Theme: Developing God’s Purpose For Your Life
Exodus 13:17-22 & Deut 8:2
Have you ever had a God inspired dream that didn’t happen as quickly as you thought it should? Yes, you had worked at it, but it seemed that many obstacles came against you. Finally, you gave up in despair. The dream lay dormant. I have always found the following quip to be an encouraging thought. Don’t give up!
|Between failure and success the point is so fine, We sometimes do not know when they touch the line. Just when the pearl was waiting one more plunge, How many a struggler has thrown up the sponge. Then take this honey from the bitterest cup, There is no failure except in giving up.|
God had inspired a dream of the Promise Land in the heart of the Israelite people. They dreamed of a land that flowed with milk and honey. A land of freedom; A land where they could be free from the whips of the evil taskmasters of Egypt. Scholars say that the journey to the promise land was only a one-two week journey. However it took the children of Israel 40 years to get there.
Exodus 13: 17, “And it came to pass, when Pharaoh had let the people go, that God led them not through the way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near; for God said, Lest peradventure the people repent when they see war, and they return to Egypt:”
We find in this scripture that God did not take the short route. When God wants to take you somewhere He may take you on the long path instead of a shortcut. Someone might ask, why did God take the long way which caused a delay in taking the children of Israel into the promise land? This delay was designed by God for a particular reason. Lets look at three ways God uses delays in our lives.
1. God uses delays to prepare us. The Israelites were a slave people and they weren’t prepared for war, and God knew if they went to war they wouldn’t be able to handle it. Every dream has its difficulties. God uses delays to get us ready for those difficult times that we are going to face during the course of our journey. These delays are designed to strengthen our faith and make us stronger.
2. God uses delays to test us. Deut. 8:2, “God led you through the wilderness for forty years… testing you to find out how you would respond and if you would obey Him.” God uses delays to test how we will respond under pressure and to test our loyalty and obedience to Him.
3. God uses delays to train us because sometimes it takes longer to get Egypt out of us than it does to get us out of Egypt. The culture and habits of Egypt was engrained in the hearts and minds of the Israelite people. God could bring them out of Egypt in one night but it would take years to get Egypt out of them. When you and I got saved we had habits and thought patterns that were of this world. When we got saved those thought patterns and habits came with us. God uses the delays to break those habits and thought patterns and train you in His way of thinking and doing things. The best thing to do when you are in God’s waiting room is be patient and let God do His work in your life.
I want you to notice that it was God that was leading them to where they were going. Sometimes God will lead you through the wilderness. But I believe that your response determines how long you stay in the wilderness.
Your test of maturity is how well you handle the delays in your life.
Sadly, the children of Israel flunked this test. They never made it through the delay. Only two Israelites who left Egypt actually got to go into the Promised Land. A whole generation had to die in the desert. The next generation got to go in. Only two of the first generation — Joshua and Caleb — got to go in. Why? Because they trusted God to take them
When you’re going through the delays in your life, there’s four things that you don’t want to do. If you do these four things it will prolong the delay. Don’t fear; Don’t fret; Don’t faint; Don’t forget;
1. Don’t Fear
Exodus Chapter 13 & Numbers chapters 13- 14
This is the first mistake the Israelites made. There are a lot of reasons for the delays that happen in your life but this one is your own fault. God says don’t be afraid. They were afraid to go forward at the Red Sea. And they were afraid to enter the Promise land because of the walled cities and the giants. They said `We are afraid… The people there are stronger and taller than we are and the cities are walled cities.” They had enough faith to move out of Egypt but they didn’t have enough faith to move into the Promised Land. They were afraid.
The problem with fear is that it keeps you in the wilderness; in the desert and barren stages of life. It prolongs the delay. Fear and faith cannot live together in the same house. Many of your dreams have never been fulfilled, not because of God, but because of you. Because you wouldn’t step out in faith. God says Don’t fear. Fear causes the delays in your life and keeps you from moving ahead.
The antidote to fear is to focus on God’s presence.
Exodus 13:18, “But God led the people about, through the way of the wilderness of the Red sea: and the children of Israel went up harnessed out of the land of Egypt.”
Exodus 13:21-22, “And the LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people.”
Realize that God is with you. When you’re afraid to go after the dream God has given you, you need to focus on God’s presence. He says, “I will always be with you.” There will never be a time in your life when God is not with you. He’s with you now, He always has been and He always will be. He’s with you on your good days and your bad days. He’s with you when you feel it and He’s with you when you don’t feel it. God says “I will always be with you.”
Someone say’s there are 365 “fear nots” in the Bible. If that is true, then that’s one for every day of the year. God is saying, no matter what you’re facing don’t be afraid. “Fear not, for I am with you.” Not because of positive thinking or motivational tapes or pulling yourself up by the psychological bootstraps. You’ll never face any situation in life that God isn’t facing it with you. We tend to forget that, and when we do we start being afraid. Don’t fear but focus on God’s presence — He’s with you all the time.
Some of you are in the delay phase right now. You’ve been praying about something and it hasn’t happened yet. You start to think that God has forgotten you. God has not forgotten you. He knows what you’re going through. It is a delay by design. God wants to build your character and He wants you to learn to trust in Him. You can count on Him for His help. Don’t fear.
2. Don’t Fret
Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.
Psalms 37:7-8, Wait and trust the LORD. Don’t be upset when others get rich or when someone else’s plans succeed. Don’t get angry. Don’t be upset; it only leads to trouble (NCV) .
Fret means worry. Don’t get worried. Don’t get uptight. We do that when we get into delays. We worry, get uptight, get stressed out. Worry will give you something to do, but worry will get you only cause strength to drain from you.
When you worry you bind the hands that can help you. God responds to faith not fear. Learn to trust God in the delays you face. After all it is God that is leading you.
God says don’t fret, don’t worry, don’t get uptight about it. When we really grumble is when we’re waiting for God to act. We get in a hurry. Prov. 19:2 “And he sins who hastens with his feet.” When we try to take matters into our own hands we get in trouble. We try to help God out. It’s frustrating to be in a hurry and God isn’t. God is never in a hurry. The Bible says with Him, a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like a day. He’s larger than time. One of the most useless things to try to do is to speed up God.
When you get impatient you start trying to work it out yourself. You get a dream from God, make the decision to go for it, and then when the delay comes and it’s not fast enough for you, you start trying to figure out ways of doing God’s dream on your own. You start trying to force the issue.
Abraham did this. God said He was going to give him a son. At 75 Abraham still didn’t have one. Sarah was incapable of conceiving. He decided to have a child by Hagar, Sarah’s hand maiden. Hagar gets pregnant and bears a son. They name him Ishmael. Abraham thought he had the miracle child in Ishmael. God said that Ishmael was not the miracle. That was just a normal conception. He wasn’t the baby God said would be the miracle baby. God blessed Ishmael anyway and he also became the father of a great nation. He’s the father of all the Arabs.
But God said there would be another child. Later Abraham had Isaac through Sarah who was way up in years and although she had never been able to have a child, at a grandmother’s age she had a baby. Isaac became the father of the Jewish nation.
Don’t fret, but trust God’s timing. Psalm 37:7-8, “Rest in the Lord, wait patiently for Him to act. Don’t fret and worry. It only leads to harm.”
Resting in God is an act of faith to trust God’s timing.. It means you’re waiting on God. One time, Jesus and the disciples were in a boat and Jesus fell asleep. A big storm came up and the disciples freaked out. Jesus is in the corner of the boat sleeping. They wake Jesus up, Why are you sleeping? “Do you think God is going to let the boat sink with Me in it?” Jesus, by His sleeping, was saying, I can trust God even in the middle of a storm. I don’t have to worry about it.
When we get into a storm, we lay awake all night. And we fret about it. The very fact that we’re laying awake at night means we’re not living by faith. We can’t get any sleep because we don’t really trust God to work it out. God says, “Don’t fear, don’t fret. Remember I’m always with you and trust My timing.”
The verse says “Wait patiently for Him to act.” When you wait impatiently it doesn’t make waiting any better. All being impatient does is make you miserable.
“Don’t fret and worry. It only leads to harm.” Worry doesn’t work. It just makes you miserable. So stop worrying and start trusting God’s timing.
Eccl. 3:11, “God has set the right time for everything.” God’s timing is perfect.
3. Don’t Faint
When you go through the delays in life, don’t faint. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t lose heart. Don’t give up. This is the third thing the Israelites did and it kept them out of the promised land. Numbers 14 “All the Israelites grumbled against Moses… `If only we had died in Egypt! … We should choose a leader and go back to Egypt.” They gave up on their dream. They caved in. They had been in slavery 400 years but now because they are having a little bit of delay they want to go back to Egypt. “If only” and “go back” are phrases that are tell-tale signs you’re discouraged — that you’re fainting, losing heart.
Numbers 14: 1-4, “And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.
If only — means we start to second guess ourselves. When we get a dream from God, make the decision to go for it and if it doesn’t come immediately we start second guessing ourselves — “Maybe I didn’t really hear from God. Maybe I just made this up. Maybe God is not listening and He doesn’t care. If only I’d done something different. If only I’d done this or that…” We second guess ourselves.
And then we say “Let’s go back to Egypt.” When we go through delays in our lives life tend to idealize the past. We talk about the good old days — which really weren’t that good. The only thing good about them is they’re over. The grass isn’t greener on this or that side of the fence — it’s greener where you water it. The good old days always look better in hind sight than they really were. We get into a project, start having a delay, and then want to give up. The Israelites had been in slavery in Egypt.
Some people would rather live in slavery than face the fear of freedom. They are not willing to push through and work on the problem until they get it right. They want to go back, give up. They settle for mediocrity in life. Don’t settle for less than God’s best for your life. If that means going through a tunnel of conflict, take the tunnel. In the middle of the tunnel it’s dark and you want to run back to the light. But you’ve got to keep going and you’ll come out in the light on the other side.
Instead of fainting — be persistent and pray.
Galatians 6:9, “Let us never grow tired of doing what’s right, for if we do not faint, we’ll reap a harvest at the right time.” This is the law of the harvest: In life, you will reap whatever you sow. What you plant you will harvest. If you sow criticism, you will reap a lot of criticism in your life. If you sow love, you will reap love back in your life. If you sow generosity, you will reap back generosity. It’s one of the laws of the universe. We’ll always reap more than we sow. If I plant one kernel of corn, do I get on kernel back? No, I get a whole stalk with thousands on it. You always reap more than you sow. But in the Law of the Harvest there is always a delay between sowing and reaping. There’s always a season. You plant in one season and you reap in another. There is a delay in between. God wants to see if you’re going to keep cultivating, planting, sowing — see if you really mean business. If God sees consistency in your life then the harvest comes. It will not come immediately because it proves nothing if He does it immediately. No delay, no character development, no stretching your faith.
Jesus said that about 2000 years earlier. Luke 18:1, “You need to pray continually and not lose heart.” You have two options in life, pray and not loose heart or faint and loose heart. You will always be doing one or the other. If you pray continually you will not lose heart, you won’t be discouraged. If you don’t pray continually, you will lose heart. You will faint. You will get discouraged by the problems you’re facing in your life — family, school, wherever. You’ve got to keep on praying.
What do I pray during the delay phases of life? Pray “Help me hold on and not give up.” The Bible says, “They that wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings, as eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” They won’t give up. They’ll keep on keeping on.
4. Don’t forget
Psalms 103: ” Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: Who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; Who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with lovingkindness and tender mercies; Who satisfieth thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. “
During the delay, time causes us to forget many things. When there is a delay, we tend to forget our dream. We tend to forget what God had done in our life. We tend to forget God’s goodness to us in the past. We tend to forget that God is with us. We tend to forget God’s power. We tend to forget how important it is that we stay in God’s strength and we start focusing on all our problems than on what He has done for us. The Bible says, Don’t forget.
Psalms 106: 7-13, “Our fathers understood not thy wonders in Egypt; they remembered not the multitude of thy mercies; but provoked him at the sea, even at the Red sea. Nevertheless he saved them for his name’s sake, that he might make his mighty power to be known. He rebuked the Red sea also, and it was dried up: so he led them through the depths, as through the wilderness. And he saved them from the hand of him that hated them, and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy. And the waters covered their enemies: there was not one of them left. Then believed they his words; they sang his praise. They soon forgot his works; they waited not for his counsel:”
This was the fourth mistake that the Israelites made out in the wilderness. Ps. 106 tells us “They forgot the many times God showed them his love, and they rebelled at the Red Sea. But He saved them as He promised. But they quickly forgot again! They wouldn’t wait for God to act.”
This says many times. It’s unbelievable how short their memory was. In Egypt, God does ten plagues and the children of Israel forget it because a couple days later they’re at the Red Sea and saying “We’re all going to die!” They’ve forgotten just what God’s done. God does a miracle and opens the Red Sea. They walk through to the other side and immediately forget that miracle. “We’re going to die of thirst!” God provides water miraculously. They forget that and complain, “We’re going to die — no food!” They were always forgetting.
But we should not be too quick to judge them because we do the exact same thing. When a delay occurs in our lives we start acting like God’s never done anything for us. Has God done things for you in the past? Sure He has. You can count on Him to do it tomorrow, or the next day… When you act like, “God’s not going to bail me out of this one!” you’re forgetting all the other times He’s bailed you out. Some of the times you didn’t even know about it but He did.
What have you been forgetting about God, how He’s helped you so many times?
The consequences of forgetting the Bible says is “…they would not wait.” Instead of forgetting you need to remember God’s promises. There are over 7000 of them in the Bible. God’s promises are always greater than the problems you’re facing. Ps. 103 “I will bless the Lord and not forget the great things He does for me.” You ask, Why isn’t God fulfilling the promise in my life? He’s waiting on you. You think you’re waiting on God? He’s waiting on you to learn to not fear, not fret, not faint, not forget. He wants you to learn that before He brings the solution He has some things He wants you to develop first; some growth patterns He wants you to put into your life. God’s never in a hurry. He can do things immediately, but He’s working on a larger agenda. The delays that come in your life do not destroy God’s purpose. They fulfill God’s purpose in your life. They make you a better person.
God will make a way where there seems to be no way if we will just learn to wait.
Hab. 2:3 “These things won’t happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!”
The things you’ve waited for in your life, God will bring to fulfillment if you do not faint, do not fret, do not fear, do not forget.