ST. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH                                                          January 1, 2017                                                                             

Allyson Lucas

Your Choice:  Desert or Promised Land?

Numbers 13:1-3, 26-33/Numbers 14:1-12/Hebrews 11:32-40

 

God has really been speaking to my heart … through His Word … through Sabrina … through various examples in this congregation … through a book called, Lord, Change My Attitude (Before It’s Too Late). I would like to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned.

Let’s pretend

1       that we can enter a time machine to take us back to about 1300 years before the birth of Christ. Imagine being asked by Moses

2       to be a spy, to go into Canaan, THE Promised Land! Were your boots shaking or were you pumped up for the adventure? When you returned 40 days later, what kind of report did you bring to Moses? Did you speak of AMAZING food

3       – delicacies of monster grapes

4       and pomegranates

5       and figs? AND of “monster” people –

6       giants – who were strong and had large, fortified cities everywhere? Did you tell Moses it was an impossible mission? OR … like Joshua and Caleb, did you say:  “Let’s go! We’re ready to take on those guys and capture the land God promised to us!”?

 

7       What kind of spy are you:  fearful of all the obstacles in your way, or fearless, knowing God has already fought the battle? This is a great example of the 80/20 rule (well, maybe the 10/12 rule): ten spies believed it was impossible and two believed it was possible. Unfortunately, the majority “won” and, because of their disobedience and lack of faith in God’s ability to conquer the enemy,

 

8       they ended up wandering in the desert FORTY YEARS, when the journey could have taken only a little over one year!  God considered wiping out all those who complained and mocked and ridiculed and distrusted Him but Moses convinced God to give the people another chance … again.

9       Plan A had been: go and take the land; Plan B was to send spies to prepare for war; and, eventually, Plan C: only two (out of more than a million people) would be allowed to enter the Promised Land. God had promised them victory, however, they doubted He would come through for them.

 

10     Imagine that! Seriously? God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present One, who had been faithful in fulfilling promises from the time of Creation! During their time in the desert, God provided water and manna and quail for FORTY YEARS! Bamanna bread, manna matza, manna bannock …

 

11     roasted quail, fried quail, quail soup … they just got tired of the menu! And maybe, just maybe, that was God’s way of expressing His frustration with their complaining and doubts and fears and criticism and covetousness and rebellion! The only thing these bad attitudes achieved was sunburn, a

 

12     diet of cactus smoothies, and a bleacher seat as others entered the land that had been promised to them. Like the Children of Israel, sometimes, we end up in the “desert” and wonder how we got there. This past year has been like that for me. When I came to Peterborough, for a number of reasons over a number of years, I became physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually exhausted … “DONE”!

 

13     There’s a sign that expresses how I felt … like road-kill with its legs up in the air. That was me. Reflecting on this experience, I realized, as I became weaker and weaker, how I had tried to rely on my own strength, rather than God’s. And, while reading the book I mentioned, I was confronted with the fact that,

 

14     at the root of that, is doubt. When I considered all the “deserts” God had brought me through in my lifetime, my response didn’t make sense. However, I’m also human. Doubt is an attitude, “a pattern of thinking formed over a long period of time”. An attitude can be harmful or helpful. It is also something we choose. Like one struggling with drugs or alcohol, we have to admit we have a problem – agree with God that it is sin, ask for forgiveness, and seek help from Him.

 

15     Doubt is the absence of faith. It “is a lack of confidence that God will keep His promises … a settled and persistent choice to live with uncertainty”. As I pondered this, I realized that doubt is actually a feeling, not a fact. Had I chosen to walk by sight rather than by faith? Had I ignored the fact (and the reality in my life) that God has promised never to leave me nor forsake me? (ref) Had I refused to accept the certainty that He is greater in me than he that is in the world? (ref) Had I let fears overwhelm me, instead of placing my faith and trust in the One who is able to cast out all fear? My thought patterns – this battle in my mind – had me wandering in the desert. I was confronted with whether I was going to stay there for 40 years or move into the Promised Land. This desert mentality – comparing my situation to the past, to others, to how I wish things were … all the coulds, shoulds, and what ifs … was not healthy. It only took me to a very dry, lonely, desolate place. How I was thinking was affecting my life! And not in a positive way. I had a choice to make:

 

16     Was I going to wander in the desert for forty years or was I going to move into the Promised Land? Even though I said I believed in the Promised Land, the “land of milk and honey”, I wasn’t living like it.

 

17     There were giants in my life and I was letting them get the better of me. Doubt takes many forms: fear, anxiety, frustration and anger, withdrawal, bitterness.

 

18     My biggest giant was F-E-A-R: fear of not being good enough, fear of failure, fear of success … I lost focus. I put myself and my limitations under the microscope for intense examination rather than focusing on God.

 

19     Like the majority of the spies, I felt like a grasshopper compared to the giants, which was made worse by obsessing about the problem rather than seeking a solution. Those who choose to live in doubt will live it in the wilderness.

 

20     What are the “giants” in your life? Health? Finances? Lack of employment? World events? Fractured relationships? Singleness? Divorce? Widowhood? Life direction? Are you able to trust God, to have faith that He will keep His promises?

 

21     Introspection is like looking in a mirror. It can be scary because, once having seen what is there, we then have to decide whether or not to do something about it. The antidote to doubt is faith. When confronted by doubt, does it diminish or increase my faith? Does it cause me to grow or wither? Does it cause me to focus on the positive or the negative? Do I say, “I trust you God, but …”? God can handle our doubts. Sometimes we just need to have the freedom to be able to ask the questions. Visiting the desert of doubt is normal, but living there can be fatal. I wonder what it would have been like for the Children of Israel

 

22     if they’d had access to these suggestions from the internet regarding desert survival? [slide]

 

23     Everyone has faith – the capacity to trust. The question is: In what or whom have we placed our trust, our faith? In a job, beauty, youth, intelligence, salary, spouse? Going back to Egypt?

 

24     Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (KJV) or as the NIV states:  “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11 is often called faith’s hall of fame. In it, we see that “The OT believers looked forward to something by faith. We look back to something by faith. For them it was a promise; for us, what Christ did in dying and rising again and paying the penalty for our forgiveness is an established fact. Faith allowed all those people to be converted to God before the Cross. It allows all of us to be redeemed by looking back.” As God proved Himself faithful to all those mentioned in this list of great believers, He is proving Himself faithful in our lives today …

 

25     in the small things, in the big things, in the ordinary, in the unusual, in the supernatural. God shows up. He hasn’t let us down in the past, He walks with us in the present, and He’ll be there to meet us in the future. Faith is believing that God will keep His promises. It is not influenced by feelings or opinions.

 

26     Faith is ACTION – believing and acting in line with God’s promises. We believe that, despite our doubts and fears, God keeps His promises and is faithful to meet all our needs. When was the last time you truly trusted God for something?

 

Let us take a moment to reflect upon this.

 

 

ST. STEPHEN’S PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH                                                          January 1, 2017                                                                             

Allyson Lucas

Your Choice:  Desert or Promised Land?

Numbers 13:1-3, 26-33/Numbers 14:1-12/Hebrews 11:32-40

 

God has really been speaking to my heart … through His Word … through Sabrina … through various examples in this congregation … through a book called, Lord, Change My Attitude (Before It’s Too Late). I would like to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned.

Let’s pretend

1       that we can enter a time machine to take us back to about 1300 years before the birth of Christ. Imagine being asked by Moses

2       to be a spy, to go into Canaan, THE Promised Land! Were your boots shaking or were you pumped up for the adventure? When you returned 40 days later, what kind of report did you bring to Moses? Did you speak of AMAZING food

3       – delicacies of monster grapes

4       and pomegranates

5       and figs? AND of “monster” people –

6       giants – who were strong and had large, fortified cities everywhere? Did you tell Moses it was an impossible mission? OR … like Joshua and Caleb, did you say:  “Let’s go! We’re ready to take on those guys and capture the land God promised to us!”?

 

7       What kind of spy are you:  fearful of all the obstacles in your way, or fearless, knowing God has already fought the battle? This is a great example of the 80/20 rule (well, maybe the 10/12 rule): ten spies believed it was impossible and two believed it was possible. Unfortunately, the majority “won” and, because of their disobedience and lack of faith in God’s ability to conquer the enemy,

 

8       they ended up wandering in the desert FORTY YEARS, when the journey could have taken only a little over one year!  God considered wiping out all those who complained and mocked and ridiculed and distrusted Him but Moses convinced God to give the people another chance … again.

9       Plan A had been: go and take the land; Plan B was to send spies to prepare for war; and, eventually, Plan C: only two (out of more than a million people) would be allowed to enter the Promised Land. God had promised them victory, however, they doubted He would come through for them.

 

10     Imagine that! Seriously? God, the Creator of heaven and earth, the all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present One, who had been faithful in fulfilling promises from the time of Creation! During their time in the desert, God provided water and manna and quail for FORTY YEARS! Bamanna bread, manna matza, manna bannock …

 

11     roasted quail, fried quail, quail soup … they just got tired of the menu! And maybe, just maybe, that was God’s way of expressing His frustration with their complaining and doubts and fears and criticism and covetousness and rebellion! The only thing these bad attitudes achieved was sunburn, a

 

12     diet of cactus smoothies, and a bleacher seat as others entered the land that had been promised to them. Like the Children of Israel, sometimes, we end up in the “desert” and wonder how we got there. This past year has been like that for me. When I came to Peterborough, for a number of reasons over a number of years, I became physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually exhausted … “DONE”!

 

13     There’s a sign that expresses how I felt … like road-kill with its legs up in the air. That was me. Reflecting on this experience, I realized, as I became weaker and weaker, how I had tried to rely on my own strength, rather than God’s. And, while reading the book I mentioned, I was confronted with the fact that,

 

14     at the root of that, is doubt. When I considered all the “deserts” God had brought me through in my lifetime, my response didn’t make sense. However, I’m also human. Doubt is an attitude, “a pattern of thinking formed over a long period of time”. An attitude can be harmful or helpful. It is also something we choose. Like one struggling with drugs or alcohol, we have to admit we have a problem – agree with God that it is sin, ask for forgiveness, and seek help from Him.

 

15     Doubt is the absence of faith. It “is a lack of confidence that God will keep His promises … a settled and persistent choice to live with uncertainty”. As I pondered this, I realized that doubt is actually a feeling, not a fact. Had I chosen to walk by sight rather than by faith? Had I ignored the fact (and the reality in my life) that God has promised never to leave me nor forsake me? (ref) Had I refused to accept the certainty that He is greater in me than he that is in the world? (ref) Had I let fears overwhelm me, instead of placing my faith and trust in the One who is able to cast out all fear? My thought patterns – this battle in my mind – had me wandering in the desert. I was confronted with whether I was going to stay there for 40 years or move into the Promised Land. This desert mentality – comparing my situation to the past, to others, to how I wish things were … all the coulds, shoulds, and what ifs … was not healthy. It only took me to a very dry, lonely, desolate place. How I was thinking was affecting my life! And not in a positive way. I had a choice to make:

 

16     Was I going to wander in the desert for forty years or was I going to move into the Promised Land? Even though I said I believed in the Promised Land, the “land of milk and honey”, I wasn’t living like it.

 

17     There were giants in my life and I was letting them get the better of me. Doubt takes many forms: fear, anxiety, frustration and anger, withdrawal, bitterness.

 

18     My biggest giant was F-E-A-R: fear of not being good enough, fear of failure, fear of success … I lost focus. I put myself and my limitations under the microscope for intense examination rather than focusing on God.

 

19     Like the majority of the spies, I felt like a grasshopper compared to the giants, which was made worse by obsessing about the problem rather than seeking a solution. Those who choose to live in doubt will live it in the wilderness.

 

20     What are the “giants” in your life? Health? Finances? Lack of employment? World events? Fractured relationships? Singleness? Divorce? Widowhood? Life direction? Are you able to trust God, to have faith that He will keep His promises?

 

21     Introspection is like looking in a mirror. It can be scary because, once having seen what is there, we then have to decide whether or not to do something about it. The antidote to doubt is faith. When confronted by doubt, does it diminish or increase my faith? Does it cause me to grow or wither? Does it cause me to focus on the positive or the negative? Do I say, “I trust you God, but …”? God can handle our doubts. Sometimes we just need to have the freedom to be able to ask the questions. Visiting the desert of doubt is normal, but living there can be fatal. I wonder what it would have been like for the Children of Israel

 

22     if they’d had access to these suggestions from the internet regarding desert survival? [slide]

 

23     Everyone has faith – the capacity to trust. The question is: In what or whom have we placed our trust, our faith? In a job, beauty, youth, intelligence, salary, spouse? Going back to Egypt?

 

24     Hebrews 11:1 tells us that “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (KJV) or as the NIV states:  “To have faith is to be sure of the things we hope for, to be certain of the things we cannot see.” Hebrews 11 is often called faith’s hall of fame. In it, we see that “The OT believers looked forward to something by faith. We look back to something by faith. For them it was a promise; for us, what Christ did in dying and rising again and paying the penalty for our forgiveness is an established fact. Faith allowed all those people to be converted to God before the Cross. It allows all of us to be redeemed by looking back.” As God proved Himself faithful to all those mentioned in this list of great believers, He is proving Himself faithful in our lives today …

 

25     in the small things, in the big things, in the ordinary, in the unusual, in the supernatural. God shows up. He hasn’t let us down in the past, He walks with us in the present, and He’ll be there to meet us in the future. Faith is believing that God will keep His promises. It is not influenced by feelings or opinions.

 

26     Faith is ACTION – believing and acting in line with God’s promises. We believe that, despite our doubts and fears, God keeps His promises and is faithful to meet all our needs. When was the last time you truly trusted God for something?

 

Let us take a moment to reflect upon this.