|ORDINARY PEOPLE, MAJOR VICTORIES
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
February 15, 1997
I invite you to turn with me to James 1:2-4,12. This morning we are commemorating Vartanantz - remembering Vartan Mamigonain and the Battle of Avarair - and our theme this morning is this: Trusting God - even in the midst of difficult circumstances - ordinary people will experience God’s victory.
James 1:2: Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, - circumstances that put our faith to the test - For you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness - endurance - perseverance - And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.
In difficult circumstances - what does it mean - perseverance and trust in God? First, it means...
1. TRUSTING GOD EVEN IF WE DON’T SEE THE VICTORY COMING.Moses, Jesus, and an old bearded man were out playing golf one day. Moses pulls up to the tee and drives a long one. It lands in the fairway but rolls directly towards a water trap. Quickly Moses raises his club, the water parts and the ball rolls to the other side safe and sound.
Next, Jesus strolls up to the tee and hits a nice long one directly towards the same water trap. It lands directly in the center of the pond and kind of hovers over the water. Jesus casually walks out onto the pond and chips the ball up onto the green.
The third guy gets up and sort of randomly whacks the ball. It heads out over the fence and into oncoming traffic on a nearby street. It bounces off a truck and hits a nearby tree. From there it bounces onto the roof of a nearby shack and rolls down into the gutter - down the downspout - out onto the fairway and right toward the aforementioned pond.
On the way to the pond, it hits a little stone and bounces out over the water and onto a lily pad where it rested quietly. Suddenly, a very large bullfrog jumps up on the lily pad and snatches the ball into his mouth.
Just then, an eagle swoops down and grabs the frog and flies away. As they passed over the green, the frog squeals with fright and drops the ball which bounces right into the hole for a beautiful hole in one. Moses then turns to Jesus and says, “I hate playing with your Dad.”
I apologize for that. It was shared with me by someone in this church - and I won’t say by whom. The point is that in through-out the Bible - from cover to cover - by example after example - we see that God really does have everything under control.
Not many of us get really excited when we’re under pressure - when we encounter a circumstance in our lives which really puts our faith to the test. But, James tells us that there’s a tremendous benefit to us when we “hang tough” - when we persevere and trust God.
Its all part of the process which brings us towards maturity as a Christian - towards wholeness - towards a character which is lacking in nothing. And in verse 12, James says that those who persevere will receive the “Crown of Life” - eternal life with God. Even in the midst of the worst circumstances - God desires to lead us to great victory - tremendous reward - limitless possibilities.
Perseverance is acting in faith - trusting that God really does have everything under control - even when we don’t see it. Trusting God - even in the midst of difficult circumstances - ordinary people will experience God’s victory.
Secondly, what does it mean - perseverance and trust in God?
2. IT MEANS WE DON’T HAVE TO BE SPIRITUAL GIANTSOn May 26, 451 - on the plains of Avarair - Vartan stood with 66,000 Armenians - poorly equipped - with traitors on all sides - against a well trained - well equipped - army of 300,000 Persians. We know that the Armenians were soundly defeated and that over 1,000 Armenians - including Vartan - gave their lives.
We know that this battle - this rebellion against the Sassanids of Persia was of Christian brothers - who went to their martyrdom trusting in Jesus as their Savior - standing firm in their faith - not seeing the victory. Trusting in the promises of God - even though it was 33 years later - under Vahan Mamigonian that the Armenians finally won a decisive victory for our faith.
Each year we hold up Vartan as an example of our faith. For centuries our nation has celebrated his heroism - held high his example of perseverance in difficult circumstances - Katch Vartan - Garmir Vartan - A man whose example we should seek to emulate.
But, I am reminded time and time again that most of us are not Vartans. I have been thinking about the others that were there - the simple people - the ordinary people - taking communion together on the night before they went to die for their faith.
And these are the people we can relate to. We’d like to follow Vartan’s example - and we should. But we are ordinary people - trying to trust God in difficult circumstances. Who often find it difficult to “consider it all joy when we encounter various trials.”
Sometimes when we look at a Vartan - or other spiritual giants in church - we think that we could never live with the faith they do. But James writes and he says, “Consider it all joy - my brethren” - brothers and sisters in faith - my fellow ordinary people. You who are in the trenches with me. We can trust God - we can persevere - victory is coming.
Trusting in God - even in the midst of difficult circumstances - ordinary people will experience God’s victory.
Thirdly, what does it mean perseverance and trust in God? For us ordinary people - it means
3. TRUSTING GOD WITH OUR WEAKNESSEhud is not one of the most well known of figures in the Bible. In fact, if we were to ask around - most people have never heard of Ehud. Ehud was a simple ordinary man like us. You can read the account of Ehud in Judges 3.
Ehud lived back during a time of great evil in the nation of Israel. Eglon, the king of Moab had formed an alliance with the Ammonites and Amalekites, and had defeated Israel. For 18 years the people of Israel had been paying tribute to this fat - despotic - evil - king Eglon.
Ehud was chosen as the tribute bearer for King Eglon. When the nation of Israel paid tribute, Ehud was the one who took it to the king. Its hard to imagine a more despicable position than taking tribute - this excessive tax forcibly coerced from the people of Israel - taking it to this evil king. Or to imagine a more hated person - than the guy who took it.
And, Ehud was not a David or a Moses. Not someone we would choose as a deliverer for a nation. He was a Benjamite - from the little tribe that usually got picked on. He was left handed - in those days a sure sign of inferiority.
But, when the people of Israel cried out to God for deliverance - God choose Ehud - the ordinary guy. And Ehud - in the midst of all his circumstances - obeyed God.
Ehud practiced being right handed. So when he delivered the tribute, everyone thought he was right handed. Ehud made a sword that had two sharp edges and was about 18 inches long - he tied it to his right thigh - under his cloak. When someone went to the throne room of the king he was searched for weapons. A right handed person would have their sword on their left thigh - to pull it out across their body with their right hand. But Ehud was left handed and so his sword was on his right thigh.
So, the guards searched the wrong side. And Ehud - the despised tribute bearer - a regular in the throne room - a trusted servant of the king - was allowed to pass into the presence of the king.
On on this day - after he finished paying the tribute - he said to the king, (3:19) “O king, I have a secret message for you.” And the king sent everyone and his attendants away. So there are Ehud and the king sitting alone - in the cool of his royal verandah. And Ehud says, (3:20) “I have a message from God for you.” And he gets up - takes his sword with his left hand - and thrusts it into the belly of the king - killing him.
Ehud leaves without any problems - he’s the tribute bearer - and later leads the army of Israel against the Moabites - driving them out of Israel under the cry, (3:28) “Pursue them, for the Lord has given your enemies the Moabites into your hands.”
Trusting God - in the midst of difficult circumstances - ordinary people will experience God’s victory.
One thought of application.
How ordinary do you feel this morning? How weak? Left handed? Looked down on? Facing 300,000 armed to the teeth Persians - or an evil king Eglon. Or maybe it just seems like it.
Today - as a church - we face our Avarair - called to stand firm in our faith - to reach our nation with the Gospel. Sometimes we say: “We evangelicals are a small part of our nation. We’re a small church. What resources do we have? Look at the circumstances.”
In 1 Corinthians 12 - The Apostle Paul - writing of the Church - in a familiar passage - using the illustration of the Church as the Body of Christ - writes of the various members of the Body - each of us. Some members are very visible - prominent - which receive great honor and recognition - the Vartans.
Most of the members are less visible. And too often the less visible members - the ordinary members - we think that we can’t amount to much - maybe we’ve been told that by the more visible members - we live very mindful of our weaknesses. In difficult circumstances - against significant opposition - we often feel like giving up on ourselves.
But, Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 12:22 “....the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary (24) ....God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked.” - who’s not prominent - ordinary. We are important to God - honored by God - noticed and chosen by God even in our weakness.
God promises us in 2 Corinthians 12:9 “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” In your circumstance trust me and I will bring victory. Give your weakness to me - and I will make you strong - let me lead you to My victory.