Impact, impact, impact. You know when Jesus said we would do “greater works” because He was going to the Father, I think He must have seen 2015 and known what would be happening through Teays Valley Church of God and somehow be smiling on the inside at the on purpose way we are trying to collide with the culture and make an impact. I can’t even begin to keep up with the ways you all are sharing with me that an impact is being made. I know a washer and two dryers flowed through our ministry. I know new mentors for our Heartbeat of the Valley ministry to first-time and single moms took place yesterday. I know Tommy Young led the way for his company to pay for a banquet for ladies who are in a drug and alcohol addiction recovery program and that he invited me to be the speaker where I had a chance to make an impact in their recovery process. I know a lady was helped with groceries. I know more store credit flowed from our people to the people in line behind them. I know meals at restaurants were anonymously paid for. I know someone paid for a starter to be put in a stranger’s car after a brief conversation at Kroger’s. Ya’ll are really just out of control!
If you know someone in Putnam County who is making a great impact in our community in some way whether through their business, their hobby, their personal life, would you let me know about them? I want to invite people to come to our services from time to time to honor them and thank them for their impact. Watch the newspaper and be on the lookout for “hometown heroes” that we can celebrate here in our church services.
Now for the second week, allow me to share about some amazingly courageous Bible characters with you and the impact their courage made.
Stand and read with me again this one verse of Scripture which reminds us that we are called to be courageous. 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.”
Deborah-The Courage to Lead
If you want to turn to Judges four we are going to start this morning by talking about Deborah and the courage to lead. As chapter four of Judges opens we see that Israel had gotten away from following the Lord. God allowed them to become oppressed by the Canaanites. The leader of the Canaanite army was a guy named Sisera. Sisera had a lot of resources as commander of their army. Verse 3 says he had 900 iron chariots, and that for 20 years he and his army had cruelly oppressed the Israelites.
During this time, a woman named Deborah, was raised up by God to become the fourth judge in Israel. This was a time when there were no kings. God alone was to be their king, but He raised up judges to administer justice and to help liberate the people whenever they got into the kinds of messes they were in in this chapter. I love that Deborah’s office, her courtroom was between some Palm Trees. What a cool place to meet with people. Pick up the story in verse 6 with me: 6 She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, “The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: ‘Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead the way to Mount Tabor. 7 I will lure Sisera, the commander of Jabin’s army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.'”
8 Barak said to her, “If you go with me, I will go; but if you don’t go with me, I won’t go.”
9 “Very well,” Deborah said, “I will go with you. But because of the way you are going about this, the honor will not be yours, for the LORD will hand Sisera over to a woman.” So Deborah went with Barak to Kedesh, 10 where he summoned Zebulun and Naphtali. Ten thousand men followed him, and Deborah also went with him.
Skip to verse 14:14 Then Deborah said to Barak, “Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?” So Barak went down Mount Tabor, followed by ten thousand men. 15 At Barak’s advance, the LORD routed Sisera and all his chariots and army by the sword, and Sisera abandoned his chariot and fled on foot. 16 But Barak pursued the chariots and army as far as Harosheth Haggoyim. All the troops of Sisera fell by the sword; not a man was left.
Deborah and the courage to lead! It’s one thing to lead when things are peaceful or going well, and it’s quite another to lead when times are rough. Those are two different experiences entirely. Deborah found herself leading during a time when things were bad for Israel. This was a time of war. Who wants to step up at wartime? How many of you think first of a woman when you think of a leader at wartime? Who knows if Deborah had ever thought, “You know, when I grow up, I would really like to lead some troops into battle!” Who knows if she even saw herself as confident enough to prop up the leader of the army and support him by accompanying him to the battle line? How confidently can you go to battle when the leader of the army can’t even find the courage to go? I mean, when the commanding officer is scared what does it take to step up and speak courage into that person? Deborah did. In verse 14 she gave Barak a quick pep talk. “Go! This is the day the LORD has given Sisera into your hands. Has not the LORD gone ahead of you?” She emboldened Barak by telling him he was going to win the battle. God had already cleared the way for his victory.
Leadership is more than knowledge and more than words. When Deborah found herself having to lead beyond her role, having to go beyond where she had ever been before as a leader she didn’t hesitate. We see in the life of Deborah that leadership is more than knowing what to do. It is more than having the right answer. Courageous leaders aren’t just wise. They don’t just lead with words, but courageous leaders take action. They lead by example by going to the battle line themselves when necessary.
Barak was paralyzed by fear. He was the commander of the army, but he couldn’t even command himself to go to the fight. He told Deborah he would go, but only if she went with him. Deborah didn’t say to Barak, “I’m not going that close to the battle. That’s your job.” She didn’t say, “I’m not trained to do that.” She didn’t try to shame him into going even though she could have. She could have called him a wimp for needing her support. But no, instead she courageously stepped up to support Barak because that was what he needed in order to be able to follow the command of the Lord.
Re-visit verse 3: Because he had nine hundred iron chariots and had cruelly oppressed the Israelites for twenty years, they cried to the LORD for help. Deborah had been raised up by God to do something about the oppression the Israelites were living under.
Courageous leaders won’t sit back while people are living an oppressed life. It was not okay with Deborah that God’s people were being mistreated. She didn’t just accept that that was just the way things were. She didn’t just want to do her best to lead God’s people “under the circumstances.” No. Courageous leaders like Deborah set out to change circumstances.
Courageous leaders rely on God for their strategies. When Deborah laid out the military strategy for Barak in verses six and seven she did so after she had received the strategy from the Lord. She was bold in her words to Barak, but they weren’t her words. She even used the word “command” when she gave God’s orders to Barak. A woman relaying a command to a man in that day and time was a smidge on the radical side of things. It was a bit out of the ordinary. But she wasn’t telling Barak what to do herself. She was boldly telling him what God had told him to do.
Are there some people with the spirit of Deborah in the house this morning? People who will lead courageously to fight the battle against the powers of darkness? People who will courageously act justly and swiftly and take personal risks when necessary? People who won’t accept the status quo, but who will give themselves to change the circumstances for people who are living in oppression? It will take more than an awareness. It will take more than good ideas. It will take men and women of courage to have the passion to lead the way for change.
Joshua-The Courage to Conquer
Joshua 1:1-11 1 After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD, the LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now then, you and all these people, get ready to cross the Jordan River into the land I am about to give to them–to the Israelites. 3 I will give you every place where you set your foot, as I promised Moses. 4 Your territory will extend from the desert to Lebanon, and from the great river, the Euphrates–all the Hittite country–to the Great Sea on the west. 5 No one will be able to stand up against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you. 6 “Be strong and courageous, because you will lead these people to inherit the land I swore to their forefathers to give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. 8 Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. 9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” 10 So Joshua ordered the officers of the people: 11 “Go through the camp and tell the people, ‘Get your supplies ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own.'”
Taking the Promised Land was guaranteed, but it wasn’t going to be easy. It had been promised of God that they would possess it, but the Israelites were going to have to fight many battles in order to do so. It wasn’t just going to be handed to them on a silver platter. They had been called not just to occupy a place, but they had been called of God to conquer! Yes, God said He was giving them the territory, but that didn’t mean there would be no effort on their part. Why would he have repeated multiple times to Joshua that he needed to be courageous if the process of conquering and occupying the Promised Land didn’t require it?
Joshua needed courage to stand up to a lot of enemies. There would be danger. It would take a long time, but in the end it would be worth it! People who have the courage to conquer realize that the end result is worth it! God not only wanted the Israelites to enjoy occupying the Promised Land, but He wanted to do a work in them that would only come through their attempts to conquer the Land. Who needs to rely on God when what you are promised is just given to you? Who needs to know God’s Word (vs 8) if the promises written in there aren’t meant to give you help and strength along the way? Who needs to acknowledge God’s presence (vs 5) if there is never a need to rely on it? God wasn’t just telling Joshua to have the courage to conquer, but He was also telling him to have the courage to rely fully on God every step of the way.
“Look at Joshua’s TROOPS. They were unused to war. They were undisciplined. Under Moses their courage failed, and more than once they wished to return to Egypt. They had no war-horses or war-chariots like their foes. Looked upon with the eye of sense — they were unequal to the conflict.” (http://gracegems.org/Smith4/joshua.htm)
Where are the Joshua’s today? Where is that fighting spirit? Where are those who even though they will admit they are unequal to the task will still head into battle? God’s people have been giving up too easily. Rather than advance we sit still, and often we sit still and let the enemy beat up on us. We are settling for less than a Promised Land experience because we don’t have the courage to fight the battles required.
I think the reason we often shrink back, the reason we often let fear grip us instead of have courage consume us is because we are trying to conquer in our own strength. If you hear nothing else this morning hear this, “Whatever battle you are facing, understand that battle is the Lord’s.” As Joshua and the Israelites prepared to cross the Jordan River into the Promised Land, before a battle was even fought, it was God who parted the waters to enable them to do so (Joshua 3). God was making a way for them to conquer. It wasn’t Joshua who parted the waters, but God.
Do you remember the name of the first battle that Joshua commanded? It was the battle of Jericho, right? Joshua did as the Lord instructed and had the Israelites march around Jericho while the priests carried their trumpets around the city of Jericho every day for six days. It was like marching band practice, but they never played a note. For six days that carried on. I am sure they were ready to make some noise by about the third day! I was in marching band. I can’t imagine marching with my saxophone for six days and be chomping at the bit to play a song of victory, but they had to wait.
On the seventh day, God commanded them to march around the city seven times and to have the priests blow their horns and to have the people shout. What happened next had nothing to do with Joshua’s efforts or the people’s efforts. The people didn’t start hacking at the walls or kicking the walls or trying to push the walls down with their human strength. God made the walls come down! Joshua didn’t make the walls come down. God did.
The kind of courage we need is just to walk towards the battle, obey God’s instructions and trust that God will do what is necessary to enable us to win. Too many of us, however, are thinking, “Those walls are too thick. I could never win!” Umm, that’s the point. You can’t win, but God can cause you to conquer! We need to believe it. We need to live with a little swag, friends. We need to believe “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Rather than sit back and accept less than the total space we are called to occupy, we need to move forward, and put up our spiritual dukes. And if a sea needs parted, God will handle it. If walls need to come tumbling down, God will have it all under control. We must, however, possess a spirit of courage that won’t shy away from any battle that keeps us from pursuing anything God has promised.
Joshua and all of Israel could have settled for Jericho. They could have thought, “This is more than we have ever occupied before. We can stop now. This is enough.” What would have happened? Those in the surrounding areas who had history together, who had more resources, who didn’t like outsiders would have come in and overtaken the Israelites. I mean the Israelites may have taken Jericho, but it was now a city without walls. Land and plunder were great, but they weren’t safe. They had to keep conquering in order to be established.
God is speaking to some of you today who have settled for less than God’s best for your life because you got tired of fighting. Maybe you were fighting in your own strength. Maybe you were relying upon yourself instead of God. Maybe rather than obeying God, you were focused on winning a battle. God says, “Focus on Me and obeying my words.” That is the battle! That is our war strategy. Then walk toward the battle, and watch what God will do!
The last person I want to highlight in this two-week series is King David-The Courage to Confess.
David is a great example of courage. He was willing to take on the giant named Goliath all by himself. Oh, he did it with the knowledge that the Lord was with him and that the battle was the Lord’s. He knew God would give him victory. He didn’t lack courage from that standpoint. In fact, David’s life was marked by victory after victory. It would have been easy for him to get the big head. It would have been tempting for him to take the credit. Songs were written about him. His fame spread quickly. He never showed fear. He was no doubt the greatest king in Israel’s history.
But like any great leader, and like all of us, David wasn’t perfect. His judgment got clouded. He allowed himself to be put in a tempting situation. A woman bathing one night was right in his line of sight. He looked longer than he should have. He was led away by evil desires and fleshly impulses. I mean, he was the king, right? With people at his beckon call, with the weight of the kingdom on his shoulders, surely he deserved to have some pleasure. Taking someone else’s wife was wrong. He knew it, but did it really matter? Her husband wasn’t even home. He was off to war. What could it really hurt? He would never find out, right?
II Samuel 11 tells us the result of the affair was that Bathsheba was pregnant. Trying to cover up his actions, David called Bathsheba’s husband home from the war in hopes that if they slept together people would assume the baby was her husband Uriah’s. Uriah came home from the battle, but didn’t go home to his wife. Things got increasingly complicated until the dark solution David came up with was to have Uriah murdered in battle. And so, he basically put a hit on Uriah’s life. Uriah died in the battle per David’s instructions, and David took Bathsheba to be his wife.
I don’t know how David thought he could cover his tracks anyway because Bathsheba had already been pregnant for a few months when he brought her to the palace. When a baby was born six months after she became his wife, people would have to question how that could have happened. 2 Samuel 11:27 cuts to the heart of the story where we read “The thing David had done displeased the LORD.”
When something displeases the Lord, He deals with it. He makes it known. In chapter 12 of II Samuel, God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David about his sin. David hadn’t just done one thing wrong. He actually broke four commandments in one fell swoop. He coveted someone else’s wife. He committed adultery. He bore false witness, and he had someone killed. David immediately, without making excuses or justifying what he had done simply agreed with Nathan in 2 Samuel 12:13 and said, “I have sinned against the LORD.” Nathan assured David that his sin would be forgiven, but there would be consequences. The OT Law was a life for a life. David had taken a life. His baby would lose his life on the seventh day.
I get the sense from that point forward that David developed a confessional lifestyle. He realized his dependence on God for cleansing was an ongoing need. He wasn’t just sorry he got caught. He was truly sorry for his sin. He penned some of the most beautiful, emotional, vulnerable, humbling words in Scripture as a result.
Psalm 51:1-4 1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
Psalm 139:23-24 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Those aren’t the words of someone who was trying to get away with something. In those words we see the heart of a warrior had been transformed into a heart that sought after God. A macho man became God’s man. His priority was his relationship with God, and he did whatever it took to make sure that was intact at all times.
I wonder what would have become of David had he not been sorry, had he not confessed. We know God won’t be mocked. Sin is serious. He will deal with it. But if we deal with it by confessing it, we put God and ourselves in the position for us to receive mercy.
Proverbs 28:13—“The one who conceals his sins will not prosper, but whoever confesses and renounces them will find mercy.”
I believe David remained King only because David came clean. That takes a lot of courage, but it is a lot easier than trying to cover our sin or argue with God.
James 5:16—“Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed.”
Admitting who and what we really are can be scary, but the Bible says it is the way to healing.
The impact of the courage to lead shown by Deborah? People are freed from oppression.
The impact of the courage to conquer shown by Joshua? People occupy and become established in the place of God’s choosing.
The impact of the courage to confess shown by David? People obtain mercy and healing and are given a second chance.
What kind of courage could God be calling you to possess and display right now?