New Hope Notes
Truth In Advertising
Faith In Action
Pastor Jon Burgess
[Pastor Jon is standing on a rock in the middle of a stream deep in Manoa Valley, looking very tiny from overhead drone.]
“Hello. Hello. God, are you up there? Can you see me? I’m down here. Remember this valley you led me to? Just wondering…what’s the next step here? God, I know that you didn’t lead me to leave me here, but it feels a little lonely. I know I’m supposed to learn something from this valley. I just didn’t see it coming. So show me the next step. I’m totally open to whatever it is. I know you’re with me.”
[End of Video]
Doesn’t life feel like that sometimes? You’re doing your best to follow God and all of sudden find yourself, not on a mountaintop, but at the bottom of a valley, wondering how you got there.
Sometimes, the gospel presentation includes just the glories and wonders of being saved by a loving God, but that’s not always Truth In Advertising because the scriptures are full of examples of people going through valleys—some valleys are long and involves suffering.
Romans 5:3-5 NIV says, “Not only so, but we also glory (we always assume glory is going up, but Paul is making it clear that sometimes glory is going down into the valley) in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
The word “glory” actually means “rejoicing.” When was the last time you were suffering and said, “God, this is so awesome!” It’s one thing to grunt and endure the suffering, but Paul had a different way of looking at it because he knew that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character produces what we need in the valley—Hope!
Dr. Billy Graham passed away today at 99 years old and was often called America’s Pastor. He preached to over two billion people and thousands upon thousands of people will enter heaven because he shared with them, not just the mountaintop experiences, but also the valleys.
He said, “Mountaintops are for views and inspiration, but the valleys are where fruits are grown.” Toward the end of his life, Dr. Graham was struggling with Parkinson’s disease and someone said to him, “That’s not really fair, Pastor Graham. You faithfully served God your whole life and now you’re struggling with Parkinson’s.” He replied, “I don’t see it that way. The human condition is filled with sickness, disease, hardship, and suffering—it comes to us all. The key is how we react to it. We will either turn away from God with anger and bitterness, or we will grow closer to Him in trust and confidence. The Christian life is not a constant high.”
Dr. Graham had moments of deep discouragement when he called out to God and said, “Forgive me,” or “Lord, help me!” Maybe we can follow Dr. Graham’s example and learn that if God led us to this valley, He will lead us through it. Let’s see what God wants to teach us today.
Being in beautiful Manoa Valley and knowing where we are makes us feel comfortable—we know the trail and how to get to the falls. But the problem with the valleys we face in life is that often we don’t know why we’re there. For the sake of learning from the Holy Spirit, I will give a couple of titles to the valleys that we might find ourselves in now or in the future:
Can we relate to “I don’t know why God led me here!” We find that following God in the book of Acts is not a science—it’s an adventure! Acts 16:6-10 NIV says, “6 Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia. 7 When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. 8 So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. 9 During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ 10 After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.”
On two occasions, Paul and his companions were told by Holy Spirit to not enter the two cities they had planned to visit. So they kept on traveling and one night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging, “Come over to Macedonia and help us,” and they left for Macedonia at once.
Here’s an interesting thing. Unless you measure the distance, you wouldn’t know that the first trip to Phrygia and Galatia was 200-plus miles. The Holy Spirit didn’t say not to go there until they got there—talk about a Valley Of Who Knows Why! The next trip to Mysia was another 200-plus miles, a very long valley— a total of 400 miles on foot!
Sometimes we think that God’s long-term plan doesn’t include long valleys and yet we see that Paul was being led by Holy Spirit and Holy Spirit isn’t telling him I don’t want you there until he actually gets there! Sometimes the biggest test in the Valley Of Who Knows Why is being able to lay down the thing that I want to do because God is asking me to do something else.
In Deuteronomy 9, we read that the people of God followed the Presence of God (cloud by day and fire by night). Whenever the cloud moved, the people moved; they could be there for two days, two months, or two years—it didn’t matter.
Big Decision: My Plans Or God’s Presence? We don’t have to be a valley of indecision.
Proverbs 16:9: “A person may plan his journey, but the Lord will direct his steps.” Our plans must never take preeminence over the will of God.
Paul had no idea that the 400-mile journey would lead him to a brand-new continent when he went to Macedonia—a revival that would bring the gospel to a whole new group of people. He wouldn’t have been ready for that had he not faced the Valley Of Who Knows Why. It’s not torture. It’s training. Embrace the divine delays. He’s preparing you for what’s next!
I was on Oahu (Hawaii) 15 years ago as interim pastor in Kauai. I wanted desperately to be able to stay and plant a church here but God was calling me to leave Hawaii to plant a church in Seattle for 10 years, then back to Kona, and here I am 15 years later!
I can tell you with no exaggeration that I wouldn’t have been ready for this position as campus pastor of New Hope Oahu if I hadn’t followed God’s plan to each of the other areas, just as Paul wouldn’t have been ready for Macedonia.
If God’s called you to the Valley Of Who Knows Why, He knows why; He’s preparing you for what He has next. Your obedience in this season will lead you to blessing in the next!
I pray that we will not be discouraged, divided, depressed or downcast; instead, be determined to obey God whether we want to or not! The enemy's whole goal is to short-circuit the plan of fruitfulness in your life by getting you to trade God's Word for good words because it appeals to your flesh (we don’t want to suffer if we can avoid it).
The valley is not for our destruction, but for our growth. It’s through the crucible of pain, hardship, and loss that I have seen the most fruit in the relationships around me.
Big Decision: Good Words Or God’s Word?
This valley is usually one of our own making. It’s not a place to live in but some have set up permanent residence there. It’s quicker to get into this valley than it is to get out; this is the reason many are stuck in it. You may be having an epic experience singing, “I Love you, Lord,” and feeling Jesus-y, and get in your car and someone cuts you off, and then you say things that aren’t Christ-like. From a mountaintop experience to the valley in 2.5 seconds flat—it can happen!
God wants you to remember the title of the Valley Of I Messed Up because we all do mess up. Here’s the good news. We serve a God who is not afraid of this valley and knows the way out!
Acts 19:13-18 NIV says, “Some Jews who went around driving out evil spirits tried to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus over those who were demon-possessed. They would say, ‘In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches, I command you to come out.’ 14 Seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. 15 One day the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I know about, but who are you?’ 16 Then the man who had the evil spirit jumped on them and overpowered them all. He gave them such a beating that they ran out of the house naked and bleeding.17 When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor.18 Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done.”
The men tried to command the evil spirit to come of a man saying, “In the name of the Jesus whom Paul preaches I command you to come out.” The evil spirit attacks the men because they knew the name but did not know the Man behind the name—Jesus.
Big Decision: Empty Religion or True Repentance
In order to get out of the Valley Of I Messed Up, first admit you’re in this valley because of the choices you made. There’s a difference between a religion of God and a relationship with God. Religion is a system of beliefs; relationship with God occurs with true repentance.
Billy Graham said, “As I approached my 95th birthday, I was burdened to write a book that addressed the epidemic of believe-ism, a mindset that if people believe in God and do good works they will go to heaven, but many questions must be answered. People easily accept a God who makes no demands, but this is not the God of the Bible. It’s a lie, and if you believe that you are deceived.” The proof of a relationship with Christ is that you are not the same person you were a year ago because our Lord left the glories of heaven to come down into our valley of shame so that we can be changed.Jesus is there to help you. Call on His Name!