Description – Sermon 1 of a New Year’s series based on Wilkinson’s book Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs.
What’s your New Year’s Resolution for 2005? Is it a resolution to spend less and save more? Is it a resolution to spend less time on one thing and more time on something else? Or, is it a resolution to exercise more and well… weigh less?
The January 3rd edition of the daily e-mail column, Mikey’s Funnies, listed Fifteen Exercises We’d Be Better Off Without in 2005. Here they are!
(Overheads 1 and 2)
~ Jumping on the bandwagon
~ Wading through paperwork
~ Running around in circles
~ Pushing your luck
~ Spinning your wheels
~ Adding fuel to the fire
~ Beating your head against the wall
~ Climbing the walls
~ Beating your own drum (2)
~ Dragging your heels
~ Jumping to conclusions
~ Grasping at straws
~ Fishing for compliments
~ Throwing your weight around
~ Passing the buck
When I shared with a friend what my New Year’s sermon series was going to be she replied something to the effect of giving up resolutions because they made her feel bad. Resolutions have a way of doing that to us.
But we are going to focus over the next 5 weeks on four worthy resolutions for 2005 that I believe God wants us to achieve in the coming year. (Overhead 3)
To have a spiritual breakthrough in my life in 2005
To have a spiritual breakthrough in my marriage/relationships in 2005
To have a spiritual breakthrough in my family in 2005
To have a spiritual breakthrough in my walk with God in 2005
Now the first question you may have at the tip of your tongue is “Jim, what is a spiritual breakthrough?” Good question! I am glad you asked! Here is a working definition:
A spiritual breakthrough is a choice that comes out of my desire to get out of a rut in my life with God’s help and through God’s plan. Now this rut maybe related to your relationship with the Lord. Maybe you need to work on trusting God more in your life. Or maybe you need to give God first place in your life.
For others of us, maybe our rut has to do with a habit that keeps us from experiencing God’s peace and power in our lives. Or, maybe the rut that we want to get out of has to do with a family issue that needs to be addressed.
Maybe we have tried and tried in our own strength to get out of this rut. We’ve asked this person or that person for advice. We’ve read this book or that book on the issue. But nothing seems to work. May be it is time to experience a spiritual breakthrough and get out of that rut by asking God for help and following completely through on God’s plan!
As we begin our series on Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs I want to acknowledge two sources, in addition to the Bible (the most important source), that I will be drawing upon for this series. They are two books by Bruce Wilkinson, the well-known author of the bestseller, The Prayer of Jabez. One is entitled, Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs and the second one, which will be the basis of an adult Sunday School class for the next several weeks, 30 Days To Experiencing Spiritual Breakthroughs.
Now before we look at our passage of scripture this morning, I want us to spend sometime reflecting on the four areas that appear on this overhead and I encourage you to use the appropriate place on your bulletin to write down things that you need to write down as one way to begin the process of experiencing all that God has for you during the rest of your life.
What is the biggest rut in my life right now?
Life presents us with lots of opportunities to get into a rut that either we jump into without regard for what might happen to us, or through a choice made by someone else that causes us to “eat dirt,” or through the reality that life is at times, awful.
As you reflect on your life right now, what is the biggest rut you are in? Write it down and keep it in a place that you can refer to through this series.
What is the biggest rut in my marriage/relationships right now?
I believe in marriage. I believe that God created marriage between a man and a woman for lots of wonderful reasons. I believe that a good marriage is critical for kids and teens to become great adults.
I also know that marriage is, at times, hard work. When you bring two people together who come from different backgrounds and have differing levels of expectations, marriage becomes a challenge.
Many here today have experienced the pain of divorce. You have tasted both the sweetness and the sourness of marriage. No matter what or how your divorce happened I firmly believe that God still has a good plan for you with regard to relationships and that as you follow His plan, you can experience some great things within that plan.
What is the biggest rut you are facing in your marriage or other relationships right now? Is it an attitude that has poisoned intimacy and closeness? Is it priorities that have caused your marriage to lose health? Is it a past experience that keeps sabotaging your marriage?
What is the rut? Write it down.
What is the biggest rut in my family right now?
Psalm 68:6 says, “God places the lonely in families.” The opening chapters of the Bible in the book of Genesis demonstrate the place and priority of marriage and family that God gives to the created order. Families are important.
I like my family. I like my wife, I like my boys, I even like my in-laws (including my mother-in-law), and I like my mom and I still like my dad who is in heaven. I even like my extended family – my cousins (four of whom are like sisters to me).
But, I also know that family life has it share of ruts. Let’s name a few Jim! Okay!
How about jealousy? How about resentment? How about betrayal? How about hate? How about fear?
Families are important to God! Remember this, too: We belong to a family or families longer that we belong to a company we work for.
What’s the biggest rut you face in this area? Write it down.
What is the biggest rut in my walk with God right now?
Then there is God. What do you really, really, really, really, think about God? That is a very important question. How you answer it determines the course of action you take in life.
I believe in God! Not just because I am an ordained minister but because I look back on my life, and even in the dark and difficult times (and there have been a few of those) I am able to see how God has made my life better because I have not only chosen to believe in God but also to walk with God. (Believing and following God are two different but important things.)
One of the biggest ruts we get into in this area in our life is the rut called lack of trust. The Bible is filled with people such as Cain, King David at a certain point in his life and his son Solomon, the people of Israel, Judas Iscariot, and even Peter whose lack of trust dropped them into a rut.
Another rut that others have noticed over the years we seem to get into is the rut called disappointment with God. I have experienced this rut. It comes as our expectations are shattered and we come to believe that God has let us down.
There are other ruts too in this area. What is your biggest rut right now? Write it down.
All of us get stuck in a rut and some of us are in some ruts, maybe deep ones, right now.
Which brings us to our main text for this morning and a story about three generations who had different responses and relationships to the Lord.
Bruce Wilkinson uses the illustration of the three chairs to focus on some important spiritual truths and dynamics related to breakthroughs in our lives.
In our text we read of three generations represented by the Joshua, the ruling leaders who followed him, and the children of the ruling leaders.
Joshua represents the first chair persons who are deeply and continuously devoted to the Lord. We see this in Joshua’s late life declaration “ As for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”
As we choose (and we always choose) to thoroughly follow the Lord in every area of our life, the blessings and power of God work deeply in our lives. Now this is not a 100% rut free existence. That is not possible until heaven. But, we can live with a greater peace than what we experience in a second and third chair “existence.”
The leaders who followed Joshua after his death represent the second chair. Our text says little about them but we need to make some observations about them in the 24th and final chapter of Joshua where we read that Joshua challenges the leaders and the people to follow the Lord and really presses them on that commitment.
They say in verse 21, “We are determined to follow the Lord” and Joshua says, “You are accountable for this decision… Yes, we are accountable.” Then in verse 23 Joshua points out a rut that they were in, “All right then,” he says, “destroy the idols among you, and turn your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.” Did they? Let’s go a few pages over to Judges and see what happened.
In Judges 2:2 an angel of the Lord says to these leaders (and the people) “For your part, you were not to make any covenants with the people living in this land; instead, you were to destroy their altars. Why then have you disobeyed my command?”
The leaders and the people had dug a big rut for themselves and their relationship with Lord suffered. Now, did God kick them out of the country and turn His back on them? No. But, because of the choices they had made, their relationship with the Lord suffered and they were unable to experience the greater blessings and power and life that He had in mind for them because God wanted them to experience the joy, power, life, hope, and wholeness that Joshua had experienced because that was (and still is) God’s will for all humanity!
Then there is the third chair. The third generation illustrates this chair.
We read in Judges 2:10 “After that generation (the second generation after Joshua’s generation) died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things He had done for Israel.”
What happened? Here was a group of people, whose parents and grandparents had both experienced and observed God’s mighty movement and life in and around them, uninterested in spiritual matters. Why?
One reason is that generation two did not do what Joshua told them to do – give up anything (in this case idols) that would compromise their relationship with the Lord. The result was the loss of a vital and personal relationship with the Lord that went from a first person experience to a second person experience. In other words, it was a change from knowing God to knowing about God.
Please hear me this morning. God wants each and every one of us to live in the first chair in every area of our lives and He can help us do so. But it requires a choice on our part to live a first person faith.
The blessings that God has for us; The peace and joy that can be ours through Christ; the life and contentment such a life brings; all of these can be ours because God wants them to be ours! But they require some spiritual breakthroughs that only take place when we choose to partner with God and get out of our ruts with God’s help and through God’s plan.
To conclude, “Do you resolve to partner with the Lord and follow His plan and allow His power to help you get out of your ruts this year and take hold of the great life that He offers you?”
If so, do whatever it takes to move forward as the Lord leads and helps you. Amen.