faith till the cows come home, our Christian faith should be like a tea bag... Our true colour comes out in hot water! When things get tough, when the odds are against us, these are the times when true faith stands up and says, no matter what you throw at me, I believe in Jesus!

 

IN GOD WE TRUST... IF WE CAN TRUST THE TANGIBLE

 

The challenge is, as Psalm 33 says, that we say we trust God, but I'm reality we are actually trusting man. Now before you get all high and mighty on me, let me confess that I think all of us, including me, does this.

 

In fact, in our modern world, this is the default position for Christians.

 

We say we trust God to heal us, but we pop a pill before we pray. We say we trust God to prosper us, but we are stingy with our giving and tithing, for fear that we won't have enough. We say that Jesus is Lord over our family, but we whine and complain about how our partner or children behave, and nag them when they let us down!

 

If we say we trust God, then we must not limit ourselves to horses, chariots, cars, houses, churches, men or anything else!

 

Listen to this...

Jeremiah 17:5

 

Thus says the Lord:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength,

whose heart turns away from the Lord.

 

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.

 

He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream,

and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

 

THE DANGER OF PRESUMPTION

 

There is a hidden danger we need to be explicit about before we move on, and that's the and danger of presumption. I see this time and again in the church. We make our own plans and assume that God is going to bless them. We even pray for His blessing on our plans, rather than waiting on Him to reveal His plans!

 

Proverbs 16:9

 

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.

 

How dare we treat God like a performing puppy! He is God, and we are His servants, not the other way around. Formulating our own plans then asking God to bless them is like throwing a few nuts and bolts together and asking God to turn them into a car!

 

We have previously talked about waiting on God, and we do this to establish His will, as opposed to our will. So stop pursuing your own desires and asking God to bless you in them. And the logical extension to that is, stop following your own plans then blaming God when they don't work out!

 

THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE

 

As human beings we always want to follow the path of least resistance. As Bruce Lee once said, flow like water around the rocks. We wants to be happy, blessed and comfortable. We have no room in our Theology or our pea-sized view of God to suffer, to hurt, to agonise, to face opposition or do it tough!

 

We just want to be blessed. Now while I absolutely believe God wants to bless you, He also is happy to take you through trials, temptations and difficult circumstances. Why? Because He knows the path of least resistance develops fat, lazy, uninspired, useless sheep.

 

He loves you more than that! In fact, He loves you so much that He will escort you personally through every fiery trial you face, if you'll let Him.

 

That's why He writes,

James 1:2-4

 

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

 

He wants you to be complete, He wants you to mature, and He's not adverse to letting you face trials to do it! Your comfort is a bit down on His list of priorities. The development of your character and your faith is quite a bit higher.

 

Theology that preaches that God never lets you suffer is not only shallow, dangerous and wrong, it robs you of the chance to grow in the things that really matter... Character, faith, trust, perseverance and more!

 

So does this mean God doesn't want to bless you? Does it mean He doesn't want to prosper you? Of course not! Jeremiah 29:11 clearly states that God wants the best for you, not to harm you. So what if God's best for you is the way of discomfort, trouble or even pain?

 

They're not misjudging God's character, or desires for us. They're just misjudging what's really important.

 

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Faced the wrath of the most powerful man on earth, King Nebuchadnezzar. They would not worship the image of gold the King had set up, so the King threatened to throw them into the fiery furnace. They didn't complain that life was tough, they didn't take the way of least resistance, they stood firm and trusted God!

 

And they said this...

Daniel 3:16-18

 

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

 

In other words, If God does something miraculous and saves us that's fine, and if He does not intervene and save us, we're good with that too. But we will never, never bow the knee to you, King!

 

That is faith! Not the path of least resistance, but the faith to follow their Lord down any path the Master chooses, trusting the Master, not man and not circumstances!

 

And what if He answers differently? What if the path God leads us down is not the one we, in our not so infinite wisdom, reckon we should follow? What if the whole thing takes longer than we reckon it ought to take?

 

Can you trust Him enough that, no matter the opposition, no matter the pain and no matter how long it takes, you will stay the course?

 

 

7 REASONS WHY IT IS BETTER TO TRUST IN THE LORD THAN IN MAN

 

Psalms 118: 8-9

It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes.

 

There are good and trustworthy men and women in life. Most of them are not politicians.  But no matter how good any man is, you cannot compare him with God.

 

Remember that verse from Jeremiah?

 

Jeremiah 17:5-8

 

Thus says the Lord:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength,

whose heart turns away from the Lord.

He is like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see any good come.

He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,

in an uninhabited salt land.

 

Jeremiah tells us here the consequences of trusting in man. It brings curse and dryness. It brings disappointment and frustration. It doesn't bring life, it brings ultimately death.

 

Even good men have limits. God knows that if you trust in me as your pastor, at so,e point I will let you down. I'm not God, but I know Him and long to walk with Him!

 

  1. GOD NEVER CHANGES, BUT MEN DO

 

Hebrews 13:8

 

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

 

Malachi 3:6

 

“For I the Lord do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.

 

God doesn't change. His compassions, His promises, His purposes last forever.

 

Im sick of hearing people saying God told them something, then a little later they claim God told them the complete opposite. That's not faith, folks, that's a joke, and it is against Scripture. Again, stop changing your mind and blaming God! Start listening to Him and being obedient, even if it's not the answer you were after!

 

  1. GOD DOES NOT LIE, BUT MEN DO

 

Numbers 23:19

 

God is not man, that he should lie,

or a son of man, that he should change his mind.

Has he said, and will he not do it?

Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?

 

In fact, Hebrews 6:18 says it is impossible for God to lie.

 

That's why I am encouraging you strongly to read the Word of God. When God speaks to you, He never lies and you can stand on it to face any opposition when you know God has spoken.

 

I faced a lot of opposition when I stepped up to pastor this church. But I could stand firm knowing that God had called me. And I had pages of Scripture to support me. Because God spoke, I didn't need to listen when others told me the church would be destroyed in less than 2 years.

 

God promised and led me... And He doesn't lie!

 

  1. GOD IS FAITHFUL, MEN ARE NOT

 

As we read His word every day we begin to understand His faithfulness, which is beyond anything man could ever offer

 

Lamentations 3:22-23

 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

 

The Bible even contrasts men and God for faithfulness...

 

2 Timothy 2:13

 

if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.

 

  1. GOD IS OMNISCIENT, MAN HAS LIMITED KNOWLEDGE

 

Hebrews 4:13

 

And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

 

God knows everything, and everyone totally. Think you can hide your sin? Think again. Think you can conceal you true intentions or your secret plans and agendas? Think again. Men cannot see and understand like God can.

 

So as you live your life, do you want a man in your corner, or an omniscient God!

 

  1. GOD IS OMNIPRESENT, MAN IS IN ONE PLACE

 

Jeremiah 23:24

 

Can a man hide himself in secret places so that I cannot see him? declares the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth? declares the Lord.

 

You cannot run, you cannot hide, you cannot secretly do anything because God is there. His Spirit is so dependable, it doesn't matter where you go, God is with you...

 

Psalms 139:7-10

 

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.

 

  1. GOD IS OMNIPOTENT, MAN HAS LIMITED POWER

 

Isaiah 40:28

 

Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.

 

God created everything with just a word! God is so powerful atomic bombs are like tiny hiccups. And this is the same God we serve. This same God loves you and asks for your trust.

 

Matthew 19:26

 

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

 

Do you believe it. In the midst of your storm, can you stand firm and trust that this same God will see you through.

 

Ephesians 3:20

 

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us,

 

  1. GOD SEES THINGS THROUGH, MAN GIVES UP

 

He's proved this again and again. Jesus saw it through...

 

Hebrews 12: 2 - Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

He saw His part through, and He promises He will finish the job in you if you let Him!

 

Philippians 1:6

 

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

 

God never gives up, He never walks away, He is never not able to complete what He has promised, and He never breaks His promises or changes his mind. If you are going to say "In God We Trust", let's actually trust in God the way He wants us to!

 

TRUST IN THE LORD... IN GOD WE TRUST... TRULY

 

I've just shown you how awesome, how amazingly huge and powerful and loving God is. Your struggles to trust God have nothing to do with Him, for He is able, but everything to do with you, and how you perceive Him.

 

Proverbs 3:5-6

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

 

God is so immeasurably, mind bogglingly powerful, He is so immutably able to do exceeding abundantly beyond anything we can ask or even think. Trying to fathom how amazing He is constitutes a disservice to Him, and an attempt to lean on your own understanding.

 

Don't try and get God, just learn how to know Him and love Him, and He'll do the rest, whatever you are trusting for.

 

Let me finish with a quote I read in my quiet time this week from AW TOZER...

 

"If we are not aware of what kind of God our God is, or what He is like, we simply cannot have faith; and so we struggle, wait and hope for faith. Faith does not come, because we do not know the character of God.

 

Faith, trust and hope are an automatic thing. If we have put our faith and hope and trust in the character of God, it will come naturally. It will flow as naturally as a stream down the mountain. When we know what God is like, that knowledge gets expressed in faith and trust and hope."

 

In other words, your trust in God is directly proportional to how well you know Him. Not how well you know of Him, not how many times you go to church... How well you actually know Him.

 

And the way you get to know Him is by daily Bible reading and prayer.

 

My challenge to you this morning is, will you commit to reading the Bible every day.  If you don't want to, then I must assume that you don't really want to know God, and are content with where your spiritual life is at right now.

 

But for the rest of us, let's get serious and committed to reading the Bible and prayer.

 

A tiny amount of faith in an infinitely powerful, infinitely loving God is worth far more that all the faith you can muster in a man, something man has made or even a church!

 

 

 

 

 

 

He Maketh No Mistake

 

In the 1920s a young man named A. M. Overton became the pastor of the First Baptist Church of Baldwyn, Mississippi. I happen to know a little about Baldwyn because we lived for seven years in nearby Tupelo. Baldwyn is a small community in north Mississippi on the road between Tupelo and Corinth. Back in the 1920s Baldwyn was just a tiny place. In 1932 Mrs. Overton was pregnant with their fourth child, but when it came time for delivery there were complications and both she and the baby died. During the funeral, the preacher officiating the service noticed Pastor Overton writing something on a piece of paper. After the service the minister asked him about it, and he handed him the paper with a poem he had just written. The poem was unknown for many years until someone set it to music. It eventually went around the world. The poem is called “He Maketh No Mistake.”

 

My Father’s way may twist and turn

My heart may throb and ache,

But in my soul I’m glad to know,

He maketh no mistake.

 

My cherished plans may go astray,

My hopes may fade away,

But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead,

For He doth know the way.

 

Tho’ night be dark and it may seem

That day will never break,

I’ll pin my faith, my all, in Him,

He maketh no mistake.

 

There’s so much now I cannot see,

My eyesight’s far too dim,

But come what may,

I’ll simply trust and leave it all to Him.

 

For by and by the mist will lift,

And plain it all He’ll make,

Through all the way, tho’ dark to me,

He made not one mistake.

True Love is talked about, but rarely seen in our modern world. "Be My Valentine," says God, but what does this mean for us on this Valentine's Day 2016?

I love you

Arabic - Ana behibek (to female)

Mandarin - Wo ai ni

Filipino - Mahal kita

Farsi - Doset daram

German - Ich liebe dich

Hindi - Hum Tumhe Pyar Karte hae

Italian - Ti amo

Malay - Saya cinta kepada mu

Russian - Ya tebya liubliu

Spanish - Te quiero / Te amo

French - Je T'Aime

 

Elvish - Amin mela lle (from The Lord of The Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien)

 

However you say it, every language has words for it, and every person on earth needs to hear those words. But what is Valentine’s Day all about?

 

A BIT OF VALENTINE HISTORY...

 

Claudius was an emperor with a problem... He wanted a huge army, but His men did not want to fight or go to war, they wanted to stay home with their wives and girlfriends. The year was 250AD.

 

So, as emperors or dictators do, he made a law... That no more marriages were allowed. That way the men would be free of encumbrances and free to fight. The young people called it cruel, and a priest called Valentine thought it ridiculous!

 

So Valentine defied the emperor by conducting marriage ceremonies in secret, whispering the words of commitment at great risk to himself and the couple he was marrying. One day the soldiers arrived, and Valentine let the couple escape, but he was caught, jailed and condemned to death for defying the emperor.

 

Many young couples threw flowers into Valentine's cell, and some like the jailer's daughter managed to visit him, sitting for hours talking about love and the marriage commitment. She believed that defying the emperor and conducting marriage ceremonies was important.

 

On the day he was executed, he left her a note thanking her for her friendship, and he signed off, "Love from your Valentine."

 

So the tradition of exchanging notes began, and from that first execution day of 14th February 269AD, the date has been remembered as the day when, love proved it will triumph over a cruel and overbearing emperor.

 

AN ILLUSTRATION OF TRUE LOVE

 

Valentine's Day has degraded from remembering Saint Valentine's selfless love to a cheap, tacky money grabbing exercise to squeeze flowers and chocolates out of couples, or give lonely stalkers he opportunity to voice unrequited love.

 

In all the commercialism, we've lost sight of what love really is. As Foreigner sang, "I want to know what love is," and don't we all!

 

On January 26th, 2005 a California train derailed, killing 11 people and injuring over 200. One of those 200 was a 44 year old man named John Phipps.

 

Phipps though pinned in the wreckage of the train, scrawled a message in his own blood to his wife and kids. As he regained consciousness, he examined his head and body and saw he was bleeding profusely. An upended train seat sat right above him, and thinking he might be dying, wrote this message: "I (heart symbol) my kids. I (heart symbol) Leslie." Later he said, "It wasn't a conscious thought. I've always told my wife and kids I loved them, and it just happened. I didn't plan it. I didn't say I have to leave a last word. I just wrote it without thinking."

 

His rescuers came on the scene minutes later and saw the message. Fire Captain Robert Rosario said, "I've seen some gruesome things on this job, but that moved me. My only thought was, I have to get that seat to his wife and kids." His wife said about the message, "Hallmark is never going to top that. It's moving, it's thoughtful and it's chilling all at the same time."

 

John Phipps wrote his message of true love in his own blood, and 2000 years ago Jesus Christ did the same thing. On a day when we celebrate human love, I want to concentrate on the ultimate act of divine love, written in His own blood, the Saviour pouring out His life for you!

 

So what is true love?

 

1. TRUE LOVE IS BUILT ON PROMISE

 

In the US, a divorce is granted every 26 seconds, and we are not much better here. Slightly more than half of all marriages, and nearly 60% of all remarriages end in divorce. Divorces are granted for all kinds of reasons, but the most common rationalization for why marriages end is, “We just don’t love each other as we once did.” As a society, we have come to believe that when the romantic feelings of love have cooled, the relationship is no longer valid.

 

Please understand, this is not an attack on divorcees, and if you are separated or divorced, God loves you, no matter the circumstances. Like the rest of us, you too are loved, forgiven and have a destiny in Christ, but I want to examine this complex interplay between feelings and true love.

 

What we need to understand is that relationships should be built upon a promise, not a passion. Should the passion die, relationships can continue because of the promise. In other words: it’s not your love that sustains your commitment, it’s your commitment that sustains your love.

 

God doesn't just love you. The Bible says God is love... More than chocolate, more than flowers, more than that gooey feeling inside you, God actually is love.

 

1 John 4:16

 

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

 

God's love for you is a promise. He will not wake up tomorrow and change His mind.

 

Titus 1:2

 

in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began.

 

2. TRUE LOVE IS COMMANDED

 

Rick Warren says, Love is more than attraction and more than arousal. It’s also more than sentimentality, like so many of today’s songs suggest. By this standard, is love dead when the emotion is gone? No — not at all — because love is an action, and a behavior.

 

Over and over again in the Bible, God commands us to love each other, and you can’t command an emotion.

 

John 13:34

 

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.

 

If I told you right now, “Be sad!” you couldn’t be sad on cue. You might be able to fake it, like a good actor should, but nobody is wired for real emotions to change on command.

 

If love were just an emotion, then God couldn’t command it. If He tried, you would say, "But I don't feel like it, Lord!"

 

But love is something you do. It's an action! It can produce emotion, but love itself is an action. It's a decision. It's an act of the will

 

So if your marriage is struggling, don't try and conjure up a feeling, instead make a decision. We made a vow, before God and man, and we don't break those vows. Many times when we make the decision to love, the feelings come along after a time.

 

If your relationship with your kids is struggling, remember you vowed to protect them and bring them up in the Lord. It's your sacred duty, regardless of how you feel.

 

3. TRUE LOVE IS DEMONSTRATED

 

And John doesn't mince word when it comes to true love... He says, don't just talk about it, do it... demonstrate it!

 

1 John 3:18

 

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

 

 

It is more than mere words. I can say to my wife, "I love you," but then ignore her, abuse her or overlook her and what she needs. That's not love, folks, that's just useless words (and guys can be very good at that), and we should be offering more than that to those we love, right?

 

As a young lad, I realised I had a bit of a skill writing and singing songs. I also recognised that these songs could have a desired affect on a young woman. So for a time I had a standard sing where I just changed the name of the girl. Did it work?... Yes. Was it real? Not a chance!

 

So what type of love are you demonstrating, to your partner, your kids, your family, your friends? Are you all talk and no action? Here's the standard we are to keep up...

 

1 Corinthians 13:4-8

 

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

 

Yesterday in my Quiet Time I read this from Charles Stanley...

How you love others reflects the love you have for Jesus. Be patient in love, willing to receive little or no thanks for something you have done in love for another, and quick to forgive. Remember, no act of love, including forgiveness, is ever wasted.

 

4. TRUE LOVE IS REDEEMING

 

Isaiah 44:22

 

I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud

and your sins like mist; return to me, for I have redeemed you.

 

True love buys you back, no matter what you have done in the past. It pays whatever price is needed, does whatever is required, to win their soul. It isn't stingy with time, money or care... It just pays, and that's it!

 

"Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no valley low enough, ain't no river wide enough, to keep me from getting to you!"

 

Look at Hosea. He married a girl, loved her, cared for her, and she started having sex with other guys all over the place. Then she slipped from adultery to prostitution, and became a sex slave. Then, under God's instructions, Hosea bought her back

 

Hosea 3:2-3

 

So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and about a homer and a lethek of barley. Then I told her, “You are to live with me many days; you must not be a prostitute or be intimate with any man, and I will behave the same way toward you.”

 

He'd been hurt, shamed publicly, let down, destroyed by this woman he loved, but his love was such that he bought her back. He did it because God asked him... This was not Pretty Woman!

 

As has Jesus with us. We've hurt Him, shamed Him, let Him down, but He loves us with selfless love, so much that He bought us back!

 

5. TRUE LOVE IS SELFLESS GIVING

 

John 3:16

 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 

So often people think love is what they can get. Men and women trawl bars and the Internet looking for someone to "make love" to for a night, and this is not love at all... It's lust! It's me wanting to satisfy my urges by using you. How is that anything like true love?

 

And the guy pressures the girl into doing it, and the girl thinks if I give him what he wants he'll love me, and the end is a disaster.

 

True love is selfless, forgiving, preferring one another love.

 

Jesus said...

John 15:13

 

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends.

 

Would you lay your life down for those you love? Jesus says this is greater love. Let me ask another question...

 

Do you say you love Jesus? Would you lay your life down for Him, would you crucify your life, your wants, your dreams, your career and even your family for Christ?

 

You might say, "Sure, I'd lay down my life for Christ and for those I love." I know I would. But, and here's the catch, you most often will not be asked to die for Christ or your loved ones, but you will be asked daily to lay your life down for them.

 

You see, sometimes it's easier to die for those you love than it is to live for them.

 

This is what Jesus meant when He stated,

 

Matthew 10:37-38

“Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. Whoever does not take up their cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

 

True love is selfless love, never selfish. True love doesn't say, "What can I get out of this relationship" but "What can I give to this relationship?" Christian marriages work, or at least should work, because when we lay our lives down for Christ we do so for each other.

 

Even in church, we must lay our lives down and serve each other, not our own interests and opinions. Beware of the so called Christian who obstinately forces their will and opinion on others. You'll spot them... They'll be harsh, aggressive and rarely will back down and be humble.

 

 

6. TRUE LOVE ENDURES

 

Love that is true stands the test of time, however hard the road is. I am still in love with my Valentine after 30 years, 3 kids, losing our fortune, our house and sometimes our minds. We've worked too hard, hurt too hard and suffered too much in those years, yet through it all we've pulled together, not apart.

 

My love for God is unshakable, as is my love for my wife and family. Even better, God's love for me is unshakable and eternal. And His love for you is the same. He will never leave you, never forsake you.

 

True love endures, it lasts for eternity!

 

You are His Valentine, and He won't let you go. And nothing, in this world, under it or above it, nothing will ever change His love for you. You can walk away, and He will love you. You can reject Him, and He will still love you, even if His heart breaks as you get what you deserve for your rebellion!

 

Romans 8:38-39

 

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Nothing will separate you from God's love, unless you choose to walk away... Nothing! That's how eternal His love is you you.

 

Whether you are single or in a relationship, God's love for you is all of what we've talked about today and more. It never ends, it never breaks, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes and always perseveres.

 

God's love never fails! And today you are His Valentine. You are the love of His life, you are the apple of His eye.

 

Today, whether you are in a relationship or not, we have arranged a very special Valentine's Day gift for you...