As I stated a few weeks ago, here is my first official sermon, which was delivered on 11/06/11. G received his copy so now here you go... Yes it is long, but I won't apologize ;)
How Much Are You Willing To Sacrifice, In Order To Walk With Him?
All Scriptures that I will be using are coming from the English Standard Version Bible;
2 Chronicles 20:2-7; “Some men came and told Jehoshaphat, "A great multitude is coming against you from Edom, from beyond the sea; and, behold, they are in Hazazon-tamar" (that is, Engedi). Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the LORD, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. And Judah assembled to seek help from the LORD; from all the cities of Judah they came to seek the LORD. And Jehoshaphat stood in the assembly of Judah and Jerusalem, in the house of the LORD, before the new court, and said, "O LORD, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you. Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?”
As I read these verses of Scriptures, the one thing that continued to stand out to me was; when in fear, pray.
During this time, Israel and Judah were divided. Jehoshaphat was the 4th king of the separated kingdom of Judah, somewhere around 873-848 B.C. He was a follower of the commandments of God and during his 3rd year reigning, he sent out princes, Levites and priests, to go from city to city, teaching the people the Book of the Law.
In these passages of Scripture we find that Jehoshaphat was in serious trouble and he was very afraid, for the army that was approaching was a powerful one, and he knew it was more than they would be able to handle. (It also shows that no matter how devoted you are to God, at some point in your life, you are going to have to face off with fear). In order for the Lord to offer His help, the people of Judah had to do something first. They had to come together, turn their attention away from the troubles surrounding them, and back to their complete trust in God.
The people of Judah did not know what would happen, however, they trusted in the Lord, and because of that trust, they were delivered from enemies who were seeking to kill them.
We need to get back to the place where our complete trust in God, is the central focus of our heart and mind.
Remember when Peter walked on the water? Matthew 14:30-31 reads “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
The first thing I noticed in this passage of Scripture was that, Jesus didn’t immediately reach out and save Peter. Peter had to ask for help first, and as soon as he did, then he received it.
If we honestly believe that the power of Jesus Christ flows through us in all of our difficult times; He will see us through each of the storms; He will walk us over every single mountain; and He will guide us across the raging seas.
It is a necessity that we stand firm in our faith and listen as He speaks to us through the Holy Spirit.
But what about the times when a problem can seem so overwhelming, that we don’t even know where to begin, much less how to tackle it? All too often we become so completely focused on the problem, that we tend to forget about the big picture and that is where God is. The big picture is what shows us that God is in complete control, even during the times when we are not.
There are going to be times when we have to fight the difficulties of life, however, the outcome is already in the hands of God and He has promised to protect us and deliver us.
All we have to do is stop at the first sign of trouble and turn to God with our absolute trust. He will then guide our steps from there, just as he guided the steps of King Jehoshaphat’s army. King Jehoshaphat and his people were scared and they did the smartest thing they could have done: They turned to the Lord and put their faith in His ability to protect them.
Hebrews 13:8 tells us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, and forever. Without question, His truth, His love and His faithfulness, has continued, throughout all of time, unchanged and since we know that God helped those who honestly relied upon Him back then, He will do the same for those who honestly rely upon Him today.
Sadly; the problem is locating people who are truly willing to put themselves to the side, so they can place God first. To all things, there is a sacrifice that must be made and in order to follow Jesus you are required to turn your back on certain things of this world.
The things you need to turn away from differ from person to person; however, think about it this way ~ If it is keeping you from being fully devoted to Christ, then it must be sacrificed.
My question for you this afternoon is this; How much are you willing to sacrifice, in order to walk with Him?
We have been presented with something that requires us to make a very honest choice, perhaps for the very first time in our lives.
As a Christian, do you find yourselves in situations, that you know you shouldn’t be taking a part of; or do you find yourselves skipping things that you know, deep down, you should be doing?
Are you accountable enough to Jesus, in order to keep your focus, each and every single day, no matter what?
Often times it is as simple as not finding Church interesting any more or perhaps you feel you have done enough work during the week, you look forward to unwinding at the clubs on Friday and Saturday nights and then spend Sundays recuperating instead of getting up and going to Church.
It could be that you feel you are far enough along in your spirituality or perhaps you feel you have already done enough for the Lord, and you have become lax in your day to day walk. It starts out almost innocently; You can no longer find the time for prayer; you forget to bless your food before you sit down to eat it; you no longer attend Bible study; your attitude towards loving your fellow man has shifted, and before you know it, you have stopped renewing your mind altogether.
He wants you to be a follower and He expects you to take the responsibility of following Him, very seriously.
Regrettably sacrifice is something many people just aren’t willing to do; however, we have to give up something, in order to receive something.
We are so selfish that we continuously make allowances for our sins and shortcomings, instead of owning up to our own mistakes, and then we would rather blame everyone else, including the enemy for every single thing that goes wrong in our lives, most especially for stealing our focus off of God. I have a newsflash for you, the enemy cannot steal our focus; He will absolutely do whatever it takes to seduce you into his trap, however, when all is said and done, we are the ones who made the decision to shift our focus.
Just as the Israelites did, often we find ourselves in the midst of some serious trouble. However, we have got to always remember one very important thing; On our own, we have zero defenses against an attack from the enemy.
If we stop and consider how truly helpless we are, we will then be able to come to the belief that the only place we can find real help, is to go to God and allow Him to battle the enemy on our behalf.
We delude ourselves into thinking that we can handle the trouble the enemy dishes out, without fully relying on God. This leads to many clueless Christians thinking they can actually challenge the devil, with their power alone. However, it will always end with the devil showing you, that you have no power. Exodus 14:14 reads “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent."
Always keep it in your mind that we have to fully trust in God to defeat our enemies, no matter what the situation is that we are facing.
So, we know that our only help is through God, but how can we access His help?
All throughout Scripture, He promises us over and over again that if we go to Him, He will come to us. That if we seek His presence within our hearts, He will rescue us from our enemies. The help is found through our faith, that He will deliver us, just as promised.
We have something today that the people back then didn’t have, we have the Bible.
In Exodus 13:21 we find a perfect example of how the Israelites were assured they were on the correct path as they were following Moses out of slavery ~ “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead them along the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night.”
Today, the Bible gives us information on how to know we are in God’s will. When we are faced with troubles, the first thing we should be doing is going to God, in prayer. Yet, most of us would prefer to go back to where we were, before the trouble began. Running backwards is never going to be the answer and as far as I know, it doesn’t help the situation either. But for some unknown reason, this is just something that we feel is easier to do, instead of standing firm, having faith, and watching what God does for us.
King Jehoshaphat and all the people devoted themselves to prayer and giving thanks and the Lord expects us to devote ourselves to Him in this same manner.
He wants us to be diligent in the time we spend with Him in prayer and He also wants us to commit just as much time listening to Him, as He responds to us.
It is one thing to have a monologue, yet, it is considerably different to have a dialogue.
During our prayer time, we may hear the voice of the Holy Spirit, however, the voice may not be telling us exactly what we want to hear, and so what do we do?
We keep praying, hoping that if we pray harder, longer or even louder, we will finally get what we want. We have got to be willing to pray for His answers and not turn Him off, if it isn’t what we want to hear.
If we are going to call ourselves Christians, then we must be willing to make sacrifices and we have to be faithful in those sacrifices. A good place to start is with sacrificing the things of this world that hold our attention, so that we can put that focus back on God.
We have to be relentless in becoming more God-focused. The desire of your heart should be more of what He offers, instead of what the world offers.
As it is stated in Mark, Matthew as well as in Luke, we have to let our old lives, along with our selfish desires die away and we need to become reborn in Christ. A fresh, brand-new beginning: Dedicated, focused, and determined to living like we belong to Jesus.
You have got to make a decision to place your feet on either His side or the worlds’ side. You cannot have one foot in each world.
When I started on this road, I honestly tried hard to keep one foot in my world and one foot in His world, perhaps, because I needed to know I had that fallback in case this didn’t work out, however, the longer I kept a foot in each world, the more torn I became. Somewhere along the way, it began to feel like a game of tug-o-war raging within me, one side wanting to go left, the other side wanting to go right.
The pull of each world is very real; On one hand, there was the world I used to know, the one I was most comfortable in. I had my friends, family, loved ones and things I liked to do (that may or may not have been sinful). That is the comfort I had known all my life, I controlled that world, or at least I thought I did.
On the other hand, I found myself in a new world; in His world, the things were new, people were new and in the beginning, I will admit, I was extremely uncomfortable, so far out of my comfort zone, that half the time I didn’t know which way was up. I struggled to find where I belonged and the pull from my old world would continue to call me, at the same time the pull of the Holy Spirit fought to keep me.
I knew I would have to make a decision, to plant both feet in only one of the worlds, once and for all. I sacrificed my fallback and the life I once knew, because I realized that He was the only true presence I needed in my life.
In the Book of Mark we find that a rich man once told Jesus he wanted to follow Him. When Jesus told him he first had to get rid of all the things of the world that held his attention, the man walked away sorrowful. He wanted to follow Jesus, however, he did not want Him badly enough to sacrifice the things that meant more to him than Jesus did.
And that is exactly what Jesus wants from each one of us today; to sacrifice those things we do in life, that take away from our walk with Him.
King Jehoshaphat knew the truth of the situation. He didn’t have the power to withstand an attack from a bigger army. So they stopped, refocused, and put all their attention on God.
When we can do that, we show God just how determined and genuine we are about pursuing His help and presence in our lives, this is when He shows us, just how serious and sincere He is for us.
Yes; you are going to have problems in this life, and yes, some problems are going to be more difficult to get over than others. But if we don’t focus our attention on Him, we run the risk of not even beginning to know to which way to turn, much less what to do next. We become trapped in an endless cycle and then we panic trying desperately to fix everything ourselves.
King Jehoshaphat went into this battle, knowing full well that they would lose and be killed, if God did not keep His promises. He stood firm in the Lord, trusting in God to protect them.
We need to get to the point where, our feelings cannot be hurt badly enough to turn us away; we will not be discouraged enough to turn around, and we cannot lose enough to cause us to quit.
Remembering if we end up with nothing, we will still come out ahead knowing that, as Philippians 3:7-8 states; “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.”
We will finally be able to get to the point where; Demons will no longer be able to ambush us, people will no longer be able to embitter us, there isn’t a sickness around that is going to stop us and battles will no longer defeat us. And because our walk with Jesus will be so unwavering, hell wouldn’t even begin to know, how to handle us.
With each step I take, I claim the victory for God. I will not give up, I will sacrifice whatever it takes, and I will always, always try to inspire others to join me.
2000 years ago, the ultimate sacrifice was paid. Jesus suffered extreme humiliation, unbelievable pain and the shedding of His blood, for you. He bought your peace, safety and security in the Land of Promise; Your eternal life with God. Why I ask, wouldn’t you be willing to sacrifice your all, for Him?
I will leave you with these parting words; from the Book of Joshua, chapter 1 verses 5-9, and it reads; “No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may have good success wherever you go. 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. Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go."