Rock and a Hard Place

Circumstances that Force Us to Trust God (or not)

Crossover 9/16/2020

THE BIG IDEA

Hard Choices Are an Opportunity to Trust God

THE BIBLE

Matthew 7:24-27

Click Here to Read the Full Message:

A Rock and a Hard Place

Circumstances that Force Us to Trust God (or not)

 INTRO:

Have you ever been stuck between a rock and a hard place? You know; a situation that seems to have no perfect solutions. You feel cornered…like you are being crushed with no room to move.

EXAMPLES:

  • You have to decide between two players you want in your fantasy draft.
  • You want to play a sport or try out for a band, and you make it on the team! BUT, you won’t get the position you want.
  • Your friend invites you to watch something you know your parents won’t approve of. If you say no you fear it may hurt your friendship.
  • Maybe your parents are fighting, and each of them wants you to take their side.
  • You didn’t study for a test, and a friend offers to share their answers.
  • Someone you like is pressuring you to do something you know you shouldn’t do.

QUESTION: What are some difficult choices you have had to make?

STORY: 

I can think of a time I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. For me, that was a literal rock and the hard ground…100 feet below me.

 My friends and I decided to go rock climbing…with no training, gear, or supervision. Smart right?

There was a path that we were used to, I wouldn’t call it safe but we had done it enough times. Too many times. So I decided I was going to try a different path. ALONE.

 The path I took ended up not having any handholds, and I found myself clinging for dear life…literally. I can still remember the terror and intense bursts of adrenaline, as my body was telling me I was an idiot for bringing it there. 

 I couldn’t safely go back, the only option was to inch forward, knowing if I fell it would be like at least 100 feet onto rocks…

 I didn’t die, in case you were wondering. I managed to make it back alive.

 But life is full of these situations. Where it seems loose-loose, and you have to choose when there seems to be no clear choice. Maybe you are in one of these situations right now. Maybe it’s self-induced (like my cliff story) or maybe it’s just the cards you were dealt with.

 Either way, today I want to talk about how:

Hard Choices Are an Opportunity to Trust God 

 While I don’t know all the choices you’re facing in your life, I do know we can always trust God. The Bible is God’s word to us, and it has endless knowledge and advice for us today. It may not address your situation directly, but when we read these stories we can discover how God does work and that we can trust Him with anything we are facing today.

 

ACTIVITY:

  1. Ask for two volunteers.
  2. Whisper to one: “tell the other student to run around all the chairs”
  3. Wait for them to do this.
  4. Repeat steps 2-3-5 more times.
  5. On the 7th time whisper “now run around the chairs 7 times”.

 (If they complete this activity, great! If not that’s ok. It may seem awkward or embarrassing, that’s the point.)

 

When I was writing this I wasn’t sure if you guys would do all that. (So props to you). Did it seem a bit awkward? Embarrassing? Weird? Yea, we face situations like that in life. Not all situations are life and death, but every day we are faced with choices. And in those hard choices, we are given an opportunity to trust God, or not.

 

BIBLE:

 QUESTION: Does anyone know what Bible story I just had them reenact?

 That’s right. The story of Joshua and Jerico.

 

Joshua 6:2-5

2 But the Lord said to Joshua, “I have given you Jericho, its king, and all its strong warriors. 3 You and your fighting men should march around the town once a day for six days. 4 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. 5 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.”

 

What’s going on in this story? The people of Israel are stuck in a rock and a hard place.

  • God rescued them out of slavery, but now they have been stuck in the desert for 40 years.
  • They need land to grow crops.
  • They have no city walls to protect them from attack.
  • God promised to give them this land, but it’s heavily defended. Jericho has some HUGE walls.
  • God then asks them to do something ridiculous.

 Now I am no army general, but I have played a few war games. And one thing I know, when you are in a way, you gotta be careful. You gotta be strategic. You have to take out your opponent before they take out you. You probability wanna try to be sneaky and get an advantage. It doesn’t make any sense to not only just walk up to your enemy but then to just walk in circles around them.

 Not only does that make sense, but then you repeat that same thing for 6 days, and then on the 7th day do it 7 times?

 That’s crazy. It doesn’t make sense. With all those other problems on the line, Israel was faced with a hard choice. Would they trust God or not?

 Not only was it hard for Israel, imagine how hard it was for Joshua. Not only did he have to do this, but he also had to convince an entire nation to do it too! He had to ask hundreds of thousands of people to walk in the firing range of their enemy and then do nothing but go for a stroll for 7 days.

 In the end, they trust God, and he destroys the walls, Israel can take over the city. They were in a hard situation, but they trusted God.

 The Bible is filled with other stories where people choose to trust God. It’s also filled with stories where people don’t trust God. There are even stories where people trust God, but bad things still happen. What then?

 …….

 Have you ever heard the parable of the “Wise and Foolish Builders”? A parable is a fictional story with real truth.

 In this story, Jesus tells about two different approaches to life. Let’s see how it plays out:

 

Matthew 7:24-27

24 “Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock. 25 Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock. 26 But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. 27 When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

 

  • Jesus describes two options when we are faced with hard choices: trust God, or not.
    • Both people are given the same materials- Jesus’s teaching.
      • They are both given the word of God.
    • Both people face the same circumstance- the storm
      • They both face rain, wind, and flood.
    • They get different results.
      • The one who trusted Jesus stood firm.
      • The one who didn’t, collapsed.

 Jesus’s teachings are a firm foundation. The Word of God is the ultimate source of authority and truth for our lives. We can trust what it says is true. It never makes a mistake.

 So if we stand on it, we can stand firm.

 The problem comes in not on a sunny day when the weather is fine. Both houses are safe then. It’s only when the storm comes that we find out what they are made of.

 It is easy to trust God when everything is going well in our lives. It’s only when things get stressful, or awkward, or even dangerous that we learn how much we trust God.

 Hard choices are an opportunity to trust God.

 Trials and tests will come in our lives, and when they do we will see what foundation our lives are built on. We will find out if we are built on the rock, the solid truth, or built on our idea of what is true.

 Notice both characters in this story have the same material. They have Jesus’s teaching. But one built on the rock directly. They decided to trust Jesus no matter what.

 The other got Jesus’s teaching and then compromised. They decided which parts they liked, which parts they didn’t. They chose which parts to follow, which ones to ignore.

 In the analogy, I don’t think Jesus is comparing Christians and non-Christians. Because both characters have His teaching. Rather I think He is comparing Christians who take His word to heart and live by it, and Christians who just hear it and do whatever they want anyway.

 Maybe they don’t outright disregard it, but they try to change the meanings. They try to compromise. “This isn’t a sin” or “Jesus didn’t mean that”.

 We compromise when we:

  • Decide what lies are okay
  • What negative music is okay to listen to
  • How much sin is okay to watch on tv
  • How far we can be sexually involved before it counts as sin
  • Decide we can do what we want as long as we confess it
  • Treat others badly and then expect God to forgive us 

Here Is The Thing About Sand: It Is Still Technically Rock

 Sand is just little rocks. Its tiny pieces of rock chipped off and smoothed over by natural processes like erosion. So I mean, if I build my house on sand, it is still technically built of rock, right? Just little pieces of rock, that are smooth and don’t have jagged edges. Pieces I can easily manage and control, and won’t hurt me. I can shape them however I want. And since I am still technically building on the rock, I’m good right?

 You may “technically” be right. But the storm doesn’t care about technology. When the rain, wind, and flood come, you are built on rock or you are not. Tiny bite-sized, manipulated pieces of truth have no power.

 When you break up the rock, you break up its power

 The power of Jesus is His radical forgiveness that frees us from sin. It is not the power to sin and be ok. It is the power to be free from sin. To not live in it, to not be its slave. It’s the power to live the way God made us live.

 No matter what you have done, no matter the mistakes you have made, from lying to sexual immorality to murder, God wants to forgive you.

 He wants to clean you, He wants you to move on from those mistakes. He wants to make you a new person, that lives free from the feelings of guilt and shame. When Jesus died on the cross, we believe he took the punishment for those sins for us, so we can be free. Free now, and free to spend eternity with Him forever.

 That’s the rock. That’s what you need to build your life on. Sure we make mistakes, but if we constantly return to God genuinely, He will forgive us.

 We deceive ourselves and others when we try to have the benefits of the rock without the cost.

 The benefit is the safety and freedom that comes from being in a relationship with the God that loves you.

 The cost is you have to build on the rock. That means you can’t build on any other substance. You have to base your life and your choices on what God says.

 If you base it on what you think, or what your parents think, or what the media tells you, or anything anyone else comes up with, it won’t work. You have to decide to leave all that other stuff behind, and build on the rock.

 _____

 OBJECT LESSON:

Sometimes we think we are building on the rock, and maybe we partly are. But have you ever noticed how sand gets everywhere? You go to the beach, and even after a shower, you may still find it on you.

 In the same way, lies or misunderstandings about God or what He says can slip into our lives unnoticed. We may be building on the rock, but some sand has slipped in there too.

 That sand creates division, and it weakens us. Since we aren’t fully connected to the rock, the rain, wind, and flood may shake us up a bit.

 In this container, I have a rock. It’s the word of God. It’s what I’m building my life on. But some sand slipped in. Maybe things I ignore in the Bible, or maybe even things I misunderstand.

  • How do we separate them?
    • We could just take the rock out…but then we have removed the word of God and are just left with sand.
  • How do we remove the sand without removing the rock?
    • We can’t just pick each piece of sand out one at a time…just not possible.
    • We could dump everything out, but if this container represents our life, that’s not a good idea.
  • What we could do though, is shake it up. We may even have to shake it intensely. But as we do, gradually, little by little, the sand moves away from the rock, until we are only left with the rock.

 The rock is the word of God.

The sand is anything else we put our trust in.

Do you know what the shaking is? It’s trials and tests. It’s an unpleasant situation. It’s a hard choice.

 God will use these things in our lives to shake us up. It isn’t even fun, but when God does things in our life He is removing all the impurities, getting the sand out of the way, and getting us closer to Him.

 There may even be moments when we don’t understand anything. We won’t know what to do, or even which way is up.

 We may find our foundation is completely ripped out from under us.

 Here is the thing: God never changes. The rock never moves.

 If you are in a storm of life, and your foundation gives way, your foundation was not God.

 It may be you put your faith in some of that sand that slipped in there. When it got shaken out, it felt like your whole world fell apart.

 And you know what? That’s okay. Sure it hurts, but now that we got that spec of sand out of our eye, we can see the truth. With it removed now we can begin to rebuild on the true rock, and not any person or thing or false idea that we were building on.

 God didn’t promise to save either of the builders from the storm. They both went through it; wise and foolish alike.

 But the one who trusted God, stood firm. The one who didn’t collapse.

 Storms will come. There will be things in life we don’t understand. Death, sickness, problems, financial issues, friendship betrayals, they all happen to all of us. 

 We aren’t immune. But, these hard choices are an opportunity to trust God.

 And when we do, we will find ourselves on a firm foundation. Other times, we will see where we built on the sand, and have the opportunity to rebuild for next time. It’s a lifelong process, and it isn’t always pleasant, but being in a relationship with the God who loves you and building a life built on Him will always be worth it.

RESPONSE:

  • Maybe you are here today and you have never even started to build your life on the rock.
    • Today I decided to learn God’s word. Find out what it says, and start building on it.
    • If you feel you aren’t right with God, I encourage you to talk to me or another leader, and we would love to pray with you.
  • Maybe you are here and you are building on the rock, but you also know some sand has crept it.
    • Confess it to God, and take the steps needed to remove it from your life.
    • We are here to love you and support you.
    • Talk to a leader if you need more help.
  • Or maybe you are here and you feel secure in your faith, and aren’t aware of any sand.
    • That is great! Praise God for that victory.
    • Also, prepare. There may not be a storm now, but they will come.
    • Ask God to prepare you, and ask Him to help you to always be on guard against any sand that wants to creep in.
  • Remember: Hard Choices Are an Opportunity to Trust God 

 

Let’s Pray

SUMMARY:

God didn’t promise to save either of the builders from the storm. They both went through it; wise and foolish alike.

But the one who trusted God, stood firm. The one who didn’t collapsed.

Storms will come. There will be things in life we don’t understand. Death, sickness, problems, financial issues, friendship betrayals, they all happen to all of us.

We aren’t immune. But, these hard choices are an opportunity to trust God.

And when we do, we will find ourselves on a firm foundation. Other times, we will see where we built on the sand, and have the opportunity to rebuild for next time. It’s a lifelong process, and it isn’t always pleasant, but being in a relationship with the God who loves you and building a life built on Him will always be worth it.

 

TALKING POINTS:

  • What are some hard choices people have to make?
  • What’s a time you had to make a hard decision?
    • What choice did you make?
    • Was it the right choice, or the wrong one?
    • Why?
  • What are some hard choices you are facing now, or will face in the future?
    • How can you prepare for them?
  • What does having a foundation of sand look like?
    • When your trust is in a person or circumstance.
    • When you believe things about God or others that are not true.
  • What does a foundation of rock look like?
  • What do the storms of life look like?
  • How do we trust God?
    • What does that look like?

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