Motionless Impact, Traditional

Motionless Impact, Traditional

May 05, 2019 • Rob Fuquay

St. Luke’s UMC

May 5, 2019

Communion Sunday

IMPACT: God—You—and the Whole Wide World

Motionless Impact

Exodus 14: 10-15

(show pic as I am saying this first sentence) Any building or restaurant you walk into today has exit signs clearly marked so you can find your way out. If you lose electricity, they are lighted so you still know how to get out of a building. That’s required building code today. You have to show people a clear way out.

In a time when words like “active shooter” are a part of our vocabulary and as we have experienced again in the sad shootings at a synagogue and NC university in the last two weeks, we are taught to be conscious in every space to note where exits are located in case of an emergency. More than ever we live with an awareness of exits.

So how frustrating is it when we find ourselves in a place where there is no clear way out? How frightening, how defeating is to you, when you come to a place with no where to turn, where you feel hemmed in? Specifically how is your faith an impact in moments like that, especially when you believe your trust in God is what put you in such a position? Take picture off

That is the situation we are considering today. The people of Israel were led by Moses out of bondage in Egypt. They told Pharaoh they were simply going into the desert to worship for three days, but when Pharaoh realized he had been duped he sent all of his army and chariots after them. God led the Israelites to the edge of the Red Sea where they could not go forward. They turned and saw Pharaoh’s chariots behind them and panicked. They had no where to go. There were no clear exits.

This was their situation, a situation that resulted from their obedience to God. You see the Israelites were called to be God’s chosen people. That doesn’t mean they were to have more blessings than anyone else. It didn’t mean God was going to spare them any challenges. It meant God had chosen them to reveal his will and purpose through them. They had a mission. They were called to make an impact, but before that day would arrive, they had to face this moment of when they had no where to go.

This is an experience in every life of faith. You see Whenever You’re Called to Make an Impact, You’re Bound to Hit an Impasse. When we follow God there are going to be times we get stuck, we can’t go forward, we don’t know what to do next. We are rendered motionless. Sometimes our greatest impact is made when our back is against the wall. Those are times when our true nature is revealed, when our faith is put on display, when we can’t move.

Have you ever been in a place like that? Have you ever found yourself in a moment where you don’t know what to do next and it seems your option have all been removed? What does it mean to make an impact there? In other words,


Focus on Where You Want to Go, Not Where You’ve Been!

As panic set in for the Israelites they said to Moses, “Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” v.12 Now the answer is, no they didn’t say that. For 400 years they cried out to God to send them a deliverer. In other words they got the answer to their prayers and they discovered that meant life had to get harder before it could get easier. As the old saying goes, “Be careful what you pray for, you just might get it!”

But that is a most human response isn’t it? When we hit an impasse, when we come to a dead end, to look back and second guess how we got there. I’m the world’s worst at replaying decisions. “I knew I should have turned at that last intersection. I knew I shouldn’t bought that material. I knew I should have gone to a different store.” Do you ever do that? Do you play “The Shoulda game.” “I shoulda kept my job instead of changing. I shoulda moved sooner. I shoulda waited to get married. I shoulda gone to this other school. I shoulda taken that other job.”

But what if the path that led us to an impasse is the path God wants us to be on? What if our impasse is an opportunity for God to be glorified? You see the Israelites didn’t know a little secret that we do. Look at this verses that came right before our reading today: “When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” So God led the people around by the desert road toward the Red Sea.” (Exodus 13:17-18)

God led the Israelites to this impasse. It wasn’t a mistake. It was something God wanted to use. Now let me say, I don’t believe everything difficult place we end up in life is God’s doing. Every fearful place we find ourselves is not by God’s guiding, but God can do something in ever fearful place. Instead of looking back and playing the shoulda game, we need to believe that God can be glorified right where we are. We don’t have to get to a different place for Gods glory to be revealed. Instead of complaining that the place where we were is better than where we are, we need to focus on the place where God wants to take us and believe it is better than any place we have been!

Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There!

That’s hard. Many of us believe in the saying, “Don’t just stand there, do something!” But in the life of faith there are times when our impact is made when we stand still, and look to God. This is what Moses advised. “Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm…The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still.” v13,15

I love the old saying about prayer. “When we work, we work; but when we pray, GOD works!” This reminds us that the most important work we need is the work of God in our lives. We never accomplish more than when we are on our knees.

This week we marked the death of Senator Richard Lugar. I remember see him in worship one Sunday the first winter after I came to St. Luke’s. We did a series using football metaphors to talk about spiritual matters. That Sunday I used the idea of headphones that coaches wear in a game to receive direction from the people who sit high above the field where they can see everything going on. I made the point that on the field a coach can’t see what they do, they need that higher perspective, but they can only get it by putting on headphones that tune out other distractions.

Well, Senator Lugar was facing a rough primary that year, a primary that ultimately unseated him as senator. It was rough because his opponent was saying he didn’t really care about Indiana. I believe that was very painful, because Dick Lugar loved Indiana, and so much of what is modern Indianapolis is here because of started when he was mayor.

After the service he thanked me for the sermon. He said, “I needed that message. I need to tune out distractions and spend more time putting on my spiritual headphones.” I thought about that the other day when one of his sons said to me, “My dad was clear that Jesus Christ was his Lord and Savior.”

Sometimes our greatest impact is when we are motionless. We stay still and learn how the Lord is fighting for us.

Be Willing to Get Your Feet Wet In Order to Walk on Dry Ground!

We, of course, don’t stand still forever. Right after Moses tells the people to be still and realize how God is fighting for them, we learn, “Then the LORD said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on.” v.15 Eventually we have to move on. We need times of stillness. We need to be assured that God is fighting for us. But then comes the time to do our part and move on.

But notice what move on meant. The people were facing the sea. Move on meant walk into the sea. They were told they would be able to walk on dry ground, that God would perform a miracle and part the waters. But in order to walk on dry ground, they would first have to get their feet wet. As they acted in faith, God would react in power.

One of the most important verses in the book of Psalms for me is 18:25: “To the faithful You show yourself faithful.” That verse reminds me that as I take steps of faith, God moves in to provide power as I go, not before. I step out in faith, get my feet wet, and God will step in. To the faithful God proves to be faithful.

Joyce Meyer has a book titled, Living Courageously: You Can Do Anything, Just Do It Afraid. She tells the story of Elisabeth Elliott, wife of martyred missionary Jim Elliott, who was killed along with four other missionaries witnessing to a remote tribe in Ecuador. Elisabeth said her life became controlled by fear. She felt compelled to go to Ecuador and carry on her husband’s work but every time she took a step fear took over. Then one day a friend said something to her that set her free. She told her, “Why not do it afraid?”

Isn’t that great advice. Just do it afraid. Don’t wait til fear subsides. Elisabeth Elliot ended up going back to Ecuador and meeting two women who welcomed her into the tribe that killed her husband. She lived with them for two years and the man who killed her husband ended up becoming a Christian himself through the example of bold love in Elisabeth. Take picture off.

Whenever we are called to make an impact we are bound to hit an impasse. Are you facing an impasse today? Are you hearing God say, “It’s time to move on?” But what is keeping you from going is fear. Then just do it afraid. You have a tough conversation you know you’ve got to have, just do it afraid. You’ve got a tough decision to make, just do it afraid. You have a change to make, just do it afraid. Open your hand to God and welcome his help and power.

That is what Bob Goff, the Christian author, teaches. He was a lawyer and he used to say to clients who could get easily angered, that when they are on the stand keep their palms open as they talk. He said it’s hard to get angry and lose control when your hands are open rather than clinched.

The same is true in faith. When we keep our hands open it is much easier to receive God’s help and power. Maybe that is why Jesus offered a lasting reminder of his forgiveness and presence in a sign we have to open our hands to receive…