This past week I had the time of my life with the kids of Britton Christian Church and their sponsors. A trip like we took takes a lot of planning and work and Ray Arechiga did an outstanding job! Way to go Ray! The adults who went along with us went above and beyond the call of duty all week as they helped kids with everything imaginable. I stand in amazement at the number of folks God has led to this church who truly have a servant’s heart. To each of the adults who went with us—a big “Thank You!” Last of all, I want to let you know that this group of kids were so well-behaved, so helpful and cooperative, and some of the quickest learners that I’ve ever seen. We had a lot of first timers go with us this year and it can be pretty scary staring up at that big mountain and thinking about falling, I mean skiing, all the way down the hill. These kids were troopers with a capital “T.” They were courageous and didn’t let their fears rule over them. To say that it was a great trip is simply not saying enough.
We did more than simply ski while we were in Colorado. As a matter of fact, skiing isn’t the main reason we take kids to Colorado. Our primary objective, our main goal, in taking kids to Colorado for Spring Break each year is to get them away from the noise of life, to nudge them towards the Lord, and to use skiing as a tool to teach them about life. We try to accomplish these goals in a number of ways: First, so many of our kids have never seen real mountains close up, live and in color. You can’t stand on top of a snow covered mountain, stare across the horizon at line after line of other mountains, and not be overwhelmed. It is impossible. God’s glorious creation whispers His name as you behold its beauty. For our kids to see the sights they’ve seen this past week was an amazing opportunity to be overwhelmed with the glory of God’s creation.
Secondly, we had Bible study each morning and evening that we were away. This year our devotions in the morning were called, “The Fear Factor” and in the evening they were called, “Through the Eyes of Faith.” In the morning we used Scripture to address the “fears” that the kids would be confronted with during the day while they were on the mountain. We used biblical examples of folks who faced fear and yet trusted in the Lord so that their fear didn’t immobilize them. In the evening we took a look back at what the Lord had done during the day and we used Scripture as a springboard for seeing God’s fingerprints through the eyes of faith.
I want to share a couple of the stories from God’s Word with us this morning because the lessons that the adults and kids learned on the trip are valuable for all of life, not just for those who are trying to overcome their fear of the mountain. There are mountains far more difficult to navigate than the mountains of Colorado. There are the mountains of life’s troubles and trials that all of us are being confronted with this very morning. Each of us, regardless of how young or old we are, must look to the Lord if we are to ever overcome them.
To get us started this morning I want to share the last morning’s devotion with you to give you an idea of how we tried to take all of the courage and faith the kid’s were able to use to overcome their fear of the mountain and challenge them to rely upon the same faith in the Lord to face their fears back home. Here’s how it went.
Okay. So now that you’ve conquered all of your fears of the mountain let’s turn our attention to things back home. Our time on the mountain is coming to an end real quick. Isn’t it amazing how time flies when you are having fun? What is it that causes your palms to sweat back home? Taking tests? Things rough at home? Somebody you love is sick and you don’t know if they will get well? A bully at school won’t leave you alone? There are a million things that can frighten us and cause us to want to pull the covers over our head and never get out of bed.
You and I aren’t the only ones who’ve been afraid of the things that happen in life. Listen to these folks.
3 When I am afraid, I will trust in you. 4 In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? (Psalm 56:3-4 NIV)
2 Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2 NIV)
The Psalmist reminds me of myself during the past month. Let me explain to you what I mean. One month ago I found out that my wife, Connie, had cancer. WHAT? CANCER!! You’ve got to be kidding me! Connie was the picture of health. She never ate Little Debbie’s, her lips wouldn’t touch a bowl of Blue Bell Ice Cream, she ate more lettuce than a rabbit, and she exercised every day. How could she get cancer? Alongside of that was the fact that “cancer” is a scary word. Connie and I prayed and we prayed every day. We stayed in God’s Word and we memorized Psalm 119:133.
133 Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me. (Psalm 119:133 NIV)
“Fear” was the sin that we couldn’t let rule over us. We would read God’s Word and hold fast to trusting in the Lord because we were naturally afraid. This is the way I read the Psalmist when he says, “I will not be afraid.” He was in a scary situation and he was reminding himself that he could trust in God rather than be paralyzed by fear.
Some of you have overcome your fear of the mountain, but there are other fears that you need to overcome as you go back home. I hope that by overcoming your fears here that God will remind you that you can overcome your fears back home. Jesus said,
27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27 NIV)
Take time to ask God to give you courage, to remind you that He is with you and will always be with you as you face challenges in your life.
Heart of the Matter
The LORD is my light and my salvation– whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life– of whom shall I be afraid? (Psalm 27:1 NIV)
The lessons that all of us learned while we were in Colorado are valuable for all of life. For those of you who have never stood on top of a snow-covered mountain and felt your heart racing like Dale Earnhardt Jr. around a track, let me assure you, fear is real. That mountain seems so big and you feel so small the first time you are ever up there. The courage that it takes to stick your poles in the snow and push off for the first time is huge! Everything in you is telling you that you shouldn’t, you can’t, and you’d be a fool to even try. The key is this: If you can get a kid or an adult to believe that they can, then they will. They will get to the bottom. They will overcome the fear. They will do something that they never dreamed was possible!
Fear is a universal emotion. Stop and think about it. It doesn’t matter if the emotion is stirred by standing on top of a mountain, news of a tornado heading down your street, by a bad report from your doctor, by being told that your mate wants a divorce, news that your job is being eliminated at work, or by concern over your child’s or your parent’s bad decisions—fear is a universal emotion. What do you do when fear seizes your heart?
Just as the kids on our trip felt fear when confronted with the mountain, Joshua felt fear when he was told by God that he would be taking Moses’ place as the leader of the freed Hebrew slaves. Turn with me to Joshua 1.
1After 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.” (Joshua 1:1-9 NIV)
For forty years Joshua had watched the great leader, Moses, lead the people, some 2 million people, across the desert as they headed towards the Promised Land. Now that Moses had died someone had to take his place. “Do I have any volunteers?” Not on your life! God didn’t ask for volunteers because He knew that there wouldn’t be any. Instead He called Joshua. God said, “Joshua, you are the man.” God didn’t have to ask Joshua if he was anxious or afraid. Of course he was scared. Wouldn’t we be if we were given such a great responsibility? Of course we would.
Instead of asking Joshua if he was afraid, God told Joshua to be “strong and courageous.” Not once, not twice, but three times God told Joshua to be strong and courageous. He wasn’t asking Joshua to muster up the courage because he was strong and courageous, but Joshua’s strength and courage would come from the fact that God promised him that He would be with him just like He had been with Moses. That is key for you and me. When we are confronted with the mountains of our life we know that we don’t have it in us to navigate the treacherous terrain, but the good news is that God doesn’t expect us to have it in us—He wants to be our strength and courage. Stand strong in the Lord! Trust Him to show you the way down the mountain that is staring you in the face today.
On the last day of our trip I was with Mike Curtis and my daughter Annie. We went to the backside of the mountain where Mike and Annie had never been before. When we got to the top of the mountain the new snow really made it tough to make any progress. The land was flat going across the top of the mountain to where we had to go to get back to our base camp. I had the bright idea of taking a short cut. Mike Curtis is a really good skier and he knew about a trail called, “Airmail,” that we could take to get us back to an easier trail. The only problem is that “Airmail” was a tough slope with big moguls all the way down it. I told Annie to follow Mike Curtis. She did for about forty-five seconds and then she pointed her skis downhill and off to the races she went. My heart was racing as I was screaming, “Fall Annie Fall!” I didn’t want her to hit a tree, but she didn’t hear me so she kept bouncing from mogul to mogul until she hit the bottom and fell. When I got to the bottom I asked Annie if she was alright and she said, “yes.” Later on I was telling Annie what a stud she was for being willing to go down the moguls and she said, “I just kept saying, ‘Help me God, help me God’ all the way down.” That’s it isn’t it? When we are faced with scary situations in life our first reaction should be, “Help me God.” You know what? He will.
The good news is that the Lord has promised to be with us. He has promised to be our strength, to give us His courage for any and every mountain that we will face in life. The sad reality is that there are so few followers of Jesus who are willing to take Him at His Word and go ahead and push off the slope.
I see an example of this in 1 Samuel 17 when the mighty Goliath was challenging Saul and the army of Israel. Read along with me.
1Now the Philistines gathered their forces for war and assembled at Socoh in Judah. They pitched camp at Ephes Dammim, between Socoh and Azekah. 2 Saul and the Israelites assembled and camped in the Valley of Elah and drew up their battle line to meet the Philistines. 3 The Philistines occupied one hill and the Israelites another, with the valley between them. 4 A champion named Goliath, who was from Gath, came out of the Philistine camp. He was over nine feet tall. 5 He had a bronze helmet on his head and wore a coat of scale armor of bronze weighing five thousand shekels; 6 on his legs he wore bronze greaves, and a bronze javelin was slung on his back. 7 His spear shaft was like a weaver’s rod, and its iron point weighed six hundred shekels. His shield bearer went ahead of him. 8 Goliath stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel, “Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. 9 If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us.” 10 Then the Philistine said, “This day I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man and let us fight each other.” 11 On hearing the Philistine’s words, Saul and all the Israelites were dismayed and terrified. (1 Samuel 17:1-11 NIV)
King Saul and his army were ready for war until their “mountain” showed up. A mountain of a man that is: Goliath, a man nine feet tall, was challenging Saul to send out his best man for a one-on-one showdown, winner takes all. “Do I have any volunteers?” Not on your life! Not one Israelite moved. Day after day Goliath showed up and challenged the Israelites, but there were no takers. How long did this go on? Well, 1 Samuel 17:16 tells us,
16 For forty days the Philistine came forward every morning and evening and took his stand. (1 Samuel 17:16 NIV)
Forty days of paralysis. Forty days of staring up at the mountain and saying, “I can’t do it!” Forty days of missing out on what God had planned for His people if only someone would step up to the plate and trust God.
There was a young man named David, he was too young to be in the battle, but he was running supplies back and forth for the troops. David was excited to run supplies because his brothers were in the army and it gave him a chance to see them now and then. In 1 Samuel 17:22-24 we get another glimpse of the great fear that had seized the army of Israel. Read along with me.
22 David left his things with the keeper of supplies, ran to the battle lines and greeted his brothers. 23As he was talking with them, Goliath, the Philistine champion from Gath, stepped out from his lines and shouted his usual defiance, and David heard it. 24 When the Israelites saw the man, they all ran from him in great fear. (1 Samuel 17:22-24 NIV)
They didn’t run to the battle, they ran away from Goliath, their mountain. Isn’t that just like us? What is your Goliath this morning? What is your mountain that is causing you to run scared? Our Goliaths, our insurmountable mountains are legion, and they are keeping many of us paralyzed aren’t they? God doesn’t want us immobilized, He doesn’t want us paralyzed, but He wants us to trust Him so that we might overcome the mountains we are facing in life.
When young David finally figured out what was going on with the army of Israel, He said, 32 David said to Saul, “Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him.” (1 Samuel 17:32 NIV)
Can you imagine what was running through the king’s mind at this point? Saul was the king. He was tall, dark, and handsome. He was a warrior, but he wasn’t willing to take on Goliath. Here was David. A kid. Not a warrior. Just a kid. Saul said,
33 Saul replied, “You are not able to go out against this Philistine and fight him; you are only a boy, and he has been a fighting man from his youth.” 34 But David said to Saul, “Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, 35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. 37 The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” Saul said to David, “Go, and the LORD be with you.” (1 Samuel 17:33-37 NIV)
David’s willingness to face Goliath had nothing to do with his strength or courage, but it had everything to do with the One who would be with him. David said, “The Lord will deliver me from the hand of the Philistine.” I noticed something really interesting about this Scripture that I hadn’t noticed before. In David’s past he had taken on a bear and a lion while he was protecting his sheep. The Lord had given him strength to overcome them so his past experiences gave him confidence that the Lord would give him strength to overcome Goliath. That’s it! That’s exactly what we were trying to teach the kids while we were in Colorado. The Lord who gave you the courage and strength to make it down the mountain is the same Lord who will give you strength to overcome any mountain that you will face in life. I pray that those kids will remember that the next time they face a mountain in their life.
Since nobody else was willing to take on Goliath, David suited up and took his place for battle. David didn’t want to use Saul’s armor; he just took a sling and five smooth stones to the battle front. When David went out to face Goliath he said,
45 David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. (1 Samuel 17:45 NIV)
The odds were against David just as the odds were against so many others that we read about in Scripture, but David went to battle in the strength and courage of the Lord. You and I don’t recall the names of those who sat on a rock waiting for someone else to confront Goliath, but we remember David. All it took was one person to trust God and the enemy was defeated.
How about you today? Where are you this morning? Are you suffering, paralyzed by the fear that has gripped you because of the mountain that is before you? I don’t know what your mountain is, but I know that God is bigger than your mountain. Let me let you in on another secret—God knows all about your mountain. He’s put it there right in front of you so that you might learn to trust Him. I mean really trust Him. It doesn’t take much trust or courage to face life when the waters are calm and the land is flat, but when the mountain appears and you know that you can’t do it on your own then we will find out if you will trust Him. You can trust Him. You say, “But Mike you don’t know what I am facing?” You are right. I don’t know what you are facing, but I do know that you are not alone in facing your mountain. Trust Him. Cry out to Him. When all evidence points to your demise, cling to Him. He will see you through.
I want to invite you this morning to surrender your fears and profess your faith in the One who wants to lead you through this difficult time in your life. If you’ve never accepted Jesus as Lord of your life then won’t you cry out to Him this morning? Ask Him into your heart as Lord and Savior of your life.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
Oklahoma City, OK. 73114
March 25, 2007