Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Christians Face Three Obstacles and Have Three Helps

At this moment in time are we facing greater challenges than in times past? Or, does it just seem like the challenges are greater today than ever before? To say the least, our future is painted as bleak and perilous by all the news media, social engineers, and most preachers. I think we can definitely say that the foundations of our society are crumbling. We can definitely also say that our God does not change.

Recently I read a sermon by Spurgeon ( ) about the escape of the Israelites from Egypt. His sermon covered the following items:

3 difficulties of the Israelites then and Christians today
1. The Red sea in front of them - today there are stumbling blocks in front of Christians
2. the Egyptians behind them – today Christians have sins, failures, sorrows of the past pursuing them
3. faint hearts – Christians today can easily be overwhelmed by events

3 helps for the Israelites then and Christians today

1. Providence leading them and helping them - Providence led them to the red sea -
2. knowledge - that they were the chosen people of God - as the saved know they are the children of God
3. Intercessor - they had Moses - but WE have Jesus Christ

Good gracious! Spurgeon was good! That sermon was more than 2000 years after the Israelites’ great escape. Yet, it related well to the people to whom Spurgeon was preaching. It relates equally well to us today.
In facing the new year – we will have stumbling blocks in front of us. It may be the same stumbling blocks as last year, or it may be new and even more seemingly insurmountable problems.
All the rotten stuff from our past will pursue us. Every time we glance back we will see the enemy hot on our trails. It could be likened to a roaring lion that is trying to swallow us whole. We should take a lesson from Lot’s wife and not look back.
It is easy to faint in our faith with all the overwhelming events surrounding us.

Thankfully, just like Spurgeon said, we have three helps.

Just as God led the Israelites, so will He lead us. Where God leads us, God will help us to pass on through the barriers and brick walls that we face.

We have all the knowledge that God has given us in the Bible. We have example after example of the faithfulness of God.

And, we have an intercessor even greater than Moses. We have Jesus Christ the Lord.
Of our three helps, the one most neglected is knowledge. A great many of the people who call themselves Christians have no idea of what the Bible actually says about anything. One thing the Bible says is, ‘My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee; that thou shalt be no priests to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.’
This verse states the problem and the consequences. John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes explains the verse like this:
[6] My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee, that thou shalt be no priest to me: seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.
Destroyed — Many were already cut off by Pul king of Assyria, and many destroyed by the bloody tyranny of Menahem.
Of knowledge — Of God, his law, his providence, his holy nature, his hatred of sin and power to punish it.
Because thou — The prophet now turns from the people to the priests, to whom he speaks as to one person.
Rejected knowledge — Art and wilt be ignorant.
Seeing thou — O Israel, and you O priests, you have broken all the precepts of it.
Thy children — The people of Israel, the whole kingdom of the ten tribes.
This is too horrible to contemplate. The people in general and the priests (preachers) broke all the laws of God and rejected the knowledge of righteous behavior that was available to them. They were ignorant, and they were going to stay that way.

This is where the world is today for the very most part. Preachers reject the hard parts of the gospel. They don’t preach it. Christian congregations are for the most part happy with that. They don’t want to hear it anyway. That is at least in part why preachers don’t preach it. Itching ears want to hear only the easy stuff. Preachers are too willing to go along with it. You have ignorant preachers, ignorant congregations, and they are all going to stay that way!

But, the individual Christian doesn’t have to live like that. The individual Christian can take matters into his or her own hands. We can make use of the three helps mentioned by Spurgeon.

We can acknowledge that God is with us wherever we go. God is with us when we see His face, when we ‘feel’ like He is with us, and we ‘feel’ like He has left us alone. God is not scared of a fight. An obstacle or ‘red sea’ in our paths may cause us to panic, but God stays calm.

We can make use of the knowledge that God has provided. We can hide His word in our hearts. We can study to show ourselves approved.

And, we can go to the One who lives eternally to make intercession for His saints. John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes on Hebrews 7:25 says:
[25] Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.
Wherefore he is able to save to the uttermost — From all the guilt, power, root, and consequence of sin.
Them who come — By faith.
To God through him — As their priest.
Seeing he ever liveth to make intercession — That is, he ever lives and intercedes. He died once; he intercedes perpetually.

All this does not prevent us from facing stumbling blocks or Red Seas in the first place. It does provide us with instructions regarding how we are supposed to get through the sea. Just like the Israelites who cried to Moses, we are to cry to our intercessor. Moses was only a man. True, he was a mighty man, but just a mortal man. Our intercessor is Christ the Lord. He lives eternally. He never sleeps. He is always there to petition God the Father on our behalf.

I thank God for our three helps. They make our three obstacles seem much less frightening.

So, here we are, facing the new year. We have little knowledge of what will actually happen this year, but the forecast is grim.

I think we can say with certainty that we will all face a stumbling block that can only be crossed with divine help. We will be blessed if we only have one big obstacle this year.

We know that the hurt, terrors and enemies from our past will be following close on our heels.

We know that our Intercessor, the Lord Jesus Christ, ‘ever liveth to make intercession for His saints’. (Hebrews 7:25) Jesus Christ, the Barrister of barristers, never sleeps. He is never too busy to speak to the Father on our behalf. He will more than ‘speak’ for us. He will intercede for us. He will intervene for us. He will plead for us. He is our mediator between God and man. (1 Timothy 2:5)

In Matthew chapter 14 the disciples were caught in a great storm. Being out on the water, they were in danger of the boat sinking and drowning. Just like at the Israelites at the Red Sea, their help came in an unexpected way. Christ walked to them across the water. They were not only afraid of the storm, but apparently seeing Christ walking on water also frightened them. Christ reassured them immediately. Verse 27 says, ‘But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.’ In verse 32 we are told the wind ceased. In between verse 27 and 32 is the famous account of Peter walking on water, sinking, and being saved by Jesus.

Don’t you think the Israelites were frightened by the way of their salvation from the Egyptian army? I mean, even if the water was standing up like a wall, it probably took courage to walk down into the valley between the walls of water. But, it was God’s way of salvation, and their way of escape from the trouble behind them.

When the disciples were in the boat, their help came in the Person of Christ, but it frightened them when He walked across the storm to them.

Our help in whatever trials we face may at first appear frightening in itself just as it was to the disciples and the Israelites. A very real danger would be to turn back to the past in fear instead of going forward through the way of escape that God provides. It is to our great benefit to remember that it is God who leads us and allows obstacles to stand in our paths. Remember that God is with us. Remember our Intercessor, our Mediator, our Helper, Jesus Christ. If we do these things faithfully, we will we will be on our way to a victorious new year.

By the way, I don’t know why the Israelites doubted and grumbled after their great escape. We just need to be careful not to do that. If I were to be so bold as to add a fourth help to Spurgeon’s three helps, it would be ‘thanksgiving’. I Thessalonians 5:18 says, ‘In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.’ It is God’s will that we remain thankful for His wonderful goodness. I don’t think it is His will that we thank Him that someone is sick, or someone died, or for a divorce, or job loss, or family disputes. We should thank Him for His goodness, for our eternal security and our home in heaven, in the midst of trouble.

A really good song for this article and for a theme song for 2010 is “He is Able to Deliver Thee’. If you haven’t already memorized this song, this is the day to do it.

’Tis the grandest theme through the ages rung;
’Tis the grandest theme for a mortal tongue;
’Tis the grandest theme that the world e’er sung,
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”
He is able to deliver thee,
He is able to deliver thee;
Though by sin oppressed, go to Him for rest;
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”
’Tis the grandest theme in the earth or main;
’Tis the grandest theme for a mortal strain;
’Tis the grandest theme, tell the world again,
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”
’Tis the grandest theme, let the tidings roll,
To the guilty heart, to the sinful soul;
Look to God in faith, He will make thee whole,
“Our God is able to deliver thee.”

Barbara Henderson