Strengthening Other’s Hands.

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Strengthening Other’s Hands.

Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White

Sunday 30th June, 2019

We’ve been on a bit a theme the last couple of weeks – Fighting The Good Fight of Faith.

We’ve talked about fighting the fight of faith in our own hearts – guarding our hearts – where it’s very personal between us and God.

We’ve looked at what it means to fight for the generations coming after us – particularly fighting for our children to experience God’s presence in worship, in prayer, and the Word.

I sensed a great responsibility for us as parents and grandparents, but also for all of us as the body of Christ, to raise up our children into all aspects of our faith life – and God forbid that we would ever hinder them – and cause them to disengage from His presence in any way.  In fact, that was a sobering moment for me as I was convicted personally about that.

I have mentioned very briefly that the fight of faith is also something we do as a body together.  God created us for community and relationship.  

I think the fact that I’ve been part of two different funerals this week has drawn me back again to how important it really is to stand with one another as we do this journey of life together. 

And as it often happens, I was awake in the middle of the night saying, God what is it you want to say to us?  Show me what aspect of this fight of faith you are wanting to highlight to us at Seacoast this week.

And all of a sudden I had these flashbacks that seemed random at first.  But I felt as though the Holy Spirit was trying to show me something.  They weren’t just random memories at all.  

I don’t know if you’ve seen that ad on TV where the guy pulls up sharply at the railway crossing – just in time – and as the train passes by he sees his life pass before him.  You see all these images of his life flash up on the train carriages as they go past.

Well that’s just like what saw as I was lying there.

Prepare yourself – I might embarrass a few people here.

I remembered the time Jan and Glenn made this bucking bull out a forty four gallon drum.  It was hooked up to the roof – right here – before we actually had a ceiling.  They gave it a head and tail and a saddle.  There were four ropes attached to it that pulled the bull in different directions – and it was the highlight of a special country and western night that we had.  It was only overshadowed by Christine leading the whole church in line dancing.

I remembered Matt when he was a young, single, sugar cane farmer – trying to work out what God wanted for his life.  He’s still trying to work it out – but in the meantime, has been to “bridle college”, I mean bible college…   and now has a beautiful wife and three gorgeous kids (there’s an extraordinary ministry right there) – runs a great little connect group on Saturday afternoons, becoming self sufficient on their farm which has also blessed many others.  Not a bad effort for someone who still isn’t sure what they are meant to be doing with their life.  

All the many terribly sad funerals we had when Venese and I first came here flashed before me one at a time.  They didn’t teach me in bible college how to deal with babies dying, and suicides, and fatal car accidents…  I’ll tell you, as a younger version of myself, naive and overwhelmed by ministry and people dying, it was nearly the undoing of me…  Everything I loved about being a Pastor became clouded by grief and sadness. 

We’ve walked through some really tough times with many of you.

But then there have been the celebrations, the weddings, the baby dedications, the baptisms… 

And as all those many visions flashed before my eyes, I realised – by God’s Grace and strength – and His vision for our lives – we got through it together!

Because it wasn’t just me dealing with and trying to navigate through all those different seasons of life – we all did it together.  We loved and supported one another.  We cried with one another.  We celebrated with one another and many times we laughed together.

If anyone ever tells me again that they feel in the spirit that they are being called aside just to be on their own “for a season”, and away from the body of Christ, I am fair dinkum going to tell them they’ve got rocks in their head.

There’s only one who would draw you away from the body – and that’s the devil himself.  Because in that place of isolation, you are fair game for every trick in his book.

So this morning, I know God is saying to us – fight the good fight of faith together – as brothers and sisters – and as one body.

I had confirmation of this as I searched out the scriptures.  I came across the story of David and Johnathan.

There was the time when David was on the run, trying to keep a distance between himself and King Saul.  Because Saul knew David had been anointed as the next king, and he wasn’t having any of it.  In fact, he was going to have David’s life!

1 Samuel 23:14-18,   “And David stayed in strongholds in the wilderness, and remained in the mountains in the Wilderness of Ziph. Saul sought him every day, but God did not deliver him into his hand. So David saw that Saul had come out to seek his life. And David was in the Wilderness of Ziph in a forest. Then Jonathan, Saul’s son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God. And he said to him, “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that.” So the two of them made a covenant before the Lord. And David stayed in the woods, and Jonathan went to his own house.”

So here is a picture of incredible support and encouragement.

And there’s a few lessons we can learn from this story about our relationships in the body of Christ – the Church – and how we can most effectively be there for one another.

I love that expression – that Jonathan strengthened David’s hand in God.

This is what we are meant to do for one another.

This is far more than just being a nice friend.  It’s far more than propping one another up with kind words that affirm our best human qualities.

This is what makes our relationships different – it’s when we strengthen one another’s hands in God.

This makes us different from the Rotary Club, the Lion’s Club and the bowling club.  They all have their place and do a fantastic job.  But we have to lift up our eyes and our vision to what God says about us – and we need each other to help us be reminded of those very things.

You see – it says, Jonathan strengthened his hand in God!

If you truly want to bring strength and healing and wash someone in the truth and reality of their salvation – then encourage them in who they are in Christ.

Declare the promises of God’s Word over them.  Remind them of the prophetic words that have been spoken over them.

When we have our seasons in the wilderness – like David – or we have our seasons of grief or discouragement or disappointment – don’t just say – there there, you’ll be alright… you’re strong enough to get through it…

But rather – strengthen their faith in God for the fight.  

I’m reminded of: 

2 Corinthians 5:16-18,  “Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh…”

What a great statement.  It’s not about our flesh – our carnal nature…  it’s about who we are in Christ!  We need to be looking at one another with spiritual discernment.

‘Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation,”

Now this of course is speaking about salvation.  But it’s speaking about everything that accompanies our salvation.  It’s about reconciliation of the whole person – body, soul and spirit!

And we have been given this ministry of reconciliation.  We are called to help others reconcile themselves with who they are in Christ.  It’s a ministry of strengthening one another with the ultimate truth – with divine truth.

In this way we fight the good fight for one another.

That’s why I’m so strong on us doing the journey together – because at some time or another – we all need God’s encouragement that comes through others in the faith and in the body!

Something else that comes out in this story of Jonathan and David – is that we have to be intentional and purposeful with bringing strength to others.

Jonathan didn’t just think – I hope David’s OK – I’ll pray that he stays strong – if I happen to run across him out in the forest one day soon, I’ll give him a little word of encouragement.

No – Jonathan made a decision – he devised a plan – to go and search out David in the wilderness of Ziph. 

This is a lesson for us.  If you’ve got it on your heart to strengthen someone in God – make a plan.  Be intentional.  Be purposeful.  And let it be an intentional decision to point them to Jesus.

Perhaps we should make this a daily prayer.  Lord, who do you want me to strengthen today?  What is your word of encouragement for them? – not mine.

Jonathan was able to remind David that he had no need to fear, because Samuel the prophet had already anointed him as the future king.  There is no doubt that you will be King over Israel.  God is not a man that He would lie.  His Word is true.  Jonathan reminded David of his destiny.

This is the best friend we could have.  Someone who reminds us of the truth and doesn’t just wallow in our pity party with us.

I would much rather someone come alongside me and fight for me while my own hands are weak – not come into agreement with my weakness and emotional state.

Later on – as David reflects on his experience in the wilderness, hiding from Saul – he writes Psalm 18 – and this in turn has become a strong word for us in 2019.

I want to read this to you because it has an attitude behind it of deep, strong faith.  Whatever wilderness you might find yourself in – this will help you to overcome…  this is my word to all of us this morning – and it’s David’s strengthening our hands in God for our journey.

Psalm 18:1-6,  “I will love You, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. The pangs of death surrounded me, And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.”

David knew that his only way through his distress was to cry out to God – to declare Him as his stronghold – his deliverer – his shield – his fortress…

And this is a wonderful example for us – yes, acknowledge the struggle – acknowledge the battle – acknowledge the strong emotions that go with it – but then lift your eyes to the heavens.  And encourage those around you to do the same.

This psalm goes on, a bit further down:

Psalm 18:9-10,  “He bowed the heavens also, and came down With darkness under His feet. And He rode upon a cherub, and flew; He flew upon the wings of the wind.”

Psalm 18:16-19,  “He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, From those who hated me, For they were too strong for me. They confronted me in the day of my calamity, But the Lord was my support. He also brought me out into a broad place; He delivered me because He delighted in me.”

Psalm 18:28-30,  “For You will light my lamp; The Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop, By my God I can leap over a wall. As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.”

It goes on and on…  a powerful declaration of God’s faithfulness and strength.

Our job as ministers of reconciliation is to strengthen one another’s hand in God – in His Word.  We can’t fight without having the Word in one hand.

The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, says Paul.  In other words – we don’t fight by natural means.  It’s nothing to do with what our flesh can achieve.

We need to hold up the sword of the Spirit in one hand – which is the Word of God – and hold up the shield of faith in the other – as well as having all the other armour on – like the belt of truth, the shoes ready to preach the gospel, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation…  

Don’t bother fighting the fight of faith with anything else.

It’s not about encouraging others with their nice personality, their own goodness and good deeds, their natural gifts and abilities…

The fight of faith requires much bigger artillery than that.

Ephesians 6:10-11,  “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.”

Venese and I are great believers in the power of praying the Word of God.  And to pray with the Sword you need to know the Word.  We don’t leave the Holy Spirit out – but trust Him to lead us in what to pray.

Hebrews 4:12,  “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

If we have a weapon that is living and powerful and sharper than an actual sword – why wouldn’t we be wielding it around with confidence and with faith?

And here’s another thing.  Let’s get a clear view of how God sees others in the body.

Acts 20:28,  “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

I guess this is primarily speaking to leaders in the church…  but in some way, we are all called to lead others in the flock.  Peter describes us together as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood…  we are ministers of one another.

So we’re all called to shepherd others – others who have been purchased with the blood of Jesus Christ.

I think this puts a special light on how we should look at one another and treat one another.  You are all bought with this incredible price – Christ’s own death.

Do we really value the body in that way?  Do we value each other in that way?  And if we do, doesn’t it raise the bar a bit in our call to be there for one another?

Let’s not take one another for granted.  The person sitting next to you – in front of you – behind you…  they were bought with the blood of Jesus.  They’re worth fighting for.  They’re worth ministering to.  They’re worth the time, the effort, the cost… and if you strengthen them in God, what a mighty thing you are doing.

In this way we’re fighting off the devil’s biggest strategy in the body – and that is to bring division, strife and offence.

But our overcoming fight will actually result in the opposite – it will see such unity and intentional love that the Anointing will flow down over us as it’s described in Ps. 133 – it’ll be like oil running over the whole body, from head to toe.

As I’m writing this, I can sense the oil flowing. It’s Christ’s desire that the whole body be made beautiful – without spot or wrinkle – prepared as a Bride in the last days.  That’s us!  Jesus help us to be prepared and ready.

We pray this in your name.  Amen.

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