Goliath: Know Your Enemy

1 Samuel 17:8-10 (NKJV) 8  Then he stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, “Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9  If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10  And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”

As New Testament Christians, we must recognize the fact that we have an adversary.  Peter calls him the devil and characterizes him as being like a roaring lion.  Yesterday we began looking at one of the most famous battles in history.  Even people who know nothing of the Bible know about David and Goliath.  Their names have become synonymous with any fight where an extreme underdog fights an undefeatable giant.  I believe this is also a type of every battle we will ever fight in our Christian walk.

Goliath is the roaring lion Peter is talking about in his letter.  The roar is designed to bring intimidation.  Intimidation is used to bring so much fear into an adversary that he will give up with out a fight.  When we are intimidated, we believe we cannot win so we look for any means to avoid the fight.  That is what Satan, the roaring lion, tries to do to us.  We can see that Goliath has been very successful in intimidating the Israelite army.  The war has ground to a halt because no one wants to fight Goliath.  One of two things must happen.  Either they choose a champion to fight for them and he loses.  Or they surrender without fighting at all.  Neither is acceptable.

As I have looked at this story, I see a number of things we can learn from Goliath about our enemy the devil.  First, Goliath was the enemy’s attempt to separate one soldier from the army as a whole.  Goliath could not defeat the whole army, but he could defeat any one soldier.  We must be careful of this tactic.

As a pastor, I have seen this work again and again.  When we are under pressure, we will often tend to retreat into ourselves.  We do not want others to know that we are struggling.  When I would see a regular member of our congregation missing, I would often discover that they were dealing with something..  The last thing any of us should do when we are going through a difficult time is stay away from church.  Our strength is in the Body of Christ.  If the roaring lion can get you away from that strength, he will defeat you, at least in the short term.

It is important that we understand this in ourselves.  Usually the devil will enforce the tendency to withdraw by telling us that no one understands us.  He will usually see to it that somebody says something we do not like.  When we do go to church, it seems like nobody talks to us, the pastor does not greet us, and the message is something we do not want to hear.  All of this is to convince us that we should not go to church.  The point is to separate you from the army.

Do not fall for this kind of intimidation.  Go to someone you can trust, hopefully a leader, and share with them.  Ask them for prayer and/or counsel.  You will find that everyone is not against you.  Sometimes there may not be anything in the natural the body can do to help you, but they will pray for you, stand with you and help you through the trial.  You are not alone.  That is what the devil really wants you to believe.  Do not let Goliath separate you from the army.

Second, Goliath was the enemies attempt to set the rules of engagement for the battle.  Every time an army goes into battle there are rules for how they must engage the enemy.  When the initial push was over during the Iraq war, the rules of engagement were that our soldiers could not fire upon someone unless they could be proven to be a threat.  That usually meant they fired first.  Goliath was attempting to set the rules by which the battle between Israel and the Philistines would be fought.  Two champions fighting to determine the outcome of the war was an accepted method of fighting.  However, it was not the only method.  If God said to fight by those rules, that would be one thing.  However, it was the enemy who tried to determine the rules.  It should be obvious that he is going to set rules that favor him.

No one soldier could defeat Goliath using only natural means.  The Philistines knew that.  If the fight was according to those rules, the Philistines believed they were assured of victory.  The outcome was not so sure if the two armies fought.  In the end, they did fight by those rules because David took up the challenge.  That does not mean they had to.  Goliath came out every day for 40 days to the same place and made the same challenge.  This was war!  If I were the commander, I would have picked about a thousand of my best soldiers, sent them to where Goliath was going to come to issue challenge and ambush him.  Problem solved! 

The devil wants to set the rules for your encounter with him.  He wants to make you believe you cannot call for help.  He wants to get you to believe that the promises of God will not work for you.  He wants you to focus only on what you can do.  The truth is we have rules by which we are to engage the enemy.  They are written in the Word of God.  They tell me I can use anything God has put at my disposal to defeat my enemy.  They tell me God is for me and will never leave me.  They tell me I am loved by my Father.  Look at this verse in Romans 8.

Romans 8:29-31 (NKJV) 29  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

The truth is your life, your sin, and your failures are none of the devil’s business.  It is God who justified you.  The rules of our engagement with the devil say that he cannot bring up any of that.  Our covenant says all God has belongs to me and that includes his almighty power.  In Joshua 10:13 we learn that Joshua was having such a good day at battle that he told the sun to stay still so the day would not end until he had won complete victory!  That is how our rules of engagement read.  

I have heard it said this way.  My Father is the official of the game we are playing.  In Soccer they have something called extra time.  I do not understand it, but when they get to the end of the game the officials can say, “No, the game is not over.  We are going to play for another 5 minutes.”  In the battles of life, the game is not over until the Father says it is over and we can play as long as necessary for me to win.  Do not let the devil set the rules of engagement.

There are two more things we learn from Goliath.  Goliath was a liar.  When David did defeat Goliath, the Philistines did not throw down their weapons and submit to slavery under Israel.  The Israelite army attacked them and killed most of them, but they could have surrendered. 

The devil is a liar and the father of lies.  Everything he says is a lie even if it contains some truth.  When he tempted Jesus, he used the truth of the Word of God but combined it with a lie.  Whatever he tells you he will do, he will not.  Whatever he tells you will happen, is not guaranteed to happen.  Whatever he says is the way out of trouble will only get you in deeper. 

Finally, Goliath was an indication of the weakness of the Philistine position.  I believe they knew that God was on Israel’s side.  There only hope was that Israel would consent to their terms.  When the devil is really roaring in your life, just remember that is an indication of how weak his position really is.  We have the Word of God, the Holy Spirit and the New Covenant on our side.  Do not give in to the roar.  You will win if you do not quit.

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Goliath is the Roaring Lion

1 Samuel 17:8-10 (NKJV) 8  Then he stood and cried out to the armies of Israel, and said to them, “Why have you come out to line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and you the servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. 9  If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants. But if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.” 10  And the Philistine said, “I defy the armies of Israel this day; give me a man, that we may fight together.”

As we look at the idea that we are a church living in a time of war, I want to look at one of the most famous battles in the Bible.  1 Peter 5:8-11 reveals to us that the church has an adversary.  This adversary is the devil.  He goes about as a roaring lion seeking those who will succumb to his intimidation and deception.  Peter goes on to tell us to resist this adversary by being steadfast in the faith.  I believe we can look to the battle between David and Goliath to find some important keys as to how to do that.

First, we must know our enemy.  Intelligence gathering is one of the most important things any army does before a battle.  The more they know about the composition, strength and positioning of the enemy the more likely they will win the battle.  Intelligence will also seek to know the psychology of the enemy and the nature of how the enemy fights.  We can learn a great deal about our enemy by looking at Goliath.

In 1 Samuel 17 we see that Israel has been attacked by the army of the Philistines.  I think it is interesting to note that the place called Sochoh where the armies had gathered belonged to Judah.  The devil tries to deceive us into thinking he has a right to what is ours.  He does not.  The Philistines had invaded Israel.  The devil is invading your peace, your health, your prosperity and anything else he tries to take.  It is our right to resist him and drive him out of our lives and the lives of those we love and are responsible for.

The picture is that there are two hills with a valley between them.  The Hebrew army led by King Saul is on one side while the Philistine army is on the other.  Every morning for 40 days the Philistines sent out a champion called Goliath.  His message is simple.  “Send someone to fight me.  If he wins, we will be your slaves.  If I win you will be our slaves.  There is no need for more bloodshed than that.” 

This was an accepted method of warfare in the ancient world, but it was not mandatory that this challenge be accepted.  The Bible tells us that Goliath was defying the army of Israel.  In doing so he was also defying God himself.  The army of Israel only saw how big Goliath was.  They knew that no one Israelite could defeat this Giant.  When we break down his size according to modern values, he was about 9 feet tall.  His armor altogether weighed about 270 pounds.  The weight of a normal soldier’s armor was about 60 pounds.  You can imagine how big a man had to be to wield such heavy weapons. 

Goliath was a dangerous adversary.  We must realize that the devil is also a dangerous adversary.  He has been stripped of most of his weapons by Jesus, but one remains.  That is the weapon of deception.  He has been around as long as time.  He knows things none of us can know.  If we are not grounded in the Word of God and in our relationship with him, he can and will deceive us into allowing him to defeat us. 

Part of that deception is the roar of the lion.  Satan has no teeth and no claws.  Yet a lion’s roar is very loud and intimidating.  To intimidate is to compel or deter by threats.  The threats may be real or only perceived but the real goal is to stir up so much fear that the opponent will not fight.  We see that Goliath had done just that.  No one in Israel had the courage to fight him.  The whole war was at as standstill because of Goliath’s threats.

Goliath is a type of the roaring lion.  There is always a roaring lion in every battle we face.  There is always someone or something that is trying to intimidate you into giving in without ever fighting.  It may be the failures of your past.  It may be your upbringing.  It may be other people, or it may be your own inward voices.  The source changes but the content is always the same.  The devil tells us that we can not win.  We must just accept things as they are.  The obstacles are too big, the enemy is too strong, you are too weak or both.  As long as you focus on the roar of the lion you will never win because you will never fight. 

How do we deal with the roaring lion?  We will look at David later in this study, but right now let me point out the most important thing he used to silence the roar of Goliath.  He pointed out that he had a covenant with God and Goliath did not.  When we speak of the covenant, we must first believe we have one.  We must also know what our covenant says.  A covenant is a much stronger word for contract.  If we have a contract but do not know what the terms of the contract are, we are unable to access its power.  An adversary will take advantage of our lack of knowledge to use our contract against us. 

Hosea 4:6 (NKJV) 6  My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also will reject you from being priest for Me; Because you have forgotten the law of your God, I also will forget your children.

Over my more than 40 years of ministry, I have found this scripture to be true.  Many of the people that I was responsible for were being destroyed because they just did not know what God had already said about their life.  The covenants of God contain promises.  David knew that his covenant guaranteed that God would fight for them when they were in his will.  The philistines had attacked the land God had given to Israel.  The size of the enemy was irrelevant because of the promise of God.  In the power of that covenant promise David easily defeated Goliath.  The rest of the army was, in a sense, perishing because they had forgotten the covenant and what it said.

When the Goliath in your life roars at you, remember that you have a covenant.  It is a better covenant than the one David had.

Hebrews 8:6 (NKJV) 6  But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.

Our covenant is stronger than Davids because it is between Jesus and the Father.  It is based on better promises because Jesus is alive to see to it that the promises of God are yes and amen in him (2 Corinthians 1:20.)  Our covenant contains all that the Old Covenant did but also contains everything written in the New Testament.  When the lion roars or Goliath challenges us, it will mean nothing if we know what the covenant promise says. 

When the devil tells me that my needs will not be met, I know that he is just trying to intimidate me.  I know that my covenant says that my Father knows my needs and if I seek his kingdom, he will supply them all (Matthew 6:31-32.).

When Goliath says that I am alone I know that Hebrews 13:5 says he will never leave me nor forsake me.

When he tries to make me see how much is against me, I know that Romans 8:31 tells me that God is for me so nothing can succeed against me.  Whatever we face in life is covered by our covenant with God.  We never need to be so intimidated we quit if we know what the Word of God says is ours in Christ Jesus. 

Goliath is the roaring lion in your battle, but Jesus is the true lion of the tribe of Judah.  You do not need to fear or give into your Goliath.  The promises of God are written in the Word of God and when we stand on those promises, we cannot be intimidated no matter how loud the lion roars.

Our Adversary is Defeated but the War Goes on

1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NKJV) 7  But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, 8  which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

In 1 Peter 5:8-11 we find that Peter exhorts us to remember that we have an adversary.  We must be sober, which does not mean sad but serious, and vigilant which means to watch out for danger.  If we did not have an adversary, we would be living in a time of peace.  However, we do have an adversary.  There is nothing in the Bible that indicates the adversary has been removed.  He is just as active as he has ever been.  The Bible does teach that he is also a defeated adversary.

In the past I have pointed out that the war we must fight began in the Garden of Edan.  God’s enemy, Satan, had taken God’s family from relationship with him.  Satan’s goal has always been to control the character, destiny and eternal future of man.  He seeks to do this because he hates God and he knows that nothing will hurt God more than the loss of his children.  In Genesis 3:15, God declares war on the devil. 

Because of how God created man and the role man was given, God cannot simply negate what has happened.  He must work within the confines of he has already done, or he must destroy man and start again.  God is love and he will not destroy his family.  He assures Satan that someone is coming who will take away what he has won (Genesis 3:15.) 

Jesus is the one that God sent.  For thousands of years, God spoke words that foreshadowed Jesus and his ministry.  He was doing exactly what he did when he said “let there be light” in Genesis 1.  He was releasing something by his creative Word.  Eventually that process bore fruit as Jesus.  Jesus fought with the devil for 3 and ½ years until one day Satan found that Jesus was delivered into his hands.  He did not know how or why but he knew it was so.

What did Jesus do in his work of redemption?  First and foremost, he dealt with the sin of man.  Sin separates man from God.  After the fall of man in the Garden of Eden there was a separation between God and his family that neither of them could bridge.

Genesis 3:24 (NKJV) 24  So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Man could not come to God because God consumes sin.  God could have dealings with man, but that is not why God created man.  He created him for close fellowship.  He created man to be his family.  There is nothing that should be closer to us than our family.  The flaming sword was not to keep man from dealing with God in the natural, it was to keep him from coming into the kind of fellowship with God that would cause his sin to put him in danger. 

God could not come to man and simply eradicate what he had done because God is just and because God gave man free will.  It was his right to choose and God honored that.  Man could not pay for his sin because the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23.)  Every person pays that wage when he dies, but then it is too late.  God cannot pay what he does not owe.  Man sinned not God.  The only solution was what God did.  He became man and took on the penalty of man’s sin as a man.  

Jesus did not die for his sin because he had no sin.  Nevertheless, as a man he could die for ours.  He was not raised from the dead for his justification because he needed no justification.  He was raised for our justification.  Everything he did, he did for us.  He paid for your sin and my sin and gave us complete access to relationship with God once again.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (NKJV) 21  For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Righteousness, or being right with God, gives a person the ability to stand in God’s presence in the spirit with no sense of guilt or condemnation.  This is a powerful truth, but Jesus did one more thing. 

Colossians 2:15 (NKJV) 15  Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.

Jesus not only paid for our sin, but he disarmed the adversary that introduced sin to the Garden in the first place.  It goes on to say in Ephesians 4 that he lead captivity captive, and in Revelations the Bible tells us that Jesus now holds the keys to death and hell.  No one needs to be confined for eternity ever again.  Jesus holds the keys and he is the key.

Mathew 28:18 makes a bold statement.

Matthew 28:18 (NKJV) 18  And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.

He declares that there is no authority in earth higher than his authority.  Man was given dominion over creation, but he lost it to Satan.  Jesus, as a man has taken it back.  Jesus as God has authority in heaven as well.  There are no loopholes in what Jesus has done.  There is no higher authority.  No higher power.  Nothing can stand against him.  This must mean the war is over, right?  No, because of verse 19.

Matthew 28:19 (NKJV) 19  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

What Matthew 28:18 tells us is that the war is won.  Matthew 18:19 tells us it is not over.  The enemy is a defeated foe.  Every weapon that man cannot overcome has been taken from Satan.  The weapon he has left is deception.  Any person who receives Jesus as Lord and savior is guaranteed victory if they receive it by faith.  The war is won but it is not over because God still wants more children for his family.

In American history there is an example of a war that was won but not over.  In July of 1863 two battles were fought that effectively won the civil war.  The more famous was the battle of Gettysburg.  Just as significant was the battle of Vicksburg.  Gettysburg removed any hope of victory for the Confederacy in the east.  Vicksburg did the same in the west.  The war was over in July of 1863 but went on until April of 1865.  Why would people keep fighting for two more years?

The south kept fighting because they could no accept that they were defeated.  The north kept fighting because they were unwilling to accept anything less the reunification of the United States and the removal of the blight of slavery from our country.  The same principle applies to the war of the spirit.

Satan is a deceiver.  He is so good at it that he has deceived himself.  He still believes he can win and he will not stop if he can take some of God’s children with him.  God will not stop until the full number of children is back in his family  Only he knows what that number is.  Jesus won the war, but we must continue to fight.  Not for ourselves, although there are battles of faith we will fight.  The real reason the war goes on is to win the lost children of God back to his family.  We are the only ones who can fight that battle. 

We Have and Adversary

1 Peter 5:8-11 (NKJV) 8  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. 9  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 10  But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. 11  To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

We are back from our time in East Africa for 2019.  It was a wonderful time despite many irritating things that happened during the trip.  It is interesting that the trip home went almost without incident.  (David Cerar had an encounter with a bus driving us to the airport, but I do not think the damage was much.)  Our flights were smooth and on time enough that there were no problems.  Our luggage came through without issue.  All was well.

That was in contrast to our flights over which involved delays, carry-on luggage that was too heavy and missed flights.  I point this out because of what the Lord had laid on my heart before the trip.  I started sharing in this space about the difference between a nation at war and a nation at peace.  If you get a chance, go back and read my posts from the end of July to the beginning of August.  That is what I preached during my time in Africa this year.  I believe it was resistance to that message that stirred up the opposition we felt.

I believe we must understand that we are at war.  This is not a war against people at any time.  The truth is it is a war for people.  Rescuing them from an eternity of separation from God is why we must fight.  In one of my last posts before I changed direction, I pointed out that the New Testament is full of language that points to a warfare mentality.  This warfare is not some new thing.  It began in the Garden of Edan when man fell and will continue until Jesus comes again.  God did not abandon his family in Eden, and he continues to fight for them today.

Even as I write this I feel the opposition to this kind of thinking in the spirit.  If the devil can convince us that we are at peace he will keep us out of the fight.  We will live increasingly ineffective lives as far as rescuing people from sin.  If the church is no longer making disciples, it no longer has a purpose.  This is what happened to most denominations over time.  I do not want to see it happen to us.

In today’s scripture we see a statement by the apostle Peter.  This is not Old Testament.  This is to the church.  Some might say that the church of the first century and the church of today occupy a different place.  That is true.  The church of the first century placed their mission to preach the gospel and make disciples at the center of their lives.  The church of today has drifted away from that.  Peter’s warning is to the church of all time.  If not, the Bible is not the Word of God.

Peter uses two words that are very important.  He says we must be sober.  Sober does not mean sad all the time.  The joy of the Lord is our strength.  We are not called to sadness.  Joy is one of the identifying characteristics of a Christian.  Joy is not happiness although it will produce a sense of happiness.  Happiness is dependent on outward factors.  Joy is inward.  It comes by our relationship to Jesus (John 15:11.)

Sober means marked by temperance, moderation, or seriousness.  We must be serious in our approach to our christian life.  We have a high calling from the Lord, and it is important that we walk worthy of that calling. 

Ephesians 4:1 (NKJV) 1  I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called,

Again, this does not mean that we cannot rejoice or even have fun.  God wants us to have a good life.  We should enjoy our families and have time for recreation.  However, if we understand that we are at war, we also understand that at any time the commander must be able to call on us to take our place in the battle.  These are serious times in which we live and our approach to our relationship to God must reflect that.

What am I saying?  We should not consider our Christian life as a part of our life.  It must be the center.  Bible study to learn the Word of God, prayer, praise and worship to develop our personal relationship with Jesus, as well as church attendance and membership to cultivate relationship with the Body of Christ must be of paramount importance to us.

He also says we must be vigilant.  That means keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties.  We cannot ignore that there is danger.  If we do, we will find that we are vulnerable to the attacks of the enemy.  Lack of vigilance will eventually cause us to be completely unaware that the enemy is even there.  We will fall into things that we have no idea were brought to us by the devil.  This is dangerous for a Christian.

This brings us to why we must be both sober and vigilant.  Peter tells us we have an adversary.  I believe there is much thinking in the church that the devil is not really an active opponent.  I do not think that most Christians reject his existence.  I do believe they are ignorant of his active role against the mission of the church and of his hatred of God himself.  We are neither sober nor vigilant anymore.  We seem to think that Satan, the devil and the demonic realm are not that important.  Peter and the whole New Testament disagree.

If we had no adversary, things would be different.  We would not be at war.  We would not need to fight the “wiles of the devil” as Paul says we must in Ephesians 6.  We could just enjoy life doing our best to live good lives.  We would simply need to be nice to people and they would surely come to know Jesus.  We certainly can enjoy life and our most important weapon is to walk in the love of God towards the world and one another.  However, we must also realize we have an adversary.  That is what the bible teaches.

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (NKJV) 3  But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, 4  whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

The God of this age is Satan.  He is blinding the minds of those with whom we share the gospel.  If we are ignorant of this and do nothing about it, we will never be able to break through his blinding power.  We need the supernatural power of God just as Paul did. 

This is not just in “signs, wonders and healings, although I certainly think we need that.  It is in the anointing of God on what we say.  It is in the prayer that makes power available to preach the gospel (James 5:17 AMP.)  It is also in living a lifestyle that tells the world that you have something more in you than what those who live without Jesus have.  All are part of our warfare.

We still have and adversary.  Peter identifies him as the devil.  It cannot be clearer than that.  He also says that he goes about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  It does not say he is a lion.  He roars like a lion, but he has been stripped of his teeth and his claws by what Jesus did to him in salvation.  That said the roar of the lion is one of the most intimidating sounds in nature.  That is one of the things the devil seeks to do to us.  To intimidate means to stir up fear to the point where there will be no resistance to attack. 

The roar of the lion can be paralyzing.  Sometimes his roar is loud but sometimes we never know that it is him.  We give in to paralyzing fear over things that have not happened.  We do not fight.  We do not rise up in our relationship with Jesus.  We have no idea what the Word of God says so we do not know what to believe.  The lions roar cripples us without a fight.  Tomorrow we will look at more but know this.  God is stronger than the devil.  We can and will win in the end.

On our Way Home from Kenya 2019

Acts 1:8 (NKJV) 8  But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

We have said the last amen of the last meeting in our 2019 Mission to East Africa.  In the 73 days we have been here, we have been in 2 countries, 7 cities or towns and 12 churches.  I have preached more than 60 times and my wife nearly 50.  We have been privileged to touch hundreds of people directly and many more indirectly as we ministered to pastors and leaders from far more churches than we visited.  I believe it has been the most successful trip to East Africa in the 8 years we have been coming here yearly. 

We are not looking forward to the 20 hours we will be in airplanes to get home, but we are looking forward to our own bed.  Thank you to all who prayed for us.  We have remained healthy and strong throughout the trip.  My first Kenya driving experience went very well.  We both dropped our computers and mine is dead, but we have already replaced them with some great deals, so all is well.

Special thanks to Rev. Ron and Lorraine Estep for letting us park our car at there home and taking us to and picking us up from the airport in Philadelphia.  We look forward to an evening and morning with them at their home in Havre de Grace, Md. before we head for home Wednesday morning.  Praise God for all his Goodness on this ministry trip.

What Shall We Say to the Goodness of God

Romans 8:31 (NKJV) 31  What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

One of the most important truths we must learn from the Word of God is that God is good.  This seems obvious I know.  However, most Christians do not live in this truth.  The influence of life, religion and culture tell us that God is good but only to a degree.  God is good but there are many reasons he cannot be good to me.  God is good but my situation is beyond his goodness.  God is good but his goodness does not apply to what I am facing.

God equated his goodness with his glory in Exodus 33.  God’s goodness is not just an attitude that he carries.  It is a dynamic force that consumes evil.  If we learn to walk in the reality of the goodness of God, we will walk in victory. 

Hebrews 11:6 reveals an aspect of God’s goodness.  He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.  Religious thinking does not believe this.  Religious thinking believes that he is a punisher.  Religion tells us that if we do anything that is wrong God is waiting to punish us.  Religion provides us with ways to appease God so that we can avoid the punishment.  Christianity is not a religion it is a relationship. 

There is punishment for sin.  To eliminate that fact is to eliminate half of the gospel.  Even for those of us who are born again, sin has consequences.  This is true not because it negates salvation but because it opens the door to the effect of death in our daily living.  If I sin, I step into the devil’s domain.  Bad things will happen to me.  God is not punishing me.  I have done something that has set an effect in motion.

All this being true, God is by nature a rewarder not a punisher.  Reward is the manifestation of his goodness.  It is possible to walk in the goodness of God.  Paul is someone who did just that.  He did not always have things easy.  There were times when he suffered.  However, the goodness of God was always at work bringing him to where he needed to be to accomplish the will of God.

If we want to live in God’s goodness, we must abandon ourselves to his will.  His goodness does not always look the way we want it to.  His goodness is not just about bringing blessings to us.  It will do that.  I believe he will heal us, prosper us and make us successful in that to which he has called us.  I also believe that he wants us to be effective in his Kingdom more than the other things I have mentioned.  It is not that we have to choose.  We simply have to match his priorities and we will have both.

Matthew 6:33 (NKJV) 33  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.

Yesterday we read in Romans 8:28 that God works all things for our good.  I do not believe this verse is saying that every bad thing that happens to us is the will of God.  I believe it is saying that even in the bad things that come, the goodness of God is at work bringing about the best for us.  Today I want to take it a step farther.

Paul asks a question in today’s verse.  “What shall we say to these things?”  What things is he talking about?  I believe he is talking about the things we already read in chapter 8.  We also should add verses 29 and 30.  In them he reveals that we are predestined to be changed into the image of Jesus.  That is God’s will for us.

What are we going to say to the fact that the Holy Spirit is helping our infirmities by praying for us?  What are we going to say to the fact that God is moving us into his will?  What are we going to say to the fact that he knows us now, he knew us before we were created, and he knows our destiny? 

For that matter, what are we going to say about verses 32-34?  God did not withhold the sacrifice of Jesus from us so what will he withhold?  The answer is nothing.  What are we going to say to the fact that Jesus is the one who died for us and the devil has no right to condemn us?  What are we going to say to the fact that no one can bring a charge against us that God has not already dealt with?  My sin is my father’s business not the devil’s. 

We read what Paul says to these things.  He says, “If God is for me who can be against me?”  I want to say it another way.  If the goodness of God is at work in all the things mentioned here, how can I fail?  God’s goodness saved me from sin and God’s goodness will work to bring about the best in my life.  Not only is God for me but his goodness is working for me. 

Verses 35-37 could be confusing.  

Romans 8:35-37 (NKJV) 35  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36  As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” 37  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

When I look at Paul’s list, I am not sure I see the goodness of God.  I do not see how tribulation and distress are good things.  How can the goodness of God be at work in nakedness, peril or sword?  It makes no sense.  He quotes a scripture.  Maybe that will clear things up.  It does not.  Psalm 44 speaks of being killed all day long.  To my mind that is not good! 

Verse 37 is the key.  In all these bad things, Paul sees himself as more than a conqueror.  He believes that he will come out on top somehow.  This may not happen the way he might like it to.  This may not happen in ways that are easy.  It will happen.  Why is Paul so convinced that he will win in the end?

Romans 8:38-39 (NKJV) 38  For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39  nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We can glean many things from this verse.  I want to highlight one of them as we close today.  Paul knows that when bad things happen it does not mean God has stopped loving him.  If God has not stopped loving him, then God’s goodness is still at work and will produce victory in the end.  That is how Paul evaluates life.  He does not evaluate God’s goodness according to what is happening around him.  He sees what is happening around him through the prism of God’s goodness.

When I see life that way, I know that God is going to bring good things to me.  Nothing that happens can shake that faith.  God is going to bless me and bring me to my destiny.  Nothing can stop that from happening.  I may have to endure some things along the way.  I may go through some detours because of the devil and my own weakness.  If I trust in God, I will end up “more than a conqueror” because his goodness will never fail me. 

Change what you say about life.  Begin to speak according to the goodness of God.  Begin to declare that nothing can separate you from his goodness.  When troubles come, remind yourself and the devil that “God is for me and neither the devil nor anything else can succeed against me.  I am and will be more than a conqueror through Christ Jesus, through his love for me and through his goodness at work in my life.

All Things Work for Good

Romans 8:26-28 (NKJV) 26  Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27  Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

(We are about to begin our last seminar here in Kenya.  The trip has been productive in every way.  This last meeting is in a church that lost their pastor after we went home last year.  He was one of our dear friends here in Kenya, and one of the finest men I have ever known.  It is hard to see God’s goodness in a situation like that, but it is at work even in times like that.  The message today is meant to show us how to cooperate with it so we might be victorious even in such trial. 

Pray for us that we will have a word of comfort and healing for this church, as well as the other leaders that may attend.  Tuesday, October 8 we leave for home.) 

We are looking closely at the goodness of God as a force in the world and in the individual lives of believers.  We have seen in the life of Moses, that God equated his glory with his goodness.  When the goodness of God is flowing in and through us, the glory of God will also manifest in our lives.  His goodness will produce the miraculous. 

We read in Hebrews 11:6 that God is a rewarder of those who diligently seek him.  God is by nature a rewarder and this is a manifestation of his goodness.  Religion tends to focus on God as a punisher.  It gives its practitioners rituals and sacrifices to keep God from punishing.  Christianity is by nature relationship and not religion.  Any relationship contains parameters.  They are not designed to keep out punishment but to release reward.  God wants to reward us.  That is his goodness at work.  Goodness is his nature.

Today I want to begin looking at one of my favorite chapters in the Bible.  Romans 8 is full of important things.  In the end of the chapter, we read about Paul’s relationship with God and God’s goodness.  I have already made this statement, but I want to make it again.  Most people evaluate the goodness of God based on their life experience.  This may not be a conscious thing, but it does happen, nonetheless. 

What we need to do is begin to evaluate life based on the goodness of God.  That is the faith view.  In other words, we need to look at life understanding that God’s goodness is at work even when we cannot see what it is doing.  We need to believe that God’s goodness is going to bring about results that will produce the highest good for us in the end.  If we look at things that are happening and decide God’s goodness is not at work for us, we will stop believing and hinder what God wants to do in our lives.

Paul had things in the right order.  Paul understood the goodness and grace of God in a way that no other writer in the bible did.  Paul had been a persecutor of the church.  He was there and approving of the death of Stephen.  He arrested Christians, which may have led to many more deaths among the faithful.  He made it his primary business to stop this “Christian heresy” thinking that he was serving God in the process. 

When Paul encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus, Jesus made it clear to him that he was not just persecuting the Christians.  Jesus said to Paul, “Why are you persecuting me.”  Jesus told Paul that his sin was directly against him.  Then he forgave Paul’s sin.  That is the goodness of God.

Through all of Paul’s writing, we see this understanding of the goodness of God at work.  Paul understood grace because he understood he had been forgiven for a great deal.  He knew that nothing but the goodness of God could do that.

As we look at Roman’s 8, we must see it in the light of God’s goodness.  This verse has been interpreted in many ways.  I believe it is a revelation of how the goodness of God works.  In verses 26 and 27, Paul is speaking of the goodness of God at work in the ministry of the Holy Spirit for us.  We do not always know how to pray.  The Holy Spirit helps our weakness by praying for us.  As he prays for us, the plan and purpose of God is put into effect on our behalf.  All of this is the goodness of God.

Verse 28 is a statement of how the goodness of God works behind the scenes to bring about good things for us.  Paul knows that all things are going to work together for good as long as he loves, and by extension trusts God, and walks in God’s purpose for his life. 

Some would say that God causes the bad things that happen because they are what we need.  I believe that it is more accurate to understand that the process described in verses 26 and 27 is releasing the goodness of god to take things that the devil means for evil and turn them for good. 

When Paul was on the way to Rome as a prisoner, he, his guards and other prisoners were passengers on a ship.  They set out from a safe harbor at a dangerous time of year.  Paul told the Romans that God had informed him they should not sail but wait for the spring.  It was not God’s will that they sail.  If it were, God would not have told Paul to tell them to stay put.  In the end, they ignored Paul’s advice.

The result of their disobedience was a terrible shipwreck.  I believe that was the devil’s attempt to kill Paul before he could get to Rome.  However, the devil did not account for the goodness of God.  Paul continued to trust God.  As Paul prayed in faith God assured him that although there would be a shipwreck and the cargo would be lost, there would be no loss of life.  Paul’s faith in the goodness of God saved them all. 

We see that God used Paul on the island where they landed, by bringing healing and salvation to the people there.  It was not God’s will for Paul to be in the shipwreck.  God tried to warn the ship through Paul.  When they ignored the warning, God’s goodness not only saved the people on board, but it took a bad situation and used it to bring the Gospel to this island. 

I believe that we need to have this same faith in the goodness of God.  You may be facing some things that look very bad.  They may be attacks of the devil or they may be the result of mistakes we have made.  They may be things that we simply need to walk through to get to where God needs us to be.  The answer is the same.  Trust in the goodness of God.

All things will work out for our good, as we trust in his goodness.  It may not work out the way you or I want it to.  Nevertheless, in the end we will be able to look back and see that the goodness of God was preserving us and producing the blessing of God. 

Life happens and we cannot judge whether the goodness of God is at work by all the bad things we see.  If we do what Paul did and understand that no matter what may be happening, the goodness of God is at work to bring us to a good end, we will be able to deal with the temporary issues.  If we determine that God’s goodness has deserted us because some bad thing is happening, we will allow the bad thing to overtake us.

Believe in the goodness of God.  The final chapter has not been written until his goodness has had its way.  We need to trust that in the end his goodness will see us through to victory!