This and That
In the Book of the Acts of the Apostles, on the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell on the assembled praying Church and they began to speak with other tongues and behave in a most abnormal way, the apostle Peter stood up in the middle of it all, and without making any attempt to impose some “order” on the seeming “chaos” announced to those who had gathered, looking at it all in amazement that …
“these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is but the third hour of the day. But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; Acts 2:15-18
In other words Peter was reminding them of Joel’s vision of the last days, or the last age, the Church age, in which God would pour out of His Holy Spirit on human flesh. What they were seeing, THIS seemingly drunken state of the new Church, is THAT outpouring. There could not have been THIS without THAT.
My Sermon today entitled “This and That” is about consequences. Its about natural and spiritual order, its about sowing and reaping, …. Essentially I am trying to teach you today that there are no short cuts to success in the Kingdom of God. Or in other words, You can’t have THIS without THAT. Many of us want the Blessing, the Benefit, the Bounty that flows from God , we want all THIS, yet
when it comes to the relationship, the rules, the rights and the responsibilities – we don’t welcome THAT. We want THIS without THAT.
Let me illustrate what I mean. Most Women desire Motherhood, although there may be some exceptions. Most of the women I know or have been acquainted with, long to cradle a tiny baby in their arms and call it “mine”. Even those who have had children, are often impatient to cuddle and care for grand-children. But before any of us can hold a child on our knee, there has to have been a pregnancy and usually a painful labour and delivery. “You cant have one without the other!” Of course you may personally adopt or foster a child not your own, but even for that child there was a pregnancy period and a delivery, both of which for its mother had its own pains and problems. You can’t have THIS without first having THAT! I hope you see what I’m getting at?
The Kingdom of God, Gods ways of working and wrestling with his children follow the same pattern. Before we can Graduate into the “Glories” of the Kingdom, we must first go through Gods Schooling and Pass Gods examinations. God has to prove to Himself, and mores significantly, He has to prove to us that we are what we say we are, and we mean what we think we mean. God has to see that we are more than “all talk”. If we are going to talk the talk, then we must also walk the walk! As a preacher, I am probably much more aware of this than most, for I can’t hope to teach and instruct you in working the Word of God in YOUR life,
if I am not working that same Word, in MINE!
I must first learn the lessons in Gods schoolroom, and pass
his tests before I can become qualified to instruct you.
Let me tell you about Stephen. I know he does not mind me telling this story, I’ve asked his permission. Stephens Dad is a mate of mine, we regularly attend the same Gym, and for years now have shared in many Theological debates and discussions with the other lads who meet there. A couple of years ago, when I first met Stephen, (this young man in his early twenties) I was delighted to learn that he too, like his Dad, was a Christian. Yet when he turned around to walk away into the steam room or sauna area, I was horrified to notice that he had a Large Cross tattooed on his back, stretching almost from his neck to his waistline.
Now I have no difficulty with anyone wearing a Cross, but I must confess that seeing Stephen sporting such a large Cross on his back, caused me concern. I recon I can fully and absolutely understand the sentiment and motivation that urged him to have or to take such an “adornment” on his back. After all, Christ carried a Cross on His back for you and I, and for Stephen too, and I recon that Stephen was simply bearing testimony that he too was willing to carry a cross on his back for his Saviour. Some might say “worthy of applause” and I might have joined in at a time, were I not familiar with today’s text.
What I fear my dear young Brother Stephen was and maybe still is blissfully unaware of, is that you cant have “THIS without THAT”. You see for all of us, making a statement, whether it be in daily conversation with another person, or in a sermon from the Pulpit, or on radio or television, or a statement tattooed on the body, God must TRY or TEST us on those things. So when we say “I’ll carry a Cross for you
Lord”- God has every right to respond, “Can you really carry
a cross for me?” “Can you carry disappointment, can you
carry loss, can you carry betrayal, can you carry pain – these are real crosses?” When we say “I’ll believe you Lord for my healing” God has to say right back to us, “Can you really believe me for your healing, even if it doesn’t show up for six months or a year”? “Will you believe me if things get worse instead of better for a while, will you still hold out –
“he that endures unto the end is saved” When we say “I’m holding on to you Lord for my financial breakthrough” God has to say “what if I take everything away before I give it all back, can you still trust me”? “What if you have to be declared “bankrupt” will you still have faith in my love”?
Sometimes you just cannot have THIS without THAT.
God must always test our words by our works to avoid any confusion of spirit within. Otherwise we walk in confusion and not in truth.
So be cautious when you pray, be careful how you ask and what you ask for, because before we can get to the Blessing, the Benefit, and the Bounty that flows from God, we must take on board the relationship, the rules, the rights and the responsibilities he requires of us. If you are going to build Champion Muscle, then you are going to have to do a Champion work-out. If you are going to have a Triumph, then first you must face the Trial. If you are going to have a Testimony then you must first sit the Test. If you are going to be Victorious, then first you must engage in the Fight.
You can’t have THIS without THAT.
In the Garden of Gethsemane, and just before his Crucifixion,
Jesus prayed that “if it be possible let this cup pass from me” (Matthew 26:39) but his experience shows us that if you wish to wear a crown, you must first carry a cross.
You can’t have this without that. In Acts 14, they stoned the Apostle Paul and left him for dead, carrying his body outside the city, yet most recon that it was at that very time that he was caught up momentarily into Heaven and he speaks about it in 2 Corinthians 12: 2 – yet tries to hide his own identity saying …
“I knew a man in Christ above fourteen years ago, (whether in the body, I cannot tell; or whether out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) such a one caught up to the third heaven. And I knew such a man, (whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth;) How that he was caught up into paradise, and heard unspeakable words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one will I glory: yet of myself
I will not glory, but in mine infirmities“.
There’s nothing pleasant about being stoned, – people are throwing rocks at you, and they hurt, and they didn’t stop until they thought he was dead, (and maybe he was dead – who knows) but if so, God gave him back life after having first given him a Holy and Heavenly revelation. He had to have THIS before he could have had THAT! This is why writing to young Timothy, he is able to say …
“ Persecutions, afflictions, which came unto me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra; what persecutions I endured: but out of them all the Lord delivered me. Yea, and all that will live Godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution“. 2 Tim 3:11-12
We must realize that Tests Trials and Troubles can all be instruments in the hands of God to chisel us out, mould us
and make us in the image and likeness of His Son. God does not want us to rest, or settle in the past or in what we used to be. Sometimes we can desire to go back, back to the good old
days, back to our childhood days, back to our school days, back to where we once were. But if our focus is always in our Past, we can have no Future. We must learn to let go of the past and claim the present and press towards the future.
Now there may well be things in the past that are both precious and at the same time things that were painful. Sometimes I am asked if I had my life to live over again would I do things any differently? Of course if I had that opportunity, or that ability I would change some things. I have made many mistakes, I would have done some things differently.
But consider this:
That if a beautiful Diamond had not been through a cutting process it would not look like it does. If I had not been through the fires I’ve been through, then I would not be the Man that I am. I would be a different person to the one
you are listening to today!
In 1 Peter 4:12-13 we read
“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also
with exceeding joy“.
God is not a type of Santa Clause, who gives you what you want, when you want it and how you want it. God will only give you what is best for you, and he won’t give anything to you unless you can handle it, and handle it right. Your faith must stand trial. No matter how called, or talented, or gifted, or enlightened you may be, you will still have trouble, you
will still need the friction that polishes the diamond and beautifies its formation. You’ll still need the furnace and the fire that hardens the clay and makes the pot usable and
function-able. (And although he may not take you out of the fire, God will be a thermostat) He knows the way that you take and when you are about to crack, God cools it and gives you a break. He is God in the midst of every fire, and it is
his mercy alone that will bring you out. God did not deliver
the 3 Hebrew slaves from the fire, he delivered them in the fire.
He did not deliver Daniel from the Lions Den, he delivered him in the Lions den. God will get into the trouble with you.
For every trial and test there will be a Glory, but you can’t have THIS without THAT. Some things God will not fix, some things God will not change, some things God will not move because His strength is made perfect in weakness. He will give you grace to bear it, a peace to take it and a strength to endure it. God knows what you are able to bear,
he makes the back for the burden!
Faith at its finest is exemplified in the Life of Abraham.
By faith, he birthed a new nation out of old loins – because he believed God. He wasn’t perfect, but he believed God so completely that God accepted faith as the medium of exchange. Faith is the commerce of Heaven and God said if you believe me I’ll give you righteousness, I’ll give you land, I’ll give you children, I’ll give you a name, I’ll give you every place on which you lay your feet. Deut 11:24 His faith had many tests. He had to go out in the dark not knowing where he was going. He had to fight for Lot even though he wasn’t a fighter. He had to lay his own Son on the alter of sacrifice, to give up his only chance of success, he had to lay that
success down on the line. So that when there was absolutely no way for him to get the miracle, the promise, when his woman was past child bearing years, when he himself was an old man, with no human effort and no human chance, God fulfilled the promise.
(but more about Abraham in a moment)
I can’t just say that “I have Faith, I believe God will see me through“. For God will ask “do you – lets see?”
So then comes the test of faith. God may take away one by one all the supports, all the crutches, all the scaffolding, all the human effort, all the financial security, all the past experience and when you are left with nothing, – the credit limit on your card is reached, the cash reserves in your account have been blown, the insurance policies have been all sold, the property values have plummeted, and your friends and family have all gone, then God asks, “Do you have faith now?”
You may be Broke, Busted and Disgusted, but do you have the faith now to believe God for the miracle. This is That!
This is what you’ve been shouting about, this is what you’ve been talking about … but God has to prove that you are more than just talk, God has to prove that you will still love him, when you have nothing to love him for. Still serve him when you have nothing to serve him with, and still follow him when you really don’t know where you are going. Have you the faith to go to the grocery store with no money, no credit, no vouchers and expect to come back with provision for the week. Do you trust God to get you out of the furnace?
THIS is THAT.
I myself, have been in this horrible place, this fire of testing,
this furnace of trouble. I have cried and crumpled under the pressure, I have doubted and feared and sweated and panicked, and God still asked me: “Do you believe, really
believe me Son?” God said “you can’t preach it, you cant “talk” it, unless you “walk” it Son! Common sense would dictate that if you have no money in your wallet and no credit
on your card, you don’t go to any shop, or try to transact any business. Yet against my better judgement, I’ve had to get out of my bed, force myself into the car, and drive to the shop. I had nothing in my possession but a promise from Gods word. I had no gift vouchers, no freebies on offer, no guarantees – there was no earthly hope, but I knew there would be heavenly help. At that moment a call from a friend told me they had just transferred £300 to my account; and moments later I had food on my table and the song back in my heart. Praise God for evermore.
I discovered that when my Faith was so tested, my Faith was strengthened when I looked back over my life and saw that God had always been my help, God has been my source, God has been my protector, God has been my saving, God has been my all. When I understood this, I was able to get into real Praise, into true Joy, into total Surrender, when I think of the goodness of Jesus and all that he has done for me. God took me through those storms, he held my hand, he kept my feet from falling. He put food on my table when no-one invited me to supper. He delivered me in the Fire, and strengthened
me in the Fight.
NOW THIS FINAL WORD.
In Genesis 22, we have that story of Abraham offering his son Isaac on Mount Moriah, (we read it earlier in the service)
As preachers we often do the passage a grave injustice in that we
describe Isaac as a child, when really he was a young man.
This was no new-born infant, no youngster of a few years,
this was the Son of the Promise, who Abraham and Sarah had longed for, lived for and loved. They had watched him grow up, their hearts and their hopes had rested in this lad.
This was their “gift” from God, given (it would appear) with one hand, and now to be taken away with the other. I have often wondered just what must have been going through the mind of Abraham as he climbed that mountain with his Son. But what Abraham did not know, and God did know, was that as he climbed that mountain step by step, on the other side of that mountain, step by step a Ram was also climbing up – it was Gods provision – prepared for the very hour of crisis. When Abraham could not yet see the way out of this predicament, God had already made the way out, God had already provided the solution to the problem. And when Abraham lifted the knife to slay his Son, when Abraham looked like a fool, God said “STOP” – now I know you have the faith, now I know you really do love me; its not all talk, its walk, and Abraham offered up the Ram instead of his son.
In your life and mine, when there is no way, God will make a way; and he sent me here today to tell you that on the other side of your mountain is your miracle, trust me, I know.
This is That!
Glory to His name. Amen