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s20050417ms_Dont Panic Get A Grip

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Don’t Panic! Get A Grip!—Exodus 14:10-16

10 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. Verses 10-12

GET A GRIP

¨      On Your [EMOTIONS] So You Can See God!

But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again. Verse 13

54 When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. 55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Acts 7:54-56

22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-25

¨      On Becoming [STILL] So You Can Let God Act!

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still. Verse 14

17 This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.” 2 Chronicles 20:17

7 Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. 8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil. 9 For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land. Psalms 37:7-9

¨      On Going [FORWARD] So You Can Take The Next Logical Step Of Faith!

15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. 16 But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground. Verses 15-16

6 So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:6-7

33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. Matthew 6:33-34


I am glad you are here this morning. I believe that God has led you to be at this place and this time for a reason. He is not aimless, but has a purpose for you in your life, and my sincerest desire is that you may find it. We may be able to help you some this morning.

A few weeks ago on March 12th of this year Brian Nichols was being escorted to his rape trial in Fulton County, Georgia. He began a terrible killing spree by overpowering the deputy escorting him to trial. He took her gun and shot her to death. He then murdered 3 other men including the judge who was to try him. He escaped from the Atlanta police in a stolen pickup truck, and the largest manhunt in Georgia history began for this murderer and rapist. Can you imagine what it might be like to meet Brian Nichols with the police chasing him? If you met him would you be afraid? Would you see your death in this man’s eyes? WOULD YOU PANIC?

I don’t think any of us know for sure what we would do in circumstances like this. Ashley Smith a 26 year old widow and a mother of a 5 year old girl found herself in exactly that situation. Brian Nichols grabbed her in an Atlanta suburban parking lot at 2:00 a.m. in the morning. Stuck a gun in her side and forced her to take him to her apartment. He then tied her up and put her in her bath tub and took a shower. WOULD YOU PANIC NOW? I will come back to Ashley Smith and Brian Nichols at the close of this lesson.

I would request that you consider the times you’ve panic and why. We humans lose control of our selves because when we are threatened we become afraid. Let me share with you a few things that have threatened, frighten and panicked me. I’ve panicked when my expectations have not been met. I’ve panicked when my integrity has been questioned. I’ve panicked when my kids have been threatened and harmed. I’ve panicked when others have messed up. I’ve panicked when I’ve been rejected. And finally I’ve panicked when my assumptions have been challenged. Whatever it is that frightens us small or large we have all lost it at times in a fit of uncontrollable panic. We have either run away from what frightens us or we have fought it, because we are scared and we have panicked.

God’s people panicked 3500 years ago in front of the Red Sea. Exodus records, 10 As Pharaoh drew near, the Israelites looked back, and there were the Egyptians advancing on them. In great fear the Israelites cried out to the Lord. 11 They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”

When we panic we do five things. First of all we spew cynical hateful words. The Israelites said to Moses weren’t there enough graves in Egypt that you had to take us to the wilderness to die. Second, we place blame on others. They said to Moses what have you done to us. Third we create self fulfilling prophecies of doom. Moses we told you this would happen back there in Egypt. Four we reject spiritual leaders and their counsel. Moses you leave us alone and let us serve the Egyptians. And last we prefer to go back into bondage rather than to be free. The Israelites told Moses it was better to serve as slaves than to die in the wilderness.

As far as I can tell panicking is the exact opposite of faith. When we panic we lose control not just of ourselves, but of our grip on God. Panic is a weapon of mass destruction when it comes to faith and serving God. This morning let’s talk about how to get a grip on serving God. How do you stay clam and faithful when you are threatened? This passage offers us three very practical things to do to get a grip on God through faith.

First get a grip on your emotions so you can see God. Emotions cloud our spiritual insight. Depression, fear, and anger cause us to see the problem and not the solution which is to get a grip on faith. Moses told the Israelites, But Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid, stand firm, and see the deliverance that the Lord will accomplish for you today; for the Egyptians whom you see today you shall never see again.’ I really like Moses’ words at the end of this verse. He says get a grip on faith and you will never see your problem again. Their problem is about to be drowned and washed away in the Red Sea.

To do that we have to decide that emotions can be controlled. Fear can be put aside, and you can stand with God. Emotional control is determined by how you think. You can let emotions determine your thoughts or you can let your thoughts determine your emotions. You have a choice. If you want to see God’s salvation or deliverance you have to stop running fearful emotions through you heart and look beyond what you are feeling.

Stephen whose name mean crown of victory was faced with a blood thirsty mob determined to murder him. There are few deaths more agonizing or horrible than to be stoned. Bones are crushed and pulverized. The flesh is bruised, mutilated, and torn by heavy rocks thrown with all the force a human arm can muster. If there ever was a time to panic, it would seem that as he is dragged outside the city, it would have been then. But that is not what he did.

Luke tells us, “54 When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. 55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” Surely he was afraid. This mob is expressing their utter disgust and hatred of him. I’m sure he was frightened. However, he did do something about his fear. He looked to heaven to see God’s glory and his master Jesus. It filled him with the presence and peace of God. He didn’t see the stones, or the hate, or Saul, but he did see the Messiah standing by God’s right hand. Stephen stopped the fear and he stood firm because he controlled his emotions in order to see God. I wonder who really won that day. Was it a panicky mob of religious zealots? Or was it Stephen who got a grip on faith and died looking into the face of Jesus.

Paul writing many year later said, “22 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” I wonder when the Holy Spirit caused him to write these words if Stephen’s face was what Paul used as an outline for describing the fruits of the Spirit. Stephen was filled with the Holy Spirit and as the stones broke his body his face was aglow with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, and SELF CONTROL. Stephen and Paul both knew that to control ones emotions they had to be crucified with Jesus. Stephen died to his fears with Jesus so he could see Jesus. Paul does the same thing. He dies to his emotions to know Jesus. If you get a grip on faith it will be because you chose to crucify your emotions to see God.

Next get a grip on becoming still so you can let God act. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things unseen. When we panic we lose our assurance and conviction, and therefore our grip on God slips. God is the unseen hand that provides all the deepest hopes of our hearts. However, when we are in a panic we lose the patience to let him act on our behalf. We make rash judgments, blurt out rash words, and act in rash ways that often embarrass us for the rest of our lives. The facts are that we cannot solve every problem. Heal every hurt. Or make all our difficulties go away. And we need to get a grip on faith by becoming still in our souls. Faith is giving God time and room to act on his promises. He is the one who is the savior and not you or me. So Moses tells the panicking Israelites, “The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to keep still.

There are several kinds of battles which only God can fight for you. You cannot fight what other people think and believe. Have you panicked when you heard things you disagreed with, or didn’t know how to respond to? You have to give God time to change their hearts, or yours if what they believe is Scriptural. You cannot fight what other people say about you or others. Have you lost control when the criticism was unfair and stinging? You have to give God time to change your hurt into compassion. You cannot fight what other people do. How they dress, cut their hair, or even how they chose to treat you. You have to let God move in their hearts to change or judge them. The basic problem with panic is that we lose perspective, we lose our grip on faith, and we lose our patience and endurance to be faithful.

Moses is telling them to get a grip on their faith in the LORD. This battle with the Egyptians is not one for them to fight because it was beyond their control. We have to learn to leave room for God in our difficult situations. Time is his creation. He does not stop its movement when he acts. He limits Himself in our world to the dimensions he created in the beginning. The Bible speaks of the right time or the appointed time for God to act. That is why you have to become still and control our panic. Another example of this is in 2 Chronicles. Jahaziel God’s prophets tells the people of Jerusalem, “This battle is not for you to fight; take your position, stand still, and see the victory of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, and the Lord will be with you.”

Only a day’s march away a great multitude of Moabites, Ammonites, and Meunites are marching towards them intent on destroying Jerusalem. The old people, and wives, and little ones were all gather in Jerusalem essentially defenseless. But in the next verse God tells us that King Jehoshaphat and the people of Judah and Jerusalem fell to their faces and worshipped God. They did not panic, but they got still before God, and connected to him with a strong grip of faith. And God fought and won the battle for them.

Listen to David. He says, “7 Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him; do not fret over those who prosper in their way, over those who carry out evil devices. 8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil. 9 For the wicked shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land.” Worship is focused attention on God. And it stills your heart. It keeps you from anger. It takes the worry about evil men and casts it on God who can fight the battles. When you need to get a grip and you are about to panic and lose your faith to your emotions and impatience that is the best time to pray, to sing, to hear God’s word, and to study the Bible.

Finally get a grip on going forward so you can take the next logical step of faith.15 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why do you cry out to me? Tell the Israelites to go forward. 16 But you lift up your staff, and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it, that the Israelites may go into the sea on dry ground.” God says to Moses it is now time to stop praying and move forward. Here’s what you do. First tell them to go forward, and you lift your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea and divide it. God is using Moses to lead his people forward one step at a time. Many commentators think that the Red Sea parted not all at once like in the Cecil B. DeMills Ten Commandments with Charlton Hesston, but as the Israelites step forward the water parted leaving dry land with each step.

I don’t know if that’s the way it occurred or not, but it is how God wants us follow him. It is a Day by day, step by step, and moment by moment moving forward in faith. Paul says, “So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight.” God has given step by step instructions on faith and salvation. And to help us get a grip on the next step of faith gave us two marvelous resources. The first of course is the story of the Bible. It is verbally inspired by God to teach, correct, rebuke and train us in righteousness. Its words are powerful to enlighten and ennoble our path through life. And it is given to help us understand the second source which is the presence of God in our bodies.

The Spirit of Christ has made our mortal flesh his temple. And as he dwells in us he makes changes in our hearts which transform us into the likeness of Jesus. Those changes can only occur when we get a grip on moving forward by taking the next step of faith revealed to us from the Scripture. The next logical step of faith for you will be whatever is required for you to obey God. And all you have to be concerned with is that step, in that moment, on that day. Paul was confident or in other words he had a grip on walking by faith, because God moved him forward in small steps. Everyday he made the choice to obey because he knew that obedience is the dry land through the Sea of Life. The choice to obey God’s word is the very essence of walking by faith.

So just how do you know that the steps you are taking into life’s sea is really the path God is opening for you? In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus rebukes us for being men and women of little faith when it comes to what we eat or what we wear. He tells us very clearly to put God first. He says, “33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” When you have a grip on moving forward the next logical step of faith is putting God’s authority and his holiness first in your life. If you’re grasping Jesus lordship and character then you don’t have to worry about 20 years from now or next year or even tomorrow. All you need to do is to take care of the steps of faith you need to do today.

Remember when we began I told you that Ashley Smith was confronted by Brian Nichols the murderer and rapist at 2:00 a.m. in that Atlanta parking lot on March 12th of this year. Mrs. Smith is a very human person. Her 26 years have been filled with lots of problems. Her husband, who was stabbed to death in an altercation, died in her arms 5 years ago. She then developed a drug habit, was arrested for speeding and drunk driving, and ceded her 5 year old daughter to the custody of her aunt. And she smokes and it was her craving for nicotine that led her to the parking lot where she encountered Mr. Brian Nichols.

Andrew Sullivan has a unique perspective on those events. He writes in the March 28th issue of Time, “What would you do under those circumstances? Scream? Panic? Beg? But at that point, something else intervened. Smith actually communicated with her captor. She says she saw him not as a monster but as a human being. She talked with him. She told her story…It was in the minds and souls of both human beings, an encounter with God. Smith’s weapon, it appears, was a hugely popular book, the Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren, an unabashedly Christian guide to making it through Life’s highs and lows by constantly asking what God intended for you…Smith read from chapter 33, which centers on the role of Christian service, on the idea that in moment there is a chance to serve others… Smith, blessed by  what can only be called grace, saw that terrifying early morning in suburban Atlanta as one of those opportunities…By her account, she talked to him, made breakfast, told him her story, listened. And as she revealed her openness to grace, so, apparently, did he. “He said he thought I was a angel sent from God and that I was his sister and he was my brother in Christ and that he was lost, and God led him right to me,” Smith said Maybe he was right.”

Ashley Smith did not panic, and we can read between the lines and see that she got a grip on her emotions so that she saw God’s grace and power. She became still in her situation and gave God time to work on Brian Nichols through her story and human fragility. And most importantly she moved forward by serving him in that moment, on that day, in that time. She got a grip on faith and never let it go. Most of us fortunately will never have this kind of encounter. But every day we are faced with opportunities that only God can take us through. Brian Nichols surrendered peacefully to the police. He is deeply sorry for the lives he destroyed. He pledges to accept his punishment, and to serve Christ in prison. So whose life will you help to change if you will only get a grip on your emotions, become still to give God time to work, and move forward with the next step of faith?

SPONTANEOUS CLOSING PRAYER!

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