Messages of Hope, Part I (Inscription 53)
Trust God’s Plans
Isaiah 8:11-14; 30:1-16
May 29, 2011
· Read Isaiah passages
· Bookkeeping help
Don’t forget that you can ask questions!
Scripture reading: Isaiah 6:1-8 (Michel)
A Word of Encouragement
Q Have you ever been discouraged? That’s a dumb question; of course you have!
Q But do you remember a time that you were discouraged and someone said just the right thing to pull you out of the rut?
Sometimes all we need is sympathy, “It’s okay, tell me how you feel.” Women are better at this, men want to fix it.
But sometime we need hope. Hope isn’t wishful thinking (“The sun will come out, tomorrow...”), but a reason to believe the pain has a purpose, there is meaning, good things are happening, that there is a reason to believe things will get better.
A couple of weeks ago I had a pretty tough week (more on that later) and the sermon felt like my worst in years. Cecil and Micah said it wasn’t that bad, just my worst in 6 months.
I was discouraged and frustrated; feeling like the church wasn’t making headway. That afternoon, Marilyn told me about a family in the church who shared the impact the church and our family had made and I just started crying, which doesn’t happen often.
· It was just what I needed to remember that even if I flub a sermon, God is still working in the church.
The following day I began to read Isaiah for this series. I was expecting to find a book full of doom and gloom, “Woe to you,” and all that, but I was surprised to find it filled with hope.
Many of the prophets are “Woe to you,” addressing various moral problems, and Isaiah certainly has its share of that, but its basic message is “put your hope in God.”
· Reading Isaiah has been a strong reminder that no matter what you or I or this church is up against, we can trust God.
That is the message I want you to come away with: If you are discouraged today, you can put your hope in God. He is a firm foundation that never fails.
As I said, we are starting a new series today looking at messages of hope in Isaiah, learning to trust his plans, his correction, and his future.
· This is part of a larger project of reading through the Bible as a church; I encourage you to read through it with us.
Isaiah basically is a collection of sermons and prophecies by Isaiah c. 750 BC. At the time he is preaching, Judah and Israel have split into two nations and Isaiah is preaching to Judah.
· Judah was in its golden days, prosperous, free, and godless, but trouble was on the horizon (like today!).
Most of us are in far better shape than Judah. We try to follow God, we are not worshiping idols, and we aren’t in the habit of stealing land from little old ladies.
· I think we are more like Isaiah, charged with preaching to the world, but we go back and forth between them.
Shortly after his commission, God spoke to Isaiah:
Isaiah 8:11-12 11 ¶ The LORD spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people. He said: 12 “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.”
God says to us, as he said to Isaiah, you are a light to these people, you are an example, don’t you dare act like them. “Don’t follow their way,” you are called to be different.
· There are a lot of bad ideas about how Christians are to be different.
It’s like we are supposed to be weird and if “they” can’t tell you are a Christian at first glance at you or your car, then you are failing Jesus.
· That’s not true; whole passages are written in the NT telling Christians how to be normal, functioning members of society.
I am developing this idea that we are called to be “radically normal,” that in so many ways we look normal to the world around us, and I look forward to preaching on it in the fall.
· We may look normal enough on the outside, but scratch below the surface and the world sees something radically different.
Between a rock and a hard place
This passage shows one of the ways we are called to be radical. In Isaiah’s day, everyone was freaking out because of a very real military threat:
On one side, Assyria was the up and coming political power, and they were going a rampage. It was a superpower, and Judah was a small player politically, it was like the US verses Spain.
· They had good reason to fear; they didn’t have a chance.
On the other side, their neighbors Israel and Syria were putting together an alliance, and asked Judah to join them. It wasn’t really an offer, it was a threat, join us or we’ll wipe you out.
And God says, “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.” In other words, don’t freak out.
· We’re called to be radically calm in a world that is freaking out. (EG: Nancy Drew trailer.)
Our world is freaking out because of the economy, because of the deficit, because of who is in the White House or in congress, because of the environment, or whatever.
Our neighbors and friends are freaking out because they might get laid off, because Social Services funding is being cut, because a sex offender is moving into the neighborhood.
· “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.”
What do you fear?
Q Let’s look at this: Do you fear what they fear?
· This is right where my life is at right now.
This last month has been interesting; tough would be more honest. As many of you know, about a month ago, Peter informed me that the church’s savings had dropped to a critical level, which meant that we had to implement an emergency plan:
· We basically had to cut my salary in half.
I can look at this rationally: This was something we saw coming because of losing a renter, things are actually going well, we are growing in attendance and giving, God is working in lives.
More importantly, I know that God is in control, that this is his church; he will not let it go. But still I feel the fear raising up in me, the temptation to freak out.
Q What do I fear?
I fear my daughters not having enough and the loss of reputation from being bi-vocational. I fear not being able to find a second job. I fear not being able to lead the church well part-time.
· These are the things the world fears; these are not the things a child of God should fear.
facing your Fears
Q What do you fear right now? What is going on that keeps you up at night?
· Not having enough?
· Your marriage?
· Not being married?
· Your kids?
· Losing your job?
· Not being able to find one?
· How your friends and family view you?
Get that fear that just kind of rumbles around in the pit of your stomach out of your stomach and into your head, and let’s talk about it.
Fear of God
This is what God says in response to Isaiah temptation to fear:
Isaiah 8:13-14 13 The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, 14 and he will be a sanctuary; but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare.
So the remedy for fear is more fear? Brilliant. Now I have the world’s fears plus I’m afraid of God. Here is what God means:
Q Who are you more afraid of, Chuck Norris or Rick Moranis? I know Norris picture is old, but I was afraid to leave him out.
Q But who would you want to have with you when you are on assignment to invade a drug house in Shanghi?
It’s the fact God is so powerful, so awe-inspiring and dangerous that provides comfort and hope, providing you are on his team.
· He is for us a sanctuary, but for those who ignore him, he is a stumbling stone.
Our hope in God is based on his greatness and power, and the fact that we are on his team. If he is for me and for my family, and for our church, who can be against us? (Rom. 8:31)
Fearing God means that we believe more in his ability to take care of us than in our fear of the future. Let me repeat that:
· Fearing God means we have more faith in him than our fears.
Writing this sermon has meant more to me personally than any sermon I can remember. It has been a comfort, forcing me to look more at God in his power than at the fears vying for attention.
· I fear not being able to provide for my family – he has promised to care for us and has always done so in the past.
· I fear a loss of reputation – maybe that’s the point!
· I fear not leading the church well – isn’t this his church? Won’t he take care of it? Hasn’t he taken it through worse?
Now look at the fear you were thinking about earlier: What is greater, that thing or God? I know what you are supposed to answer, but what is your real answer?
· It’s like the fake answers to the job interview question, “What’s your weakness?”
The emotion and the response
I am not trying to make you feel bad for feeling afraid. Fear has two parts: The emotion and the response. You can’t help feeling the emotion.
Even Jesus, as he faced death, felt the fear, “If there is any other way, take this cup from me.” But it’s how he responded to the fear that made the difference, “Yet, not my will by yours.”
· We can’t change our feelings, but we can change how we think.
God is greater than my fears, regardless of how I feel. In fact, so much of faith is simply telling your emotions to shut up.
· A leap of faith isn’t jumping off a cliff, it's parachuting from a plane; the first step is still scary, but makes sense.
Then we can change how we act. You see, we get into trouble when we act on our fear. The problem is not so much feeling fear as allowing it to guide you.
That is what happened to Judah. They faced this double military threat and doing nothing didn’t seem to be an option, they were stuck between a rock and a hard place. You had to choose carefully, because if you chose the losing side, you were toast.
· So what did they do? They did all the calculations and tried to form an alliance with Egypt, the previous world power.
All of this made sense from a political perspective. But there was one problem; they failed to ask the one person whose opinion really mattered:
Isaiah 30:1-2 ¶ “Woe to the obstinate children,” declares the LORD, “to those who carry out plans that are not mine, forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit, heaping sin upon sin; 2 who go down to Egypt without consulting me; who look for help to Pharaoh’s protection, to Egypt’s shade for refuge.”
That’s the key phrase: “without consulting me.” Why didn’t they ask God for his plan? It was a little different for them. We struggle to figure out God’s will, but they had a proven prophet there. All they had to do was ask.
Q Why didn’t they ask?
For the same reason you don’t. They didn’t want to know the answer. It’s actually not all that different for us, we don’t want to know what God is saying to us.
They wanted to do their own thing, so God’s opinion wasn’t just forgotten, it was actively ignored:
Isaiah 30:9-11 These are rebellious people, deceitful children, children unwilling to listen to the LORD’s instruction. 10 They say to the seers, “See no more visions!” and to the prophets, “Give us no more visions of what is right! Tell us pleasant things, prophesy illusions. 11 Leave this way, get off this path, and stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!”
Q Does this sound familiar?
Sure, you don’t put it quite that way. If you are ignoring God, you don’t say, “Josh, shut up, stop preaching.” But you say things like, “I don’t like the worship, I can’t get connected.”
· I’ve watched people leave this church because they were ignoring God, but they blamed other things.
So you stop listening to the sermons, stop reading the Bible, or
are careful which passages to read. You are careful not to listen to the wrong friends.
Q And what are you avoiding?
God’s plan. You know that he has the right way deal with your fears, but you don’t think it is as good as your way.
In rest is your salvation
Q And what is God’s way? Judah couldn’t just wait, could they?
Isaiah 30:15 This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”
God’s way begins with repentance: Repenting for the wrong ways you’ve handled your fears. Repent for ignoring him. Repent for thinking that the ends justified the means.
And then, and here is the best part, rest in God. His plan is quietness and strength, not a flurry of activity, not being the master of your own destiny, making all the plays.
Again, this is where I am at right now. Knowing that God loves me and my family and that he will take care of us, yet the struggle to find the right second job, one that will provide for my family yet allow me to devote my heart to The Gathering.
· I had an interview on Tuesday that went really well, but now I am waiting for another one, and the waiting is killing me.
“In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength...”
Q Will I accept that?
I struggled with delay for two days, but on Thursday found God had it covered through some unexpected income for June. I am still waiting, but more confident of his plan.
The sin of impatience
In a past sermon (4/3/11), I talked about the difference between trusting God and being negligent in your duties: Do what you can do, then trust God to make up the difference.
· Isaiah teaches us an additional lesson: The sin of impatience.
We usually have a decent idea of how God’s plan, how we can respond righteously to our fears. And if we don’t, we can find out through prayer, Scripture, and good counsel.
· But God’s plan usually involves trust, resting in him, and being patient.
Like Judah, we have the choice between putting our hope in God or hurrying on ahead and doing it our way.
Isaiah 30:16 You said, ‘No, we will flee on horses.’ Therefore you will flee! You said, ‘We will ride off on swift horses.’ Therefore your pursuers will be swift!
In other words, if you rest in God, if you look to him instead of dashing down to Egypt, if you trust him, then he will give take care of you.
God is being ironic here: You are choosing a flurry of activity, hoping to save yourself. You want busyness, and you will get busyness, but it won’t save you.
Impatience, not waiting for God’s plan, is a form of unbelief, it springs from fearing your situation more than you fear God. It springs from doubting God’s wisdom, his timing, or goodness.
Our impatience hits us with two huge temptations:
1. It tempts you to give up.
If there’s going to be frustration or opposition or difficulty, I’ll just give up: I won’t keep this job, take this challenge God gave me, or stay in this marriage.
2. It tempts you to do stupid things.
You take the quick destructive solution instead of the slow healthy one (my definition of dysfunction: Choosing the quick fix over the long-term solution).
Earlier, Isaiah makes this poignant observation, see if it sounds familiar:
Isaiah 30:6-7 An oracle concerning the animals of the Negev: Through a land of hardship and distress, of lions and lionesses, of adders and darting snakes, the envoys carry their riches on donkeys’ backs, their treasures on the humps of camels, to that unprofitable nation, 7 to Egypt, whose help is utterly useless. Therefore I call her Rahab the Do-Nothing.”
Judah was putting all this effort and expense into paying Egypt off: a dangerous journey through the Negev, treasures on camel’s backs, but all of it is useless.
Q Isn’t this true of our efforts to deal with our fears?
We spend so much energy and kill ourselves for something that is not even worth having; it cannot deliver on its promises.
· It’s like grunting your way through an infomercial, the bad acting, etc; You may have done it, but it’s not worth doing!
This is what happens when we respond to the fears rather than fearing God. It just isn’t worth it; God’s plan is always best.
Fight the fear
Okay, so I am not supposed to fear what they fear, I respond God’s way, not with impatience.
Q But how do I deal with the fear that is in the bottom of my stomach right now?
· To feel differently, you must begin by thinking differently, by preaching to your soul.
What is what I have been doing this week – as I have been writing, I have been preaching this stuff to my soul. I keep pulling myself back to God’s word:
Isaiah 49:23 “...those who hope in me will not be disappointed.”
You say, “Look what happened to judah when they acted impatiently and went to Egypt for help instead of waiting for God. They were shamed and humiliated.”
But God has proven himself time after time: He keeps the world running, he has kept his children through harder times, he will keep me, I will not be disappointed.
Isaiah 41:10 10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
When you are afraid, afraid of waiting, afraid of what will happen if you don’t take the easy way out, afraid of the future, size your fears up against God. Which is greater?
· He is beside me, him is my God, I am on his team.
Isaiah 40:30-31 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Remind yourself of this. Stop trying to do this under your own steam. Rest in God; renew your strength in him.
Give it to God
To sum it all up: You know your fears, your frustrations, your discouragements. During worship, look those things squarely in the face and stack them up against God’s power.
· He is good and he cares for you.
This is my challenge (it’s on the communication card): Make a list of those fears and literally give them to God, maybe mentally putting them in your hands or burning the list.
· Also, memorize and mediate on Isaiah 30:15.
· PPT: Please call Marilyn, service is almost over: 421-5543
Q & A
· Make a list of your fears and given them to God.
· Memorize and mediate on Isaiah 30:15.
Call to Worship