1. When do you find it most difficult to rest in God – to trust Him and his goodness regardless of your circumstances?
2. Where do you feel you place your hope most often? Is it in yourself? Your abilities? The amount of money in your bank account? etc.?
3. What needs to change for you to ensure God is your source of hope, value, and security?
Good morning Hope City! So glad to see you here today. My name is Peter and I’m the pastor here. You guys are looking good today. You’re looking happy, and in fact, some might even say you’re looking Blessed!
In week 1 of our series The Blessed Life, we defined being blessed as The Blessed Life = God working on your behalf. You see, when you understand that God is working on your behalf you’ll begin to understand that you are incredibly blessed. When God works on your behalf that means that He is not working against you and your efforts. How many of you have ever wondered if maybe you were working on something and God was working against you?
This week in my Tuesday morning Men’s Connect Group we were having breakfast and a conversation, and I asked the question when is it the hardest for you to Rest in God? Now, I’m not gonna share what everyone else said, but I will share what I said… The hardest times for me to REST in God, or to be at peace in God is when my life feels out of control.
It feels like at any given time there are 4-5 plates spinning in the air and I’m running from plate to plate trying to keep them spinning. Some days that works just fine… And then other days it feels like those plates are all going to crash at the same time. That feels out of control to me. And then when I feel out of control, I tend to feel less than blessed.
What do you think I say when the plates are all spinning? Man, I love having so many plates! I love being able to keep them going… look at me! How about when they’re losing their balance? WHOSE GREAT IDEA WAS IT TO START SPINNING PLATES ANYWAY? Right? When life doesn’t feel blessed, my attitude and attention tends to shift.
But what about you? What happens when life doesn’t go your way, or when life doesn’t look blessed to you? You know… when the “BLESSED LIFE” seems to be out of your reach…
Maybe the test results came back negative and you’re wondering what happened to all those years of healthy living… Or why me?
Maybe the House Deal fell through for the second time, and it just doesn’t seem like the finances are ever going to line up for it.
Maybe Divorce is now the Discussion. This couldn’t be… We were so in love. What happened?
What happens when life doesn’t go your way, or look the way that you thought it was going to? I imagine that if you are anything like me, you start to reel life in, and grab life by the horns. There is a temptation that sneaks in right in the midst of your disappointment. The temptation tends to be we shift what we’re focusing on.
We focus on the lack of control or the lack of results and in doing so, our mind naturally moves from where it was to now solve the problem. And in doing so, we focus on this thing more than anything else, and we make it the most important thing in our life at any and all costs. We start to depend on it to give us what we were lacking, to help us out of bad situations, and make us feel better about the situation.
The trouble with this is that when we set this up, what we are creating is what the Bible calls an idol. Let’s define an idolatry as “Looking to something other than God for your hope, value, or security.” We can make just about anything an idol. It doesn’t have to look like this… In fact most idols won’t look like this. They actually look a lot more like TECHNOLOGY. It can be an idol. The newest and best tech… Or Acceptance. ACCEPTANCE can be an idol. Searching for the group of people to affirm you. MONEY can be an idol. Both stocking up on it, and also spending it. Each of those actions can be turned into an idol. Do you know what else we make into idols in our life? FAMILY. Our family can be an idol.
This is what Satan was trying to get Jesus to do in Matthew chapter 4. Do you remember this scene? Jesus is in the wilderness and He’s fasted for 40 days, and then Satan comes to Him and offers Him food and drink. Then he offers him power, and ultimately Satan says, I’ll give you everything you see if you worship me. And Jesus says NO!
The problem is I’m not Jesus. And last time I checked you weren’t either. Which means, if we’re not careful, we can look for HOPE, VALUE, and SECURITY in something or someone that will only let you down and disappoint you all over again.
Today I want to invite you to turn with me to a story that’s found in the OLD TESTAMENT in the book of Numbers 21 that’s page 107 in the Bibles around you. Right now, we are jumping into the story that many of you are familiar with, Moses has led the nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt, which let me remind you was awful. Slavery in every form is reprehensible, and God heard the cries of the Israelites and sent Moses to lead them out of slavery. Now they ran into some trouble… and they were being punished for their disobedience and disbelief. They were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, and God was providing for them the entire way. And yet, life started to look a little less than blessed. Look what happens here…
4 They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; 5 they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” 1
Don’t miss this piece of the story. They have acknowledged where they’ve come from but they are unwilling to accept that it is enough. They deserve more. They deserve to be in their final home, the promised land. It wasn’t good enough that they were removed from 400 years of slavery, they wanted to choose what they were going to eat while in the desert. They were tired of this food that God was providing for them free of charge everyday. The only thing they had to do was go out and pick it up. Essentially it was the UBER Eats for the nation of Israel. Like… seriously, these guys were the laziest, and yet they were complaining about no bread?
One of the first things that we need to see and remind ourselves of is that Pt. 1 INGRATITUDE IS BLINDING. When we ignore gratitude it gets us into trouble! Think about Adam and Eve… their issue was that all they could do was see the one tree that they couldn’t have rather than the hundreds, or thousands of trees they could have! The same thing rings true for you and me. We miss out on all we do have because we’re blinded by what we don’t have.
We start comparing ourselves, our lives to those around us, or even worse, those people that we’re connected to, but don’t really know. You know like all your friends on Facebook.
What ends up happening? They go on vacation, and then what do you do? You remind yourself that you weren’t on vacation. The nation of Israel looked around and started to reminisce… remember when we were in Egypt? We didn’t have to eat this nasty food. And they cursed God and Moses. They were missing out on what God had done already, what God was doing, and what He was preparing for their future. They couldn’t see it, because they were blinded by ingratitude.
When you and I can’t see, we stumble. Where are my fellow contact wearers, how about all of you with glasses? Alright, the rest of you… we officially hate you. You get to go to bed and wake up and just see. We on the other hand have to hunt around for our glasses in order to see. Sometimes in the middle of the night I’ll get up and I’m pretty sure that my kids like to play games with me… Let’s move the furniture around. Let’s put laundry baskets in random places, or even worse… let’s just put legos all over the floor for dad to walk on.
Why is this a problem for me? Because my vision is impaired. I tend to stumble and stub my toes.
This is exactly what is happening with the Israelites. They complain, and God says, okay… You’re gonna curse me, and moses? Let’s see how you like it when I’m working against you, and not with you.
6 Then the Lord sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. 7 The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the Lord and against you. Pray that the Lord will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people.
Pause here for a second… We need to see something… Sin has always led to death. Sin, living life on your own, according to your own plan, refusing to live life the way that God intended us to live. The outcome of sin has been death, and it still is death. And the people knew that they sinned… Uh oh… Moses… please pray.
8 The Lord said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, he lived. 2
God could have ignored His people. After all they deserved it. They sinned, they turned their back on God, and they were ungrateful… but in His love and grace He provided a remedy for them. Moses was to make a snake out of bronze and mount it on a pole. Strange to make another snake… when the very thing that was causing their death was snakes. But for these people, their salvation came from looking up to this bronze snake. They were healed and given their life back.
And as you can imagine, they were thrilled! What good news! People weren’t dying from snake bites anymore. So what did they do? They kept the snake around. FOR YEARS. In 2 Kings 18 we find that the nation of Israel took a turn. This bronze snake now had a name, and they burned incense to it… They put it on display for people to worship. For years they had this image in a position of prominence. Not as a memorial, but as an altar.
Do you see what Israel did? The misplaced the blessings of God. The looked and saw what God did for them and in turn they put it in the place of God. If you want to live the blessed life, we’re reminded today that PT. 2 THE BLESSINGS OF GOD DON’T BELONG IN THE PLACE OF GOD. It is easy for us to see what God has done for us and turn the goodness of God into a god in our life. That becomes what we worship. That becomes what gets our attention. So then God is ultimately turned into a dispenser of good things. But what happens when what God gives us doesn’t match up with what we feel is good for us? All of a sudden we now have a problem. We make God’s blessings into God’s identity.
We do this all the time. When someone asks you to describe or define yourself… what do you say? It can be hard right? Ultimately we are basing that question on what we’ve based our identity on. Go check out your social profile… what does that say about you. Mine for example says, “Husband, Father, Church Planter, Pastor, Spearfisherman, and Terrible Golfer”. It’s how I’ve defined myself. What happens if anyone of those things is no longer true… What would happen to my identity? This is why it becomes so easy for these good things to turn into bad things and slip into idolatry? Why? Because we’re so fearful that if we take our eyes off of them for a minute, they’re going to slip away. What defines you demands your energy and attention.
If it’s wealth, than you’re going to ensure that you remain in a position of financial affluence, otherwise you are not who you thought you were. If it’s relationships, you’re going to do everything that you can to please people in order not to have them turn their back on you and lose those relationships.
This is what Israel did with the blessings of God. They turned the blessings of God into a god itself. Until, a king by the name of Hezekiah comes into power… Look at what happens when Hezekiah steps in…
Hezekiah son of Ahaz king of Judah began to reign. 2 He was twenty-five years old when he became king…3 He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done. 4 He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles. He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)
2 Kings 18:1-4
Hezekiah comes in and says, not under my watch. Not in my house, not in my land… we are going to set this right again. There will be no worship of idols, or anything other than God. What did he do? He destroyed everything that was vying for attention, and worship. Look what happened:
5 Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. 6 He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. 7 And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook.3 2 Kings 18:5-7
Hezekiah trusted God. He didn’t waver in his attention… He obeyed. And guess what, GOD WAS WITH HIM. This is another way of scripture saying that God was working on His behalf. Hezekiah was living the Blessed Life.
One of the keys to living the blessed life is that you and I have got to get rid of anything that is trying to get the attention in your life that belongs to God. If we learn anything from Hezekiah it is that we need to PT 3 REMOVE YOUR IDOLS BY REFOCUSING ON GOD. This is the quickest way to get rid of idolatry in your life. Refocus. Hezekiah was diligent to refocus his people on Jesus. There was no wondering what was going on. He said we’re going to get rid of these things that steal the attention and focus from God.
It’s interesting to me that many of us in this room would quickly defend ourselves and say, I don’t have any idols. That sounds so extreme and quite honestly tribal. We’re more sophisticated than that, aren’t we?
But if I could peel back the layers of my heart and expose my heart to you, I would tell you that inside my heart there is too much attention to what people think about me. There is too much attention to keeping up with people, and making sure that everyone is happy and pleased with me. And what happens is I start defining myself around what you all think of me rather than what God thinks of me. It’s easy for me to turn perception, and people pleasing into idolatry.
Idolatry stems from wanting to control God. We want Him in our image so we can understand everything He does. We want Him personally tailored to our specifications, so we will not have to change. We want a God who favors our particular sin, so we will have no need to repent. We want God to be a flexible clay doll to keep on the shelf, in our car or on our desk that we can remold when we want.
Let me remind you of what God says to His people, in the 10 commandments. Here in the second commandment, look at this:
8“You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 9. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 10but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. 4Deuteronomy 5:8-10
There is a stark warning here… Don’t do it! Be careful with what you look to to provide your with Hope, Value, and Security. That is reserved only for God. God promises LOVE for those who keep His commandments and punishment for those who don’t.
IDOLATRY’S PROMISES ARE ALWAYS EMPTY. GOD’S PROMISES ARE ALWAYS FULFILLED.
Don’t settle for an empty life, don’t settle for a trap. God has an even greater plan for you, and your life. This morning if you’ve done that… maybe you’ve put something else in the position or place that was reserved only for God, let me encourage you… today you can do exactly what Hezekiah did. You can remove those altars, remove those habits, get rid of those things. Put them back in their proper place.
Some of you today, have been blinded by ingratitude. You’ve missed out on the goodness of God and all that He’s done for you. And you want to change that. There is no better way to level set then by coming to the communion table and remembering what Jesus has done for you on the cross. On the cross, JESUS was lifted high. Just like Moses lifted that snake high for all of Israel to see, the cross lifted Jesus high, and he was put on display for the world to see. Satan thought that he had won the day! And yet, God was just beginning. When Jesus hung on the cross, he took on the sins of the world. Those things that we do that grieve the heart of God, our hurts, our habits, and our hang-ups. Jesus died in your place. Remember, that Romans 6:23 says, “the wages of sin is death… BUT the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Paul goes on to say, “What will separate us from the love of Christ?” “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38-39
You next step may be to repent… to ask God to forgive you for the things that you have allowed to be in your life that don’t belong there.
Maybe your next step is to be baptized. You’ve made that decision, but you want to publicly seal that decision, you want the world around you to know that God has done something new in your life. In 2 weeks we are going to be baptizing people in each service. I’d love that to be you too.
Maybe today you’re saying, you know what Peter, I’ve never put Christ as the center of my life. I’ve never placed my faith in Jesus. Today could be that moment for you.