Navigating the Wilderness, pt2
Last week, we talked about the wilderness experience — those times in our lives when it seems like we are not hearing from God — like He has left us alone…
In those times, we discovered that we must learn to give our lives completely to God — to let go… give up control… and trust God with our worries… our needs… our fears… everything!
Someone asked me afterwards: “Pastor, How do we do that?”
That’s a good question! It is not an easy thing for us to let go and TRUST that God is going to take care of things — especially in the wilderness!
But, that is exactly what we have to do.
(If you have your Bible with you) look at Mark 11:12-25
In Mark 11, we find Jesus and the disciples headed to Jerusalem.
— Jesus is hungry and sees a fig tree in the distance...
— He goes to it, but finds it lacking fruit…
— So, He curses it...
14 He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Now… I don’t know about you, but it seems odd that Jesus would curse this fruit tree, especially in light of verse 13
Mark 11:13 (NRSV)
13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see whether perhaps he would find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs.
Now… I want you to notice something important here: Jesus curses the fig tree, and the disciples heard it!!!
So, why does He curse it? And, why does He let them hear Him?
God will remove any fruitless branch…
2 He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit.
(rose bush example) (Grape vine example)
The fig tree serves as an example…
— the rule was: if a fig tree had leaves, it would have figs!
— so, when Jesus saw the fig tree with leaves, He was ready to eat…
— but there was no fruit!
The fig tree serves as an illustration of the people’s spiritual condition…
— From a distance it “appeared” to have all the signs of life and fruitfulness… But....
Now, I want you to see what happens next:
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves,
Why was Jesus angry?
— Where did this take place?
— They lacked faith… They had the appearance of life, but lacked fruit… They were even preventing the Gentiles from receiving God!
Look at what happens the next day:
20 In the morning as they passed by, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 Then Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.”
The cursing of the fig tree served as a tangible illustration of where the nation of Israel was spiritually.
— they had all the signs of life and faith, but… they were fruitless!
Is that us?
Sometimes… I think we struggle in the wilderness because we do not realize that we lack faith!
— or at least… we don’t understand what faith is…
Look at Jesus’s response to Peter:
22 Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
“Have Faith in God”
— The Jews were offered the greatest of opportunities — and so are we — yet they rejected Christ and clung to lifeless religion and traditions!
“Have Faith in God”
What does that mean? Is it simply to “believe” that He exists? Or… Is it something more?
Look at that word “Faith”.
— It is the same word translated “believe” two more times
“Pisteuo” — “1. think to be true, to believe, implying trust. 2. trust, faith, believe to the extent of complete trust.... 4. entrust, put something into the care of another” (DBL Greek dictionary)
In all three place — “Have faith”… “believe”… “believe” — It is an “active imperative verb” phrase.... meaning — “Put our Trust in and continue to put our trust in.”
To have Faith in God means to live in a constant state of dependence upon Him.
— It means to come to a place of “full surrender and dependence” on God!
— When we reach that point, we have the privilege of seeing God do what only He can do!
— That is what moves us from mere activity to fruitfulness!!!
Jesus is dealing with their Faith!!!!
The Bible is full of stories about people whom God gave the opportunity to be used in tremendous ways by Him!
— they had to choose to respond!
The Wilderness Experience is an opportunity to respond to God!
— In it, God is asking: “Will you trust me?”
— Christ is saying: “Have Faith in God!”
Can I tell you?
God wants to use you in tremendous ways!
But… We have to learn to Navigate the Wilderness!
Here’s how we do it:
We must learn to see the invisible.
24 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called a son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25 choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward. 27 By faith he left Egypt, unafraid of the king’s anger; for he persevered as though he saw him who is invisible. 28 By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel. 29 By faith the people passed through the Red Sea as if it were dry land, but when the Egyptians attempted to do so they were drowned.
— Moses was an individual with great potential in the world. He was the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter… Nothing he desired would have been withheld from him… yet he refused!
— He refused to be called “the son of the Pharaoh’s daughter”… He refused the privilege… He refused the status… the comfort… the prestige… He refused to indulge in the “pleasures of sin”… and chose instead to stand with the people of God! (to suffer with them)
— the “pleasures of sin” is not talking about “gross immorality”.... It is speaking about the things we associate with success today — position, power, prestige, wealth, freedom from problems....
— There is nothing wrong with those things, UNLESS we place them over the Will of God in our lives!
Moses walked away from it all!!!
25 choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. 26 He considered abuse suffered for the Christ to be greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to the reward.
— Moses stood toe-to-toe with the most powerful man in the world… and He had no fear!
He saw the invisible!
Moses did not fear man, because He had FAITH in God!
Look at Mark 11.
23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you. 24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
— We see the invisible in FAITH-FILLED prayer!
— Moses stood confidently before the mountain called “Pharoah” — knowing that he could kill him at any moment — because He refused to take his eyes off God.
— He was in complete dependence on God!
We can face the mountains… We can navigate the wilderness, by refusing to take our eyes off God!!!!
— When we depend fully on God in FAITH… He becomes our “all-consuming” thought… Everything in life becomes filtered through what pleases Him!
— We build that FAITH — that dependence — we seek to see the invisible through PRAYER.... Not the little, quick, “throw up” prayers for our daily needs, but… Through the big prayers… the mountain prayers… the wilderness prayers… that only God can answer!
In the wilderness experience, we MUST have faith in God… We must dream big and pray big!!!!
Not only do we need to seek to see the invisible through prayer… But we must be WILLING to ATTEMPT THE IMPOSSIBLE!
23 Truly I tell you, if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and if you do not doubt in your heart, but believe that what you say will come to pass, it will be done for you.
Do you see what Jesus just told them?!
The impossible is possible with God!
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Jesus told them: “You can do the impossible!”
— We like to think this is just allegory, but Jesus is serious! We can do the impossible through the power that He gives us!!!
We Must ATTEMPT the impossible in FAITH!
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
(I’m not going to read the story here) But this is a familiar event…
— the storm is raging… and Jesus comes to the disciples… WALKING ON THE WATER!!!!
— They assume it is a ghost — a spirit — and what courage they had dissolves… They are gripped with terror! They cry out in fear!
Look what Jesus says:
Matthew 14:27 (NRSV)
27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”
— Isn’t it wonderful how the sweet voice of Jesus brings peace in the midst of their storm?!
— He does the same for us… When we are listening!
Look at what Peter says:
28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
— This is one of the most powerful examples of faith in the NT.
— FAITH is a positive response to the Word of God.
Jesus says, “Come.” And Peter does not hesitate!
He responded in FAITH!
He immediately… took a step that defied logic… it defied the laws of nature… Why? Because his Lord told him to!!!!
Peter had FAITH in God… and he attempted the impossible!
Do we? Or, Do we allow our lack… the little that we have… the laws of nature… to prevent us from experiencing something powerful?
— The practical definition of FAITH is the positive response to the Word of God.
— Do you want a Biblical definition of FAITH?
2 looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God.
“Looking to Jesus”
— Focusing on Him…
— Peter succeeded in doing the impossible as long as his gaze — his eyes — were set on Jesus.... the minute he looked away, and back at the world around him… he failed!
“Attempt great things for God and expect great things from God.” — William Curry, the father of modern missions.
Having FAITH in God — to live in a constant state of dependence on Him which enables us to attempt the impossible.
When we seek God and attempt the impossible … We will achieve the unthinkable!
1 Kings 18:19-24;33-39.
We find Elijah’s story.
— Elijah challenges the Prophets of Baal…
— it is a perfect illustration of achieving the unthinkable!
Look at verse 39.
39 When all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord indeed is God; the Lord indeed is God.”
Do you realize what Elijah did?
— without a great show… without shouting… commanding… self-inflicting wounds… with a simple… FAITH-FILLED prayer… Elijah sought God for the impossible....
— And before he can even finish praying… God answered!!!!!!
Elijah’s FAITH achieved the unthinkable!
Are we willing to seek God… to TRUST Him… to help us achieve the impossible?
FAITH placed in God is not wasted FAITH!
24 So I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
God has done absolutely amazing things through His children… simply because they were willing to TRUST Him… to seek Him…and to attempt the impossible for Him…
Are you willing?
How many of you know who Billy Sunday is?
(tell the story)
Christ calls us to “Have FAITH in God”… What is holding you back?