Where are you?
We are living in some challenging times, are we not? It would be remiss of me to not acknowledge and speak about the confusion and challenges that we as a nation find ourselves in presently.
After all, a minister’s job is to offer support, guidance and Gods wisdom in times of trouble. That doesn’t mean though that I have the prophetic ability to advise you as to whether or not you should be buying or selling dollars, looking at stocks in the energy sector or even whether you should be emigrating…
Yes -Our Country is in a state of disarray, and notwithstanding the politics or finances everyday living is going to get tougher, and the challenge of surviving a recession brings with it a whole host of difficulties and confusion.
But so often in the confusion of our lives and in living, we lose ourselves and the ability to hear, see or discover God. And in this deafness of the divine, unable to hear God- we live in a vacuum of light, surrounded by darkness.
And when we are confused, deaf to Gods voice and surrounded by darkness, we tend to make bad decisions. Decisions based on the advice of others who themselves are confused. Decisions based on popular norms. Decisions that dictate what direction we will take – usually the wrong direction.Unfortunately, even if the direction is only a gradual change of direction, it is within such confusion that a decision may lead us away from God and Gods plan for our lives.
Two groups of people we read about in scripture who found themselves in similar confusing situations-The Israelites as they left Egypt – and Jesus’ disciples when their leader, teacher, Rabbi and Messiah was taken away and crucified.
Two defining moments in their lives. Two storms that seemingly took them away from God and His plan, but essentially built them into a nation and a church. Two moments – call them Crisis Moments if you want, when God displayed His divinity, His grace and His Guidance during a crisis.
The crisis the Israelites faced is well documented in Exodus. Their journey to the promised land was fraught with danger, loss and difficulty. The crisis they faced daily was often exacerbated by their own inability to listen.
The nation of Israelites, Gods people, left Egypt as slaves and entered the promised land as victorious warriors, protected by, guided by and sustained by Y’shua (YHWH.)
But it was their time in the wilderness, though confusing, frustrating and disorientating where they discovered Gods power, grace, glory and guidance.
A nation of slaves, disorientated and confused. Fearful of what the desert holds. Petrified of the Egyptian army bearing down on them, uncertain of what the future held. But then in a divine moment of power and glory before he drowned all the Egyptian soldiers, God revealed his power and showed them the way to go.
Before God intervened, He showed His people the way to go. The breakthrough came when God showed them the way to go, the direction to take and when they responded and followed God.
The Israelites had to follow God first, and listen to His guidance before the breakthrough came!
Exodus 13: 17-22 tells us what happened –
When Pharaoh let the people go, God didn’t lead them on the road through Philistine territory, although that was the shortest route. God said, “If they see that they have to fight a war, they may change their minds and go back to Egypt.”
So God led the people around the other way, on the road through the desert toward the Red Sea. The Israelites were ready for battle when they left Egypt. Moses took the bones of Joseph with him, because Joseph had made the Israelites solemnly swear to do this. Joseph had said, “God will definitely come to help you. When he does, take my bones with you.” They moved from Succoth and camped at Etham, on the edge of the desert.
By day the LORD went ahead of them in a column of smoke to lead them on their way. By night he went ahead of them in a column of fire to give them light so that they could travel by day or by night.
The column of smoke was always in front of the people during the day. The column of fire was always there at night.
Whether the Israelites found themselves in darkness or light, God revealed His presence and led the Israelites on towards the promised land. But the Israelites needed to trust God implicitly, follow Him and heed his wisdom and guidance.
Exodus 14:13 tells us of the words Moses spoke on behalf of God : “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.”
The Israelites listened and in the very next chapter we read about how God intervened and obliterated the Egyptian army.
But here is a word of warning…the journey ahead for the Israelites was not easy and there were times when they did not listen. They doubted. They took their own decisions. Even after all God had done for them and shown them, they rebelled against God, and so paid a price. They wandered the wilderness and not all of them entered the promised land.
How true this is of us? We doubt. We rebel. We go our own way, and we end up paying a price. But those who trusted in Gods providence and His power entered the promised land as victors, formed and toughened by the desert ready for new challenges.
Where are you in this story?
Are you on the shoreline of the Red sea, about to embark on a journey trusting in Gods provision and protection? Are you listening to Him? Are you following Him? Are you recognizing His cloud at day and pillar of fire at night? Do you trust Him implicitly?
Where are you?
The night on which Jesus was taken away provides us with more insight into God’s grace and power.
At the last supper, Jesus reclining at the table began telling his followers of what was to happen.
“One of you will betray me.”
The disciples are indignant, “surely not us LORD”, then He points out Judas.
The disciples are confused,
but Jesus continues speaking, causing greater confusion and disarray.
“You will all fall away on account of me.” He tells them –
“ I will strike the shepherd and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.”
As they make their way through the alleys of Jerusalem,
walking towards the garden of Gethsemane-
he tells his most loyal, dedicated disciples and followers-
You will fall away, you will run away. You will deny me.
In a sense Jesus was telling them this –
And what the disciples heard Jesus say, is this – “your last three years of commitment to my ministry is about to come to an end – you will all scatter! “
As they walked into the garden of Gethsemane, one can just imagine what the disciples were thinking about. And when the soldiers came to take him away their fears were confirmed. They tried fighting. But Jesus himself stopped them.
And then Jesus was tried, tortured and crucified, dead and buried.
Their leader gone.
They scattered. They fled. They denied.
One can only imagine what was going through their minds as they walked back to their homes. Their thoughts. Their fears. Their frustrations.
Their seemingly deepest desires and dreams broken by the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
Their lives torn apart by the agony of seeing Jesus suffer.
Their faith at an all time low.
And then it happened.
The news of his resurrection began to filter through to the disciples, who were still mourning and weeping.
Gods power, Gods Glory, God’s grace shone all around!
Gods breakthrough came at a point when the disciples and followers of Christ were at their lowest. When ALL was seemingly lost. God broke through.
Where are you?
Where are you emotionally, spiritually, physically?
The disciples may have been emotionally overwhelmed by the past few days, spiritually distraught, Physically disorientated – yet when Jesus began to appear to them their faith was slowly strengthened, renewed sustained.
Gods breakthrough will come at a point when you may be at your lowest. When ALL is seemingly lost. God will break through.
Whatever you may be going through now, whatever struggles you are facing, look to God and pray. Remind God of His promise in Exodus : “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. The LORD will fight for you; you need only be still.” and ask God to lead you, guide, nourish you, strengthen you and if necessary – FIGHT FOR YOU.
Ps Philip Stoneman