The Path of Difficulty
Would God ever call you to something and then make life more difficult for you?
INTRODUCTION / GOD’S PROMISES
Good morning. My name is David Sorn. I’m the Lead Pastor here at Renovation Church.
Let me ask you a question: Does God make mistakes?
Does God make mistakes with your life?
When God tells you to follow Him and trust Him, and you end up in a season of suffering and difficulty…did God make a mistake?
It’s easy to sit here and answer “no” to that question, but it’s not so easy when it’s your real life.
As we continue in our Rescue series on the Book of Exodus this morning, I want to look at this.
When God calls you to follow Him, and then after you do, life gets hard, what in the world is God doing?
If you’re new at Renovation, welcome!
Let me get you quickly caught up on where we are in the book of Exodus, which is the 2nd book in the Bible.
God has called this 80-year old man, Moses, to go back into Egypt, his former home, to lead his people (the Israelites) out of slavery, out of Egypt, and into the Promised Land.
God has just finished commissioning Moses to go (through a burning bush no less) and told Moses to gather together the elders of the Israelites.
Moses is supposed to tell them that God was going to rescue them from Pharaoh and take them out of Egypt.
And God even gave Moses some miraculous signs to prove to the Israelites that he had been sent by God.
Let’s join the story there
We’re going to cover a TON of ground today…from the end of chapter 4 to halfway through part of chapter 6.
We won’t read every single verse, but we’ll cover all of the content.
Let’s start at the very end of chapter 4
(Exodus 4:29-31) – NIV
29 Moses and Aaron brought together all the elders of the Israelites, 30 and Aaron told them everything the Lord had said to Moses. He also performed the signs before the people, 31 and they believed. And when they heard that the Lord was concerned about them and had seen their misery, they bowed down and worshiped.
So the Israelite leaders are absolutely PUMPED that God is going to deliver them from slavery!
They even bow down and worship Him.
REASONS FOR DIFFICULTIES
So put yourself in the sandals of the Israelites for a moment.
God has just promised you He would deliver you from slavery.
He even showed you some miraculous signs just to put a little icing on the cake.
Now…Moses tells you that he’s off to go tell Pharaoh him that you’re all going to leave now…
You’re thinking, “Woo! It’s finally here. Miriam, pack your things, we’re heading out tomorrow!”
And then this happens:
(Exodus 5:1-9) – NIV
Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”
2 Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”
3 Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.”
4 But the king of Egypt said, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!” 5 Then Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.”
6 That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: 7 “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw. 8 But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ 9 Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.”
That message is then delivered to the Israelite slaves…who are shocked to hear the news.
We’re then told that the slaves are beaten because they can’t keep up with this new, impossible quota.
So they send their own overseers to try and talk Pharaoh out of it, but it’s of no use.
Then, towards the end of the chapter…this happens:
(Exodus 5:19-21) – NIV
19 The Israelite overseers realized they were in trouble when they were told, “You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.” 20 When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, 21 and they said, “May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
Now think about this…if you’re an Israelite, you already had your bags packed and ready to go…and then THIS happens…what are you thinking??
You’re probably thinking, “I thought God was supposed to be rescuing us? Well, it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen! God would never do it this way, that’s for sure!”
And so the Israelite leaders deduce that because things got HARDER once they started trusting this new idea from God, that this plan must not really be from God.
You ever think that way??
Personally, I think it’s really hard NOT to.
Like what if you feel God calling you to talk to a friend or family member about Him…but it doesn’t go well?
One time, when I was a younger believer, I was in the car with someone who wasn’t a believer, and I thought, “I’ll turn on some Christian music…surely that will change their heart”
And the person said, “Turn that Jesus garbage off”
Okay….2Pac it is!
What if you feel God calling you to start sacrificing your finances for Him…to tithe…to give 10%?
And so you start…and a month later you lose your job.
Who is God then?
Is a difficulty…a mistake on God’s part?
One of the important things we must understand as Christians is that God uses many different paths for our spiritual development.
Sometimes he walks us down the path of blessing.
And He grows our hearts just by blessing us.
But other times, He tells you to go a certain way (go talk to Pharaoh), and then right after He does so, he blocks the way (Pharaoh says to get your own straw, and many of you are even going to get beaten when you don’t meet your quota!)
So why does God sometimes intentionally walk us down the path of difficulty and not always the path of blessing?
I think this is a concept that we don’t understand in any real depth here in America
In part because we have a lot of false teachers that say God only walks us down the path of blessing…to make us healthy and wealthy and happy.
Listen, just pick up a Bible, pick a random spot, and read for 5 minutes and that idea will fall apart.
So if God does sometimes intentionally walk us down the path of difficulty … if difficulties are not a deviation from God’s path (if they’re not a mistake)…then what are they?
What in the world is God doing by having Moses go to Pharaoh…only to have Pharaoh make life absolutely miserable for God’s people?!?
I want to walk you through, fairly quickly here at the start, 3 reasons God sometimes walks us down the path of difficulty as we follow Him
Of course there are more, but let’s cover 3 major ones.
If you’re a note taker, write these down
3 Reasons Difficulties are Placed in our Path
#1: They increase God’s glory
You’re going to see over the next few chapters that it’s going to take some time to get out of Egypt.
Things are going to get a whole lot worse before they get better.
But the worse it gets, and the deeper the hole gets, the more amazing it becomes that God can dig the Israelites out of the hole.
By the time God gets them out, they’ll be looking heavenward with their jaws hanging on the floor
It’s kind of an odd thing to think about, but if you never suffered in your life, you would never be amazed at what God could do with your life.
…because there would be nothing for Him to do!
It’s one of the reasons He makes humans imperfect.
We’re wrong to assume that difficulties are always the result of our sin (although they can be)…but we’re ALSO wrong to assume that difficulties are a deviation from God’s path (a mistake)
Look at what happens when Jesus encounters a man with a great difficulty…a man who was born blind
(John 9:1-3) – NIV
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him.
So when life walks you down the path of difficulty…and you’re frustrated that you’re still single, or frustrated that you can’t seem to get pregnant, or frustrated that you can’t seem to find work
Don’t assume that this path is a detour outside of God’s control
God often does what He does, so we will better see His glory.
God is willing to walk you down the path of difficulty so that in the end you will come out of it with more trust for Him.
Which, if you’re a thinker, maybe you’re thinking, “But why not just give it to me with no opposition in the first place…wouldn’t I trust Him if he always walked me down the path of blessing?”
For most of us, no difficulty or suffering, leads to pride not greater trust in God.
3 Reasons Difficulties are Placed in our Path
#1: They increase God’s glory
#2: They humble us
If Moses and Aaron walk in to the most powerful man on the planet, and say, “Hey, let the Israelites go!”
And if Pharaoh cowers and folds to them on day one, Moses are Aaron are going to walk out of the palace saying, “We just walked right up to him, and he gave right into our demands…we were awesome!”
I know that God worked these two principles together for Renovation Church in our land search.
We certainly weren’t walking the path of blessing these past two years.
We looked at a lot of land, and it’s not like the first person we called said, “Sure, you guys sound really smart and great how about $600,000 under our list price?”
No, we struggled…and threw up our hands…and said, “We can’t do this…this is frustrating/difficult…help us!”
And from the path of difficulty God helped us…
But also humbled us and showed us His glory in the process!
Often God’s deepest reason for the path of difficulty is the third reason he brings us there.
3 Reasons Difficulties are Placed in our Path
#1: They increase God’s glory
#2: They humble us
#3: They draw us closer to Him
One of the main things that God wants to teach the Israelites on their entire journey throughout the Book of Exodus is this:
What they ultimately need, isn’t just to get out of their difficult situation, what they need is Him.
Pastor Chad Kincer says it this way:
“God doesn’t always save us in the way we think He should because His purpose in saving us isn’t just the rescue, it’s that we might know Him deeply.” – Chad Kincer
Let me ask you a question: Do you believe that God is more concerned about your heart/ your relationship with Him…Or is He more concerned about how easy your circumstances currently are?
If sometimes the best way for God could to grow you closer to Him is to lead you down the path of difficulty, is that okay?
If He walks you down that path, will you trust that He doesn’t make mistakes?
I’ve said this to you before, but I find this incredibly difficult as a Christian.
I don’t think the concept is difficult…the application of it is.
When you trust God, and you’re following after Him HARD, and you find out you’re going to have to wake up earlier, get the straw yourself…
It’s really hard to go, “Yes, God, this must be for the best! I bet you’re drawing me closer to I can better see your glory!”
I don’t know about you, but I’m usually thinking, “What in the world are you trying to accomplish here?! Sit down for a second and let me tell you how you should be doing this!”
And so how can we begin to rethink the path of difficulty so we can still, as Christ-followers, trust our God when he grabs our hands and leads us over to that path??
I want to work out two principles for you on this:
2 Ways to Rethink Difficulties
#1: Remember His Purposes
The first thing we need to remember is God’s main purpose for your life, which is what?
His first purpose is for you to grow deeper in your relationship with Him.
If you can remember that and trust that, it will serve you very well.
God is far more concerned about your spiritual growth than He is about making you comfortable.
And yet we have this overly simple view of our faith that says, “if I encounter difficulties, I need to question what God is doing…I should question His love…His plan for me.”
I think a lot of Christians question God when they encounter difficulty BECAUSE they believe that the best way God can love them is to make sure they avoid suffering”
This is the same type of thing that the Israelites have
They were SO excited about God when they heard he was going to deliver them…but as soon as the Israelites hear that following God is first going to make their lives more difficult, then that must not be God!
Why would they say that?
Because, fascinatingly, just like so many of us, they have forgotten God’s main purpose!
Which was what?!
“To make sure we’re always comfortable”
NO! It’s not!
His main purpose is for you to grow deeper in your relationship with Him.
And sometimes He’ll do that by walking you down the path of blessing.
And sometimes times by walking you down the path of difficulty.
Friends, one of the best things you can do is to stop telling God the best way to run your life…the best way to make you happy…the best way to help you grow spiritually.
Way too many of us are regularly “grading God” based upon the perceived good or poor moves we believe He’s made in our life…the amount of difficulty He has or has not kept us from.
And then, what we do…is we determine how worthy He is for us to follow…or surrender to…based upon how much He’s kept us off of that Path of Difficulty
That’s not Biblical Christianity.
That’s not worship.
Just like the Israelites, it’s easy to worship God when you believe He’s about to do something amazing.
But can you still worship Him when He walks you down the path of difficulty?
Because to worship means you think someone is greater than you, which means you think their plans are greater than what you would have sketched out for your life.
Even if you can’t figure how having to get up earlier to go out and get your own straw is going to lead to anything good!
Worship…means you trust!
Let me ask you a question:
Do you ultimately want what God wants for you?
Or, do you just want you want…and if God can help you with that (great!), but if He can’t…then you don’t really like how He operates
If that’s where you land…on that latter option…then I would say that you’re, perhaps unknowingly, looking for a tiny God.
Let me give you an example of this:
My kids get mad when I make decisions for them that are going to make them uncomfortable…but I know, it’s for their good.
“Finish that vegetable…time for bed…go say you’re sorry”
And they’re mad because walking that “path of difficulty”…makes them uncomfortable…and if I were nice…and good…shouldn’t my purpose be to make them comfortable??
But I know that what I’m asking them to do…although maybe difficult for them at the time…is for their ultimate good, and I know that because I’m 35 and they’re 4.
And God knows the same thing…because he’s slightly older and a tiny bit wiser than you.
The best thing you can do is to let go (can you do this today??) of what God should and should not be doing in your life!
Train yourself to respond to difficulties not with: “God what are you doing?”
But, “God, I trust whatever you’re doing”
“I will REMEMBER that your main purpose is not to make me comfortable, but do whatever it takes to grow our relationship”
REMEMBER HIS PROMISES
And so I said there are 3 reasons why God often places difficulties in our path…and 2 ways to rethink these difficulties so you can better let God grow you on the path of difficulty
2 Ways to Rethink Difficulties
#1: Remember His Purposes
#2: Remember His Promises
When you face difficulties…
In your head, you remember that this is all part of his plan and purpose.
But in your heart, you remember His promises.
This is what Moses has to do.
(Exodus 5:22-6:9) – NIV
Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? 23 Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.”
2 God also said to Moses, “I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord. I did not make myself fully known to them. 4 I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners. 5 Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.6 “Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”
9 Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.
The people are clearly discouraged.
Moses is clearly discouraged by this development.
They have interpreted the path of difficulty as God not doing what He’s supposed to be doing…even though God’s doing exactly what He should be doing.
And so what does God say to snap them out of it…what does He remind them of?
His purposes and his promises.
“Moses, remember, I promised you I would do this…and when I say I’m going to do something…I’m going to do something.”
The promise of future deliverance can go a long way when you face difficulty.
For example: I like rollercoasters.
When the rollercoaster goes upside down…or looks like it’s going to run into a wall, I try not to scream, because they promised me that as long as I didn’t have a heart condition and wasn’t pregnant that nothing bad was going to happen to me
And I believe that promise, so I don’t really fear.
What does God give to Moses in chapter 6??
He gives him not 1, not 2, but 7 “I will’s!”
I will bring you out!
I will free you!
I will redeem you
I will take you as my own people
I will be your God
I will bring you to the land
I will give it to you!
I PROMISED IT!
What’s the promise?
I will be your God, and I will lead you out
Not, I will lead you around.
It’s “I will be your God, and I will lead you out.”
If He’s got you on the path of difficulty right now instead of the path of blessing, that’s his promise to you: “I will be your God, and I will lead you out”
If you’re a believer, He promises you:
I will always be with you, and never forsake you
I will always love you
I always have a plan for you
And what does God tell Moses to stake that promise on?
He says that He’s already made a covenant (an agreement) with their ancestors…to be their God…and give them the land.
And if God says He will, He will.
No matter what you may think He’s doing or supposed to do.
And did you know that, if you’re a believer in Jesus, God also has a covenant for you that you can stake your trust in…
The Bible calls this covenant, the one for Christians, the New Covenant:
(Hebrews 9:15) – NIV
For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.
And so because you know that Jesus has made this covenant with you through your faith…
If you’re frustrated and worn out on the path of difficulty right now, and you’re wondering if God has made a mistake …the best thing I can tell you is that God has told you He will keep his covenant.
Which was what?
To forgive your sins…so that you may be with Him now and when you die…
That he will be your God…and lead you out…however that looks in His wisdom.
But if you find yourself wondering if He really cares…if He really will lead you through this…if he really does have a purpose on the path of difficulty….remember the covenant…that He sealed with His son’s blood…by sending Jesus as a ransom for you
His Son, Jesus, walked down the THE path of difficulty…to the cross.
And God sacrificed his own Son so that you might never forget the lengths He would go to in order to draw you to Himself.
So don’t forget his love for you
And one of the best ways to be reminded of that is for us to take communion together.
Look what Paul writes about communion in the NT.
(1 Corinthians 11:23-26) – NIV
23For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me." 25In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me." 26For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.
His death signaled the beginning of a new covenant…a new promise.
That no matter our sins, no matter our difficulties…we are forgiven by our faith in Jesus…and He is drawing you to Himself…as His own.
And so, as many of us live in difficulty, we want to remember his purposes and his promises this morning as we take communion together.
Paul also writes in this passage that we ought to examine ourselves before taking communion.
To 1) not do it in vain. To only do it if we truly believe it. And if you’re still just seeking, that’s ok. You’re on a journey. 2) Communion is an opportunity for believers to examine themselves (ask yourself some tough questions)
In the back, there are 2 tables….with pieces of bread and a bowl of juice. When you’re ready, you can get up take an individual piece of bread and dip it in the juice.
However, take some time to examine yourself before you go back.
Sometime to remember what He’s done and what He will do
And when you’re ready, at any time during the next few songs (if you need to wait, wait), you can go back and take communion.
If you would like to pray while you’re back there, we encourage you to do so. With each other, by yourself, or our prayer team will be in the back to pray for you as well (POINT THEM OUT)
We really just want you to encounter God during our service.
Copyright: David Sorn
Renovation Church in Blaine, MN
You may use this material all you like! We only ask that you do not charge a fee and that you quote the source and not say it is your own.