Charles Stanley - The Promise and the Plan
Every once in a while, somebody will say to me, "You know what? You talked about how good God is, and when you trust Him as your personal Savior, He enters your life, and you have the Holy Spirit, and things get better. Well, I trusted Jesus Christ as my personal Savior, and things got worse". And all of us have probably said that about some things, we think when you trust Jesus as your personal Savior, and you have all these promises in the Word of God, and sometimes it looks like real disaster comes following what we think is a promise of God. And sometimes we can't explain what God is up to, because we want to do the right thing, but somehow it doesn't turn out right.
And if you'll think about Moses for example, from the time he left the burning bush, he listened to God, he was absolutely stunned about what he heard, what he saw. And so, he left the burning bush, committed to do exactly what God wanted him to do, and he did. And he was to tell Pharaoh that he was to let the people go. Well, instead of Pharaoh listening to him, he doubled their work. Now they couldn't just make brick they had to find the straw to make brick with. And so, the number one enemy at this particular point in the life of the Hebrew children was of all people Moses because Pharaoh had doubled their responsibility and his requirements. He was sure he did what God said, and he did do what God said, but the outcome wasn't like he expected.
Now, all of us hit those things in our life where we think we know exactly what God said, and the same thing happens to us. It doesn't turn out like we expect it. So, when I look at this passage of Scripture, I think this is a passage of Scripture that describes what happens to us. We want to do the right thing, we think we have done the right thing, we think we've listened to God, it doesn't turn out that way, and so, we judge ourselves, condemn ourselves and say, "God, you weren't listening at all", and we build this big pity party up and accuse God. So, what is the solution to all that?
So, I want you to turn for a moment if you will, in the third chapter of Exodus, beginning with the tenth verse, "Therefore, come now, he said, and I will send you to Pharaoh, so that you may bring My people, the sons of Israel, out of Egypt". That was a big responsibility and requirement. But Moses said to God, "Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the sons of Israel out of Egypt"? And He said, "Certainly, I will be with you, and this should be the sign to you that it is I who have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God at this mountain".
Then Moses said God, "Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you.' Now they may say to me, 'What is His name?' What shall I say to them"? God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM", and He said, "Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, 'I AM has sent you.'"
So, what I want us to notice here, I want you to jot down seven things. When trouble comes, we have to remember His promises. And those promises are as vital as a part of our belief system. And if you turn to Hebrews, for example, and let's look at a couple of verses here, in the tenth chapter, the tenth chapter, the twenty-third verse, the Scripture says, "Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful". And then, that thirty-sixth verse, he says, "For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what He's promised".
So, I think all of us probably had the idea when we were saved, life's really ready to get better for me. And most of the time it does, and probably in some way it does, but oftentimes not the way we expect. People who've lived a life of sin and disobedience to God, just because you trust Christ as you Savior does not mean He's wiped all the consequences away. It does mean your name is written in the Lamb's Book of Life. It does mean that your sins have been forgiven. It does mean you have a new life, but that all the consequences don't disappear simply because we ask Christ to save us.
So, when trouble comes, we have to remember His promises. Secondly, He said to him for example, in the sixth chapter, the first verse, He says, "Here's what you can expect: Pharaoh will drive the Hebrews out of Egypt". Well, that's exactly what Moses wanted to hear. And this is a promise from God, He'll drive them out. And then He says, "I will harden Pharaoh's heart". Well, now that changed the whole story. "Here are the things You're going to do, and yet You tell me You're going to harden Pharaoh's heart".
Sometimes, when we're going through difficulty, it looks like that God's working on the other side. It's like He's working in behalf of the enemy. But God always wants us to look beyond the immediate circumstance because God doesn't just work in a tiny molecule, a tiny circle. He works with a big picture in mind. And this is why you and I should learn to listen to God carefully. God doesn't make any mistakes. And when He speaks to your heart, sometimes people will say, "Well, I guess I misheard God". No, no, you didn't mishear him. You misinterpreted what He said. He didn't say, "I'm going to make everything easy for the Hebrews". He said, "I'm going to set them free. And I'm going to do so by hardening Pharaoh's heart".
Well, you already know the story. Hardening Pharaoh's heart caused great havoc among the people of the Hebrew nation. And so, sometimes when God makes us a promise, listen carefully. He doesn't give us the details. Well, why doesn't He? Well, you'd have to ask Him that. You can't, you can question God if you want to, but listen, God knows what His purpose is. Now watch this. His goal is always for our good. His purpose is always to work something in our life that will bring goodness, that will bring joy in our hearts. But sometimes it brings difficulty and hardship and pain and suffering.
There's no promise in the Word of God that guarantees we will have a life without suffering and heartache and pain. And so, we have to remember who we're dealing with. We're dealing with a God who loves us unconditionally, who saves us from our sin. He'll never leave us nor forsake us, and answers our prayers, but does not promise to save us from all suffering, heartache, and even unto death. So, when we look at this, God's promise to Moses was an awesome promise, but He didn't say, "It's just going to be easy, it's going to be a wonderful exodus, it's going to be absolutely fantastic. Moses, you're going to be sitting on top of the world". None of that.
So, the third thing I want you to notice is this. God is working to accomplish His purpose when we don't even see it, when we don't understand it. And in the seventh chapter of Exodus and the fifth verse, He says, "The Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I stretch out My hand on Egypt and bring out the sons of Israel from their midst". He says, "Here's what's going to happen. I'm not giving you all the details but remember this. I am the Lord. When I stretch out My hand on Egypt, bring out the sons of Israel from their midst. So, Moses and Aaron did as the command, Lord commanded them, and thus they did. Moses was eighty years old when that happened".
So, He's assuring him of what's going to happen but He doesn't give him all the details. He says, "Here's what I'm going to do". So, think about this. Listen to that verse again. God says, "I'm going to release them". And then what happens? The Scripture says after He says I'm going to release them, God unleashed a series of plagues from turning the rivers to blood to the death of Pharaoh's son. How did that fit into the promise, "I'm going to set My people free"? Then He says, "The Egyptians are going to know that I'm God". And sometimes we see the evidence of God at work and we don't understand always how He does it. God makes a promise.
You say, "Well, does He always keep His promise"? Yes. Does He always give us the details? No, because that's the way you and I grow in our faith, by believing Him, trusting Him when I don't understand Him. God nowhere promises I'll always understand. He promises to keep His Word. He promises that He'll be with us in it. He promises to provide our need, but that I'll, not that I'll always understand. Sometimes we see the evidence of God working in our life and sometimes we can't. That is, Moses couldn't foresee what God had in mind.
And when He says, "I'm going to use you to set them free". Then he sees what happens, naturally he wonders, "Well, God, here's what You said". But we have to remember that God does not always give us details. Did you hear that? Well, a few of you did. He does not always give us details, amen? So, that's where we find out whether we trust Him or not. And usually, when God speaks about something good, He's going to do, here's what we do. Our mind jumps from today to the good. So, we don't like to think about what's the difference between the promise today and the good tomorrow? Lot of things can happen in that space of time.
And so, what happens here is, it took the death of Pharaoh's son to convince him to let the people go. But that's exactly what God had planned. He knew exactly what would have to happen before Pharaoh would let the people go. So, think about all the plagues and so forth that happened, we'll talk about those later. But God is working to accomplish His purpose but not always in the ways we expect. And so, the fourth thing I want you to jot down in all of this is this. We're to trust Him to keep His promise. Our responsibility is not necessarily to understand it all, but to trust Him to keep His promise. That's a requirement. We're to trust the Lord in all, with all your heart, lean not to your own understanding, in all your ways acknowledge Him and He'll direct your path straight.
So, the more difficult our circumstances, the greater our struggle. And in some trials we face, all we have is His Word, we have the Living Word of God, the Bible. And what He said to Moses, what He, you and I have today in the Scriptures are the same. It's the same God who made this promise to Moses who makes these promises to us. And so, God spoke to Moses and He expected Moses to follow what He said. And then, here are all these Hebrews who've got lots of reasons to question, first of all, by what authority can you tell us this? And how do you know that Pharaoh's going to respond? They had lots and lots of questions.
So, Moses is in a tough spot. Watch this carefully. Because he's in the same place you and I are at times. So, what did Moses have? Watch this. This is all he had. "And I'll be with you. And I'll be with you". Told him lots of things, but all he had was, "I'll be with you". And I want you to think about this. That's all you and I have. Everything you and I have could be lost in a second. All of our plans could fail. All the things we possess could burn up or crash, or whatever it might be. We have no guarantee of anything as a believer but the presence and the power and the love of Almighty God. That's all we have.
And I think about people who spend their life investing in this and that and accumulating and accumulating and accumulating, and what they're doing, they'll deny this. They're trying to get more security. Well listen, security is not found in the stock market. It's not found in the malls. It's not found in any of these places. Security can only be found in the presence of the Living God.
That's all Moses had. When he went to see Pharaoh, all he had, listen, think about this. This is the Moses who got ejected out of Egypt forty years before. Now he's forty years older, there's a different Pharaoh, doesn't know him except what they know about him. And he's coming back, across the desert and telling Pharaoh, "You must let the Hebrews go". Well that was a joke. In other words, think about this. "You're coming here with a shepherd's staff telling me to free two million slaves who are building all of my enterprises, and you think I'm going to listen to that"? Naturally they didn't think so.
So, I want you to jot this one down. Number five: We must remember God is the sovereign of the universe and everything is within His power. And my favorite verse is the Psalm one hundred and three. And you'll hear me quote it many times, but I just want you to turn there and if I just quote it, you won't turn. So, Psalm one-o-three, verse nineteen, listen, "The Lord has established His throne in the heavens, and His sovereignty," which means His power, His love, all that He is does, what? "His sovereignty rules over all". That means, the power of Almighty God rules over all.
And remember one of the things that God said to him before he left to go to see Pharaoh. I'll be with you. I will be with you. And what He said to Moses, He has said to every single one of us who is a follower of Jesus. I'll be with you. To the end of this age, beyond that. When you trust the Lord Jesus Christ as your Savior, the Holy Spirit comes into your life to live, seals you as a child of God. And so, it's not that we do this in our power, it's that we walk in His strength and in His power. And so, it's the power of God. And so, whatever we're asking Him about, whatever we need in our life, listen, He's the sovereign God of the universe which means, He's capable, powerful enough, and able to do anything that needs to be done in our life.
Now watch this. Think about this for a moment. When you trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, you and I would agree that He wrote our names in His Lamb's Book of Life, that He came into our life through the Holy Spirit and sealed us forever as a child of God. Can't be lost, forever sealed. He lives in and through us, each one of us individually, His will through the power of the Holy Spirit. We have that relationship to Him. That means we have tapped into the presence and the power of God for every single aspect of our life. You have the sovereign God of the universe, the same one who walked with Moses to see Pharaoh, who could have obliterated him in a split second if he'd have chosen to. But when God said, "I'll be with you," Pharaoh couldn't do anything to Moses because God was with him.
And sometimes we forget who we have within us and what we have, because we have Him. So, we have the confidence that He'll keep His Word. The sixth thing I want you to jot down, God oftentimes has an unexpected plan to meet our needs. Jot that one down. God oftentimes has an unexpected plan to meet our needs. So, when I think about that and think about what the Scripture says in Romans. And in Romans chapter nine and verse seventeen, listen to what he says, "For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: 'For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.'"
So, if somebody says, "Explain all that stuff in Exodus", that's the verse right there, look at that. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: "For this purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth". Then, past, now. So, look at these two men. Here's Pharaoh who rules over everything, two million enslaved Jews, he thinks he's somebody. But God says, "I'm going to show him who I am". And so, what did He do? In one event, He took his son. It took that to convince Pharaoh that God was God. Why did God do all that? Here's what God was doing. He was demonstrating His awesome power against what and who was the most powerful person on earth at the time.
And so, God isn't just up to doing this, and that, and the other. God always has a reason, and a goal, and a purpose. And one of the reasons He allows you and me to go through difficulty, hardship, and pain, rejection, and all the rest, is that He's teaching us to trust Him. He's teaching us that the most difficult times of our life, the most painful times of our life, God is doing something good in our life.
So, you may ask a Hebrew back in those days, when the plagues were coming, and things were happening all around them, "Well, is God a good God"? They didn't fully understand everything that was happening. Moses knew what was happening. Because what did God have in mind? Well, what did God do? He didn't just let them go. When they went, the Bible says they plundered the Egyptians. That is, they took their wealth with them. And sometimes, we can't see what God is up to. And the last statement is this. God is never late with His deliverance. Never late. We may pray a long time about some things. We may go through some difficulty, heartache, whatever it might be, but God is never late with His deliverance. He may be late according to my timetable, but not His. The Hebrews waited four hundred years.
You say, "Well, that sounds late to me". Not in God's mind. Because the question is, "What's the purpose of God"? He was, watch this, He was demonstrating to the nation of Israel, and that is the Hebrews, demonstrating there's something to them they would never forget. They would tell their children, children's, children's, children's up to the twenty-first century and on until Jesus comes again, that the God of the Hebrews is the one true God, Jehovah, and He's the sovereign of the universe. That's the God in whom we believe and whom we serve. And that's why we can sing and shout and praise God and be unashamed that we believe Him in every circumstance of life.
So, if you will recall, when trouble comes, we trust Him. We don't try to figure it out. God's made all these promises in His Bible. The question is do I believe what He's given in black and white? I will never leave you nor forsake you. I'll be there for you no matter what happens. I'll provide your needs and I'll take you through the storm, and you have eternal security. Do you know how blessed you are? You think about all the complaining we do, how blessed we are. And the promise is not by somebody, it's by the sovereign God of the universe who has the power to bless you the way He wants to bless you, grow us all up in the faith and make our life an example and a testimony to the unbeliever who's struggling.
And you may be one of those persons who's struggling this morning. Maybe you don't know whether you believe in God or not. You can't give me a good reason for not believing in Him. Here's hundreds of pages written Word of God for believing in Him. And He says, "Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved". Not might be, shall be saved. This goodness of the God and whom we serve and in whom we believe is a God of grace, love and forgiveness.
And I challenge you, if you've never trusted Jesus Christ as your Savior, surrender your life to Him, maybe you don't understand a lot of things in the Bible. There are some things I don't understand. I may not have done it this way, that way, the other, but it's God's way. It's a perfect way, for God knew what He was after. He'll forgive you of your sin, if you'll ask Him, not because you're going to be better, not because of the promises you make, but because His Son died on the cross, shed His blood and saves any and every person who's willing to call upon Him. Just like the death angel passed through Egypt, you didn't have blood on the door post, there would be death.
Today, you don't trust Him as your Savior, you don't believe in the blood of Jesus, you don't believe in the crucifixion, you don't believe in the crucified Lord, one of these days you'll stand before Him and give an account, and all your excuses will be null and void. And I invite you to ask Christ to save you and let Him change your life today and govern your life forever. Amen? Let's stand together.
Father, we love You and praise You and thank You for the awesomeness of the Scripture, for the way You worked in the life of Your servants all through from Genesis to Revelation. And I pray that You will remind us again and again, Lord, when we need to be reminded You never change. You said You didn't change and You don't. We have the awesome privilege of calling upon You in any and every circumstance of life. You don't have a deaf ear to Your children. We thank You and bless You and praise You today that we have the privilege of calling upon You and the assurance that You will hear us, in Jesus's name, amen.