Remembering Can Be Rewarding
Published by Discovering Life Ministries
Written or Edited by Consultant Joseph Miller
I recall my days growing up on the farm, taking a machete in hand and joining my grandfather, father, uncles and cousins out in the long rows of corn or soybeans to chop out the weeds growing along with the crops. Those were usually hot, humid days of tiring work and blistered hands.
For a young kid, the days seemed endless. It’s a good thing we had lunch breaks mid-morning and mid-afternoon as well as the noon meal. I lived for lunch breaks.
I was hoeing long rows of corn one day on my uncle’s farm with my grandfather when I was really tired and complaining about how much more we had to do, and it was only late morning. He told me, "Look back to see how far you've come before looking forward to see how far you have to go."
That’s good advice for us as a church, and as individual Christians too, as we face the New Year. Bringing in a new year is a prime time for each of us, and the church, to give glory to God by remembering what he has done as a basis for emboldened faith to go on.
Last week’s message was “Hope in a New Year”. In that message we focused on the process of God’s plan to ‘make everything new’.
But when we just look forward, the goal can seem out of reach, even if we know and believe the ‘Day of the Lord’ will be soon, as affirmed by continuing prophetic signs.
In light of the great tsunami disaster in SE Asia the day after Christmas, we found great hope and comfort in believing God’s plan of renewal even if we don’t have all the details.
But we can further affirm this message in our hearts by also taking a look back and remembering what God has done for his people.
Remembering can be rewarding, especially when you recall the actions of our faithful, gracious God on our behalf. It is a great encouragement to press on even when you are weary in the work, or hesitant about the future.
The temptation to grow weary can be great in these times when Christianity and our Lord, Jesus, seem to be taking a lot of hits.
ILLUS.: “’Exit Jesus’ – God in the Public Square” 12/30/04, Breakpoint, Colson.
ILLUS.: “Report Says Homosexual DOJ Lawyers Complicit in Arrest of Christians” 1/7/05, Agape Press, Jim and Jody Brown.
But just like the primitive tribes on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands that survived the tsunami intact without loss of life, we must remember.
ILLUS.: “Rocks, Arrows Show Aborigine Tribes Survived Tsunami” 1/6/05, Assist News Service, John M. Lindner.
The Bible, the words of our elders in the faith, encourages us to remember.
We must remember what God did to Pharaoh (De. 7:18).
“You may say to yourselves, "These nations are stronger than we are. How can we drive them out?" But do not be afraid of them; remember well what the LORD your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt. You saw with your own eyes the great trials, the miraculous signs and wonders, the mighty hand and outstretched arm, with which the LORD your God brought you out. The LORD your God will do the same to all the peoples you now fear. Moreover, the LORD your God will send the hornet among them until even the survivors who hide from you have perished. Do not be terrified by them, for the LORD your God, who is among you, is a great and awesome God. The LORD your God will drive out those nations before you, little by little. You will not be allowed to eliminate them all at once, or the wild animals will multiply around you. But the LORD your God will deliver them over to you, throwing them into great confusion until they are destroyed. He will give their kings into your hand, and you will wipe out their names from under heaven. No one will be able to stand up against you; you will destroy them.” (De 7:17-24 NivUS)
So you must remember God’s miracles of justice and divine protection when the enemies of his kingdom are arrayed against us:
We must remember all the way God led the Children of Israel for forty years in the wilderness (De. 8:2).
“Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land that the LORD promised on oath to your forefathers. Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years. Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the LORD your God disciplines you.” (De 8:1-5 NivUS)
So you must remember God’s school of faith and divine discipline as you face the enemy within yourself:
We must remember that it is God who gives the power to get wealth (De. 8:18).
“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the LORD your God for the good land he has given you. Be careful that you do not forget the LORD your God, failing to observe his commands, his laws and his decrees that I am giving you this day. Otherwise, when you eat and are satisfied, when you build fine houses and settle down, and when your herds and flocks grow large and your silver and gold increase and all you have is multiplied, then your heart will become proud and you will forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” (De 8:10-14 NivUS)
“You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.” (De 8:17-18 NivUS)
So you must remember God’s grace and the abundance of his blessings when you are tempted to cut him out of your economic equation by thinking too highly of your own skills and abilities.
We must remember that God created us to enjoy him alone (De. 8:19-20).
“If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.” (De 8:19-20 NivUS)
So you must remember that the consequences of not worshipping God alone is not having him to worship at all.
We must remember that God rearranges things for his own glory, not ours (De. 9:3-6)
“But be assured today that the LORD your God is the one who goes across ahead of you like a devouring fire. He will destroy them; he will subdue them before you. And you will drive them out and annihilate them quickly, as the LORD has promised you. After the LORD your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, "The LORD has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness." No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is going to drive them out before you. It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the LORD your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Understand, then, that it is not because of your righteousness that the LORD your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.” (De 9:3-6 NivUS)
So you must remember that whatever blessings you receive are not because you are good, but because you have believed that God is good.
Sometimes the miracles of God hem us in for our own good and God’s purpose.
When Jonah's soul fainted in him, he remembered the Lord (Jonah 2:7).
From inside the belly of the fish, Jonah prayed:
“The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God. "When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.” (Jon 2:5-7 NivUS)
So we must remember God’s purpose and call on our lives when he sharpens our focus by narrowing our vision (if we want the prize we might have to eat the fish guts [dog vomit/plastic]).
We must remember, then, the days of old to meditate on the work of God's hands (Ps. 143:5).
“I remember the days of long ago; I meditate on all your works and consider what your hands have done. I spread out my hands to you; my soul thirsts for you like a parched land. <Selah>” (Ps 143:5-6 NivUS)
Remembering all the miracles that God has done moves us to worship him and hunger for more of him.
Now, if you are here this morning and say to yourself, “I am young in the faith, or I have not come yet to faith at all, and I don’t have much acquaintance with experiencing God’s goodness,” remember his providence. You are alive, and you are here. God brought you. It was his goodness that brought you. Here stands an opportunity for faith – for an increasing resume of remembrance. Come to Jesus and find rest for your soul. (Josh’s great aunt Lillian)
Ultimately, it will be God who remembers us.
A book of remembrance was written for those who feared the Lord and honored his name (Malachi 3:16).
“Then those who feared the LORD talked with each other, and the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name. "They will be mine," says the LORD Almighty, "in the day when I make up my treasured possession. I will spare them, just as in compassion a man spares his son who serves him. And you will again see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve God and those who do not.” (Mal 3:16-18 NivUS)
God’s family photo album is filled with the pictures of those who wanted their picture taken with him and cherished those moments of blessing. At the beginning of every year we should “count his many blessings and name them one by one”. What have you remembered about God’s goodness this year?
Anniversaries, the Lord's Table and the New Year are valuable times for remembering. Our centennial planned for August this year will be a time of remembering the richness of past saints and ministries and the rebuilding of God’s house for rich ministries to come. Prosperity for the coming days of our ministry for Christ could be our reward for remembering God's faithfulness. God promises prosperity on His terms. Let us be reminded what his terms are. I believe we are making great progress – but lest we forget ---
First, we must continue to evaluate life with God's priorities (Haggai 1:2-11).
“This is what the LORD Almighty says: "These people say, ‘The time has not yet come for the LORD’s house to be built.’" Then the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai: "Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?" Now this is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it." This is what the LORD Almighty says: "Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored," says the LORD. "You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?" declares the LORD Almighty. "Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the oil and whatever the ground produces, on men and cattle, and on the labor of your hands."” (Hag 1:2-11 NivUS)
These returning Israelites should have remembered the God of their Babylonian captivity a few years earlier. They were to build the house of worship to remember the true God and avoid idolatry. Instead they built their own houses. Building their own houses before completing the Lord's house had opened the way to idolatry, or placing their personal interests in God's place of first priority, again.
Haggai 1:2-11 teaches us several principles in looking back as a motivation for moving forward:
(1) God is directly involved in all you do.
(2) God always has His voice for you in His Word (life's instruction manual).
(3) God raises up human voices to declare His Word and will.
(4) God expects His work to have first priority.
(5) God's people pay an earthly and heavenly price for wrong priorities.
(6) God challenges you to consider your ways. Where are you going?
(7) God will graciously bless when you set your priorities right.
Second, we must exercise obedience with faith (Psalm 81:10-13).
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it. "But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me. So I gave them over to their stubborn hearts to follow their own devices. "If my people would but listen to me, if Israel would follow my ways,” (Ps 81:10-13 NivUS)
The people addressed in Psalm 81 were to remember the God Who had brought them out of Egypt. Have you looked back to the time before you were saved and to the God Who saved you? What can He do? What will He do?
(1) He is the faithful God who will fill the mouth that is opened widely (Psalm 81:10).
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of Egypt. Open wide your mouth and I will fill it.” (Ps 81:10 NivUS)
(2) There is nothing too hard for God (Jeremiah 32:17, 27; 33:3).
“"Ah, Sovereign LORD, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. Nothing is too hard for you.” (Jer 32:17 NivUS)
“"I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jer 32:27 NivUS)
“‘Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.’” (Jer 33:3 NivUS)
(3) He will do the impossible through your faith in Him (Matthew 17:14-21).
“When they came to the crowd, a man approached Jesus and knelt before him. "Lord, have mercy on my son," he said. "He has seizures and is suffering greatly. He often falls into the fire or into the water. I brought him to your disciples, but they could not heal him." "O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy here to me." Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of the boy, and he was healed from that moment. Then the disciples came to Jesus in private and asked, "Why couldn’t we drive it out?" He replied, "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you." ” (Mt 17:14-21 NivUS)
(4) He will answer the prayer of faith (Mark 11:22-24).
“"Have faith in God," Jesus answered. "I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” (Mr 11:22-24 NivUS)
(5) He will give that which will glorify Him (John 14:13-14).
“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (Joh 14:13-14 NivUS)
(6) He gives bountifully for sowing bountifully (II Corinthians 9:6).
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously.” (2Co 9:6 NivUS)
(7) He gives exceedingly abundantly (Ephesians 3:20).
“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,” (Eph 3:20 NivUS)
"But my people would not listen to my voice ..." (Psalm 81:11).
“"But my people would not listen to me; Israel would not submit to me.” (Ps 81:11 NivUS)
It seems that in every generation only a minority take God at His Word. Most believers live on the fringes of true Christianity. For example, only a small portion of the congregation performs most of the church ministry, and only 20 percent of the people provide 80 percent of the church funding.
We desperately need more Christian leaders.
If your body is tired, your hands blistered and your mind complaining, lift your eyes from your presently perceived dilemma and look back to see how far you have come. Perhaps this backward glance will help you look forward with faith.
Remembering can be rewarding.