Where Are You Running?

  • Where Are You Running?
  • Exodus 2:11-22
  • Lyndol Loyd
  • October 21, 2018
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10-21-18 Sermon from LakeRidge UMC on Vimeo.

Being a follower of Christ is not about following a list of dos and don’ts. It is about being on a journey toward God. It is about a relationship. In the book of Exodus, we have a vivid and clear picture of what that journey can look like.

 

This morning we are launching our new series, “Compass: The Story of Exodus.” I believe that if we are willing to learn from the Old Testament story of Moses, as told in Exodus, that we can learn a great deal about our own journey with God.

 

For starters, it is going to help us know God better. If you are looking to know God more deeply, then Exodus is the book for you because in Exodus, through the life of Moses, we find the opportunity to meet God face to face.

 

I also think this series is going to teach us to trust God more deeply. The whole story of Moses is a story of God’s intervening in impossible situations and proving that nothing is impossible with God.

 

When Moses arrived on the scene, Egypt had been a world power for almost 1,700 years. What were the odds that an upstart tribe of Israelite slaves could defy the Egyptians and succeed? Yet we are going to see that God has the power to turn the odds upside down. We can trust Him, even when situations seem hopeless.

 

Exodus also has a compelling lesson for us about community. One of the things that happens for Moses is that he really begins to see people with God’s eyes and to care for them with the love of God.

 

I hope you will join us for the next several weeks as we set our compasses on a journey toward God. Just as God directed the pathway of Moses and the Israelites, God wants to direct our paths as well.

 

For those of you who are parents, I want you to think back to that moment when this precious little baby you brought home from the hospital begins to grow up, and they start speaking. Inevitably they learn how to say what? No.

 

They discover so much power in just two letters. No. You want them to eat their vegetables. No. Take a nap. No. Share their toys. No.

 

Here’s a simple truth that we all really must face. There is something inside every human being that drives us to be willful. It begins to surface at an early age and then somehow continues to grow for a lifetime.

Here’s the problem with all of this, God created us to be dependent on Him, and when we strive for independence and self-sufficiency, we are fighting a battle that is in so many ways contrary to our nature.

 

On our own, we can never be strong enough in ourselves to accomplish all that God desires in our lives. When those who have significant physical and emotional strength rely on themselves rather than God, they miss the opportunity to experience power beyond their imagination.

 

From the announcement that I made earlier in the worship service, you know that we are in the midst of our Imagine Capital Campaign here at LakeRidge. Just as I told you earlier, I’m incredibly excited about the campaign and what is ahead for us as a church.

 

We’ve done the entire campaign in-house rather than choosing to work with a consultant. I’ve been a part of campaigns in other settings in which I have pastored, and I’ve been able to draw upon my previous experiences to help guide us.

 

However, as we were going over the results from our Commitment Sunday and examining some of the challenges that are still ahead to complete the campaign, I found myself dealing with a few issues that placed me in uncharted territory. I was feeling at the end of what I knew how to do which left me feeling incredibly vulnerable. I don’t even like acknowledging that with you, but I’m supposed to.

 

The whole thing is causing me to have to be ever more dependent upon God and His provision. This way when everything comes together and works itself out, as I fully believe it is going to do, I won’t be able to take any credit for it. None of us will. We will merely be able to step back and say, “Look and see what God has done.” End of story.

 

It is about God manifesting His strength in our weakness. It is about God desiring us to depend on Him entirely. It is about us placing our trust in Him rather than in our own abilities. Yet, there are forces at work in the world and in our hearts that make this simple concept incredibly challenging to learn.

 

We see all of this vividly in our Scripture passage this morning. We are going to join in with the story of Exodus this morning with Moses as a young adult.

 

11 Many years later, when Moses had grown up, he went out to visit his own people, the Hebrews, and he saw how hard they were forced to work. During his visit, he saw an Egyptian beating one of his fellow Hebrews. 12 After looking in all directions to make sure no one was watching, Moses killed the Egyptian and hid the body in the sand.

13 The next day, when Moses went out to revisit his people, he saw two Hebrew men fighting. “Why are you beating up your friend?” Moses said to the one who had started the fight.

14 The man replied, “Who appointed you to be our prince and judge? Are you going to kill me as you killed that Egyptian yesterday?”

Then Moses was afraid, thinking, “Everyone knows what I did.” 15 And sure enough, Pharaoh heard what had happened, and he tried to kill Moses. But Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to live in the land of Midian. When Moses arrived in Midian, he sat down beside a well.

 

Some people would tell you that the greatest journey of Moses’ life was from Egypt to the Promised Land. I don’t think that is the case. I think the greatest journey in the life of Moses was from his willfulness to his willingness to do what God wanted him to do. It wasn’t about taking a road trip. It was about a spiritual journey. Interestingly enough, this is a journey we all must choose to make as well.

 

Remember that preschooler who say, “No” we talked about earlier? That is a picture of willfulness. God created us all with a will, and this is okay. But we begin very early in life to want our will over the will of others.

 

We want it even if it might cause damage to the lives of others. We want our will, whatever the cost. We want our will over God’s will and over how He has ordered the working of the universe. It begins early in life and seems only to get worse as time passes. This is true for you, it is true for me, and it was true for Moses.

 

One day, a woman brings home a baby she found floating in a basket in the river. She names him Moses. He was a wonder.

  • He survived through the miraculous intervention of God.
  • He was adopted by the daughter of Pharaoh.
  • He was educated in the Egyptian court and was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians.
  • He received the most exceptional education available in the world at that time.
  • He grew mighty in word and deed.
  • He was placed in a position of influence.
  • He sat on the lap of Pharaoh and called him grandpa.

 

Everyone who was anyone knew Moses.

 

One day, Moses went out to see his people–the Israelites. Here came Moses: educated, talented, strong and confident. He was also willful. One of the most striking things about these verses is that they never mention God. Moses saw a situation that concerned him, and he acted. He looked to the left and the right, but he failed to look up.

 

Too often we don’t ask, “Is this God’s will?” We simply ask ourselves the question, “Can I get away with it?” This is a subtle and deceptive type of willfulness.

 

Like Moses, we glance this way, that way, and then go on to do what we think is right, figuring no one will ever know. This human ability to subtly and craftily bend the rules to get our way begins very young in life.

 

Let’s call it a spiritual loophole. If we aren’t careful, we can become masterful at taking spiritual loopholes.

 

Moses faced severe consequences for his willfulness. What he thought was secret became public. The golden boy of Egypt became a fugitive. The son of Pharaoh’s daughter suddenly shows up on Egypt’s Most Wanted.

 

When Moses saw an injustice, he decided to take things into his own hands. At that moment, he forgot the very God who had saved him when he was a baby floating in a basket on the shore of the Nile. He forgot to look to the One who had preserved him when he was raised in hostile territory.

 

His question was not, “What does God want?” but “Can I get away with it?” Driven by his own anger, selfishness, and fear, Moses looked this way and that way, but not up. Moses did it, but before we are too hard on him, don’t we do it also?

 

This is where the story of Moses can start to become a little sensitive for us. When we start talking about submitting to God and surrendering our will to His will, there is going to be pain.

We are easily deceived. When we gather as God’s people, hear a sermon, sing worship songs, we can begin to feel open and even sincere about being fully surrendered to God. “It will be my joy to say, ‘Your will, Your way, always.’” The danger is, because we have such deep feelings in these moments, we begin to think of ourselves as generally surrendered people.

 

But those genuine feelings have a way of evaporating in a moment where we want to do something, and God says, “No.” It is incredible how stubborn we can become. The truth about surrendering our willfulness comes out when we are tempted.  We need to do some advance decision making. We must decide now that we will take the pain, the sacrifice that goes with saying yes to God, because at the moment of choice, it is usually too late.

 

We have to face some hard realities. For some of us, in the workplace, we are primarily about self-promotion. We can distort stories to make ourselves look better, and our rivals seem worse. We justify whatever it is that we feel will help us get ahead, to where we want to go. We look this way, then that way and then do our own thing.

 

At other times we struggle with money. We can change something on an expense account that is questionable. We can use company materials for personal use. We can be greedy and hoard things. We can be followers of Christ, but never even consider giving a tithe. Once again, we look one way, then the other way and then do our own thing. These are the secret decisions we make that show the condition of our hearts.

 

Our point of struggle can be an inappropriate sexual relationship, a problem with gossip or laziness, impure motives or countless other areas. It can be easy for us to pursue surrender in moments like these, but on Mondays, our own flesh has a way of crying out “My way!”

 

Exodus 2:16-22,

16 Now the priest of Midian had seven daughters who came, as usual, to draw water and fill the water troughs for their father’s flocks. 17 But some other shepherds came and chased them away. So Moses jumped up and rescued the girls from the shepherds. Then he drew water for their flocks.

18 When the girls returned to Reuel, their father, he asked, “Why are you back so soon today?”

19 “An Egyptian rescued us from the shepherds,” they answered. “And then he drew water for us and watered our flocks.”

20 “Then where is he?” their father asked. “Why did you leave him there? Invite him to come and eat with us.”

21 Moses accepted the invitation, and he settled there with him. In time, Reuel gave Moses his daughter Zipporah to be his wife. 22 Later she gave birth to a son, and Moses named him Gershom, for he explained, “I have been a foreigner in a foreign land.”

 

Moses ends up taking a journey from willfulness to willingness. The man who would one day be the deliverer of a nation is now a fugitive, a murderer and an alien. Yet with tender humility, Moses rescues seven daughters of the priest of Midian.

 

Moses is just now beginning forty years of humble service. He will be in the school of the desert. He will learn what it really means to know God. His first act in his new life was one of service. The mighty Egyptian prince is now helping water the flocks of some oppressed shepherd girls.

If we truly want an example of someone who is yielded to God, we need to look to Jesus. Jesus had a natural rhythm to His life because He stayed in tune with the will of God the Father. Jesus always began with solitude, moved into the community and from there into ministry. Keeping God as the focal point of His life, He was sure always to do the will of His heavenly Father.

 

Too often we get this backward. We try to go out and do something big in our own strength. When we fail miserably we try to rope a few other people in so they can help bail us out. When our troubles continue and we begin to sink, we pray, “God what have You gotten me into this time?” Folks, this is called doing life backward.

 

The day is coming when every human being who has ever lived is going to say one of two prayers.  That prayer will summarize the whole trajectory of their life. The day is coming when you will say to God either, “Not my will, but Yours be done”  or “Not Your will, but mine.”

 

It is all about surrender. Submission is something you do when you are in a battle. What we need to realize is that there is a battle raging in each of our hearts. There is a part of us that longs to seek God and another part of us that runs from God.

 

So the question for all of us this morning is this, “Where are you running?”