The Bridge Sunday 14 June 2020
O God the strength of all those who put their trust in you, mercifully accept our prayers and, because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do no good thing without you, grant us the help of your grace, that in the keeping of your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, our God, now and for ever.
Reading: Judges 7: 19-23
God with you
So, we come into the Gideon story where his army is about to attack the 32,000 strong Midianite army. God has whittled down Gideon’s army to 300. How would you fancy your chances in that situation? On the face of it – the odds are stacked against you. Yet Gideon does it!
There’s a lot we can learn from Gideon. It’ll take just a few moments – but it is worth reading chapter 6 and 7 of Judges to get a feel of what is going on. And if you do that you will find that Gideon was unsure; yet he trusted. He doubted whether what he had to do was of God; yet he was obedient. He was afraid; yet he was brave.
So, he was a bit of a mixed bag – does that remind you of anyone? Perhaps yourself?
It all starts in chapter 6 (verse 12) when the angel of the Lord appears to Gideon. He says to Gideon: “The Lord is with you mighty warrior.”
The Lord is with you. Just stop for a minute. Let that sink in. Let those 5 words go round and round your mind. Say it numerous times but emphasising one of those words each time. Let the power of the words of the Lord sink into every part of you.
So, three points that flow from this:
- If God is with us – don’t be afraid
Fear is something we can experience in the present but is based on something that may happen in the future. Now Gideon – no doubt – was very much afraid of the situation he was in. It was his 300 versus 32,000.
So, what is God’s answer to our fear? What we want to hear is God saying – “don’t worry – I’ll press the eject button and catapult you out of the situation, so you don’t have to face it!”
Now sometimes that’s exactly what happens. But more often than not God’s answer in the Bible is – “Don’t be afraid – I am with you.” Isaiah 41: 10: Do not fear, for I am with you.”
So – if we are in the present, fearful about something that will happen in the future (which is typically fear is) – God doesn’t say:
- do not fear – because I’ve sorted that matter out and it has gone;
- nor does he say – do not fear for I will be with you when that matter comes to a head
No – he says – do not fear now – for I am with you (now).
So, what fear does is to focus the mind on something that may (or may not) happen in the future. You don’t know (now) how that will play out. You simply do not know. So, fear is based on a guess (possibly an educated guess) about something that might happen. There is an air of unreality about it. Our minds delight in playing out all sorts of scenarios. But it is not real. What is the antidote to unreality? Reality. What greater reality is there than God himself? And this is God’s answer to fear. Delight in the greater, foundational rock of his existence and that he has promised to be with you.
Indeed, Jesus himself is described as Immanuel: God with us.
Years ago, I used to attend a prayer meeting at another church and I would often pray – “Lord, we invite you here today….” A lovely old boy used to pray after I prayed that prayer often by saying: “Lord, we know you are here already.” Well – he was right. But we need to be invitational to God himself. It’s not that if we invite God into our houses – we are saying that God wasn’t already there – but rather we are expressing our desire for him to be there. It’s about being with the Lord – not just in our fearful moments – but in everything.
There was a father and a son and the father renovated the loft so his young son could have a new bedroom. When he finished the work, one evening, he showed him around – and asked him what he thought. The son looked around and said: “it’s great Dad, but it’s a bit dark as there are no lights in the room – and I’m afraid of the dark.”
His dad paused for a moment, looked at him – and said: “I tell you what son, here’s a couple of choices. I can keep the main hallway light on so you have some light or I can bring up my camp bed up here and be with you.” His son responded: “Can you stay with me tonight please Dad.”
When it came to comfort, he would rather have his father’s presence in the darkness than his absence in the light.
God wants to be with us – how much better to have him with us, especially in those dark times.
- If God is with us – you can be obedient
So, we are facing this difficult time, we seek God in these times. We wait for him. And rest in him and trust him. Does that mean we don’t need to do anything? We can stay in bed under the duvet?
No – if God is with us it releases us to be obedient. In other words – we can do the stuff that God wants us to do. Or to put it another way – if God says: “Do this” – who are we to argue? I read this week: faith is really about two things: trusting God’s character and stepping out because of that trust.
But it is so often in the obedience that God appears so wonderful to us. God instructs Gideon (who is understandably afraid given its 300 verses 32,000) – Gideon obeys. He creeps into the enemy camp and now he listens to a conversation between two of the enemies where one of them expresses his fear that God will give the whole Midianite camp into Gideon’s hands.
Gideon rejoices in God at that point.
Now – the numbers haven’t changed. It’s still 32,000 versus 300. The odds are ridiculous – but for one factor. God himself.
My Mum and Dad live over in Wareham and Dad had set up an inter-church prayer meeting which met at the Methodist Church in Wareham. Numbers of attendees were never that brilliant. I rang Mum and Dad up one day and Mum answered the phone. We chatted for a bit and then Mum said that Dad was very low. He had come home earlier, having been at the church for the prayer meeting and no one else turned up. He was all alone. He came back home and wept.
I asked Mum if I could talk to Dad and he came on the phone and I said to Dad: “Dad, you need to remember that God plus one is a majority.”
You be obedient to God. If work is currently really difficult; be obedient because it is you and God – and that’s enough. Or maybe you are sensing the Lord calling you to something. Well – check it out – but if it is of the Lord; do it. You’re not alone. God has promised to be with you – so you can do it.
- God with you? It’s now even better than that!
I love old Gideon. He’s great but flawed. There was – something missing. God was with him; yes. God’s with us; yes. But there’s more. Last week we were looking in Colossians 1. There was one bit we didn’t look at – and it was this (verses 25b-27)
God gave me (Paul) to present to you the word of God in its fullness – the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.
For Gideon God was with him. But now Jesus dwells in us. Rather than a temple, God lives in his people. Jesus says in John 14: 23
“Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
God lives in you! So, let him live! If someone lived in your house it would be pretty odd if you didn’t speak to them! Speak to him, seek him. Talk to him. Acknowledge him in all you do. Invite him into all aspects of your life. Open up those tired areas of your life and let the life-giving spirit flood where it is parched. Let the breath of God sweep into all you do and say and think. Open up every area of your life and let God dwell there.
So, it may be that you are struggling with all sorts at the moment. Maybe anxiety or pressure. But God is with you. There may be many challenges ahead; but he has promised to be with you. And God does not break his promises – otherwise he would somehow no longer be God anymore. He has promised. And all his promises are sealed at the cross where Jesus died and bled for you and me. So, there is no barrier to you drawing close to God. So maybe today you will join with me in this prayer:
Lord God – in all my confusion and doubt and worry and anxiety – I need someone greater than me. Would you draw near to me now and help me to come to you. Would you cleanse me from all my sin? Would I know your living presence in me? Would I delight in doing your will and live as a child of you, trusting you more and more each day and stepping out in faith because I know you are with me every step of the way. Would I know your living presence in me, Jesus?
And in your lovely name Jesus I pray
Prayers 14th June 2020
We are encouraged in the bible to bring everything before the Lord (Philippians 4:6-7) as the way to be anxious for nothing, is to pray about everything. Today, if you have a small piece of tin foil (6x6cm is fine) it would be good to get it to help us pray and as a reminder to constantly pray.
Hold the piece of foil and look at the shiny side.
Dear Lord, we thank you God for all the good things in our life and for things that we like doing. Let the details in life take my attention today – a warm cup of tea; the gentle grass under my feet; the smile of a friend; a warm comfy bed; the sunlight on the trees and walks in the park. Lord let the more ordinary reveal its amazing delight. Clouds drifting by; birds sweeping high; the sunset that transforms day into night. Lord may these things inspire me to praise and bring a clear moment of sight as we see how amazing the world truly is and soak in your goodness and light. Amen.
Screw the foil into a loose ball (don’t make it too tight or you won’t be able to straighten it out!)
God of hope and love, as our world seems more and more chaotic in this time of pandemic, help us open our hearts and minds to your peace. We think about anyone who is finding life tough, bombarded by news and statistics: we remember particularly people who are ill, tired, lonely, sad and afraid that nothing will be the same again. Be with us all so that we feel your love surrounding us and help us to remember that you will never leave us. Give us all the strength to reach out to other people to share our feelings and fears and to listen to others so that together we may find calm in knowing that we are your people and you gift us with all we need, moment by moment, hour by hour, day by day. In all things and no matter how we feel, give us the knowledge and wisdom to always give thanks to you that the gift of gratitude may help us return to you and overcome the fear that threatens us. Amen.
Smooth the ball out so that the foil is back into a square (or as close as possible).
Almighty father, we thank you for people who help others when they need it. Our family, teachers, medical staff, friends and any others that we name to you now. We pray that God will refresh and bless these people and that we also will be people who help others and show them love.
Gracious God, please grant strategic wisdom and insight to those in government and making decisions at this difficult time, local health authorities and providers across the NHS as they use funding that is available, and distribute staff and other resources to meet the needs brought about by Coronavirus. Amen.
4. Mould the foil into the shape of the initial letter of the name of someone or somewhere you’d like to pray for or a shape that symbolises something you’d like to pray for.
Dear Lord, as we hold the shape, we have made we ask you to help and bless that person/place or situation. We pray for all people, everywhere, whoever they are and whatever their needs. You created us all and love us completely. Help us to trust that you will always answer our prayers. Thank you, Lord that through every weakness and hard place, your strength is displayed in our lives. We can’t do it on our own. But you can, through us. Your power is Mighty within us, you are our Helper and our Strength. All things are possible through you.
And Merciful Father, accept these prayers for the sake of your son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
Category: Prayers , Sermons , The Bridge