Charles Stanley - Staying in Step With God
Well, when you're facing a major decision in your life, there are three questions you need to ask yourself: what, when, and how? And often times, we leave out one of those, and when we do, we make a mistake. And our Scripture is about making a mistake and Moses is a perfect example of that. So, I want you to turn, if you will, to the second chapter of Exodus and I want us to read beginning in this eleventh verse. "Now it came about in those days, when Moses had grown up, that he went out to his brethren and looked on their hard labors, and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren".
So, you remember he was taken out of the basket and went from the basket to his home, but ultimately to a place in the palace in Egypt. "Beating a Hebrew, one of his brethren. So, he looked this way and that, and when he saw there was no one around, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand. He went out the next day, and behold, two Hebrews were fighting with each other, and he said to the offender, 'Why are you striking your companion?' But he said, 'Who made you a prince or a judge over us? Are you intending to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?' Then Moses was afraid and said, 'Surely the matter has been made known.' When Pharaoh heard of this matter, he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from the presence of Pharaoh and settled in the land of Midian, and he sat down by a well".
So that means he travelled many, many miles through the desert of Midian and then to end up as a sheepherder. So, with this particular situation in mind, here he was, he had everything in his power, everything at his disposal. And all of a sudden, one decision. One decision, the wrong decision; quick decision, he ends up cast out not only of his position but cast out of his own homeland. And so, they sent him out into the desert, and he travels I don't know how long, pretty good while, till he ends up in Midian, crosses the whole Midian desert, and away from everything he'd grown up with. So, the consequences was he lost everything, end up being a sheepherder all the way across the desert. He didn't stop to ask the question, "What should I do, when should I do it and how should I do it"? And so forth. He didn't.
All of us have made decisions that were the wrong decisions, because we didn't stop to ask why and when and what to do. And so, you can look at the Scriptures and you see that. Look around you today and see that. Look at our own lives. All of us have made wrong decisions. And he lost everything, and oftentimes people still lose everything because of decisions they make. So, I want you to look at two things. How did he get ahead of God? And I want us to talk about that same way we do. We get ahead of God the same way. We've all gotten ahead of God. We've all made mistakes. We've all sinned against God. We've all done the wrong things at times. We've all been prejudiced about things. And so, we have to pay the consequences. But most of the time people don't think there are any consequences.
So, I want us to look at this. How Moses got ahead of God. How did he do it? Well, number one, He focused on an event rather than the big picture. What was the event? A fight between an Egyptian and a Hebrew. That was the event. But the big picture was that God had something awesome in mind. But forty years later, God was going to release and free and liberate all the Hebrews. But what did he do? Of course, he didn't know that. But he focused on one event. Watch how tragic this is. He was in the palace of Pharaoh who dominated to a million Hebrews in slave labor, working to build all kind of monuments to himself. And in one decision, he jeopardized his own position and lost everything that could have been his, because he did not stop to ask, "What's the wisest thing to do"?
So, ask yourself this question: Do you focus on events or do you think in terms of what are the consequences of this decision whatever it might be? It's costly to make the wrong decisions oftentimes. Well, second thing I want you to notice is this. He followed his reasoning rather than listening to God. And that's what we do. We follow our reason about things. We look at situations and circumstances and think, "This is what I think I ought to do, but what does God think we ought to do"? There's no decision you and I have to make in which God just absolutely shuts us out and says, "You make it". He's always there to help us. And making the wrong decision is oftentimes extremely costly in every aspect of our life. So, before you make a decision do you ask these questions? What am I to do? How am I to do it? When am I to do it? Am I willing to ask those questions, or do I want to make up my mind quickly and pay the consequences?
Third thing I want you to notice is this, he acted on impulse rather than seeking what God would have him to do. His impulse was: Defend this Hebrew, rather than what is the wisest thing to do in the big picture? So, ask yourself the question: Are you prone to responding by impulse? Or when decisions come? Oftentimes major decisions, but you find it easier for you to just react? Now people react quickly for several reasons. Number one: because of their attitude toward the situation. Secondly, because of their prejudice in a situation. Thirdly, because of their selfishness. And we could just go on and on and on. God doesn't want us making any kind of decisions in our life that affect our entire life, and to make them regardless of the will and purpose and plan of God.
So, when I go back, and I say this over and over again. Because he had everything and he lost everything in one foolish decision because he didn't stop to ask: what to do, how to do this, and when to do it. So, ask yourself the question: Are you impulsive? Are you prone to make decisions that later you regret? This is why families break up. This is why children have disastrous effects in their lives. And we go right down the list of what happens to families as a result of not saying, "God, what's You will? What would You have me to do? How would You have me to do this? What's Your plan"? And for one simple decision he lost everything.
You say, "Why do you keep repeating that"? Because one decision in your life can cause you to lose everything you have, or you had, or God had in plan for you. So, he acted on his own strength rather than God's strength. God showed them that one God — Jehovah, Yahweh, Elohim as they called Him — one God could absolutely destroy the whole Egyptian army. One God could set all the two million Hebrews free. One God could do anything, everything and all things that are needed. God had another plan, but Moses stepped out of this awesome, wonderful, fantastic, miraculous plan of God for the whole nation of the Hebrews just to settle something in his own heart. That's the danger of animosity and anger, bitterness and resentment and unforgiveness, and all the rest. He acted in his own strength rather than God's strength and he acted in anger.
There are people who are very angry and don't know it. You can tick them off if you do certain things. Watch this. And this is the reason. Burning down inside of them is something that happened probably yesterday or years ago, and they've never been forgiving about it. They still hold it in there. And they cover it up most of the time until something ignites that anger. And as a result, they act in a way they wish they had not acted. They respond in a way that is oftentimes devastating, costly, embarrassing, hurtful, and painful and very destructive. He acted in anger. The Bible says we're not to act in anger. Be angry and sin not. It doesn't mean that we can't be angry about a circumstance or a situation, but we're not to hold anger toward someone. We're to be forgiving.
You say, "Well, what about so-and-so"? Anything you name, Jesus did not say, nor anywhere in the Bible, "Am I to be forgiving, except for the following things". And so, we make bad decisions because we don't ask what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. And that's exactly what he did. He acted in anger. And he failed to consider the consequences. Decision-making is serious business. It's serious every day, because sometimes we make decisions that look insignificant and look sort of mild, but they're not. Some decisions that people make last a lifetime. Some decisions are very expensive. Some decisions are very cruel. Some decisions never leave you.
So, let's think about what will happen when we stay in step with God. So, I would ask you to think about this first. As you look at your life this morning, would you say that as best you know you're walking in step with God? Now you could say, "Well, sure I am". Well, on what basis do you make a fast, quick answer? I'm not saying that you're not, but to say are you walking in step with God? That is, are you walking in the will of God? Are you in agreement with God's plan for your life? Or have you decided to sort of live it out yourself the way you want to do it? And so, when I look at that and say, "Living and walking and staying in step with God, reminds you of this". That God's going to provide everything you need.
And so, when we think about decisions that we make, every day we make decisions. Are we convinced that God's going to provide our needs? He says, "My God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory". Not according to how better I can make things, His riches in glory; that is, God is inexhaustible when it comes to His riches and His provision for us. And think about this. When you and I come to God about something, we're not in a group. We're in a personal, intimate relationship with the God of this universe who controls every single thing on the face of this earth.
That's who you and God are in this relationship when you come to Him. It's not a group session. It's between you and holy God and you're asking Him for direction. He doesn't seek direction from anybody else. He's willing to tell you exactly what to do if you will ask Him. And so, when I look at this passage and realize when we stay in step with God, He's going to provide everything we need. And He'll give us specific directions.
Somebody says, "Well, you know, I've tried and that doesn't work". Yes, it works. Let me tell you why you don't think it works. Because you cannot live a godly life, or make wise decisions, or become the person God wants you to be and live with a closed book in your life. You can't do it. This is God's Holy Book, His pathway through every circumstance of life. You cannot ask a single question about life for which there's not an answer somewhere in this Book. You will not live a Christian life closing the Word of God and only opening it on Sunday, you won't. You can't. It won't happen. You'll find yourself, as you probably do already maybe, making decisions in your life and saying, I pray and pray and pray and, and listen to how many times I've heard this, but God hasn't said anything. Well, you prayed and prayed, did you ask God to show you something in the Word of God? Did you ask the...? "Well, no, but I prayed".
Watch this, none of us, me first, not any of us are capable of making wise decisions continually, living a godly life, walking holy before God with a closed Bible, it's not going to happen. And one of the reasons people get in trouble, all kinds of trouble, is they... I don't question they pray, you know what I hear people say? "Well, I prayed about it". They're not even saved and they know they're not Christian. "Well, I talked to God about it". Well, what did He say? Well, they give me something I know God didn't say. And so, the issue is this, if I ask Him about something or I fear something, I find that verse in the Bible, that's why you've got an index. That's why you've got a concordance. If you don't know much about the Word of God, you can find the Scripture that fits your situation and ask God to show you what to do.
Now, the primary reason a lot of folk, people don't read the Bible, because the Word of God will convict you of sin. The Word of God will convict all of us of sin. No one, no preacher, no saint, no pope, nobody who's ever lived can live a godly life and ignore the truth of God's Word. We're just not made that way and the Christian life is not built that way. It's built on the Word of God. Then, of course, God will remove our fear if we will come to Him, when we come to decisions. All of us have faced decisions that were frightening. If you haven't, you haven't lived very long. Because some decisions are very frightening. And even when you know that you're doing the right thing doesn't meant that sometimes we'll not fear even though God has confirmed you're doing the right thing. It's something, maybe, that you haven't done before, or something that you know you can't see the consequences and you can't see what the outcome is and so you're afraid to make that decision.
Now God will remove fear from our life because He says He's not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. We can make very difficult decisions without fear if we are seeking the mind of God. Here's the reason you have fear in making decisions. You want to know? Because you don't know what the Word of God says. How many times does He say fear not, fear not, fear not, fear not, fear not? Based on what? Based on my understanding and my relationship to Him. If my relationship to Him is right, I will not fear. Then of course, we'll see God work out in unusual ways, situations, and circumstances in our life if we're willing to trust Him and wait for Him to work.
One of our problems is we don't want to wait. If we ask God, we want God to answer our prayer today. And if He doesn't answer it by next week, we'll give Him a break. We'll give Him two weeks or three weeks but thirty days, it's all over. And so, what happens? On the thirty-first day, He'd planned to tell us. Listen, how can you get impatient with God? Here's what I've learned. If God does not answer your petition, it's because number one, He knows you're not ready to listen to Him. You won't hear Him. He knows that you're not ready. He knows that the time is not right. It doesn't mean He's not going to, but God is not on a timetable to suit us. He's not in heaven waiting to just pounce back and do what we want Him to do. There is a time that God answers our petition. It's the time that's best for us. It's back to the Word of God.
What would God have us to do? We experience His power in our life when we wait upon Him, we trust Him, read His Word. He does not expect us to make decisions apart from the Holy Spirit. He doesn't expect us to make decisions apart from prayer. He doesn't expect us to make decisions apart from His Word. That's the way God, listen, that's the bottom line of our operation with God. This is why He gave us the Book.
Now you think about Moses and lot of grace, because there was no Bible. If you read those early chapters of the Scripture when there was no Scripture as we have it, and they had to listen to God. And they had to be very sensitive to the voice of God, and today, we have the Word of God. We don't have to wonder. There is not a single spiritual question that you have for which there's not an answer somewhere in this Book. And so, when people get themselves in trouble and wringing their hands and don't know what to do, I know what's happened. They've asked somebody. They thought about it, what they think they ought to do. What about what God says? Here's a perfect lesson of a man responding quickly, reacting, not asking the right questions.
Now, he didn't have the Bible you and I have, but he knew what he was doing was wrong or he wouldn't be looking to see who was looking. We'll see God's power at work in our life in unusual ways and we'll learn God's ways. One of the greatest lessons you and I could learn are the ways of God. You say, "How do you learn that"? By choosing to obey God and watch Him work. That's the way you learn how God operates. You choose to obey Him the best you know what obedience is and watch Him respond. He'll respond this way here, this way here, this way here but God will never respond in any fashion that is a contradiction to the Word of God. He does not.
Listen, you want to know what God thinks? And all of us should be acquainted with the Word of God enough, I don't mean we should all know as same as each other but we should all be acquainted in the Word of God enough that somebody ask us a question, we should give them a reasonable answer. But it's an answer that is in keeping with the Word of God. God didn't give us a book with contradictions. Somebody says, "Well, the Bible contradicts itself". No, it contradicts the way you live and the way you think, but not who God is. So, God will use our weaknesses and our frailties, to help us understand His will for our life. Remember this, that God loves us unconditionally. He loved Moses. He loved the Egyptian that he killed. God loves all of us. The question is how do we respond to His love?
You say, "Well, how are you to respond to His love"? I'll tell you the one word in my heart that tells me how to respond to the love of God. Obedience. Obedience is the one word that is evident, or not evident in my life if I love God, I'm going to obey Him. Anyway, you want to lay it down, that's ultimately it. If I don't love Him, I won't obey Him. If I genuinely love Him, I may count the cost and say, "God, oh surely You don't want me to do that". But if I love Him, I may argue with Him. I may have all kind of hesitation, reservation, you name it, but ultimately, I'm going to be obedient. But when you face difficult times, the wisest thing to do is to look up, not look out. Look to God, not your friends. Yield yourself to Him, not look to somebody else to give you an answer.
Listen carefully. Many things in life, most things in life, somebody else cannot answer for you. And God says ask and it shall be given you; seek and you shall find; knock and it shall be opened to you. God is willing to answer the request of your heart, if you're willing to ask Him, willing to be obedient. Remember this. Moses made wrong decision that penalized him for years and years and years. You can make wise decisions if you're willing to listen to God and to obey Him. God can accomplish more in a brief period of time than we can in a lifetime.
Sometimes we make decisions and we make them quickly without asking, "What does the Word of God say"? I can't say this enough to you. I think this is the major weakness in the life of ninety-five percent of believers. They pray, but they don't have a quiet time in which they, before Almighty God, open His Word and say, "Lord, speak to my heart".
You say, "Well, I don't know where to turn". I can tell you how, I can tell you exactly what to do. When you don't know where to turn, here 's what you do. What's troubling me most? What's really bothering me most? Look in the index of your Bible. Find that word, whatever it might be, and ask yourself the question: what are the Scriptures right here? And you find a verse and just start reading the verses that have to do with your issue. If you really want to find out what God thinks about whatever you're going through, ask Him.
How many times have I heard people say, "Well, I know that's what the Bible teaches, but". When you put a but behind that statement, you're in trouble. I long to see people obey God. And I'll tell you why. Because I know what the end result is. It's blessing and assurance and confidence and goodness and grace and you name it. To do otherwise is foolish. So, I would just say this series on Moses, ask the Lord, "Lord, speak to my heart somewhere in this. If You want to do something in my life to change my life, I'm willing to listen". Amen?
Now, you may not be a believer, a follower of Jesus, not a Christian. You've heard all this stuff and you say, Well, I don't even know that I know anything about all that. Ask the Lord to forgive you of your sins, surrender your life to Him and then God and you can start this awesome, fantastic journey of walking together for the rest of your life.