by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
December 28, 2003
This time of year is
always the same. People make a big time over Christmas, and there are
all kinds of services, newspaper articles, magazine articles, T.V.
shows, and movies that relate to Christmas. Then, right on the heels of
that, we hit all the "year end" festivities. Once again, there are all
kinds of articles and shows that try to summarize everything that has
happened over the past year. You'll see specials of "The Year In News",
"The Year In Sports", "The Year In Politics", “The Year In Computers”,
"The Year In Entertainment", "The Year In Business", and just about
anything else you can think of.
It's nice to remember things that have happened. It’s important to
learn from our past and appreciate where we’ve come from. But I think
we need to be careful not to spend too much time looking backwards. I
mean, 2003 has been an exciting year… a lot of great things have
happened and we don’t want to forget that. But we also need to look
ahead the coming year. So instead of thinking only about everything
that happened in 2003, let’s spend some time looking ahead at what can
happen in 2004. How are we going to grow? How are we going to build on
our relationships? How are we going to strengthen our marriages and our
families? How are we going to invest our lives? The year ahead still
holds many secrets, but it can be a very significant year in each of
How significant is the year 2004 going to be to you? Is it going to be
a year that you just try to get through? Or is it going to be a year
when you make the best of your circumstances? Is it going to be a year
when you are defeated by your failures? Or is it going to be a year
when you learn from your failures and end up succeeding? Is it going to
be a year when you trust yourself and are disappointed? Or is it going
to be a year when you trust God and find Him to be faithful?
There's a phrase that we often hear people say:
"If only I
could begin again."
“If only I could start
again, things would be different. If only I could do things over, I’d
do them right.”
I think most people—perhaps even you—find themselves saying things like
this. They've failed at some point in their lives and are living with
regret. Perhaps they've failed in their relationship with God. Perhaps
they've failed at school, or at work. Perhaps they've really messed up
in a relationship and have all kinds of regrets. Perhaps they just
didn’t take advantage of opportunities. Whatever the cause, people want
a fresh start. I know I have often been in that position myself at
different times in my life. There have been times when I have failed,
or have messed up, or have felt defeated, and I have thought, “If only
I could begin again.” I’ve made bad choices and had wrong priorities,
and if I could I’d go back to those times and make them right.
Well, there's good news for me and for everyone else who has ever had
God is the God
of new beginnings.
He gives us a new
He has made us a new
creation. (2 Cor.5:17)
He gives us new
life. (Acts 5:20)
He puts a new song
in our hearts. (Ps.40:3;Ps.98:1)
He's given us a new
covenant in His Blood. (Lk.22:20)
He renews our
He renews our
He renews our
His mercies are new
every morning (La.3:23)
In His presence, all
things are made new. (2 Cor.5:17)
There are certain
principles in the Bible that can help us discover this renewal. There
are certain principles that can help us make 2004 the best year that it
possibly can be. This morning I want to look at three of those
principles as we find them in the life of Joseph, Jesus' earthly father.
Let me give you a little bit of background on the passage we read
earlier in the service. This passage takes place sometime after the
birth of Christ. The wise men have just made their visit to see the
Christ Child. We’re not exactly sure where they came from… could have
been Persia/Iraq, Syria, or even as far away as India. We simply don’t
know. But what we do know is that the wise men came from a distant
country to the east of Israel and they came to see the newborn "King of
These wise men were most likely astronomers who watched the sky
diligently. They were also familiar with the prophesies of the coming
of Jesus, and when they saw an unusual star one night that seemed to
beckon them, they set off on their journey, following the star, to find
this newborn King. When they arrived in Jerusalem, they started asking
where they could find the Christ Child, not realizing that the advent
of Jesus was not a public event.
When the king, King Herod, heard that they were looking for a newborn
King, he was greatly worried. He thought this “King” may be a threat to
his power. So he called the wise men to him. And with the aid of
priests and scholars, they determined that prophecies foretold of a
Ruler who would be born in Bethlehem. Herod secretly wanted to kill the
Child, but instead of admitting that to the wise men, he told them to
go and find the Child, and when they had found Him, let him know about
it. Herod claimed that he wanted to worship the Child, too. Well, we
know that the wise men were able to find the child. They presented
gifts to Him and worshipped Him. But as they were resting before
heading back to Herod and then home, they were warned by God not to
return to Herod. So they headed home by another way. And that’s where
the passage we read earlier began.
We read how God warned Joseph about Herod’s plot to killed Jesus, and
directed Jeseph to take Jesus and Mary and flee to Egypt. This resulted
in the life of Jesus being saved when Herod ordered that all the boys
two years of age and under be killed. After Herod himself died, God
again provided instruction to Joseph and told him it was safe to move
back to his homeland. So Joseph, Mary and Jesus headed back and settled
in Nazareth. And from this story I want us to draw out three principles
that can lead us into 2004.
Three Principles for the New Year:
1. Trust God's
Prompting. (2:21,13; 1 Cor.3:19)
Matthew 2:13 (NLT)
After the wise men were gone, an angel of
the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. "Get up and flee to Egypt with
the child and his mother," the angel said. "Stay there until I tell you
to return, because Herod is going to try to kill the child."
That was the prompting that Joseph received. And Joseph trusted it, “so
he loaded up the truck and moved to the Red Sea.”
God told Joseph to go to Egypt. Why Egypt? Why would God tell Joseph to
take Jesus and flee to Egypt? Why not send him to the Roman rulers for
protection? Or why not send him to the Jewish religious leaders?
Wouldn't it make sense for them to appeal to the authorities, to the
people who had power or the people who had influence in the society? To
our line of thinking, that may have seemed like the right thing to do.
But catch this:
1 Corinthians 3:19 (NLT)
For the wisdom of this world is foolishness
Perhaps no one would have listen to them. Perhaps whoever they would
have gone to would have felt as threatened as Herod. Whatever the
reason for this prompting to go to Egypt, Joseph trusted it and obeyed
it. Because Joseph understood that God knows better than we do. He sees
the whole picture. Instead of resorting to what we might have deemed
best, He sent Joseph with his family out of the country into a foreign,
pagan land. Why? Because God sees everything that is going on, is able
to direct us in the best and most effective ways possible, and is
working everything out for the best.
We may not be able to trace His hand, but we can always trust His heart.
Joseph was well aware of the direction God wanted to give to his life.
In fact, 5 times in the first two chapters of Matthew Joseph responds
to God's prompting.
In Matthew 1:24, we
see Joseph responding to the direction of God to take Mary as his wife,
despite the fact that Mary was pregnant and he was not the father.
In Matthew 1:25,
Joseph gave the baby the name Jesus, just as he had been directed to
In Matthew 2:14,
Joseph responds to God's direction to take Jesus and Mary to Egypt in
order to escape Herod.
In Matthew 2:21,
Joseph obeys God's direction to go back to Israel.
And in Matthew
2:22-23, he was again sensitive to the prompting of God and was
obedient by settling in the city of Nazareth in the district of
We actually don’t know
much about Joseph, but we do know that God was very active in his life.
And we know that Joseph was sensitive to God’s leading. He trusted and
responded to the promptings of God.
I believe God wants to give us the same prompting today. And the way we
get sensitive to it is by developing a strong personal relationship
with His Son, Jesus Christ. And once we are experiencing God's
prompting in our lives, we can trust it and obey it.
2 ½ years ago Shera and I trusted God’s prompting, and that led us to
move here to Charlottetown and begin the process of beginning Sunrise.
We left behind family and friends, Shera left a job she loved and I
left a church I had invested myself in for five years. Why? Because we
believe God was leading us here. And it’s been worth it. We’ve made new
friends, we’ve seen God do great things, we’ve seen lives changed, our
faith has been stretched and has grown, we absolutely love Sunrise, we
love living in Charlottetown, Shera has found a job that she loves, and
we now consider this home. But in order to experience all of this, we
had to first of all step out in faith and trust God’s prompting.
Does anyone else want to share about a time you felt God’s prompting?
What was it and what was the result?
"God wants to guide you, and He will if you get in close contact with
Him through Jesus Christ. He will make known His will to you and you
can follow Him step by step."
~ Dr. Manford George Gutzke in Plain Talk On Matthew
2. Trust God's
Providence. (2:11; Prov. 20:24)
Do you recall why Joseph
and Mary were in Bethlehem in the first place? They were there to
register during a census. As a part of the census, they would have had
to pay their taxes. It may surprise you to know that taxes are not a
new thing. Nor is complaining about them. Even in
Jesus' day people were complaining about the high taxes they had to pay.
Joseph had just paid his taxes. And now God tells him to move to Egypt
and settle there for a while. He had to leave his home and his
business, travel a fair distance, and get set up in a new land. Those
things take money. What was God thinking of? Anyone?
Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. The three gifts of the wise men. God had
already provided the finances that Joseph would need.
Providence: The care exercised by God; The exercise of foresight and
care for the future.
Providence is defined as "the care exercised by God" and as "the
exercise of foresight and care for the future." In God's Providence, He
takes care of us and prepares us for events which haven't happened yet
and we're not even aware that they're going to happen. We only become
aware of it as events unfold. But whether we're aware of God’s
providence or not, it's there. God is taking care of us and our future.
We can trust His providence.
God's providence has been described as a mother hen gathering chicks
under her wings. The chicks hatched from eggs that came from the hen's
body. And she cared for them until they hatched. But the mother hen
didn't stop there. She continues to care for the chicks, even after
they have hatched.
God cared for us even before we were created. He was already making
provisions for us. And then He created us. And now He continues to care
for us and watch out for us. In His power and Sovereignty, He has the
ability to make the provisions, and in His immanent presence with us He
has the desire and love to make those provisions and care for our needs.
Proverbs 20:24 (NLT)
How can we understand the road we travel? It
is the LORD who directs our steps.
He is the one who directs the course of our lives. We’ve already talked
about trusting in God’s prompting. You know what? God’s not going to
prompt you to do something without providing the resources as well.
There are some words that Jesus shared in His Sermon On The Mount that
tell us of God's providence:
Matthew 6:25-34 25:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about
your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you
will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more
important than clothes? 26Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow
or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds
them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Who of you by
worrying can add a single hour to his life?
28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field
grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon
in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God
clothes the grass of the field which is here today and tomorrow is
thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little
faith? 31So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall
we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the pagans run after all
these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But
seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will
be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for
tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its
God loves you and will care for you. You can trust Him.
So we don't need to
count on fate, or chance, or luck. We have God's providence. And it's
God's providence that can be trusted, not those other things.
3. Trust God's
Joseph followed God's
direction in going to Egypt. But he didn't worry about God abandoning
him and leaving him to fend for himself. He didn't need to worry about
that because he knew God's character. He knew God wasn’t going to leave
him hanging. So he went boldly because he knew he didn't go alone.
A few years ago, some enterprising manufacturer invented and sold
something called "A Silent Partner." It was something designed for
ladies driving alone in a car at night. This "Silent Partner" was a
life-sized inflatable balloon that sat next to the girl in the front
seat, so that she didn't appear to be alone. You know what I'm glad
about? I'm glad that I don't need to worry about being alone. You see,
I've got a God who will never leave me or forsake me. I don't have to
wonder whether He's with me or not--I'm never without Him. How do I
know that? Because Jesus Himself said…
Matthew 28:20 (NLT)
“And be sure of this: I am with you always,
even to the end of the age.”
He said those words to His disciples, and I understand those words to
be a promise to all the followers of Jesus throughout the ages.
Astronaut James A. McDivitt, who orbited the earth 62 times aboard
Gemini 4, said:
"I did not see God looking into my space-cabin window, as I do not see
God looking into my car's windshield on earth. But I could recognize
His work in the stars as well as when walking among flowers in a
garden. If you can be with God on earth, you can be with God in space
~ Astronaut James A. McDivitt
There's a very familiar poem/story that talks about God's presence with
us throughout our lives. Most, if not all, of us here this morning know
this poem. You may even have it memorized. But I'm going to share it
with you again this morning because of the assurance we can receive
from it and the promise of God's presence that we see in it. It's
One night a man had a
He dreamed he was walking along
the beach with the Lord.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand:
One belonging to him, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him,
he looked back at the footprints in the sand.
He noticed that many times along the path of his life
there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very
lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.
"Lord, You said that once I decided to follow You,
You'd walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times of my life,
there is only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why, when I needed You most, You would leave me.
The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child,
I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering,
when you saw only one set of footprints,
it was then that I carried you.
There you go again.
God's presence. It's trustworthy. Even in the midst of the hardest
times in our lives, God is right there with us to strengthen us,
console us, guide us, carry us, and love us.
A lot of people make New
Year's Resolutions. Let me encourage you to make this one of yours:
“I will trust
God's Prompting, God's Providence, and God's Presence in my life
If you will make that
resolution and be true to it, I promise you that 2004 will be more
significant to your life than you ever dreamed possible as He helps you
to grow and make an impact on your world.