There are defining moments that take place in each of our lives as individuals. There are experiences in life that bring us to the crossroads. We know at the time that the moment, the experience, could be a game changer. I hope that you are thinking about experiences you’ve had in the past where you knew God had brought you to the crossroads.
It’s not just individuals that experience defining moments, cities can experience defining moments, even nations can stand at the crossroads and know that “this” is no ordinary, everyday experience…no, no this is a defining moment for us as a city, for us as a nation.
Think about it with me for a moment. What would you say was a defining moment, a crossroads experience for us as a city? For Oklahoma City? I tested my theory on Pastor Ryan this past week. When I asked him the question, he didn’t hesitate, Ryan said, “April 19.” There’s no doubt in my mind that most people would give the same answer, “April 19, 1995. The date of the Oklahoma City bombing.” I’m well acquainted with what happened and what followed in the weeks after the bombing. Our churches were packed. A massive amount of people helped out in any and every way possible. Folks overlooked differences and united for a common cause, for the betterment and blessing of our city. There were prayer gatherings all over Oklahoma City. We declared to the nation and to the world, “We will never forget!” We would not be the people we were before that defining moment took place.
The attack of September 11, 2001 was a defining moment for New York City, but it was bigger than that–it was a crossroads for us as a nation as well. People flooded into Yankee Stadium and stadiums all over America, not to cheer for their favorite teams, but to come together to pray, crying out to God. The Bible was dusted off and everyone from the President to everyday folks like you and me were looking to God’s Word for hope, for reassurance, and for direction in life. Our differences were bridged by love and a willingness to come together and care for one another. Even our political leaders came together…which is nothing short of a miracle on the scale of the parting of the Red Sea. Once again, our churches were filled to overflowing and we declared to the world, “We will never forget! We will not go back to being the people we were before that defining moment took place.
Most often defining moments, experiences that bring us to the crossroads, are moments of crisis that stop us in our tracks, oftentimes terrify us, and always leave their mark on us. They are experiences in life that God wants to use to show us the fragility of life, our own vulnerability. They are moments that God wants to use to cause us to stop and consider our own lives, how we have been living our lives, and to reorient us so that we might seek Him above all else in life.
“We will never forget! We will not be the same people we were before God brought us to the crossroads.” That’s what we said and that’s what people continue to say when they come to the crossroads, but I’ve got to ask the question, “Have we forgotten? Have we fallen back into our old ways once again?” I don’t think there is any question that we’ve forgotten the lessons we learned from 1995 and 2001. Many of us who dusted off the Bible back then now have a Bible that is nothing more than a paperweight today. People that were passionate about knowing more about God have now found other things they are much more passionate about.
I’ve been listening to people talk over the past seven weeks and I’ve been hearing many of the things I heard in the weeks following April 19 and 9.11. God has gotten our attention. We were so scared when we saw the death total rising around the world each and every day. And then the virus came to America… and many of us began to turn to the Lord with a fresh passion, a new hunger that we’d not experienced in a long time. It’s been amazing to watch how, as church buildings closed, attendance at online worship services, prayer meetings, and online Bible studies has skyrocketed over the past few weeks. This is it! This can be our defining moment and I don’t want us to forget the lessons the Lord has been showing us during the past few weeks.
God has used crises, personal crises, national crises, and crises like the one we have been experiencing for the past seven weeks to change the course of people’s lives over and over again throughout history.
For Moses, it was a low point in his life that brought him to the crossroads. He had been raised in the lap of luxury, in Pharaoh’s own house, but he killed an Egyptian for mistreating one of his own people. The news spread until it got back to Pharaoh who set out to kill Moses. Moses fled for his life into Midian and for the next forty years of his life he was in a rut as he herded sheep on the backside of a mountain. That is, until he came to the crossroads and met God at a burning bush. His life would never be the same again.
For Nebuchadnezzar, the mighty Babylonian King, his defining moment came when he had lost his kingdom and his sanity. Let me give you the CliffNotes version of what led up to Nebuchadnezzar’s defining moment. God had sent a messenger, a godly young guy named Daniel, to let the mighty king know that he must change his ways and stop oppressing his people, but Nebuchadnezzar didn’t listen. He continued to strut his stuff, marvel at how he had made it big, and then he lost his kingdom and even worse, he lost his mind. Nebuchadnezzar found himself at the lowest point of his life–grazing like a cow in the field, his hair was matted and mangy, and his fingernails grew long like the claws of a bird. Nebuchadnezzar came to the crossroads. It was worse than Nebuchadnezzar could have ever imagined, but the crossroads turned out to be the defining moment of King Nebuchadnezzar’s life. Turn with me to Daniel 4:33-37 and let me show you what happened.
33 Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird. 34 At the end of that time, I, Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my sanity was restored. Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. 35 All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done?” 36 At the same time that my sanity was restored, my honor and splendor were returned to me for the glory of my kingdom. My advisers and nobles sought me out, and I was restored to my throne and became even greater than before. 37 Now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise and exalt and glorify the King of heaven, because everything he does is right and all his ways are just. And those who walk in pride he is able to humble. (Daniel 4:33-37 NIV)
The worst day of our life can become the pivot point to a new day, the defining moment of our life, the catalyst for lasting change, if we will pay attention and never let the lesson slip from our hearts and minds…but sad to say, this is not the norm. Don’t believe me? Just ask Hezekiah.
Hezekiah had a lot to overcome as a child because his dad, Ahaz, was without a doubt the worst king ever. Ahaz sacrificed one of his sons to the pagan god Molech. He built pagan altars all over Jerusalem and locked the doors to the temple so no one could worship God. Hezekiah became king when he was 25 years old and he immediately reversed his dad’s pagan policies. Hezekiah tore down all of the pagan altars, he reopened the temple, and welcomed people to worship the One True and Living God. Hezekiah reigned as King over Jerusalem and Judah for 29 years, but his crossroads moment happened when he was 39 years old. Hezekiah became so sick and there was nothing anyone could do to help him. God sent the prophet Isaiah to speak to Hezekiah. We can read about it in Isaiah 38.
1 In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the LORD says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.” 2 Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, 3 “Remember, LORD, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. (Isaiah 38:1-3 NIV)
God answered Hezekiah’s prayer and gave him 15 more years to live. Now, I’ve got to ask you, “If you knew you had 15 more years to live–how would you use those 15 years?” Would they be the most focused, productive years of your life? You would sure think so wouldn’t you, but it takes more than a crisis to change our course–we must remember the day we stood at the crossroads and daily renew our commitment to seek the Lord with the same passion we had on that day.
God answered Hezekiah’s prayer and gave him 15 more years to live, but Hezekiah didn’t respond by telling everyone how good the Lord had been to him. Evidently, Hezekiah forgot because 2 Chronicles 32:25 tells us that Hezekiah’s heart was proud and he did not respond to the kindness God had shown him. What happened to Hezekiah? He had been on his deathbed and God had saved him when no one else could. God had restored his health and sent Isaiah to tell him by God’s grace he would live 15 more years. What did Hezekiah have to be proud about? Better yet, what do we have to be proud about?
Let’s stop and think back over our lives for a moment. During those trying times of life when we wondered if we’d make it, when we were absolutely shattered, and we cried out to God and He answered our prayer and brought us through–How did we respond? Did we forget about how He answered our prayer of desperation? Have we gone back to doing life like we had always done it? Or, did we recognize that critical time as a defining moment that set us on a new trajectory of seeking the Lord with all of our hearts?
After God had restored Hezekiah’s life, a visitor, the son of the King of Babylon came to see him. He brought letters and gifts from the King because he had heard that Hezekiah had been ill. Instead of telling the prince of Babylon all that the Lord had done for him, instead of testifying about God’s goodness and grace to the prince, Hezekiah showed him all of his treasures. Take a look at 2 Kings 20:12-15 with me.
12 At that time Marduk-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of Hezekiah’s illness. 13 Hezekiah received the envoys and showed them all that was in his storehouses– the silver, the gold, the spices and the fine olive oil– his armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them. 14 Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?” “From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came from Babylon.” 15 The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?” “They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.” (2 Kings 20:12-15 NIV)
Don’t you know Isaiah was scratching his head when Hezekiah told him what he had done? “You did what? How could you so quickly forget what the Lord has done for you Hezekiah?” In Isaiah 39 we read that the prophet told Hezekiah that one day, after he was dead and gone, everything in his palace would be carted off by the Babylonians. Everything he treasured would one day be taken away. Isaiah said even Hezekiah’s own flesh and blood, his kids, would be taken away one day by the King of Babylon.
You would think at that point Hezekiah would have come to his senses, that he would remember how fragile his life had once been, how powerless he had been over the sickness that had threatened his life, and how good God had been to him. You would think that Hezekiah would have repented on the spot and cried out for forgiveness, but that’s not what he did. Take a look at Isaiah 39:8 with me.
8 “The word of the LORD you have spoken is good,” Hezekiah replied. For he thought, “There will be peace and security in my lifetime.” (Isaiah 39:8 NIV)
“At least I’ll have peace and security in my lifetime.” What a startling statement! What a twisted way of thinking! “At least I’ll have peace and security in my lifetime.” We so quickly forget don’t we? I have lost track of the number of people I’ve met with through the years who found themselves between a rock and a hard place. They were desperately needing help and more than willing to hear what I had to say about turning to the Lord for help. We would meet to talk about the counsel we can gain from God’s Word and they were all ears…until the storm was over. Once the Lord brought them through the storm they were on to other things. Don’t forget my friend. We cannot afford to forget how fragile and vulnerable we are in this life.
Calm waters can be more dangerous than the most violent storms of life for you and me. In calm waters we think we’ve got everything under control. In calm waters we deceive ourselves into believing that we are the captain of our own ship and we can steer it whenever, however, and wherever we please. When you’re sailing along on the calm waters of life be very careful and never forget the times the waves were beating against the hull of your ship and you thought you’d drown. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about.
After years and years of living as slaves in Egypt, God freed His people and began to lead them to the Promised Land. Through forty years of wandering in the wilderness, God provided for them, He led them by a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day, and He never left them to try and make it on their own. When they were nearing the border and preparing to cross over into the land flowing with milk and honey, God gave Moses a message to deliver to His people. Turn with me to Deuteronomy 6:10-12 and let’s read together.
10 When the LORD your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you– a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant– then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (Deuteronomy 6:10-12 NIV)
Isn’t that interesting?! God told His people, “…when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the LORD, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” After 400 years of backbreaking slavery, after 40 years of living like nomads in the desert, God was going to provide for His people houses they didn’t build, wells they didn’t dig, and crops they didn’t plant. You would think those wonderful gifts would cause God’s people to break out in spontaneous worship, but God knew the hearts of people all too well. Calm waters are dangerous. When everything is going our way, when we are satisfied, we tend to think we’ve got everything under control and we forget what God has done, we forget about those times when He brought us to the crossroads and showed us our dire need for His grace and guidance in life.
I’ve got to tell you that I’ve been thinking about this crisis you and I have been going through for the past seven weeks. More than 60,000 people in America have died so far, but you and I are still here. More than 1 million people in our country have been infected with the virus, some of you who are watching me right now, are part of that number. I have friends who’ve had the coronavirus. You were so sick, but like Hezekiah, the Lord raised you up from your sick bed and restored your health. When we heard that people like Tom Hanks, the Prime Minister of the UK, Boris Johnson, and other high profile people had contracted the virus, we all knew we were vulnerable. There is no way to know who has it so you’ve been afraid that you might come in contact with someone who is infected…but you are still here. God has brought you and me to a crossroads, it’s decision time. How will we live from this day forward?
If Blaise Pascal were here this morning, he would urge you to listen to what I’ve been saying and not put off making your decision any longer. Blaise Pascal was a genius mathematician, physicist, inventor, and writer. Those of you who have studied mathematics are familiar with Pascal’s Theorem, he dreamed it up when he was 16 years old. He wanted to help his father in his business so he created the first calculator when he was 19 years old. Today we still measure pressure based on a unit of measurement called “the Pascal,” named after Blaise Pascal. He had all of the success anyone could ever hope to experience in life, but Pascal’s experience showed him that it was all empty, it could not sustain him.
On November 23, 1654, Pascal’s horse took off and fell off a bridge. Pascal wasn’t injured, but he was convinced that God was somehow involved. God had brought him to the crossroads. That night he went home and was reading his Bible. He read late into the night and the more he read the more overwhelmed he became with the presence of Jesus. It would prove to be the defining moment of his life. He took out a piece of paper and wrote,
“Fire. God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, not of the philosophers and scholars…Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy…’This is life eternal that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.’ Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ…May I not fall from him forever…I will not forget your word. Amen.” (Blaise Pascal, November 23, 1654)
“I will not forget your word. Amen.” Pascal carried that piece of paper with him for the rest of his life. He had it sewn into his jacket and would transfer it from one jacket to another when he got a new one. Why would he do such a thing? Simple. He never wanted to forget what he experienced on the night when the Lord brought him to the crossroads. I don’t want us to forget either.
Today is the day. There are many of you that this is your moment. You know God has brought you to the crossroads and this is your time to decide. Will you turn to Him or will you just go back to doing life like you’ve always done it in the past? I pray you will turn to Him.
Britton Christian Church
May 3, 2020