Allen Jackson - Lead With Faith - Part 2
Hey, it's Pastor Allen, and we're continuing our study on "Leading With Faith". You know, leadership is about influence in our world, and we desperately need people of faith who can exert that leadership. We're in a truth crisis right now, we don't trust the primary sources of information that we have trusted for years, from the CDC. to the WHO. to the FBI. In fact, alphabet soup just seems to be confusing these days. But God hasn't changed, his truth is steadfast across every season, across all of those things that shift in our world. So if we're grounded in his truth, he'll help us navigate these times of deception and confusion. It's a time to yield to God's truth in our own lives so that we can recognize it and navigate what's happening around us. Grab your Bible and a notepad, and most of all, open your heart to the Spirit of God. We want to avoid deception and stand strong in the truth of God. Enjoy the lesson.
It seems to me, as an observation, that we experience God's help but the pattern that unfolds is after we've experienced God's help, then when we're faced with a challenge, we act as if we've never known God to intervene. You know, we gobble up God's deliverance and then we face the next challenge and we go, "Well, you know, God's never helped me". Or maybe a slightly different perspective but a similar outcome, we experience God's help but then we don't serve the Lord with a heart of gratitude, we simply take the point of freedom or the blessing or the breakthrough or the outcome in whatever it may be and then we continue on our selfish pattern.
Now, those two responses are consistent throughout Scripture, but not in the seasons where God's people flourish. Let me give you an example, Psalm 106. Psalm 106 is a summary psalm of the history of the Jewish people and we're gonna look at a couple of passages because they highlight this principle so well. Psalm 106, in verse 6, "We have sinned, even as our fathers did; we have done wrong and acted wickedly. When our fathers were in Egypt, they gave no thought to your miracles; they did not remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea, the Red Sea". I suspect most of us don't even imagine that God perceived of the Hebrew slaves as being rebellious, between their point of release, before they crossed the Red Sea. But the psalmist is reminding them, from God's perspective, "They gave no thought to your miracles," and, "They didn't remember your many kindnesses, and they rebelled by the sea".
Now, just in case you didn't recall, I put the rebellious episode in your notes, it's Exodus 14, in verse 10. They've been released by Pharaoh, they have plundered Egypt, they have the gold and the silver of Egypt, they're headed to the Promised Land, and they come to the shores of the Red Sea. And Pharaoh changes his mind and he comes after them and, "As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and they cried out to the Lord. They said to Moses, 'Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn't we say to you in Egypt, "Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians"? It would have been better for us to serve Egyptians than to die in the desert!'"
Now, the commentary on that attitude is what we read in Psalm 106, "They gave no thought to your miracles". They had seen the plagues visited on Egypt, one after the other the Egyptian gods humiliated by the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Until it was culminated in the Passover, when the first born in every household, both human and livestock throughout the land of Egypt, died if there wasn't the blood of the Passover lamb on the doorpost. And the next day, they were driven out of the land by Pharaoh and the people. They plundered the nation, they were so desperate for them to be gone, they would give them the wealth of Egypt. It was a celebratory parade.
If you've seen Cecil B. DeMille's movie, you've seen the parade. And they got to the to the Red Sea and Pharaoh rethinks it, his heart was hardened again and he sends his army after them. And they forget the plagues and the deliverance of God, it's as if it hadn't happened, and it hadn't filled their lives for the preceding weeks. But what came out of their mouth was, "We would have rather been slaves". God said, "They didn't remember," they didn't remember. Let me ask you a question, what have we forgotten? What have we pushed aside? What points of God's intervention have we just erased from our imagination as we face the challenges of today? We're not finished, same psalm, Psalm 106, look at verse 9. It says, "He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; and he led them through the depths as through a desert. He saved them from the hand of the foe; from the hand of the enemy he redeemed them. The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived".
You imagine that? The scholars argue a bit about how many people came out of Egypt, the lowest number I've ever seen was 200.000, the population of Rutherford County; the higher numbers are in the millions. Just take the lowest number, just imagine a parade with a few hundred thousand people walking through a relatively narrow path, walls of water on either side and the ground beneath your feet is dry. How many think that would make an impression on you? And everybody gets through, and you're on the distant shores and then your enemies start in after you. They've watched all of you, it looks safe, as unusual as it is and as intimidating as it may be. And as they get into the midst of the waters, the waters cascade upon them and you see your adversaries swept away. How many think it might make an impression? I mean, if it happened on Wednesday, you can hold it till Monday?
Well, it's the scene that's being described, he said, "The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them survived". They watched 'em all float to the surface, horses, chariots. "Then they believed his promises and they sang his praise. But they soon forgot what he had done and they didn't wait for his counsel. In the desert they gave into their craving; in the wasteland they put God to the test. So he gave them what they asked for, but sent a wasting disease upon them". The more literal translation said, "He sent a diminished soul to them," some part of their person, it seemed, was just diminished by their response.
I want you to, it's Exodus 15, the first part of Exodus 15 is the song of celebration that Miriam led after they had escaped and they've seen the Egyptians drowned, it's one of the most celebratory songs in all of the Bible. And in the very same chapter, not months later, they can still hear the shrieks of the Egyptians, they still have dust on their sandals from walking through the Red Sea. In Exodus 15, it says, "Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they went into the Desert of Shur. For three days they traveled," they didn't make it 72 hours, "Without finding water. And when they came to Marah," Marah is a transliteration, they just took the Hebrew letters and pulled it into English, it means bitter. They came to a bitter place and, "They couldn't drink the water because it was bitter. So the people grumbled against Moses," and said, "What are we to drink"?
Now, that's the event that's being described in Psalm 106, in verse 13. It says, "They soon forgot what he had done, and they didn't wait for his counsel". If God could part the Red Sea and destroy the Egyptian army on the heels of all the plagues that had decimated the nation of Egypt, how many of you think he might have had a plan to sustain the people? I mean, it's not like really a stretch of the imagination. So it isn't just the fact that we have a memory of what God has done, the implication is that we would begin to formulate an anticipation that God would direct us through the challenge we face now. Where it seems to me that we lose our momentum is we don't like the difficulty, we don't like the discomfort, we don't like the nature of an adversarial challenge. We would prefer it's easy, uncomplicated, requires no trust, doesn't demand of us any pursuit of God, and that's not the nature of the story.
Now, you may not like that, but the best way I know to flourish in the world is to have the situational awareness to understand the nature of the world you're in. You may not like snow and ice, but wearing shorts and going barefoot's not a great idea when there's a few inches on the ground. And you can't tell it if you've been out on the roads but speeding up when the roads are white is really not clever. And there's a message that's being brought forth to us, not only that we shouldn't just forget the facts, it's not just a history lesson, but the points of our journey is intended to inform our decisions about our present, to believe that God is with us, that he will help us, that the victories we've seen in the past are to help us imagine we could experience even greater victories in the present.
Deuteronomy chapter 4, he says, "Be careful," this was Moses talking to the people. "Be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them". So it's not just your personal experiences, it's our generational experiences, it's why separation from our history is such a destructive thing. It's not that our histories are perfect, our personal histories aren't perfect, our personal testimonies, our God's stories are filled with the brokenness of our lives and the redemptive intervention of God. So, too, is our collective stories, whether it's the story of a congregation or a community or something larger, the brokenness of our lives is a part of the story but the redemptive engagement of God is a part of the story. And Moses said you have to teach them to your children, they need to know because they're gonna face challenges and they'll need to know that the God who delivered at those points in the past is the same God that's present with them today.
To too great an extent we have forgotten how to stand, in the Ephesians 6 usage of that, "Having done everything to stand against evil, stand therefore". We've just said, "We'd rather not, we'd rather negotiate, we'd rather not be an overcomer. Couldn't we just be an overlooker? Well, we'll just overlook that". That isn't what we're called to do, we're called to overcome evil with good, it's not a passive response. You can't become evil and blend in, you can't give into carnality and be an overcomer, we can't yield to greed, more won't make us better. The challenges that are plaguing us as a people will be changed by the people of God and what happens within us.
Jeremiah 3, in verse 21, "A cry is heard on the barren heights, the weeping and the pleading of the people of Israel, because they have perverted their ways and have forgotten the Lord their God". Again, it isn't that we've swept away the memory. When we get to the New Testament, Jesus's greatest critics weren't the Romans, they were the religious leaders. And they said, "We have Abraham as our father," and they would cite the prophets, but they missed Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecies. They were taking their God experiences and allowing them to inform their decisions in the present. I'm happy that we have a God story but we need the lessons learned from our God's stories to inform the courage we need today. We're not finished, folks, we're prepared, we've been called to this time and season. I gave you two passages, they're a similar story, it's Matthew 16 and Mark 8.
Jesus makes a rather offhand comment to the disciples to, "Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees," and it prompts an internal debate amongst the disciples. They think Jesus is mad at them because they don't have enough bread. Now, some of us are snickering 'cause we remember that Jesus already fed two multitudes with a relatively insignificant amount of food. Basically, he took a Happy Meal and fed 5.000 men and the people that were with them. Can you imagine? In Matthew 16, he says, "Aware of their discussion, Jesus said, 'You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread?'" Do you still not understand? Don't you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? And the answer was, yeah, well they remember that, obviously, but they're having a great deal of difficulty interpolating that into the impact of where they are today.
That seems to be the challenge that we have; we will recite our God's stories but we think we can have a better future by and being ungodly; we'll tell our stories about what we know God has done historically, we'll have our testimonies, we'll share those stories of redemption, but in the midst of the challenge we face we seem to have difficulty imagining that the pursuit of God in a new way or more fully would bring a better outcome. Rather, we would adopt some sort of ungodliness to bring contentment and satisfaction to us. It's not new to our generation, it's the challenge of the people of God throughout the story of Scripture, but we're not immune from it. We just happened to be in another one of those seasons of tumultuous, cataclysmic, widespread change, and we're not finished yet.
There is more to come, and if we don't understand the one who secures our future, the fear that we have seen is going to grow, it's going to escalate, there are more frightening things coming than COVID. It's not a threat, God will see us through. If he can forgive us of our sins and enable us to be justified in his sight and made righteous before him, he can lead us through any challenge that comes in this present world order. He is faithful, but we will need the awareness of his faithfulness, you'll have to cultivate it. That's why your good news list is important, you wanna keep one, a personal one. You wanna keep one for the larger scene that you watch, those places where you can say, "That's a breakthrough, I would have rather had that breakthrough 12 months ago, but today I'll celebrate it".
Turn down the grumbling and turn up the recognition of what God is doing, it's important if we're going to lead with faith, if we're gonna lead with faith. You know the stories, I've told them to you over and over again. When I was seven, they told my mom she had six months to live. There was no medical resolution to our problems, there were some surgeries to be done and some treatments to be handed out but there was no resolution that would last more than a matter of months. And we were pagans. Now, we were churchgoing pagans. Did you know you can do that? You can come to this church and be a pagan, you can sit in this place and smile and stand and sing and act like the devil and your affiliation with his place will not provide protection. That was us, and why? I'm not sure, God's grace, I'm confident, my mom prayed a prayer that before she died she might know the truth so she could share it with my brothers and myself. And when they got to Mayo Clinic for the evaluation, they couldn't find the tumors and the masses that had been there a few days ago. My mom's here.
Now, that didn't mean my mom never went back to a doctor, it didn't mean she never had another lump or another tumor, that didn't mean she didn't face other challenges, it meant that the sovereign intervention of God in her life and in our lives became a marker to help us understand what God might do next. Folks, we've got to begin, you need to make a list, stop telling me God hasn't done anything in your life. "Well, it's been harder than I wish", okay. "I have suffered because of evil," mm-hmm. "It's not fair," I know. "It's unjust," Ok. "I don't like it," alright. Feel better yet? Are we going to grumble? Are we gonna be angry? Are we gonna be like petulant children? Are we gonna be carnal and think, "Because God didn't do what I wanted him to do in the way I wanted him to do it, in the timing that I wanted him to do it, I have license to be ungodly"?
It's a very destructive path to choose. But you know, God understood that when he put the holy days into the calendar of his people and he said, "Every year, there are some things I want you to remember, I want you to get together to make an effort to celebrate those things". In the springtime, the Jewish people celebrate Passover, there's deliverance from Egyptian slavery. Fifty days later, they have Pentecost. And in the fall, they have the high holy days. I mean, technically the high holy days are the new year, Rosh Hashanah, and the day of atonement, Yom Kippur. But in practice, they extend right into Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, when they remember their journey through the wilderness, where they dwelt in those temporary settings.
And all over the nation of Israel, and particularly the city of Jerusalem, if you visit these days, during Sukkot, the Feast of Tabernacles, you'll see those booths, they're made out of palm fronds, and they'll be on patios and balconies and in restaurants and they'll be decorated for the children, and the children will often sleep under them in the evenings, and they'll eat a meal in their sukkah. What are they remembering? The faithfulness of God in their history, because there's challenges that aren't just a part of our history, they're a part of our contemporary story. And the question that we have to decide is what we believe about the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
Is he a historical character that's a figment of somebody's imagination or is he the God that sits on the throne of Revelation chapter 4 that's involved in the earth today? And if we believe that he's more powerful than governments or the WHO or viruses from someplace else or economic disruption, he will take his people through. He's called us to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom in the whole world, he's placed us on planet Earth to see his kingdom come and his will be done on earth. How are you doing with that? How are you doing as a living expression of the will of God? You haven't hired me to be that for you because I'm inadequate. We are here to give expression to the will of God in the earth.
God's faithfulness in our lives, those seasons in the past where we have seen him move on our behalf with healing, deliverance, hope, encouragement, those weren't simply so we could have a victory in that particular moment, they were to give us a platform to make better decisions going forward. I bet your life has some challenges today, mine does. Well, my faith for today is built upon my trust in God from what I've seen him do in the past. Take a few minutes and make a list of some of the places you have seen God move on your behalf, it'll give you the courage and the boldness to believe that he'll help you through the challenge that you see today. I want to pray with you:
Father, I thank you for your faithfulness, that you have delivered us, you are delivering us and you will deliver us. Give us a remembrance of those things that you have done so that we can stand firm in our trust in you. In Jesus's name, amen.