God's Tests

God's tests is something we all face. As the end of the year draws near, most students havecompleted their examinations. I don’t like exams. I remember sitting in theexam hall, chewing my pen, pondering these impossibly complex questions aboutstuff I will never have to deal with ever again for the rest of my life!

I found some really funny test answers kids have given, so I
thought I would share them with you…

Bob has 35 candy bars. He eats 9. What has he got now?    DIABETES

Why are there rings on Saturn? BECAUSE GOD LIKED IT SO HE
PUT A RING ON IT

Use the word climate in a sentence. THE HILL WAS SO BIG I
COULDN’T CLIMATE

What ended in 1896? 1895!

Alice places a prepared slide in her microscope, but when
she looks down it she cannot see anything. Suggest one reason why not.  SHE IS BLIND

How do you change centimetres to metres? TAKE THE CENTI BIT
OUT

What did Mahatma Gandhi and Gengis Khan have in common?
UNUSUAL NAMES

Name 4 heavy metals. METALLICA, LED ZEPPELIN, ANTHRAX,
MEGADEATH

Hopefully you would do better than those guys. But what might
you experience in school, a College or University is just a representation of
what you live out every day! You may not have known that God has exams and
tests, but He does… Look at Abraham and Isaac, look at the Canaanite woman…

Matthew 15:26-28 (ESV Strong's)

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.

The great things is that, if you fail a test, you don’t failin the whole of your life. God is for you, not against you. God loves you, and wants you to become everything you can possibly become in Him. So if you fail
God's tests in life, you simply get to resit the exam, again and again until you pass.

So don’t be surprised that God tests you, instead rejoice,
because, pass or fail, He loves you, …

1 Peter 4:12 (ESV Strong's)

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it
comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.

Therefore, it is in our interest to pass God’s tests, don’t
you think?

WHY DOES GOD TEST US?

If none of us like tests, and sometimes you barely hang on, why
does God test us? To answer that question, we need to step back and ask what it
is that God wants for our lives.

Any marketing expert will tell you that the main thing allpeople are interested in is “What’s in it for me.”  Whether it is buying a car or house, choosing a church, pursuing a career or even choosing a wife or husband, peoplenaturally ask what’s in it for them.

Why? Because we tend to put ourselves first. Kayleigh doesn’t suggest I give her a lollie, she doesn’t even ask for a lollie, she tells me she needs a lollie. What we think we need is the most important issueto us.

When you first come to Christ it is all about your needs. I
need to be saved, I need God to give me this, I need help with an addiction, I
need help in a relationship, I need, I need! However, as you mature in Christ,
you learn to take your eyes off what you need and place them on the One who can
meet that need, trusting Him to meet every need you have.

Paul promises,

Philippians 4:19 (ESV Strong's)

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his
riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

We as people seem intent on supplying our own needs, notwaiting for God to supply our needs, so we try our best and only come to Himwhen we can’t do it by ourselves. So God's tests improve our faith all the time, to take our eyes off ourselves and our abilities and to develop the character He wants in us.

1.     HE TESTS US TO DEVELOP TRUST

Psalms 20:7-8 (ESV Strong's)

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in
the name of the Lord our God.

They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.

Our natural tendency is to trust in man, in ourselves, inthings we can see and understand. Some trust in institutions like governments, sometrust in people’s benevolence, but the way to truly become someone great inthis world is to trust in the Lord. Develop your trust in God and you will develop the character He wants in you.

2.     HE TESTS US TO TEACH US PATIENCE

Psalms 27:13-14 (ESV Strong's)

I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in
the land of the living!

Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take
courage; wait for the Lord!

I don’t know about you, but I have a wait problem. I want God to teach me patience, as long as He does it quickly! As a man of action,waiting  is probably the hardest things for me to do in God's tests!

But God will often use waiting to teach us the spiritual fruit of patience. Someone of great character is generally not impatient orimpetuous, because they have passed God's tests of waiting.

3.     GOD'S TESTS HELP US TO CONFORM OUR WILL TO HIS

Let’s face it, we are stubborn and rebellious people, who
are more interested in what’s in it for me than becoming Christ like. Left to
ourselves, our will puts our interests and our comforts first, and everything
in this world tells us that that is what we should be doing. Buy this phone,
drive this car, you deserve the best!

Romans 12:2 (ESV Strong's)

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the
renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God,
what is good and acceptable and perfect.

When we stop conforming to the pattern of this world, when
we allow the Holy Spirit to renew our mind, then we begin to discern God’s
perfect will, and our will starts to conform to His will!

If we seek God’s will first, all the things we worry about
have a habit of just falling into place for us.

Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or
‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all
these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek
first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be
added to you.

4.     HE TESTS US TO EMPOWER US

I cannot live a triumphant Christian life in my own
strength, and neither can you! God never intended for you to sit His exams,
failing miserably every time. No, here’s the best news of all… He rigs the
exam.

At Uni, I had limited time and they could ask an unlimited
number of very curly questions, so I decided to study as much as I could, then
ask God to rig the questions, tailoring them to the material I had studied. He
actually did this!

And in life’s exams, He can rig them for you as well. He
doesn’t write the answers on your sleeve, but He supplies His Holy Spirit to
live within you and help you pass the tests of life!

Romans 8:26-27 (ESV Strong's)

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not
know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us
with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the
mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to
the will of God.

WHAT ARE GOD'S TESTS?

It is an accepted fact that you cannot improve that whichyou cannot test. Developing anything of value, a products, service,relationship, even a ministry, requires testing so you can discover how to makeit better. God allows tests of character to determine our faith or to test our devotion in order to teach us humility and prepare us for greater responsibilities. We even should test ourselves...

2 Corinthians 13:5 (ESV Strong's)

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith.
Test yourselves. Or do you not realise this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ
is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

Remember, God's tests in our lives to rain on our parades, or give us a hard time, but He lovingly allows us tests to develop our character and walk with Him. So how does He test us?

1.     DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES

We all face difficult circumstances at some point, and the
longer they last, the greater is the test! Joseph was sold into slavery, faced
hardship, false allegations, imprisonment, lasting years, yet he passed the
test with patience and endurance, showing love to the ones who had caused it…

Genesis 50:20 (ESV Strong's)

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for
good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are
today.

2.     PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL HARDSHIP

Suffering pain of any sort is a test, be it physical,
emotional, relational or financial pain. If you want to see a Biblical example
of someone passing the pain and hardship test, you need look no further than
Job, who lost everything financially, suffered personal attack from his wife
and friends. And was covered in sores, yet was able to say,

Job 13:15 (ESV Strong's)

Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my
ways to his face.

You may have faced this, or be facing this right now as God's tests! Fionawent through this when we lost everything, and we had to leave our designerhome for a tin shack in Nambour, in the summer, where it was so hot that shebroke out in a heat rash. She said, thanks Lord, now I even have the skindisease like Job! The turning point in this exam for her was when she decidedthat thank God for something every day, starting with the electronic gate sopeople couldn’t see how miserable she was!

3.     DELAYED FULFILMENT OF HIS PROMISES

Delayed fulfilment of God’s promises can be one of the
sternest tests of our faith. Joseph experiences it for years, and of course
Abraham and Sarah waited many years for their first child. Habakkuk was another
who complained about God’s overly long timetable…

Habakkuk 2:3 (ESV Strong's)

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens
to the end—it will not lie.

If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will
not delay.

4.     
PERSONAL ATTACKS

I can attest that personal attacks can be a God's tests of character. Being falsely accused, having your reputation trashed, having negativewords spoken against you has happened many times in my life, but these testsgive you a great opportunity to respond in a godly way… that’s how you pass!

1 Peter 2:12 (ESV Strong's)

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when
they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify
God on the day of visitation.

Attacking them back, arguing your innocence, trying to speakreason to them achieves little. Living a shining, godly life is what counts,knowing no matter what happens, you have behaved with integrity in
God's tests.

Years ago a local pastor attacked me when I left his church,
and called every other pastor on the coast to prevent me ministering in their
churches. I decided to say nothing in reply and let God vindicate me. My local
ministry just dried up. At that same time, and opportunity opened up and,
though I rarely ministered here, I began to minister internationally.

God's tests, I passed, and then He opened incredible opportunities. So if you are being attacked, don’t fight back, let God vindicate you… then you will pass the test!

5.     
BLESSINGS

Sometimes being blessed can actually be a test in itself,
because the pass mark is when we rely on God, not our own abilities. Often
Christians who become successful in business, forget about God! Prosperity can
be a sterner test than poverty!

King Solomon was the wisest man who ever lived, the richest
and most powerful king of Israel. But he had 700 wives and 300 concubines, an
unwise decision…

1 Kings 11:3-4 (ESV Strong's)

He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines.
And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned
away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord
his God, as was the heart of David his father.

So beware the blessing test! If you are blessed in finances,
health, business, relationships or church, stay humble and keep seeking God
lest your blessings cause you to fail the test!

6.     A CHALLENGE TO OBEDIENCE

In Genesis 22 Abraham passed the test of his obedience when God
asked him to sacrifice his only son. At the last moment an angel stepped in and
said…

Genesis 22:12 (ESV Strong's)

He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to
him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son,
your only son, from me.”

King Saul, however, failed the obedience test when he was
told to devote Amalek to destruction, choosing instead to keep the spoils for
himself. He then tried to cover his sin by claiming he was going to sacrifice
the spoils to the Lord, but Samuel said,

1 Samuel 15:22 (ESV Strong's)

 “Has the Lord as
great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the
Lord?

Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than
the fat of rams.

When God's tests involve  asking you to be obedient, you need to be obedient!

7.     A GREAT TEMPTATION

Temptation is a massive one of  God's tests of your obedience to God. You might think you cannot cope, that the temptation pressure is too great to bear,that you might cave in under it at any time, but God has this promise,

1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV Strong's)

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.
God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but
with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be
able to endure it.

So if you cannot stand under this test, find a way out and
run like crazy. Fleeing sin is better than succumbing to it, and fleeing it
might help you pass the test!

8.     A PERIOD OF SPIRITUAL DRYNESS

Sometimes God's tests involve  an extended period of spiritual dryness, and some of you are here at that point right now. You might be flat,uninspired, you might feel tired and distant from the Lord. You’re skippingquiet times and rarely pray. When facing the dryness test, you can see yourfaith shrivel up and die, or you can decide to thirst for God…

King David felt this way in the wilderness of Judah and
wrote,

Psalms 63:1 (ESV Strong's)

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts
for you;

my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where
there is no water.

HOW TO PASS GOD'S TESTS

Any one of God's tests could come your way at any time.Whether it is dryness or success, attacks or hardships, pain or obedience. To grow in the things that matter in eternity, you need to pass the tests. Not just oneor two… all of them. So what can you do to start passing all of those tests?

Remember, God allows times of testing into our lives to
develop character and trust. Being tested is not necessarily a sign of His
anger, disfavour or judgement, it is often a sign that you are truly moving
with God, and He is preparing you for something great!

Romans 8:28 (ESV Strong's)

And we know that for those who love God all things work
together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

All things… even the tests of life!

Let me finish with 4 things you can do to start passing your
exams…

1.     
SEARCH YOUR HEART

Psalms 139:23-24 (ESV Strong's)

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my
thoughts!

And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in
the way everlasting!

The first step in passing your exams is to have close,
serious look at your own life. You turn up here at church looking pious and
holy, but examine your heart and see if there be any offensive way within you.
If there is, confess it and move on, but don’t cover it over! Allow God to
shine His light into the darkest crevices of your soul and let Him clean up
your heart from the inside out.

2.     KEEP IN STEP WITH HIS SPIRIT

Time is one of the great testers of our faith, and we tend
to either lag behind God, or if you’re like me, run ahead! Timing is
everything, and God is eternal and gets time in a way we simple cannot!

After listing the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5, Paul
writes this…

Galatians 5:24-25 (ESV Strong's)

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the
flesh with its passions and desires.

If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.

Micah 6:8 talks about walking humbly with your God, step by
step with Him. Don’t get impatient, don’t get resentful and stop demanding
things of God. To pass the test you have to learn to faithfully wait. With
patience, even if your situation is painful, boring or limited.

3.     
STAY ON TARGET

In the original Star Wars, as the good guys are attacking
the Death Star, the pilots are screaming at each other to stay on target.
Lasers are flying everywhere, danger and imminent destruction are all around,
but they had a job to do, to put that proton torpedo into the small shaft and
blow up the Death Star!

So when you are tested, stay on target. The worst thing to
do is to look at the circumstances and let them dictate your destiny. Peter
stepped out of the boat with faith, but the waves and wind took his attention
off Jesus.

Psalms 119:15 (ESV Strong's)

I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your
ways.

Read His Word daily, get your life into God, serve and bless
and live for Him and you’ll find you’ll be passing tests!

4.     SEEK FIRST THE KINGDOM OF GOD

If you want to pass tests, seek God first. When I hear of
all the things believers are pursuing in their lives, my heart breaks because
unless they seek the Lord and His Kingdom first, they are headed for disaster.

We worry if we don’t have things, don’t achieve things or wecan get lured into the things of the world.

Matthew 6:31-33 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or
‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all
these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek
first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be
added to you.

If you seek God first, He either gives you the desires of
your heart, or they fade away into nothing because they weren’t that important
after all.

Job was tested in God's tests, and he said confidently,

Job 23:10 (ESV Strong's)

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I
shall come out as gold.

God through Zechariah told the remnant of His people

Zechariah 13:9 (ESV Strong's)

And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as
one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my
name, and I will answer them.

I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The
Lord is my God.’”

Today some of you here have tests, big tests. If that’s you,
I want to pray for you and stand with you in this test. I want to see you
triumph over this test, pass with flying colours, and it is easier to do that
together rather than separately. It might be a relationship, it might be a
testing job situation. It could be family, it could be financial, it could be a
huge temptation, but if you are facing a test today, stand up.

Dealing with Disappointments

Disappointments are a real thing for me, especially every Monday morning after a big weekend at church. If some aspect of Sunday was disappointing, I really flatline. Disappointments are inevitable in life, as we all experience from time to time. We can be disappointed by people, by situations, by ourselves and even by God.

By our very nature, being people of faith, hope and love, we open ourselves to potential disappointment. Sometimes we believe for the best in people and believe by faith for goodness to prevail, only to have our faith and our dreams shattered. You cannot stop disappointments in life, but you can manage them correctly and in a Godly way.

If you have recently suffered disappointment, I want to declare to you today that you can know and understand the truth by simply changing one letter… change the d for an h, and disappointment becomes His Appointment. Change that one letter, and it can change your entire perspective!

 

DISAPPOINTMENTS… A SET UP TO BE LET DOWN?

 

Why do so many of us struggle with disappointment in our lives? This week, many of us in leadership have had to work through a disappointment, a result we did not believe was right or fair, and while we boldly proclaim God is in control, our attempts to keep our chins up sometimes resemble hollow bravado.

 

Expectation plus reality often times results in disappointments. Disappointments, if not address in the proper perspective, will result in negativity and pessimism… and emotional flatline as I know too well. Christians are not exempted from this. Even worse, we may become critics of God as we can blame Him for inaction or being unfair in our time of distress. Listen to the opening verses of Habakkuk…

 

Habakkuk 1:2-4 (ESV Strong's)

O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear?

Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?

Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?

Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise.

So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth.

For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.

 

How do we set ourselves up for disappointments…

 

1.      HIGH EXPECTATIONS

 

Sometimes our high expectation disappoints us, but we need to discover that God has a better plan. Joseph expected to marry a virgin, so imagine how he felt when he discovered Mary was pregnant!  God had a better plan.

 

The people of Israel were about to enter the Promised land, and Moses sent in spies. They knew of God’s promises, but then 10 of the 12 reported back like this…

 

Numbers 13:32 (ESV Strong's)

So they brought to the people of Israel a bad report of the land that they had spied out, saying, “The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height.

 

High expectations can set us up at times for disappointment, especially when we tell God what we want Him to do for us! Listen, there is a difference between God telling you something and you telling God something.

 

2.      WRONG MOTIVES

 

Judas joined Jesus’ group expecting him to build an earthly kingdom, but his motives were wrong. His disappointment led to the grave mistake of betraying Jesus, and when we ask with wrong motives we often set ourselves up for disappointment and defeat.

 

James 4:3 (ESV Strong's)

You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.

 

If your motive for asking the Lord for something is personal, to promote yourself, or your ideas, your provision, your comfort, etc., then disappointment often follows, so if you are struggling with disappointment, check your motives.

 

3.      MISTAKEN PRIORITIES

 

What we think is a priority, God does not see it that way.  People often look for comfort and material blessings from God, but frankly God is more concerned about our character development than our comfort. The symbol for Christianity is a cross, not a cushion.

 

What we think is important, what we deem is a better way ahead is what we tend to pray for.  We might think that God should do something for us because it will make life easier for us, but God often has a better plan, a wiser, higher, more far reaching plan beyond what we, with our limited perception, decide we want…

 

1 Corinthians 1:25 (ESV Strong's)

For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

 

4.      FALSE RELIANCES

 

We often grow to rely on things that are based on man rather than God, and as such we open ourselves to disappointment. Connections, jobs, education and money are like shifting sand. They might be here at least right now, but the problem is that it is very easy to put our trust in these things instead of trusting in God. Our false reliance on worldly things often disappoints us.

 

Jeremiah 17:5 (ESV Strong's)

Thus says the Lord: Cursed is the man who trusts in man

and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord.

 

Sometimes expectations occur simply because we are used to relying on certain things, and when they fail us we suffer disappointment, because we were not really relying on God.

 

WE MUST RECOGNISE WE HAVE LIMITED PERCEPTION

 

God is all knowing, and all seeing, and He alone sees the big picture. Many times He is taking us on a journey building our faith and our character, but we only see from our limited point of view… we often can’t see the forest for the tress!

 

The Disciples did not understand why Jesus the Messiah should be crucified. In their limited understanding, crucifixion meant defeat. Little did they know that Jesus’ death was part of God’s mighty plan to redeem the world from the slavery of sin.

 

Our limited perception will disappoint us many times, so we need to make a conscious choice to trust God instead of what we see…

 

Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV Strong's)

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.

 

DISAPPOINTMENTS ARE NOT DEFEATS

 

Albert Einstein failed his college entrance exam. Walt Disney was fired from his first media job. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.

 

Abraham Lincoln, possibly the greatest president of the US, knew failure and disappointment… after losing his mother and later his fiancé, this is how his life moved ahead…

 

1836 Had a total nervous breakdown and was in bed for six months.

1838 Ran for state speaker- defeated.

1840 Ran for elector - defeated.

1843 Ran for Congress - lost.

1846 Ran for Congress again - this time he won - went to Washington and did a good job.

1848 Ran for re-election to Congress - lost.

1849 Ran for Land officer in his home state - rejected.

1854 Ran for Senate of the United States - lost.

1856 Ran for Vice-Presidential nomination, failed

1858 Ran for U.S. Senate again - again he lost.

1860 Elected president of the United States.

 

I believe that much of our problem when it comes to major disappointments is about perception. When we see our well laid, even godly plans broken and destroyed on the ground, we get down and depressed. But we have to be like Rocky… “I ain’t going down no more!” It’s all about perception…

 

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” – Abraham Lincoln

 

HOW TO TURN DISAPPOINTMENTS INTO HIS-APPOINTMENTS

 

Sometimes disappointment feels like a defeat, it feels like you have nowhere to go and no hope for the future. Yet from the ashes of your disappointment fresh destiny can arise. So how can you turn disappointment into His Appointment, and how can you look to the future when you sit in the ashes of despair?

 

1.      DON’T BLAME GOD

 

When we experience disappointment, it is always tempting to blame someone else, and this needs to be avoided. We especially need to not blame God, because although He is working all things for good behind the scene, He is often hurting too.

 

Proverbs 19:3 (ESV Strong's)

When a man's folly brings his way to ruin, his heart rages against the Lord.

 

If we blame God or others, we tend to feel unjustly treated and victimised, and this entrenches things like bitterness and jealousy rather than setting us free to move into our God directed destiny.

 

 

 

2.      DON’T STOP LISTENING TO GOD

 

When we experience disappointment, we often get mad at God for letting us down, and then we stop listening to Him. We say “God, I asked and You let me down, so I’ve lost all confidence in you and Your promises.”

 

In Exodus 4, the Israelites believed that God would set them free from slavery, and Moses approached pharaoh. But they then found they had an even harsher demand put on them, so it seem the approach by Moses had backfired big time. The people refused to listen to God or Moses then,

 

Exodus 6:9 (ESV Strong's)

Moses spoke thus to the people of Israel, but they did not listen to Moses, because of their broken spirit and harsh slavery.

 

In their disappointment at the result, they stopped listening to God. So if you are disappointed today, if you stepped out in faith and trusted God and you feel let down by the result, don’t stop following and listening to God!

 

3.      STEP BACK AND SEE THE BIG PICTURE

 

Isaiah 55:8-9 (ESV Strong's)

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 

As an eagle’s eyes see far beyond what a human eye can see, so God in His infinite wisdom and understanding, can see far beyond what puny man can see.

 

God is eternal, and He sees the big picture. We see just our small portion, and it is sometimes like viewing the back of a tapestry. We see pain, disappointments, struggle, hardship, dark coloured threads as well as light, and they seem to just make a mess. But if we could see the other side of the tapestry, we would see a vision of great beauty. We have to trust the master weaver as He weaves even disappointments and hardships into our lives.  Here’s a poem popularised by Corrie Ten Boom…

 

My Life is but a weaving

between my Lord and me;

I cannot choose the colors

He worketh steadily.

 

Oft times He weaveth sorrow

And I, in foolish pride,

Forget He sees the upper,

And I the under side.

 

Not til the loom is silent

And the shuttles cease to fly,

Shall God unroll the canvas

And explain the reason why.

 

The dark threads are as needful

In the Weaver’s skilful hand,

As the threads of gold and silver

In the pattern He has planned.

 

He knows, He loves, He cares,

Nothing this truth can dim.

He gives His very best to those

Who leave the choice with Him.

 

4.      SEEK GOD’S WILL, NOT YOUR OWN

 

As I said before, many of the things we pray and believe for are what we want, not necessarily what God wants. As Pentecostals, we are always stepping out in faith an believing for great things, which is wonderful, but sometimes we tell God by faith what we want, rather than allowing Him to reveal to us His will.

 

Matthew 6:33 (ESV Strong's)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

That’s the awesome thing… we do not have to seek the results the world wants, because if we seek the Lord Himself, we get everything we need in life, according to His wisdom!

 

I know we at Ignite need a bigger building, and so does God. If we would just seek Him first, and His Kingdom, then we can trust that He will open the right door at the right time. Until then, we have 150 people and 2 toilets, and a lot of close fellowship, but God is here, folks, and He will lead us on!  We don’t have to issue instructions to Him, we have to listen for His instructions to us!

 

5.      LET GOD BUILD WHAT MATTERS

 

In God’s perspective, He allows us times of testing and disappointment to build what He considers is most important.

 

Are buildings and car parks important to God? Is having a big or comfortable church that significant? Or is building character and faith more important? Is unity in our church of a higher priority than the number of toilets?

 

Of course it is, and God can use our current disappointments to build things of lasting value into our lives, and into this church.

 

If you can trust God to answer your prayer the way you desire, can you also trust Him if He says no? If we think our way is a good idea, can we entrust it to God, even if He says He has an even better idea.  I have come to understand that true faith trusts God no matter the result, because

 

Romans 8:28 (ESV Strong's)

we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

 

Many of us seek God’s hand, but don’t seek His face. Many times we put our trust in the result of our prayers rather than in God Himself, and if we do this we will be disappointed! However, if we stand and see that God is building something incredible right here before our eyes, we know that He can and will use even the disappointments for His glory and our character!

6. BELIEVE THAT GOD HAS A PLAN

 

When you experience disappointment, never lose sight of the promises God has made to you. He promises that He has a plan for your life, and with His infinite wisdom and knowledge, He is in a far better position to decide things for us, regardless of what we think should happen.

 

Growing up I always wanted to be a doctor. I missed by a couple of marks, and so became an Optometrist, and could have swapped to medicine but strongly felt to stay in Optics. As it turned out, as an Optometrist in my specialist area I have been more free to minister than I ever would have been as a doctor. God had a plan to prosper me!

 

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.

 

7. STAY FOCUSSED ON JESUS, NOT DISAPPOINTMENTS

 

Circumstances do not determine destiny, choices do. Sometimes like Peter we step out of the boat by faith, with our eyes and our faith set on the Lord, but the waves and wind buffet us so much that we begin to look at them instead of God, and we begin to sink!

 

Colossians 3:2 (ESV Strong's)

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

 

Hebrews 12:1-2 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,

 

Looking at Jesus, fixing our eyes on Him completely transforms how we view and deal with the disappointments. However disappointed you may be, keep focussed on God!

 

 

DISAPPOINTMENTS AND DEFEATS DON’T DETERMINE DESTINY

 

Like a Phoenix rising from the ashes of defeat, like Jesus rising to fullness of life from a cold, dark tomb, we can rise above our disappointments and hardships if we change our perception…

 

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV Strong's)

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

 

Our destiny as believers and our destiny as a church remains sure this day, whatever the disappointments we feel.

 

Imaging the incredible pain and disappointment Job faced, losing everything he valued in life, yet he could still say,

 

Job 13:15 (ESV Strong's)

Though he slay me, I will hope in him;

 

I CHOOSE TO NOT LOSE

 

Remember, disappointment only needs the change of one letter to become His Appointment. It only needs a small change in our perception to overcome disappointment in our lives. If we feel disappointment today, it’s not the end. We may feel like we’re losing, we may feel like the bad guys have won, but if we change our perception, we can choose to not lose and we can choose to win big with our God! We have a choice… disappointment or His Appointment…

 

After all, a set back is just a set up for a come back!

 

I started this message with the prophet Habakkuk whining and complaining about how the bad guys seem to be winning. And for some of us here, the bad guys seem to have won and we are disappointed.  Habakkuk cried out to God and wanted to know why good men suffer while ungodly men seem to get the breaks. He wanted to know why it seems that nice guys finish last, why people who behave well are beaten by those behaving badly.

 

And so the prophet and God argued back and forth for 3 chapters, but is want to finish with the final verses of that book. After crying out against the injustice of what had happened, as many of us are today, after feeling the disappointment and being overwhelmed by seeing the wrong guys winning, Habakkuk finishes his book this way. (If you are disappointed, I’d encourage the same…)

 

Habakkuk 3:17-19 (ESV Strong's)

Though the fig tree should not blossom,

nor fruit be on the vines,

the produce of the olive fail

and the fields yield no food,

the flock be cut off from the fold

and there be no herd in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord;

I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

God, the Lord, is my strength;

he makes my feet like the deer's;

he makes me tread on my high places.

 

Today I want to pray for those struggling with disappointment. If you’ve had a bad year, if you’re feel let down, if you question why the bad guys seem to be winning. If your trust in God is shaky because you cannot see what He is really doing, stand up.

 

Near the end of the year, you’re feeling down, run down or let down. We’re going to point your eyes up!

What is Your Legacy in Life?

Your legacy in life is something you leave for your children, and their children, for generations.  Like it or not, everybody leaves a legacy of some sort behind them. Every action, everything we say and do can cause a ripple effect, and your legacy yields some kind of fruit, either good or bad, often lasting generations.

Last week Fiona’s father passed away. This prompted me to think about the kind of legacy we leave behind us. It seems when we are confronted by our own death and mortality we start to think about our legacy, in other words, what we leave behind for our children and for generations to come... your legacy!

Paul faced this very situation in 2 Timothy 4. He faced imminent death, imprisoned in Rome awaiting execution, and this prompted him to look back on his life and ministry, but also to look forward to what was to come after death…

 

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (ESV Strong's)

For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

 

WHAT LASTS FOREVER?

 

So many of us spend so much time doing things that ultimately have no value! I look back on my life, and see many great highlights. I have received accolades, awards and achievements … nice at the time, but quickly they lose value as people and life moves on. We’ve bought things, invested and made money, and also lost loads of money. We’ve made great friends, and lost a few also through the years.

 

What lasts forever? What will your legacy be?  Some songs tell us love for a woman or man lasts forever. Some tell you that making money lasts forever. Don’t listen to what man says, why not ask the eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient God what lasts forever?  God says only 3 things last forever…

 

1.      GOD HIMSELF

 

Psalms 90:2 (ESV Strong's)

Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

 

God always has been and always will be. He has no beginning and no end. God lasts forever, in fact, God defines forever! That is why we worship Him, and will for all eternity!

 

2.      HIS WORD

 

Isaiah 40:8 (ESV Strong's)

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.

 

This Bible, God’s Word, stands forever. That’s why I encourage you strongly to read it. Do the Bible reading plan, read a little bit every day, and absorb the Word of God into your life. Any second you invest into God’s Word is an investment in eternity.

 

3.      THE SOULS OF MEN AND WOMEN

 

I once heard a comedian say, “I’m going to live forever… so far so good!” He may not realise it, but he’s exactly right! The Bible teaches that people are eternal, and that we face either eternity with Christ in heaven, of eternity in hell, separated from God…

 

Matthew 25:46 (ESV Strong's)

And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

 

When you die you face judgement. God will look at you and He will see only 2 types of people. He will not see good and bad. He will not see right and wrong, He certainly will not see successful and unsuccessful people.

 

He will only see those who have received His Son, and those who have rejected His Son. Those in Christ go to Heaven. Heaven is being with the Lord for eternity. What’s it like? I’m not entirely sure, but I do know it has God, therefore it has everything to do with God. Heaven is love, light, peace, joy, blessing, hope, etc.

 

Hell is where God is not, and therefore it’s the exact opposite of Heaven.

 

I hear people say, “Hell will be ok, my mates will be there, we’ll bring a pack of cards, drink a few beers and have a great time.” NO THEY WON’T!

 

Hell is hate, fear, isolation, there’s no mates in hell! It is pain and torment for all eternity, and perhaps the greatest torment is looking back in all the times you could have accepted Jesus, but didn’t! The souls of men and women last forever, in either Heaven or hell!

 

So unless we invest our lives into either of those three things, we are not investing in a lasting legacy!

 

YOU START TO THINK ABOUT YOUR LEGACY LATE IN LIFE

 

When we are young, we rarely think about our legacy, we just live for the moment, but as we age we start to think more and more about what we leave behind for future generations of those we love. Trouble is, by late in life many of us have created a toxic, horrible legacy, and our legacy is tainted long before we start to think about it!

 

Proverbs 13:22 (ESV Strong's)

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.

 

Memory is a funny thing, but there are 2 qualities of memory that I would highlight…

 

  1. We tend to remember the good times more so than the bad. Our minds seem to filter out a lot of the bad, Rose coloured glasses and all. Remember the good old days? I was there for some of them, and they were not that good! No cell phones. No internet. No colour TV. No computers. The Cold War, etc.
  2. We remember the last things rather than the older things.

 

Don Bradman was the world’s greatest batsman. His highest score was 452 not out, he scored 117 centuries, 37 double centuries with 6 of those over 300. What a batsman! But many remember most his final innings… bowled for a duck. Had he scored just 4 runs he would have averaged 100 in Test matches. As it was, he averaged 99.94, which is still awesome next to 51 for Ricky Ponting and Steve Waugh!

 

If you have lived a life that leaves a poor legacy, this is great news. There’s a chance to redeem it, no matter what you’ve done, because God can restore your life and your legacy!

 

WHAT WILL YOU BE REMEMBERED FOR?

 

So what will you be remembered for as your legacy?

 

Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV Strong's)

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

 

Your legacy, what you leave for your children, is directly dependent on your behaviour. If you have honoured and cherished your kids, and shown them this, then your legacy will be vastly different if you have abused or manipulated your children. When it comes to your legacy, your values and behaviour are instilled in your children, and then on into your grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In legacy, you truly reap what you sow…

 

Hosea 8:7 (ESV Strong's)

For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.

 

If you live a life of immorality, that’s the legacy you leave your children. Adulterers father adulterers. Single mums beget single mums who beget single mums. If you sow the wrong thing in your life, don’t expect your children to be any different, unless something major happens, like you come to Christ and change your legacy.  So what kinds of things do our kids inherit from us? Not just eyes or ears.

 

1.      HOW THEY THINK

 

When your children are young, you condition how they think about all kinds of things. If you vote liberal, often so will they. If you work hard, they tend to do the same. If you’re in business, often they will be too, if you’re a Christian,…

 

Psalms 78:3-4 (ESV Strong's)

things that we have heard and known, that our fathers have told us. We will not hide them from their children, but tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done.

 

2.      HOW THEY LIVE

 

Children are great imitators, so give the,m something great to imitate in your life!

 

If you swear, so will they. If you are dishonest and lie, or sleep around, or smoke, they will tend to do the same. The moral standard you set, they tend to follow. But here’s the great news, if you have a vibrant relationship with Christ, the chances are much higher that they will too!

 

Proverbs 22:6 (ESV Strong's)

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.

 

3.      HOW THEY CHOOSE

 

Deuteronomy 30:19 (ESV Strong's)

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live,

 

If you choose life, if you choose Jesus, if you choose blessing, the chances are much higher that they also will choose life, not death. They watch you and your decisions, and do likewise. My dad made very wise and godly decisions, and I saw the result and wanted to do the same in my life, and for my children.

 

4.      HOW THEY PARENT

 

Psalms 78:5-6 (ESV Strong's)

He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers

to teach to their children, that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children,

 

How we parent affects how our children parent. If we are distant, ignoring our kids, busy with our own lives, they will grow to be that way. Remember the song “Cats in the Cradle.” It was written by Harry Chapin and talks about fathers not having time for their kids. His wife challenged him about his touring schedule, and he said he would spend time with his son after his summer tour. He was killed in a car crash before how could make time for his son.

 

5.      HOW THEY RESPOND TO THE JESUS

 

Acts 2:38-39 (ESV Strong's)

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”

 

If you accept Jesus, and if you make Him Lord of your life, chances are your children will too. If you reject Him, chances are much higher that they will too, and that can be your legacy. Listen to this poem …

 

Daddy had a little boy; His soul was white as snow.

He never went to Sunday school Cause Daddy wouldn’t go.

He never heard the Word of God. That thrills the childish mind,

while other children went to class, This child was left behind.

And as he grew from babe to youth, Dad saw to his dismay,

a soul that once was snowy white, Became a dingy grey.

Realising that his son was lost, Dad tried to win him back.

But now the soul that once was white had turned an ugly black.

Dad even started back to church, and Bible study too;

He begged the preacher, "Isn’t there some thing that you can do?"

The preacher tried, and failed, and said "We’re just too far behind;

I tried to tell you years ago, But you would pay me no mind."

And so another soul was lost, that once was white as snow;

Church on Sunday would have helped, But Daddy wouldn’t go.

 

ARE GENERATIONAL CURSES REAL?

 

A generational curse is something talked about in Christian circles. Some say they’re not true, but I believe they are

 

Exodus 34:7 (ESV Strong's)

visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children's children, to the third and the fourth generation.”

 

But then later Ezekiel says,

 

Ezekiel 18:20 (ESV Strong's)

The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not suffer for the iniquity of the father, nor the father suffer for the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

 

I think generational curses are a fact of life. The fact is, if you leave a poor legacy, you only have yourself to blame because it is your legacy! It’s your decisions, it’s your lifestyle that they saw, imitated and started to live. And the effects of your bad decisions in the past, not only affects your children, but it affects generations to come…. Compare these 2 men who lived at the same time, the early 1700s…

 

  1. One man, Max Jukes, did not believe in religion and married a girl of the same opinion. From this union came 1,026 descendants. Studies showed that 300 died prematurely; 100 were sent to the jail; 190 sold themselves to vice, that is gambling, sex and hard living; 100 were drunkards, and the family cost the state of New York $1,100,00.00 (massive sum of money then!)

 

  1. Another man, Jonathan Edwards, believed in God and in his Christian training and married a girl of like character. From that union 729 descendants were studied and they discovered that 300 were preachers, 65 were college professors, 13 were university presidents; 6 authors; 3 U.S. Congressmen and 1 was vice president of the United States.

 

Are generational curses real? You bet, you see them all around every day. Can you break the curse? Absolutely, because God can restore the years the locusts have eaten, and your legacy, for generations to come!

 

AT SOME POINT YOUR KIDS DECIDE FOR THEMSELVES

 

Let me pause to offer some hope to those of you who tried to bring your children up as believers only to find them rejecting Christ. You can do all the right things, teach them well and train them in the things of God, but at some point you relinquish responsibility and they are old enough to make their own decisions.

 

If your children have walked away from Christ, don’t get angry at God, and stop beating yourself up about it, even if your decisions have added to their predicament. Whatever their upbringing, they reach a point where they must take responsibility for their actions and decisions. They will not stand before God with you, with their spouse, friends or anyone else. They will stand alone and give account for their words and deeds. Bu the Bible says this...

 

Proverbs 14:26 (ESV Strong's)

In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and his children will have a refuge.

 

So don’t beat yourself up, instead, pray and believe for their salvation. Pray with everything you have, believe with all your heart. They may appear to be rejecting Christ right now, but it ain’t over till it’s over! Many walk away, then come back to Christ to live powerful, effective lives!

 

YOUR LEGACY... IT IS TIME TO BREAK THE CURSE

 

Having a bad legacy passed on to you by your parents does not condemn you to repeat the same sins! You might be unsure of how to break the curse cycle, but God isn’t! And He cares about your legacy!

 

Galatians 3:13-14 (ESV Strong's)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

 

Jesus Christ paid the penalty for your sins, even the ones you may see, to have inherited from your upbringing.  Breaking God’s laws incur curses that can last many generations, and the devil has a field day messing up whole families for generations. But if generational curses are real, how much more are generational blessings?

 

So how can you break a bad legacy?

 

1.      RECOGNISE THE CURSE

 

How many times have you said, I’m not going to be like mum or day, then find yourself taking to your kids sounding exactly like your parents! Behaviour and actions are passed down, right?

 

But a spiritual curse is more than just irritating behaviour. There can be demonic influence from your parents passed to you, and you need to recognise that this is not just a modelled behaviour, it is a spiritual attack…

 

Ephesians 6:12 (ESV Strong's)

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

 

You cannot fight a spiritual generational curse with the flesh… recognise it for what it is, a spiritual attack not just a series of modelled behaviours!

 

2.      DECIDE TO FIGHT

 

So many people roll over and cop out of big changes or decisions, and blame their parents or upbringing. They say, “I drink because dad did.” Or “I have bad relationships like my mum did.”

 

If you recognise a bad legacy passed down from your parents, you need to decide that you’ve had enough of this curse. You need to decide to fight, and the only way you can successfully overcome a spiritual legacy is to turn to Christ, and ask Him to fight for you!

 

Isaiah 54:17 (ESV Strong's)

no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment.

This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”

 

If Christ is for us, who can be against us? If you come to Jesus today, if you repent and seek to serve Him, He will empower you to triumph over the enemy, because…

 

1 John 4:4 (ESV Strong's)

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

 

3.      PRAY, SEEK, SPEAK

 

Pray and seek God, and begin to change the way you speak about your legacy. Stop saying, “My parents made me do it,”

 

Galatians 5:1 (ESV Strong's)

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

 

You can be set free from the curses of a bad legacy. It will often times not be a one off prayer but a long journey seeking God, but He promises to empower and sustain you…

 

Matthew 6:33 (ESV Strong's)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

 

4.      SEEK SUPPORT

 

Trying to break words spoken over you or bad legacy by yourself can be a long, hard, lonely road. But here at Ignite there are people who will stand with you, people who love you, will be there in the good and the bad and will hold you up when you think you are going to fall!

 

Proverbs 27:17 (ESV Strong's)

Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.

 

5.      KEEP ON GOING

 

Overcoming an evil legacy is not a once off thing. You will have to persevere, to keep going even when you fail and fail again. With loving support around you, with the power of the Holy Spirit within you, you can overcome curses in your life, if you do not give up.

 

Galatians 6:9 (ESV Strong's)

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

 

 

THIS IS YOUR LIFE, THIS IS YOUR LEGACY

 

You get one life, and you reap what you sow. Take a few moments and look back at the whole of your life. Are you happy and satisfied? Do you feel like you are creating the right legacy for your children and their children?

 

Psalms 103:17 (ESV Strong's)

But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him,

and his righteousness to children's children,

 

Serving Jesus is the best way to leave a legacy for your children which will last eternity! We’ve established that we reap what we sow, later than we sow and more than we sow. Some of you look back at your life with regret, knowing that in the past, maybe even now, you’ve said and done things that you cannot take back, that have driven your children away from Christ.

 

Proverbs 13:22 (ESV Strong's)

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children's children, but the sinner's wealth is laid up for the righteous.

 

YOU’RE A NEW CREATION… ACT LIKE IT!

 

If you have not made wise decisions, if you have driven your children away from Christ… and ultimately coming to Jesus is the ultimate spiritual legacy you can leave… then there is hope. When you come to Christ you are a new creation!

 

2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV Strong's)

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

 

Money can be restored, property can be restored, cars and paintings and photographs and even reputations can be restored. It takes time and effort, but it can be done. And your legacy is no different. No matter how bad your behaviour, or how bad your speech or how tragic your lifestyle or legacy, God can and will restore to you the years the locusts have eaten. I can’t do it, you can’t do it, but He can!

 

No matter what has gone before, Come to Christ this morning and He will start to restore your legacy. Let’s pray and believe God for our kids, and their kids for generations to come!

 

When I die, I don’t want them to write on my grave, He was a good optometrist, or he was a great pastor, or musician. I’d like to think they might write something like, He walked with God. But my legacy will not be a pile of ashes or a fallen down headstone. It will be reflected in the lives of my children, and their children for generations to come!

 

If you have blown it when it comes to your kids, I want to pray for you today.

 

If you feel that your parents have passed on something, some habit, some mannerisms that you don’t want in your life, I want you to come to the Lord this morning, and we will begin the process of throwing off that bad legacy, and embracing your new life! You’re a new creation and you do not have to put up with what gets passed down to you. It's time to create your legacy in Christ!

 

Burnout! A Survival Guide

Burnout is the subject for today…

This will be one of the hardest message I have ever shared… I might as well be preaching into a mirror. As you might know, I work in a full time secular job, and also minister here at Ignite. Those who know me know I am very busy, get very tired and have been sick because my body is starting to collapse, so having been close to burn out myself, and been through it with my wife Fiona, I want to share what could be a pivotal message for many of us here.

 

First, you must understand that work, especially serving the Lord, is good. God ordains work , and there is a tremendous satisfaction that comes from work… Paul writes,

Colossians 1:29 (ESV Strong's)

For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.

 

However, what God is showing me is that there must be a balance, and that nobly falling on your sword in the name of labour and serving is not God’s will for your life at all.

 

I’m not trying to make those who are serving quit, but I want to make sure we are able to serve the Lord and are  change the world long into the future. I want us to grow old in church together, serving with joy, but to do that, we need to make some wise and balanced decisions…

 

Isaiah 40:28-31 (ESV Strong's)

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.

He gives power to the faint,

and to him who has no might he increases strength.

Even youths shall faint and be weary,

and young men shall fall exhausted;

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

they shall walk and not faint.

 

I’ve always been a happily busy person, but with all that is happening now at this time of year, God has spoken to me about something many of us face right now… burnout!  I am preaching this message to myself as much as any of you, but in the middle of one of the busiest years I can remember, I think we all need to stop and think about what we are doing.

 

WHAT CAUSES BURNOUT?

 

In 1965, a U.S. Senate subcommittee predicted that as a result of increasing labor productivity from automation and the computer revolution -- Americans would be working only about 20 hours a week by the year 2000, while taking seven weeks or more of vacation a year.

 

What went wrong? They did not predict our insatiable desire for more stuff!   Now we work longer and harder than ever, under more stress and pressure. We have actually increased our workload and our stress load, because we want more and more, and we forsake those we love and things that are important to us to achieve what ultimately amounts to very little.

 

In 2014 Japan passed a law to limit karoshi, which is death by overwork, usually from stroke, heart attacks or suicide. They warn one in 5 Japanese workers are at risk of karoshi.

 

Luke 12:15 (ESV Strong's)

And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

 

WHAT DOES BURNOUT FEEL LIKE?

 

The very expression seems to make us sigh, doesn’t it? In this fast-paced, overworked world, most of us have felt the tiring numbness of burnout. How should a believer in Christ respond to these feelings?

 

According to Psychology Today, Burnout is a state of chronic stress that leads to: physical and emotional exhaustion, cynicism and detachment, feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment. It never happens suddenly, but creeps up over prolonged time in chronic stress.

 

For me, burnout leads to feelings of being overwhelmed by everything, and then my body collapses and I get tied, then sick. In typical fashion, I soldier on as do many of us driven high achievers, but the fact is valiant effort and determination might see you through a current crisis, but such efforts will kill you over the long term.

 

Burnout is the constant companion of high achievers. I love being busy and achieving goals, but I am asking the Lord for a way to do this without going through burnout.

 

And here’s the thing… usually the length of time it takes you to slide into burnout is the same length of time it takes to recover.

 

THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL- WHAT BURNOUT DEPENDS ON

 

Most of us are not lazy… we want to work, and feel satisfaction when we work hard. We want to achieve goals, and be productive members of society. We want to bless our families, partners, friends and church. We want to serve God and make a lasting impact for the Lord on those around us. None of this is bad, it is all good, and God inspired. However, it comes down to balance.

 

As the pace picks up, as we get tired and we press on, over time we begin to grind down, and if this is left unchecked, we will slowly slide into burnout as feelings of overwhelm and helplessness grow and eventually swamp us. So what things contribute to this process?

 

1.      YOUR TREASURE

 

Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV Strong's)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

What is your treasure? I mean, what is really important to you? What do you strive for, live for, long for? If you long for something with all your heart and go for it, then this drive can start the burnout process. This especially becomes dangerous when we focus so exclusively on our goal that we neglect other things, often more important things like relationships and the Lord.

 

Jesus urges us to treasure what is really important in eternity, not just here on earth.  Money, cars, prestige, fame, comfort, even a sense of satisfaction, they all will pass away. No one complains on their death bed that they should have spent more time at work! We need to treasure only that which is eternal… God, His Word and relationships, the souls of men and women.

 

How apt are Christ’s words…

Matthew 16:26 (ESV Strong's)

For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?

 

2.      YOUR PERSONALITY

 

Burnout is heightened of course by certain personalities. Alpha males like me, choleric, driven, focussed, task orientated, high achieving people are classics for burnout. Laid back, cruisy, phlegmatic people almost always never suffer burnout.

 

Psalms 139:16 (ESV Strong's)

Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them,

the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

 

If you are that sort of person, and most of my team here at Ignite are, then that’s brilliant! Driven, dedicated people are the people that change the world, achieve great things and bless the Church. It is not a question of changing who you are to avoid burnout, but of balancing your drive and energy with the right kind of diffuser. Driven people exist in a self made pressure cooker, and need a release valve or two!

 

3.      THE TYRANNY OF URGENCY

 

If you have a treasure, a goal, even a good one, and if you have the personality to push on and achieve it, what’s the next step towards burnout?

 

Goal setting necessarily involve time frames, which make us achieve results in a given time. If you do not set a time frame, you generally achieve very little. But if you do set a time frame, you place pressure on yourself. I call this the tyranny of urgency.

 

In work, in ministry, in life, everyone wants everything done right now every time. We live for instant gratification today, from instant noodles, to instant purchases on the Internet.

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV Strong's)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

 

We’ve made time our enemy instead of our friend, because we make our deadlines dead weights upon our lives.  What’s more, we are so afflicted by what is urgent, we tend to do this before we do what’s important! Somehow we need to balance up urgency with importance, so that everything is done in its own time, not just the seemingly urgent things.

 

4.      THE SQUEAKY WHEEL

 

As a pastor I have many pressures on my life.  I do also as a business professional, a father and an itinerant ministry. Prioritising what is really important is key, because if you constantly try to solve complaints, you drive yourself to burnout.

 

The squeaky wheel gets the oil.. the more people complain, the more they get what they want… generally.  It’s sad but true!

 

Burnout is often hastened by people complaining, and they burrow into your brain like borers. You can have 10 great things said to you and one complaint, and who do you listen to? That’s right, the negative! As you approach burnout, the squeaky wheels can hasten the slide.

 

Even God felt worn down by the complainers…

 

Numbers 11:1 (ESV Strong's)

And the people complained in the hearing of the Lord about their misfortunes, and when the Lord heard it, his anger was kindled, and the fire of the Lord burned among them and consumed some outlying parts of the camp.

 

Burnout often involves complainers who constantly peck at you, wearing you down. It also involves…

 

5.      CRISIS TO CRISIS THINKING

 

One of the most common features of burnout is that you live from crisis to crisis. You find yourself not doing what you want, not doing what inspires you and not doing what you know is important, you just seem to muddle by putting out flames and playing catch-up. Some people live in a perpetual soap opera, drama after drama!

 

Song of Songs 2:15 (ESV Strong's)

Catch the foxes for us, the little foxes

that spoil the vineyards, for our vineyards are in blossom.”

 

These little foxes, these constant crises, often are the ones that ruin the vine. They demand attention, they demand it immediately, and in the end solving those problems does not lead to any gain at all. Part of burnout is constantly dealing with one little crisis after another, and it wears you down and sets you up for eventual collapse!

 

So if you are feeling overwhelmed and sliding into burnout, let’s look at how we can arrest this slide…

 

LEARN TO READ THE SIGNS

 

Matthew 16:2-3 (ESV Strong's)

He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

 

Avoiding burnout is partially about reading the signs, in your life and in the lives of others. I know for myself, when I am constantly exhausted, unable to do the things I long to do, when I am snappy or irritable, and when I get constantly sick with flu, etc. I know I am approaching burnout.

 

I also have a gift I received one time in Africa, the gift that keeps on giving, and when I get run down, m friend Malaria pays me a visit. We can read the signs in realestate, financial markets, weather and politics, but we need to read the signs about burnout and take action to limit them sooner.

HOW TO OVERCOME BURNOUT

 

God loves it when you serve Him! When you say, “Lord, I’m available… here am I Lord, use me!” But while it is God’s will that you should be a servant, and while serving the Lord is a part of living the Christian life, it is not God’s will for you to burn yourself out serving.

 

Mark 10:43-45 (ESV Strong's)

But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

Selfless serving is a part of the lives of great Christian leaders. I try to serve you selflessly here at Ignite, as does our leadership. However, even selfless serving requires safeguards to be put in place, to protect you and preserve the longevity of what you are doing.

 

Remember, if you burnout it generally takes as long to recover as it does to slide into it, sometimes years. So we want to serve and become great in the Kingdom of God, we also need to balance this with the right safeguards to protect us. if you are feeling overwhelmed and burnt out right now, how can you start recovering? What are the steps to recovery from burnout (and you need to put these in place before you reach full burnout… don’t wait until you’ve collapsed!)

 

1.      SURRENDER TO HIM

 

You may think surrender means to throw up your hands and cry, “I give up!” But that is not what we must do. Rather, we should surrender everything we have to the Lord. All of our desires, all our hopes, all our dreams, everything.  His hands are large enough to hold anything we need Him to handle, and you can trust Him.

 

Proverbs 16:3 (ESV Strong's)

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.

 

The first step to overcoming burnout is to surrendering to the Lord… stop constantly trying to solve it yourself! Give everything, every bit, every dream. Give it all to Him, surrender to Him and give Him control of your life, and your future!

 

2.      HAND OVER YOUR BURDEN

 

Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV Strong's)

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Burnout is burden, it’s carrying burdens that you cannot bear forever. If you are experiencing overwhelm, if you are feeling burnt out, then the Lord is saying to you now, “Hand over the burden.”

 

Some of you here are heavy laden. Some of you here are struggling, overwhelmed, bent in two. When you carry the load yourself you will find that you move towards burnout. Handing the burden to the Lord is a constant but necessary battle.

 

A yoke is how oxen are hitched to drag a great load. If an ox has an ill fitting yoke, he cannot drag a great load, because it pinches and rubs and hurts. Jesus says hand over your burden, but He does not promise a burden free life. What He does promise is a burden that fits, one that doesn’t rub and hurt and one that enables you to move great loads with effort but without pain.

 

3.      COMPARTMENTALISE

 

One great way of defusing burnout is to compartmentalise, or treat various aspects of your life as completely separated.  In life things tend to affect other things, and so burnout can be hastened when this cross pollination occurs. For example, a conflict at Work plays on your mind and affects your ministry and home life.

 

Matthew 6:34 (ESV Strong's)

“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

 

Jesus tells us that each day has enough trouble, so we should not be piling these troubles up layer upon layer until we collapse. Managing your time properly is essential. We can waste so much time Worrying about things we are powerless to change, and like a rocking horse, worry keeps your mind occupied but you don’t go anywhere!

 

Part of the training executives are given to combat burnout is compartmentalising, so that when they come home they leave the day’s crises at work. Ideally, your home life and your quiet time should be unaffected by your work or ministry. Easy to say, but hard to do!

 

4.      RECOGNISE AND BALANCE THE SEASONS

 

Ecclesiastes 3:1-3 (ESV Strong's)

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;

a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;

 

In every life, work, ministry, there are times and seasons. They’re not bad or good necessarily. They are just times when things have to get done. As you serve, there are seasons to press in, go hard and serve selflessly. But you must balance these times with other seasons, seasons of rest, seasons of relaxation, seasons of trust and time with Jesus.

 

5.      PROGRAM BREAKS

 

Part of recognising the seasons is to not feel guilty when you are in a season of rest. High achievers have trouble resting, and if they do they feel guilty that they are not working! Fiona and I have saved hard and bought a caravan, for the express purpose of making me take time off. And I struggle to do this, part of which is I feel guilty that I am not working! Even Jesus suggested breaks…

 

Mark 6:31 (ESV Strong's)

And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.

 

The pressure of ministry, the pressure of life, all of these mount up over time and we need, in fact even Jesus needed, rest… come ye apart, or come ye apart, if you don’t you will! Jesus took time to be alone, away from the crowds and the demands of ministry.

 

Robert Murray McCheyne was a great Scottish preacher and pastor in the 1840s, and he selflessly serve the Lord, but died at the age of only 29. On his deathbed he said, “The Lord gave me a horse to ride and a message to deliver. Alas, I have killed the horse and cannot deliver the message.”

 

So take wise breaks, and stop yourself feeling guilty about them, because without them you will kill the horse, and ultimately fail in your mission in life.

 

6.      DRAW NEAR TO FRIENDS

 

In times of business and burnout, friends can be a great encouragement. Each of our leaders at Ignite I consider to be a friend, and sometimes just hanging out with friends can revive your spirit and give you strength and courage for the future.

 

Proverbs 17:17 (ESV Strong's)

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

 

I cannot tell you how often just hanging out with good friends warms the spirit when it is flagging and struggling. That’s why we have church… because we are better together, one body, one family! True friends are there to support you when you need them, so find a few and open up to them.

 

 

7.      PRIORITISE

 

I mentioned before that we often get deflected from doing what is really important long term by the urgent, the complainers or the current crisis. So one key skill you can develop to combat burnout is to learn to prioritise properly.

 

To do this you need to judge the value of what is demanding attention. Is it important, or just demanding? Is it eternal, or just temporal? Is it the Lord, or just pressure? Jesus said,

 

Mark 8:36 (ESV Strong's)

For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

 

You can seemingly have everything, yet lose what is important in the long run. How many successful businessmen lose their families? How many successful ministries lose their relationships?

 

So prioritising is essential to avoid the pressures that lead to burnout. And if I know that something is not really important in the long run, I can breathe easy and relax instead of stressing! Why not sit and write a list of what is really important in the long run, then decide what time resources you want to devote to each of those items. Don’t win the world and lose your soul!

 

I suggest this…

  1. God, and your relationship with Him, especially quiet times,
  2. Family, make spending time with them a priority and do something special
  3. Work, you need to commit at least some time to earning money
  4. Church, be a part of reaching the world for Jesus, because it is eternal
  5. Friends, make sure you program time to laugh and love friends. Go to a movie, watch a footy match, have lunch, dinner, or coffee.

 

You need to take time to ask the Lord what you should do, or not do. Jesus Himself said this…

 

John 5:19 (ESV Strong's)

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.

 

8.      BE SELECTIVE… THE POWER OF NO!

 

Every time you say yes to something you are saying no to something else, so be brave enough to say no to things that might seem urgent but ultimately have no real value.  Jesus said,

 

Matthew 5:37 (ESV Strong's)

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

 

So think long and hard before you say yes or no. Discuss it with friends, gain loads of advice because

 

Proverbs 15:22 (ESV Strong's)

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed.

 

9.      TURN OFF THE SMART DEVICE

 

We all have them, and these days they control our lives. Turn the darn thing off. You might think you cannot last a minute or an hour without checking emails, messages, instant messages or Facebook, but people survived quite well for Millenia without these modern conveniences.

 

Ephesians 5:15-16 (ESV Strong's)

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.

 

Is checking your email or messages constantly the best use of time? Stop doing it, and seek God not man! Take time off, and turn off.

 

STOP, REVIVE, SURVIVE

 

If you feel yourself sliding towards burnout, the number one thing to do is stop, reevaluate your life and the direction it is going, read the signs and start making wise changes to help you survive without burning out. This slogan is used about traveling long distances on the road, and it is true about traveling long distances in your life and ministry. The Christian life is not a sprint, it’s a marathon, so pace yourself wisely.

 

2 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV Strong's)

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

 

Some of us here are feeling it right now, mid year, overworked, stressed and approaching burnout. Right now I confess that I am weak, tired and often sick. Yet I know in the midst of all this, He is strong in me when I am weak.

 

This morning I sense that many of us need to be refreshed. It might be that work pressures are too great. Maybe home life is overwhelming, kids and partners and bills and pressures. Maybe even Church, as good and as valuable as serving the Lord might be, maybe you are still feeling burnt out.

 

I put on my leadership hat and say, come on everybody, let’s serve and trust and do great things for God. But I change to my pastor’s hat, and I cannot let you destroy yourself burning out serving in this place. I want to Ignite you and have you burn bright for Jesus, but not have you burn out to ashes,

 

Acts 3:19-20 (ESV Strong's)

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

 

It’s time for us to be refreshed, it’s time for us to apply all the principles I have just shared with you. It’s time for us to balance our lives and our schedules, and most of all it’s time to wait upon the Lord.

 

Isaiah 40:29-31 (ESV Strong's)

He gives power to the faint,

and to him who has no might he increases strength.

Even youths shall faint and be weary,

and young men shall fall exhausted;

but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles;

they shall run and not be weary;

they shall walk and not faint.

 

If you are feeling tired, overwhelmed or burnt out today, I am going to ask you to stand and pray with me.

 

Isaiah 55:1 (ESV Strong's)

“Come, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters;

and he who has no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without price.

 

Overcoming Discouragement

Overcoming discouragement is something we all have to do if we are to succeed in life.  Nehemiah came to Jerusalem to rebuild the walls, walls that had been broken down for centuries. He inspired the people, they began to build, but opposition, the massiveness of the task and internal conflicts threatened to stop the project.

 

Nehemiah 4:10

In Judah it was said, “The strength of those who bear the burdens is failing. There is too much rubble. By ourselves we will not be able to rebuild the wall.”

You probably started the year full of hope. A new year, a new dream of what could be.you set out with expectancy and hope, trusting the Lord, believing that this was the year of breakthrough. You kept going for a while, suffered a few disappointments, but soldiered on in your business, in your family or in your ministry.

 

But then came the middle of the year… things got tough, disappointments abound, the hopes of the start of the year grew dim. Discouragement is a constant spectre lurking near the edge of your mind, especially if you want to serve God and make a difference. Overcoming discouragement now becomes a priority!

 

Life is filled with problems, challenges, and disappointments. The school fundraiser didn’t go as well as we had hoped. The team finished the season last despite our best coaching efforts. The event you organised did not receive glowing reviews despite all your hard work and late nights of preparation. The report from the doctor was worse than we expected. The bills pile up higher than we’d hoped. Family issues you thought had been dealt with are raised again.

 

Things happen that mess up our best-laid plans. Often, we find ourselves let down and discouraged. Sometimes, it’s so bad that we just want to give up. Discouragement sets in and says, “Why bother? Nobody cares anyhow.” Despite the circumstances, discouragement doesn’t have to overwhelm us. We can learn from it, benefit from it, and we can overcome it.

 

Discouragement ought to be our first indication that it is time to pray. We often become discouraged because we get too busy and neglect prayer. Many believers are discouraged by life’s problems and then lack the confidence that they can deal effectively with life’s toughest challenges. In overcoming discouragement we need to call on God to help us understand His guidance in the midst of our circumstances and disappointments.

 

THAT IS DISAPPOINTING

 

Disappointment is inevitable… discouragement is optional. I started this year with high hopes, many of which have not been reached. We all do. And when we start to feel like that, discouragement is a downhill spiral that can take over our lives!

 

Life is full of disappointments, and as these build and start to pile up, they seem to accumulate and weight down upon us, even to the point of overwhelming us, and that is discouragement. Discouragement makes you tired, it saps your strength and eventually it breaks your heart! Overcoming discouragement is key.

 

And this is commonplace, in life and in the Bible. Most Bible heroes went through times of doubt and discouragement, men like David and Gideon, Joshua and Moses, Paul and Peter and John. Yet in the midst of great persecution Paul can write this…

 

2 Corinthians 4:8-9

We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

 

How can he do that? I’m sure he fought discouragement, but it never overwhelmed him and it never crushed him. He was able to take disappointment and change the first letter to H… His Appointment!

 

While discouragement can cause depression and the inability to act, overcoming discouragement can also motivate a person, giving renewed determination. Like Nehemiah, we can let discouragement cause us to find a way to solve the problem. We can pray, plan, and then move ahead, knowing that God goes with us.

 

CAUSES OF DISCOURAGEMENT

 

The dictionary defines discouragement as “to deprive of courage, hope, or

confidence; dishearten; dispirit.”

 

I define it as feeling overwhelmed by by feelings of inadequacy. Notice that feelings appears twice, because if you step back and look at it, discouragement is not fact, not substance, it is all feeling!

 

There are three underlying causes for discouragement: (1) lack of confidence in God; (2) lack of confidence in ourselves; or (3) lack of direction for the future.

 

These are all made to seem worse by external factors. Circumstances, other people’s words and opinions, timing, defeat and ridicule all make discouragement seem worse, but the true cause is internal… it is within you and I, and it is part of human nature.

 

For example, I might sing somewhere, and hundreds even thousands are blessed, and many people send words of encouragement. Then one person criticises. Which do you think I think about the most? You do something in church and everyone likes it, but one person criticises. Who do you remember? Why is it always your wife?

 

As these pressures build up, I find I rehearse the negative things over and over in my mind, until I approach overwhelm. And it is this feeling of overwhelm that fuels discouragement.

 

God knows and understands. He understood the task Joshua faced to enter the Promised Land, and how discouraged he could become. Moses was gone, he was leading alone and asked to do what his mentor couldn’t do. In Joshua 1, God shows us that courage is the opposite of discourage, and He calls on Joshua to be “strong and courageous”, then God gives him this key…

 

Joshua 1:8

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

 

Discouragement is the overwhelm you feel, the down you feel, the inadequacy you feel when things do not work out. Interestingly, I frequently get very discouraged after a triumph. The feeling of flatness after the high of something great is also discouragement. That’s why God directed Joshua to His Word. Staying close to God is the key!

 

 

OVERCOMING DISCOURAGEMENT- HOW TO OVERCOME THE OVERWHELM

 

Discouragement is a feeling. It can cripple you, it can make your life miserable, it can drive people away from you, but it is just a feeling. So how can you overcome discouragement and face life’s difficulties and challenges with the opposite spirit… encouragement?

 

1.     KNOW GOD CARES ABOUT YOU

 

The first step is to understand what God thinks of you. If you see God as harsh and judgemental, no wonder you get discouraged! Step 1 is understanding what God really thinks about you.

 

Psalms 139:14

I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.

 

Psalms 17:8

Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings,

 

Deuteronomy 7:6

The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession,

 

1 Peter 2:9

 

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

 

To start overcoming discouragement, start by seeing Yourself as God sees you. You’re precious, you’re special, you’re chosen, you’re indwelled by His Spirit. You’re not a mistake, you’re not a failure and you’re not an embarrassment.

 

I read the testimony of a girl named Jenny, born with Down’s Syndrome. Discouraged and hurt by what kids said at school, feeling like a mistake, her mum challenged her like this… I’ll give you $5,000 if you can find anywhere in the Bible where God tells you you’re a mistake. She never got the money, but she concluded, “God doesn’t make mistakes, and that’s the truth, no matter what we sometimes think.” Smart girl!

 

2.     RIDE OUT THE STORM

 

Many people never realise their full potential because they become discouraged by the battles they face, and they give up too soon. When overcoming discouragement we must never quit.

 

Galatians 6:9

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.

 

Picture this… Age 22, Failed in business, 23, Ran for Legislature—defeated, 24, Again failed in business, Age 25, Elected to Legislature, 26 sweetheart died, age 27 Had a nervous breakdown, age 29 Defeated for Speaker, 31 Defeated for Elector, 34 Defeated for Congress, 37 Elected to Congress, 39 again Defeated for Congress, then at age 46, Defeated for Senate, ran for Vice President at 47, Defeated, ran for senate age 49, and again defeated, but at age 51, Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States!
Don’t give up, ride out the storm, and make no big decisions in the worst of it!

 

3.     REALISE GOD USES ORDINARY PEOPLE

 

We don’t have to be spiritual giants to experience God’s grace in our lives. He chooses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things for Him.

 

1 Corinthians 1:26-27

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

 

God doesn’t need you to be pretty, talented, gifted or anything else, He just needs you to be available and willing. He delights to do the extraordinary with the ordinary!

 

4.     DON’T BE DEFEATED BY THE NEGATIVES

 

I bet you anything that, if you listen, you’re surrounded by voices saying you can’t, or it will never work. That’s what the world dishes up every time. Listening to these voices discourages you. If you're serious about overcoming discouragement, it’s time to take your eyes off the negatives and place them firmly on something or someone positive.

 

Isaiah 54:17

no weapon that is fashioned against you shall succeed, and you shall refute every tongue that rises against you in judgment. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord and their vindication from me, declares the Lord.”

 

And trust me, opinions are like noses… everyone has one, and most of them smell bad!

 

5.     REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE SPECIAL

 

We mentioned this before, you are not an accident, you are created in God’s image to love Him and serve Him. You are special, you are precious.

 

Isaiah 43:4

Because you are precious in my eyes, and honoured, and I love you,

I give men in return for you, peoples in exchange for your life.

 

If you are discouraged, overcoming discouragement starts with you getting your head around the fact that you are valuable to God. He chooses you, and he is a loving Father longing to wrap His arms around you and love all over you. Listen, it’s not what you do for Him that makes Him love you, it’s just that you are you, and He loves you no matter what, and no matter what you’ve done!

 

God uniquely created us and designed us to serve Him. No one else can do what we can do for Him. You are uniquely gifted to minister to people no one else will ever meet or touch. You must not give up just because there are challenges and obstacles. Don’t get discouraged, get encouraged!

 

6.     WATCH YOUR BEHAVIOUR

 

I said before, what we focus on determines what we become, so not only must we focus on Christ, but we must also focus on our behaviour.

 

1 Peter 2:12

Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honourable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

 

If you are feeling discouraged, to be overcoming discouragement you need to pay close attention to your behaviour.

 

We need to do what is right, no matter how we feel. We should make sure our behaviour determines our feelings rather than allowing our feelings to determine our behaviour. People will say, “I’m just being myself,” but hey, why not be your best self?

 

Maybe you’re feeling so down and discouraged and miserable that you think you cannot change your behaviour. You might be grumpy and snappy, yelling at the kids and snapping at those you love. Well, if the pastor or a police officer knocks on the door, I bet you’re going to change your behaviour just like that. Don’t say you can’t change, because when you need to you can!

 

Watching our behaviour and being our best self not only changes your discouraging feeling, but overcoming discouragement can set you free to be creative, confident, and committed.

 

These days people leave church of the slightest reason. A decision didn’t go your way, you heard something you didn’t like, you did something and it wasn’t well received. Watch your behaviour! If you keep serving, keep faithful and keep focussed on Christ, you will be raised up in due time.

 

7.     MIND YOUR LANGUAGE

 

I’m not talking about swearing, because most of you don’t, I’m talking about how you speak about yourself. If you constantly speak words over your life they become self fulfilling prophecy…

 

Proverbs 23:7

 

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he:

 

Me Jesus put it this way...

 

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 constantly reveals what is going on in your heart. If you constantly tell yourself you can’t do it, it’s too hard or you’re not worth it, then your actions follow suit most often, and overcoming discouragement is far harder!

 

Fiona pulled me up just recently. I constantly say I’m tired, several times a night, and she pointed it out. If I don’t think about it or say it as much, guess what? I don’t feel as tired.

 

Watch what you say, to yourself and others, because it directly affects what you do.

 

8.     BE PERSISTENT, BUT GIVE YOURSELF PERMISSION TO FAIL

 

Luke 18 tells the story of the persistent widow, who badgered a judge to give her protection until he said…

 

Luke 18:5

because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’”

 

Korean Grandma Sa-soon went for her licence for the first time at age 60, and failed the written portion, consisting of 40 multiple choice questions 949 times; the concept of many of the questions were confusing to her, being an elderly woman living in a remote village. Finally, on the 950th attempt she got a passing grade of 60 and moved on to the actual driver's test which she only failed 4 times before getting passing marks. She became a national hero in South Korea, and Kia gave her a car for free!

 

 

Persistence is essential in overcoming discouragement, because discouragement makes you want to give up. You also need to give yourself permission to fail, because we all fail at some point. Failure is not permanent, it’s a learning process. We try, we fail, we figure out where we went wrong and correct it.

 

9.     FOCUS ON CHRIST WHEN OVERCOMING DISCOURAGEMENT

 

What you focus on has a huge bearing on what you become. The voices of the world are shouting at you all the time. But when you focus on Jesus, the discouragement in your heart will be replaced with peace…

 

Isaiah 26:3

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

 

No life is meaningless if Christ is at the center of it. Want perfect peace in your life? Then set your mind on the Lord. When you look at Him, the negatives disappear. Turn your eyes upon Jesus and the negatives will grow strangely dim. Overcoming discouragement depends on what you focus on!

 

What we focus on is what we become. It’s reflected in our speech and our actions.

 

The answer to discouragement is getting our focus off ourselves and our limited resources and off our current situation with all of its disappointments, and off the negatives things people are saying about us, instead making a conscious effort at focusing on the unlimited power of an omnipotent God.

 

He can do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Even in the face of life’s greatest challenges, His grace is sufficient. When we give our discouragement to God, He can encourage and draw us ever closer to Him and help us in overcoming discouragement.

 

I know the year is getting on, and I know many of us are tired and flat. The things we hoped for haven’t happened, the things we feared may have happened.

 

Listen… today is the day we commit to taking us eyes off our circumstances, off our tiredness, off the discouragements and disappointments and off what people say, and we place our eyes firmly on Jesus Christ!

 

FILL ‘ER UP!

 

When overcoming discouragement, how do we actually focus on Christ? Well, it involves some commitment and effort. Don’t sit back and think your life will be on fire for Christ by you sitting and wasting time working or watching movies!

 

We are like a car… when you’re discouraged, your tank is empty. You only see the circumstances and hear all the negative words. You get discouraged, but there is nothing in the tank to focus upon. You need to be filled up, but what do you fill your mind with?

 

Philippians 4:8-9

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

 

If you are discouraged right now, you need to start filling your mind and your heart with the things of God. Get off the TV, get off Facebook and get onto the daily Bible readings. They are short, they are action packed and they will build into your life and fill you up.

 

And connect with positive people. Connect with people whose tanks are full, or at least more full than yours. And you find them in church. Listen, it’s time for you to skip the kids football or Sunday morning shopping and get to church! I am watching people grind down and get discouraged, but instead of plugging in to our church family, they’re isolating themselves. Whatever you face today, however discouraged, focus on Christ, fill your mind with the Word of God and get into church, and I promise you  new day will dawn, and year heart will be filled with hope!

 

If you are feeling discouraged today, you need to get filled up, and right now!

 

Today is the day you hand your burden of discouragement to Jesus and let Him carry it for you, because He says…

 

Matthew 11:28-30

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Today many of you are struggling with discouragement. Please don’t go it alone, and don’t carry the burden a moment longer! Come to Jesus this morning, come and let His Spirit refill your tank, to empower you to overcome discouragement. When we respond to God in faith we delight Him, and He pours out His blessing and His guidance upon your life.

 

You can sit in your chair and say, I’m discouraged but I don’t want to go forward. If you get up and respond to the Lord today, God delights in that act of faith. It takes faith to come forward, but I have prayed that for those who respond, God’s Holy Spirit will supernaturally fill them up.

 

Coming to the front today is not an admission of guilt, or sin or of failure. It’s an admission of weariness and discouragement, it’s an admission that your spiritual tank is empty and it’s an open invitation for the Holy Spirit to fill you up.  It is you saying you’re open  to give it all to God and let Him have His way.

GPS- God's Positioning System

GPS means God's Positioning System, so let's look at how we can position ourselves for His blessings in life...

Psalms 1:1-4

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners,

nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

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. The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

As humans, we all want to know where we have come from, where we are now and most importantly, where we are going. In our cars and on our phones we all now have GPS devices, but what is a GPS and how does it work, and does God offer a GPS?

 

 

GPS- GLOBAL POSITIONING SYSTEM

 

 

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a network of about 30 satellites orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 20,000 km. The system was originally developed by the US government for military navigation but now anyone with a GPS device, be it a SatNav, mobile phone or handheld GPS unit, can receive the radio signals that the satellites broadcast.

Wherever you are on the planet, at least four GPS satellites are ‘visible’ at any time. Each one transmits information about its position and the current time at regular intervals. These signals, travelling at the speed of light, are intercepted by your GPS receiver, which calculates how far away each satellite is based on how long it took for the messages to arrive.

Once it has information on how far away at least three satellites are, your GPS receiver can pinpoint your location using a process called trilateration.

So this gives rise to some pretty accurate information about where we are and where we are going, although this doesn’t always work.

 

GPS- GOING PLACES STUPIDLY

Japanese Tourists Drive Straight into the Pacific Thanks to His GPS

 

Three Japanese tourists in Australia found themselves in an embarrassing situation after their GPS navigation system lured them down the wrong path. The three students from Tokyo set out to drive to North Stradbroke Island on the Australian coast Thursday morning, and mapped out their path on their GPS system. The road looked clear, at low tide — but the map forgot to show the 9 miles of water and mud between the island and the mainland.

As the three drove their rented Hyundai Getz into Moreton Bay, they found the GPS device guiding them from a gravel road into thick mud. They tried to get back to solid ground, but as the tide rose they were forced to abandon their car. Passengers on passing ferries watched in amazement.

 

 

GPS- GOD’S POSITIONING SYSTEM

 

The GPS is a phenomenal tool which all of us can now access. We don’t have to know how it works, we just have to learn how to use one. But in order for God’s Positioning System to work certain things must happen…

 

 

1.      YOUR GPS HAS TO BE CONNECTED

 

 

I know this sounds basic, but if your GPS has no power, if it is disconnected or if the satellites are down, your GPS won’t work.  In the same way, unless you are connected to God, your GPS isn’t God’s Positioning System it’s a paperweight!

 

John 16:13

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.

 

For your GPS to work, you must be plugged into Christ. We talk often about asking Jesus into your life as your Lord and Saviour, and from that moment your sins are forgiven and you have the gift of eternal life. But the really cool thing is you get the Holy Spirit living within you..

 

2 Timothy 1:14

By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

 

God gives us the deposit of the Holy Spirit, and once you have the Holy Spirit within you, you’re connected to God, and your God Positioning System is ready to guide you.

 

2.      YOU HAVE TO WANT TO MOVE FORWARD

 

A Sunday school class was once asked why the people of God wandered in the desert for 40 years. One young girl answered, “Because Moses was a boy, and he would never stop to ask for directions.”

 

 

You can sit and look at your GPS all day, but unless you want to use it to actually move forward, the GPS is useless.  And so it is with your life, and with this church.

 

God’s Positioning System is like the rudder of a boat. If you are stationary, it doesn’t work. You cannot steer if the boat isn’t moving. But when it starts to move the rudder bites and you can begin to steer.

 

Psalms 25:4-5

Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.

 

Hebrew for wait is qawa, meaning to bind together, wait eagerly in hope or to lie in wait expectantly. Wait doesn’t mean sit and wait, it means keep doing what you’re doing, keep moving forward eagerly expecting to be led and guided in the right way. It means if you haven’t got a job, keep applying for them. If you haven’t got a ministry in church, start serving others.

 

I could look at our church and say, “Hey were basically full, everyone is happy, job done.” But I am not content, because God has given me a vision and we’ve only just begun!

 

Wikipedia defines inertia as the resistance of any object to any change in its state of motion.

 

If I resist change, I cannot move forward. And neither can this church.

 

No one likes change, especially if we are comfortable and content with the current situation. Change can be painful, it can be scary, it’s almost always uncomfortable. Yet most of us recognise that progress always involves change, and maintenance usually involves no change. So when faced with the prospect of change, how do you face it in a godly way?

 

As pastor of this church, I have to face the prospect of change if we are to move into all that God has for us, and I choose to do so along with my leadership team, elders and especially the board. In the next few weeks we face the prospect of many changes… seats, our name, other things too. So let’s look at how the apostle Paul faces changes…

 

Acts 16:6-10

And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

 

THE BEST LAID PLANS OF MICE AND MEN

 

Paul had plans, big plans. He wanted to take the gospel to Asia, but the Holy Spirit forbade them. Next he decided on Bithynia. But even before he could write “Bithynia or bust” in the dust on the back of his donkey, the plans were changed again by a vision.

 

We see in Paul a model of how we should face changes, in our lives and in the church.

 

Proverbs 19:21

Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

 

And we make our plans as best we can, but we must be open to the leading of the Holy Spirit. So is it wrong to make plans? Of course not, if you aim at nothing you’ll hit it, right? So can we allow ourselves to become discouraged if changes happen we don’t expect? No, we have to trust God!

 

What stops us from moving forward is contentment or fear, or fear of losing contentment.

 

Lot’s wife was content in Sodom, as they were fleeing the doomed city, she lagged behind and then

 

Genesis 19:26

But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

 

She was happy, she was content, she resisted God ordained change. If you are at this church to cruise along and be content, I’m sorry because, while I want you to be happy here, I don’t want any of us content with the status quo. Nice band, but that’s going down, down!

 

There’s a world to be won for Christ, there are people next door and in the next street and across the world going to hell, and I will never be content to just save me and mine! Remember the symbol for Christianity is a cross, not a cushion, so comfort is not the highest calling here!

 

But often we resist change because of fear. Raymond just changed countries, to a people he doesn’t know, in a land he doesn’t recognise, to a situation he doesn’t understand, but he had courage to face that change and step out in faith.

 

Christian business consultant Sam Voorhies offers five essential principles for “growing through the change process.”

(1) Don’t take things too personally. Changes in this church are not against you personally… we are making the calls we believe God wants us to make, not rattling your cage!

(2) View things in light of eternity, from God’s perspective. Colossians 3:2

(3) Focus on your call, not your career. If God calls you to serve in this church, it’s not about you!

(4) Take responsibility for how you respond. If you don’t agree with something, seek God and respond the way He wants you to, don’t become like a petulant child! You cannot control what others do or decide, but you can control your response.

(5) Know that God will never forget nor forsake you.

 

Change is inevitable if we are to continue moving forward. You don’t have to agree, but if you disagree, do so agreeably!

 

 

3.      KNOW WHERE YOU ARE NOW

 

If you turn in your GPS to go to a Brisbane, and it navigates from Vladivostok, it is useless. Guidance needs to take you from where you are now into the future.

 

So where are you now? Are you close to God right now? Are you spending time each day with Him? If you don’t stay close to God, how can He guide you in your life?

 

God longs to lead you,  guide you, and to teach you, but you must find yourself close to Him.

 

James 4:8

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.

 

So many people today are double minded, they change like shifting sands, dependent on fashion and the opinions of others. We see it in our country with the same sex marriage issue, and Christians, if they are not Clos enough to the Lord, are double minded.

 

Listen to what James says about being double minded…

 

James 1:6-8

But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.

 

If you don’t draw close to God, you get no guidance, no direction and no peace, you just get confusion. For God’s Positioning System to work properly, you must draw near to God!

 

 

4.      KNOW WHERE YOU WANT TO GO

 

 

Are you on the road to nowhere? Are you confused about where you are going in life? I don’t have a plan for your life, but I know who does! God’s Positioning System actually works!

 

Proverbs 3:5-7

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.

Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.

 

If you make decisions in your own strength and wisdom, if you don’t turn away from evil, then you won’t know where you are going, and you will be like this…

 

Ephesians 4:14

so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

 

So where are you going? Where is this church going? If our aim is to have a great life, or be happy, or grow a big church. That’s not an aim, that’s nothing more than a wish.

 

Luke 18:8

Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”

 

I don’t want to be successful. What I want is to be faithful…

 

Luke 16:10

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.

 

If you are faithful in the small things, you will be entrusted with great things. Do I want our church to grow? Of course, but that’s not my aim. I just want to be faithful. God can grows things as He sees fit, but we must be faithful.

 

My aim is not to grow a kingdom here. My reason for being in ministry is not to build a big church or bigger buildings. While ever there is one person in pain, one person lonely, one person going to hell, my calling is to serve the Lord with all my heart and all my being. My calling is to be faithful…

 

Isaiah 61:1-3

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me

to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;

to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion—

to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness,

the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

 

That’s where my GPS is set to. So what about you? Will you join me?

 

5.      YOU HAVE TO BE OBEDIENT

 

Mrs. Merv Grazinski , of Oklahoma City, purchased a new 32-foot Winnebago motor home. On her first trip home, from an Oklahoma University football game, having driven on to the freeway, she set out for home, set the cruise control at 70 mph and calmly left the driver's seat to go to the back of the Winnebago to make herself a sandwich.

"Not surprisingly, the motor home left the freeway at the first turn, crashed and overturned. Mrs. Grazinski sued Winnebago for not putting in the owner's manual that she couldn't actually leave the driver's seat while the cruise control was set.

"The Oklahoma jury awarded her – are you sitting down? – $1,750,000 plus a new motor home. Winnebago actually changed their manuals as a result of this suit, just in case Mrs. Grazinski has any relatives who might also buy a motor home."

Or this one…

 

A GPS doesn’t steer for you, it doesn’t think for you, it doesn’t observe for you… it is not an autopilot. It guides you, it directs you to where to go, but you have to be obedient to it. If you disobey, if you ignore it, if you walk to the back of the vehicle to make a sandwich, how can God lead you in the right way? It’s like herding chickens!

 

John 14:15

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.

 

It’s so simple… if you love God, obey Him. Don’t constantly disobey God’s will for your life and have to gall to say that you love Him! Love is not a feeling, it’s an act of the will, and obedience to what is right. And the thing is, if you obey Him, He works on your behalf to lead you into the greatest life possible. If you could only see things from God’s perspective, you would be obedient and trust Him.

 

If you are open, if your heart is seeking Him, His Word will direct your steps. I cannot tell you the number of times I have read something in my daily Bible reading in a way that I could use and apply for direction that very day. I believe in God’s GPS, I believe in His Word. That’s why I continually encourage you to do this Bible reading plan. Do it every day, and watch Him lead your life, you very own GPS for your life, and it’s all here!

 

But the reality is, that this is a constant battle, even for us who know God and read His Word daily. We start out trusting, we start following the GPS and moving forward, but our thoughts lead us away from God. Society attacks Christian values constantly, TV assaults our senses, the Internet and social media draw our attention from what is really important, so we constantly battle to be obedient. That’s why Paul writes…

 

2 Corinthians 10:5

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,

 

Some of you here want to obey, you long to be led by the Holy Spirit, but you must learn to start taking every thought captive. Spending time with Christ every day is a great way to start centring your mind on God, and becoming more obedient. Without obedience, God’s Positioning System is useless in your life!

 

CAN YOU TRUST YOUR GPS?

 

 

But as we saw earlier, even obedience to a Global Positioning System can lead you down some pretty strange paths.

 

11 Pennsylvania residents sued a GPS manufacturer in 2013 because the charter bus they were passengers on slammed into an overpass near Boston when the device directed the driver onto a road with height restrictions less than the height of his vehicle.

 

 

When the new Apple Iphone came out , it had an identifiable Apple maps error directing people to drive right onto an active airport runway at an Alaskan airport. Two separate people courageously ignored security gates and signs reading,” Stop, Danger, Active Runways, Do Not Proceed” and boldly drove onto the runways faithfully following their GPS.

 

So the question to you this morning is, can you trust God’s Positioning System? Absolutely YES!

 

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.

 

God is God, and as we saw last week, He is your loving Father. He will not give you everything you want, He will not direct you to every place you want to go, because He loves you, and know what is best for you. He is your loving Father, and He has plans to prosper not to harm you, so if you truly love Him you can truly trust Him to lead you in the right direction. Not under bridges that are too low, not onto active runways and not into Morton Bay. Let Him have control and let Him lead yo, because He is faithful.

 

Many of you struggle to trust God, and I get it. I understand how hard it is to trust Him when  don’t have the full picture. We all face the situations where it looks right, but God takes us another way, but the more experience you have of trusting God and the closer you are to Him, the more confident you become trusting Him. Many struggle to trust God not because He let them down, but because people let them down. People say and do things that God doesn’t approve of. So if you’ve been hurt or let down in the past, don’t blame God for what man has done. Paul addresses this very issue..

Romans 3:3-4

What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written,

“That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.”

 

GOD’S POSITIONING SYSTEM IS TRUE AND FAITHFUL

 

God is true. God is faithful, and God is the GPS your life needs right now.

 

And finally, the ultimate Bible verse on God’s Positioning system is this…

 

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.”

 

If you face major decisions in Your life and you need guidance, then today is the day to respond to His Word. Need a job, need a change of job, need a change of living situation? Need direction about whether to start or stop something? Are you facing financial decisions? Moral decisions? Worried about what to say to your kids or grandkids? Whatever you face, whatever decision you face, you need God’s Positioning System, not someone’s opinion.

God's promises are one of the great and unalterable truths in life is that God keeps His promises. This should build incredible faith in us, knowing that God is God, His promises never fail and that He loves us and wants the best for us. The Bible is full of God’s promises, right?

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.

 

Yet so many Christians lack faith and are disillusioned, living powerless lives, being tossed around by every wind of teaching and every new fad that breezes through Christendom. Why? How can we be so faithless?

 

Part of the reason is experience… We don't understand God’s promises and  we view God as a celestial Santa Clause whose role is to bring us joy, comfort, peace and success. Many of us have experienced times we trusted God and His promises, and things didn't work out as we planned. So many have shared with me that they tried trusting God, and it didn't work out. This is not my experience, but it might be yours.

 

The root cause of disillusionment with God is simply this… we don't really know Him. We don't know who God is and what God's Promises are!

 

So today I want to look at God’s promises. What are they, are they for you, which ones are for you and how to see them manifest in your life.

 

 

A PROMISE IS A PROMISE!

 

Scripture lists some 8,000 promises, so what are God's Promises, and which ones apply to you? Are all God’s promises for all of us? No, many are, some are not. Some are conditional.

 

If God’s promises are yes and amen, man's are nothing like that. People break promises all the time. I have, and you have, so don't look “holier than thou” at me.

 

As humans, we easily break simple promises we make, to God and to each other. Often it's not even our fault. I remember one time promising Fiona I would be home from Sri Lanka on Tuesday morning. I awoke Monday to find the Tamil Tigers had bombed the airport and shut it down for a day. Not my fault, but the promise was broken.

 

Small promises are easily broken… I promise I'll be at the meeting. I promise I'll be there for you. I promise I'll change. I promise I'll be on time this time.  I promise this weekend we'll go camping.

 

We even break big promises. I once promised to love, honour and cherish Fiona, till death us do part. I haven't always cherished her, I haven't always treated her with honour.

 

But God, well He never breaks His promise. God's Promises stand forever!

 

So why are so many disillusioned or feeling let down by God? If He makes promises and He keeps them what's the problem?

 

Part of the reason is that we don't understand His promises, we claim ones we like that are not for us, we grow tired of waiting for the ones that are and we misappropriate them. And the other part of the equation is that we don't really know God..

 

 

WHAT GOES WRONG WHEN WE TRY AND STAND ON THE PROMISES OF GOD?

 

God does not lie, He doesn't change His mind and He doesn't break His promises.

 

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?

 

Logically, if the problem is not with God, and not with His promises, the problem must lie with us!  So where do we go wrong when we try and appropriate God's promises? Bear in mind, I'm not trying to ruin your faith in the promises of God! Listen to the whole message before you crucify me…

 

1.     WE CONFUSE PRINCIPLES WITH PROMISES

 

One of the most oft-quoted Bible passages about child rearing is Proverbs 22:6: “Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” How do we reconcile that verse with the many godly parents whose kids are not walking with God.

 

In many families, in fact, kids are reared the same way, and one embrace God's will for their life while the other rejects God all together!

 

Do such cases disprove the proverb? Of course not. Proverbs are principles, not promises. This means they mostly are true, sometimes are not. Once you have brought your child to a point of decision making, their personality, their obedience and their decision making comes into play. It's a principle, a good principle, but it's not a promise.

 

 

2.     WE THINK ANSWERED PRAYER IN THE BIBLE IS A PROMISE

 

Some Christians read prayers in the Bible, see them answered and say, Great, this must be for me.—

 

God's Promises to Abraham,

Genesis 15:5

“Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

 

It was a promise, but to Abraham, not you. Do you really want 12 sons? Another example is the prayer of Jabez…

 

1 Chronicles 4:10

Jabez called upon the God of Israel, saying, “Oh that you would bless me and enlarge my border, and that your hand might be with me, and that you would keep me from harm so that it might not bring me pain!” And God granted what he asked.

 

This was God's promise to Jabez, and you cannot simply steal it and say it applies to you! Could it be for you? Maybe, but its original intent was for Jabez, not you.

 

In fact, this is so common in churches that we've constructed an entire theology around it. Many people claim all the promises given to the Jews as being for the church, and we heard pastor Dahlia speak on that last week. It's called displacement theology, and I believe it is wrong and out of touch with God's intent for those promises.

 

3.     WE CONFUSE COLLECTIVE PROMISES WITH INDIVIDUAL ONES

 

Some promises intended for us are collective, not individual, for us as a people, not exclusively me!

 

2 Chronicles 7:14

if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

 

This is to us, if MY people. It's a promise for us and our people, not us personally.

 

 

4.     WE FAIL TO SEE CONDITIONS FOR GOD'S PROMISES

 

Many of God’s promises are unconditional—meaning there are no conditions required for Him to do what He promises. An example is…

 

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.

 

But many other promises are conditional and dependent on the choice or actions we make.

 

Most conditional promises take an “If . . . then . . .” form. “Promises that contain an ‘If’ require some form of obedience before we can expect them to come to pass in our lives,” says Jen Wilkin. “They are conditional. If we want to claim them, we had better be ready to act in obedience to what they require.”

 

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 

You want to be pure, you want to be forgiven, you want to be set free from the power of sin? Then you need to confess your sin to the Lord and actively seek His forgiveness. He does not automatically forgive every sin you make. There's a condition. Here is another…

 

Proverbs 3:9-10

Honor the Lord with your wealth

and with the firstfruits of all your produce;

then your barns will be filled with plenty,

and your vats will be bursting with wine.

 

If you want to become prosperous, honour God with your wealth. If you choose to be stingy and not bless the Lord and others with the little you have, the promise does not stand for you.

 

5.     WE TWIST PROMISES TO SUIT OURSELVES

 

God’s promises mean only what God intended them to mean. When we subvert the meaning of a promise, when we try and twist it  into what we want it to be, or overlook bits we are not prepared to do, it ceases to be a promise at all.

 

Even when we rightly recognise a promise as intended for us, we often impose our own understanding of exactly how it will be fulfilled. I want it, I want it now and I want it my way. Or we are tempted to impose our own timeline on its fulfilment. Here's an example…

 

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

 

We all believe this, we all know God has a plan and purpose for us. But we conveniently forget the next few verses…

 

Jeremiah 29:12-13

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.

 

We want the blessing, but we twist it so we don't have to give out on the conditions,  to pray, to seek Him with all your heart. If we don't seek Him we will likely miss the wonderful plan.

 

So Does this mean God’s promises are not for us? Absolutely not! Thousands of God’s promises are meant for us, but that doesn't give us carte Blanche to claim whatever we want on our terms for ourselves!

I CLAIMED IT… BUT GOD LET ME DOWN

 

Many times this is where we go wrong. We read something, or hear something in a sermon, and we claim it for ourselves. Was that promise for us? We don't want to be obedient, we just want to see the good things coming our way. We love to claim the blessing, ignore the conditions, ignore the intent of the promise, twist it to our own ends, then get mad at God when He doesn't do our bidding.

 

Many of us have been through this. We try and try, we manifest all the faith we have, we believe, but to no avail. What we wanted, what we asked for, fails to materialise.

 

My experience is that God is faithful, He never lets me down... but He does have alternative ways of doing things! The longer I live, the less I order God around and the more I trust that He has it all in hand, that He will take care of me. I can share my needs, even my wants, but I can leave it with Him instead of sitting in judgement as to how well he does in answering my requests. The closer I get to Him, the less I have to claim promises, because I'm sure in my heart of the promises He is giving to me.

 

So how can we figure out which promises are for us, which are collective, which are for the Bible characters themselves and which are general promises?

 

We need God's presence to show us… we need the Holy Spirit!

 

CLAIMING VERSES QUICKENING

 

Now before you get completely depressed and give up on God’s wonderful promises, I want you to understand that I'm not trying to discourage you but I'm trying to help you set up for life changing success in seeing God’s promises manifesting in your life!

 

Naming and claiming God’s promises is not only immature, but it's downright dangerous! When we think God’s greatest agenda is to give us what we want, we are not honouring God as God! So many people I have talked to have given up on God because they named and claimed a promises that did not come to pass, then got mad at God when it didn't.

 

That shallow, twisted theology fails to acknowledge the most important factor in standing on the promises of God… His Holy Spirit within you!

 

When you pick out a promise that you like, ignore any conditions and just start praying that, you can be assured of failure, disappointment and heartache at some point. Why? Because you're invested in a result, you're committed not to the Lord, but to seeing a particular blessing in your life.  You're not invested in the Lord. You're dictating terms and demands to the Creator of the universe, not trusting the One who saved your soul. You are seeking His hand, but not His face.

 

Seek His face, folks, and you get His hand as well, in all aspects of life. So how do we do this?

 

 

1.     PRAY AND HONESTLY SEEK HIS FACE, NOT HIS HAND

 

Psalms 9:10

And those who know your name put their trust in you,

for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.

 

The word “name” means character, plus reputation. The more you know who He is, the more you will trust in Him.

 

You wonder why we don’t have faith; the answer is, faith is confidence in the character of God and if we don’t know what kind of God God is, we can’t have faith.

 

We can read books on faith, learn about great men of faith, watch movies about faith. But we forget that faith is confidence in God’s character. And because we are not aware of what kind of God God is, or what God is like, we cannot have real faith.

 

And so we struggle and wait and hope against hope. We try and step out and believe God, we desperately claim the promises we want. But faith doesn’t come, because we do not know the character of God. “those who know your name put their trust in you.” It’s automatic—it comes naturally when we know what kind of God God is.

 

 

2.     READ HIS WORD

 

God reveals Himself through His Word. If you don't read the Bible you won't really know God. Seeking His face means reading the Bible. If you want to grow in Christ, if you want to see the promises of God come true in your life, you simply must read the Bible every day.

 

Hebrews 4:12

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

 

Reading the Word of God every day not only puts your spirit in touch with His, it not only allows you to see more of His character, but it is living and active, discerning the thoughts and intentions in your heart.

 

It's the missing link we talked about before, it's the way His Spirit speaks to you, guides you, teaches you, grows you and quickens promises to you. If you read the prayer of Jabez and say, “Oh, I like that, that ones for me,” it's different to when you are reading the Bible every day and suddenly that verse jumps out at you and God says, “This is my promise for you.”

 

But you will never experience this until you read His Word daily. That's why I am so committed to the Bible reading plan.

 

 

3.     LET THE HOLY SPIRIT REVEAL GOD'S PROMISES

 

Galavanting randomly around bits of the Bible finding promises you want to apply to yourself for your own benefit is not way to grow in the things of God!

 

You need the Holy Spirit to reveal God's Promises to you, and then you can stand on those forever! His awesome promises will draw you nearer to Him, and cause you to trust Him more, but only if you let Him quicken the right promises to your spirit.

 

2 Peter 1:4

by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.

 

There is a huge difference between finding a promise and claiming it, and having the Lord quicken it to your Spirit. We mentioned the prayer of Jabez before. Books have been written on it, people have thought, gosh that's a great promise, I'll take that one. I remember reading the book and thinking, “That's nice, I'd like that.” Bless me, enlarge my border, keep your hand on me and keep me from harm and pain. Who doesn't want that? Notice it's all ME, ME, ME? I read the book and nothing happened!

 

I'm telling you, while God wants to protect, bless and lead your life, I can also guarantee you'll find some pain, some tough times and some times when God seems distant. God’s not there to give you a nice, comfortable life.

 

At a later stage I read the passage in 1 Chronicles, when I was changing situations in my life, and the words jumped off the page, spoke to me heart and gave me confidence and joy going forward.

 

In the same way, I had always read and believed God’s promises to prosper me and not harm me. Then we lost everything in our mid 40s and had to start again. It was painful, it was way longer than I would have imagined. We could not overcome our debt, we could not even revisit our loans. We were trapped.

 

Then New Year 2 years ago, before we became pastors here, the Lord spoke to me of His promises to prosper us again. Clearly. Quickened it to my Spirit. I told Fiona that our finances were about to break through and turn around. She struggled to believe it after 6 years of agony. Within one month we received a cheque, out of the blue, for over $50,000 dollars, and this turned our finances around.

 

I didn't just make it up. I did not just claim a general promise. The Lord, the Holy Spirit, quickened it to my heart. When He does that, you can stand on the promises with confidence!

 

 

 

4.     TRUST HIM NO MATTER THE RESULT

 

We've spoken about this, and it's not easy to do. Do you trust God so emphatically that your faith will be unwavering even if the results are not what you want?

 

Sometimes we trust God for things, and things get worse. Sometimes we have desperate needs, and they remain unmet no matter how much we pray.

 

Can you say…

Job 13:15

Though he slay me, I will hope in him;

yet I will argue my ways to his face.

 

Want a healing? Will you still trust God's Promises even if you don't seem to be healed? Want financial provision? Will you still trust God's Promises even if more bills come and your bank account empties even further? Want to grow your ministry? Will you still trust God's Promises even if someone else gets the nod over you?

 

Can you truly trust the Lord no matter what? He's not out to hurt you, He's not trying to frustrate or anger you, but if He has a higher way, if He cares more about developing character instead of comfort in you, can you still trust Him? If it takes way longer than you envisage, can you still trust Him? Will you?

 

You cannot have this level of absolute trust in someone you don't really know.

 

You see, trust in God is not just getting what you want in life. Corrine Ten Boom was in Ravensbruk concentration camp, where her sister was murdered. Still she could say, “Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.”

 

But how can you if you don't even know God? Back to the previous point.

 

5.     LEARN TO WAIT IN FAITH

 

Gods timing is not yours, or mine. Abraham came off a huge victory yet was still down because He had no heir. THEN God gave Him the promise…

 

Genesis 15:6

And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.

 

But it took over 20 years of waiting for God's Promises to be manifested. Yet Abraham waited, for the most part, in faith for the fulfilment of the promise. How long can you wait?

 

 

6.     SHARE THE LOAD… COME TO CHURCH

 

Hebrews 10:24-25

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

Church needs to be a place where we stir each other up to love and good works. Church must be where we are built up, and where we can learn to trust our Father together, where we can encourage one another and where we can share the loads and burdens of life with our spiritual families.

 

Church is not a religious duty, it's not a corporation, its not an organisation, it's an organism, it's a family!

 

By sharing your joys, your struggles, your dilemmas and your blessings with other believers, your faith is built up. You're not standing alone. Remember months ago we looked at the armour of God, and found that the shield of faith is less effective if you use it alone. And that a single soldier can be picked off by the devil. It is most effective when joined and interlocked with other shields,  with other believers. That's where the strength lies, and that's where God’s promises stand strong!

 

 

7.     SERVE, DON’T SNATCH

 

Our society is probably the most self centred generation in history. We have an inbuilt lust for things we haven't got, the new car, the new house, the new computer. “What's in it for me,” is the slogan of the age.

 

This spirit runs contrary to the Spirit of God. He is generous. He gives, He blesses, He gave His one and only Son, for your sin and mine, to open the way back to Him.

 

If you want to see God’s promises come true in your life, take your eyes off yourself, your needs, your pain, your desires and your agenda and fix your eyes on Jesus. Serve, don't snatch at things, fill you mind with the Word of God, fill your heart with the Holy Spirit and fill your life with blessing others.  Concentrate on the important things, the things that last forever… God, His Word, serving Him, serving others.

 

2 Corinthians 4:17-18

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

 

GOD’S PROMISES ARE HERE FOR YOU

 

It's been said that people with good intentions make promises, but people of good character keep them. God has the best character of all. He never breaks a promise He gives you, He never lets down those who love Him, serve Him and get to know Him.

 

God’s promises are yes and amen

 

Today I want to pray for…

 

People who believe God has given them a promise that has not happened yet, and you're tired of waiting.

 

People who are discouraged, feel let down by God and perhaps realise that they have been holding God to promises He never even made to them.

"Luke, I am your father."  Remember Darth Vader saying those now famous words?

Father’s Day for me is an interesting mix of emotions. My girls always tell me how much they love me and what I have meant in their lives, even though I feel hopelessly inadequate as a dad. In addition, Father's Day also hurts because I  was very close to my dad. But he has been dead for 18 months now, so for me it is a mixture of emotions.

Sometimes Father's Day does that to you. Imagine what it would be like for Luke Skywalker…

 

This iconic quote from the Star Wars series of movies is actually a misquote. The true quote actually reads like this…

 

Darth Vader: Obi-Wan never told you what happened to your father.

Luke Skywalker: He told me enough! He told me you killed him!

Darth Vader: No. I am your father.

Imagine Father's Day for Luke, when he discovers that the man he's been fighting against, the man who stands for everything he hates, the man who has killed his friends and is trying to kill him, is actually his father!

 

You don't choose your father, good or bad, you just get him when he begets you.  You had no influence over what he did for a living, how he treated people, the hang ups he had, the things he did to you, the influences he tried to bring into your life.

 

Maybe your dad wasn't ideal, maybe he abused you, disappointed you or never said kind words to you. Perhaps the only fatherly advice he gave you was…

 

“You cannot escape the dark side, Luke!”

 

Well I'm here to tell you that is not true! You can escape the dark side, you can be set free of anything your father did or didn't do, said or didn't say, wanted or didn't want for you.  Just because he said I am your father, doesn't make his words binding forever!

 

Today, Father's Day, I am going to show you how to forgive and love your father, even if he is imperfect, and how you can break the power of his words and influence over your life.

 

DADS- THE GOOD,THE BAD AND THE UGLY

CC BY-NC-ND by Bisgràfic

When it comes to father's, there's a whole variety out there, good, bad and ugly.

 

I think I fall into the latter bracket!

 

Now I don't know what type of father you had, but mine was awesome. He was strong, dependable, kind, loving and godly. He was an example and an inspiration, and when he died 18 months ago I felt like I had lost not only a father but a friend, and a mentor.

 

But not every person is as blessed as I am. The man you said I am your father to me was a fantastic guy!  For many the word father conjures up horror, anger and shame.

 

So whether you had, or have a good father or a shocker, this message is for you…

 

Ephesians 6:2

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

 

And what was the promise? From Exodus 20:12, that your days may be long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.  A long and prosperous life is the reward of honouring your parents.

 

If you hold onto bitterness towards you parents you will shorten your life!

 

So today is the day to forgive your father, whether he was a good dad or a bad dad, because every father is imperfect.

 

But how can you honour your parents when they were horrible parents? How can you honour your dad if  he was a source of so much pain in your life?

 

You start by forgiving your father this Father's Day…

 

I bet that when they said I am your father most of your father's loved you. They may not have demonstrated it the right way, or may have made decisions that failed to show you love, they may have even Abused you or your mother, or left you for whatever reason. Yet still, almost all of your father's tried to love you.

 

There's a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail. Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father. On Saturday 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers.

 

Today you can forgive your dad as the ultimate Father's Day gift, whether the finds out about it or not.

 

We all have things we can forgive our fathers for, some more than others. No one has had a perfect father, although mine came close.

 

I AM YOUR FATHER?... HERE'S THE STEPS TO FORGIVE  YOUR FATHER

 

So many of us have poor memories of our fathers. They hurt us, disappointed us, we're never there for us. Maybe they left us and our mum. Maybe they were never there in the first place. Maybe there were always busy working or reading the paper when we wanted them.

 

Australia is the land of the absent father. Traditionally the kids are women's business, while we blokes work hard, play hard or drink hard.

 

How can you forgive such a great travesty against you? You were young. Maybe you were innocent. Maybe you were a teenager reacting. Maybe you were a primary kid disappointed and missing out on dads’ time.

 

 

1.     RECOGNISE ALL DADS ARE IMPERFECT

 

No earthly father is going to be perfect. I'm certainly not. We all say I am your father, but we all have bad days, bad moods or make less than stellar decisions.

 

So the first step towards forgiving your father is to recognise that, like every other dad in the world, yours is not perfect. He may be great, he may have always tried his hardest, he may love you with an undying love, but each of us falls short at some point…

 

Romans 3:23

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

 

Don't be mad at your father's shortcomings, recognise that he has them and love him anyway, warts and all, the good times and the bad. You were loved despite your fallibilities. When he said  I am your father he didn't become infallible!

 

 

2.     FORGIVENESS STARTS WITH A DECISION

 

Fatherhood is one of the basic ingredients of character development. Statistically the vast majority of prison inmates have had poor or no relationship with their fathers. Your father should have been there for you, and good fathers are a critical part of the Fabric which shapes your life.

 

But the reality is that your dad is human. He had failings when you were young, when he first said I am your father, and he probably has the same failings right now. He's a sinner, just like you! When you hurt someone, when you disappoint someone you care about, when you let God down and sin, don't you want to be forgiven?

 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:

 

Matthew 6:14-15

For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins

 

The Apostle Paul put it this way

 

Colossians 3:13:

Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

 

If you refuse to forgive, it's like drinking poison hoping the other guy dies. You are only hurting yourself, not your dad if you fail to forgive him. In fact, many times dads are completely oblivious, and while you think you are punishing them, often times they don't even realise!   Typical guys right?

 

So in order for you to forgive your father, the first thing you need to do is make a decision. Whether you have feelings about this or not, the first thing is to decide to forgive your father.

 

If you make the conscious decision to forgive your dad, no matter how hard and no matter what it is that he did or said, then this is a great starting point!

 

 

3.     FORGIVENESS MEANS SURRENDERING YOUR RIGHT TO GET EVEN

 

As human beings we have an inbuilt desire to get even. We think it's our right. He said, "I am your father," but then he hurt me, now God, I want you to sort him out for me. I have the right to be treated well by my parents. I have the right to carry a grudge if I'm not.

 

No you don't! When you become a Christian, you surrender your right to be treated right. You have no rights, only to serve.

 

Our world bangs on about rights all the time…

 

Human rights, aboriginal land rights, women’s right, children’s right, gay rights, now transgender rights, we've got save the koalas, save the whales… Why not just join them all together and have land rights for gay, transgender whales and be done with it?

 

Romans 12:19

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

 

Listen to how the message puts it...

 

Romans 12:19

Don't insist on getting even; that's not for you to do. "I'll do the judging," says God. "I'll take care of it."

 

Forgiveness means letting God sort it out and dropping  the so called right to get even!

 

4.     FORGIVENESS MEANS EVEN IF THERE ARE NO FEELINGS

 

We are creatures of feelings, we usually wear our hearts on our sleeves.  We expect the right feelings when we do something. Yet often feelings and emotions crowd out and distort the truth.

 

We might think when we feel the right feelings we will forgive our fathers. But we shouldn't be led by our feelings…

 

Many people marry based on feelings of love, or lust, or infatuation. The trouble is, feelings come and go, but the decisions we make determine our destiny. The Bible says…

 

Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things,

and desperately sick;

who can understand it?

 

So if we rely on feelings of the heart we are in trouble, and you'll find yourself changing your mind every few minutes. If you are waiting for feelings of forgiveness before you forgive anyone, you'll be waiting for a long time.

 

So after you have decided to forgive your dad as an act of the will, you need to recognise that you must follow through, regardless of your feelings for him.

 

My experience is that, if we make a decision to love someone, to forgive them, then even if we feel like an unemotional droid, at some stage in the future the feelings will follow.

 

 

5.     FORGIVENESS DOES NOT MEAN APPROVAL

 

This is vitally important… Forgiveness does not mean approval!

 

Forgiving someone is not your sanctioning their actions. If you have been hurt, let down, abandoned or attacked by your dad, forgiving him is not a mark of your approval for what he has done. Just because he said I am your father does not mean you have to give approval to everything he says and does.

 

1 John 1:9

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 

If God the Father forgives our sin, does that mean He condones it? Of course not! God never condones your sin, in fact He hates it!

 

Proverbs 6:16

There are six things that the Lord hates,

seven that are an abomination to him:

 

So forgiving your father does not for one second mean that you approve of what he has done, to you or anyone else. What it means is that you forgive him, that's it, pure and simple.

 

 

6.     FORGIVENESS MEANS KEEPING ON FORGIVING

 

 

Let it go as Elsa sings. The is is easy to say, and hard to live.  Especially true when the person involved has never apologised, or maybe is not even aware of what they have done.

 

If your father has hurt you in the past, it's time this Father's Day to finally let it go… Let the past be past at last!

 

Matthew 18:21-22

Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times."

 

Ok God, I can forgive him, but what if he hurts me again? I mean, if you have been carrying hurts from your father, you might notice that you are super sensitive to almost everything he says and does, right?

 

Here's the reality, he once said, "I am your father," but you are going to be hurt again… And again… And again.

 

Now does this mean you should open yourself to continued and ongoing abuse? No, you must protect yourself, that's a given, but also recognise that pain is still going to be a part of life, and indeed any relationship.

 

Only God can give you the power to forgive again and again. Only God can deal with the pain, the super sensitivity, the injustice and anger that you feel.

 

If you ask Him, He will give you the power.

 

 

 

7.     FORGIVENESS RECOGNISES HE WILL PROBABLY NEVER MEASURE UP

 

OK, here is the reality of forgiving your father.  He most likely is not going to change. Whether you tell him of of your forgiveness or not, he probably isn't about to change who he is. He might say I am your father, but chances are he will not change the way he expresses that statement.

 

Manage your expectations. High expectations will lead to constant disappointment. If you tie your joy to getting the right response from someone else, then you are in real trouble.

 

You can forgive your father this Father's Day, be set free, release him, see your relationship improve and find yourself full of joy, even though you know he will probably never measure up. Why?

 

Nehemiah 8:10b

And do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

 

Not how he reacts, not what he does, or says, or even believes about you. Find your joy in the Lord, and you have the strength to forgive your father, no matter if he never changes!

 

Before I share my final point, let me make this absolutely clear. Forgiveness is you, forgiving your imperfect father this Father's Day. But let me tell you what forgiveness is not…

 

It does not mean approving of or justifying what your dad did.

 

It does not mean pretending that evil never took place.

 

It does not mean making excuses for your dad’s bad behaviour.

 

It does not mean overlooking abuse.

 

It does not mean denying that you have been hurt repeatedly.

 

It does not mean letting dad or mum walk all over you.

 

It does not mean forgetting the wrong that was done.

 

It does not mean pretending that you were never hurt.

 

It does not mean that you must restore the relationship to what it was before.

 

It does not mean that you open yourself up to more hurt again.

 

It does not mean there must be a total reconciliation as if nothing ever happened.

 

It does not mean that you must tell the person that you have forgiven them.

 

It does not mean that all negative consequences of your or their sin is canceled.

 

Forgiveness is letting it go, whatever has been done or said in the past, and releasing your father from any anger, bitterness or hurt you feel towards him. It liberates not him, but you, and leads nicely into my final point…

 

I'm going to pause and pray right now with you. If you feel there is something you need to forgive your dad for, maybe for the first time or the 77th time, I'm going to ask you to stand where you are.

 

TODAY IS A GREAT DAY TO FIND A NEW, PERFECT FATHER

My dad always said, "Darin, I am your father," and he meant it.

 

My dad was a great dad, but he wasn't perfect. He hurt me at times by what he said. He worked hard and often was not there for me. He tried his best, and was to me a far better father than I ever could be to my kids, but he wasn't perfect.

 

But God is!

 

My dad one day did the most incredible thing for me that illustrated what a perfect father is like.

 

On a holiday at Lake Cathai I walked out along a sand bank into the lake, stepped of and began to drown. I was 4. My dad didn't remove his heavy clothing, but dived in to save me, and once he had deposited me safely on the shore, had a heart attack.

 

My dad laid his life down for me. Your Heavenly Father did the same for you, sending heaven’s best to a cross to die for you. To save you.

 

Galatians 4:6-7

And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.

 

This Father's Day, celebrate, bless, encourage and forgive your father, by all means. But even better still, choose this Father's Day to turn to your perfect father, your abba father, your dad…

 

Today your father in heaven’s arms are open wide to you. Have you ever run into His arms?

Learning how to be a best friend is an important part of life, and being a best friend helps you to attract outstanding quality best friends yourself!

 


Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

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! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

 

James Taylor sang it, but we all need to believe it… There is nothing as good as having a friend. We live in the age of social media, yet people have never been so lonely! You can have 500 friends on Facebook, yet be the loneliest guy in the world.

 

So what is the big deal about friendship, why do we desire it so much and how can we be a Best Friend of somebody else?

 

How to be a Best Friend...

A recent study by researchers looked the age-old mystery of what makes people happy, and their answer is not what might be expected. Consistently at the top of the charts is not success, good looks, or money. Money doesn't buy happiness, it just means you can be miserable in comfort!

 

The clear winner in every culture is relationships- especially close relationships. That's why we all look for, and should be a Best Friend.

 

What can be done to build good relationships? To be honest, the answer is “not much.” We cannot do a whole lot to cultivate healthy relationships. Techniques do not work.

 

Relationships are more about being than doing.

 

Real relationships evolve out of being a certain kind of person. We must focus on who we are in relationships rather than what we do. We need to target “being” the right person in order to foster the right relationships. So how can we be the best person we can find for each other?

 

Proverbs 12:26

 

The righteous choose their friends carefully,

but the way of the wicked leads them astray.

 

Today I want to look at what it is to be a Best Friend, how you can be the best a best friend to those you love, and how to attract the very best friends around your life to help you become everything that God wants you to be.

 

Here’s some things that you need to be to be the best of best friends…

 

 

1.     BE SOMEONE WHO LISTENS

 

At the heart of every good relationship is the ability to listen and understand what another person is saying. Without accurate listening, a good relationship can never be built.

 

Job’s so called friends lacked a little in this department. Job’s life was in tatters, so they came and sat with him, and let him talk… Full marks for that so far… They let him talk, but doesn't mean they listened, right?

 

Job 2:11

 

Now when Job's three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him.

 

But they didn't listen!

 

Job 13:4-6

As for you, you whitewash with lies;

worthless physicians are you all.

Oh that you would keep silent,

and it would be your wisdom!

Hear now my argument

and listen to the pleadings of my lips.

 

People who have good relationships take the time to hear what the other person is saying. They don’t have a habit of interrupting or jumping to conclusions. They listen to the feelings the person is expressing, and they know how to respond appropriately. They not only hear, they listen and try to understand the other party.

 

We need to practice reflective listening. Like a mirror reflects an image, we can reflect the person’s message by saying something like, “What I hear you saying is . . . ” This kind of a reflection lets the person know we are really interested in accurately understanding them and their issues.

 

Like many husbands, I am good at hearing without listening, especially when the football is on. It drives Fiona nuts!

 

It also does wonders for building good relationships. Listening is not arguing every point, or expressing your views on everything, it is listening, understanding and letting your friend know that they are getting a hearing.

 

The best best friend is someone who listens.  Be a Best Friend who listens.

 

2.     BE SOMEONE WHO IS SAFE

 

In a sticky situation David found himself the object of King Saul’s wrath, but David had a close friend in Saul’s son, Jonathon…

 

1 Samuel 18:1

 

After David had finished talking with Saul, Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.

 

A close relationship is built on feelings of security. If people do not feel safe, there is no hope of them ever opening up and being authentic. People who keep their word create a sense of security for people in a relationship. They follow through on the promises they make. If we promise to keep a secret, we must keep it. We must keep our word. Once we have earned a person’s trust, our relationship will flourish.

 

The best best friend is always safe. If you want to be a Best Friend, make sure you are always safe and discrete.

 

3.     BE SOMEONE WHO IS HONEST

 

Most people look for friends that agree with them… even if they are wrong! If their friend never challenges them, they feel comfortable around them, and that is what many people look for.

 

Listen, being a good friend is not empowering someone to ruin their life! Many friends are like this… They just support you even if you are destroying yourself. Drugs friends, friends who encourage you to sleep around, drinking buddies… So many choose their friends based on them agreeing with their lifestyle.

 

I've had friends move away from me because I do not agree it's their lifestyle. Friends don't have to see eye to eye, but they can walk hand in hand!

 

Or they can say, “Here, I'm your best friend, let me help you ruin your life!”

 

Proverbs 27:6

 

Wounds from a friend can be trusted,

but an enemy multiplies kisses.

 

This is where the value of a mentor is found.  Every Timothy needs a Paul and every Paul needs a mentor too.

 

A mentor is someone who speaks into your life, whether it's good or bad! If you want to be a Best Friend to someone, you may need to be brave enough to speak out!

 

In my position as a pastor, I urn to people I can trust… Dr Bill Newman, Ps Marie Cartledge, Ps Rod Jobe, and many others.

 

My friend does me a favour when he finds me in error or shows me a fault that my blind spot doesn’t allow me to see.  That’s the value of a close friend.  He or she loves you enough to tell you the truth.  Fiona does this well for me.

 

I would rather have the wounds of a friend because they cut in order to heal, but “the kisses of an enemy” only flatter me and may inflate my ego increasing my pride and stunting my spiritual growth.

 

Be a Best Friend who is honest, even if the truth hurts a bit.

 

4.     BE SOMEONE WHO LENDS A HAND

 

John 15:13

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

 

In rewarding relationships, people not only have feelings of security, they also help each other out. Sometimes that help may be seen in tangible ways - a lift to church, for example.

And sometimes it may be through giving reassurance before you take a big exam or have that critical interview.

 

The point is that we should help them because we want to, not because we have to. As the saying goes, “That’s what friends are for.”

 

Once there were two men who were trapped in a cabin on a mountain during a blizzard.  The drifts were so high that there was no way that they could go for help.  Obviously, this was before cell phones so there was nothing much they could do but try and wait it out and hope that help would come.   As the days passed and the snow continued to fall, the two men because desperate as they scrounged for anything that they could find to eat.  The cabin that they had borrowed didn’t have much of anything to eat.  After about the tenth day, it appeared that they weren’t going to make it because they were running out of food.

 

That was when one of the men said that he was going to go out and try to find help.  He went into the upper portion of the split-level cabin, found some snow shoes, and went through the upper window of the cabin.  He never came back.  After a few days, his friend went up into the attic to try and look out the window to see if he could see his friend. There he found a note that said, “I know that there wasn’t enough food for the both of us to live much longer and I couldn’t bear to see us both die of starvation so I thought that you should be the one to survive.  I love you my brother.”

 

True love, true friendship involves a valid expression of your love. In other words, you can be a Best Friend who demonstrates your love, lives it out and is practical in your friendship.

 

My uncle Eric use to walk to church every Sunday, and wave to a guy who was always sitting on the front porch. He wondered how he could reach out to him, and they exchanged greetings every Sunday. This went on for several years.

 

Then one day, Eric noticed the man shovelling in a hole. He asked what had happened, and was told that the grease trap was broken. Have you ever smelled a grease trap. Possibly the must pungent smell ever.

 

Eric said nothing, but turned and went home. He got changed out of his Sunday best and into overalls, went back and joined the man digging in the sewer.

 

Next week the man went to church. A few weeks later he came to Christ!

 

The best best friend is always there for you lending a hand when it's needed.

 

5.     BE SOMEONE WHO IS EMPATHETIC

 

To build good relationships, people have to stop seeing only their point of view and learn to see the world from another person’s perspective.

 

Selfishness does not foster good relationships. To be a best friend, you need to start seeing things not from your point of view, but from the viewpoint of your friend.

 

The fancy word for this is “empathy”. Once we put ourselves in other people’s shoes, we begin to understand why they might react, feel, and think the way they do. Of course, empathy does not come naturally; it takes work. It takes a decision to see life as another person sees it.

 

Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care. Theodore Roosevelt.

 

Galatians 6:2

Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.

 

“Before you criticise a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticise him,my you'll be a mile away and wearing his shoes.” Steve Martin

 

A best best friend bears another's burdens. He doesn't just criticise, he empathises.

 

 

6.     BE SOMEONE WHO CAN RECEIVE

 

This is a hard one for me, and many of you. I find it easy to be generous to others, but not so easy to receive in my hour of need.

 

If a relationship is all running one direction, you'll soon tire of it.  When the scales of a relationship are unbalanced-when one is always receiving and one is always giving-both people will eventually feel cheated.

 

In healthy relationships, people meet each other’s needs. There is a give and take that keeps both sides in balance.

 

We must learn to allow people to care for us as much as we care for them. We must not fall into the trap of thinking that in order to be a good friend we have to do all the giving.

 

Colossians 3:12-14

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.

 

A best best friend knows how to give and receive in a relationship.

 

 

7.     BE SOMEONE WHO WEATHERS TURBULENCE

 

Fair weather  friends are worth very little, because a true friend stands by you in your darkest hour… Even if you are the cause of it!

 

Proverbs 17:17

A friend loves at all times,

and a brother is born for adversity.

 

A true friend even sticks by you if there is conflict between them and you. Every relationship experiences conflict at some point, and when this happens you might feel like taking your bat and ball and going home. You need to be a Best Friend who weathers the storms.

 

You need to recognise that every good relationship eventually encounters a rough spot, a time when one or both people feel like giving up. It happens in marriages, it happens in friendships.

 

It is a scary phase in relationships, but be encouraged because it usually indicates that both parties are going beneath the surface to talk about their true feelings, their likes and dislikes, the good and the bad. Opening up may bring turbulence, but ultimately your friendship will be stronger for it, if you let it.

 

Bill Newman describes marriage as two rivers flowing together… Initially there is a time of turbulence, but soon they combine to be more powerful than before. The same can be said of true friendship.

 

But if we are mature enough, and if we persevere, the time of relational turbulence can lead to a deeper, more genuine, and more authentic relationship than before.

 

Conflict is often the temporary price we pay for deepening intimacy in relationships.

 

A best best friend weathers the turbulence of the relationship.

 

8.     BE SOMEONE WHO BRINGS THE BEST OUT IN ANOTHER

 

Henry Ford said, “My best friend is the one who brings the best out in me.”

 

This is so true about a truly best friend. They encourage, invest in and spur on you and your growth. If you are a friend who brings people down rather than builds them up, you are no friend at all! Be a Best Friend who brings out the best in tour friends!

 

Proverbs 27:17

Iron sharpens iron,

and one man sharpens another.

I have discovered this verse to be true time and time again. I always choose to hang out with those who challenge and inspire me, rather than those who deflate and depress me. And that is the friend that I want to be too!

 

So the best best friends are those that inspire, challenge and bring the best out in others. They cause you to lift your eyes to the hills, to strive for excellence and encourage you in your walk with God. If you want to be a great friend, inspire others.

 

9.     BE SOMEONE WHO KNOWS WHEN TO CALL IT QUITS

 

Ouch, this one is going to hurt!

 

Sometimes you need to be big enough and brave enough to walk away.

 

Frankly, there are some people you do not need to be friends with. I’m not saying get nasty, throw things or spread gossip about them, but some people are so toxic, so destructive and drain you so much that you have to be brave enough to walk away!

 

 

1 Corinthians 15:33

Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.”

 

Some friendships are toxic. If you are close friends with someone who drags you down, especially spiritually, if they are the reason why you fall back into sin, then you need to distance yourself from them.

 

There are some relationships that are not worth the work. Of course, every relationship needs nurturing, but some relationships, no matter how hard people try to make them work, are doomed to disaster.

 

Maybe the other party is a taker, and all you do is give. Maybe they tempt you back into your old, sinful ways. Maybe they mock and attack your faith.

 

2 Corinthians 6:14

The Temple of the Living God

Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness?

 

If we are in a relationship that leads us to do things that we do not want to do, the relationship is not healthy and may need to be stopped.

 

If we are in a relationship where we are constantly trying to win the person’s approval or never feel accepted, the relationship is probably not a good one. When that is the case, we need to call it quits before the other person’s rejection damages us and limits our usefulness to God.

 

10.  BE A BEST FRIEND WHO REFLECTS CHRIST

 

Relationships  are complex and require certain fundamental elements plus, of course,  time. In building relationships, it is more profitable to examine ourselves to determine the type of person we are, rather than focusing on chasing down the friends we want.

 

 

As a believer, we are called to reflect Christ. In fact, we are called to be like Him. If you want to truly be the best friend you can possibly be, and thereby attract the best friends ever, then reflecting Christ in all you do and say is the best way to do it!

 

 

2 Corinthians 3:18

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

 

Are you being transformed daily into the image of Christ? Are you living for yourself or are you a living, breathing reflection of Jesus. Do you act to gratify yourself, or do you want to serve the Lord and those around you?  Do you have toxic friends you need to distance yourself from?

Be a Best Friend who reflects Christ!

 

When you come to Christ you are also enrolled in the University of Adversity, and along with questions about adversity you have the incredible opportunity to learn and grow through any situation, good or bad, high or low, mountain top or Valley… And trust me you will learn more in the valleys than on the mountain tops.

 

Life is full of ups and downs, a roller coaster of experiences, emotions and relationships. So given the variety of terrain you face, one of the questions about adversity you often will have is "Where is your education at Uni-Adversity going to be most effective?"

 

We lean more in our valley experiences than in our mountaintop experiences. My may not enjoy them as much, but we definitely learn more from them.

 

James 5:10-11

 

Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.

 

By any standards, Job got a raw deal!  Faithful, righteous, caring and successful, God boasted of him and thereby lined him up for a fontal attack by Satan. Job had to go through some very dark, excruciating days, but James reminds us that God never abandoned Him. It always helps to remember God’s unchanging compassion and mercy when we suffer.

 

In this message I’m going to address some of the common questions all of us have when we think about suffering, hard times and adversity.  But before we address these questions, let me remind you what you are about to learn in adversity…

 

So the first of our questions about adversity is what do we learn in our suffering?

 

  1. ADVERSITY REVEALS OUR STRENGTHS AND OUR WEAKNESSES

 

In we can only see our situation and circumstances, we often do not have a true understanding of our potential.  But God does! Consider Gideon’s call to greatness…

 

Judges 6:11-16

 

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but if the Lord is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all his wonders that our ancestors told us about when they said, ‘Did not the Lord bring us up out of Egypt?’ But now the Lord has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?”

“Pardon me, my lord,” Gideon replied, “but how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

The Lord answered, “I will be with you, and you will strike down all the Midianites, leaving none alive.”

 

The Lord’s estimation of us often differs from our own. God saw Gideon as a “valiant warrior” because He knew what He was going to accomplish through him. God saw the potential that Gideon never saw in himself for a moment!

 

Gideon saw himself as weak and little because his focus was on his circumstances rather than on the Lord When we believe God and depend on Him to empower us, we become who He says we are—His beloved children through whom He overcomes the world…

 

1 John 5:4

for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.

 

Remember, when we are weak, He is strong!

 

  1. ADVERSITY IS OUR CHANCE TO SHINE

 

Funny how you sometimes misfit a key and it reveals a truth. I mishit the S, so this heading read “Adversity is our chance to whine.” This is a Fraudian slip but probably more true for us.Most of us whine long before we shine, don't we?

 

When a freak storm hit the boat the disciples and Jesus travelled in, the true extent of their faith was revealed…

 

When hardships come our way, do we respond, “God, I trust You to bring me through this”? Or do we tend to say, “I’m doomed, and there’s nothing anybody can do”? Or maybe we say, “Why me Lord, don't You care?”

 

Mark 4:38-40

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don't you care if we drown?”

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

 

How often do we say things like this to our Lord? How often do we have questions about adversity? When we get into some trouble, we question His love, not His ability. And yet despite our lack of faith, He reaches out His hand and saves us. Guess He really does care after all.

 

When the storm hit, Jesus was fast asleep in the stern of the boat, and the disciples cried, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

 

How many times have you felt the same way? Life turns stormy, adversity comes against us, and we don't see an opportunity to grow, we see disaster!  We cry out: “Don’t You care, Lord, that this is happening to me? God, don’t You love me enough to do something about this hardship?”

 

The disciples woke Jesus and immediately He rebuked the wind and a great calm settled on the lake. Then He turned to His disciples and said, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40).

 

Faith is a gift, and God has given to each one of us the ability to trust Him. He expects us to use this faith to overcome doubt, fear, and anxiety. Many times, these negative feelings accompany hard times, and form the basis of many questions about adversity.

 

When we hit the valley of our trials, we are tempted  to think the worst and wonder if we will ever recover. Satan loves to tell us that all hope is lost, that we will never achieve our goals. Our situation hopeless, our faith worthless.

 

Where can you turn? To Scripture, where we read

 

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.

 

All things? Even adversity? That's what the Bible says!

 

So,, we must stay the course, continue to trust, and know that because Christ is with us, we will make it to the other side. No matter how serious the difficulty, we will recover, and our final state will be better than anything we have experienced in the past.

 

This is your moment to shine!

 

Allow adversity to spur your faith to action rather than into question. When you do, you will find that it reveals areas in which you need to act in confidence rather than fear. When hard times come, instead of running for cover, make a commitment to trust God. Because the more you depend upon Him, the greater your faith will grow.

 

Then the more triumphant you will be! You will shine brightly when others expect you to fade away!

 

 

Yet inevitably you will have questions. That's ok, just don't let them steal your faith. Let's consider a few questions many people have in the School of Hard Knocks at Uni-Adversity.

MOUNTAIN HIGH, VALLEY WHY? Questions about adversity...

 

So why do we even have to face valleys, and what are some of the questions you face when you get right down in the valley of adversity?

 

1.     WHY AM I CRITICISED DURING TIMES OF ADVERSITY?

 

Often as we struggle with adversity, we find ourselves being criticised, often by those who are closest to us…

 

Job 2:9-10

 

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

 

When you face difficult circumstances and then have to endure negative opinions and comments from others, you need a special kind of courage to stay positive—despite their words, you must continue to believe that the Lord is with you.

 

Just because you're in Uni-Adversity and facing tough times, it does not make hope and faith automated responses. You have to make a choice, and this requires an act of your will and a fair slice of courage!

 

And the comments of others often don't help, right?

 

That's why here at Coast Church, we want to be encouraging you in the trials you face. We want to speak life and faith to you.

 

But if no one else does it, you may need to speak faith to yourself! Use scriptures like Psalm 23, or Psalm 42. Tell yourself that your loving Heavenly Father has a purpose in your pain!

 

Whatever they say, find out what God says and choose to believe that!

 

Deuteronomy 31:8

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

 

2.     WHERE IS GOD WHEN I’M IN PAIN?

 

As a child, I often had to have needles for my asthma. The doctor and my mum would have to chase me around the surgery. As far as I could tell, the doctor was assaulting me and my mum was an accomplice! I could not see as a child the greater good those injections would result in.

 

Isaiah 63:9

In all their distress he too was distressed,

and the angel of his presence saved them.

In his love and mercy he redeemed them;

he lifted them up and carried them

all the days of old.

 

So where is God when you are hurting? He's right there it's you, hurting with you, just as my mum was when I faced those injections. Now I am a  father I get that… But I didn't as a child!

 

Isaiah 56:5

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

 

 

 

God does not leave us to suffer when the hard times come; instead, He is right there with us, ever mindful of the pain we endure, not only watching and giving moral support, but also acting on our behalf so we don't suffer a moment longer than we can bear!

 

 

3.     AN ALL TIME FAVOURITE QUESTION ABOUT ADVERSITY IS HOW CAN A GOOD GOD ALLOW SUFFERING IN A BELIEVER’S LIFE?

 

A frequent questions about adversity is how can a good God allow suffering for those who love Him? If you ask this, you're not the first…

 

Psalms 10:1

 

Psalm 10

Why, Lord, do you stand far off?

Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?

 

Or how about Moses

 

Exodus 5:22

 

Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me?

 

 

Adversity that goes beyond your ability to control it simply proves that God is God, and we are not!  When we consider the suffering we face, we become acutely aware of our need for Him and His intervention to save us. We need His grace and love, and we need it now!

 

Satan makes mileage out of this questions about adversity, especially if you have been told that God will never allow adversity in your life. Again, this shallow theology concentrates on you getting your way, not God having his way with you to develop character.

 

I love how Spurgeon puts it…

 

“God knows that soldiers are to be made only in battle; they are not to be grown in peaceful times. Warriors are really educated by the smell of powder, in the midst of whizzing bullets and roaring cannonades…Is He not developing in you the qualities of the soldier by throwing you into the heat of battle, and should you not use every application to come off conqueror?”

 

 

4.     WHAT THE POINT OF ADVERSITY IF IT MAKES ME FEEL WEAK?

 

If you face adversity, chances are you feel overwhelmed or weak at some point. Most of us know what it feels like to be disappointed in ourselves, embarrassed by our failures, rejected but those we thought we could count on, overwhelmed by adversity.

 

What is it that you face today that is overwhelming you! What questions about adversity are making you feel weak?

 

Regardless of how you feel,  whatever brings you to your knees in weakness carries the greatest potential for the greatest spiritual victory.

 

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.

 

If you feel weak, rejoice, you're ready to truly trust God now!

 

5.     HOW DO I DEAL WITH FEELINGS THAT PLUNGE FROM STRUGGLING TO  DISCOURAGED TO HOPELESS?

Another of the most challenging questions about adversity...

Since stepping up to become pastor of this church, I've had my fair share of adversity. I met with a leader of our denomination who told me I had face more adversity and personal attack  in my first 6 months than most pastors face in 20 years.

 

At times I've felt discouraged and yes, even hopeless! Then the Lord gave me this…

 

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.

 

If you feel hopeless, helpless, or powerless—unable to deal with people or problems and on the verge of exhaustion—take heart from that passage!

 

When everything looked the worst, no food, no livestock, everything up to mud, somehow Habakkuk didn't just say he had faith, he actually rejoiced!

 

So one of the questions about adversity you often ask is how could he find such hope in the face of unmitigated disaster?

 

He got a revelation from God. Habakkuk 2:2-3. He spent time pressing into Him, reading His Word, seeking His heart and His purposes. He asked God, and frankly didn't like the answer he got! But he saw the vision, wrote it down and waited, fully confident that God would come through for him. He learned from the University of Adversity.

 

That's why he rejoiced. That's why James said, “Count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds.”

 

Not that its fun, but that God is working a greater work within you.

 

The pain isn’t fun, the hurt isn’t pleasant and the feelings of discouragement and hopelessness are almost debilitating, but God is working in and through these adversities to bring about something special within you!

 

Do you need that revelation, that joy today as you attend Uni-Adversity?  Have you had a revelation of God’s love for you and purpose in your time of adversity? First, read His Word, but also, let us pray with you …

 

If you feel hopeless, if you feel like you’ll never triumph, then this morning is for you.

 

Your feelings are valid, they’re normal. When. You walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you’re entitled to feel discouraged. But keep walking, don’t camp there!

 

If you are struggling  with feelings of hopelessness this morning, don't let questions about adversity hold you back from graduating the University of Adversity!