Reaching New Heights

Steve Viars January 6, 2007 Isaiah 40:1-31

 

– This is a Haliaeetus Leucocephalus...

- If you just chuckled at his name, you might want to tell him that to his face...

– of course they are also known as bald eagles...

– I think we would all say that eagles are just a beautiful and amazing part of God’s creation...

– there are 59 different species and they are found on every continent but Antarctica...

– both the Bald Eagle and the Golden Eagle reside in the United States...

 – one of the words that comes to our minds the quickest when we think of eagles is the word “soaring”...

– a bald eagle can have a wing span of up to 8 feet and weigh up to 15 pounds...

– bald eagles have been recorded flying at 44 miles per hour at level flight...

– they can fly at altitudes of 10,000 feet or more...and...

– they can soar aloft for hours using natural wind currents and thermal updrafts...

- now, why am I telling you all of this?...

– it’s because God wants you to be...like an eagle...

- He wants that to picture your personal life...serene but moving steadily forward...

- He wants that to picture your relationships...rising higher...with purpose and poise...

- He wants that to picture your ministry and your effectiveness...soaring and advancing...

- He wants that to picture our church...strong, effective, and graceful...

- I can say with confidence this morning...that God wants you...and God wants us to be like eagles...to be like that...to feel like that...to function like that...

- and He stands ready to make it possible...

- now if you would say...PV, I would need independent confirmation of that notion...when I look at my life, and my relationships, and my place at work, and my service for Christ...an eagle is not the first metaphor that comes to mind...I’m not sure that’s what I see in the mirror...

- if independent confirmation is needed...the good news is...independent confirmation is available...

- would you please open your Bible to Isaiah chapter 40?...[page 512 in the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you]...

- each year on this Sunday we attempt to answer the questions, why are we here, and where are we going, and how do you fit in?...

- we think it is important that everybody in the church family, whether you have formally become a member yet or not, has a clear idea of where we believe God wants us to go together as we serve Him in this place...

- Our annual theme this year is Reaching New Heights...

- our leadership team believes those words capture where the Lord wants us to be in this coming year...

- we hope that all of us will reach new heights in our personal relationship with Christ...wherever you are in your spiritual journey...we are going to try to do everything we know how to do to help you, and equip you, and encourage you to reach new heights...

- now please just pause and think about that possibility...a prayer life that is better...

- a Bible study life that is better...

- possessing a walk with Jesus that is at a place it has never been before...

- and, becoming more loving in your relationships and skillful in your communication...

- doing a better job in your family and at work...reaching new heights...like an eagle...

- we would say the same thing for our church...we are thankful for all the Lord has allowed us to accomplish in our 43 years of existence...and we are thankful for all of the faithful people who have gone before us...

- but we do not believe God would be pleased if we simply rested on our laurels...

- and certainly with bringing three new major ministries on line...our cc, our church based seminary, and VOH, our residential treatment center for girls in need...

- this will be a year, Lord willing, where many ministry dreams and many ministry plans will come to fruition...to God be the glory...we intend as a church and all our associated ministries...to reach new heights of outreach and effectiveness for our Savior...

- now, in the passage before us...the prophet Isaiah is writing to people who are like the polar opposite of eagles...whatever animal metaphor comes to mind...insert that...

- and here’s why...God had chosen Israel to be His people, with the covenant understanding that they would joyfully submit to Him as their Lord, as their sovereign king...

- their love for Him and allegiance to Him was to be a light to the nations...

- but, as II Kings 17:15 tells us...II Kings 17:15 – They despised His statutes, and His covenant that He made with their fathers, and the warnings which He gave them.  They went after false idols, and became false, and they followed the nations that were round about them, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them that they should not do like them.

- they seemed to lack the capacity and the will to fulfill the main requirement of any servant—to remain loyal to his sovereign...

- and so the result was emptiness, and rebellion, and wickedness...and then the appropriate judgment that follows such behavior...

- In Israel’s case, God allowed the northern kingdom m to be conquered by the nation of Assyria...in fact, Isaiah was writing during that Assyrian occupation which was a terrible time in the history of Israel...

- later God would use Babylon to conquer the southern kingdom of Judah and that too was low point for their nation...

- the first 39 chapters are all about the consequences Israel was facing because they had forsaken God and given themselves to idolatry of heart and life...in an attempt to bring them to their spiritual senses...

- but, chapter 40 looks forward...to a time when the captivity is over and their relationship with Him can be reestablished...so that one day God’s people could again...soar like eagles...

- read Isaiah 40:1-31

- in the time we have remaining, let’s think about Three reasons we should seek to reach new heights together.

I. Reach New Heights Because of the Significance of the Need.

- please keep in mind that Isaiah is trying to help God’s people focus on what can happen in the future...

- but right now, the conditions described in verses 1-5 are exactly what they don’t have...

- they are still facing the consequences of their disobedience and rebellion...and those results are significant...both then and now...

- so where does life apart from faithfully loving God lead?...what is the opposite of soaring like an eagle?

A. Life apart from God results in fear and uncertainly – v. 1.

- why would God speak to them in verse 1 about the possibility of comfort?...

- the answer is because being enslaved to Assyrians was anything but comfortable...

- see, they thought by rebelling from God they would be free...instead they went from being enslaved to a benevolent king to being enslaved to a ruthless one...

- that is a constant theme throughout Scripture---the enslaving power of sin...and the fear and the uncertainty and restlessness that always follows that package...also,

B. Life apart from God results in guilt and constant warfare – v. 2

- yes, the day would come when her iniquity could be removed, but that is still in the future...

- and the warfare can be ended...but that is in the future...

- right now they aren’t soaring like strong eagles...they are mired down, and exhausted from all of the fighting that has resulted from their abandonment of God...

- the book of James makes that same point in the NT...where James asks in chapter 4 verse 1...what is the source of all of these fights and battles between you...isn’t it because of the war raging in your own heart with competing lusts and desires?...

- and then he goes on to say...and doesn’t that battle exist because you’re at war with God?...you’ve forsaken Him and turned to idols you believed would satisfy you?...

- and many people in our day, and to some degree all of us, can speak about the tensions and challenges that come with other people whenever our hearts are focused on satisfying our wants instead of God’s will...it feels like anything but sparing like an eagle...

C. Life apart from God results in life being jumbled and twisted – v. 3-4.

- verses 3-4 speak about a time when a clear voice will ring out, calling for repentance and preparation...and rough ground will be leveled and crooked paths will be made straight...

- of course the NT tells us that this was ultimately fulfilled by the ministry of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ who paved the way with a message of repentance...

- but the point here...to these people...is, look how twisted everything can become...

- you have created huge mountains that have to be scaled...and paths that are all jumbled up...what a mess idolatry and disobedience bring...

- instead of soaring in a direct, and serene path...you are mired down in a muck of relational confusion...

D. Life apart from God results in His glory being suppressed – v. 5

- yes the day will come in verse 5 when God’s glory will be revealed, but right now, for them...it was more like the words of Romans 1...

- Romans 1:18 - ...all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.

- do you see the progressive contrast that is being laid out before us?...

- the recipients of this message, at least at the time they are currently living, and the conditions they are currently facing...is anything but soaring like an eagle...they need to reach new heights because of the significance of the need...

- now, let’s bring that down to where we live...

- let’s just start with you...friend, are you soaring?...is the picture of an eagle an appropriate metaphor for you?....[show pic #12 again]

- or could you, right now, point to a particular area of your life and say...I think God would be pleased if I sought to reach new heights in that area this year?...

- let’s broaden it out...what about in our community?...is everybody soaring like eagles because of the vibrant relationship they have established with the great God of heaven?...or are there significant needs all around us...where there is fear, and uncertainty, and broken relationships, and twisted thinking and living, and existences that do anything but glorify God?...

- and is that both an opportunity and challenge as we think about how we function this year?...

- what about this...what about other churches?...one of our former members was back over the holidays and made an interesting comment...he said...because of my job we have moved around a lot and we have been amazed and saddened at the challenges many churches around the country are facing...it is something other than soaring like eagles...to whatever degree that is true, do we have an opportunity and a challenge to try to strengthen and bless our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ?...

- then what about our world?...watch the 10 o’clock news---our world is in great need...these verses are breathtaking in their relevance to current events...and we have the privilege of being ambassadors of Christ to a war torn world...

- why should people like you and me look at this coming year, and evaluate wherever we are in our journey for Christ, and make a commitment that we will seek to reach new heights?...because of the significance of the need...

- now, what is the message of the rest of the chapter?...life doesn’t have to be this way...you really can soar like an eagle...you really can reach new heights...how?...

II. Reach New Heights Because of the Significance of the Provision.

- here’s the key question now?...how can we get to the condition promised in verse 31?...and how can we help others get there as well?...

- you could picture this year like this...

- the year begins with a number of people of God in the air, like eagles...from our church and other good churches...there are a lot of good things already happening...

- but what if at the end of this year...people were flying higher, and there were more eagles in the air?...that’s the point...[how can we get to the condition promised in verse 31?...and how can we help others get there as well?]...by seeking...

A. A God who communicates truth that is eternal.

- 40:8 – The grass withers, the flower fades, but the Word of our God stands forever.

- if reaching new heights is something you are really serious about...that has a direct relationship to the book you hold on your lap.

- Can I ask you to take out the list of key initiatives for this year....

- we can’t go over every one of these this morning, but I would encourage you to carefully read this document sometime this week and then keep it somewhere, perhaps where you have your personal Bible study and prayer time, and regularly ask the Lord to help us make progress in these areas...

- now, if you say, there’s lot here...that’s because there’s a lot of us...and because getting it right is especially important this year...so we are setting the standard high on purpose...

- a number of these initiatives have to do with helping people become closer to the Lord through a greater knowledge of the Word of God which stands forever...

- for example, in our morning services...we are going to begin this year by working on the base camp...

- if we switch metaphors to that of a mountain climber, we want to give attention to what sustains us for the journey...

- so we plan to focus on the Lord’s prayer for the rest of January...

- and then in February we’re going to study Psalm 119 which is all about God’s Word...

- and the goal is going to be to help all of us reach new heights in our faithfulness in the spiritual disciplines...and I hope that gaining ground there is something that you find extremely attractive...accomplishing what we believe God wants us to accomplish in this year assumes that we are a body of people who are taking the cultivation of our relationship with Christ spiritually...

- then prior to Easter, we are going to study the last days of Christ in the gospel of John chapters 18-20—our goal there is to reach new heights in our love for the Savior...

- this summer I’ve asked several members of our pastoral staff to share a morning series with me on the attributes of God...seeking to reach new heights in our knowledge of Him...

- in the fall we plan to study Romans 6-8, which is one of the most practical sections of Scripture regarding specifically how to grow as believers...

- at Christmas-time we’re going to study the topic of heaven...thinking about reaching the ultimate height together...

- Pastor Dutton mentioned last week what our plans are for our Adult Bible fellowships...we’ll also being saying more about all the great classes available on Wednesday nights in our Faith Community Institute...

- here’s the point – if we are going to successfully launch all these new ministries, they have to be built on a foundation of men and women who are seriously seeking to reach new heights in our relationship with God...and if one of the ways to get to eagle status is through feeding on the provision of God’s eternal Word, then I would ask you if you are up to making a commitment to faithfully participating in these teaching opportunities?...

- now, what do we see in verse 10?...

B. A God who provides strength that is supernatural.

- see, if you think those eagle pictured exemplified strength, think about the arm of the Lord...

- it’s not a matter of...you have to figure out how to get your wings flapping on your own...

- it’s a matter of learning what it means to live in and by and through the power of God...

- Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

- If you’re looking for a good Bible study topic, I would encourage you to go through all the places in the Bible this week that use the words strong, and strength...there are some tremendous passages of Scripture of that topic...

- and here’s what...if God is not who He says He is in Scripture...then we are in big trouble...because we’re taking on a lot...

- in fact, would you look over at the Serving together initiatives on the back of this sheet?...

- we have to finalize all the assignments for the dozens and dozens of new community center ministries...

- at the same time, we have to be sure our current ministries are continuing to be well staffed and effective...

- we know we need to continue doing leadership training...

- and if you say...that’s too much...

- that’s a legitimate concern...

- in fact, here’s what sometimes happens to eagles...thought their talons are incredibly strong – they can apply 1000 pounds of pressure per square inch...they actually can’t life very much...only about half their body weight...

- sometimes eagles catch a fish that is too big for them and if they don’t let it go they can drown themselves...

- so there is such a thing as trying too much...for any organization...

- but here’s the key...get as many eagles in the air as possible...if everybody does a little then nobody has to do a lot...

- let me encourage you in some specific ways...

- if you’ve not become a member of our church yet, let me encourage you to sign up this morning for Intro to Faith 

- also let me encourage you to be back tonight for our first church family night of the year...

C. A God who offers direction that is gentle.

- don’t you love verse 11?

- v. 11 – Like a Shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arms He will carry His lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.

– this is an eaglet...they generally stay in the nest about 12 weeks before trying to fly...

- and this verse is describing the kind of direction God stands ready to give to people...

- contrast that to the ways of the false gods...your life gets all twisted up when you follow the idols of your heart...you’re on your own regarding strength and direction...and you find pretty quickly that the world can chew you up and spit you out in a way that is anything but gentle...

- this is why it has been so important to us over the years to have a biblical counseling center...and you’ll notice that we plan to continue to develop our ministries to people who are hurting this year...

- that is the point of our international partnership with leaders from Moldova...

- and I am happy to tell you that several of them will be back with us for our BCTC in February...they will be giving their testimonies and Valeriu Galetchi will speak the Sun am after the conference...

- we also have a team coming in March from Brazil...if the paperwork is approved, one of the students we have accepted to the seminary is from that country [develop—he was my translator...]

- also in your bulletin this week, you have a handout about ways you can serve in the BCTC [develop specific areas of need...]

- also, in a couple of weeks, we are going to ask the congregation to consider an addition to our pastoral staff, Pastor Doug Gray from MA...

- he would actually be paid by the counseling center with the goals of...developing 2new tracks for our BCTC next year, considering additional training conferences, and assisting Pastor Green in developing an MABC in our seminary...[because of the sufficiency of the provision---helping people soar like eagles...]

- perhaps we could best summarize these next verses by speaking of...

D. A God who offers a relationship that is authentic.

- if you read down through verse 12-26, you see Isaiah communicating about the uniqueness of the God of the Bible, about His supremacy and power...

- the fact is, in going after idols, His people had chosen the wrong god...

- He is the One who measured the waters in the hollow of His hand [v. 12]

- He is the One to whom the nations are like a drop in the bucket [v. 15]

- He is the One no one can be likened [v. 18]

- He is the One who sits above the circle of the earth [v.22]

- God says to His people in verse 25...

40:25 – To whom then will you liken Me that I would be His equal?  Says the Holy One.  Life up your eyes on high and see who has created the stars.  The One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power, not one of them is missing.

- in other words, He is the real thing...and a relationship with Him is the most authentic relationship there could be...

- of course, that assumes that you have that kind of relationship [develop the gospel...]

- under reaching out -- #4, you’ll notice that we are planning again to do an outreach series right after Easter...Building Strong Families and Relationships...

- we’ve invited several special speakers to join us...

- Paul Tripp – Help, There’s a Teenager in My House

- Stuart Scott – Humility – The Gift that Every Relationship Needs

- Bill Stanczykiewicz – [CEO – Indiana Youth Institute] – Seeing our Children as a Community Asset

- we’ll also be talking about learning to communicate and solve problems, making the most of being single, and getting to the heart of community concerns...

- another aspect of our outreach is the catalog we print twice a year and insert in the paper and ask our church members to distribute to their friends to acquaint the community with our ministries

- at our business meeting on January 17th we are going to be asking the church family to approve increasing our investment in that tool because we are at such a critical juncture in our community based outreach...[could discuss the contacts you received even this week...]

- sure there’s a lot to do...but we’re God empowered eagles...and we believe that God wants to do much through people like us this year...

- that brings us to these final verses...

III. Reach New Heights Because of the Satisfaction of the Results.

- read verses 29-31...

- the goal this year – that each person has reached new heights...

- in your personal walk with Christ, and in your spiritual service for Him...

- that our church has reached new heights in our ministry effectiveness because of an increased number of ministries, and an increased level of maturity and strength

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987. He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and two grandchildren. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video