Back on the Raft
Do you feel like you've slowly slipped away in your faith? How do you get back on the raft?
Morning. David Sorn. Lead Pastor at Renovation Church.
Before I get into our passage this morning…let me take a quick aside to talk about something that is SO AMAZING…and yet, often we can be nervous about stepping forward in it.
And that’s baptism.
If you haven’t heard yet, our annual summer baptism is coming up on July 28th
(Put up Baptism Slide)
If you’re a believer in Jesus, and you’ve never been baptized as a believer, get baptized.
It’s an amazing experience. So powerful.
The Bible speaks A LOT about baptism, and tells us it’s something we’re to do after we make a decision to believe in Jesus.
It’s an outward symbol of Jesus giving us new life and washing away our sins
It’s something that Jesus even commands us to do…it’s that important.
So…if you’ve been waiting to do it…let go of any excuses and sign-up
It’s not about being ready.
It’s about we’ll never be good enough and he died for anyway.
It’s not about the conditions being just right..
It’s a matter of obedience.
In the Bible…people often even got baptized the same day they believed.
And it’s not (and this a tough on in our Midwestern culture), it’s not even about “if you were baptized already as a baby”
I was myself…but I was baptized as an adult because the Bible never mentions baptizing babies.
Every time the Bible describes baptism, it describes someone who gets baptized after their faith becomes their own…after they believe.
It’s so awesome to do it.
If you’ve been putting it off, put it off no longer.
I was reading some stuff from Lee Eclov this week, who is a great bible teacher out of Chicago, and I came across this story.
A few hundred years ago, Robert Robinson penned a famous hymn that many of you might be familiar with…especially if you grew up in an era with hymns J
It’s called “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”
And it’s most famous line is: “Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love”
When Robinson was 17, he went to hear one of my all time heroes, George Whitefield speak.
He went to heckle him and mock him, but ended up getting saved.
6 years later, when he was just 23, he wrote “Come Though Fount”
However…decades later, after living a hard life, it’s said that he was one day riding in a coach in which a young woman sat across from him, humming a hymn.
She asked him what he thought of the song, not knowing he was the composer.
With tears running down his cheeks, he said, “Madam, I am the poor unhappy man who wrote that hymn many years ago, and I would give a thousand worlds—if I had them---to enjoy the feelings I had then”
Eclov then says, “There are times in almost every believer’s life when we feel that way, as if the best years of our spiritual lives are behind us, because we’ve wandered from God”
We’re going to address that very topic this morning as we continue in our Monarchy series on the book of 1 Samuel in the Bible.
If you were out of town last Sunday for the July 4th weekend, or you’re just visiting for the first time today, last week we covered 1 Samuel chapter 11.
And the new King of Israel, Saul, led the Israelites to a major victory over the Ammonites.
Chapter 11 ends with everyone celebrating and wanting to reaffirm Saul as their king
Today’s chapter, chapter 12, starts off right where chapter 11 ended.
The people are all still gathered together celebrating.
SAMUEL STARTS HIS FAREWELL SPEECH
And while they are celebrating, Samuel decides to make a farewell speech.
It’s a bit like George Washington’s famous Farewell Address to the United States.
One of the greatest things George Washington ever did for this country (and there were many) was to step down as president after 2 terms.
If this country was going to be a Republic, and not another Monarchy, it was important for the first president to set a precedent of stepping down.
And in this case, Samuel is going to step down in his role as Israel’s leader.
They asked for a King, and God gave them one, so now Samuel needs to step out of a leadership role and into the role of just “prophet”
And that’s partly why he’s giving this speech.
But while he still has the platform, he’s also going to use it to remind the people that they are indeed sinning.
They never should have asked for a King.
God had told them all along that He was their king.
There’s only one King in this monarchy, and it’s God.
Let’s take a look at the first part of the speech
(1 Samuel 12:1-5) – NIV
Samuel said to all Israel, “I have listened to everything you said to me and have set a king over you.2 Now you have a king as your leader. As for me, I am old and gray, and my sons are here with you. I have been your leader from my youth until this day. 3 Here I stand. Testify against me in the presence of the Lord and his anointed. Whose ox have I taken? Whose donkey have I taken? Whom have I cheated? Whom have I oppressed? From whose hand have I accepted a bribe to make me shut my eyes? If I have done any of these things, I will make it right.” 4 “You have not cheated or oppressed us,” they replied. “You have not taken anything from anyone’s hand.” 5 Samuel said to them, “The Lord is witness against you, and also his anointed is witness this day, that you have not found anything in my hand.” “He is witness,” they said.
Let me tell you what Samuel is doing here.
He’s setting them up J
He’s saying, “You guys are sure that I’m a fair judge, right?”
“Yep, we’re sure! You are a man of integrity! We trust you!”
Now, watch, he’s going to “bring them to trial” with himself as the prosecutor and God as judge J
In just a few verses he’s even going to ask them to stand up
Now, he’s going to bring charges against them:
THE SLOW FADE OF FORGETFULNESS
(1 Samuel 12:6-15) – NIV
6 Then Samuel said to the people, “It is the Lord who appointed Moses and Aaron and brought your ancestors up out of Egypt. 7 Now then, stand here, because I am going to confront you with evidence before the Lord as to all the righteous acts performed by the Lord for you and your ancestors. 8 “After Jacob entered Egypt, they cried to the Lord for help, and the Lord sent Moses and Aaron, who brought your ancestors out of Egypt and settled them in this place. 9 “But they forgot the Lord their God; so he sold them into the hand of Sisera, the commander of the army of Hazor, and into the hands of the Philistines and the king of Moab, who fought against them.10 They cried out to the Lord and said, ‘We have sinned; we have forsaken the Lord and served the Baals and the Ashtoreths. But now deliver us from the hands of our enemies, and we will serve you.’11 Then the Lord sent Jerub-Baal, Barak, Jephthah and Samuel, and he delivered you from the hands of your enemies all around you, so that you lived in safety. 12 “But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was moving against you, you said to me, ‘No, we want a king to rule over us’—even though the Lord your God was your king. 13 Now here is the king you have chosen, the one you asked for; see, the Lord has set a king over you. 14 If you fear the Lord and serve and obey him and do not rebel against his commands, and if both you and the king who reigns over you follow the Lord your God—good! 15 But if you do not obey the Lord, and if you rebel against his commands, his hand will be against you, as it was against your ancestors.
So Samuel gives Israel a quick history lesson.
And the gist of it is this: God does amazing things…but you forget.
He sends you another deliver…does amazing things…but you forget.
You enjoy the freedom of his victories…the fruits of his land…but you forget who gave it to you in the first place.
The Israelites have quite the pattern of forgetting God.
And when they forget God, God seems to spark up trouble for them (like selling them into the hands of their enemies) to get their attention
And maybe you’re here this morning, and you feel like you’ve fallen away from God some
Like I mentioned in the beginning, maybe you feel like your best spiritual days are behind you…that life isn’t working quite as well nowadays as it used to
But this is where Scripture is quite helpful.
Like Israel, we don’t usually get into trouble because we purposefully rebel against God.
Instead, we forget about him.
We forget to consult him in prayer.
We forget to open up the Bible each day.
We forget to make Him a big part of our daily lives
And we forget all of the amazing things He’s done.
And before long…our love for Him has faded…our relationship has faded.
Marriages can be like this.
You hear people nowadays say things like, “We just fell out of love”
“Of course we were in love when we got married, but over time, it just faded away”
Maybe they just took each other for granted…much like we do with God.
But one of the best ways to fight against this in marriage is to tell stories.
Tell stories of the olden days.
Remember why you felt that way when you were younger…and used to lie in bed at night thinking about the other person…with your heart racing.
Remember what it is about them that made you fall in love in the first place.
This is one of the reasons anniversaries should probably be more important to us than they are.
Anniversaries ought to be more than just picking up a cheap card at walgreen’s with some flowery language that you just picked because it looked fancy
Anniversaries are an appointed time to REMEMBER what we felt.
And hopefully those memories trigger new feelings of love.
And Samuel would suggest that we should do the same thing with God.
That you remember back to what it was like when you first fell in love with God.
That you take note of (make a list if you need to!) of all the things He’s done for you in the past.
God is there for you…He will never leave you.
But…You also better believe that if you live your life like YOU are King (or someone else is King), and God’s not…it’s not going to go well for you.
There are consequences to living that way.
Check out what happens next:
(1 Samuel 12:16-19) – NIV
16 “Now then, stand still and see this great thing the Lord is about to do before your eyes! 17 Is it not wheat harvest now? I will call on the Lord to send thunder and rain. And you will realize what an evil thing you did in the eyes of the Lord when you asked for a king.” 18 Then Samuel called on the Lord, and that same day the Lord sent thunder and rain. So all the people stood in awe of the Lord and of Samuel. 19 The people all said to Samuel, “Pray to the Lord your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king.”
This is even crazier than it sounds.
This happens during the wheat harvest, which in ancient Israel was during May & June, and it scarcely EVER rained during that time.
Why is God doing this??
Because He wants to show Israel that they need to “get their fears in the right order”
Earlier, they say they were terrified of Nahash (who’s the Ammonite terrorizing their Eastern Border)
And it’s not just that, they’re terrified of the Philistines on their Western Border as well.
So in their fear…they’re seeking security in a human king.
And here’s what God is trying to get across to them.
This is really important.
You may have fear in your life
About your job security
About your kids
About your marriage…you name it
But stop trying to fix everything yourself!
What about the one who actually has the power to help you keep your job, keep your kids out of the weeds, and fix your marriage?
And even more so, get your fears in order.
The Bible calls us to “Fear the Lord”
Which is closer to the meaning of a deep respect.
That you recognize that God is TOTALLY in charge, and you…respect that.
So then why are our greatest fears around things like money, job security, or our health?
Our fears are not in order.
That’s why God sends the storm.
Author Brennan Manning says it this way:
“To ascertain where you really are with the Lord, recall what saddened you the past month. Was it the realization that you do not love Jesus enough? That you did not seek his face in prayer often enough? That you did not care for his people enough? Or did you get depressed over a lack of respect, criticism from an authority figure, your finances, a lack of friends, fears about the future, or your bulging waistline?” – Brennan Manning
If all of your daily concerns are merely earthly concerns, God wants you to know that you’re on the wrong path
That’s the path that leads to the slow fade.
Over time, you’ll have spent all your time with your head looking downward at your own problems that you’ll forget there even is an “up”
And when that happens to you, life gets dark.
But if you switch your fears.
You walk in the fear of the Lord…as Samuel is going to say in a bit…
And you live like the most serious thing that could happen to you…is not the loss of your job…it’s not overdrafting in your bank account…it’s the slow death of your relationship with God.
Because when you’re not right with God, nothing’s right!
“The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else." – Oswald Chambers
And so God sends the storm to get their attention.
And God honestly does similar things in our lives sometimes to get our attention
To say, “HEY! Let’s remember who’s in charge here.”
“So you’re afraid of your enemies…you’ve got a lot of fear….before you go scrambling around figuring out worthless earthly solutions, let’s remember who’s even giving your enemies breath right now?”
“Please remember, and may this storm demonstration help you realize that if I wanted to, I could solve the problem for you…like that”
“Get your priorities…your paths…your fears…in order”
And God does this…ultimately…because He loves His people.
Take a look at what happens next:
DO NOT TURN AWAY
(1 Samuel 12:20-25) – NIV
20 “Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. 22 For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. 23 As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. 24 But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you. 25 Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will perish.”
Verse 20 is fascinating.
It says…”Do not be afraid!”
You’ve sinned against, God…you’ve maybe walked away from Him some…you’ve stopped taking your relationship with God seriously…but don’t be afraid.
God just sent you a HUGE STORM…but don’t be afraid.
He loves you.
“He was pleased to make you his own,” it says
Now turn back to him.
Don’t turn away.
I read a story a few months ago about a guy who got to go white-water rafting near Victoria Falls in Africa
I was struck by what his guide told him, so I saved it. Here’s what he writes:
But then our guide said, "When the raft flips …" There was no "If the raft flips" or "Or on the off chance we get flipped." But "When the raft flips."
He went on, "… stay in the rough water. You will be tempted to swim toward the stagnate water at the edge of the banks. Don't do it. Because it is in the calm water that the crocodiles wait for you. They are large and hungry. Even when the raft flips, stay in the rough water."
This is a good word for us today
If God is trying to get your attention, and a storm has flipped your raft over…the answer isn’t always the easy way out.
The answer isn’t to go back to luke-warmness.
The answer isn’t to go back to just trying to calm yourself by watching endless hours of TV instead of cracking open your Bible…or getting more sleep instead of getting up early to talk to God.
We all know where that leads over time.
You’re going to get eaten.
Get back in the rough waters…GET BACK ON THE RAFT…and start paddling with God again.
A CHANCE AT REDEMPTION
God is giving you a chance at redemption to make your spiritual life vibrant again!
“”Look at the Israelites…one wrong turn (asking for a King) did not put them out of God’s plan forever.
Yeah, they shouldn’t have done it…but they did…and Samuel simply called them to serve the Lord where they’re at now.
We see this over and over in the Bible.
What humans means for evil, God uses for good.
God is even going to use their sinful asking of a King to one day bring the “King of Kings” (Jesus Christ) out of the family line of the Jewish Kings
And it’s the same in your life.
When you fall away from God…whether it was fast or slow…God offers you a chance at redemption.
A new path. A new story. A new branch of the tree.
And yet, in his brilliance, that’s the story He’s been working on all along.
Will you take it?
Will you get back on the raft and follow Him again?
You can’t do much about yesterday, and as of right now, you can’t yet serve God tomorrow.
All you can do is what verse 20 says: “Do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the LORD with all your heart”
All you can do is today.
So if you feel like the hymn-writer from the beginning…and you feel like all your great spiritual days are behind you…it’s time to change that.
The only way you change the future…is if you change the present.
Start living for God again…today.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
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