Expectant in Faith in Jesus, Sunday message, 3 Feb 2019
My friend Daniel has been out of prison now for 3 weeks after being inside a couple of years. He came to faith in prison. Totally new. He has changed so much in coming to Jesus. How excited he is about Jesus who has turned his life upside down. Leaving the prison and then making a new life is his next huge challenge.
In leaving prison, he has no resources of his own to fall back on – unless it is to fully go back to his old life. Instead, he has taken Jesus at his word: taken to heart the promise that Jesus is with him, and that if Daniel walks by faith, seeking first God’s Kingdom and his righteousness, all the things he needs will be provided. And this has happened for him! Last week he said to me: “already, my life is the best it has ever been – I can’t quite believe it. I have more support than I’ve ever had.” Now – after almost 10 years of supporting people in and out of prison - I know he’s got quite a way to go! But I also recognise that he’s made a fantastic start. Dan, has the real beginnings of a deep, expectant faith in Jesus. He’s full of excitement and expectation at the new possibilities for this year.
Now – for most of the folks I’ve seen getting out of prison, the challenge of the new is utterly overwhelming. If they don’t cling to God, and hold their nerve and stick with people who can support them - they will go back to exactly what they already know. And, of course, that’s exactly what we often do too. In the face of God’s fresh offer of new life, we often shrink back – our faith dampened.
As we enter this new year, may we not be like the children of Israel who turned away from the opportunity to enter the Promised Land because they lost their nerve – lost their faith, and held on to the old. In Numbers 13 we heard that the team going out to scout the land came back with glowing reports of how bountiful the place was: “a land flowing with milk and honey”. But – they were freaked out by the people living there already. “We even saw giants, the descendents of Anak!”
They did not move forward in faith, based on God’s promise to them, but instead shrunk back in fear – lost their nerve, and would not go in. Their faith evaporated! And they decided to go back to Egypt – cos that’s what they already knew. Prepared to trade in the new freedom – with all of its challenges and struggle – to trade that for slavery once more.
As we enter this New Year, let us not shrink back from God’s sacred call for us to band together – full of expectant faith in Jesus - to conquer this land with the love of the Kingdom.
God has called us together to be a community of Light.
We are people of the Light – like a City on a hill that cannot be hidden. Our passion comes from spending time with Jesus – drawing our Light from Him who is the Light of the World. The Apostle Peter writes: “Fix your eyes on Christ as on a star shining in the night, until the day dawns and the morning rises in your hearts” (2 Pet 1:19) That’s beautiful eh? Will we do this? Allow the morning to rise in our hearts till it becomes a bright noon day? Full of the brightness of the love of God.
We are called to be like my friend Daniel – full of a simple expectant faith where we lay it all on the line for the Kingdom because we know the love of Jesus. We know his transforming power. We are called to be like Caleb in the Numbers reading we had, who tried to speak faith into the restrictive negativity, doubt and cynicism about the obstacles the children of Israel would face living in the Promised Land. He stood before Moses and said, “let’s go at once to take the land. We can certainly conquer it!” That’s expectant faith! Will we continue to do this in Naenae, in our workplaces, households etc – pushing back the darkness with the love of Jesus?
An impossible task for sure. As we look at the issues, the problems, our own problems even – they might seem insurmountable – unless we choose to hold to God’s promises. Unless we choose to be filled with the transcendent light of Christ. It’s a task so impossible we have to have faith in Jesus to make any progress.
Do we fear? When fear dominates, we look for earthly, fleshly things to compensate: we chase earthly power, status, reach for superstitious security, fleshly escapism or just surrender in life- fear of rejection, fear of failure, fear of the future. All kinds of fears. Yet – 1 Jn 4:18 reminds us that God’s “perfect love casts out fear”.
Let us allow the Holy Spirit to create a depth of passion in us for His Kingdom this year. Encourage eachother and allow ourselves to be excited about the fresh start to the year - excited about what God can do with us this year.
I am more convinced than ever that Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. I want to follow the Lord our God wholeheartedly and see the Kingdom released in our neighbourhoods/workplaces in our lifetime.
So, as we begin 2019, let’s be very encouraged. The Lord has done so much with us, through us already – and has given momentum to other groups and initiatives as well. Let us remember that this Parish was about to be closed in 2013 because it was literally dying. But we have all responded in some way or shape to the call of Jesus to be part of something new that God is doing. But he’s calling us deeper. He’s calling us to burn brightly with his transforming love.
Jesus has not finished with us. He has not finished with Naenae, our workplaces, etc.
So – let us consider afresh His call to seek first His Kingdom, to burn brightly with His love :
[Break into 3s. Share. Listen. Bless each other]
- How can I more intentionally prioritise His Kingdom this year?
- What makes me shrink back or hide my light?
- What do I need from God and others to move forward?
In closing, let us pray the prayer the Lord gave us…