Persevering Together

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Persevering Together

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday 23rd September 2018

I think that most of you already know that when I bring a message on a Sunday morning, I don’t follow a lectionary.  I don’t start at the beginning of a bible chapter and work it though to the end – even though I can see that that could be a really good thing to do.  

I am totally trusting that the Holy Spirit is leading both you and I along a path of truth – truth from the Word – that is relevant to what we need to hear in this season – right now.

I’m not good at planning a series…  but having said that, I think we are always in a series of messages that God is speaking to us.

And I say all that to encourage every one of us to continually be listening and discerning – looking for the threads of God’s Word that He is wanting to strengthen us with, build us with, and equip us with for where we are at on our own personal journey, but also with the journey we are on together as the church of Jesus Christ.

And so this morning, I believe God is speaking prophetically through His Word to all of us who are feeling in some way pressured and squeezed…  who may be walking through some kind of a storm – health wise, financially, relationally…  perhaps facing things that seem to want to keep you held back and held down…

Well I believe God is going to use these circumstances and issues of life to actually push you and I further and further into His presence and into His purpose for our lives.

I’ve said it before – there is a birthing going on.  It usually involves some pain.  It can get pretty messy.  But when the push comes, it’s a really good sign that something incredible is about to happen.

The push is on!  You’ve heard what PUSH is an acronym of.  “Pray Until Something Happens!”  Well Something is happening!

And the when the devil wants to whisper into our hearts, it’s time to give up, it’s time to withdraw, it’s time to let go…  that’s exactly the moment we need to rise up and push wholeheartedly into our true destiny.  

And that word “wholeheartedly” is a word for now as well. 

Remember the story of Caleb?  He was the only one that stood in faith with Joshua when the Israelites were deciding whether to enter into the promised land.  He was one of the spies that came back and said, yes, there are giants, yes it’s going to be a fight, yes the cities are fortified and the people are strong – nevertheless, let us go up at once and take the land which is our God ordained inheritance.

But everyone listened to their own fears and unbelief and said they wished they had all died in Egypt.  What a faith-filled lot they were.

They shut down their destiny.  They shut down their vision for a promised land.

But not Caleb.  He waited.  He persevered through another 40 years of wandering around the desert with his people.

But that wasn’t the end.  After 40 years in the wilderness and another 5 years fighting alongside Joshua eventually Caleb stood up again before the portion of land promised to him and said:

Joshua 14:7-12 (NKJV),  “I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord  sent me from Kadesh Barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart. Nevertheless my brethren who went up with me made the heart of the people melt, but I wholly followed the Lord my God. So Moses swore on that day, saying, ‘Surely the land where your foot has trodden shall be your inheritance and your children’s forever, because you have wholly followed the Lord my God.’ And now, behold, the Lord has kept me alive, as He said, these forty-five years, ever since the Lord spoke this word to Moses while Israel wandered in the wilderness; and now, here I am this day, eighty-five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as on the day that Moses sent me; just as my strength was then, so now is my strength for war, both for going out and for coming in. Now therefore, give me this mountain of which the Lord spoke in that day; for you heard in that day how the Anakim were there, and that the cities were great and fortified. It may be that the Lord will be with me, and I shall be able to drive them out as the Lord said.”

I absolutely love hearing that.  Because it speaks so much of Caleb’s heart.  In fact the reason Caleb was able to persevere and push through the fears and unbelief of those around him for another 40 years, and then battle it out to push into the promised land, was because the bible says a number of times that he himself “wholeheartedly” followed the Lord.  Even in those verses he says himself – “I wholly followed the Lord my God.”

The word is – God is going to turn for good the very thing that would try to hinder you, shut you down and hold you back. 

Our part is to continue to wholeheartedly follow the Lord – and to wholeheartedly continue to believe in the promises He has given us, to persevere, to push through the voices of negativity, hopelessness and unbelief…  and one of those voices might even be our own at times.  

Romans 8:28 (NKJV),  “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

My message really is about perseverance.  

The last few weeks we’ve seen King David’s example of facing overwhelming opposition, and yet the very things that could have easily destroyed him became the means by which God empowered him and raised him up to fulfil his destiny.

You might find yourself up against a Goliath…  some giant of opposition that stands between you and your future.  Well if God has brought you to this place, He has already equipped you to face up to it.  You already have in your hand everything you need to overcome – even if it just looks like a sling and a few stones.  

He will give you the courage and strength to overcome, and the very thing you face will be the stepping stone to fulfil God’s purpose for your life.

It might be that you’re feeling alone in some cave, hiding from who knows what or who knows who, just like David was hiding from Saul and his army.  But in a sovereign move of God, all these discouraged and distressed men began to gather there with him, and together they became David’s might men – his own army.  

Maybe there are others God wants to bring into your life, to bring around you…  perhaps if you’re here visiting this morning that this church could very well be the community that He wants to establish around your life.

When I think of the courage of David and his mighty men, I think of the courage of another person in the bible who steps out in an act of boldness that for her was probably way out of character.  Her encounter was with Jesus.

Matthew 9:20-22 (NKJV),  “And suddenly, a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years came from behind and touched the hem of His garment. For she said to herself, “If only I may touch His garment, I shall be made well.” But Jesus turned around, and when He saw her He said, “Be of good cheer, daughter;  your faith has made you well.” And the woman was made well from that hour.”

That sickness that would have declared her unclean to all those around her, and would have kept her isolated, weak and ashamed…  that sickness actually pushed her out of her isolation and caused her to reach out to Jesus and to touch Him.  It changed her life.

She pushed through her shame.  She pushed through her weakness.

And I believe the Holy Spirit is saying that to some of you this morning.  Whatever seems to be holding you back, let it be the very thing that causes you to reach out to Jesus.  To touch the hem of His garment.  Be bold and courageous in seeking Him to meet your need.

James 4:8 (NKJV),  “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you…”

It’s so easy to find examples of God’s people persevering and pushing through to find their destiny.  The bible is full of those kinds of stories.  So why should we think it’s all just going to fall into our lap?  Perseverance does a week in us – it is part of our character building – our faith building.

Let me refer back to Simon’s message last week.  Again, this is one of the threads of truth that God is sowing into our lives right now.  Everything is pointing towards Christianity being more and more challenged and confronted as time goes on.  Persecution is already here on a certain level. 

Simon speaks about the “squeeze” that is happening already.  And I just think it’s a sign that things are becoming more and more black and white.  And everything that opposes righteousness and godliness is becoming clearer and clearer by the day.

And as much as I don’t want to see my family, especially my grandchildren, have to face that kind of opposition, I know that it’s also going to bring with it some of the most exciting days for our Christian faith.

Again, it’s nothing new.

In the early days of the Christian Church they faced some of the worst persecution in history.  But all it did was push the disciples out of their comfortable environments and send them off into the world to be witnesses for Jesus Christ.

Acts 8:1,4-8 (NKJV),  “…At that time a great persecution arose against the church which was at Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. Therefore those who were scattered went everywhere preaching the word. Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with a loud voice, came out of many who were possessed; and many who were paralyzed and lame were healed. And there was great joy in that city.”

Philip didn’t just think it would be a nice idea to go to Samaria.  He didn’t have a choice!  He was forced to leave Jerusalem.  He was pushed out and squeezed out of his normal circumstances and normal life because of persecution. 

God wasn’t persecuting Philip, but He used it to bring about His greater purpose which was to send the gospel to the ends of the earth.

And we also have to be always looking and discerning – what is God doing in the midst of these adverse circumstances of my own life?  Is there a pushing through and a persevering for a reason?

Philip had the greatest days of his ministry life while he was in Samaria.

And so we have to ask ourselves the right questions.   

Has that door closed before me, which seemed like a good thing, because there’s a greater purpose?  

Is the discouragement and disappointment I’ve been feeling actually misplaced?  Maybe I should be feeling relieved and hopeful about something new and fresh that’s yet to be revealed?

Our circumstances and situations may change…  one door closes and another one opens…  life has its twists and turns.

But God never changes.  And the calling and gifting upon your life will always remain.

Philippians 1:6 (NKJV),  “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”

God has established His purposes in your life which are good!  And they will be completed – as long as we don’t sabotage them through our own falling away.

It’s not about how we started the journey – it’s about how we finish it!

Hebrews 12:1 (NKJV),  “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,”

As Paul drew close to the end of his life, he said to Timothy:

2 Timothy 4:7-8 (NKJV),  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

In Acts, Paul says again, that he has served the Lord with humility, tears and trials…  he’s held nothing back…  

Acts 20:24 (NKJV),  “But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

For us, the story isn’t over yet.  Some of us are closer to the finish line than others.  But whether we are presently facing trials, or leaping for joy, we are in this race to the finish together.

And this I think is another theme that’s been coming through just lately.

We are the church together.  We are called to be encouraging and lifting one another up and supporting one another in the race.  It’s not like a running race we might have been part of at school.  There was only one winner back then.

But in this race of life we are all potentially winners.  We just win at different times.

Philippians 3:10-14 (NKJV),  “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do,  forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

As Christ’s body, the church, we fellowship around the suffering, the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  And together, in that place of fellowship, we press on and reach forward…

There’s something very powerful if the church can truly enter into that place of running the race together.  Each one playing his or her role.  Each one looking out for the others.  Each one making room for the others.

As I said the last time I preached, unity commands a wonderful blessing.  

We don’t have to be the same – in fact, thank God we are all different.  But when our hearts are knitted together and we truly desire the best for each other, there is nothing that our God cannot do!

We are meant to persevere together with a common cause and vision and with a sense of true fellowship.

It’s not about persevering with one another, but persevering together for the gospel.

Hebrews 3:12-14 (NKJV),  “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called “Today,” lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,”

We are to exhort one another daily!  We all need to be exhorted…  which means to be strongly encouraged.  Ministry is challenging and there’s always some form of opposition – but the last thing we need to be doing to ripping each other down.  We all need encouragement.  We need to be standing firmly together.

There are heaps of scriptures that speak of building one another up, edifying one another, encouraging one another to love and good works.

In this way we are vessels of the Holy Spirit who ultimately is the One who strengthens and equips us.

Do you know that every encounter you have with your brothers and sisters in Christ either strengthens them or weakens them.  It either builds them up or it undermines them.  You can build up the church or you can pull it down.

Ephesians 4:29,32 (NKJV),  “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers. And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.”

I love the bit about imparting grace to the hearer.  Surely one of the graces we are to impart to one another is the grace to persevere.  The grace to push through.  The grace to overcome and keep running the race of faith to the end.

Unity is powerful in building the church – and so is grace.  And so is the truth of the word.  And so is the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.  And so is the prophetic declaration of a word in season – for such a time as this.

We have no better example of perseverance than Jesus Christ Himself.  

Again, in my message from 2 weeks ago, I shared the tremendous stress that Jesus went through as He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane – where His own disciples tragically let Him down.

And yet He was determined to follow after His Father’s will to the end.  He went to the cross – He pushed through all of His own human emotions – and He accomplished everything that He purposed to do.

If Jesus can do that for us – alone – and even abandoned momentarily by His Father – then surely we can face the issues of life we have before us as one body together.

What are you going through and facing right now?  How are you able to use that circumstance, those feelings, that pressure, to push you forward towards God and His purpose for your life?

I’m not for a moment saying that’s a light thing.  For some of you, it might be the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do.

But one thing is for sure.  You aren’t meant to do it alone.  

I believe God is calling us to a new and fresh place of fellowship – a fellowship that gathers around the suffering and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Because in and of ourselves we don’t have much to offer.  But in Christ, we have everything that we need – not just for ourselves – but for each other.

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