"God in the Movies: Evan Almighty" part 2:
How to Change the World
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
July 1, 2007

 

Main Passage: Joshua 6:1-20 (NLT)

 

Last week, we began our new message series inspired by the movie, Evan Almighty. We looked at the journey that Evan goes through in the movie and some of the values he learns along the way. We saw that God was teaching him to have good priorities, to act selflessly instead of selfishly, to see people the way God sees them.

And we saw how the values that Evan came to embrace were the same values that Moses in the Old Testament came to embrace.

POWERPOINT

Now, most of us are familiar with how God used Moses to lead the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. We know how God divided the Red Sea for them to cross over it and how He then led them to Mount Sinai where He gave them the Ten Commandments. And we know how after they left Mount Sinai, the Israelites set out for the Promised Land that God was leading them to.

And as they approached this land, Moses appointed 12 people to go and scout out the land, reporting back what kind of people were living there, how many of them there were, how strong they were, what kinds of crops grew there, what the soil was like and how many trees there were. So the scouts went to scope out this entire area (PowerPoint – Desert of Zin in south all the way up to city of Rehob). And then they returned to the Israelite encampment with samples of the food that grew there and reports about a great land ahead of them. (PowerPoint) As you can see, the region produces some pretty enticing crops. In fact, it’s believed that wheat and barley were both domesticated there by the people of Jericho. So the scouts were able to come back with reports of a very productive land.

But they also reported that the people who were living there were strong and their cities were well fortified.

Two of the scouts, Caleb and Joshua, were ready to storm into the land right then because they believe God when He told them He would give them this land. So they tried to motivate the people. But the rest of the scouts kept going on and on about how strong the people were and how they could never stand a chance against them, saying things like this:

Numbers 13:31-33 (NLT)
“We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!” So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites: “The land we traveled through and explored will devour anyone who goes to live there. All the people we saw were huge. We even saw giants there, the descendants of Anak. Next to them we felt like grasshoppers, and that’s what they thought, too!”

And so they convinced the rest of the Israelites that there was no way they could defeat the people in the land, despite the fact that God had promised it to them. As a result, God punished them for their lack of faith by declaring that they would wander the desert for 40 years until that entire generation had died with the exception of Caleb and Joshua. And that’s what happened. (PowerPoint) They wandered this area for the next 40 years.

But those 40 years passed and it was finally time for them to enter into what was called the Promised Land. By this time, Moses is dead and Joshua who was one of the two scouts who believed God is in command of the Israelites.

And there they were at the border once again. But this time, they’ve had enough of the desert, they don’t want to go back for seconds, and this time they’re ready to enter the land. Their first opposition? (PowerPoint – to east of Red Sea) The fortified city of Jericho.

(Images in PowerPoint - Jericho)

And that’s the encounter that Karen read about earlier. Let’s take another look at God’s plan for how the Israelites were to overcome this strong city of Jericho.

Joshua 6:2-5 (NLT)
But the Lord said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. Seven priests will walk ahead of the Ark, each carrying a ram’s horn. On the seventh day you are to march around the town seven times, with the priests blowing the horns. When you hear the priests give one long blast on the rams’ horns, have all the people shout as loud as they can. Then the walls of the town will collapse, and the people can charge straight into the town.”

Now that’s a pretty strange plan, if you ask me. But Joshua did what he was told, and the Israelites experienced a tremendous victory because of it.

And so this morning, we’re going to compare some of the things that Joshua learned with some of the things that Evan learned in the movie. Okay?

And what I want to do specifically is focus in on Evan’s goal in life. Evan had been a news anchorman, but had left that for the world of politics. He was elected as a congressman, and as the movie begins, he’s just starting into his first term. And his family is moving to Washington, DC, so he can assume his responsibilities there.

So what is his goal in all this? Why did he enter politics in the first place? Well, his campaign slogan was “Change the World.” That’s what he wanted to do. That was his goal. And he thought that by getting involved in politics, he’d be able to accomplish that. He’d be able to change the world.

In fact, he even prayed that he’d be able to change the world. He knelt beside his bed one night and prayed that God would help him change the world. And that’s when things began to happen in the movie. And God appeared to Evan, and told him He wanted him to build an Ark. Here… take a look at this.

VIDEO: EVAN ALMIGHTY Change the World scene


Do you want to change the world, but don’t know where to begin? I’ll tell you where to begin… Begin by realizing that God’s plan is better than your plan. I mean, we can scheme and we can come up with all these plans to change the world. But ultimately, it’s God’s plan that really matters. So figure out what He’s doing and join in.

That’s the first thing in your notes…

 

If I Want to Change the World I Must…

 

1. Figure out what God is doing and join in.

It took a while for Evan to learn this one. I mean, he saw signs all around him of what God was trying to do… and he even had God tell him directly to build an Ark. But Evan still fought it for a while. He tried to ignore the things that were happening, and when he couldn’t ignore them any longer, he tried to rationalize them. He tried to go along with what God was doing only on the weekends. His original intention was to keep on doing what he was doing, and push God’s plan to the sidelines as far as possible.

But when he finally realized that it was futile to fight against God’s plan, he joined in wholeheartedly.

Joshua had a bit of an advantage over Evan in this area. He had seen God perform some incredible miracles during his lifetime. God had rescued the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt through a series of plagues. He had divided the Red Sea so the Israelites could cross to the other side. God had guided the Israelites through the wilderness using a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. God had delivered the Ten Commandments to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. God had helped their army conquer armies that were far superior to theirs.

Joshua had witnessed all this and more. He had assisted Moses and saw God’s hand at work in his life. And so Joshua had a pretty good idea of what God’s plan was. He knew that God was leading the Israelites to what they knew as the Promised Land. And so Joshua knew what God’s plan was… his only decision was, would he join in or wouldn’t he?

Thankfully, he decided to sign up on God’s plan.

And Joshua reaffirmed this commitment just as they approached Jericho. Take a look at this…

Joshua 5:13-14 (NLT)
When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”
“Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.”
At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”

So here you have Joshua, in charge of around three million people. He’s the head honcho. But when he encounters a messenger from God, he immediately and reverently bows down in worship and obedience. He wanted to know God’s plan. He wanted to know how God was working, and he wanted to join in.

Where do you see God working? Think about your own life. Where do you see Him working in you? God is working in each of us in different ways… how is He working in you now? The transformation He wants to work in your life will take a lifetime, and so He focuses on a little bit at a time. Take a look at these verses… in fact, read them aloud with me…

Philippians 2:13 (NLT)
For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.

2 Corinthians 3:18 (NLT)
And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.

So how is He working in you today? And how can you work with Him? How can you partner with what He’s doing?

And what’s He doing around you? At your work or in your home or in your community? How can you see God’s hand at work there? And what will it take for you to join in? Don’t try to do your own thing and then seek God’s blessing on that; figure out what God’s already doing and join in on that.

Jesus was the ultimate example of this for us. He wanted to do what His Father was doing…

John 4:34 (NIV)
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

What do you see God doing, and how can you join in? If you really want to change the world, you need to figure out what God is already doing and join in.


Second, if you want to change the world, you need to…

 

2. Realize that God’s plan trumps my plan

What was Evan’s plan? His plan was to make speeches and co-sponsor bills and do what he could to impact public policy. And perhaps someday even to become President. But God’s plan was for him to build an Ark. Of course, Evan didn’t like that plan very much. And so he tried to ignore God’s plan and continued to pursue his own plan. Which, of course, was necessary or else it’d be a pretty short movie.

In fact, in that clip we saw earlier, you saw how God, played by Morgan Freeman, actually started to laugh when Evan started talking about his own plans. Evan was focused on his tiny little plan, while God had a much grander plan in mind.

But eventually, Evan came around and learned that God’s plan needs to come first. And Evan became so convinced of that, that he willingly participated in God’s plan even though it looked at the time like it would be the end of his political career.

Let’s go back to Joshua. What kinds of plans could he have had? Well, let’s take another look at the map here.

POWERPOINT

The Israelites under the leadership of Moses and then Joshua had spent 40 years roaming through this terrain. And all that time, they were dreaming of the day they could settle down in their own land. Which, of course, God planned to be up in this area. But what do we know about the people that lived there? They were strong, they were powerful, and they weren’t going to go down without a fight. In fact, the odds looked pretty stacked against the Israelites.

So what options did Joshua have? Well, they were already pretty familiar with this land in the Sinai peninsula. Why not just settle down there? Granted, the land wasn’t the best. But they could have tried to make a go of it. Or why not go back to Egypt? They had decimated the army there; why not go back and finish the job? Why not make the Egyptians their slaves? Or how about heading over into the area of Saudi Arabia? I don’t know what peoples may have already been settled there, but they certainly couldn’t have been more formidable than the Canaanites who were living in the Promised Land.

All of those options may have been more viable… except for one thing. God had other plans. And Joshua knew that God’s plan would always trump whatever other plans he could devise.

In the book of Isaiah, God says…

Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)
“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.”

His plans always trump my plans.

Eighteen years ago, I was studying Science at the University of New Brunswick. My plan at the time was to become an optometrist. I was going to pursue a science degree at UNB and then head off to the University of Waterloo.

But then God stepped in. And I understood His plan for me to become a pastor. And so in January of 1990, I transferred to Bethany Bible College in Sussex, NB… the dairy capital of the Maritimes… and I pursued God’s plan for me. And I’ve never looked back. Today, I couldn’t imagine devoting my life to anything else. God’s plan will always trump whatever other plans I might have.

As Abraham Lincoln said…

“My great concern is not whether God is on our side; my great concern is to be on God’s side, for God is always right.”
~ Abraham Lincoln


And number three.. if you want to change the world…

 

3. Follow God’s directions even when I don’t understand.

…Even when His plan seems crazy to you.

Seriously. Build an Ark? What was God thinking? It was strange enough the first time around with Noah. But Evan? Why would he build an Ark? And Evan wondered that all the while he built it. I mean, he looked absolutely crazy. Most people thought he was having a breakdown or going insane or something. His own family had their doubts. It just didn’t make sense. Plus, the fact that he was wearing a robe and carrying around a wooden staff didn’t help matters.

But without giving the story away, by the end of the movie God’s purpose became clear. It all made sense then. But along the way, it just looked like Evan had lost it. Poor Evan.

And Poor Joshua. Joshua had just finished wandering the wilderness for 40 years. And remember, he was one of the original scouts that had gone into the Promised Land. I doubt he ever forgot that experience. And so he had probably spent those 40 years figuring out a battle plan. So maybe he had figured out a strategy to defeat Jericho. Or maybe his strategy was to avoid Jericho altogether.

But then God delivered new instructions for him. March around the city once a day for six days, and then seven times on the seventh day. Then blow some trumpets, and you’ll conquer the city. That was God’s plan, and so Joshua’s own plans went out the window. (Or the flap on the tent, or whatever he had.)

So they arrive at Jericho, and Joshua puts God’s plan into action. Think about the ridicule he would have received during those seven days they marched around the walls. “Joshua, do you seriously believe that you can march around the walls and blow a few horns and the walls will come tumbling down? That kind of thing just doesn’t happen, Joshua. What are you thinking? Are you nuts?”

What if you were Joshua? Imagine the people on top of the walls ridiculing you and hurling insults at you and dumping their garbage on you. For seven days! I can’t imagine I’d be that encouraged going back to the camp every night for six nights after marching around the walls but seeing nothing happen. Imagine if nothing ever did happen. How stupid would Joshua have looked?

• But imagine how stupid Noah would have looked if all the ark turned out to be good for was a lawn ornament.
• Or imagine Moses at the Red Sea if he stretched his arms out and held his staff over the sea and the only thing that split was the crowd of people following him.
• Or imagine how David would have looked if he hurled a rock and Goliath. . . and missed!
• Or imagine Peter stepping out of the boat expecting to walk on the water only to take a trip down under.

Sometimes you’ve just got to risk looking stupid. Because it’s at those times that God comes through the biggest.

On the seventh day outside the city of Jericho, the Israelites were instructed to march around the city seven times and then shout. I would say most of us would prefer to whisper. I know I would. We prefer to keep our faith hidden, just in case God fails. We don’t want to look stupid.

Think about it. If the walls hadn’t come down on day seven, I’m sure there would have been a vote of non-confidence on day eight. Joshua was risking everything by doing what God told him to do. And if God hadn’t come through, Joshua would have been completely humiliated, he would have been exiled from the Israelite community, and chances are he would have died at the hands of the people of Jericho.

Joshua had no idea how God was going to defeat Jericho by having the Israelites march around the city and blow some trumpets. And if God failed, it would mean his demise. But he still obeyed.

You know what? You won’t always understand how God works. What’s that saying… “God works in mysterious ways.” Well, that’s often true. We can’t always understand what He’s doing, but we can always trust Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

There are plenty of things in life that we don’t understand fully: the nature of light, what causes cancer, and women. Along with why I even bothered to roll up the rim. (I just won’t let it go, will I?)

There are lots of things we don’t understand. Including, sometimes, God’s plan. Sometimes it just seems ridiculous from our perspective. But we need to realize that God created everything that exists, He’s got it all under control, and He sees the big picture. So even when we don’t understand, he does and we can trust Him. And what’s more, we can act on that trust and obey Him.

You’ve heard this quote before, but I think it’s powerful…

“God is too good to be unkind, He’s too wise to be confused, and if I cannot trace His hand I can always trust His heart.”
~ C.H. Spurgeon

 

Discovering God’s plan and following it takes some risk. You have to step out in faith if you’re going to go along with it. But even when it doesn’t seem practical, even when it doesn’t seem affordable, even when it doesn’t seem logical, you can trust God’s leading—whatever it is. It’s better than any plan you could ever come up with. And if you really want to change the world in any significant way, the way for you to do it is to partner with God’s plan.

 

 

 

Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2007 SunriseOnline.ca