(Summary of Sunday Sermon, 12 July 2015)
Every now and then, I sit on my cycle and furiously pedal. Before long, I start to pant and sweat. But when I look up after about 15 minutes, I don’t see any change in my surroundings. I am seated right where I started off.
Well, that’s because I have been pedaling on my exercising cycle!
Often, our lives are a flurry of activities and schedules. We seem to be fluttering from one thing to the other. But there is no momentum to propel us forward. No matter what we do, it feels as if we are stuck at the same place.
God’s desire for us is to keep moving ahead, growing from one level to another. He says in Isaiah 43:19, ‘Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert’. He has been doing new things in our midst too. As a church, we have rented numerous facilities in the past. It was tiring and painful. But today, we have our own place to worship God. He has taken us into a new level and a season of establishment.
Today, let’s look at some implications of reaching new levels in life.
- NEW LEVELS, NEW CHALLENGES
Sometimes attaining new levels make us feel like an Olympic gold medalist. We feel like we have arrived and made it to the champion’s box. We expect adulation, applause and appreciation to come gushing. But in reality new levels mean the game has been upped for new challenges.
Let’s look at an incident from the lives of the Israelites’ when they got to a new level.
For over 400 years, the Israelites had been slaves under the Egyptian Pharaoh. They cried out to God and He sent Moses to rescue them from their oppression. Moses delivered them and the whole clan set out to the Promised Land.
Imagine the moment when they walked out to enjoy freedom from oppression. They might have been excited and thrilled. Jumping, shouting, nursing new dreams, birthing new hopes, they would have waltzed out behind Moses.
The merriment was cut short within a few days!
Spread out before them was the formidable Red Sea. The Pharaoh’s army was closing in from behind and huge mountains elbowed in on the sides. There seemed to be no means of escape. They could only see dead ends. Their new challenge was absolutely nothing like what they had faced in the past!
Reaching new levels does not mean that we can let our guard down. It is a new opportunity to conquer the level and grow upwards. Often like the Israelite children, we blame God for the challenges that come our way. He uses the challenges to mold us, make us and promote us to a new level. It’s like a mud pot which has no purpose until it goes through fire. Once it is refined in the fire, then it will then become a beautiful porcelain vessel. If we don’t go through challenges, we won’t grow or advance in lives.
- NEW LEVELS, NEW CRITICS
Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up the road, some youths came from the city and mocked him, and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!”
2 Kings 2:23
This incident takes place after Elisha’s master Elijah is taken into Heaven in God’s fiery chariot. Elijah’s mantle and a double portion of his anointing had come to rest on Elisha. On his way home, Elisha did a couple of miracles. He parted the Jordan River with his cloak, crossed it and turned the bitter water sweet in a town that he passed by.
Imagine his state of mind. He might have been excited about the new responsibility that was bestowed on him. In fact he had already started experiencing God’s power through him.
But as he kept walking, he came across a group of young men who started mocking him. Without any provocation, they started calling Elisha names and poking fun at his bald head.
Clearly, new level does not mean absence of criticism. In fact, it means an abundance of criticism.
It is not easy to please people. Someone or the other will find some fault with us. That’s because they don’t understand what God is doing in our lives. I remember a time when my husband and I had left our jobs and decided to join full time ministry. We had a wee little three month old son. Many people criticized us and thought that we were foolish to have given up our steady jobs.
I also remember another time when we had organized an evangelical crusade. Many people were blessed by it. Many heard the Gospel for the first time. Now, it so happened that after the crusade, we sold our old car. Soon, rumors began to fly that we had run into losses because of the Crusade and hence had to sell our car. It couldn’t have been farther from the truth!! We were discouraged but we continued with our life. After about two months, we bought a new car (Bolero). The rumormongers now got busy saying that we had made a huge profit and hence were able to buy the new car!
It’s really hard to please people because they don’t understand God’s move in our lives. Similarly, we faced criticism for starting ‘Petras’. People assumed that we were chasing money but slowly time proved that God had orchestrated it in our lives.
Let’s take heart and not give up. The mouths of the critics will close when they see God’s work in our lives. We have to be only careful to not allow our hearts and minds to be affected. At the end of the day, pleasing God must be more important than pleasing man.
A story is told of a judge who was always ridiculed and criticized by an arrogant lawyer. The judge’s friend noticed that he never responded to the criticisms. So he asked the judge why he didn’t stop the lawyer from harassing him. The judge replied, ‘There lived a widow in a town with a dog. Whenever the Moon shone, the dog would bark at the Moon. No matter how hard the dog barked, the Moon kept on shining’.
Let us be careful to not let our critics stop us from shining for the Lord.
- NEW LEVELS, NEW DEVILS
When He had been baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting upon Him.
When Jesus was baptized, the Heavens opened and a dove descended on Him. A voice from Heaven said, ‘This is my Son in whom I am well pleased’. The Father publicly acknowledged Jesus as His Son. He put a seal of approval on Him. Jesus was anointed and readied for the next level.
Now, as soon as Jesus walked into the next level, He was tempted in the wilderness by Satan.
New level implies new devil.
The devil is like a roaring lion wondering who he can devour. Sometimes, we hear the roar and we step back in fear. But he is only roar and no bite.
Once, a cleaner entered the lion’s cage in a zoo. To every one’s amazement, he walked by the sleeping lion and swept away all the dirt. He even lifted the lion’s paw and cleaned the floor. When he came out, the people crowded around him and asked how he was so fearless. He replied nonchalantly, ‘Oh! He is an old lion. All his teeth have gone. He can’t harm or bite me at all’.
That’s the scene with the devil too. No matter how much he roars and frightens us, he can’t do anything to us. On the cross of Calvary, the Lord crushed his teeth and fangs.
The devil is often just a stepping stone to get to our next level.
So, the next time we decide to do something for the Lord, remember that the devil won’t be far behind. He will attempt to thwart all our plans. He would love to derail us and prevent us from living for God. But, take heart that he is defeated and can’t do anything to us!
In 2004, we started this church. Soon after that, our son Sean became very sick. He was on his death bed. But during those times, we realized that our battle was not against flesh and blood but against the powers and principalities of darkness. When we have stood against the enemy’s plans, we have experienced God pushing us to the next level.
New levels mean new challenges, new critics and new devils. God’s Word says that no matter who we are or at what stage of life we are in, the Lord hasn’t given up on us. Consider the new levels as our launching pads. He will help us conquer new victories and break new grounds.
Please feel free to share your thoughts on this message in the comments section below.