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There are times when every life must weather an attacking storm, times when our hearts are shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. However, God's Word to us is "Face the attacking storm, be careful, keep calm and don't be afraid. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all." This is God's Word to Isaiah and King Ahaz in today's scripture. And this is God's Word to us today.
Let's go to the scripture together.
"When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king at Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah King of Israel, marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it. Now the house of David was told, "Aram has allied itself with Ephraim; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. Then the Lord said to Isaiah, "Go ou...to meet Ahaz. Say to him 'Be careful; keep calm and don't be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood. Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah's son have plotted your ruin, saying, "Let us invade Judah, let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves." Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says; "It will not take place, it will not happen. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all."
It's very simple for us to enter this Bible story. All we need to do is ask, "Where are we now?" and, "Where would we like to be?"
First, where are we now? Like Adam and Eve, ridiculously thinking they can hide from God in the garden, we're usually afraid to admit where we are, so God's Word speaks for us. We are under attack, in the storm asking questions of faith. In John 20, we cry with Thomas, "unless I see, I will not believe." In Mark 9, we cry with the father, "I believe, but help my unbelief." In Exodus 3, we ask with Moses, "Who am I that I should do anything for the Lord?" In Mark 4, we ask with the disciples, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" And in Isaiah 7, we are shaking with Ahaz and his people. So, here we are under attack in the midst of the storm shaking in our boots, asking questions of faith.
But, now where would we like to be? Well, we always see in God's own Word where we'd like to be, after all, that's what God, by His Word, made us for to begin with, before this thing called sin got in the way. And what position in the story does God's Word take? Well, in John 20, Jesus calls us to RECEIVE the blessing of believing without seeing. In Mark 9, Jesus calls us to CLAIM the truth that everything is possible for the one who believes. In Exodus 3, God says KNOW that I am with you for I send you and I bring the victory. In Mark 4, Jesus SHOWS us where we want to be....so confident in God, that we can SLEEP in the midst of the storm. In Isaiah 7, God's Word says be CALM, don't be afraid, stand firm in faith.
NOW the question we have to wrestle with is this, "How do I get from where I am to where I want to be?"
We've got to begin by acknowledging a few thing. First, while we are in this world, we will always be under attack, storms will always rage. If we're not attacked by futility, then we'll be attacked by insecurity or loneliness, marriage problems or sex problems. If those don't get us, then here comes alcoholism or false religion, inferiority, suffering illness, frustration or guilt. If those attacks don't get us, then here comes the storms of family problems, child training, infidelity, separation or divorce. Then of course there is always the difficulty of communication, discipline, conflict resolution, money management, negative emotions and difficult decisions to make. Folks, while we are in this world, we will always be under attack and storms will always rage.
Secondly, for us to get from where we are to where we want to be, we must acknowledge that God MADE us for peace in the face of attack, for calm in the midst of the storm. When God finished making everything, Genesis 1:31 says that God saw it all and said that it was good. That includes us, you and me. God didn't make us to shake and tremble and doubt, God MADE us for peace in the face of attack, for calm in the midst of the storm. It is in us to stand firm in faith because God put it there. This is God's good work of creation.
And finally, we must acknowledge from the outset that God is always remaking us for peace and calm and faith. The work of God's Holy Spirit, perfectly seen in Jesus Christ, is to come to us in the midst of the storm even as Christ PRESENTED His hands to Thomas in John 20 that Thomas might be renewed. In the same way, Jesus called forth peace in the boy who was healed in Mark 9. In Exodus 3, God assured Moses in response to EVERY question that Moses asked. In Mark 4, Jesus brought peace and calm by rebuking the winds. And in Isaiah 7, God presents the word of assurance in the face of attack. Folks, God doesn't want us to be crushed by attacks nor sunken by storms, so God by His Spirit works in us to make our faith strong again.
But upon grounding us firm in His strength, God's spirit propels us into motion to live abundantly in the face of attack, and abundantly in the midst of the storm. No where in scripture can I find testimony to people of faith just standing still and getting by. God's people are always a people on the move, by God and in the name of God. Even Paul in a prison sang songs and gave thanks. Even Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the fiery furnace walked with STRENGTH and LIVED. Even John of Patmos and Stephen saw visions of heaven while being persecuted for their faith. God propels us into life abundant for those who stand firm in strength.
So once grounded in God's strength through faith, here's a formula from scripture for abundant living even in the face of attack.
First, get into the fight. Say what? Get into the fight? All of you were wanting to get out. But remember that attacks are always coming and storms are always raging. And James 4 makes it clear that we're going to fight any way, so let's fight against the right things. Listen to James 4, verse 1, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that BATTLE within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want, You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God." (So verse 7) "submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
Now YOU ask, "how am I to resist, how am I to fight the devil?" Well James is telling us but listen to Jesus in John 14, "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." Folks, Jesus says, "When the attacks come, when the storms come, call on the name of Jesus."
And I know that some of you are saying "Yeah, right" but I say to you, until you call on the name of the Lord, you are forfeiting your power over conflict and destruction in your life.
Every once in a while, I'll be subject to a nightmare, and I tell you that I do what I've taught my daughters to do. We'll pray, "in the name of Jesus I cast you out, the powers of darkness have no power here." And people those nightmares go away.
I've seen people in our congregation have their back healed and cancer healed and conflict healed because all parties involved believed in and called on the name of Jesus. Hear the truth of I John 4, "Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God. You, dear children are from God and have overcome them, because greater is he that's in you than he that's in the world."
Some of you nice Christians out there think I'm nuts but I have seen the power of God at work in 1997. I once heard the analogy given of circus elephants. I mean have you ever seen a circus elephant when it's not performing? When not performing, a circus elephant has a little chain around its leg and that chain is hooked to a little 18 inch peg. Now haven't you ever wondered how that huge elephant could be held in place by an 18 inch pole? How can all that tonnage be captive to that little chain? It's because from the time that elephant was little it was whipped and attacked and beaten so that whenever it saw that chain and that peg it LEARNED not to fight. In other words, that elephant was trained to a bad way of thinking, trained to believe that elephants are helpless in the presence of that little peg.
Some of you have been trained into a bad way of thinking too. You've been attacked and whipped and beaten so much by the devil that you think you're helpless in the midst of the storm. But I say to you that you've got the tonnage of the name of Jesus behind you, you've got the power of the living God who broke the chains of sin and hell and death. And I say to you, get into the fight and resist the devil. Call on the name of Jesus, because greater is he that's in you, than he that's in the world.
Second of three things in the faith formula for an abundant life in the face of attack is this. Remember who's in charge. Remember David in the Bible, little David, the shepherd boy, not yet king. What made David a great warrior in the face of attack was not how strong he was but that he remembered who's in charge. Remember when David fought Goliath. But just as important is to remember why David fought Goliath. David the little shepherd boy who was too small to even wear any armor had to fight Goliath because all the other men in the army of Israel SHOOK in terror and dismay at the sight of the nine foot giant Philistine. And everyone to the man said, "I can't do it." Not a one believed that God was in charge when faced with the attack of Goliath. In contrast, so small was David that when he approached Goliath, the giant said, "Am I a dog that you come to me with sticks? Come here," he said, "and I give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field.!" And you know that David did? He not only remembered who was in charge, but he shouted for all to hear. David said, "You come against me with sword and spear, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defiled. This day the Lord will hand you over to me and all those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give all of you into our hands." And without a sword in his hand, with but one stone, David was victorious over the giant.
Do you remember who's in charge when you are under attack? Job was called to remember from the whirlwind. Mary, the mother of Jesus, was reminded by an angel. The centurion in Matthew 8 received healing for his son because he KNEW who was in charge. Even Jesus submitted to the authority of the Father, praying in Gethsemane, not my will, but thine. Remember that God, the Lord of life, is in charge when faced with attack or storm.
And the final piece of the formula is simple. Do it, CALL on the name of the Lord. Listen to James 5:13, "Is any one of you in trouble?" He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise." Is there anyone out there who knows this song from Psalm 18, call on the Lord with me if you do, I will call upon the Lord who is worthy to be praised, so shall I be saved from my enemies, the Lord liveth, and blessed be the rock, and may the God of our salvation be exalted, the Lord liveth, and blessed be the rock, and may the God of our salvation be exalted.
Brothers and sisters, may God bless you all with HIS strength as you face the attacks and storms of life. Amen.
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