Adapting In Seasons Of Change

Sun am 6 October 2019 – Justus Swart

Ex. 17:1-7; Num. 20:2-13; Matt. 9:36; (Matt. 17:20); (Ps. 34:8); (1 Sam. 15:22); (1 Cor. 10:4)

How do we adapt to change? We see currently there is a socio-political shift taking place within the broader context. God and Christian values are no longer being considered in the life of the everyday person. The general culture of the day has become marked by an increasingly non-religious world view. Before, we would have considered God is all aspects of life; He would have been considered in politics, economics, medicine, and education.  Now, we see God has been removed from that conversation. It used to be the norm that most people believed in God, whether they went to church or not. Education, business, finance, medical practice, family structure etc. were structured around the fact that there is a God. This was known as Christendom. The term Christendom has evolved over time, but we see its first appearance around the 9th century in Britain when the term was used by a church historian to describe the concept of a universal culture focused on Jesus Christ. It was a time when society’s general customs and values were shaped by the Christian religion.

Douglas Hall later defined it as ‘the dominion or sovereignty of the Christian religion’. During this time, there were reverse effects on the church. As much as the Church was influencing the world, there was an exchange taking place of which the Church was unaware. Thomas Curry, in the early 2000’s, then defined Christendom as ‘the system by which governments upheld and promoted Christianity’. That should sound suspicious. For me know that it is the central role of the Church to promote our faith. Suddenly the once influential Church became the Church in need. A Church reliant on.

Ten years later Diarmaid McCullough unveiled the true reality of this era when he said that Christendom was essentially the union between Christianity and secular power.  That description does not look like the Christianity we know and see in the Bible. The Church had entered into a paradigm which altered the understanding and experience people had of church since that time. The Church was moulded by these effects without ever fully realizing what was happening. The Church had entered into this relationship with broader society and culture and was not even aware of it. An example of these reverse effects was the disappearance of the apostolic, evangelistic and prophetic ‘offices’ from the Church. Churches became structured around the pastoral ‘office’ and the teaching ‘office’, and still is today. There was no need for those ‘offices’ in an environment where Christianity was dominant. Another example was the rise in church buildings. The result is people feel, “I am not the Church, I go to church”. 

We are currently however, entering the post Christendom era. That means the time when Christianity was central is becoming part of history. The initiation of the post Christendom era can be seen in society’s departure from the Judeo-Christian value system. Many of you will have seen the growing disdain the world has for any faith-based value systems. They do not understand it and cannot accept it and now outright reject it. Why? Because it was pushed on them without Jesus! If you separate Christianity from Jesus, you get rules and people do not like rules. 

The system of this world no longer recognized the holy words of Scripture and in turn it means they have no way of knowing what is sacred. God is calling us to realignment and if we do not see that, we are going to miss something major. The problem is not trying to convince churches that we have entered into this phase, but the problem is trying to convince them to update their current operating system. They like doing things the way they have always done things. The struggle to escape from our ingrained habits that we have been doing for years – the way we think, the way we see the world, feels impossible and is a huge challenge. It is not a new challenge, however. How do we adapt in a changing season? How do we stay true to the truth we know without losing an ounce of our potency?

The desert was a season of change for Israel. They were coming out of the land of slavery into the land of promise and God was testing and challenging them to prepare them for the new season.

Let us look at three keys that will help us adapt in a season of change. Compare Moses reaction in Ex. 17:1-7 and in Num. 20:2-13. These are two almost identical circumstances but two different outcomes. The first key is that we need to elevate our response. The name Rephidim, the first camp means ‘rest’, yet they experienced scarcity, lack of resources and quarrelling. The same situation was repeated a generation later at Kadesh, meaning ‘holy’ and you see a second set of circumstances playing out. Israel was in the midst of a season of change, moving out of slavery into the Promised Land. When God brings us out of a situation, He first brings you to a place of testing and refinement before He can take you into something new. However, when you are taken out of your comfort zone, out a situation that you know and are familiar with, the quarrelsome spirit starts to show itself.

The area in which we are challenged is how we respond to the changes happening around us. In Exodus 17 Moses comes to God with the wrong analysis of the situation. “What am I to do with these people?” Moses was blaming the circumstances and was angry about the change. The change seemed huge and insurmountable. He felt the people were the problem and not the water. In reality, the people were thirsty and crying out for help.

God wanted Moses to set the path and set the pace (Ex. 17:5). Resisting change because we feel it is personal or because we feel it is not like it used to be, can only delay what God wants to accomplish. If you see change as a failure, you are missing what God wants to do. When we elevate our response, God will unleash provision from sources we have not seen or heard of.

In Num.20 Moses elevated his response, he had upgraded. He remembered what happened the previous time. The people came in the same way, they were just as angry, and his response was to go straight to the Tent of Meeting. He did not jump in and try to solve the problem; he went straight to the presence of the Lord. When change is taking place, do we go to God and find out what is happening around us? The church has to progress from taking criticism personally to immediately seeking the Lord. The Promised Land is coming but you need to be refined.

The first key is: we need to elevate our response. The second key is: to elevate the level of our faith. This is a huge challenge. Christendom established a union between the church and secular power which led to a paradigm where the Church could rely on rights over faith. That is, I have a right to something instead of faith for something. That is a huge shift! And when rights are preferable to faith, passivity is inevitable. The Church becomes lazy; we become attending members and we do not become faithful sons of God.

Moses asked, “Why do you quarrel with me?” In their eyes, their savior was Moses, not God. Moses was the one who always produced the results; he was the one who always saved the day. He had to take the elders with him and perform a miracle in front of the eldership to let them know that He was God. It is time to elevate our faith to see it is not Moses, it is not the pastor, or the apostle; it is God!

Another sign of passivity is entitlement over expectation. A generation later: Why did you bring us up out of Egypt to this terrible place? It has no grain or figs, grapevines or pomegranates (Num. 20:5). We become used to the church leader sorting out the finances for the church. God said, “Now it is time for all of you to elevate your faith”. Taste and see that the Lord is good (Ps. 34:8). Not through the pastor or apostle, but to see Him personally; to know Him as your Jehovah Jireh.

The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes..” (Num. 20:7-8). It is time for the Church to know God personally, to know God intimately as the provider. Pastors are biblical, leadership is biblical, but you have to learn to walk by faith, not by sight. You are called to know God for yourself.

The third key is: to elevate the level of our obedience. God will often call you to do something differently, but you like the way things were done previously. Especially if you got results when you did it that way before. Change is uncomfortable. The church is having a hard time moving away from the ingrained habits, things that were formed and passed on through generations. The Bible tells us there is a huge penalty to be paid if we are not obedient. Obedience is critical to this season of change.

In the first story in Exodus 17, Moses is told to strike the rock but the second situation in Numbers 20 plays out slightly differently. God told him to speak to the rock. He was unable to be obedient to this command because last time striking the rock worked. So instead of speaking to it, Moses strikes it with the rod. In the first instance the rod is central to the mission. God always builds on the foundation of what He has done previously. There was a time when the rod was exactly what God required, it was integral to God completing His mission, but there came a time when it took a back seat. By bringing the staff God established that He is the God who provided for their forefathers. The previous paradigm is not ignored. The staff was taken out of the presence of the Lord, but it was not to be repeated.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (Isa. 43:19). God is constantly calling us; He is doing a new thing. This posed a challenge for Moses. He had to choose between what he knew worked in the past and the new commandment to speak to the rock. He told Moses to speak to the rock, but did not tell him what to say. Moses had the opportunity to co-create the miracle with God. Essentially, “I will bless the words of your mouth and you will bring forth provision”. But Moses could not take that step, it was too much for him. In that moment he failed to be obedient and struck the rock for a second time, falling short of his mandate.

The New Testament tells us that the Rock in the dessert is Christ (1 Cor. 10:4).  Christ will not be misrepresented. What worked in the past is not going to work going forward. He will not be struck twice; He will not be misrepresented. Are we ready to elevate our obedience? The shattering words of God, “Because you did not trust in me” reverberates in history and calls to the Church today, “Increase your faith, do not look back to how it was done, look ahead” (Num. 20:12-13). God will show Himself as holy. We have nothing to lose by following Him.

If we continue to fall back to what is familiar, we stay stuck in comfortable patterns, and if we remain true to the predictably safe standards, we will fail the test of obedience. Let us look to God for instruction and not to the past. It is His Church. He is not going to leave us or forsake us.

It is a time of refreshing for us, a time of renewal is waiting for us. The only question is: are you ready to elevate your response; are you ready to elevate your faith, and are you ready to elevate your level of obedience?