August 2022

It Takes Courage (To Stand For the Truth) pt.1

All Scripture taken from the New Living Translation

Today we are starting a 5-part series titled, “It Takes Courage.”

Let’s face it, it takes courage to follow Jesus… It takes courage to raise your hand during ministry time if something pertains to you…

It takes courage as a visitor to raise your hand when we recognize our guests…

To do the right thing, to represent Jesus, to stand strong in our faith takes courage!

We’re going to start today by looking at how it takes courage to stand for the truth!

Today may be challenging for some of us… And if it is challenging for you, I want to encourage you not to block it out, but to wrestle it out with God!

Following Jesus and standing for the truth takes courage… and many times when we lack the courage to speak up or take a stand for something, and we beat ourselves up and feel bad… Stop doing that because we’re in good company!

John chapter 7 starts out by saying the Jewish leaders were plotting the death of Jesus and there was a lot of arguing among His own siblings and followers, but no one had the courage to speak publicly about the good Jesus was doing…

John 7:12-13: 12 There was a lot of grumbling about him among the crowds. Some argued, “He’s a good man,” but others said, “He’s nothing but a fraud who deceives the people.” 13 But no one had the courage to speak favorably about him in public, for they were afraid of getting in trouble with the Jewish leaders.

Even the Apostle Paul needed some encouragement in boldness and courage…

Acts 18:9-10 – One night the Lord spoke to Paul in a vision and told him, “Don’t be afraid! Speak out! Don’t be silent! For I am with you, and no one will attack and harm you, for many people in this city belong to Me.”

It helps me to see that Jesus’ followers and even the apostle Paul needed some help in courage…

And when I’m personally feeling like I’m lacking courage this is when I have honest conversations with God about how I’m feeling… And He never disappoints!

Here’s the deal… I filter everything through God’s Word… Every important decision… Everything about marriage, parenting, finances, ministering, counseling…

All things in life I filter through God’s Word!!

But we all have, even me, we all have a lens in which we make decisions through… 

We all have a worldview with our perception of how life should be based on our life’s experiences…

Every time we make a decision it’s seen through the lens of how we perceive life to be… 

And here’s the thing… This is natural because it’s how we’re wired as human beings.

But the moment we put our faith in Jesus, we must make the Bible our lens in which we see through… And it can often get cloudy… Because life is tricky, isn’t it?

Everyone has their worldviews… And we are either influenced by them or we are influencing others…

Let’s look at some worldviews many of us have and what the Bible says about them

There are hundreds of worldviews, but I would consider these the big ones we all have a tendency to base decisions from…

The first one we’ll look at is, “Materialism.”

This is money, things… The way we measure success is our wealth and accumulation of things.

If a person is not wealthy, they would not be considered successful… I would highly disagree with this mindset.

However, when money and the economy is the most important to us it then determines how we think, how we vote, and how we act and react to situations because money matters most…

But when the Bible becomes our filter, we can use it to determine the truth when it comes to money and possessions…

Proverbs 11:28 – Trust in your money and down you go! But the godly flourish like leaves in spring.

Ecclesiastes 5:10 – Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness!

Wealth is a good thing, but when it becomes the priority, we need to be careful!

The second worldview we’re going to look at is big in today’s culture and it’s called, “Individualism.”

Individualism is a dangerous worldview to embrace, because it means that I don’t care what happens to those around me if I get what I’m longing for…

I will do whatever I can to make myself look better than those around me…

So, here’s the deal… God didn’t create us to live for ourselves… 

God created us for something far bigger than anything we can dream up…

Philippians 2:4-5 – Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Luke 9:22-26: 22 “The Son of Man[a] must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.” 23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels.

Prior to this passage in a private conversation with the disciples, Peter just declared Jesus as the Messiah sent from God, and Jesus warns them not to tell anyone this… His time had not come!

But then Jesus tells everyone the worldview a person must have if they want to follow Him… And Jesus sets the example for us…

Jesus does not live His life for Himself… He lives it for us… He gave up His life here on earth so that we could have life in Him…

When we stop living life for ourselves and live the life we were created for… We will gain more than we could ever imagine!

In verse 25 He addresses a materialistic worldview… What good is it if a person gains the whole world, but they themselves are lost?

Verse 26 is the very essence of this series, “It Takes Courage.” If we put our faith in Jesus, but are ashamed of Him and His message… He will be ashamed of us!

The last worldview we’ll look at doesn’t really have a name to describe it, but it’s something many people, and even many Christians have slipped into the habit of doing, and that is…

Putting more trust in our government than in the Word of God!

Too many people hold their political party up here and the Bible beneath it… 

In Matthew 22:21 the religious leaders were trying to trap Jesus with a question about paying taxes and He replied with this answer, “Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

In the context of this passage Caesar represents the government… So, what do we give to the government?

For starters our respect, our support, our prayers…

And in the context of what Jesus said, we are to pay taxes, we are to obey the laws of the land… 

And in return the government is to protect and preserve the freedom and order of the country… And this happens by those who we the people vote into office…

But what is it that Jesus says we are to give to God?

Our lives… We owe God our lives… Placing our faith and trust in Jesus redeems us for eternity… He bought and paid for our eternity on the Cross!

So, in that regard we owe Him!

What else are we to give to God? Our first fruits, the tithe… The first 10% of our income belongs to God…

The reason people don’t tithe is because they don’t trust God… They don’t trust God to take care of them the way He says He will when we give back 10% of what is already His!

The tithe is an investment into God’s Kingdom. Why is it we will invest money for our retirement, but we will not invest in God’s Kingdom for our eternity??

This is the beginning of a materialistic worldview… I’m keeping what I think should be mine.

If only people understood how much supernatural protection the tithe brings!

But then we wonder why things just keep spiraling out of control!

Our culture is crumbling around us… We’re in a constant state of crisis… Controversies and corruption… Chaos, confusion, conflicts within families and social circles… Even in the churches…

All because we put too much trust in one political party or the other, and not enough trust in God… 

And what happens is we begin picking and choosing what we think is right… We mix a little of what this politician said and find a way to make that work with a passage in the Bible…

This is called being presumptuous with the truth of God’s word…

When we do this our truth is not a constant… It changes with the opinions of man…

Filtering everything through the truth of God’s Word gives us a solid foundation to base all of life’s decisions on… Because the truth never changes!

Opinions change… Science changes… But the truth in God’s Word never changes!

And if we’re going to be courageous people for the Gospel, and stand for the truth, then we must build our life on that which never changes…

The eternal truth of God’s Word!

As we close out today’s message, I want you to know that this stuff isn’t easy…

But neither was being nailed to a Cross, so if Jesus can go through that for me, then I can wrestle things out with Him that I struggle with…

And in turn I will do my best to stand on the truth of God’s Word.

But look what we get from God when we do this…

Hebrews 6:18-19 – So God has given both His promise and His oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to Him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.

THE COURAGE TO KEEP GOING

Uncommon Courage – Part 2

We are continuing our sermon series that we started last week called “ It Takes Courage”. Last week we talked about the courage it takes to stand for the truth. Today we are going to look at the courage it takes to keep going.

When I started college I can remember being overwhelmed by the path that was before me. It was hard to even imagine myself getting through it. At one point I had mapped out my entire undergraduate class schedule and as I looked at it I felt belittled and unqualified. This was going to take too long, it was going to be way too hard, and it was going to cost way too much money.

I knew at that moment that if I was ever going to accomplish this goal, it would only be by the grace of God. There were many moments throughout my college experience that I questioned what I was doing and whether or not I was on the right path for my life, but something deep inside knew that I was doing the right thing. When I finally did graduate from college I had a different perspective on challenges. I was not most proud of my accomplishments, but rather my failures.

At my graduation I found all of my F’s and D’s that I had gotten throughout the six years of school and displayed them proudly on a table. It was these F’s and D’s that challenged me most. When I got a bad score on a test or assignment, I questioned myself, what I was doing, and how I wanted to respond. I could have taken it as a sign that this program was not for me. I could have been discouraged and given up. Instead I used them as motivation to keep going. I knew that if I could ever graduate as an ME, that it wouldn’t be because I was the smartest, it was because God was on my side. “Recently, I was asked if I was going to fire an employee who made a mistake that cost the company $600,000. “No”, I replied. “I just spent $600,000 training him – why would I want somebody to hire his experience?” – Thomas John Watson Sr., IBM

Failures and struggles are like the resistance in our life. Resistance can be used like a compass to guide us. Like Steven Pressfield says in his book “The Art of War” “Like a magnetized needle floating on a surface of oil, Resistance will unfailingly point to true North—meaning that calling or action it most wants to stop us from doing. We can use this. We can use it as a compass. We can navigate by Resistance, letting it guide us to that calling or action that we must follow before all others. Rule of thumb: The more important a call or action is to our soul’s evolution, the more Resistance we will feel toward pursuing it.” -Steven Pressfield

But my failures only defined half of the struggles and resistance during college. The other half could be referred to as suffering.

Suffering is sometimes even a result of failures and successes. Even good things required some suffering, such as staying up late to do school work or studying for a test. I suffered by being exhausted and missing out on sleep. It also cost me time I could have spent with friends and family.

College is like life in this way. We experience suffering in life, just trying to get by. We experience tragedies and suffer the pain of being sick, unhealthy, or getting hurt. Being sick and unhealthy is some of the worst suffering in life. I think I have had Covid 5 times over the pandemic. Granted I don’t always take a test to prove it. There have been times in my life when I was so sick I began to feel the fragility of my life. Knowing I could die, or maybe wanting to die. Pain that it seems could only be felt at death. Knowing how frail my body is. I wondered if I could even keep going. The extent of my discomfort and pain was being tested in those moments. Most times when I am sitting or in pain I have very intense and real conversations with God. Like the thoughts of someone on their deathbed. Have you ever been that sick or in pain?

(I threw my back out a few times. One new year, I was brought to my knees in excruciating pain. This pain made me think terrible thoughts. I thought I was going to be crippled, or that something was very wrong and I could die from this pain.) I remember going to the urgent care and when the nurse told me there was nothing they could do, I wept from the thought of having to just push through the pain. I was in a dark place.

It is a humbling experience when you are in excruciating pain. Anguish describes a pain that is not external, but rather internal pain, like heartache. Of which I seem to be susceptible to. Even such intensities of anguish can make someone think unhealthy thoughts and possibly lead them to curse their life and their God. Feelings of depression can be like this. By the amount of suffering an anguish we experience as humans, one would almost think we seek after it. Such calamity and misfortune befall us, you could almost assume we are cursed.

I have always wondered the thoughts of a dying person. What do we think as we fade into death? Losing everything we thought we knew and embracing God. These I believe are the thoughts of Job, a dying man, who had lost everything.

Job is the oldest book in the Bible. Job was the wealthiest man in the world in his day. He was the most prominent man in the world and he was the most influential man in the world.

On a heavenly plane, God brags about Job in front of Satan and uses him to thwart the accusations of the enemy toward God.

Job 1:8: 8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

First of all, what an incredible compliment coming from God. I would love to hear God say this about me. Satan did not believe that anyone on earth would love and fear God without reason. He questioned the altruistic love of the people of earth towards God. Satan tells God that Job only loves him because of God’s protection, love and blessings. He tells God that the love Job has is only transactional, he only loves you because you give him good things. Job is shallow Satan claims.

In response God gave Satan full dominion over Job, to do with which he pleased. God knew that this was not the case. God believed in Job, he knew that Job would remain faithful to him no matter the circumstance.

In one day in a 24 hour period his entire life fell completely apart. In the first place he lost his entire wealth. All of his flocks, all of his cattle, all of his goats, his farm, even his servants, everything was destroyed in one day. On top of that all of his children were killed in a freak accident the same day.

The thought of this happening is unimaginable. How broken Job must have been in this moment.

Job 1:20-21 (ESV): 20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 

Job 1:22: 22:In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong

Satan then returns to God defeated, but of course with a new plan, and once again God brags on his servant Job. Satan retorts that Job only cares about himself. Strike his body and he will curse you the first chance he gets. Once again God gives Job over into the hand of Satan. Satan then caused horrible sores to appear all over Job’s body. The scripture tells us the response of Job and his wife.

Job 2:9-10 (ESV):9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” 10But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?”[a] In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Job did not curse God in all of these things. This silenced the mouth of the enemy. Satan was wrong. This man loved and feared God. God had rightly judged Job when he said: Job 1:8 (ESV): 8 And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?”

This would be a nice thing to hear God say about you. Just for fun you should plug your name into this scripture and imagine God saying it to Satan about you. In the end God ends up blessing Job twice as much as before.

Having the right perspective of God gives freedom in the midst of suffering: What perspective could possibly cause you to respond the way Job responds after losing everything you love? What revelation could prevent you from becoming overcome with bitterness and cursing God? We could think that maybe we just need to be tougher and stronger. We could believe that we just need to work hard and have more grit. We could think that Job must have just been a tough dude to handle everything Satan could throw at him. I think we really need to look at what got Job through this time and allowed him to stay faithful and true to God and hold fast to his convictions. Throughout the book Job is visited by his friends. They try to encourage, but quite honestly it only seems to make things worse. The central message to Job from these three friends. “that it is impossible that the righteous should suffer, all pain being a punishment for some sin. “

Then finally a younger man speaks to Job, and from his mouth the lord speaks and Job is reminded of God’s holiness. This reminder of God’s holiness shifts the attention on his suffering towards God. I find something incredibly encouraging about this young man named Elihu. The speeches of Elihu contradict the fundamental opinions expressed by the ‘friendly accusers’ in the central body of the text, that it is impossible that the righteous should suffer, all pain being a punishment for some sin. Elihu states that suffering may be decreed for the righteous as a protection against greater sin, for moral betterment and warning, and to elicit greater trust and dependence on a merciful, compassionate God in the midst of adversity.

Job 32:4-8 (ESV): 4 Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job because they were older than he. 5 And when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouth of these three men, he burned with anger. 6 And Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite answered and said: “I am young in years, and you are aged; therefore I was timid and afraid to declare my opinion to you. 7 I said, ‘Let days speak, and many years teach wisdom.’ 8 But it is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand.

 It was through the voice of this young man that Job was shown the truth about God during the midst of this suffering. Also it seems that the power of God fell upon this man during his speech and some type of whirlwind appeared that God began to speak out of.

This is an encouragement to use when we are trying to comfort those around us. We often wonder what to say or how to act. All we need to do is invite the “Breath of the Almighty” .He will give us the wisdom to do the right thing and to bring the truth and comfort that is needed. After Elihu was done speaking, Job was changed. His perspective had shifted.

Job 42:1-6 (ESV): Then Job answered the Lord and said: 2 “I know that you can do all things,

and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, and I will speak; I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ 5 I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent[a] in dust and ashes.”

What if the key to succeeding in life is despising yourself? Maybe it is just a matter of comparison. A flame on a lighter may be hot, but compared to the sun’s heat, it is cold. Job didn’t despise himself because he wasn’t awesome, because he was, the greatest in all the land, the true GOAT (Greatest of All Time). But he despised himself in comparison to God.

What is suffering in comparison with God’s majesty? What is anything compared to Him? Have you ever heard of the solution to your pain? Like in the movie Major Payne, in order to take the soldier’s mind off of the pain he was feeling, he broke his finger to give him something else to think about.

It’s more than just a distraction technique, it’s a shortcut to freedom. When we focus on our suffering and forget about God, our minds search for something to replace the need for reverence for God with pain and agony. Pain, agony, anguish, suffering become our God.

When we are suffering, let’s stop and consider the wondrous works of God. The majesty of his holiness.

Job 37:14-18 (ESV): 14 “Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God. 15 Do you know how God lays his command upon them and causes the lightning of his cloud to shine? 16 Do you know the balancings[a] of the clouds, the wondrous works of him who is perfect in knowledge, 17 you whose garments are hot when the earth is still because of the south wind? 18 Can you, like him, spread out the skies, hard as a cast metal mirror?

Let our hearts be humbled by the wonder of our God

Job 38:1-21 (ESV): Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: 2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3 Dress for action[a] like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 8 “Or who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb, 9 when I made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, 10 and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, 11 and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’? 12 “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, 13 that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it? 14 It is changed like clay under the seal, and its features stand out like a garment. 15 From the wicked their light is withheld, and their uplifted arm is broken. 16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? 17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? 18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this. 19 “Where is the way to the dwelling of light, and where is the place of darkness, 20 that you may take it to its territory and that you may discern the paths to its home? 21 You know, for you were born then, and the number of your days is great!

God is being sarcastic here, blasting Job with facts. This is like a rap battle that Job does not want to participate in. Jobs’ response to God after being humbled. 

Job 40:3-5 (ESV):  Promises Silence 3 Then Job answered the Lord and said: 4 “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. 5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”

When we put God back in the place He rightly deserves, our suffering and pain get moved out of the spotlight. 

When we stop and consider the wondrous works of God, we are set free from our current sufferings. Our minds attention is taken off of “This present suffering”

2 Corinthians 4:17-18(ESV): 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 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.

We pray to God to shift our focus, that we stop acting like children, fusing over these earthly things. We desire to be set free and to have a heavenly perspective. People will be amazed at the solid confidence in your life.

Matthew 7:25 (ESV): 25 And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 

People sometimes feel bad when they tell me their troubles because they think they are piling them on me. I always remind them that I cannot carry my own burdens, let alone the weight of others. I learned to put them on God long ago. So go ahead, share your woes, let’s cast them on God’s wondrous shoulders, He can bear the weight, He who founded the universe.

Additional Scripture:

Job 3:1-4 (ESV): 1 After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. 2 And Job said: 3 “Let the day perish on which I was born, and the night that said, ‘A man is conceived.’ 4 Let that day be darkness! May God above not seek it, nor light shine upon it.

Job 3:11 (ESV): 11 “Why did I not die at birth, come out from the womb and expire?

Isaiah 55:8-9(NIV): 8 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. 9 “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

Master and the Coward Student

Once there was a man in a village. He was called by villagers a coward because of his lack of courage.

The man then decided to change himself.

So, he visited a spiritual master in his village to teach him courage and bravery. Master said, “I am ready to teach you but on one condition. 

You need to go and live in a big city for one month. And during the stay, tell every person you meet there, You are a coward. When you tell, you have to say it loudly, openly, and look straight into the eyes of the person. After that, come back here.”

The man returned home and was thinking about the task. He was scared. He kept on thinking about it for some days. 

Then he decided to travel to the city instead of living his entire life as a coward, which is unbearable.

In the initial days in the city, he could not talk to anyone. Whenever he tried, he could not see the face and talk, or sometimes no words came out of his mouth. He felt like he is going to die out of fear.

As the days passed, he pushed himself to finish the task. He started talking to people. As every passing day, his voice sounded louder, his eye contact with the person improved. His body was responding without any shivering. One day he felt that he was not scared anymore to talk to people. Then he continued doing the task till the end of the month. 

He returned to his village and met his Master.

He said, “Master, I finished the task. Now I do not have fear. I feel I can do anything with courage. 

But I have one question. What made you think this task will help me overcome cowardice?”

Master replied, “Being a coward is a habit. If you want to come out of this habit, you have to do things that scare you. That is what you did. As a result, you have replaced your cowardice with the habit of courage. 

So, similarly, if you have any bad habit that you want to change. Replace the bad habit with a good one.”

Moral of the story:

To overcome cowardice and fear, we should move out of our comfort zone and face it upfront.

To throw out any bad habits, we should replace them with good habits. And it may not happen immediately. We should take our time and work on it.

Once we have courage, we can accomplish anything in life.