“Over My Head”
In my earlier years as a student going to school, I did well and made good grades. Yet, it was not easy. I had to spend extra time studying in order to pass each class. School was a challenge for me and it took a great deal of effort. I often looked at my friends and noticed how schoolwork came very easy for them. Oh, I wanted to be in their shoes when it came to knowing the material and preparing for the test. Perhaps you can relate. Yet, having a hard time with school work cannot compare with the challenges of life. Some people handle them better than others. They are easily dealt with and overcome. For those who seem to have more than their share of difficulties, life is hard. They struggle to make it from one day to the next. They seek help with their problems and long for an easier life. For them, life may be overwhelming and over their head; and perhaps you can relate. The Bible story before us today is about some people who experience that same feeling. They faced what they believed to be insurmountable odds. They saw no way to solve their problem. The task was too great and the enemy was too powerful. There was no way they could overcome, and indeed, their situation was over their head. Yet, the Lord God Almighty intervened. He provided a solution to the problem and the people enjoyed a great victory. If you are in need of some good news about overcoming big problems in your life, today's lesson may be of interest. I trust you will stay with us for the next few minutes as we study together on "Key to the Kingdom."
A familiar story in the Bible is that of God's people being set free from Egyptian captivity. After some 400 years under the oppressive hand of Pharaoh and all of his people, the Israelites were finally set free. You might remember how that God brought a series of plagues upon all of the land in order to soften Pharaoh's heart. The waters and the rivers were changed into blood. There was three days of darkness throughout the entire land. There was a plague of the flies and the plague of the boils. Then, the firstborn throughout all of the land was put to death. Finally, the people were released. Oh, how excited they were as they left the land of Egypt and were set free. The next thing they knew, they were up against the Red Sea as they were headed to the Promised Land. Well, the Egyptians had a change of heart and they began to pursue the Israelites. With the Egyptians behind them and the Red Sea before them, they did not know for sure what to do, so they called upon the Lord for help. He parted the waves of the Red Sea and the Israelites walked across on dry land. Well, the Egyptians followed; but as they got into the sea the wall of water came upon them and they were never seen or heard from again. It was then that the Israelites embarked upon the next phase of their journey. They were headed to the Promised Land, the land that God had sworn to give to their forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the land flowing with milk and honey; the land called the Promised Land. Before they arrived, however, they spent some 40 years wandering through the wilderness. They were walking and they were whining and they were wondering if God was ever going to show up and give them clear guidance and direction into the land of Canaan. They became frustrated. They became very concerned that they would never arrive in the Promised Land. In fact, many of them grumbled and complained, and said, "Why don't we just go back to Egypt?" and, "Even though we might be under the oppressive hand of Pharaoh, at least we would have something good to eat." Well, they complained that the only thing they had was the bread that came from heaven in the form of manna. Many of them rebelled against Moses, their leader. In fact, in Numbers chapter 16, we find the story of an entire family that complained against Moses and was simply swallowed up, as God opened up the earth and they were dropped down into the depths of it. In Numbers chapter 20, we find that even Moses himself was disobedient to God. He hit the rock with his rod in order to bring water to nourish the people. That was a disobedient thing to do, and his punishment was he could not enter into the Promised Land. He could only see it from a distance. The amazing thing to me, however, was not that God led the people by a pillar, or a cloud by day and by a pillar of fire by night, it is the distance from Egypt to Canaan is only an 11 day trip. From point A to point B would only take 11 days; yet, these Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years. During that time, their clothes did not wear out. Their sandals did not wear out on their feet, but God provided for each and every need. And the reason for the wandering for so long was that God was testing their hearts, to see whether or not they would be obedient to Him and trust Him, as He would lead them to the Promised Land. Well, after years of waiting, and walking, and whining, and wondering, they finally arrived. Oh, how excited they must have been to get to the Promised Land. Joshua takes Moses' place as the leader of God's people, as they began to enter into the land. It has been an overwhelming 40 years, and oh, now they were excited to finally get there. They wanted to take possession of the land that had been promised for so long. We come to the Book of Joshua. Joshua is about the conquest of that land. Joshua is a series of stories about success and failure, victory and defeat. It's about winning and losing. There is one theme, however, that underlines it all; and that is, one wins by doing things God's way. If these people were obedient to God, they would win. They would be successful; and God would provide the victory, as they took possession of the land of Canaan. As they entered into the land, God gave some very encouraging and inspiring words to Joshua. Listen to what He told him in chapter 1, verses 5 through 7; and then also verse 9. "No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you or forsake you. Be strong and courageous, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them. Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses, my servant, commanded you. Do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left that you may have good success wherever you go. Have I not commanded you to be strong and courageous? Do not be frightened and do not be dismayed, for the Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go." In this passage, from verses 1 through 9, we find at least eleven personal pronouns that God uses in reference to himself. And as He makes this statement to Joshua, He basically tells him; it's not about you; it's not about the people, or their strength, or their ability. Rather, it is about Me. It is about My power, and My authority, and My control in this entire situation. Therefore, do not rely upon your own strength, because I will give you strength. I will give you courage. Therefore, trust Me and obey Me; for I will never leave you and I will never forsake you. No doubt, that message was communicated by Joshua to the people. Well, the first place they come to, in chapter 6 is the city of Jericho. Oh how these people must have been excited to get there. After the captivity and after the wandering in the wilderness, they were ready to celebrate. Here was the first city, and they were about to take possession of it. And yet, Jericho was not a welcoming city. There was a great big wall surrounding it. In fact, it was not one wall, rather there were two walls. Both of them were at least 6 feet in depth. One wall stood some 23 feet tall. And if that wall was compromised or broken down, then there was a great valley between it and a second wall, which was 30 feet tall. That's what the Israelites saw when they arrived at Jericho. No doubt they must have thought to themselves, "What has God gotten us into? What's going to happen? There's absolutely no way we can crash down these walls and take possession of this city." It was about then that God gave a word to Joshua. Listen to what He told him in chapter 6, verse 2. "And the Lord said to Joshua, 'See, I have given Jericho into your hand with its king and mighty men of valor.'" It's interesting to notice that God told Joshua He was already giving the city, the king and its fighting men into the hands of the Israelites; and the victory did not even take place until later on in chapter 6. The most interesting thing about God's statement, however, is those two little words, "See, I..." Oh, these people saw the wall. They were focused on that problem. They recognized there was a great big obstacle in the way of them taking possession of the city. But, God told Joshua, "See, I..." or, see, me. Look what I am already doing on your behalf as you take possession of this city. That's what the people were to do. They were to refocus their attention on God instead of the wall. They then were told to march around the city one time every day for six days. Then on the seventh day, they marched around the city seven times, blowing their horns and trumpets. With that, the wall came crashing down. The Israelites went in, they took possession of the city and they were off and going to claim the Promised Land that God had given to them. In spite of the great obstacle that was before them, the Israelites did three things; they saw God, they trusted God, and they obeyed God. Even though the walls were great, even though the obstacles were present, they obeyed the Lord when He told them to do something that really did not make much sense. Yet once they did that, God provided. When I think about that story, I recognized that all of us have some walls in our life; don't we? And those walls come in a variety of forms. We might face the wall of money. We just don't have much and we wonder how we will make it from one day to the next. The wall of money presents some problems we don't know how to handle. How can we provide for our family, because our money runs out before the end of the month? Maybe we face the wall of health problems; that we or our family members have some problems that we cannot overcome. We go to the doctors and we take the medicines, and yet still, there are those health problems. Or, what about the wall of broken relationships; we cannot get along with the people whom we should be able to get along with, as they are there, our friends or our family members. We struggle with that. And those walls cause a great deal of anxiety and stress on our life. They might affect our self esteem, our relationships, perhaps even our job; and we focus on those walls and it is difficult to survive. Yes, sometimes the walls of this world are over our head and we don't know how to handle them. In fact, we might even get tired of waiting for God to show up and to provide a solution. We wonder if God even sees what is going on in our life, or if He even cares. And yet, we tend to forget that God knows exactly what is going on in our life. In fact, He is already providing a solution to bring down that wall, and we may not even know it. And when we feel like these things are over our head, it might even be tempting to give up on God and say, "I'm going to come up with my own plan. I'm going to do things my way, because I think I have a solution and I'm tired of waiting on the Lord." Yet, I believe God would tell us the very same thing He told Joshua in chapter 6: 'See, I...' See me. Recognize that I am powerful and that I know what is going on, and I can do great and mighty things on your behalf. Yes, when the walls of this world seem to be caving in all around us and we can hardly survive, as they are over our head, we recognize that they are already under God's feet and He is providing that solution. And so, God simply reminds us to adjust our focus. He wants us to get our eyes off of the walls and to place our eyes on Him. Now, how do we do that? Several different ways, but I want to go to the Book of Psalms, Psalm number 37. And in this Psalm, I believe there are at least five things we can do to keep our eyes focused on the Lord God Almighty, when we face the overwhelming walls in this world. We won't read the entire Psalm, but I do want to read verses 1 through 9. And as I do, I would encourage you to think about these passages that say something about the Lord. Let's begin; Psalm 37, in verse 1: "Fret not yourself because of evil doers. Be not envious of wrong doers; for they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good. Dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in Him and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your justice as the noon day. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him. Fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices. Refrain from anger and forsake wrath. Fret not yourself, it tends only to evil. For the evil doers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord shall inherit the land." Did you notice those five statements about the Lord? The first one is trust in the Lord; when I think about that statement, I'm reminded of the words of Proverbs, chapter 3, verses 5 and 6: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight." Oh, sometimes we lean on our understanding; don't we? We rely upon our wisdom and insight instead of trusting the Lord. But that's where it all begins, putting our faith in the Lord God Almighty. The second thing is that we are to delight in the Lord; to take joy in our relationship with Him, to delight in His promises and His blessings, and to enjoy the fellowship and the relationship we are able to experience with Him. The third thing we do is that we commit our way to the Lord. Now obviously, that does not mean we say to God, "Here is the way I want to go. Here is my plan. Here is what I want to do and to accomplish, and so, I want you to bless that." We don't do it that way, do we? Rather, we recognize that God has a way and a plan for us. And we commit that to Him by saying, "I need guidance, and I need Your direction on how to go the way You want me to go." The fourth thing we notice is that we are to be still before the Lord. Sometimes that's difficult; isn't it? We want some activity. We want to put together our plan, and get to work, and try to accomplish something that will break down those walls in our world. I think about those Israelites. They were still before the Lord, and how they must have been amazed as God worked on their behalf and brought those two huge walls tumbling down so they could go in and take possession of the city. No doubt God is working to do that in your life as well, to bring those walls that seem so overbearing and so oppressive down to the ground. Then finally, we notice that we are to trust in the Lord; or, excuse me, we are to wait for the Lord. That may be the most difficult of all. We don't like to wait; do we? Often times, we are impatient. We want to do something now. We have our own time table and we wonder why God doesn't have the same time table as we do. We get in a hurry. We want to accomplish something even, perhaps, before the time is ready for it to be accomplished. These people waited 400 years for release from Egypt. They waited 40 years upon God to bring them to the Promised Land. Now they were waiting for Him to provide the victory, as they lived in faith and in trust, and obedience. Yes, those are five things I believe we can do to refocus our attention away from the walls in our life and put them on the Lord God Almighty. Here are three practical things with which I leave with us in our lesson today. Number one, we recognize that God's plans are different than our plans. That's hard to do sometimes, isn't it, because we have a plan that we think will work when it comes to bringing down the walls in our world; but God may have a different plan. Let us never forget that God's plan and His way is always better than our plan and our way. Number two, we pray about the wall in our life. That does not mean that God does not already know about the wall in our life. It simply means that we recognize we need to depend upon Him to remove that wall and to solve that problem. And so we pray to God about that, as it shows our dependence and reliance upon the Lord God Almighty. And then the third thing, we walk with God each and every day, as He shows us the way for our life. That is not just a one time event; rather, it is an every day relationship with God that comes through His son, Jesus Christ. We walk with Him day by day, we recognize that He has a way and a plan for our life, we seek His guidance and direction for us, and then, we pursue that plan. We pursue that way as we trust God to lead us in the direction we need to go. When I think about this story, I recognize that, on many different occasions, we face all kinds of walls in our life. Many of them appear to be over our head, far beyond what we can deal with and overcome by ourselves. It's important that we trust God, that we see God, and that we obey God. Recognize that the next time when you face an insurmountable wall, God is faithful. He is working on your behalf to provide a solution to the walls in your life.
Perhaps there are times when you sit at a desk like this one, the bills are piled high, projects to work on are everywhere and you wonder if you will ever be able to get it accomplished. Somebody is always demanding something from you and you don't know hardly where to start. To dig through all of that and to find a solution is quite challenging. Then on top of that, you think about your economic situation. You think about how long you'll be able to work at your particular job; or if you'll be able to get another one. You might think about some of the problems facing your family and the uncertainties revolving around your spouse or your children. Yes life sometimes can be overwhelming. We don't know for sure how to overcome. We don't know for sure where to start or what's going to happen in the future. No doubt, that causes a great deal of uncertainty. The mountain seems high. The obstacles are too great to overcome. And yet, I want to remind you that no matter what might be over your head, it is already under Jesus' feet. He already has a solution. He has conquered whatever enemy or obstacle might be in your way today. He has provided a victory, and you may not even know it. When the obstacles of life come, don't get frustrated and discouraged, don't turn around and quit or give up; but call upon the Lord for help. He has a solution and a plan, and He will provide that for you at just the right time. Let us see God. Let us recognize who He is and His power in this world, and put our trust in Him. That is my challenge for you today.
Thank you for being our guest today on "Key to the Kingdom." As we saw from this story in Joshua, God provides great victories when we keep our eyes focused on Him. Oh it does not matter what the problem might be. When we see the Lord and faithfully obey Him, He will provide. This message is available on the website. If you would like to view it again, go to keytothekingdom.com and download it for free, without any obligation. Other lessons are also available and I hope you will take time to look at those which might be of interest. Short devotional thoughts, summary messages on each book of the Bible, and other study materials are there as well. I hope you will take advantage of these free offers and access any that might bless you in your study of God's Word. By calling the phone number on the screen, you can request a free Bible study to be sent by mail. Please leave your name and address, and we'll be happy to send it out in the next few days. If you have not already done so, please find and 'like' us on Facebook. There you can receive a weekly message and access to all aspects of our ministry. Our goal is to offer Bible lessons and study materials, which will hopefully bless you spiritually. Also, if I can assist you in any way, please do not hesitate to contact me through the website. Again, thank you for being our guest today. I hope you will join us next time as we continue to study the Bible on "Key to the Kingdom."