Facing Our Giants WHO IS ON THE LORD’S SIDE? God has the victory over everything. Psalm 118:1; 5-7, Romans 8:31-32; 37-39 Pastor Paul Mundey 11/24-25/12 Historically, the Notre Dame Football team is one of the most victorious ever! But in recent years, they’ve been in a real slump; but most recently, they’ve come out of their slump. How? Largely because coach Brian Kelly, has worked overtime, to remind the fighting Irish of their victorious legacy. Why he’s reemphasized the slogan above the door of the Irish locker room: ‘play like a champion today.’ He’s added extra gold to the team’s already golden helmets causing them to shine even brighter. And he’s re-created his own version of the famed ‘four horsemen of Notre Dame,’ on the defensive line, recruiting some of the best linemen ever. But probably Kelly’s most impressive initiative has been to remind his players of the mosaic rising high above the goal-post at one end of Notre Dame Stadium. Why it’s a mosaic of Jesus, on the front of the Notre Dame Library adjacent to the stadium, with His hands lifted up – nicknamed: touchdown Jesus, as Jesus’ hands resemble those of a referee after a touchdown. The inference: the Irish are not meant for defeat; the Irish are meant for victory, as they dedicate ‘each and every’ game unto the Lord. Friends, we’re meant for victory as we dedicate each and every game, each and every moment, unto the Lord. Sure we all get into a slump; but ultimately we’re called to rediscover our victorious legacy in Jesus. When all is said and done, that’s the ultimate message of the David and Goliath story; but not just the David and Goliath story, but the whole of scripture. For the entire bible points to the ultimate victory of God, in spite of the heartache, the pain, the giants of life. And so with the psalmist we “…give thanks to the Lord -- for he is good…In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered me…[For] the Lord is with me, I will not be afraid. What [then] can man do to me? The Lord is with me…I will look in triumph on my enemies…” (Psalm 118:1; 5-7). It’s interesting: the phrase – “…the Lord is with me…” is more literally translated – “…the Lord is on my side…” I like that. I mean, others have abandoned me – betrayed me – spoken ill of me – but the Lord is on my side – loyal, resourceful – power-full -- on all occasions. In that regard, the Lord is the ultimate James Bond or Superman, "faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive…able to leap tall buildings in a single bound" – coming to our rescue each and every time! And so where are you in a slump this morning, where do you need rescue? Well, the Lord is on your side -- but how do we appropriate His loyalty and power in fresh ways? For starters: Let Go Of Every Idol, Every ‘If Only.’ It surprises me how many of us still don’t ‘put our full weight’ on the Lord. In other words, we don’t totally trust God’s loyalty -- giving our loyalty, at least in part, to other entities, even other gods -- ‘just in case’ the God of scripture doesn’t come through. The Israelites did this all the time! The classic scene is in Exodus 32, as the Israelites are worshipping the famed Golden Cafe. But Moses is not amused; and so Moses “…took the calf [the Israelites] had made and burned it…and ground it to power -- scattered it on the water -- and made the Israelites drink it…” (Exodus 32:20). Talk about consequences – yuck; but trusting other entities and gods, other than God is distasteful! But beyond consequences is the need for change. And “…then Moses stood in the gate of the camp and said
-- “Who is on the LORD's side? Come to me.” And all the sons of Levi gathered around him…” (Exodus 32:26, English Standard Version). Friends, just as the sons of Levi gathered and renewed their loyalty to the Lord, we need to come and renew our loyalty to the Lord. For ‘go figure’: if the Lord is on our side – we need to be on the Lord’s side, letting go of every other desire, other than a desire for him! For the longest time I didn’t think I had other gods or idols; why I was totally loyal to the Lord. But then I stumbled upon the writings of Deb Wolf, who identified an idol I had never heard of -the ‘if only’ idol. http://countingmyblessings.com/letting-go-of-my-idols/ If only I had more money – if only I was prettier – if only I was skinner – if only I had a spouse – if only I had a child – if only I had more friends – if only I had a better job – if only the Chicago Cubs would finally win – then I’ll be happy, then I’ll be fulfilled! Now as Wolf goes on to note, “…there’s nothing wrong with wanting these things…” – but if our life depends on these things – then we’re worshipping something -- we’re ‘wrapped up’ in something -- other than God. Friends: we’ll never know victory, if we’re ‘wrapped up’ in something other than God! So let go of compulsive ‘if onlys’ -craving only God -- and His fulfillment and His power! For God’s power is amazing and all encompassing. Why? -- because God is so resourceful and so giving. And so Focus On The Incredible Generosity Of God. The central validation of this tendency for the Apostle Paul was found in God’s gift of Jesus. “God did not keep back his own Son” – Paul writes in Romans 8 -- but he gave him for us. If God did this, won’t he freely give us everything else?” (Romans 8:32, Contemporary English Version). Notice Paul doesn’t say God gives sparingly; Paul says God gives everything. Sadly, most of us don’t visualize a generous God, looking elsewhere for generosity and power; but friends, look no further: our God gives in big ways! There’s a great story about a little boy who went to a neighborhood store with his mother. Well, in due course, the store owner, an older man, opened up a large jar of suckers. “Reach in and help yourself!,” he said to the boy. But surprise, surprise: the boy got bashful and backed away. And with that, the store owner reached in and pulled out the biggest handful of suckers ever, giving them to the kid. Outside the mother was incredulous. “Son, why did you back away and get so bashful; I’ve never seen you do that before?” “Oh, that’s easy Mom! Didn’t you notice? That’s guy’s hands -- were a whole lot bigger -- than mine!!!” So too for God’s hands; they’re a whole lot bigger than ours! That’s why we can trust God in our greatest hour of need. One of my favorite examples of God’s generosity is Prophet Elijah. Elijah was constantly in need, and God constantly provided in the most creative, giving ways. Why, in I Kings 17:6 – God provides for Elijah by sending ravens. And “…the ravens brought [Elijah] bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening…” (1 Kings 17:6). In 1 Kings 17:15-16 God provides for Elijah by sending the widow at Zarephath as food materializes “…every day for Elijah… [with] the jar of flour [never] used up and the jug of oil [never running] dry…” (1 Kings 17:15-16). But it gets better. In 1 Kings 19:5-6 God provides for Elijah by sending an angel. And the angel touched Elijah -- in his weakest hour, I might add -- and said, ‘Get up and eat. [And Elijah] looked around and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals [no less!] and a jar of water…” (I Kings 19:5-6). Amazing! But that’s our God providing for our needs in multi-faceted – ingenious – bountiful -- ways. And so don’t think of God as withholding and stingy; think of God as multi-faceted – ingenious – bountiful; look for ravens – widows – angels – God’s representatives – to provide nourishment – to provide victory – at just the right hour, in just the right way. A. B. Simpson says it best: God “… [gives us]…great fortune, [overtime, placing] thousands and millions at [our disposal] -- but He [gives us the check] book with…one condition -- “You [can] never draw more than you
need… [But know] every time a [check’s needed, it’s freely given, creatively]…in [Jesus]…name… [who always provides…]” – A.B. Simpson. For God’s provision is bountiful – cutting through any challenge – any tragedy – any giant! And so: Develop A Triumphant Mindset, Conquering All Things Through Christ! I mean Paul is emphatic in declaring that in all things “….we are more than conquerors through [the God] who loved us [through Jesus]…” (Romans 8:37). And so Paul ‘just says it’: “…I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels, nor demons, neither the present nor the future nor any powers neither height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the [resources of God] the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord…” (Romans 8:38-39). It’s interesting the phrase: “…I am convinced…” (Romans 8:38) means literally: I am sure! Translated: ‘I know, that I know, that I know!’ Friends: God wants us convinced -- sure -- to ‘know, that we know, that we know’ – that God can cut through and conquer anything! For nothing ultimately can separate us from His resources – His power – His triumph -- His victory! Why the God in Christ can lift us out of anything! One of my favorites stories concerns a time when my kids and I were walking in back of our house in Chicago. Now you need to realize the area right in back of our house was largely dirt, because it was graded for a new housing development. But we loved walking there, especially after it rained. After it rained there were mud puddles and slippery slopes and all kinds of fun things to do! Well until one day; I mean, one day as we were walking after a rain -- I lost my daughter Sarah. I mean I looked to the left and I looked to the right and no Sarah. And so I said to her brother: “Where’s Sarah?” And Peter said: “I don’t know.” But then we both craned our necks and looked behind – and there was Sarah! – struck in the mud; I mean little Sarah was literally stuck, not able to move her little boots, crying away! And so Peter and I turned, rushed back and came to Sarah’s aid. Specifically, Peter got on one side -- and I got on the other side – and we lifted Sarah -- ever so gently, but ever so decisively – we lifted Sarah -- out of the muck, out of the mud – and got her moving again! Friends: God wants to lift us out of the mud, out of the muck. God wants to get us moving again. I mean wherever we’re stuck, immobilized – in a slump – God wants to come to our aid. For our God is the ultimate super hero, “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, able to leap tall buildings in a single bound” – able to come to our rescue every time. Let God come to your rescue! For the psalmist writes: “…in my anguish I cried to the Lord and he answered me. For the Lord [is on my side], I will not be afraid. What can man do to me? The Lord [is on my side]…” (Psalm 118:5-7). So why ‘wrap’ yourself up in anything else; ‘wrap yourself up only in God. Look for ravens, widows, and angels. For in Christ, you do have great fortune; a check book with thousands and millions at our disposal. Thus “…we are more than conquerors…” (Romans 8:37). Thus ‘we know, that we know, that we know’ that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons…nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the incredible triumph found in Jesus (Romans 8:38-39). Friends: we need to remember that legacy. Especially when in a slump -- we need to remember our legacy in Jesus. For we were born to ‘play like a champion’ – to go for the victory – to not be defeated – no matter the challenge – no matter the anguish – no matter the giants of life!