Facing Old Foes by Pastor Abidan Shah

FACING OLD FOES by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

Facing Old FoesIntroduction: There have always been famous rivalries. In ancient times it was Athens vs. Sparta. In sports there are plenty of rivalries – Alabama vs. Auburn, Georgia vs. Georgia State, Duke vs. Chapel Hill. In soft drinks, Coke vs. Pepsi. There have been family rivalries like the Hatfields and the McCoys. But the worst kind is when it’s within the family. Sometimes our very flesh and blood can be our worst foes. This morning we will learn how to face old foes.

Genesis 32   6 Then the messengers returned to Jacob, saying, “We came to your brother Esau, and he also is coming to meet you, and four hundred men are with him.” 7 So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed…9 Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’: 10 I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant…11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children.

Question: Who are you afraid to face? More specifically, who in your family are you afraid to face? What has happened between you and this person that the very mention of his/her name fills you with fear? The very thought of coming face-to-face with this person makes you sick to your stomach. It may not necessarily be a fear for your life but it’s a kind of a mental and emotional fear. Are you saved? Paul says in 2 Timothy 1:7 “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” If you are saved, God can help you face this foe with power, love, and a sound mind.

Context of the Message: If you remember from last time, Jacob had enough of Uncle and Father-in-law Laban in Haran and he was headed back to his parent’s home with his wives and children. But coming home was complicated. He didn’t exactly leave on good terms. In fact, his last exit from home was more of an escape for his life. Twenty years had passed but his old foe Esau, his brother, was still there and, if I may add, stronger than ever. I’m sure Jacob had not forgotten Esau’s last words for him – “The days of mourning for my father are at hand; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” Isaac, their father was still living but Rebekah, his mother, the one who always stood up for him and protected him, was dead. Jacob wanted to go home. He needed to go home. But, going home meant facing his brother whom he had deeply offended 20 years ago. As Proverbs 18:19 says, “A brother offended is harder to win than a strong city…” This message will help us learn from Jacob how to face the old foe.

Let’s begin in Genesis 32   1 So Jacob went on his way, and the angels of God met him. 2 When Jacob saw them, he said, “This is God’s camp.” And he called the name of that place Mahanaim. If you remember, 20 years ago when Jacob was running for his life, he had a vision of a ladder with the angels of God ascending and descending on it. So he woke up next morning and named the place Bethel, the house of God. Jacob was struggling with homesickness and God reminded Jacob that even though he was far away from the steps of his earthly home, he was always near to the steps of his heavenly home. In other words, when Jacob was away from his home, God gave him the key to his own heavenly home. But this time he calls the vision the “Camp of God.” Keep in mind that this camp was not like a tent in the woods. This was the base camp of the angelic army of God. Because Jacob was afraid for his life and family, God gave him a glimpse of his power and his presence all around him.

Application: What fear is plaguing you today? Jesus can meet you right where you are. He will replace your fear with his presence if you ask him. Have you done that?

Even after the vision of God’s army camp of angels around him, Jacob is still afraid of facing his brother Esau. So he begins to do several things to appease him. I’ve heard many messages condemning Jacob for his fear. Here’s the problem: The Bible never condemns him for doing what he did. What does he do? Genesis 32   3 Then Jacob sent messengers before him to Esau his brother in the land of Seir, the country of Edom. 4 And he commanded them, saying, “Speak thus to my lord Esau, Several things are worth pointing out here: First, Jacob addresses Esau as “lord” or “master.” That does not mean “god.” It’s simply a designation of respect and honor. When it comes to facing an old foe in the family, watch how you address them. If you begin by calling them a name or treating them with disdain or reminding them of how you’re better than they are, it will only cause them to despise and resent you even more. Proverbs 15   1 A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger. 2 The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, But the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.

This is very hard for people today who are living in the social media world where every post, picture, and snap chat is meant to make our own self look better than we are.

What else did Jacob say? 5 “I have oxen, donkeys, flocks, and male and female servants; and I have sent to tell my lord, that I may find favor in your sight.’” Jacob is offering gifts to appease his brother Esau. He is doing what Solomon tells us to do in Proverbs 12:14a “A gift in secret pacifies anger…” But the word still comes back to Jacob that Esau was coming to meet him with 400 men. 7 “So Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed…” I would be afraid too because that was a sign of battle. So he divides up his livestock and the people into different groups, hoping that if Esau attacks one, the other may be able to get away. Here’s a question: Is Jacob failing to trust God by doing all this? Not really. He is doing all he can to protect the promise of God to his grandfather Abraham. How do we know? Listen again to his prayer in Genesis 32   11 Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children. 12 For You said, “I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’” His prayer is focused on the promise of God.

Principle: Prayer is indispensable in times of crisis.

How does God answer Jacob’s prayer? Genesis 32:24 “Then Jacob was left alone; and a Man wrestled with him until the breaking of day.” How strange! Just when you’d think that God would send a cool breeze and give Jacob a good night sleep with dreams of angels protecting him and fighting for him, a stranger jumped on him and tried to pin him to the ground! This went on all night and when the stranger realized that he couldn’t win against him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip and it went out of joint.

What in the world is God doing? This stranger is none other than the pre-incarnate Jesus. He’s wrestling with Jacob for several reasons. First, to test him and see if he still wants the blessing of being part of the promise of God to his grandfather Abraham. Jacob refusing to let go until the stranger blessed him proved that he still wanted it. Next, it was to break him. God knows that if Jacob went out there looking all big and bad, it would only aggravate Esau more and this time he would really kill him. What’s the outcome? Instead of making him strong, he made him weak. Why? Same reason that he made Paul weak in 2 Corinthians 12   7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. God way is through brokenness and weakness.

What was the result? Jacob is now sleep deprived, physically exhausted, and limping in incredible pain. 31 Just as he crossed over Penuel the sun rose on him, and he limped on his hip…Genesis 33:3 Then he crossed over before them and bowed himself to the ground seven times, until he came near to his brother. You can see the silhouette of a truly broken man. What was Esau’s reaction? Genesis 33:4 But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept. What a beautiful sight! He even refuses the gifts that Jacob had sent to him but Jacob insists and Esau reluctantly takes them. But when Esau offers to hang together, Jacob refuses because he knows that ultimately Esau was not on the same page as him.

Here are some suggestions in dealing with an old foe:

  • Trust God’s Presence
  • Show humility
  • Offer gifts
  • Pray
  • Be willing to be broken
  • Don’t compromise God’s plan for your life

Are you saved? Are you a foe of God? He is willing to reconcile with you

The Battle of the Christian Life

THE BATTLE OF THE CHRISTIAN LIFE by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

thebattleofthechristianlifeIn honor of Veteran’s Day, I’m preaching a message titled “The Battle of the Christian Life.” 4 passages we will read from 1st and 2nd Timothy.

1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,

1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

2 Timothy 2   3 You therefore must endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 4 No one engaged in warfare entangles himself with the affairs of this life, that he may please him who enlisted him as a soldier.

2 Timothy 4 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Overall Background: The passages we just read come from 2 letters that Paul wrote to Timothy, his son in the faith. What stands out to me in these letters is Paul’s use of the battle imagery to describe the Christian life. Repeatedly, Paul reminds Timothy to be a good soldier of Jesus Christ and to fight the good fight. This is contrary to what we hear today – “Get saved and all will work out!” or “Start living for God and you will know exactly what to do.” Paul doesn’t paint this rosy picture. Instead, he challenges Timothy that the Christian life is anything but easy. It’s warfare and only those who are committed to fight to the end will receive the crown of righteousness.

Here’s a statement: Christian life is the battle and every Christian (man or woman, boy or girl) is a soldier. We enlist the moment we get saved. Unfortunately, many go AWOL, retreat, or become a casualty. Very few fight the good fight and finish well.

Question: Are you fighting the good fight of faith? Are you a good soldier of Jesus Christ? Will you finish well? Will you receive the crown of righteousness? What would your fellow soldiers say about you? Are you saved?

4 things about this Battle of the Christian Life:

I. IT’S NOT “A” BATTLE BUT “THE” BATTLE.

1 Timothy 1:18 This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare,

Background: What is interesting to me is that every time Paul mentions the Christian warfare, he does not call it “a” warfare but “the” warfare. In other words, it’s not one of many warfares in life but the only real warfare. Many times people think that life is a series of battles – battle between me and my spouse or me and my children or me and the neighbors or me and my coworkers or me and the world or me and the Devil. Basically, there’s only one battle – it’s the battle you have within yourself. You win this battle and the rest will work out. How do we know that this is an internal battle? Listen to the next verse – that by them you may wage the good warfare, 19 having faith and a good conscience.” What you are fighting towards is “faith” referring to the apostolic faith and “good conscience” referring to daily holiness before God. In other words, daily you and I have to fight a battle within as to what we believe about Jesus and how we deal with sin. Paul says it a little differently in 1 Timothy 6:12 but it has the same idea – “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life.” Not that you are fighting to gain eternal life but you are fighting to recover what is rightfully yours.

What happens when you lose this battle?Which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck.” When we lose this internal daily battle, our lives look like a shipwreck, a total disaster. Paul even gives the names of two individuals who lost this battle – 20 of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. In other words, Paul says – “I’ve left them behind enemy lines because they seem to like it better over there. Hopefully, they’ll learn their lesson.

Listen carefully – Unfortunately, many Christians are naïve about this battle of the Christian Life. They wander around on the battlefield of life as if walking on a beach, busy putting on sunscreen, building sandcastles, picking up seashells, taking selfies, and riding the waves. They don’t realize that daily they are under attack. They don’t put on the whole armor of God. They don’t fight the good fight. They don’t resist the enemy. No wonder there is so many causalities!

Application: Do you realize that you are in a battle? Are you winning or are you losing this battle? What do you believe about Jesus? Is He real to you? Can you see Him everyday? How is your sin life? Are you back in your old ways?

II. IT’S NOT “EVIL” BUT “GOOD” BATTLE.

When we think of battle/warfare, it immediately brings up a negative imagery. Bombs going off, people getting shot, blood splattering everywhere, soldiers losing their arms and legs, homes blowing up, children crying. As someone said, “War is hell.” I did a wedding this weekend and we had the opportunity to meet a wonderful couple from England, friends of the Mahlers. They loved history just like us and they were telling us about a tour they took to Belgium where one of the battles of World War 1 was fought. They were telling us about this one battlefield where as many as 50,000 British troops died in just one day. They told us how they went to the graveyard where these soldiers were buried and how sad and heartbreaking this was. In fact, they are still finding bodies from some of those trenches.

Many of us don’t realize the sacrifice that our men and women in uniform pay for our freedom. Every day should be Veteran’s Day.

But unlike earthly battles that are evil, Paul uses the adjective “good” to describe the Christian battle? 1 Timothy 1:18 “wage the good warfare”; 1 Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith”; 2 Timothy 2:3 “endure hardship as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”; 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight.”

Background: The word “good” comes from the Greek “kalos,” which has the idea of beautiful, praiseworthy, beneficial, without defect, and high standard.

Here’s the point: The battles of this life can be bad, evil, dishonoring, and shameful, but the battle of the Christian life is always good, always beautiful, always praiseworthy, and always beneficial. God looks down with a smile when He sees us contending for the faith and striving to maintain a good conscience before Him.

  • It pleases God when we grow in our faith in Jesus.
  • It pleases God when we learn more about Jesus.
  • It pleases God when we obey Jesus.
  • It pleases God when we lift up the name of Jesus.
  • It pleases God when we walk in holiness.
  • It pleases God when we preserve our testimony.
  • It pleases God when we leave a godly legacy to our children and grandchildren.

Application: Which warfare are you fighting this morning? Is it good and pleasing to God? How do you see the battle of the Christian life? Can you say with Paul, “I have fought the good fight”? Is it bringing glory to God?

III. IT’S NOT JUST A “PRIVATE” BATTLE BUT A “COMMON STRUGGLE.”

Background: Just when we think Christianity is just my private struggle with my faith and conscience, Paul reminds Timothy that his calling and confession were not in private but in the presence of many witnesses. Listen to I Timothy 6:12 Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. Here Paul reminds Timothy that he was not alone in this battle. In fact, there were many witnesses who watched him when he enlisted. He is referring to Timothy’s conversion and baptism.

The tendency among many Christians is to live our Christian lives in isolation from others. We like to do our own thing. Give me my Bible and my notepad or ipad and I’m good. This was never meant to be this way. It’s like going into battle by yourself. You would get shot and hurt and no one would be there to help you. So also in the Christian battle, we don’t go about by ourselves.

Yes, community is messy and many times the overall outcome may appear to be slow and shallow but this has always been God’s way, in the Old Testament and the New. There is great encouragement in seeing other soldiers who have fought the same battle before you and won. There is a great encouragement is seeing other soldiers struggling with the same hills that you are trying to capture.

Application: Are you a lone ranger or are you fighting with your regiment? Do you look at others in the Body as a hurdle or as help in fighting the battle of the Christian life? Do you realize that you have a part to play in the battle of other Christians around you?

IV. IT’S NOT BATTLE “TO” VICTORY BUT BATTLE “FROM” VICTORY.

2 Timothy 4 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Background: There is something very rich in that passage. Even though Paul is challenging Timothy to fight the good fight and to follow his example in fighting the good fight, he doesn’t want Timothy to forget that the battle has already been won. Jesus, when He died on the cross for our sins and rose from the grave on the third day, He did two things for us – He broke the power of sin and He took the sting out of death.

John 16:33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

I Corinthians 15 55 “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?”56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

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

Romans 8 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?…37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

Old Illustration: D-day (June 6, 1944) and VE-day (May 9, 1945).

Application: Do you understand what all this means? We are not fighting to win but we have already won. Are you living in victory? Do you realize who you are in Christ?

Are you winning the battle of the Christian life?

Are you saved

 

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