A 4-Part Teaching Series on How to Live the Transforming Story of the Gospel of Jesus Christ
PEOPLE OF THE PROMISE: STRIKING GOLD IN THE PROMISED LAND!
Teaching #2: “A Light in Dark Mines!”
Hebrews 11:8-12 (ESV)
Pastor Jerry Ingalls
March 5, 2017
God has called us as a church to focus on the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ to transform each of our stories to point to God: to be windows into grace; parables of love. We are not yet perfected pictures, but we are in an ongoing process of conversion so that God’s will be done in and through us more and more as we grow up into Him. We are in the second week of a special 4-week teaching discussing HOW we do this: How do we live as people of the promise?
Let’s review a little from last week: Why did people head west in 1849? Because they were hoping to strike it rich and quick—they went seeking their fortunes in the promised land of California. The rumors began and were confirmed in 1848:
“THERE’S GOLD IN THEM THERE HILLS!”
This led to the great migration west—in 1849 alone, 90,000 people made their way into “them there hills” of California. Listen to what one historian writes regarding these people who went west in 1849: “Throughout 1849, people around the United States (mostly men) borrowed money, mortgaged their property or spent their life savings to make the arduous journey to California. In pursuit of the kind of wealth they had never dreamed of, they left their families and hometowns…” (http://www.history.com/topics/gold-rush-of-1849).
What did the 49ers do when they arrived? They mined for gold, and they mined for gold, and then they mined for gold: they stayed on the same treadmill hoping for different results!
They left everything behind with a golden dream. But what did many of these ‘49ers find in California—injustice, poverty, and an increasing darkness in their minds (as evidenced by the decreasing morality and increasing lawlessness of the “wild west”). In short, they found fool’s gold! Their lust for the golden dream led them into dark mines and their minds followed. The ‘49ers needed light in dark minds!
Today, it is true of us as well: many of us are on our own version of the treadmill mining for fool’s gold in our daily activities, hoping that it will fulfill the hopes of our own golden dreams. We may not be in dark mines like the early ‘49ers, but we are living their legacy still and the corrosive nature of the twisted American Dream drives us deeper into the dark mines of our own darkened minds. As Americans, we are over-connected and over-committed to the busy treadmill lifestyles. The 21st century American needs light in dark minds!
From last week, we see in Hebrews 11:8-12 that Abraham and Sarah taught us that we need to stake our claim on the promises of God and not on the golden promises of this world. As God’s chosen children we are born again as heirs of the promise to Abraham. We must learn to stake our claim on the promises of God, but claiming the promise is not enough to live like a person of the promise. When we find ourselves getting caught up on the treadmill of golden dreams, mining in dark places for fools’ gold, we need to pause and pray!
After receiving the promise of God, Abraham paused to pray by building an altar in Genesis 12:7, “Then the LORD appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’ So he built there an altar to the Lord.” Then he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and “built an altar to the LORD and called upon the name of the LORD” (Genesis 12:8). Then he went into Egypt and acted like a buffoon lying about his wife being his sister, almost got his whole family killed, but the Lord whom he called upon rescued him. Then we see Abram calling on the name of the Lord again in Genesis 13:4, 14-18, and so on. We see this pattern throughout Abraham and Sarah’s life…they constantly are pausing to pray. Why? Because…
“THERE’S GOLD IN THEM THERE PRAYERS!”
Let me teach you 2 practical things about how to effectively “pause to pray.”
- PAUSE! The Bible says in Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!” Even “pausing” comes with a promise!
Pausing is a really hard thing to do when we want to act on our own good ideas and trust our knee-jerk responses! Do you trust your own knee jerk emotional responses?
- Your kid talks back or doesn’t do his/her chores AGAIN… What do you do?
- The person in front of you, in the 15 or less lane, has 40 items and is now pulling out a pile of coupons and a checkbook. What do you do?
- You are overlooked for a promotion again, this time you tell yourself for the last time. What do you do?
The fruit of the Spirit includes “self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). Sometimes God’s deliverance is with a healthy dose of self-control to tame our tongues from their quick remark, soften our hearts to listen and empathize, and overtake us with the need to pause: to know that there is a God who will be exalted in the nations! You need God in you to pause: your tongue, your temptations, your temper, your ______!
Think about this: How can God be exalted by the simple discipline of me pausing when things don’t go the way I would want or hope? How can God be glorified by not giving myself over to my knee jerk responses or reactions?
- IF THE FIRST STEP IN “PAUSING TO PRAY” IS TO PAUSE, WHAT DO YOU THINK THE SECOND POINT IS: YES, YOU GOT IT FIGURED OUT—PRAY THE PROMISES OF GOD!
The Bible is filled with prayers that are effective and in God’s will: pray these prayers! The men and women of the Bible paused to pray to remind themselves of God’s promises and to reassure themselves that God remembers His promises too! Here is an illustration:
One of the most interesting prayers in the Bible is when Moses pauses to pray after the people of Israel rebel by worshipping the Golden Calf. Listen to this, it’s an awesome prayer that works because this prayer of Moses moved God’s heart to relent in destroying the descendants of Abraham once: “O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, ‘With evil intent did he bring them out, to kill them in the mountains and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from your burning anger and relent from this disaster against your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, to whom you swore by your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your offspring, and they shall inherit it forever’” (Exodus 32:11-13).
The Bible has example after example of prayers God has already declared as prayers He will answer: these are prayers in His name. Praying in God’s name is not about slapping a magic formula at the end of your prayer. God never does anything, no matter how much you ask, unless it is in His name, meaning it is according to His plan for His glory! So, if you want to pray effective prayers, ask God for what He has already promised to do!
These promises are lights in dark mines! Let’s look at how this applies in the real world:
- You are about to make a hurtful cutting comment to your elderly parent whom you visit on a regular basis and financial care for, when you pause, bite your tongue, and remember the promise: “Honor your father and mother, for this is the first commandment with a promise…” (Ephesians 6:1-3). You pray this promise and decide that all that you put your parents through that the least you can do is help them be comfortable until they go home to be with the Lord. You set a great example for your own kids who will one day care for you in your elderly years and you have a clear conscience.
- You are about to make another impulse purchase on your credit card, when you get to the counter and pull out the well-worn card, you pause as you go to hand it over to the eager sales associate, you hang on to it and after an awkward moment you put the card away as you remember the promise: “Bring the full tithe…put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you…I will rebuke the devourer for you…” (Malachi 3:10-11). You pray this promise and remember your renewed commitment to tithe; your decision bolsters your confidence that you can take positive steps to getting out of credit card debt. You are now one step closer…
- You are about to hurt yourself and another person with your choice and right before you do it, you pause and remember that your body is a “temple of the Holy Spirit” that can bring glory to God by how you use it (1 Corinthians 6:18-20). You pray that God would be glorified in how you use your body in that moment and God protects you from a life-altering consequence by you pausing long enough to pray His promises. You feel better about yourself and your ability to make good decision. The next time it is easier to say no and do what is right for your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
The promises of God are the Light of God to a darkened world and when we find ourselves on the tread mill of life, we need light in dark minds to heal us from our gold fever.
“THERE’S GOLD IN THEM THERE PRAYERS!”