Is. 43:18-19 “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
If you want to experience a new thing, TACKLE YOUR FEARS.
I believe next to apathy, fear is the greatest reason we do not experience all God has for us and is also the reason why we do not do all God desires for us to do.
Fear paralyzes people. What will happen if the people on my guest list are put off by me witnessing to them? What will happen if the church doubles in size and I can’t keep up with knowing everyone’s name? What will happen if we get into a building project and find out it’s going to cost twice as much as we thought in the beginning? Churches and people who are afraid of change won’t change the world for Christ!
Look at the opening of Isaiah 43. The second part of verse one says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” Again in verse 5, God says, “Do not be afraid.”
Before God can do the next new thing He wants to do in Isaiah 43:18 He told His people to let go of their fear. Change can be scary and uncomfortable. But as children of God who are supposed to operate out of a system of faith, to choose the status quo over the new thing God desires is disobedience and is therefore, sin. People who walk in fear rather than faith are simply refusing to let God be God. Because when God is God in your life, you will be constantly experiencing newness.
Do you know there are people who would rather live in exile and bondage rather than in freedom because to leave exile means they would have to experience or learn something new? At least in exile they know what to experience even if it is unpleasant or undesirable.
Several generations ago, during one of the most turbulent of the desert wars in the Middle East, a spy was captured and sentenced to death by a general of the Persian army. The general, a man of intelligence and compassion, had adopted a strange and unusual custom in such cases. He permitted the condemned person to make a choice. The prisoner could either face a firing squad or pass through the Black Door.
As the moment of the execution drew near, the general ordered the spy to be brought before him for a short, final interview, the primary purpose of which was to receive the answer of the doomed man to the question: “What shall it be—the firing squad or the Black Door?”
This was not an easy decision, and the prisoner hesitated, but soon made it known that he much preferred the firing squad to the unknown horrors that might await him behind the ominous and mysterious door. Not long thereafter, a volley of shots in the courtyard announced that the grim sentence had been fulfilled.
The general, staring at his boots, turned to his aide and said, “You see how it is with men; they will always prefer the known to the unknown. It is characteristic of people to be afraid of the undefined. Yet I gave him his choice.” “What lies beyond the Black Door?” asked the aide. “Freedom,” replied the general, “and I’ve known only a few brave enough to take it.”
The story illustrates the situation many people face each day—a choice between the known and the unknown. Few have the courage to come alive, to stop being engulfed in a sea of mediocrity—humbled and dulled by failure to recognize their own potential. (Bible Illustrations – Bible Illustrations – A Treasury of Bible Illustrations.)
Listen to me. God is about more than just freedom. He is about abundant life and blessing and miracles beyond what we can even conjure up in our imaginations. “No eye has seen. No ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him”(I Corinthians 2:9).
Why do you think God starts a message about doing a new thing with a “fear not” message? Because fear makes you believe the worst. Fear makes you think the new thing couldn’t possibly be as good as the old thing or the current thing. Fear throws up all of the red flags about why something won’t work or how much sacrifice change will require. Since “God has not given us a spirit of fear,” (II Timothy 1:7) who do you think is behind the “fear factor?” I believe if you are being led by fear, you are being deceived and led by the Deceiver, Satan himself. His goal is to keep you disconnected from your God-given destiny.
Proverbs 3:5-6 is the famous, “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding” passage. Trusting in the Lord is the antidote to fear. Later in Proverbs 3, verses 25 and 26 say “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the LORD will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared.”
There are people who live from day to day in fear just anticipating all of the things that could happen out of the blue (99.9% of which never happen). God’s word says God will keep your foot from being snared. Just keep walking into the unknown. It isn’t unknown to God, and He knows where all of the traps are.
Romans 8:15 says, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”” Our Abba Father is the One who knows everything and can do anything. That is why we don’t live in fear, but we walk in faith because we belong to God. Listen, we all have fears. We all have doubts. That is part of the human experience. But as children of God, we choose not to let fear dictate what we will or won’t do or how obedient we will or won’t be. We tackle fear, doubt and worry by commanding them to get of our way in Jesus’ name.
I find myself in this minute in a place I have never known before. I am the senior pastor of a fast-growing church, a church that has a commission from God to minister to this community 7 days a week by developing 74 acres of property one mile from here along with programs to meet the emotional, spiritual, and physical needs of the people of this community. All of that is staring me in the face. It is yet out in front of me. I have no answers; only dreams and visions and a word from the Lord to keep walking forward.
There isn’t one piece of what is ahead of us as a church that I know how to do, but you know what I say to Fear when it rears its head and tells me I am inadequate for the task? I agree with Fear. That’s right. I say, “You’re right, I don’t know how to do any of what is ahead of this church, but that’s what God is for!” I don’t have to know. I have an Abba Father who won’t let me down! He has all the “know-how” and all the resources to go along with the “know-how.” I just have to “go” when He says “go!” And I am telling you, the lights are green and God is setting into motion a new thing for a new location and a new ministry bigger and more relevant and life-transforming than any of us can dream about. The unsaved people of this community need to find Jesus. We cannot and will not let fear delay or detour us!
If you want to experience a new thing, TURN YOUR ATTENTION TO THE FUTURE.
Verse 18 of Isaiah 43: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. Notice the verse doesn’t say, “Don’t celebrate the past,” but it says don’t dwell there. Don’t get stuck there. Don’t let the past anchor you in the past. If you are always looking back, you won’t see what is ahead. This church has done some great things in the past. Just in the past five years, we have seen miracles and unusual growth spiritually and numerically. We are known by our community as a church who cares about the community because we have been out in our community proving it. We added on to our facility and paid it off in a short period of time. In addition to adding on, we have made numerous upgrades to the facility and have added several new ministries. We have added staff. We are now going to two services and are adding a streaming presence on the internet. But listen. That is all soon to be our immediate past.
Let’s celebrate, yes, but let’s put it behind us! We must move on! There are new mountains to climb, new challenges to meet, new people to bring into the Kingdom and more ministries to get started. It is not time to sit back and be satisfied. As soon as a church or any organization quits making forward progress it has made a choice to decline and retreat and that is NOT an option for the Teays Valley Church of God.
We talk to people all the time who are pining for a return to the glory days of their churches in the 1970’s when their church had its “hey day.”
You can’t go back to a former time in methodology and strategy and expect to have the same kind of powerful experience today. We don’t teach Sunday School with flannel graph boards anymore. We don’t hold the hymnal when we sing our hymns anymore. The message is the same, but the methodology always must be changing in order to be able to connect with the culture in order to share the Gospel. You either “keep in step with the Spirit” as Scripture tells us to and keep moving forward or you get stuck in a past that is no longer relevant, no longer life-changing, and no longer has any power to transform the culture.
Our past victories won’t sustain us and they won’t bring anyone to Christ in the future. The Israelites had many victories to celebrate. Major miracles paved the way for them to leave Egyptian captivity and they left in style! They plundered the Egyptians on their way out! They conquered the land of Canaan. They fought off perspective conquerors. They survived a major split in their country. But when this Isaiah passage was written they found themselves in captivity again. Their Egyptian Exodus couldn’t help them now. Reminiscing over the powerful plagues and parting of the Red Sea wouldn’t get them out of their captivity. Their past military victories wouldn’t set them free now. They needed a new miracle, a new thing, now!
If you want to remember the past, remember God’s faithfulness in the past. Remember God’s commitment in the past. Remember God’s help in the past. Those are things you can take into the future and will be applicable in any situation. But to “Walk in the Spirit” means to keep moving forward. The minute you become satisfied with where you are is the minute Gods power stops flowing in your life. You no longer need a new thing when you are happy with the old one. In short, you no longer need God! And people and churches who don’t desire a new thing wonder why they don’t sense God’s leading or blessing or power. You can’t lead a parked car! Am I preaching the truth? God’s Spirit works with people and churches who are hungry and thirsty for a new thing.
Can you see the future of Teays Valley Church of God? I see this community gathering around the Community Center that God is leading us to build, 7 days a week. I see quilting groups, tutoring groups, after school programs, senior adult activities, drug and alcohol support groups, counseling services, a Christian bookstore, fitness classes, banquets, basketball practices, Weight Watchers, family nights, an indoor playground for preschoolers, scout activity, birthday parties, a clothes pantry, community meetings, local school music programs, high school graduations, show choir competitions, soccer clinics, and so much more! I see a space that seats 1000 for worship! I see us getting to 1000 and then asking 200 of that 1000 to go plant a new church. Will you make a commitment with me not to get stuck in the past but to always keep up with the pace of God’s Spirit.
If you want to experience a new thing, TRAIN YOURSELF TO SEE BEYOND THE NATURAL.
Go back to our text in Isaiah 43: “SEE, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” God is saying, “Can’t you see what I am up to?”
The prophet Elisha had great spiritual sight, and he knew how important it was to be able to see what God was doing beyond what he could see in the natural. In II Kings 6 beginning with verse 8 we read about how Elisha had special knowledge regarding what the King of Aram was up to. Whenever the King of Aram wanted to attack the Israelites, Elisha would warn the king of Israel about Aram’s plans and the Arameans would be thwarted. Well, the King of Aram was so sure there must be a traitor in his ranks since his plans were always getting to the ear of the king of Israel that he started to investigate who the mole was. After investigation he found out it wasn’t one of his own, but it was Elisha, who through special knowledge from God, was warning the king of Israel about the plans of the Arameans. So, the King of Aram decided to take Elisha out.
Let’s pick up the story in verse 13 where the King of Aram talks to his servants about Elisha. “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city. When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh, my lord, what shall we do?” the servant asked. “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Elisha’s servant was scared spitless! He was afraid. He was limited in his sight to only that which was present in the natural. But hear me, church. There was and always is more present than what we can see in the natural!
This was a very strategic prayer Elisha prayed about his servant. He didn’t pray, “Lord, give him peace.” He didn’t pray, “Lord, calm his mind.” He didn’t pray, “Lord, show us how to fight these guys off.” He prayed “Open his eyes so he may see!” If we are going to see the new thing God wants to do, we have to be people who can see beyond the natural. For whatever reason, Elisha’s servant was living by sight and not by faith. He couldn’t see how the Lord was already with them.
It is time for several somebodies to pray, “Lord, help us see what You are up to!” “Lord, show us where the resources are for the community center.” “Lord, show us what programs we need to get ready to develop.” “Lord, show us what kinds of leaders we need to train.” “Open our eyes, Lord, to the possibilities!” “Help us see You at every turn.”
When you are discouraged, and need a new thing, more than anything you need to SEE Jesus! When you are in despair and the news about your health isn’t good, and you need a new thing, more than anything you need to SEE Jesus! When you are defeated at every turn and feel as if you are just getting beaten up by life, and you need a new thing, more than anything you need to SEE Jesus! Why do you need to SEE Jesus? Because when you see Jesus, you become assured that you have the victory! He will never leave you or forsake you. No weapon that is fashioned against you can stand! Someone needs to get a revelation of Jesus and the army of heaven encamping about you and your situation right now! Look up with eyes of faith! He’s got this! Relax, and let Him do a new thing!
Finally, if you want to experience a new thing, TRUST GOD TO BE A WAYMAKER.
Isaiah 43:19 “I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.”
Our God is THE GOD who makes a way where there is no way. God was recalling to the Israelites that He led them out of Egyptian captivity when He parted the Red Sea so that they could safely cross. He sustained them in the desert when it was humanly impossible to survive. “Nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)
God was about to do a new thing for the Israelites. It wouldn’t be a Red Sea Exodus, but He would make a way for them to leave Babylonian captivity. The Babylonians had invaded their homes. They had killed anyone who put up a fight. Their homes were lost. They lost their temple in their beloved city of Jerusalem. The best and brightest were enslaved. They were thrown into a pagan culture. Yet even there, God enabled them to prosper (just as they had multiplied and somewhat prospered during Egyptian captivity). You see, God can do a new thing anywhere, anytime under any circumstances! He is a Waymaker.
Several signed up for the new thing and believed God to make a way for it to happen, but sadly several stayed in Babylon. Several wouldn’t trust God to make a way for them to rebuild their lives. They missed the new thing because they couldn’t trust God to be a Waymaker.
Someone texted me this past week that they woke up with thoughts about our church property, Teays Valley Acres, on their mind. The person then asked me a question, “What do you think God is up to?” Let me answer that corporately. I believe He is making a way for us to build an over 2 million dollar facility with an additional million to go into land and site preparation. Yep. I believe God is making a way for this congregation to do an over 3 million dollar project to enable us to do ministry seven days a week. I don’t know how, but I know it will happen because our God is a Waymaker. There may be someone here this morning who can give a million dollars towards our forward progress! I’m just praising God in advance that everything we need He will supply.
Pastors who have taken congregations through building projects will tell you there are usually some casualties. There are usually some people who can’t be open to a new thing, a new paradigm, a new worship space, and they just can’t make a move that requires change. My prayer is that none of you will be left behind as God does a new thing in our midst. I don’t want any of you to miss out on the miracles that are ahead of us as God supplies our need and as we move forward in faith. I don’t want any of you to be stuck in the past, but I want each one of you to be part of what the Spirit of God is doing which is relevant and life-changing.
My prayer for you personally is that you tackle any fear this morning that will keep you from God’s personal best for you. Some of you aren’t in a good place right now. You have been hurt. You feel defeated. You are discouraged. Turn your attention to the future. Something new is on the horizon. God is calling you to a new place. Some of you have lived a limited Christian life because you are counting on only that which you can taste, touch, see, feel and smell. In just a minute, you can pray the prayer of Elisha. “Lord, open my eyes. Help me to see more than just the natural. Help me to see what is available to me in the realm of the Spirit.” Some of you just need to start praising the Waymaking God who IS bringing something new into your life. Confess that you believe He has a plan and He is at work.
The extent to which God can do a new thing in this church is the extent that we will let Him have His way. The same is true for your individual life. If you are “all in” with Jesus, you are signing up for the new thing that God is bringing our way. Would you stand with me as we pray?