Overcoming the impossible

WHEN THINGS SEEM IMPOSSIBLE
Mobberly Sunday School, December 21, 2014
Exodus 14:1-31

This week we’re going to fast-forward past a number of events in Moses’ life and take a close look at the most celebrated story in Moses’ life: the crossing of the Red Sea.

Here’s the story. Pharaoh had finally given Moses permission to lead the people out of Egypt, but once they started on their journey, Pharaoh changed his mind. He realized he had just lost the services of tens of thousands of slaves. Without that pool of free labor, his own people would have to go to work. So, Pharaoh assembled his army and set out after the Israelites.

The Israelites had come to the bank of the Red Sea, and had set up camp at a place called Pi Hahiroth. All of a sudden they noticed the army approaching–more than 600 hundred chariots in full pursuit. They began to realize they were facing an impossible situation, with no possible means of escape. In front of them was the Red Sea; behind them was the Egyptian army. They had nowhere to turn. It appeared their only options were to be killed in battle or drown trying to swim across the sea. Seemingly they had painted themselves into a corner and things looked absolutely hopeless.

And guess what. They were right where God wanted them to be.

Today we’re going to look at how you can deal with situations that seem to be impossible. Some of you here today are facing a Red Sea in your life: things look hopeless and you don’t know what to do – could be health-related, job-related, child-related, or other situations in your life. There are five spiritual truths in this story that you can hang on to, and I guarantee these five principles will get you to the other side of the Red Sea.

When faced with an impossible situation, the first thing you need to do is…

1. Recognize God’s Purpose for your problem.

The events in your life do not happen by accident; God is in control of everything. He had a purpose for bringing the Israelites to the Red Sea; he has a purpose for the Red Sea you face, too. He wants to accomplish two things: he wants to make known his glory to others (v. 4) and he wants to teach you to trust him more (v. 31). The Bible says…

(v. 4) But I will gain glory for myself through Pharaoh and all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the Lord.

You know how this story ends. I don’t think I’m giving away any surprises when I tell you that eventually the waters of the Red Sea part and the Israelites walk through to safety. That was God’s plan all along, because as a result of this experience, the Bible says…

(v. 31) And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

This Red Sea you’re facing serves a purpose. God can use it to glorify himself and to strengthen the bond between you and him. You can come through this ordeal with faith stronger than you’ve ever had before. This is God’s purpose in your life.

(Example of God using circumstances) I recognize God’s purpose in the situation.

As you face the Red Sea, remember that God has a purpose for you: to glorify Himself and to teach you to trust him more. Secondly, as you face the Red Sea we must…

2. Regain God’s Perspective on the situation.

When the Israelites looked up and saw the Egyptian army approaching in the distance, do you know what their immediate response was? They panicked. The Bible says…

(v. 11) They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that your brought us to the desert to die?”

It is amazing that this would be their attitude, considering how they had witnessed the power of God in Egypt. But they had already forgotten about that and now they were convinced that this was the end. They went to say…

(v 12) “It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!”

I suppose they’re right. It would be better to be a slave in Egypt than to die in the desert, but God didn’t intend for them to do either. He had plans for them–plans greater than they could imagine. Of course, they weren’t going to die in the desert. The Egyptians didn’t intend to kill them; they intended to take them back to Egypt and make them work. And you get the impression from reading this story that if Moses held a vote, the majority would have chosen to go back to Egypt right then.

This shows how we have a tendency to lose God’s perspective on a situation. Too often, when we’re confronted with an impossible situation, rather than meet it head on, we take the easy way out. We say, “We don’t want to face the Red Sea, and we don’t want to face Pharaoh’s army, so let’s just go back to Egypt and resume our lives as slaves.”

God doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want you to settle for second best. He doesn’t want to run from the crisis, he wants you to meet it head on–with courage and the conviction that he will see you through.

Homer Hickham was a young kid growing up in a West Virginia coal mining town in 1957. In those days, in that town, young men didn’t have many options. If they didn’t get to a college on a football scholarship, they ended up working in the coal mines for the rest of their life. Unfortunately, Homer was hopelessly non-athletic, but he loved science. Homer had a passion for building rockets. He and some friends began conducting experiments, trying to develop rockets that would fly. As the experiments became successful, the boys began to believe in the possibility of winning the state science fair–which could lead to college scholarships and a ticket out of a life of coal-mining. Homer’s dream fell apart when his father was injured in a serious mining accident. Homer had no choice but to quit school and go to work. It’s what his father expected him to do, it’s what the principal of the school expected him to do, it’s what most people in his life expected him to do: forget the dream, take the easy way out, go to work in the mines.

Homer’s dad was a miner and loved being a miner, but Homer had different interests. He wanted to design rockets, but this dream seemed to be hopelessly out of reach. He found himself facing a decision: he could either remain a “slave” in a dying coal-mining community, or he could look at life from a different perspective–that he was destined for greatness. Homer made his choice. As soon as his father recovered from his injury, he quit the mines and went back to school.

He entered and won the state science fair, then took his exhibit to the world’s fair in Indianapolis and won again. He was offered a full college scholarship. Today, Homer is a NASA engineer. There was a time when things seemed hopeless, and he was tempted to “go back to Egypt,” but he learned to look at life from another perspective.

The Red Sea you are facing is not the impasse that you think it is. It may be tempting to take the easy way out–to settle for second best–but God has a better idea. He wants you to look at the big picture; he wants you to look at life from His perspective. He will get you through any impossible situation.

Thirdly, as you face the Red Sea, you must….

3. Rely on God’s Promise.

I once heard a motivational speaker ask an audience, “If your success was guaranteed, wouldn’t you be willing to endure just about anything? If you had an iron-clad contract stating that if you dig ditches in the rain every day for 6 months you will have complete financial freedom–wouldn’t you be willing to dig ditches?” The answer was obvious. Of course you would.

We can endure just about anything if we know the outcome. However, one of the most difficult aspects of facing a Red Sea is dealing with feelings of hopelessness and helplessness. When you’re facing an impossible situation, it looks like everything is falling apart, like there is no chance things will work out the way they should.

When you’re facing a Red Sea you’ve got to rely on God’s promise. What is his promise? Moses spoke to the people…

(v. 13-14) “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

God promises us two things.

• He promises the problem will be completely eradicated. “The Egyptians you see today you will never see again.” We have a tendency to put a band-aid on our problems, to sweep them under the rug, to get them out of the way for a few days. God promises to remove it once and for all. Also…

• He promises to fight for you. Without his help the Israelites didn’t have a chance, and neither do we. We need him in the battle. He has promised to be there for us, to fight on our side.

To get to other side of the Red Sea you have to learn to rely on his promise. What does it mean to rely? Once again, let’s look at verses 13 and 14. Relying on God’s promises involves three things.

1) Fear not. The words “Fear Not” appear in the Bible more than 50 times. This means that you can choose to not be afraid. Of course, no one ever chooses to be afraid. Fear just pounces on you. But when it pounces, you can choose to reject it. Moses also said…

2) Stand firm. Don’t compromise your integrity. Don’t give up. Don’t run. Don’t hide. Stand and face the situation.

3) Be still. Of course, “be still” doesn’t mean “do nothing.” Moses is not talking about your body; he’s talking about your heart. Being still involves blocking out all distractions and placing your focus on the promises of God–or even better, focusing on God himself. Remember this: the peace of God can’t hit a moving target. If you want your heart to be filled with God’s peace, your heart will have to become still long enough to receive it.

As you face the Red Sea in your life, with the enemy closing in from behind, rely on God’s promise to see you through. Also, you need to…

4. Rest In God’s Protection.

When the Israelites first began their journey they were led by a cloud by day and a fire by night. When they arrived at the bank of the Red Sea, and Pharaoh’s army began closing in, the cloud moved behind the Israelite camp, between the Israelites and the Egyptians. The Bible says…

(v 20) Throughout the night the cloud brought darkness to the one side and light to the other side; so neither went near the other all night long.

God had not yet performed the miracle that would deliver the Hebrew people; that would come later. Until then, they could rest in God’s protection.

There is an interesting verse here. It says…

(v. 19) Then the angel of God, who had been traveling in front of Israel’s army, withdrew and went behind them.

The angel withdrew. How do you think the Israelites reacted when they saw the cloud begin to float away? Undoubtedly, like you and I are prone to do, they thought, “There it goes. We’re sunk. God is leaving us now and we’re on our own.” It may have appeared that way at first, but the cloud moved behind them and protected them during the night.

As you face any impossible situation in your life there is something you need to keep in mind. No matter how bad things seem, things are not as bad as they could be, and the reason they’re not as bad as they could be is because God is preventing things from getting that bad. The phrase, “Things could be worse” is usually the set-up for a joke. But I’m not joking when I say that if you look at your situation with the eyes of faith you will see how God has kept his hand on you, in spite of the difficulties. He’s protecting you now until the day that he parts your Red Sea.

In 1960 a Cuban Christian named Armondo Valladares was arrested for “offenses against state authorities.” Specifically, he was caught praying in a church. Immediately, Valladares was sent to prison and for the next 22 years was subjected to the cruelty and torture that is common in Castro’s prison system. He was expected to die there. The government didn’t plan to release him and the Christians in Cuba had no hope of seeing him again. Things looked hopeless. But God protected this man. He survived. Christians and human rights organizations throughout the world lobbied for his release, and finally, in 1982 Valladares was set free. Until the day that the Red Sea parted, God protected Valladares from his enemies; he kept him alive. He emerged from prison with a bold faith and a powerful testimony.

God is protecting you, too. Rest in his protection. And as you face the Red Sea, you also need to…

5. Reach for God’s Power.

This is what God said to Moses…

(v. 16) Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground.

God wants to deliver you from the impossible situation you face. He wants to part the Red Sea for you. For it to happen, you have to stretch…you have to reach for God’s power.

This staff that Moses carried symbolized God’s power in his life. When God first called Moses, he told Moses to throw down the staff and the staff became a snake. He told Moses to pick it up and it became a rod again. Moses and Aaron each used their staff to bring plagues upon Egypt. The staff was waved over the Nile and Nile turned to blood. The staff was stretched over the streams and the plague of frogs was sent. The staff was struck on the ground and a plague of gnats swarmed the land. The staff was stretched to the sky and hail was rained upon Egypt. And on and on. The staff wasn’t magic, but it symbolized the power of God.

God was saying to Moses, “You hold my power in your hand. If you’re willing to reach, you will again witness a miracle.”

God’s power is available to you, too. If you’re willing to stretch, you will experience a miracle. Getting to the other side of the Red Sea requires you to reach–to move in faith like you never have before, to trust God more than you ever have before, to take a bolder step than you’ve ever taken before. I don’t know what seemingly impossible situation you face today, but I know this: if you reach for God’s power, he will supply it. He will get you through to the other side of sea.

CONCLUSION

Are you facing the Red Sea? Are there situations in your life that seem impossible? Remember: it only seems impossible to you. God has a plan. It may be something different than you ever could have imagined, but he has a plan. He will get you to the other side. And when he does you can be sure that others will see his glory in your life and your relationship with him will be stronger than ever before. You’re not on your own. You don’t have to fight the army and you don’t have to conquer the sea in your own strength. You only have to reach for God’s power.

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