Faith or Fear: What will determine your MOVE

 

This week I attended a dinner that brought together leaders and partners of an international organisation. It was there that I met a man who shared the story of his heritage. This man’s name was Kirk Franklin (not the gospel singer) and he was the keynote speaker. Almost 60 years ago his parents felt God calling them to serve as missionaries in Papua New Guinea. My reference to PNG as it is known, is the story Peace Child, a true story about a people whose highest calling is to betray and eat each other. The story of Christ as the Peace Child is for another day. And yet that is the place they went. His parents left the United States by boat and travelled for one month to get to Australia. From Australia they took another week to get to PNG . And when they got to PNG they walked for 10 days to get to the people they had felt called to reach.

 

This month we have been preparing ourselves for the MOVE – NI KUHAMA. Our theme verse for us over the next three months is in Deut 1: 6 onwards,

The Lord our God said to us at Horeb, “You have stayed long enough at this mountain. Break camp and advance into the hill country of the Amorites; go to all the neighboring peoples in the Arabah, in the mountains, in the western foothills, in the Negev and along the coast, to the land of the Canaanites and to Lebanon, as far as the great river, the Euphrates. See, I have given you this land. Go in and take possession of the land the Lord swore he would give to your fathers—to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—and to their descendants after them.”

 

We have been looking at this scripture in the context of our MOVE to the sanctuary that we are building and sensing the Lord say that “we have been at this mountain too long”. Last year we sensed it was time to MOVE and we began to prepare for that. And now just as the Israelites were about to cross the Jordan to the land promised to their forefathers, we too are at the brink of MOVING to the new sanctuary. We are picking lessons from our experience to help us where we are now as a church but also where we are individually in our various challenges.

 

In the first week we established that there was a purpose for God bringing them and keeping them at Mt Horeb. And we said that purpose was two fold.

–       That they would be consolidated from families and tribes into a nation.

–       That they would be instructed in the ways of the Lord as His people.

We then asked and continue to ask – what is God saying and God doing at the mountain where you are. Could it be that there is a MOVE He is preparing for you?

 

Last week we continued down the story from v 19 – 25 where Moses out of a need to make justice accessible to the people, organised them under a structure and leadership. And I said that because there was access to justice where people were heard, there was a sense of unity. And that was enabled by a structure that provided leadership to the people that was acceptable to them. I said then that the MOVE from Mt Horeb was therefore facilitated by the unity and organisation of the people. More than anything else we need to recognise that they were also under the instruction of God’s word that united them under God himself and His laws. People need unity and organisation if they are to make successful MOVES. Today we continue with our teaching from where we left last week, reading from v 19 – 32.

 

19 Then, as the Lord our God commanded us, we set out from Horeb and went toward the hill country of the Amorites through all that vast and dreadful wilderness that you have seen, and so we reached Kadesh Barnea.20 Then I said to you, “You have reached the hill country of the Amorites, which the Lord our God is giving us.21 See, the Lord your God has given you the land. Go up and take possession of it as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, told you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”

22 Then all of you came to me and said, “Let us send men ahead to spy out the land for us and bring back a report about the route we are to take and the towns we will come to.”

23 The idea seemed good to me; so I selected twelve of you, one man from each tribe. 24 They left and went up into the hill country, and came to the Valley of Eshkol and explored it. 25 Taking with them some of the fruit of the land, they brought it down to us and reported, “It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us.”

 

Faith or fear: One or the other will determine whether you MOVE of whether you stay rooted. Allow me to go back and refer to Kirk Franklin’s family and their move to the PNG mission field. There must have been people who thought they were absolutely out of their mind to go a place many had never even known existed. And there were enough reasons for them not to go – they were a young family (Kirk himself was born in PNG). What happens during a medical emergency? How will financial support get to them if it took them over a month to get to base station? How would they communicate when they did not know the language (Kirk learnt English as a second language). And most of all, will these “natives” eventually betray them and eat their flesh and keep the coveted skulls of the mzungu. One could argue that a compromise would have been to settle in Australia as a mission field there.

 

For the children of Israel, God repeatedly said that He had given them the land but they were to go in and take it. And the encouragement endlessly was “do not be afraid”. It meant, as it is in life, that there would be challenges. It would not be a walkover. Their part was to go in and take the land believing that God would be with them through the challenges. The spies who went to survey the land brought back evidence and a good report, “It is a good land that the Lord our God is giving us.”

 

Everything seemed to be on track until some of the spies suddenly developed cold feet. And they began to spread in the camp a message of terror that was believed by the people. They listed down the things that stood against them almost like people might have spoken against Kirk’s family before they left for PNG.

26 But you were unwilling to go up; you rebelled against the command of the Lord your God. 27 You grumbled in your tents and said, “The Lord hates us; so he brought us out of Egypt to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us. 28 Where can we go? Our brothers have made our hearts melt in fear. They say, ‘The people are stronger and taller than we are; the cities are large, with walls up to the sky. We even saw the Anakites there.’”

 

A negative message changed everything. Before this, their focus had been on God. And now the focus changed to their circumstances, then the enemy and finally to them – “what will happen to us? How will we be able to stand against such a terrible people like the Anakites”. God was out of the picture. That was small Life thinking – that it was about them. And Moses tried to bring their perspective back to God – to big LIFE thinking, that it was about God wanting to fight for them if they were to go in. Moses needed to deal with their fear. 29 Then I said to you, “Do not be terrified; do not be afraid of them. 30 The Lord your God, who is going before you, will fight for you, as he did for you in Egypt, before your very eyes, 31 and in the wilderness. There you saw how the Lord your God carried you, as a father carries his son, all the way you went until you reached this place.”

 

But because their hearts were filled with fear, they were unable to see what Moses was saying; that if God had done this for them before, He would do it again. But fear had filled their hearts, which led to mistrust. They did not believe that God would help them. And therefore mistrust led to disobedience. 32 In spite of this, you did not trust in the Lord your God, 33 who went ahead of you on your journey, in fire by night and in a cloud by day, to search out places for you to camp and to show you the way you should go.

 

How true it is that God is the one who searches for us the places we should camp and the way we should go. Yet we often think we have made our way. How it must have grieved Moses to see the people not trust the Lord. How it must have pained God to see the people reject His power and His promises. For it led to them missing out on all the good things He had in store for them. 34 When the Lord heard what you said, he was angry and solemnly swore: 35 “No one from this evil generation shall see the good land I swore to give your ancestors, 36 except Caleb son of Jephunneh. He will see it, and I will give him and his descendants the land he set his feet on, because he followed the Lord wholeheartedly.”

 

In life we will always make moves whether we like it or not. It is the nature of life. But will they be moves to the place God wants us to go – LIFE MOVES. Or will they be moves in the wilderness, wandering around because we did not trust God when we should have. The difference may be whether in light of your challenges, you will act in faith or fear. God has already given you the land. Will you be a Caleb or like the rest. Generations after you could well be influenced by your faith or fear. Just ask Kirk Franklin who was born and brought up in Papua New Guinea to parents who made a radical move in their time to go to a place of danger and uncertainty. He was in Kenya speaking to the leaders of the Wycliffe Global Alliance, the bible translation people. Kirk is now the Wycliffe Global Alliance Executive Director. The blessing of the past generation is now upon him and he is a blessing to many others. But it happened because almost 60 years ago, his parents trusted God and chose to act in faith, not in fear. How I pray that generations later, our children and grandchildren shall worship in that sanctuary and be thankful that their forefathers in a difficult time and economy, few in number, chose to act in faith not in fear. They MOVED.

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Introduction

ImageThis week it was announced that the immediate former and first democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi would be arraigned in court on the 4th of November. Egypt as some of you may be aware is central to one of the defining incidents of this decade – the Arab Spring. It is said to have began in December 2010 when a young Tunisian man in his twenties, a graduate and jobless, frustrated with the authorities harassing him in his small business, set himself on fire. It sparked a revolt in Tunisia that exposed the frustration and anger that was simmering beneath the surface. The leadership fled into exile. But apparently it was not just in Tunisia. Here is how someone defined the Arab Spring when it began.

 

The Arab Spring is a term used to describe the movements in multiple Arab countries this year to overthrow dictators or authoritarian monarchies. The hope (and it is still too early in the transition process) is that these popular revolts will lead to truly democratic states. The fear is that, since the opposition in these countries has been kept from organizing for decades, groups that garner their support based on religion (primarily fundamentalist groups) will have an advantage in the early elections leading to Islamic states. 

 

As we know, the very thing that the writer feared has come true. This cannot be symbolised better than in Egypt. Egypt became the story of how people power can overcome dictators and tyrants. Yet three years down the line, the country lies divided. Hundreds of lives have been lost and counting. What happened to the revolution?

 

NI KUHAMA. This is our theme and focus for the next three months as we look to the Lord to help us move into our new sanctuary. Yet not just our new sanctuary. We are looking to the Lord to help us move in different areas of our lives as well. Last week we introduced the series by looking at the scripture from Deuteronomy 1:6 where the lord said to the Israelites.” I elaborated on this by saying that there was a purpose for them being at that mountain for that long. And the purpose was twofold.

  1. God was forming them into a nation from the 12 tribes that they had been in Egypt.
  2. God was forming them into His people with Him as their God. This was the place where they were given the Law and the commandments.

And so at the end of it we asked the question of your own life – what is God saying about the mountain where you have been (have you been at that mountain too long?), and what is God doing at that mountain. Is it a time for shaping and forming?

 

Today we proceed to look at what makes people make successful moves in the time and season they are supposed to. I suggest to you that successful moves require unity and organisation.

 

As things stand now, the Arab Spring revolution has turned back and is eating itself. The government of Libya is toothless and anarchy has returned to the seat of the revolution in Benghazi. BBC ran a programme this week detailing how many militia are still holding weapons and ready to fight again. They are divided again. Tunisia has survived because their democratically elected government has agreed to stand down and hold new elections next year. Egypt is in total turmoil and the country is divided halfway between the supporters of the deposed president and his Muslim Brotherhood and those against them, including the army. And in Syria, the fight continues daily to precipitate a humanitarian crisis as hundreds continue hungry and homeless. The country is divided between the pro Assad people and the rebels.

 

Successful moves require unity and organisation.

If I may repeat the definition of the Arab Spring that I read earlier, you noted the author saying he feared that since they had not been organised in a while, the religious fundamentalists might come in and take advantage of the vacuum of leadership. Which is exactly what happened in Tunisia, the original country of the Arab Spring, and then Egypt. What they did not have was cohesion. The revolution was basically a mass movement of people who knew what they did not want (their dictators) but did not know what they wanted. There was no one to organise them around a vision.

 

Moses speaks exactly about this. They came out of Egypt with no communicated vision and plan. They were told to get up and go. They were slaves and suddenly they were free for the first time in their lives. They were used to a certain order and discipline but now all they did was walk and rest, walk and rest. And so it is no wonder that the Lord required for them to stay at Mt Horeb, where like I said last week, they were formed into a nation. The twelve tribes began to see themselves as one. And further to that, they were united under the vision of a land promised to their forefathers flowing with milk and honey (v 8). But they were also united under one God, something that they had to learn because all of them had been born in Egypt under the many gods of the Egyptians (Deut 6: 1 – 5). And so they found cohesion by being one people under one God. And not just that, there was also organisation when leaders were chosen to deal with issues that affected their day-to-day living. This is why Moses said to them,

 

At that time I said to you, “You are too heavy a burden for me to carry alone. 10 The Lord your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as numerous as the stars in the sky. 11 May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times and bless you as he has promised! 12 But how can I bear your problems and your burdens and your disputes all by myself? 13 Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you.14 You answered me, “What you propose to do is good.”

 

And the people appreciated that because they were able to access justice with few inhibitions. This removed the restlessness from the people. Justice minimised conflict and disunity. But what it meant was that through this there was now a leadership structure that organised the people.

 

“15So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you—as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials. 16 And I charged your judges at that time, “Hear the disputes between your people and judge fairly, whether the case is between two Israelites or between an Israelite and a foreigner residing among you. 17 Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it.” 18 And at that time I told you everything you were to do.

 

This cohesion and organisation is what enabled the Israelites to MOVE when God asked them to. And note too that the organisation now provided for a leader and a voice. Note how it says in v 18 “And at that time I told you everything you were to do”. The lack of unity and organisation is what seems to have ailed the Arab Spring in especially in Egypt. If this is the case, we then should be careful that this does not ail us too. We thank God for the unity that he has given us as a church and the leaders he has provided to work with me and me with you. I thank you that for the years we have been at this mountain, we have been united as a church. You have honoured the leaders in our midst and as one of them, allowed us to lead you even when it seemed we were not moving. You have been patient and have faithfully continued to give financially over the years. And when there have been questions raised you have done so graciously as we have equally sought to give honest answers about where we are. I am deeply humbled by that. Because there has been unity and organisation, we can make a successful move.

 

At a localised level, I dare say the reason why many people get stuck on a mountain is lack of understanding amongst them. I read the papers and I see brothers taking each other to court over a business. That is a recipe for being stuck at a mountain. I see families unable to divide land and develop it because there is a lack of agreement amongst the siblings. Many years down the line they are still stuck at that mountain and the investment losing value. I have seen couples who plan for a project when they are young and newly married. Of course in some cases it is a lack of leadership from the man to suggest a direction and a plan – lack of organisation. But because of lack of agreement, lack of unity between them, they are still stuck at the same place where they began their discussion. No wonder Amos 3:3 says, “Do two walk together unless they are agreed”. Indeed it is difficult for an organisation, group, even a couple to move from a mountain unless they are agreed. For the children of Israel, the very fact that they agreed to a form of organisation with a leadership structure enabled them to move from that mountain.

 

As I was doing this sermon on Thursday, I got home and watched the news – and there was Libya in the headlines again. I wonder how many of you are aware that the Libyan Prime minister was kidnapped in the early hours of Thursday morning and released in the afternoon. A group of revolutionaries claimed the kidnapping. It is not known what triggered his release. BBC in reporting on that matter concluded by saying that the lack of unity is a threat to Libya’s prosperity. How true! Yet how much more is the reverse? The presence of unity is a great aid to progress. As we MOVE, I thank you again for the unity you have shown over the years and pray that it will continue to be seen now and in the years to come. For we have been at this mountain too long, and now NI KUHAMA.