This past Sunday I announced that I was stepping down as a possible candidate to become the Senior Pastor of Riverside Baptist, the church that I have been serving as the Interim for the past two years and on staff for the last five. It was a hard Sunday morning that capped off a hard month since being informed that someone else was also being brought into candidate, and as such I withdrew my name. But in the course of this time the Lord gave me a profound blessing and that was the continuance of His word as I prepared each week’s sermon that I had planned months in advance. For today’s post I wanted to share the over-arching theme of the sermon I preached to close out the year and reflect on how important faithfully preaching the word of God is, and on a side note how God can use the natural means of grace such as sermon planning to enrich the soul.
To close out 2017 I preached on the final day of Moses in Deuteronomy 33 & 34. In this text we see Moses giving his final farewell, calling the people to find meaning in the blessings of God as they concluded the journey. One of the things that all too often happens as we come to the end of an event, or in this case a ministry, we tend to only look at the bad and miss out on all the blessings of God that brought us to where we are today. When I look back over five years of ministry I can see the blessings of those who I baptized, the couples who I was blessed to perform their marriages, the babies we saw born, and the miracles of lives transformed through the preaching of God’s word and the faithfulness of His people. I reflect on those who have joined the church or have come back to church over that span, and seeing a renewed vitality in their Christian walk. With Moses’ Final moments he reminds us that God is good and faithful through the hardships of life, and even in the midst of an ending.
For many of you maybe 2017 brought an end to something in your life, maybe you said goodbye to a family member or lost a job. Maybe your finances took a dramatic turn that you didn’t’ expect or one of your children started school and moved away. Whatever the case is, we experience endings far more frequently than we think, and most of the time we let them slip by, but maybe this time take a second and see the blessings God gave to you which led to that moment, that lead to that goodbye. The journey reveals a God who is growing us into the image of his son, and sometimes that comes through the sun shining and sometimes through the cold bitter nights. So when you come to the end of a moment, look back and rather than look at the hardships and the brokenness, see the bright spots along the way, and joyfully sing God’s praise for he has brought you through those Cold dark nights so that you can see the bright spots (even if they be few).
The second aspect that we see, when finding meaning in our ending, is that God has a plan. After blessing the people in chapter 34 Moses ascends Mount Nebo as instructed by the Lord. When he arrives at the top God shows him all the land that will be his people’s and in that moment pours out a blessing of assurance on Moses that his work was hardly in vain. He revealed to Moses once again, one last time, that he was a faithful God and that His word was true and he would see the mission through. In this moment he helps Moses to see the beauty and splendor of His plan, and allows him to bask in the glow of it, knowing once again that the plan of God is not about him, but about God alone.
So for each of us this text reminds us that when we come to the end of a ministry, or our time serving a church, we can look back and know that God is faithful, that it is God who rules His church, it is God who directs the path of the saints, and it is in the plan of God that we trust. We get the great privilege and blessing to be a part of it as long as we are. If you would have told the 14 year old me back in 1999 when I first felt the desire to go into ministry that one day God would place me back in my home church as the interim pastor I would have thought you mad. If you would have told me when I left for seminary in 2008 that I would come back to my sending church after all the ups and downs of college and ministry I would have probably laughed, but that is exactly what God did, and I am all the more blessed for it. As it comes to and end over the next few months I want to thank God that I got to be a part of His plan in proclaiming the gospel to the People of New Port Richey, and that in some small way I got to be a part of Riverside’s 141 year legacy, and in the end, like Moses, pass the baton to the next man to carry the banner of the gospel.
The conclusion of the text involves the passing of the baton to Joshua who will run the race and keep the faith, being used by God to lead the people into the land. In my case I can sympathize with Moses, they’re had to be a part of him that wanted to keep going, that wanted to see it through, but at the same time he knew God had other plans, and he trusted God. At the end of any situation we ask ourselves, do we trust God with the next step? Do we trust God with what He is doing? We serve a faithful God and through it all He is in control, no matter what comes through the ups and downs of the remainder of the Old testament, long after Moses had died, God was still God and he was still at work, and in the fullness of time Moses entered the promise land, though now he came to comfort Christ the Son of God as he prepared for his final ministry to the people. Moses may not have experienced the promise land in this life, but he experienced the power and promises of God in his soul and into eternity, and in the end that is the experience that truly gives meaning to our endings.