“WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE?”
Philippians 3:9-14; 4:11-13
New Hope Baptist Church ~ San Bernardino, CA
March 30, 2003 11:30 a.m.
Some of you have been in God’s family for a long time. Some of you were just born into the family a short time ago, and some of you are just “play” family members. Some of you have learned to walk, but many others are still crawling or just beginning to stand freestyle. Some of you have become good at trusting in the Lord, and still others are looking before they leap. You see, that’s what the world teaches and what many of us have taught our children over the years, to “look before you leap.” However, with God’s program, if you look too much and too long, all of your troubles will cloud your perceptions of God. You will give more trust to what you see than to what you know.
Whether you are new to the family of God or you’ve lived in the house for a long time; Whether you are gumming down your food or eating chunks of meat, sucking on chicken bones, or still digesting pabulum; Whether you know who you are, or you are not sure who you are or who you know; Whether you are a foot soldier, marching into war, or a frightened soldier, retreating at the first sign of resistance; Whether you’re up today and down tomorrow, or down today with no expectation for tomorrow; If you think you’re doing everything right, or you know that you’re doing everything wrong; If you’re experiencing God, or trying to make God experience you; If you’re high profile, or still in a gopher’s hole; Whether you’ve got it going on, or it just keeps on going; Whether you’re all of that, or you’re hoping that that isn’t all. Because you are here today and in this place, I have a question for you. I want to know if you know, “WHERE YOU ARE NOW AND WHERE DO YOU GO FROM HERE?”
In our text, three are three ways that we can move from where we are to where we should be; move from a place of complacency to one of contentment; to move from a knowledge of the workings of God to a working knowledge of God.
1. First, we must stop counting on your own goodness and ability to obey God’s law.
2. Second, you must strain for the prize of the high calling.
3. Third, you have to step into the somehow realm of faith.
Well, what does it mean to stop counting on your own abilities? I mean that where ever you are in life, you may be in mid-life crisis. The world says it comes between the ages of 35 and 55 years of age. But if you have been procrastinating about the things of God, if you are taking your service for granted, if you have lost the joy of your salvation, no matter what your age, you are in mid-life crisis, spiritually. But mid-life crisis is not a time for panic. To the contrary, it is a time for reflection and decision. It is a time when you are able to stand at the crest of the hill and see in both directions. To consider where you have come from and to make the changes necessary to ensure the rest of your life journey is productive and spiritually fruitful.
But all too often, we get caught in a rut because we fail to take advantage of the mid-life crisis opportunities to change. I don’t know about you, but I’ve been in many a rut in my life. You know. You just realize one day that every day seems like a replay of the day before. Something is wrong.
A time when getting out of bed holds no great expectations. A time when you move, not instinctively, but habitually. You get the idea, don’t you? A rut. A boring, unproductive, unfulfilled, less than satisfying time in life. A rut is just another term for being somewhere between contentment and complacency. A place of immobility. A place that lends nothing to catch on to and pull yourself up.
I’ve experienced those kinds of times in my life; in my physical, day to day life as Barbara. Of course, there were times when life was even worse, but those were unique times. I am not talking about unique times in you life. I mean times when the meaning, expectation, striving, longing, experiences, and distinctiveness of a day are lost. I’ve had those kinds of times in my life; in my physical life and in my spiritual life.
Well, sometimes, just like our physical lives get into ruts, we can get into Spiritual ruts. Sometimes, we come to places in our Spiritual lives where we seem just to move along from habit. We do all of the things that we are supposed to do. You support the Pastor. You do don’t you? You make all of the so-called, right meetings. You participate and interact with the other brothers and sisters. You give your money. You join and sign up to participate in special functions. You listen to the right music. You talk the right talk at church, at home and at work. You involve your children, in an effort to bring them up in the fear and admonition of the Lord. You attend the special days and listen attentively to the speakers. In short, you just go along with the same tenacity in your spiritual lives, day after day.
Some of you are in self-instituted ruts. You are not going to do anything more because you believe that you are blessed just to be a member of God’s family. Some of you are so hung up on your pasts that you have equated your spiritual worth with your self-rated physical worth. Some of you think that you have no skills to offer to God’s work. Some of you have allowed yourselves to be intimidated by the stature of others.
Then some of you just haven’t realized that there is more to the Spiritual life. You are living the life of a Christian but not living the Christian life.
If any of these conditions describe you, and you are willing to be truthful with yourself, then you know that you are in a rut and have become complacent. But before you try and move yourself to a position of contentment, let me explain the difference.
One who is complacent is self-righteous, smug and full of conceit; haughty and arrogant; egotistical with an air of superiority; important to self and supercilious or pompous; full of self assurance, portentous and pretentious. The Bible tells us of persons known to be complacent: the Pharisees who took pride in keeping the laws of Moses; the priests in Malachi became complacent in their giving to the Lord the leftovers and those sacrifices that they dared not to give to men in authority; and the rich young ruler who had kept the laws from an early age and knew them by heart. When one is in a state of complacency, God is not working in them for they are consumed with their own righteousness.
Paul says that we need to stop counting on our own goodness and abilities to obey God’s law. (Paul could say that, because….) While we are stopped, we need to realize that we have other options available to us, but we have to go in a different direction. Paul says that we can really know Christ and experience the mighty power of His resurrection, but in order to do that we have to strain toward the goal of becoming all that Jesus Christ saved us for and wants us to be.
How do we strain towards the goal? You focus all of your energies on forgetting the past and looking towards what lies ahead. You have to strain to reach the end of the race. What does straining look like? Well, one thing is for sure, it is not politely passing along and a wait and see attitude.
· Remember the story of the woman with the issue of blood? Mark and Luke relate the story. A great multitude was following Jesus and he was on his way to Jairus’ home to see his sick daughter.
· I imagine she was at a mid-life crisis. She had put all she had in the ability of doctors. She had tried everything she knew to get herself healed.
· Then, she stopped. She stopped when she heard (understood) about Jesus.
· Now, she was straining (pressing) toward the goal for the prize (her healing).
· She was not polite in her straining. She did not just touch his clothes, but rather attached herself to them.
We’ve stopped, and strained; now how do we become content in our faith?
When one is content, there is a sense of satisfaction, ease and some gratification with life. There is fulfillment, comfort and delight with your present events and their outcomes. Because you gain enjoyment, there is indulgence and bliss and joyfulness. Let me offer an example of one who was known to be content: Paul said in Phil. 4 that he learned how to be content. He learned how to get along happily with much or little, he learned the secret of living in every situation with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. He learned that he could do all things with the help of Christ who gave him the strength he needed. We are content when God works in us and sometimes through us, but the clue that you are really content is when God is at work in you and you are o.k. not being in charge of yourselves.
We can experience contentment when we step into the somehow realm of faith. Paul says in our text “if by any means” I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Paul says “now that I’ve stopped relying on myself, now that I am straining toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus, I can know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings and be conformed to his death as I step into the somehow realm of faith. I don’t quite understand how this will come about, but I know that God will accomplish all of this in me, somehow.
I believe God is saying today, “It’s not enough just to sit idly by, to watch what others are doing. It’s not enough to offer your unsolicited opinions after someone else has done all of the work. It’s not enough just to respond in kind when the preacher asks if you trust God. It’s not enough to give your mundane tithes and your inconsistent offerings. It’s not enough to cook big meals and decorate the halls for special days. It’s not enough to try to tell someone else about God, whom you profess to be your Father, and whom you haven’t spoken to in days. It’s not enough.
It’s time to be about our Father’s business while straining for the prize.
That’s why it’s time to step. There is no better place to be in your faith journey than to be in the somehow phase of belief. Let me illustrate the somehow phase of faith:
You see, Enoch so pleased God that he was spared from death and just taken away by God ---- Somehow.
Noah made an ark for rain and flood waters that had never been seen or known of before, and God saved him and his family --- Somehow.
Abraham obeyed God and left his home, not knowing where he was going, but God took care of him --- Somehow.
Sarah finally believed God to be faithful in His promise and God caused a 90-year-old woman to bare a child --- Somehow.
Abraham offered his son Isaac, and he was prepared and ready to kill him as a sacrifice to God, following God’s command, but God provided a ram in the bush --- Somehow.
Moses was hidden three months as a baby and, as a man, he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, so God caused him and Israel to pass through the Red Sea on dry ground --- Somehow.
When the Egyptians tried to go through the same Red Sea, God caused the walls of water to close and to drown them --- Somehow.
After Joshua circled the walls of Jericho 7 times and blew a trumpet, God caused them to fall down --- Somehow.
When the king put the three Hebrew boys into the furnace, God caused the old king to see four men in the furnace, walking around without any burns --- Somehow.
When the king put Daniel into the Lion’s den, God caused the lion’s bellies to be full, their mouths to stay shut, and Daniel to rise to a top position in that same king’s administration --- Somehow.
When the disciples were afraid in the boat because the winds and the water grew so boisterous, Jesus caused the wind to be at peace and the waters to remain still, and Peter to walk upon them --- Somehow.
When five thousand men and who knows how many women and children, became hungry after hearing Jesus speak, He caused them to be fed from five loaves of bread and two fish --- Somehow.
When you lost your job, and had no income, God caused you not to sleep under the dew, but to eat good food, and to be clothed every day --- Somehow.
When your body was sick, and the doctor’s medicine was not totally effective, God caused you to be healed --- Somehow.
When you thought that you were at the end of your rope, that all hope was gone, that you had called in all of your markers, God caused you to see another day with sunshine and new hope --- Somehow.(Rest)
When you decide in your hearts, that you will seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, He will cause all things that you need to fulfill your mission to come to you --- Somehow. Where do you go from here? I submit that it’s time to enter the somehow phase of belief.
It’s time to become a vessel that God can really use and depend on. It’s time to put the ball of doubt, lack, laziness, ignorance, and stubbornness, stiff necked, blindness, and unchangeable attitudes away.
Entering into the somehow phase of faith will lead you to experience a new kind of life.
I believe that is where we need to go from here. We need to go farther into Jesus. Wherever you are right now in life, you can move farther into Jesus.