AGCC Sun. a.m. 8/24/97



TEXT: Isaiah 40:27-41:16

INTRO: Why is it that some Christians find living by faith a powerful positive experience and some do not? The Bible constantly talks about the joy of salvation, yet so many Christians walk around seemingly without this! Too many Christians live weak struggling lives that are full of sorrow rather than joy....why?

God has promised to strengthen us, we do not have to live defeated and depressed! The difference between the victorious saint and the defeated one is usually an issue of what we are holding on to. If we are trying to hold on to this world and God for our strength we will find ourselves in a weakened position, but for those who rely on God alone for their strength they will not fall!

ILLUS: Isaac Rankin says that just outside his window is a large wire which carries a heavy current of electricity for light and power. It is carefully insulated at every pole and is out of common reach. "However," he says, "if I could lean out far enough to grasp it, death would be as swift as a lightning stroke. Yet the doves in my neighborhood suffer no harm when they perch on it. They fly from my windowsill, where I sometimes feed them, and preen in safety and contentment on the cables. The secret is that when they contact that wire, they touch nothing else. My danger would be that should I attempt to reach out and do so, the walls of my house would act as a ground, and the current would turn my body into a channel through which the electricity would flow in damaging power. Because they rest wholly upon the wire, they are unharmed. So God would have us seek our safety in complete surrender to His power and love. It is when we reach one hand to Him while still holding fast to some forbidden thing with the other that we are in danger."

PROP SENT: The Bible teaches us that God desires to strengthen us, that He has promised to do so, all we need to do is trust in Him at all times and not turn away from Him.

I. POOR FOCUS 40:27-41:7

A. Limits Of The Flesh 40:27-31

1. Though Isaiah is portraying a time of future captivity he is also assuring Israel that God's love for them is not gone nor has God forsaken them.

a. The Jews were tired and weary from captivity

b. Their focus was distorted because this was all they could see or think about!

c. Their own strength had not rescued them...and they were in the trial of captivity for some time.

2. With their focus off God and on their own weariness they had lost sight of God's promises to help them and strengthen them.

a. This often happens to us too when we are weary...we lose sight of God's love and presence.

b. But losing sight of it is not the same as losing is still there, we just fail to see it!

3. Too often we are moving through life so fast we don't stop long enough to see Him at work, we lose focus on God!

a. This is why prayer is so helpful to forces us to stop and focus on God instead of constantly being on the move and out of focus!

b. Focus is often the difference between an encouraged saint and a discouraged one!

ILLUS: Have you ever wondered why a pigeon walks so funny? According to an interesting article in the Detroit Free Press, a pigeon walks the way it does so it can see where it's going. Because it can't adjust its focus as it moves, the pigeon actually has to bring its head to a complete stop between steps in order to refocus. This is the way it walks: head forward, stop; head back, stop. Don't laugh -- that's how it goes!

In our spiritual walk with the Lord we have the same problem as the pigeon. We have a hard time seeing while we're moving. We also need to stop between steps -- to refocus on where we are in relation to the World and the will of God. That's not to say we have to stop and pray and meditate about every little decision in life. But certainly our walk with the Lord needs to have built into it a pattern of "stops," which enable us to see more clearly before moving on.

4. When we aren't looking toward God we are looking at others or wonder we are so limited in our ability then to be upbeat....human flesh is rife with weakness!

ILLUS: Longfellow could take a worthless piece of paper, write a poem on it, and instantly make it worth thousands of dollars -- and it's called genius.

Rockefeller could sign his name to a piece of paper and make it worth millions of dollars -- and it's called riches.

A mechanic can take material worth only five dollars and make it worth five hundred -- and it's called skill.

An artist can take a fifty-cent piece of canvas, paint a picture on it, and make it worth thousands of dollars -- and it's called art.

Jesus Christ can take a worthless, sinful life, wash it in His blood, put His Spirit in it, and make it valuable to God -- and that's called sanctification.

The Lord is in the business of taking rough, raw material and using it -- transforming men by His power to be the extension of His work in the world.

a. The flesh has many limits...God has none!

b. The state of our heart indicates the place of our trust!

5. As Isaiah makes clear here, young men can even falter in their own strength, but God gives strength that the flesh does not know!

a. God makes it clear in this section that all the evidence is on His side...He even asks them to convene a court hearing to present the evidence (41:1)

b. When God acts, no one can come against Him...and He uses whom He will to do His bidding!

c. Even when a man seems to be succeeding it is because God has ordained it of him.

B. Limits Of The Fool 41:1-7

1. Isaiah shares here how foolish men can be, they will prop up their idols for strength even in the midst of losing!

a. They will encourage each other with nonsense and faith in idols that have no power...and even when their idols fall they will still trust in them and lift them up again and try to nail them down so they will not topple over again!

b. Rather than turn from their foolishness and nonsense, they will embrace it all the more!

c. "The fool has said in his heart 'there is no God' " (Psm. 53:1)

ILLUS: When D. L. Moody was conducting evangelistic meetings, he frequently faced hecklers who were in violent disagreement with him. In the final service of one campaign, an usher handed the famous preacher a note as he entered the auditorium. It was actually from an atheist who had been giving Mr. Moody a great deal of trouble. The evangelist, however, supposed that it was an announcement, so he quieted the large audience and prepared to read it. Opening the folded piece of paper he found scrawled in large print only one word: "Fool!" The colorful preacher was equal to the occasion. Said Moody, "I have just been handed a memo which contains the single word -- 'Fool'. This is most unusual. I've often heard of those who have written letters and forgotten to sign their names, but this is the first time I've ever heard of anyone who signed his name and then forgot to write the letter!" Taking advantage of the unique situation, Moody promptly changed his sermon text to Psalm 14:1 "The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God!"

2. It is amazing that men and women would rather believe in empty things than believe in God!

3. The times we live in show men and women turning to empty idolatry, the "new age" movement reveals the foolishness of faith in idols!

ILLUS: Shirley MacLaine, who claims to have spent times in past lives as a monk, a Russian ballet dancer, a male court jester, her own daughter's daughter, a harem dancer, a Brazilian voodoo practitioner, a Chinese tai chi artist, a prostitute, an Incan youth in Peru and a Roman guard, says she has also caused trees to sway, mastered the knowledge of weather control and had the power to communicate with elephants and other animals of the jungle. But it seems the golden girl of the New Age is having trouble communicating with several popular talk show hosts in this life. After swearing at David Letterman and walking off his show, Shirley was told by Oprah Winfrey, "You can't go around telling people you are God. It's a very difficult concept to accept."

4. The idols and faith in self won't give adequate strength in the moment of need...if anything they will drain what little strength you still have!

a. Those who serve idols had to give up their gold and silver and supplies

b. Though often in need, they gave away what little they had to gods and goddesses that could give nothing back!

c. What a contrast to the God we serve...who gives us "ALL THINGS" we need, and whose strength is offered to us in love!


A. Love Of The Favored! 41:8-16

1. Rather than hate them in captivity, God's love for them had not diminished at all, He has compassion on them.

a. God's discipline in our lives is not a sign of less love, but of great love!

b. God does not ever hate his children, even when we miss the mark His love remains true and He calls us to return.

ILLUS: A young woman had been seeing a psychiatrist. The doctor had established that she was a wife and mother of three children, and he asked, "Which of your three children do you love the most?" She answered instantly, "I love all three of my children the same." He paused. The answer was almost too quick, too glib. He decided to probe a bit. "Come, now, you love all three of your children the same?" "Yes, that's right," she said, "I love all of them the same." He said, "Come off it now! It is psychologically impossible for anyone to regard any three human beings exactly the same. If you're not willing to level with me, we'll have to terminate this session." With this the young woman broke down, cried a bit, and said, "All right, I do not love all three of my children the same. When one of my three children is sick, I love that child more. When one of my three children is in pain, or lost, I love that child more. When one of my children is confused, I love that child more. And when one of my children is bad--I don't mean naughty, I mean really bad--I love that child more." Then she added, "Except for those exceptions I do love all three of my children about the same." The Christian faith represents a God who knows and loves you just as He knows and loves all other human beings on this planet--but with this addition: when you are sick or hurting or lost or confused or in pain or depraved--He loves you even more. So, we personalize the message that "God loves each one of us as if there were only one of us to love." --James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 251.

2. God is trying to reassure Israel that He has not given up on them, and yes, He knows they are weak, but He is strong and will surely strengthen them!

a. Though they are in a weakened condition coming from captivity, God will strengthen them.

b. Jerusalem too was pretty broken down, and it may be that they will be a bit overwhelmed thinking of what lay ahead of them too.

3. The God who chose them from all the other people of the Earth will also strengthen and uphold them He does for us who belong to Him!

B. Life Of The Favored 41:11-16

1. God's love has a very real and practical manifestation to it, He will strengthen them against their enemies, and to keep them safe.

a. God's promise of strength is not just some kind of mystical strength that has no real application to life, it is very practical and real!

b. There should be a real difference between Christians and this world in ways that are measurable!

ILLUS: Writing in The Sunday School Times many years ago, Newman Hall told about a Christian friend who was invited to debate publicly with some men who had no use for the Lord or the church. The believer said, "When you can find me twelve families who were once Christians but by embracing your views have become more virtuous, useful, contented, and happy, I will think it worthwhile to argue with you, and not before." Then he said, "I can find you one hundred families who were once living only for this present world, but who because of Christ have become better husbands and wives, better parents and children, more virtuous, and sober, and happy." Hall concluded, "Yes, let religion be tested by its purifying power."

2. We do not face life alone or in our own strength when we belong to God, He is there offering His strength all the time.

a. Note in verse 14 God refers to them as a "WORM"....they were considered soft and easy to step on by their enemies....but contrast this with verse 15!

b. In verse 15 God says He will make them from a "WORM" to a "THRESHING SELDGE"....a hardwood club with flint chips in it that can do some serious damage and thresh out the grain! God's strength will make the difference!

3. Paul makes use of this understanding when he stated, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God..." (Rom. 8:37-39)

4. Because of this we need not fear...we are "more than conquerors through Christ"! He promises to STRENGTHEN YOU!

CONCLUSION: Trials and pain can wear down our faith in God being a good God. God however does not change, nor will He abandon us! Those who trust in the strength of this world will not endure, but those who trust in God will see their strength renewed! God WILL strengthen you....don't give up too soon!