Sermon Notes – Ps. Jim White
Sunday 29th December, 2019
On Christmas Eve, we prayed for those families who have suffered tremendous loss through the recent bushfires. There has been loss of property, loss of livelihood… and as we know, loss of life itself. We also prayed for the fire fighters… men and women who have given their all to try and protect others.
We prayed for the many farmers who have also suffered loss through drought.
It was interesting that on that particular evening (Christmas Eve), even before we started… we had our best rainfall, here at least, for many, many months… and some areas of barrenness westward have also had some rain over the past week.
I won’t be repeating all of my message from Christmas Eve, but I thought it was worth bringing a recap for those who weren’t able to be here. And a reminder for those who were. And then I want to continue with a few more points in the same theme.
As we look to the New Year, there’s always the question and anticipation – what is it that this coming year will bring? And you can find lots of great prophetic words to encourage you and inspire you. I don’t think God gives any one person the whole picture. And He is well able to speak intimately to each one of us for our own season…
I certainly sensed the Holy Spirit saying that two things that we are mean’t to be deliberately taking hold of right now, are courage – and honour.
And I felt Him speaking to me through the Christmas story itself. Those who were part of that incredible moment of time, all had to step into a place of courage and trust and faith like never before.
I gave the particular examples of the two couples, Zacharias and Elizabeth, and Mary and Joseph. Each of them displayed amazing courage to push into the unknown, trusting the angel’s words to them… and at the same time, desperately wanting to honour God with their lives.
To each one the angel said – don’t be troubled, do not be afraid… perhaps He’s saying the same thing to us!
To overcome fear – or even more importantly – to face the future with a certain amount of fear of the unknown still in their hearts – these couples were anointed with courage to fulfil God’s call on their lives.
I say anointed with courage, because it was the working of the Holy Spirit in their lives that strengthened them and enabled them to have faith for the future.
We recognised how the Holy Spirit was actually speaking and ministering into our own lives through this story. There’s not only the general concerns and anxieties that we all face together – with things like the fires, the drought, the natural disasters taking people’s lives – and the evil in some men’s hearts destroying other people’s lives… but there are the personal challenges, the private things that threaten our peace as well.
The same themes are experienced by every generation in different ways.
Mary, of course, being a young girl, betrothed to Joseph, but not actually married, would have feared judgement by others, embarrassment, intimidation – as the rumours would have raged about her pregnancy… she would have experienced natural emotions that any teenage girl would feel in her situation.
And we know for a fact that the older Elizabeth – her cousin – hid herself from others for the first 5 or so months when she fell pregnant – again, embarrassed that in older age, she was with child, and fearful of other’s judgements…
But that all changed for both of these women, the moment Mary came to Elizabeth’s house – and baby John (who was to become John the Baptist), leapt in Elizabeth’s womb at the presence of Jesus in Mary’s womb.
From that moment, the two women rejoiced and celebrated their divine callings. Mary even sang a beautiful song. The presence and Anointing of the the Holy Spirit, which filled Elizabeth’s heart right there and then, gave them courage and freedom to live fully as daughters of God – chosen for eternal purposes.
We’ve all experienced fear and intimidation – embarrassment, shame… We’ve all had to walk through things where others don’t know or understand the full story… and we just have to trust God to keep us and in the end vindicate us.
Like Elizabeth, we’ve all had moments where we have just wanted to hide ourselves away.
When we are called to something in God – which all of us are – we inevitably face pressures, stresses, insecurities, fears, doubts… and these cause us to question our ability, and we also sometimes want to just disappear…
I was reading a story about a father who knew the pressure of leadership, of responsibility, of ministry and family… but he also knew what it meant to stand courageously and to persevere… and long after he was gone, his son would often recall his father’s words whenever things got tough. He would hear his dad’s voice say to him: “Don’t walk away.”
Perhaps this is what God is wanting to speak into our lives this morning. It might be in relation to a really tough time in a relationship, in your ministry, your calling, your career, some area of responsibility in your life. And the Father is saying to you… “Don’t walk away.”
You’ll know if that’s true, because you’ll sense the conviction of the Holy Spirit that comes with it.
Just as with Mary and Elizabeth, there will come a turning point where the Holy Spirit will breathe something fresh upon you. Something inside you will leap with excitement. It mightn’t be a baby – some of you are praying right now – please Lord, don’t let it be a baby… For others it may very well be a baby you desire… You see… we’re all in different seasons.
But it might be your season for the birthing of a brand new sense of gratitude, of joy, of vision… or a brand new season of simply honouring God with your life. We’re going to talk about honour another time.
Perhaps, just like Elizabeth and Zacharias, there’s been a long period of what you could only describe as barrenness. They’d been praying and believing for a child – and now – in a natural sense… it was too late. Elizabeth was beyond normal child bearing age.
But as the angel was speaking to Mary, he said this of Elizabeth:
Luke 1:36-37, (NKJV), “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”
We are all being encouraged with that simple statement this morning. With God – nothing is impossible. What has been barren in your life, will this year turn to fruitfulness. It may or may not be as you expect… look for it, and you will see it.
God is speaking to our hearts… because that’s where courage resides. The word courage originated in the same word for heart.
When someone says, “Take Heart”, they are really saying – “Take Courage.”
David knew… In Psalm 27 he says:
Psalm 27:13-14, (NKJV) “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!”
If we lose heart – we lose our meaning, our strength, our hope, our passion, our direction, our courage… There is something really, really sad about seeing someone lose heart, because our heart represents our life.
We need to believe for God’s goodness. Put your faith in His goodness, not in your own… Your own goodness isn’t that good!
Yes, there may be hard things to face – there may be persecution in some form – the enemy may be lurking around looking for any way in to rob us. But the goodness of God will always be there – because He says He will never leave us nor forsake us.
What you allow to enter your heart will affect how you respond to life.
Proverbs 4:23 (NLT), “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
Other versions say pay attention to your heart… pay attention to your inner most being… That’s something that I think many of us don’t do well. We don’t take the time to search out what’s really going on in our heart, to understand ourselves, to be real with ourselves…
Venese and I have been reading a fantastic book called, “The Emotionally Healthy Leader.” It stresses the vital importance of knowing ourselves, “being” in God’s presence before doing what He calls us to do… recognising the emotional health of our soul… because out of our inner most being everything else flows.
If our heart isn’t healthy – nothing else about our lives will be.
Courage is about finding strength in your heart. And that strength comes from waiting on the Lord. It’s the kind of waiting where you embrace and entwine yourself with the knowledge and expectation of the one you are waiting on.
He strengthens your heart – He fills your heart with courage!
Jesus was warning the disciples at one stage about the difficulties that they would be facing in the times ahead. And He says this to them:
John 16:33 (NLT), “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
In the Passion Translation it says:
John 16:33 (Passion), “…but you must be courageous, for I have conquered the world!”
I’m asking you this morning – or more importantly, I believe the Holy Spirit is saying to all of us – we must be courageous right now – and in the months ahead.
And it’s not just courageous in the face of difficulties.
It’s being courageous in stepping up to some really awesome challenges that require more than our natural abilities. Challenges that will require some divine help…
I said the other night – we can be fearful that things we are believing for won’t happen… but we can be just as fearful or apprehensive that they will. Because if they do – it means we are going to have to stretch ourselves to new levels. We are going to have to walk in new levels of faith and trust. We are going to have to make room for change.
It might mean fresh commitment to obedience. Ouch! Those two words aren’t popular in our culture – commitment and obedience.
But you may very well find strength and courage and a renewed heart – through being obedient to God in an area that you just don’t feel like saying yes to.
Ephesians 2:10, (NKJV), “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
They are His good works. He prepared them beforehand for us. Our lives are His workmanship… not our own workmanship…
Courage is about living for Him, fulfilling His good works.
We have become so entwined with the culture of this world, that all of us, can at times, have the attitude that if I don’t feel like doing it, I won’t do it. If something else better comes along, I might do that!
But the reality is – unless we are obedient to God’s Word, and His plans for our life – we are never going to be satisfied – we are never going to know the fullness of joy in our life – and we’ll never express the fullness of the giftings and talents that are stored up within us.
Listen to what The Passion says:
Ephesians 2:10 (Passion), “We have become his poetry, a re-created people that will fulfill the destiny he has given each of us, for we are joined to Jesus, the Anointed One. Even before we were born, God planned in advance our destiny and the good works we would do to fulfill it!”
You see, to take heart in being obedient to God’s plan for our lives, is not about Him being a hard task master – simply doing works for His benefit…
Our lives are His poetry… Your life is a poem, written and spoken with strength and passion and a call for courage to see it come to life.
For heaven’s sake, don’t enter this new year thinking – I’ve just got to suck it up and take the hard road and deal with it.
Courage is about the heart! Get your heart involved. Let your heart loose!
Don’t let fear or intimidation rob you of living a full life in 2020.
Don’t walk away from something because it’s hard or it’s painful or it’s not how you want it to be.
Be courageous enough to stand up and face things as they are right now – but look beyond the now – look with the eyes of faith to what it will be.
We have the gospel of Christ undergirding all that we are and all that we believe.
Philippians 1:27 (Passion), “Whatever happens, keep living your lives based on the reality of the gospel of Christ, which reveals him to others. Then when I come to see you, or hear good reports of you, I’ll know that you stand united in one Spirit and one passion—celebrating together as conquerors in the faith of the gospel.”
We are in this together. There’s a collective courage and heart that is far greater than just ourselves.
Paul goes on to encourage the Church at Philippi:
Philippians 1:28-30 (Passion), “And then you will never be shaken or intimidated by the opposition that rises up against us, for your courage will only prove as a sure sign from God of their coming destruction and that you have found a new life.”
You see, with courage comes a new life! With courage comes a whole new way of looking at 2020 – of facing your challenges with faith in your heart.
“For God has graciously given you the privilege not only to believe in Christ, but also to suffer for him. For you have been called by him to endure the conflict in the same way I have endured it—for you know I’m not giving up.”
When you look at some of these bible personalities – they are big and bold – but they also made some terrible blunders in their journey. You could certainly say that when Paul persecuted Christians before His revelation of Christ on the Damascus Road, his life was was heading for disaster.
But God graciously turned his life around – and filled him with courage to face whatever came… to the point where he says – I will never give up!
Don’t give up! For God’s sake – and for yours – and for the sake of the gospel – don’t walk away from your calling. Don’t walk away from a tough season.
Proverbs 28:1, (NKJV) “The wicked flee when no one pursues, But the righteous are bold as a lion.”
You are righteous. That is your strength. You are righteous because Jesus Christ has made you righteous. You mightn’t always feel like it. You mightn’t understand it. But the truth and the reality is that you are righteous before God because of the blood of the Lamb. So be bold! Be courageous! Be strong!
The wicked on the other hand are full of emotional baggage. They have no way of dealing with unforgiveness, with rejection, with hatred, with shame and guilt, with ungodly passions and desires. So they run away even when no one is pursuing them. They run because of what’s on the inside – not because of what’s happening on the outside. Sometimes they run away – other times they run because they are driven with unquenchable ambition by their inner world – and not in a good way.
But the righteous are as bold as a lion!
Would those passing out the communion please do that… and I’ll get the worship team back…
Be bold as we come to share communion together this morning. Be bold to come running to God’s throne of grace.
Hebrews 10:19-20 (Passion), “And now we are brothers and sisters in God’s family because of the blood of Jesus, and he welcomes us to come right into the most holy sanctuary in the heavenly realm—boldly and with no hesitation. For he has dedicated a new, life-giving way for us to approach God. For just as the veil was torn in two, Jesus’ body was torn open to give us free and fresh access to him!”
Courage is for this world… courage is for facing fear – overcoming challenges – pushing through to new places… But when it comes to sharing in communion together, remembering Jesus and all that He has done for us – it’s not courage we need, but boldness in knowing who we are as sons and daughters of the living God – our Father.
Hebrews 10:22 (Passion), “we come closer to God and approach him with an open heart, fully convinced by faith that nothing will keep us at a distance from him. For our hearts have been sprinkled with blood to remove impurity and we have been freed from an accusing conscience and now we are clean, unstained, and presentable to God inside and out!”
Boldness is still about the heart – but it’s an open heart – a faith filled heart – a heart that carries no self condemnation – but knows that it’s clean and washed and set free from guilt and shame and fear…
That’s the boldness we come with this morning.
Don’t walk away – embrace where you are – entwine yourself with God – and He will give you the courage to grow and move forward…
As we take this broken biscuit – it is to us the broken body of Christ. As we drink the cup – it is to us the blood of Christ shed for us. This is our courage – all that this represents.
Take and eat together.