Now Is The Accepted Time

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“Now Is The Accepted Time.”

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday 29th November, 2020

There are so many ways I could have started today’s message because sometimes as I’m thinking and praying about Sunday, the same theme keeps coming up in different things that I read, or something I experience, or something someone says…

But I decided to start with this:

Venese and I often find ourselves at Cotton Tree, near Maroochydore, around the 12th November because we love the Sunshine Coast for a break away at the end of the year – and our Wedding Anniversary is on that date.  This year we celebrated 44 years of marriage.

Obviously we were only ten when we were married.

But that particular milestone is not really what leads me into our message for today.

We also happen to be at Cotton Tree then for the 11th November, which of course is Remembrance Day.  And at Cotton Tree, there is a War Memorial – and every Remembrance Day there is a ceremony at 11am.

Most years we just take a casual glance at what’s going on, but this year we decided to stop and watch the ceremony from a distance.  We could hear the speeches, including one from a Navy Admiral, there were Christian hymns, and of course the bugle playing “The Last Post.”

For some reason, I found the whole service really moving – remembering all the men and women who have served in our armed forces – but especially those who have died on the battle field.

I posted a poem at the time on Facebook.  It was a poem read by a couple of school children at the Remembrance Day ceremony that morning.  It’s called “In Flanders Fields.”

A man by the name of John McCrae wrote this poem.  He was a Canadian doctor and teacher who served in World War I, and he is best known for this memorial poem.   Some of you might know it well – especially the more mature ones amongst us.  But for me, this Remembrance Day was the first time I had heard it.  

McRae died of pneumonia and meningitis in France, in January, 1918, just 10 months before the war ended.

This is the short poem McRae wrote:

“In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

    That mark our place; and in the sky

    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

    Loved and were loved, and now we lie

        In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe: 

To you from failing hands we throw

    The torch; be yours to hold it high. 

    If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

        In Flanders fields.”

My sermon this morning is not about soldiers who have died.

It’s about you and I who live… 

And whenI heard it read on Remembrance Day – I felt this sense of the torch of faith being passed – and a conviction that we continue to fight the fight of faith that many of these young soldiers would have carried deeply in their hearts.

They men and women of a very different generation living in a very different world and season of life.

We continue to live through the world wide devastation caused by Covid-19.  And some countries are still reaching daily record numbers of deaths.

Here in Australia, good management has made us the envy of the world – but more importantly, I believe we have seen the hand of God cover us – this great South Land of the Holy Spirit.

By the grace of God alone, we are blessed.  Even though we’ve made some ungodly and anti-Christ decisions as a nation – somehow, God has still kept His hand upon us.

But looking world wide – Covid-19 has allegedly caused nearly one and a half million deaths.  It could be more or less depending on who you listen to.

World War 1 had 20 million deaths – half of them civilians.  Plus there were 21 million seriously wounded.

I know I’ve already said my focus is actually on life – not death.  But all this provides a stark contrast.

Death and devastation of war and of pandemics and poverty and famine, and whatever else is in between, causes me to sit back, just like I did at the memorial service, and ask questions:

 – what am I really doing with my life?  What is it right now – not next year, not the year after…. But what is it right now that I could be doing to live a life more worthy of life itself – let alone more worthy of the death of my Saviour.

So many have died giving their life for a cause – for a country – on the mission field…. Medical professionals have died whilst caring for Covid-19 patients.

The men buried in Flanders fields, with poppies growing in the breeze between their white crosses – their lives were cut short – ultimately fighting for us.

What is it about your life right now that is set apart for a purpose?  

It doesn’t matter what others are doing or not doing.  You are the one ultimately that is accountable for your own life – no one else.

I think about the time David went down to his brothers who were fighting in the army against the Philistines – and Goliath had them all intimidated.

They are at a stalemate – no one is willing to take action.

And David says to his brothers – “Is there not a cause?”

What were they waiting for?  Would tomorrow be any better than today?

And so we see David use the gifts and abilities that God had established in his life – the ability to overcome wild animals with his bare hands – and he seized the moment – right there and then.

He takes his slingshot and a couple of small stones – and hits Goliath right between the eyes and knocks him to the ground.  He takes Goliath’s own sword and cuts off his head.  And the Israelite army finds renewed courage and rises up against the Philistines and overcomes them.

It just took the courage of this young boy to inspire an army to rise up and take their place.

I know it’s what God is speaking to me about in this moment – and I believe to all of us…  and we have to ground ourselves in what the Word says – and find courage ourselves to take the opportunities we have right now – today – because we don’t know what tomorrow holds.  We truly don’t know for sure that we even have a tomorrow.

My next thought was Esther.

She found herself – totally orchestrated by God – as a Jewish Queen married to a Persian King.  She was chosen out of a multitude of young women, and her Jewish heritage remained hidden.

And without going into all the detail – many of you know the story already – she found herself in a terrifying position – knowing that a palace official – Haman – had manipulated the King into ordering the annihilation of all Jewish people in the land.

Esther sent for advice from her Jewish cousin Mordecai, as she was desperate for the Jewish people to which she belonged.  She knew that if she approached the King uninvited, she could be put to death.  But she was in torment about what she should do – considering God had positioned her for that moment, within the palace.

Esther 4:13-14

New King James Version

13 And Mordecai told them to answer Esther: “Do not think in your heart that you will escape in the king’s palace any more than all the other Jews. 14 For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

And the story unfolds with Esther risking her life and rising up with courage on behalf of her people.  God gave her wisdom in what to do – and not only did she save the Jewish people, but in the end, the enemies of the Jews were destroyed.

So – what a terrible thing if Esther had just sat back and allowed life to simply float by.  She would have missed the very purpose God had for her there.  And it required decisive action from her in that moment.  

So that sentence keeps ringing in my ears – “Who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” 

What if that’s the question being asked of us right now?

Not for such a time as next year – or next month – or some moment of time in the future – it’s for such a time as this – today – now.

And isn’t that what it’s all about?  Finding our place and our purpose in the kingdom of God and living out of it each and every day?

It’s not about going somewhere – or waiting for a certain moment in time to finally step into your destiny.  

I love the prophetic – I love how it has the potential to open up things in the spirit – and breathe life and hope into our future.

But I do struggle at times when the I hear the same message continually coming forth that now is a difficult time – now the oppression is upon us – but things are going to be good soon – the time is coming when we will overcome.

I want to prophecy that everything you will ever need to fulfil your destiny for today – for right now – is already within you.  All you have is today – this moment of time.  

You have what you need to overcome – to hit the enemy between the eyes – to cut off his head – to step into the kingdom of God for such a time as this.

A time such as this – not a time such as tomorrow or next week or next year.  But a time such as this time right now.

That’s my prophetic word for today.  Seize this moment, this day, for Jesus.

2 Corinthians 6:

New King James Version

2 For He says:

“In an acceptable time I have heard you,

And in the day of salvation I have helped you.”

Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.”

Straight away some of you might be thinking – but I’m not in a good place right now – I’m struggling with my health – I don’t have enough time – it’s been a tough year and next year I’m sure I’ll be more on top of things…. 

But when I read the following verses from 2Cor 6 – I don’t see those kinds of responses.  In fact I see the opposite.  I see that no matter what we are going through – there is always opportunity to build the Kingdom of God in some significant way – even if it seems small and insignificant to you.

2 Corinthians 6:4-10

New King James Version

“But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much [a]patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, 5 in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; 6 by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by [b]sincere love, 7 by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armor of righteousness on the right hand and on the left, 8 by honor and dishonor, by evil report and good report; as deceivers, and yet true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold we live; as chastened, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.”

In other words – it’s through the tough times and the good that we are commended to be ministers of the gospel and the kingdom.  And I don’t think there’s any excuse left out from that long list that isn’t covered.

I just look at that little sentence that says – “as dying, and behold we live”

I have had the privilege to witness the final weeks and moments of a number of beautiful Christian brothers and sisters – and it never ceases to amaze me how their lives in those times speak so loudly of the gospel, of faith, of hope, of God’s love.  They continue to minister to those around them in powerful ways right until the last.

And I might add, there are a couple of people sitting here today who thought they were about to go to heaven, but God had other ideas.  And the way other people’s lives have been impacted for good and for God though your experience and the way you trusted God – held tight to your faith – allowed the fruit of the Spirit to carry you in your dark time – it has been astounding – and other people have been impacted in ways you may not even understand.

You see its not about finding the right time – waiting for the right time – it’s about what you carry in the inside in this very minute.

Luke 17:20-21

New King James Version

The Coming of the Kingdom

“Now when He (Jesus) was asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, He answered them and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; 21 nor will they say, [a]‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”

So if the kingdom of God is within you – you don’t have to wait for the perfect time.  If you’re like Paul, you can minister while you’re in prison, while you’re in tribulations, while you’re in tumults, while you’re in hospital, whatever place you might find yourself…

Because at the same time, you have the Holy Spirit, you have the love of God, you have truth and kindness and the power of God.  These things are within – and not dependant on waiting for a certain time.

The opportunities will be there if we look for them.  Some big, some small, but all significant.

Having said all that, there are definitely seasons that we go through – but God will use every season to His glory if we are willing to step out in faith, just as David did – and just as Esther did.

We all know what Solomon said in Eccelsiastes.

Ecclesiastes 3

New King James Version

Everything Has Its Time

“1 To everything there is a season,

A time for every purpose under heaven:”

So my question to you today is this:

What season and what purpose have you been given right now, to extend the kingdom of God.”  What were you born for – for such a time as this?

Who is it that you need to speak to?  What is that you you need to do? What blessing do you have to pass on right now?  If you don’t do it – perhaps God will choose another.  But how do you feel about that?

I’m not talking necessarily about earth shattering things.  I’m talking about loving your neighbour, serving your community, building up and encouraging a friend… doing these things genuinely, but with kingdom purpose, knowing there is the cause of the gospel.

However – there will be times when you will need great courage – and you will need to know that there is a cause much greater than yourself.

This time right now has a purpose in your life – and so does this season.  

And in verse 11 of Eccel 3 it says:

“He has made everything beautiful in its time…”

You might feel like you’re waiting – and maybe you are – but that doesn’t mean you are redundant in the kingdom.

I love that song that we have often sung here – called “Take Courage”

The chorus says: 

“Take courage my heart  Stay steadfast my soul

He’s in the waiting  He’s in the waiting

Hold onto your hope  As your triumph unfolds

He’s never failing  He’s never failing”

He does something powerful in the waiting…

What season are you in?  Is this moment in your life a time for planting – or reaping?  A time for healing?  A time for embracing – or a time for refraining from embracing?  A time to gather or a time to throw things away?  A time to speak or to keep silent?  A time to tear down or a time to sew?

I believe our mission as the church is ultimately to save souls – to make room for the lost to be found.

So what does the bible say about that?

John 4:35

New King James Version

“Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’?  Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”

We have to stop giving ourselves excuses by thinking everything is about next month or next year…. Now – today is the day of salvation.  The time is perfect right now for us to make room for the Holy Spirit to draw someone to Jesus.

Right now is your ministry time, whether you are in church, in prison or in hospital.

And for all of us who believe things are going to be new and different – I have a scripture for that too.

Isaiah 43:18-19

New King James Version

“Do not remember the former things,

Nor consider the things of old.

19 

Behold, I will do a new thing,

Now it shall spring forth;

Shall you not know it?

I will even make a road in the wilderness

And rivers in the desert.”

The new thing is here.  It’s in here (within) – it’s the newness of the kingdom within.  We may not be able to fully see it or comprehend it, but God speaks about it as though it has already happened.

To “behold” means to stand in awe and be amazed.

He’s saying to the people of the day and to us right now – I’m calling you to lift your eyes and get a vision for what I see.   Come and stand in awe and be amazing at the new thing that has already been imparted to your life.

Don’t remember the former things…

I know Venese spoke a fantastic word to the ladies last night and part of the word was about letting the things of the past that would want to hold us back – letting them go — in fact, letting them to burn – set them on fire…

All the bitterness and unforgiveness and the offences – the hurts…

We cannot expect to walk in the fullness of the new when we are still caught in the things of the old.

I read a little quote recently that said something like this – “love as though you’ve never been hurt.”

Just imagine if we could do that.

Of course, we have all been hurt…. We’ve all been offended and let down…

But God says – I have made a road out of the wilderness – the dry and arid places…. I’ve even made rivers – not just one… but rivers in the desert.

How free would you be if you had never been hurt or offended or disrespected?  How free would you be to not judge – or live behind walls and masks?  How free would you be to truly love?

I just want to leave you with that thought this morning.

What if you could truly love unconditionally?  Today!  Right now!

What would you be able to do?

What if you really trusted God – put complete faith in Him, just like David and Esther did?  What could God do with your life right now?

I know that one day – in God’s timing – this life I live now will be over…. Yes, I’ll have a whole new life in heaven.

But I think back to that poem I shared at the beginning.

I think about the bodies of those soldiers in France – lying in Flanders fields – with poppies blowing in the breeze between the crosses that mark their graves.

What a sad thing it would be to have things left undone that God had planned for us to fulfil.

I do know that I’ve come to the kingdom for such a time as this.  And so have you.

Let the kingdom within you find its way out today.  Now is the accepted time.  Today is the day of salvation.

Amen.


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