Summary: To walk in joy with must do four things. Accept where we are at in life. Expect a better life ahead. Endure hardships. Embrace our circumstances.
Yesterday marked two anniversaries. Debbie and I have been married for 34 years. And I have been your pastor for 5 years. About one half of you were attending when Chris was pastor. The first month I became senior pastor, we had a role of 32 people with $3457 in the bank. Most of those were Pastor Chris’ family. By August that number had dropped to 18. In 2011 we were at our peak with 22 adults in attendance and $5726 in the bank. Now after 5 years we average 12 adults in attendance with $5680 in the bank.
This week I found one of my first sermons. It was about vision casting. It was casting the vision of whitestone ministry. We learned about Nehemiah’s plan to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem that had been destroyed. I talked about being aware of what needed to be repaired for whitestone to grow. I talked about having the right attitude for growth. I talked about putting the vision into action by being faithful with your giving and service.
I quoted Haggai 2:3 “Does anyone remember this house—this Temple—in its former splendor? How, in comparison, does it look to you now? It must seem like nothing at all!” and declared the end to Cornerstone and the beginning of whitestone ministry.
I quoted Ezra 3:11-13 “With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord: ‘He is so good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!’ Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid.
But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seen the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.” and talked about mixed emotions.
I quoted Haggai 2:9 “The future glory of this Temple will be greater than its past glory, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. And in this place I will bring peace. I, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, have spoken!” and talked about a greater vision for whitestone ministries.
I quoted Zechariah 4:10 “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” and talked about the Lord’s excitement over what was beginning.
I quoted Exodus 31:6 “I have given special skill to all the gifted craftsmen so they can make all the things I have commanded you to make.” and talked about how God would give people the heart needed to be children’s ministers, youth ministers, and outreach ministers. I talked about how God would place on people’s hearts the desire to give of their finances and their time.
But as I began to prepare this sermon I realized that I was still kicking the rubble around me. I realized the walls have not been rebuilt and the vision never came about. So I questioned myself. How did I fail? Was this God’s vision or just mine? Why didn’t we become what I felt sure God wanted us to be?
Have you ever walked in this discouragement? Your goals are not being reached. Your life feels at times in shambles. I felt I owed God an apology for not accomplishing his will for my ministry. I felt dejected that I had let God down by not being where He wanted me to be. Have you ever been there? Or are you there now?
This morning I want to share with you what the Holy Spirit shared with me. He desires for us to know that we are exactly where He wants us to be but not where He wants us to stay.
The first thing we need to do is to accept where we are at.
Let’s talk about Joseph, the shepherd boy. He was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. He was falsely accused of a crime he did not commit. He spent 13 years in prison. He could have given up in frustration. He could have complained to God. He could have got angry and walked away.
Instead he chose not to dwell on the circumstances but rather on the faithfulness of God. Joseph became a favorite of the warden but he stayed in prison. Joseph became in charge of all the other prisoners but he stayed in prison. Joseph took over running the prison but he stayed in prison.
We are where we are at for a reason. We may be struggling because of our own decisions or because of an attack by the enemy. But there is a purpose for it. And there is a purpose for everything that comes into our lives. Like Joseph, we must find peace in our circumstances. And we do that by finding peace in God.