Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: We run into many walls we cannot seem to get past: estrangement, grief, illness. The way past those walls is described as Sabbath, symbol, silence, and shout.

When you are up against a wall, there will be more than one way to deal with it. There will be the conventional way. And there will be the creative way. When you are up against a wall, there will be a way to break it down that costs a whole lot less than the usual way.

All of us remember Mark Twain’s "Tom Sawyer". There was a wall, or a fence, in Tom’s young life. He had been assigned to whitewash the thing, and it looked like a huge job. It would have cost him all day to do the thing; it would have cost him tremendous energy to deal with the wall in the usual way. So Tom got creative. He turned his problem into an opportunity. You remember the story: Tom hinted to all of the other kids that if they asked him very nicely, he just might let them have the privilege of painting a section of his wall. And pretty soon, without lifting a finger, Tom Sawyer had dealt with his problem; he had finished with the wall that stood in the way of his freedom, at no cost to him at all.

When you are up against a wall, there will be more than one way to deal with it. There will be the conventional way. And there will be the creative way, the way where somebody else pays the price.

We have wall problems around our church building. One of those wall problems is in the men’s rest room down in the basement. There you will find a leaky, rough, unsightly, ugly, half broken-down wall. It’s an awesome mess. And to fix it in the usual way would be very, very costly. It would involve digging out the ground on the outside and tearing out part of the foundation on the inside, then building it back. And we still may have to do at least some of that. But one of our men came up with another solution, a creative and a less costly solution. He just built a false wall a few inches inside of the old, ugly wall. He just hid the past and created a new present!

Creative, isn’t it? And not nearly as expensive as the usual way.

When you are up against a wall, there will be more than one way to deal with it. There will be the conventional, costly way. But there will also be a creative way, a way which is effective and which doesn’t cost so much.

The people of Israel, under their new captain, Joshua, had been promised the land of Canaan. From the Euphrates in the north to the desert in the south, from the Kingdom of the Hittites in the east to the Great Sea in the west, they had been promised this land. One major thing, however, stood in their way; and it was the wall of Jericho. Jericho was a walled fortress city, standing in the small valley that served as a pass through the mountains between the Jordan River and the coastal plains of Canaan. If you were to get to the land of Canaan, you had to go through the pass; and if you were to go through the pass, you had to contend with the city of Jericho, with its heavy walls. The walls of the city of Jericho stood as the barrier that kept God’s people from achieving what God had promised. Without dealing with the wall, they could not come to the land of promise.

So what would the strategy be? How would the walls be breached? How would the city be taken? There was the conventional way; they could have prepared their weapons, trained their soldiers, made crude ladders, scaled the walls. But the conventional way, the way of the usual hostilities, would have been costly. Many of the men of Israel would have died. Was there a better way? Was there a more creative, less costly way?

God said yes. God had another way, something better than the usual way. God had a creative gift to give.


Life is full of walls. There are all sorts of barriers keeping us from getting to what God has promised.


For some there is the wall of estrangement. Separation. We just can’t get past some strained relationship. We just can’t breach the hostility we feel from somebody. I tell you, there is nothing more tiresome than a hostile relationship. If you have a spouse or a child, a co-worker or a neighbor, and you are walled off from that person, you won’t get much of anything done. If you are out of sorts with somebody, it will take all your energy, it will absorb all your will, it will sap all your spiritual strength. I’ve found that if in the course of my day I have an argument, I might just as well pack up and go home, because I’m not going to get anything done. Fighting takes all my strength. Arguing takes all my energy. If you are walled off from somebody, and you try to deal with that by arguing or fighting, the usual means, it will cost you dearly. It will hurt. Does God have another way to deal with that wall? Does God have a creative way to break down that wall?

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