Sunday, December 9, 2012
Pastor Joe Wittwer
Don’t Be Afraid
#2—For God fights for you
ILL: Here’s one of my all-time favorite stories:
An elderly Florida lady did her shopping and, upon returning to her car, found four men in the act of leaving with her vehicle.
She dropped her shopping bags and drew her handgun, proceeding to scream at them at the top of her voice, “I have a gun and I know how to use it! Get out of my car, you scumbags!”
The four men didn’t wait for a second invitation, but got out and ran like mad. The lady, somewhat shaken, loaded her shopping bags into the back of the car and get into the driver’s seat. She was so shaken that she could not get her key into the ignition. She tried and tried and then it dawned on her why.
A few minutes later she found her own car parked four or five spaces farther down. She loaded her bags into her car and drove to the nearest police station.
The sergeant to whom she told the story was laughing so hard he was crying and pointed to the other end of the counter, where four pale men were reporting a car jacking by a crazy elderly woman described as white, less than 5′ tall, glasses and curly white hair, carrying a very large handgun.
No charges were filed.
A crazy old lady with a handgun—that’ll scare the bejeebers out of you! That’s not a battle I want to fight. Today we’re talking about the battles in our lives.
Don’t be afraid, for God fights for you.
Have you ever been scared like that? What’s your scariest moment?
Introduction and offering:
“Don’t be afraid” is one of the most oft-repeated commands in the Bible. I’ve read that it’s repeated 365 times—enough for every day of the year! (I don’t know if that’s so—but it’s repeated a lot!) God not only tells us not to fear, but why. Last week, we looked at the big reason: God says, “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.” God is with you always, even when everything seems to go wrong, even in your biggest challenge and in turbulent times. God is with you always—so don’t be afraid.
So here is my question: What battle do you need to give to God and let him fight for you?
Last week, we asked you to write your biggest fear on a rock and we made an altar out of those rocks—an altar that marks a spot where we met God and gave him our fears. Some of our team used the rocks to make this altar. As they built this, they read the rocks, and one of the team told me that the most common fears were failure, loss, loneliness and death.
I don’t like to fail. I don’t like to like to lose. If we play a game, I want to beat your brains out! I don’t like failure or loss. I wonder how often the fear of failure paralyzes us?
ILL: About ten years ago, when Life Center was meeting on Nora Street and we were doing 5 weekend services, I was vacillating on whether to build a larger building and relocate. It was a huge decision, and I was afraid of wrecking our church.
My friend, Paul Miller, who leads our worship team, bought me a pair of toy pistols in a holster. He hung them on my desk with a note that said, “I’ve never known you to be afraid to pull the trigger. Pull the trigger, friend!”
With Paul’s encouragement, I did. Fear had been making me hesitate.
Have you ever been there? Have you ever faced a challenge that made you want to back down? Ever faced a battle you didn’t think you could win so you backed away? We all have.
What battle do you need to give to God and let him fight for you? As I talk, and you think about the battles you are facing, text to us your answer to that question. Text your response to: 509-540-3339 or 509-540-3370. Include your first name and #LCnotafraid.
In a few minutes, we’ll look at some of the challenges we’re facing. So here’s:
The Big Idea: Don’t be afraid, for God fights for you. God is for you, not against you!
In the Old Testament, Israel often faced powerful enemies that wanted to destroy her. Time and again, God reminded them that He was with them and would fight for them. They weren’t alone.
When Moses was leading the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt, they got to the Red Sea and found the Egyptian army closing in behind them. Trapped between the sea and Pharaoh’s army, their situation looked hopeless: they were a rag-tag group of slaves versus the greatest military force in the region. When the people cried out to Moses, “What have you done to us?” Moses answered:
Exodus 14:13–14 “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. 14 The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”
Don’t be afraid…the Lord will fight for you. In fact, you don’t need to fight at all; just be still. Trust God. This is His battle. And of course, God intervened, split the sea, and brought them safely to the other side.
Over and over, Israel faced enemies too large and powerful for her, and God said, “Don’t be afraid, I will fight for you.” Each of the references here are from these stories; we’re going to look at one.
The story: “The battle is not yours, but God’s.”
The story takes place during the reign of King Jehoshaphat, the fourth king of Judah who ruled from 873-849 BC. During his reign, a coalition of armies from the east marched against Judah. It was a “vast army” and it was only 25 miles away from Jerusalem when Jehoshaphat got the news. What was his reaction? He was afraid—as he should have been! What did he do? He prayed. They met in the temple and the king prayed:
2 Chronicles 20:6-12
“O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not the God who is in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. Power and might are in your hand, and no one can withstand you. 7 O our God, did you not drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend? 8 They have lived in it and have built in it a sanctuary for your Name, saying, 9 ‘If calamity comes upon us, whether the sword of judgment, or plague or famine, we will stand in your presence before this temple that bears your Name and will cry out to you in our distress, and you will hear us and save us.’
10 “But now here are men from Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, whose territory you would not allow Israel to invade when they came from Egypt; so they turned away from them and did not destroy them. 11 See how they are repaying us by coming to drive us out of the possession you gave us as an inheritance. 12 O our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.”
Notice the last two sentences: “We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” That’s a great prayer. “God, we’re outnumbered here. This is too big for us. But we’re looking to you.”
The first lesson we should learn from the story is that when we’re facing overwhelming odds, pray! When it looks impossible, pray! Turn to God! Don’t scheme—that’s my natural tendency. “Maybe there is something I can do to get out of this!” Don’t scheme—pray! “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
Sometimes when we pray, the answer comes slowly. But sometimes, like in this story, the answer comes immediately. The Spirit of the Lord came upon Jahaziel, and gave him God’s answer to their prayer, a message from the Lord.
2 Chronicles 20:15-17 He said: “Listen, King Jehoshaphat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem! This is what the Lord says to you: ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God’s. 16 Tomorrow march down against them. They will be climbing up by the Pass of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the gorge in the Desert of Jeruel. 17 You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, O Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’ ”
The message starts and ends, “Do not be afraid or discouraged.” Why? Because the Lord is with you and He will fight for you. So they were to march out to the battle, but instead of fighting, they were to just stand there and watch! This was His battle, not theirs, and they would see the Lord’s deliverance.
Have you ever been in the middle of a battle and thought, “What am I doing here?”
ILL: When Laina and I were raising our five kids, we learned that we had to pick our battles, especially when they got older. There were some battles that if we had fought them, we may have won the battle and lost the war. There were some battles that simply weren’t worth fighting, like Jeff wanting to wear the same shirt every day for a year. Or making the kids eat broccoli. (Do you know the difference between broccoli and buggers?) There were some battles that just weren’t worth fighting. And there were some battles that we simply had to leave with God; this was His battle, not ours—we needed to pray and trust Him.
I can’t change someone’s heart; only God can. The harder I try, the harder they get. So I have to let God fight that battle.
I can’t make someone love Jesus; only God can. The more I push, the more they push away. I have to let God fight that battle.
What battle do you need to give to God and let him fight for you? Text your response to: 509-540-3339 or 509-540-3370. Include your first name and #LCnotafraid.
What is the opposite of fear? It’s faith. It’s trusting God. Here’s what happened next.
2 Chronicles 20:20-23 Early in the morning they left for the Desert of Tekoa. As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.” 21 After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:
“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.”
22 As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated. 23 The men of Ammon and Moab rose up against the men from Mount Seir to destroy and annihilate them. After they finished slaughtering the men from Seir, they helped to destroy one another.
The king reminds them that God has spoken and promised to fight for them; they need to believe that. They need to trust God. What does that look like? They consulted together, and decided to send the choir out first! This is a crazy battle strategy! No one sends the choir out first in a battle—unless it’s a really bad choir and you want to get rid of them! Why send the choir out first? You believe you’re going to win!
ILL: On July 21, 1861, in the first battle of the Civil War, the first battle of Bull Run, the larger and more well-equipped Union army marched out to meet an outnumbered Confederate force. Hundreds of northern well-wishers packed picnic lunches and rode out to enjoy the spectacle, including many congressmen and their wives and members of Washington DC’s high society. There were even vendors selling food! Why did they do this? They were confident that they would rout the rebel forces. People were saying, “We’ll be in Richmond by this time tomorrow.” Why were they picnicking at Bull Run? They were confident they would win.
Unfortunately, their confidence was misplaced. They lost, and those picnickers fled home in a panic, creating “a colossal traffic jam” that slowed the Union retreat.
Why did Judah send the choir out first? It was a practical expression of their faith. If you believe that you’re not going to fight, just stand and watch, then send out the choir! Lead with praise—we’re going to a party!
So they went out singing the all-time #1 hit: “Give thanks to the Lord for His love endures forever.” This song shows up over and over in Israel’s history—#1—kind of like “Hey Jude” or “Gangnam Style”—only way better. As they began to sing, the Lord set ambushes, and Judah’s enemies began fighting each other. Remember, this was before military uniforms, and chances are, these folks all looked alike. So it would be easy in the heat of battle to mistake your ally for your enemy—and that’s what happened. When the choir started singing, chaos ensued and the enemy armies destroyed each other while Judah watched. Then they carried away the plunder, so much that it took them three days to collect it all!
On the fourth day, they gathered again to praise the Lord. It started with a song; it should end with one!
What is the Big Idea? Don’t be afraid; the battle is not yours but the Lord’s.
Let’s take a look at your responses to our questions. What battle do you need to give to God and let Him fight? Interact with media and audience.
I want to finish with an important application. Don’t be afraid for God fights for you. I want you to know that in the most important battle of all, God fought for you and won.
The application: “We are more than conquerors in Christ.”
All the scriptures in brackets are references that show that the Old Testament scriptures point to Jesus. When we see Jesus in an Old Testament story like we just read, we are seeing what Jesus said we should see. “The Scriptures testify of me,” he said.
Just like God fought a battle for Judah, God has fought a battle for you—and it is the most important of all battles. Jesus came, and in His life, death and resurrection, He defeated the enemies that have held us captive and threaten to destroy us: sin and death, Satan and selfishness. I don’t have to try to save myself—the battle is not mine but the Lord’s.
A few weeks ago I reminded you that you spell religion D-O. It is all about what you do for God. But the gospel of Jesus is spelled D-O-N-E. It is all about what God has done for you in Christ.
In Christ’s life, death and resurrection, God has defeated our enemies of sin and death, Satan and selfishness. God sent Jesus and said, “You won’t have to fight this battle; just watch what I will do.” He won the battle for us. You are forgiven and free and reconciled to God—it’s all been done by Jesus. You have been given a new life, eternal life; it’s all been done by Jesus. DONE!
Here is how the apostle Paul describes it.
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
God is working for your good; God is fighting for you. He has done it.
29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Here is what God has done for you: He has destined you to be like Jesus. He has called you to follow, justified you (forgiven you and declared you righteous in His sight) and glorified you (given you eternal life).
31 What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Say that with me: If God is for us, who can be against us? What is your battle? There is no enemy, no battle, no problem bigger than God. If God is for us, who can be against us!
32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
I love this verse! If God has fought and won the biggest battle, won’t He help us with the rest? If God gave His Son, won’t He graciously give us all things? There is no battle that you face alone. God, who gave His Son, fights for you.
33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Can anything separate us from the love of Christ? No. Trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, even death—these were all things that Paul faced as he followed Jesus. Notice that following Jesus didn’t mean that Paul avoided all these things. Paul went through all these things and found that God was there, fighting for him.
In all these things—right in the middle of all of them—trouble, hardship, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, even death—we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us. When we say God is for us, it doesn’t mean that life will be a piece of cake, that everything will go the way we want. But it means that God is fighting for us in every battle, working for our good in every situation, and in Christ we are ultimately victorious. In fact, we’re more than conquerors. What could that mean?
ILL: On October 7, 1916, Georgia Tech beat Cumberland in the most lopsided game in college football history: 222-0! Earlier in the spring, Cumberland’s baseball team had humiliated Georgia Tech 22-0. When Cumberland canceled their football schedule in the fall, Georgia Tech forced them to keep their scheduled game or pay a large penalty. So Cumberland scraped together 14 guys and sent them to Atlanta.
Neither team made a first down. Cumberland lost 9 fumbles and had 6 interceptions, and never made a first down. Georgia Tech scored 32 touchdowns, and never had more than two plays before they scored—so they never had a first down.
Cumberland rushed 27 times for -96 yards (-3.5 yards per carry). Georgia Tech rushed 40 times for 1620 yards (just over 40 yards per carry) and 32 touchdowns.
The Atlanta Journal reported, “The only thing necessary for a touchdown was to give a Tech back the ball and holler, ‘Here he comes’ and ‘There he goes.’”
Georgia Tech wasn’t just the victor—they were more than victors. They didn’t just win—they crushed Cumberland.
“In all these things we are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us.”
In Christ, God has defeated our age-old enemies—completely vanquished them.
I need to remind you that people are not the enemy. It is never us vs. them—we are all the same: sinners in need of God’s grace and rescue. That person who is giving you fits is not your enemy.
ILL: I remember when Laina and I learned this in our marriage. We were on our way to church one evening and got into a rip-roaring argument (I’m the one with the temper, not her). Suddenly it hit me: Laina is not my enemy—she is my wife. And I am not her enemy. I pulled the car over and told her that and apologized. Then we prayed together and then told our real enemy to take a hike.
By the way, have you ever noticed how often you get into arguments on the way to church? Why is that? You know how to avoid it? Drive separate cars!
That person who is giving your fits is not your enemy.
1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.
Ephesians 6:10–12 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
We are in a spiritual battle. But God is fighting for us. He has defeated our enemies in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. And now in Christ, we are more than conquerors.
So what are you battle are you facing? Don’t be afraid; God is fighting for you.