Dear brothers and sisters
It is good to be able to share some thoughts with you once again.
Over the years we have shared so much with each other, and God had shared a lot with us too.
And sometimes I just wonder……. all these things that we have heard. All these words from the Lord. What effect do they have on your life, and then I mean your every day life, in a practical sense?
What difference have they made? Or haven’t they had any effect at all? Do you put them into practice?
Is going to church on Sunday, or to the weekly Bible Study, to hear wonderful truths about God, just part of the weekly routine,…… or do you spend time thinking about what you hear, and does it then lead to a deeper relationship with God.
That’s why I’ve chosen this subject today : do you make time for relationships, for a relationship with God?
There are so many things that take up your time, so much that happens in a day, that spending time on your faith can become something that is no longer a priority or inspiration.
But it can also become something which is really important to you, knowing, that whatever your situation, God is very close by.
I really hope this sermon will inspire you to want to deepen the relationship between Father and yourself, between Jesus and yourself, and also between yourself and other people.
Between married couples, for example. Because I think that there are far too many disagreements in marriages which result in couples distancing themselves from each other. Far too many angry words are said between people, who at one time said of each other that there was no better, nicer, or more loving person in the world!
And this happens in many other relationships too. This world needs people who will start a relationship with God, and then live their life based on this relationship. People who won’t let themselves be misled or distracted by Satan, because Satan is theenemy of love and life. He wants to distract you, any way he can, from your life of faith.
And as an illustration of this I have found a wonderful story in 1 Samuel. It is found mostly in chapter 14, and also a few verses from chapter 13. It is the story of the heroic deed of Jonathan.
1 Samuel chapter 14 verse 1:
“One day Jonathan, the son of Saul, said to the young man who bore his armour, ‘Come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison on yonder side’. But he did not tell his father.”
So come, let us go over to the Philistine garrison. Why? Why would they do that? The Philistines were marching towards the Israelites with an enormous army.
“The Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots, and six thousand horsemen, and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude;” (1 Samuel 13 v. 5)
King Saul had been told by Samuel to wait for him in Gilgal. Samuel had said that in seven days’ time he would come to bring burnt offerings and peace offerings, and then he would tell Saul what to do. (1 Samuel 10 verse 8). But when the seventh day came, and Samuel still hadn’t arrived, and people began to leave, Saul decided to offer the burnt offering himself. (1 Samuel 13 verse 8 and 9). Saul thought, “the sacrifice has to be offered, and if Samuel isn’t coming, then I will do it myself”. That may seem to be a good idea, but in fact it was a case of disobedience. And Samuel says that to him when he arrives. “What have you done?”, he says.
So then Saul begins to blame Samuel. It was Samuel’s fault, because he had arrived too late. And it’s just the same today. If things don’t happen exactly according to the rules that we have made, then we start to blame others, while it is good to just wait, and give space to our God who says “I said I would look after you”. Full stop. I didn’t add “if you keep all the rules”.
And often, just as in this story, things are done out of fear, and a lack of trust. You can lose out on so much because of this. Also in a relationship.
Just think about it: how many arguments and irritations are caused by people not being on time, or appointments that were not on time?
Everything has to go according to the stipulated rules and regulations, otherwise it all seems to go wrong in a relationship; while not long ago we said we would tolerate everything from one another.
But in reality that doesn’t seem to be true.
We live an a society, especially here in the western world, in which we are ruled by the clock, and not by the fact that you are willing to give the other person the space and flexibility that you yourself would so much like to have.
Thinking from God’s perspective works so differently. There is a song with the text: “if you don’t want it to happen to you, don’t do it to others. ”but that is a very bad translation of what Jesus said, because this song is all about what you DON”T want to happen, but Jesus didn’t say that at all. He said ”Do unto others what you would like them to do to you”. (Luke 6:31). That is positive action.
The way you would like to be treated by other people, whether or not it actually DOES happen, treat other people in that same way.
Now. To return to the story. Saul and Jonathan and all Israel are under threat of hostile armies, which have set up camp nearby in order to besiege Israel. I want to apply this setting, just as the rest of this story, as a spiritual illustration for our daily lives.
Plunderers, are you familiar with that? That your peace of mind has suddenly disappeared. All sorts of things can be stolen from you: peace, harmony, and your innocence, which is so important to you. A feeling of guilt and discontentment then settles over you and takes its place. This changes your outlook and weighs you down. Wouldn’t it be wonderful it we were to ask each other: do you feel guilt? And we would all answer, Guilt? What’s that? That would be really wonderful.
But unfortunately we are all confronted with it. Even if it’s just a nagging feeling that we should have done something differently.
And people with a feeling of guilt and dissatisfaction are always wondering if they have come up to the expectations that others have of them. Wondering whether they are good enough, have done enough. And the worst case is if that is in the religious area. You do things because you think that others expect it of you.
Icould be doing that now, while I am here speaking to you. I’ve been invited to talk to you, to preach a sermon to be exact, although I don’t really like that word. I am not much of a preacher, I prefer to tell a story. But that’s why I’m here. And I have to do that right.
I have to be polite, and not speak too long, and say the right things, and if I do all that, you may well say to me afterwards: “Well done Jan”.
But then I’m just trying to keep to all the rules, and to do and say what is expected of me.
Or is it okay for me to speak freely, and talk about my weaknesses, and your doubts and my difficulties. There is a great need for sincerity, for being honest with yourself, and being able to show weakness.
But, er…., with Him we are strong. Yes, but sometimes you are weak and really desperate. Do you have the courage to let people see this, or are you afraid of their reaction. Can you talk about your weaknesses and doubts, and the things you find difficult: or are you worried that people will think badly of you, that you are not good enough, for example. Lots of things go on in our thoughts and minds. And if plunderers come to steal, then you have to defend yourself.
Well the Israelites couldn’t defend themselves very well. Why not?
They had no weapons. Why not? Well, we’ll see that in the next part of the story.
A very strange part of the story. In chapter 13 verse 19 we read that there was no smith to be found throughout all the land of Israel because thePhilistines had said, that the Hebrews were not to make themselves swords or spears. So they weren’t allowed to have smiths. So this meant that in order to have their agricultural tools sharpened - their scythes, ploughshares, sickles and axes - the Israelites had to go to the Philistines. That was very expensive, it says, and so only Saul and Jonathan had weapons.
The Philistineshad said that the Hebrews were not allowed to have weapons. SO, they didn’t have any! And that really infuriates me.
I think to myself, don’t be so stupid. It is unbelievable that they can say to the army of another nation, ‘you are not allowed to have weapons, swords and spears. If you need a smith then you can come to us to have your tools sharpened, but that’s all.’
Because then it is the enemy who gets to decide whether or notI have weapons. And it seems only logical that the enemy will say that I am not allowed to have weapons.
And it is THAT that makes me so mad. The enemy says NO WEAPONS, so I have no weapons. Just because they don’t want me to have any.
Well, it may sound very strange, but it could be just like that in your life. You are up against so much, in your personal situation, that you lose your weapons. They are knocked out of your hands, or simply taken away. And that’s a terrible thing to happen. For example: If I don’t know what to answer back, when I am confronted, or if I lose my self assurance. Or if I am confronted with people around me whom I’d relied on, and whom I trusted, and then they can’t be bothered any more, and then I think to myself, Well, I can’t be bothered either.
Or that a Jonathan is confronted with his father, who started off on the right path, but who has been robbed of his self esteem and fighting spirit. What can I do about it? You can become so disheartened by what the enemy says in the spiritual world. It’s not always as obvious as in “I am your enemy and I am going to take your weapons away”, but gradually, very gradually you lose them, one by one.
Maybe you get caught up with the idea that things are not going so well any more. We all have disappointments to contend with, and then that nagging doubts ‘where do I go from here’. Go along with these kind of thoughts and you have lost another weapon!
Not long ago someone said to me: “In the beginning, when you receive new life from the Lord, then it’s all new and beautiful, and you can enjoy it all tremendously. But after a time it the joy wears off. This new life loses its shine.
But I can’t accept that. My new life doesn’t lose its shine. It gets better and better, more mature, more in balance.
Someone else once said to me, “Jan, you’re an idealist”. “YES”, I thought, because that’s just what I am. I am an idealist, and I want to stay that way. A person with ideals. But then ideals that develop through my relationship with the Father.
If we look at Jesus, what was most important to him? That was his relationship with His Father.
He was so close to his Father, that he couldn’t get any closer. He was at the bosom of the Father, we read. What the Father said, HE said, and things which He knew His Father wouldn’t say, He DID’NT say, and he didn’t accept them either. That’s what I call freedom!
Yes, but we haven’t go that far yet, you could say, and just by saying this, you let your weapons be taken out of your hands. Or you could say, I may not be as close to the Father as Jesus was, but I am learning to stay as close as possible to the Father at all times. To look to Him for comfort and courage, and life, so that whatever the Philistines say, whatever the enemy says, it won’t affect me any more. Then you have weapons to use against the enemy.
In verse 20 it says literally: ”So all the Israelites had to go to the Philistines”. The wording in this sentence struck me, because everyone in the Netherlands knows what is meant by this typical Dutch expression. It is a very well known saying which means that you are going to lose out, you’re done for, you’ve had it.
The Philistines had said that the Israelites had to go to the Philistines, so they had to. The Philistines said the Israelites were doomed to failure, so they are, YOU are. You have no say in it any more, or over yourself.
So the wonderful thing here is that JONATHAN says: “I am going to the Philistines”. Not because they order me to, but because I choose to go. It’s MY decision. That is a completely different attitude.
Come on he says. I am the one who decides what is going to happen.
Iam going to them, but not as a slave, begging them to do something for me, begging them for mercy. Because they won’t help you, you know. Never go to the devil asking for mercy, because he won’t give it. God will. Abundantly.More than you ask. And this brings us back to where we were at the beginning: 1 Samuel 14 verse 1. “Come let us go over to the Philistine garrison on yonder side. But he did not tell his father”.
Why not? Well sometimes the reactions of others, their fears and shortcomings, can hinder you, and hold you back, and then it is better to go alone. That doesn’t mean that you disapprove of, or reject the other person, or his ideas. It may even be that by taking these steps you create space in the spiritual world for the other person to come into action. Just waiting and hoping that the other person will make a move could become a long wait. So it is better to take the first step yourself.
Again it is remarkable what we read here in chapter 14 verse 2:
“Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree”. And I take this to be literal. Saul couldn’t go any further. He had reached his limits. And he had started counting heads, and he saw what he was up against. He was so overwhelmed by the enemy armies, that he couldn’t see the real enemy any more. Saul was overwhelmed by negative thoughts.
He was also overwhelmed by guilt, and if it wasn’t guilt about himself, then about someone else. And because of this attitude, even though he still had weapons, he didn’t use them any more. Why not? Well, if you start to sum up all those on your side, and all those against you, then you could reach the conclusion that you are outnumbered. A bit like Gideon. What is against us, is more than what is for us, which means we are going to lose. That’s human logic.
I think that story of Gideon is a another wonderful story. God says to him ”you’ve got too many soldiers! Send some away, because when you have won you might be tempted to boast about how big your army was, and how courageously you fought, and how strong you were”. Then it will be all about YOU. Whilst your strength comes from your relationship with God, in which HE looks after you.
It’s all grace. To be honest I used to dislike that word. That’s because it was always used to show just how unworthy human beings are, and that God, in his grace, just might be willing to do something to help you. But I have learned to appreciate the real meaning of the word. That is to be completely dependent on Someone who says: “I will look after you, and support you. I am your strength. And I give you all this as a free gift”. That is grace.
So what about this decision of Jonathan to go to the Philistines?
He says, I’ll go and I’ll take the man who carries my weapons along with me. They had to cross rough mountain passes in order to get to the Philistine garrison. Rocky crags on both sides. One was called Bozes and the other Seneh.
Bozez means slippery and Seneh is a bush with thorns.
So you have to find a way to get past the smooth talk of the enemy: all the lies that are meant to make you slip up and fall. And also the prickly thorns of the enemy: things that irritate you. You have to find a way to get through.
Another question: Was it a difficult decision for Jonathan to make in this situation? To go to the Philistines? He says to the man carrying his weapons in chapter 4 verse 6: “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us; for nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, by many or by few.”
And THAT is the key. He says: The Lord can save us with a few men, just as easily as with many men. He didn’t count heads. He didn’t calculate the chances of winning by taking into account everything that was against them.
Nor did he think, as someone once said; “we can try to fight against our enemy, the devil, but he has thousands of years of experience, so what chance do we have? Don’t think like that. Don’t.
Because the One who is on YOUR side, has even more experience.
So who do I listen to? Where do I get my strength from, who is the leader of my life?
Well, his weapon bearer says to him in verse 7: “Do all that your mind inclines to; behold, I am with you, as is your mind, so is mine”. Your weapon bearer. And who carries our weapons? The Lord himself, I think. When I was thinking about this, I wondered, can I say this? Can I say the Lord carries my weapons? The Lord is my weapon bearer? Yes, I think I can. Just as the opposite is also true. I want to wear His weapons of righteousness and truth. But he carries them for you. He is always by your side, with all these weapons, His words and thoughts and love. He carries them for you, at the ready for you to use, he reveals them to you.
Then Jonathan says in verse 8 and 9: “We will cross over to the men, and we will show ourselves to them. If they say to us, “Wait until we come to you”, then we will stand still in our place, and we will not go up to them. But if they say, “Come up to us”, then we will go up; for the Lord has given them into our hand. This shall be the sign to us”.
That seems most illogical. He chooses for the most difficult option. It would be much safer to say, stay where you are until we reach you. Because then they could always turn round and run. But climb up!
If there is one thing you shouldn’t do, then that is for you all to climb up together to the enemy. Because if they throw a few stones down onto you, then you are all sent flying, all defeated straight away. Right?
But Jonathan chooses the side of trust. He chooses the side of God who goes with you, and gives you the space to be yourself in these situations. Jonathan chooses the principle of climbing up, and even if it is only in your attitude, are you aclimber, or are you someone who prefers to avoid confrontations. Is your life governed by fear and the opinions of others. Thoughts like: “I’m never good enough, I won’t be able to do it, I am too weak”. What rules your life? Do you try to climb higher, in order to reach what God wants to give you, in your every day life, in practical things. Let’s do it, and let’s step away from a faith in which you have to do everything yourself.
Sometimes the Christian faith is too much like religion. Much of religion is based on, ‘I have do well every day, in everything, and meet up to all the expectations God has of me. (And these expectations can be praying 5 times a day on a mat on your knees, or being able to recite a lot of verses.
And there are expectations in the Christian faith too. I have to pray right, and believe as I should, and do the right things at the right time). And religion dictates: “if I do all this, well, then maybe God will take care of me.”
Do you know what’s so unfortunate about believing like this? When things go wrong, people feel God has let them down, abandoned them. And then God can’t get close to the people again. Not because He has left them. You lose your greatest friend at the very moment you need Him the most.
God is not a calculating God. He doesn’t say, If you do well enough then I am prepared to love you. The basis of all He does is: “I love you!”. I love you with all my heart. I want you to flourish and bloom. I want you to be a pure human being. I want you to be able to climb up into my world of thoughts. That characterizes our relationship, not “if you lead a perfect Christian life”.
Because if that’s what we believe, then a demon has forced his way into our mind. And Jesus couldn’t have put it more clearly: satan, he says, accuses day and night. Whatever you do, it’s never good enough, never enough, there’s always something else you have to do.
But the God who is always close by, the God who lets you walk in innocence, free from all guilt, who allows you to be yourself, independent, simply because you are completely dependent on Him, HE gives you so much freedom in your life. Room to be yourself. Room to learn. And then when you have to go through things that are slippery and sharp and sting, then God says, I will show you the way, I will help you climb up.
So when Jonathan and his weapon bearer show themselves, the Philistines say, in verse 11: ‘Look, Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hid themselves”. And then the men on guard say to Jonathan and his weapon bearer, “Climb up to us, and we will show you a thing or two”.
The enemy lures you nearby and is just waiting to teach you a lesson. To give you a beating, so that nothing is left of you. Your identity destroyed. For Jonathan however, this wasn’t a sign that the enemy was going to teach him a lesson or two, because he had said that this would be the sign of victory, despite the overwhelming oppression of the enemy. If we want to have authority in the Kingdom of God, then you can be sure it will not be because the enemy is going to help us, nor is it because satan is taking a break. Get these things very clear in your mind.
I’m not very fond of expressions like: it seems as if everything is against me at the moment. That is much too vague. Nowadays there is a lot of opposition. Jesus has always been clear about that. He says they persecuted me, they will do it to you too.
So if we have thoughts like: “I hope the battle won’t be too bad, and I hope they will let up now and again, and that the enemy will take a break every now and then so that we can get on with building the Kingdom of God”, then you are going to be so disappointed. We are building a Kingdom of God based on a close relationship with Father and with Jesus. And if you live your life that way then you will reap life and victory, space to live in and so much good.
We’llteach you, the enemy said, but Jonathan says: climb up behind me, because the Lord has give them into the power of Israel.
And then they climb up, on hands and feet, and we read: “the philistines fell before Jonathan and the weapon carrier killed them”.
So not the other way round, not the enemy who would teach the lesson. The enemy was slain. The enemy, negative thoughts, whatever gets in the way of your relationship with God, will be slain, defeated. Defeated by your words of faith, by the life that you represent.
And not always out in the open for everyone to see, so that your life seems to be easy and perfect. But amid all the opposition, the problems, the difficulties, and denial.
We are no good to this world if we stipulate that there has to be more unity before we can give any help. Because I see less and less unity. I see hardness between people, negativeness, anger, anger for no reason. Sometimes you wonder: How can you get so angry about something so small, and how can you reject people so completely, if you haven’t tried to find out who they really are, what they are really like?
We can bring some good into this world if we don’t sit and wait until the world changes. Amidst all the hardness of heart, and negative thinking, we can try to bring real life to the surface. Truth. To take away all the lies that the enemy has put into our minds. To see through that, when forming our opinions about other people.
Years ago I had a vision of someone who went to buy a picture, and that picture was a small, miserable looking painting, and the buyer paid such an enormous amount of money for it that everyone said: he is obviously not a professional. He certainly doesn’t know anything about art, otherwise he wouldn’t have spent such a lot of money on something so worthless.
But when that picture became the property of the buyer, he began very, very carefully to remove the top layer from the picture that everyone could see, so that thereal painting became visible. That had to be done very carefully, so that the original wasn’t damaged. The painting underneath was beautiful. And the buyer knew that. He knew the value of the real painting. And the person who had messed the painting up, had tried to spoil it and make it worthless.
That happens to people too. People are judged to be worthless purely on how others see them on the outside, on what they do, or don’t do, and what they say, or don’t say. So many people have been rejected because of the work of satan, so many beautiful creations, so many wonderful people. For many different reasons: their age, their accent, the colour of their skin, their clumsiness, their ignorance, or even just because of what they have achieved in life.
Behind these facades there are many beautiful people. And in Isaiah chapter 49 verse 9 God says to all these people; “come forth, appear”. Come out and don’t let yourself be dominated by the Philistines, who, with their perpetual disapproval and violence, try to make invisible all that should be visible.
That is why I am so very happy with the holy spirit, that helps you to look beyond the outer layer, and helps you to see things differently. Sometimes so much attention is paid to visible things, the things that everybody can see. Decide for yourself that you are not going to pay attention to any gossip you hear about someone else. Because I don’t want to hear the description of that stupidpicture, I can see for myself that it doesn’t look very nice. But whatis underneath. That’s what I want to encourage to come forth.
And when one victory is gained, then more will come. It grows. You grow. And the wonderful thing is, and I see it in the Bible again and again in all sorts of stories, often there is a moment when ONE person decides he’s no longer going to accept that the enemy is in control, and then he battles against the enemy with the faith that God gives him. That encourages other people to takes steps, people who haven’t been able to believe in a possible victory for a long time. It gets them going too.
The Israelites ask each other, ‘what is happening in the garrison? They are all running around wildly’.
Jonathan’s action has sent the enemy into a panic. Confusion everywhere, and the enemy army starts fighting amongst itself. “Every man’s sword was against his fellow” we read.
This give great encouragement to the rest, and so then we read: “all the men of Israel who had hid themselves in the hill country followed hard after them in the battle.” So join in too, and let your mind be renewed, because that leads to victory.
During this story something else is going on, and that is a clear example of how satan works. Saul had spoken a curse over the Israelites in chapter 14 verse 24: “Cursed be the man who eats food before it is evening and I am avenged on my enemies,” he had said
What a strange thing to say. Go and fight for victory, and then afterwards you can eat. While normally you’d eat before you went into battle to get your strength up. The same applies in spiritual warfare. Feed yourself with the word of God before you confront the enemy. Jonathan did that. HE had eaten. Why? Because he didn’t know that the curse had been uttered. But I think that even if he had known, Jonathan would still have eaten. He had taken honey out of the honeycomb with a stick and eaten it, and it says: “his eyes were bright and clear”. He had a fresh look on the situation, not a blurred one. He saw the things exactly as they were. And how were they? How were they really?
The reality is of Christ, we read. That may just be a text. But let your reality be of Christ.
And don’t let yourself be held back by the curse that will prevent you from feeding on God’s word. Whatever youdo, do it with God.
At a certain moment the men have to cast lots to see who had sinned against Saul’s order, and then they find it is Jonathan. And what did Saul say? You must die. (1 Samuel 14 verse 44). So Jonathan must die, because he had the courage to eat while it was forbidden. And then you see the other side. The others say, in 1 Samuel 14 verse 45, “Shall Jonathan die, who has wrought this great victory in Israel? Far from it! As the Lord lives there shall not one hair of his head fall to the ground; for he has wrought with God this day”.
So first Jonathan saves his fellow Israelites, and then he is saved by them. That’s how it works. I think that is a wonderful principle in the kingdom of God, that people who have been saved, save others.
In this whole story we see that the victory comes about because of a good relationship with the Lord. That should be our starting point. If someone else makes wrong choices, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep on making the right ones. Keep believing the Father. This is all part of your relationship with Him.
If you have only negative situations as your starting point, in any relationship, then you lose the weapon of God’s word, and that is the truth. And you also lose the way to restoration and renewal.
But if you say, even though things may have gone all wrong, if you say, “Lord, I want to dedicate myself to you so that my life and my relationships work out right, then you are on the right path. How do you do this? By trusting.
I think it’s wonderful that the Lord says to us, if you are tired and weary, I will give you rest and peace. Come, he says, come to me. But most people who are tired and weary, carry on working hard and trying to succeed in their own strength.
It is much better to accept God’s invitation: come. Then I will give you rest, and you can develop your life, with this peace and rest as a starting point, the foundation on which you build. We all have the right to manifest this peace in our lives and to share it with others.
And does that mean that everything then goes as you want? That your life is perfect?
Last week I went to the funeral of my sister-in-law. That was painful. We wished it could have been different. She was only 52 years old. And so all the questions come flooding in. We have an almighty God and a wonderful gospel, so why did it happen?
We all decided, (and some are stronger than others, and then another time it is the other way round), but we decided we were not going to lose our great friend Jesus through this.
We decided we were going to continue living as children of God, representing that life, holding on to it, in order to be able to bless others and do good, hold high the words of God. And then you find that you have come further along the path of that life, and you discover that there are ways to carry on living, and even more than that.
To hold high what we believe: we are going to climb up to you, opponent, enemy, thief. We climb up from a gospel that is so good and righteous, and which liberates, and it has its roots in the relationship that brings us closer and closer to our Father. One thing I will not let satan take from me, is that God is my Father, and Jesus my very, very best friend.
If you fill yourself with these thoughts it will do you good. You will receive warmth and comfort and encouragement, which you will experience in all the situations of your life.
So to conclude: Make the decision for yourself: “do you know what I am going to do?” you can say, “I am going to the Philistines. Yes, I am and then they will see just who my God is!
Not they but He shall be victorious with us.
Let us pray:
Thank you Father for a relationship where there is so much scope for living. You make us good, through and through. Thank you, that together with you, we can build on our relationships. We are full of hope for the life that will come forth.