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Victorious Overcomers

Scripture: Revelation 2:7-21, 2 Kings 18:5, Deuteronomy 28:1-7
Date: 07/28/2007 
God wants us to be overcomers. The Lord does not want us to be overcome, but to have victory. We have victory through personal devotions. But there is more. We need to trust God and obey Him. The battle we most need to face is in our own hearts. We do not do it alone, but God expects us to put forth human effort.
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

“For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” --I John 5:3-5

Good morning. Come one. There we go. Try it again. Yeah, good morning. Happy Sabbath. Good to see each of you. Good to be home. I’m pleased to see as many as we have here because I know that this is the final weekend of Redwood Camp meeting and I expected about half of you to be gone, but we’re glad you’re here. I wanted to give you a little report of what’s happened recently in Columbia. It was a very exciting trip. God blessed and I should probably begin by telling you, in case you didn’t know, Pastor Doug was gone for the last few weeks. I was in Medellin, Columbia. Medellin is a very interesting city. It seems in recent years… there is, of course, a map of Columbia. You can see where that star is was about where Medellin is, and it’s in the lower foothills of the Andes. It’s a very modern city, but it’s also a city that is famous for a lot of violence especially in recent years with the battles with cocaine. It had sort of become the central launching point for a lot of the narcotics trade. Even today the US State Department does not advise that American citizens travel to Columbia. It’s not considered safe. They still do have a number of kidnappings there. It’s not as prominent in Medellin as it is in Bogotá and some of the hill regions along there. Just a little more background, you probably would not expect that the country that has the most injuries and deaths due to landmines, people always think about Africa or some of these other countries in Indio-Asia, but Columbia has the largest number of people being injured from landmines in the world today, about one every eight hours a person is struck because they are still sowing new landmines there all the time. That’s partly from the Marxist guerrillas, partly from the narcotics industry trying to keep people out of the cocaine farms. So there is still an element of danger there, but things are changing. It’s a lot safer than it used to be and we were very excited to do work there. What happened is the Amazing Facts team which this time was myself, Richard Calderon, and his wife Michele. We went to Columbia. We worked with the church leaders from the Inter-America Division, and they coordinated a number of youth that came together from all over Latin America to do evangelism in the area. We came in for the last ten days of that to sort of be harvesting. What’s really amazing, for me this was a first. You’ve got to get the story. There is a man who is a very wealthy Seventh-day Adventist there. He owns a soccer team in Columbia and he converted to the Seventh-day Adventist faith. Before he was an Adventist he helped the Catholics to build an auditorium for their school. Well, then he became an Adventist. The Adventists said, “We need a place for a meeting.” He said, “Why don’t you meet at the Catholic Convent? They can’t tell me no.” So even though he is now Seventh-day Adventist and his team, they don’t play on Sabbath there, they always play on Sunday. Still we’re recommending he sell the team. But in any event he asked the sisters from this convent, and it’s also a girls’ school, if we could use the auditorium for our meetings. They said, “Absolutely. We love your music.” So it’s the first time, I still can’t get over this, that there we were broadcasting on Three Angels Latino and HOPE Esperanza and A.D.venir all over the world on these three major Hispanic stations from a Catholic convent. You could see the little nuns were going around as we were doing our meetings, very sweet, very gracious and kind to us. At times it felt a little awkward. I’m glad we weren’t scheduled to do the Mark of the Beast presentation during this series. I don’t know how I would have felt about that. But the Lord blessed. As I said, this went live via satellite. They had a very good professional team that prepared everything and the meetings. It was kind of fun going from the meeting and then I went back to my hotel room and you would see the meeting that you had just recorded back at your hotel room so we know it was on all over Columbia, all over South America and Venezuela and North America. Elder Rengifo said that he saw it here on 3ABN Latino. I know it was also on Esperanza so that was very exciting. Had a great translator. One of the stories that I want to tell you is before the meetings were over the pastors… Oh, and what we were doing is we were doing these meetings for eight nights straight from the convent auditorium broadcast by satellite. During the day we were meeting with pastors in the area doing Bible training, Elder Calderon and myself. My Spanish is much better than it was when I left. I understand much more. I don’t know if I speak any better. Matter of fact, I thought I spoke a little Spanish until I went there and everybody is rattling to me and I had to keep saying, “What?” No, I’d say, Como? Pardón. Anyway the pastor said, “Have you heard about the Mother Superior?” I said, “What are you talking about?” They said, “Well, there is a lady who is a Mother Superior of another convent, and the way we understand it is that she has seventy-two nuns under her and trainee nuns and they also take care of a senior home,” and it was two and a half hours for her to come to the meetings one way. She was traveling five hours a day to meet with us and spending the equivalent of about twenty dollars American money, which is a lot of money, so that she could come. Her name is Sister Serrita Rendon and she says, “I have accepted the Sabbath. I have accepted the state of the dead, the truth about idolatry,” and she was crying frequently when we talked. She says, “I don’t know what to do. I’ve got all of these Sisters. I want to bring some of them to the meetings.” So this is just last week and so you want to say well, what’s happened? Well, it’s still in process so please pray for her. Lots of stories like this. The next picture is the hall during the meetings. 99.9%, matter of fact probably 102% of Columbians are Catholic if you can have such a thing. It is a very entrenched city. Matter of fact, during our meetings on many occasions we’re driving around town going back and forth to the pastors meetings and all of a sudden traffic would just total gridlock, partly because they’re doing a lot of construction, but the other reason is because you’d see these parades where they would have a statue of one of the saints attached to the top of a car being driven up the street and all of these other cars that were following in this long parade festooned with all of this paraphernalia and honking their horns, and all of the traffic would come to a standstill as they would parade their saints up and down the streets in these convoys of cars. One day we saw all of these dump trucks and busses and big old eighteen wheelers were going up and down the street and all of the traffic in downtown Medellin, two and a half million, it’s a big city, came to a dead stop and I said to the driver, I said, “Ce paso?” What’s this? What happened? He said, “Oh, it’s their saint.” I can’t remember the name of the saint, but it’s the saint for the truck drivers. They’ve got their own saint. I don’t know who it was among the twelve apostles that Jesus appointed to be the apostle for the truck drivers, but evidently they’ve found one of them. So they were parading them up and down the streets and all of these trucks totally just blocked the traffic. So they’ve very dedicated people. Catholics make the best protestants. They do. They make the best Seventh-day Adventists too. They’re very dedicated, very reverent, a lot of respect for the word. Here is one night when we had an appeal. You can see the audience there very responsive. We’d ask, “Do you want to accept these truths.” And boy they said, “It’s in the Bible; we believe it.” They’re an educated people there. They were taking prolific notes as we were teaching. I think this next picture is the platform with the translator. I sure appreciate Dr. Jamie Costerhon. He used to be the president of Montamorelos College, one of the founders, and he flew down from Florida with only twenty-four hours notice, because we had a problem with our translator, to come down and translate for that entire series. So we’re just very grateful for his dedication. Anyway at the local meetings by the end of the meeting there were over two hundred baptisms. The baptistery you can see is pretty shallow. Just they had these portable baptisteries and they actually have them kind of sit down and it is by immersion. I don’t want you to think that because we baptized in a convent that we compromised. They would lay them down. We had two baptisteries set up, and the Lord just really blessed. I still can’t get over that. Here we were preaching the Sabbath and having a baptism by immersion in a Catholic convent. That’s got to be a first. Maybe not, but I’ll tell you it was pretty exciting for me. Well, anyway that’s a quick report. We’re going to have more. I hope you’re all on the Amazing Facts mailing list because we’ll send out a report of what happened with more detail. And if you’re not, just go to our website and we’ll send that to you for free if you’d like that.

Our subject for today, and I will compensate for this little report. You were supposed to be rolling the clock for that because I wanted to take that out of my sermon time. Well, I’ll try and do the math in my head. Our sermon today is dealing with the subject of victory. More specifically Victorious Over-comers. So often in the Bible when we think about the Christian walk and the Christian warfare we’re bemoaning our failures in being overcome, and yet the way I read my Bible is God is inviting us to be a nation of over-comers. One of the messages in the Bible is that you can overcome. Matter of fact, if you go to the book of Revelation chapter two, verse seven, in the seven messages to the seven churches. This is Revelation chapter two, you can start with verse seven. In all of the seven messages to the seven churches these represent the messages from Jesus to the church in every age from the time of Christ. One thing that He says consistently to every church is you can overcome. For instance, and I won’t read all of this, chapter two verse seven, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To him who overcomes I will give to eat from the tree of life, which is in the midst of the Paradise of God.” Go to verse eleven, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes shall not be hurt by the second death.” Verse seventeen, same chapter, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says… To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat.” Go to verse twenty-six, “And he who overcomes, and keeps My works until the end, to him I will give power over the nations…” Chapter three verse five, “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Verse twelve of chapter three, “He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he shall go out no more. And I will write on him the name of My God and the name of the city of My God, the New Jerusalem…” Verse twenty-one, to the church of Laodicea, “To him that overcomes…” and by the way, we’re living in the church of Laodicea. We’re in that age. “…I will grant to sit with Me on My throne.” So the Lord is saying to him that overcomes, to him that overcomes, to him that overcomes, wouldn’t you think it’s safe to assume that if Jesus says this that frequently that it is possible for us to overcome? So often we are overcome and He wants us to be victorious overcomers. He wants us to be successful.

Now first of all, we overcome through faith. Faith is the victory. We overcome through prayer. These are the basics. This is the milk of the word. We overcome through the word. The word is the sword, the sword of the Spirit, through which we find victory. When Jesus was tempted, how did Jesus overcome temptation? It is written, it is written, it is written. So I hope that as a basic Christian you have personal devotions, that you’re reading your Bible, that you’re praying, that you’re sharing your faith. These are basic keys to victory. But there’s more, and I’d like to sort of take this to the next level a little bit.

You know I want to start with a story. Turn with me to II Kings chapter 18. It’s a simple statement. II Kings 18:5 I’d like to be successful. I mean if you get to choose between winning and losing what do you want to do? I mean, wouldn’t you like to win? II Kings 18:5 this is speaking of King Hezekiah, “He trusted in the Lord God of Israel, so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any who were before him. For he held fast to the Lord; he did not depart from following Him, but kept His commandments, which the Lord had commanded Moses. The Lord was with him; he prospered wherever he went.” Wouldn’t you like to have that be your epitaph? You were a winner, you prospered, you were victorious wherever you went, successful. He was a winner. You want to be around those kind of people. But it tells us why. It says he trusted. What’s another word for trust? Faith. He believed in the Lord God of Israel, so he trusted and he obeyed, you might say. There was none like him for he held fast. He did not depart from Him, but kept His commandments, that the Lord commanded, and the Lord was with him. You know I’d like to remind you one of the keys to victory is very simple. Do what God is telling you to do and you’ll win. Trust Him and obey Him and you’ll win.

In your Bible turn to Deuteronomy 28. This is the chapter that has that chronicle of blessings and cursings. I’d like to read the first few verses again. These are keys of victory. I want my church to be a church of winners. You may not be with the world, but certainly with the Lord. “Now it shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you…” It’s almost like you won’t be able to get away from them. They’ll overtake you, overwhelm you. “…because you obey the voice of the Lord your God…” Now is Pastor Doug reading in some form of legalism or is this what it says? If you obey, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God here is what will happen: “Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shall you be in the country.” In your country home and in your city home you’ll be blessed. “Blessed shall be the fruit of your body,” your children, “the produce of your ground and the increase of your herds…” You’ll be blessed in your family, blessed in the field, blessed in your work it’s saying. “…the increase of your cattle and the offspring of your flocks.” Your investments. “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl.” Your pantry and your refrigerator. “Blessed shall you be when you come in and blessed shall you be when you go out.” On your way to work whether you’ve got rush hour coming or going, you’ll be blessed. Notice what it says, verse seven, “The Lord will cause your enemies who rise against you to be defeated before your face; they shall come out against you one way and flee before you seven ways.” Now is this talking about victory? And it’s saying you’ll be victorious; you’ll be blessed if you trust Me and if you obey Me.

When we talk about victory for the Christian, I mean, not too many of us are expecting an attack. We worry about terrorism maybe a little bit. Most of us are not trembling that all of a sudden we’re going to see foreign soldiers marching up the streets of Sacramento. So when we talk about victory I hope we all recognize the battle most of us are grappling with is a battle on the field of our heart. It’s a battle between the forces of good and evil, the principals of Christ and Satan. It’s a struggle between doing what’s right and doing what’s wrong and temptation. We’re all tempted, but God promises you never need to be overcome by temptation, and just while I’m on the thought, there is a difference between temptations and trials. God never sends temptation. The Bible says in James “God tempts no man neither can He be tempted by evil.” When you’re tempted you’re drawn away of your own lust. Temptation comes from the devil. Temptation is sent by the devil to do harm. Temptation is sent to injure you. Trials are sometimes allowed by the Lord to build you up and to strengthen you. So there is a big difference between temptation and trials. We’re all tempted, but you don’t have to be overcome. You can be victorious in temptation. I Corinthians 10:13 if you have this, this is a very important promise. “No temptation has overtaken you…” You have never been overtaken by any temptation “except such as is common to man…” What that means is any temptation that you’ve ever been tempted with is nothing new. We’ve all been tempted. It’s all basically the same three temptations that face us. It’s the same three temptations that Jesus battled with. It’s the lust of the flesh, this is I John 2:16, “the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” The same three areas we’re all tempted in. So whatever you face you can’t say, “Nobody is tempted like I am tempted!” Yes, they are. Some may not show it as much as you do, but we’re all tempted the same way. That’s why the Bible is still such a common book. “…but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will make a way of escape…” So when the devil comes to tempt you God is offering you a way of escape. That’s how you can be victorious “that you may be able to bear it.” Don’t ever say, “I have got more temptation than anybody can handle. I just can’t bear it. My taste buds are stronger than anyone else’s.” What makes you think that? How do you know? Have you ever experienced other people’s taste buds? Some may not show it as much, but we’re all tempted the same way, but we don’t have to be overcome. God will never allow you to be tempted without providing a way of escape if you want it. The Bible says “flee temptation.” Most of us crawl away and hope it catches us. We are not required, and this is from a Signs of the Times article, August 4th, 1890, “We are not required to overcome in our own strength.” Praise the Lord! “By living faith we can grasp the hand of the infinite power and when Satan comes with his temptations we can point to the cross of Calvary and say, ‘Christ died for me. In His name I can and will overcome.’” In the name of Christ because Jesus overcame, you can overcome. He was tempted in all points the way you are, but He overcame setting us an example that we can follow.

Now the statement I’m about to read will set the stage for what I want to share as the most important principal in the steps to victory that many people miss. God is not expecting you to do it alone. He is going to give you strength and at the same time God expects you to participate. It does require the investment of human effort to gain the victory, but that human effort is going to be combined with divine power. But you must take the first initial steps of human effort. So it’s the human with the divine not in that order. Now this is from Christ’s Object Lessons, page 82. Notice this. “In everything that tends to the sustenance of man is seen the concurrence of the divine and human effort. There can be no reaping unless the human hand acts the part in sowing the seed. But without the agencies which God provides in giving sunshine and showers the dew and the clouds there’d be no increase. Thus it is in every business pursuit, in every department of study in science. Thus it is in spiritual things, in the formation of character, and every line of Christian work we have a part to act, but we must have the power of divinity to unite with us or our efforts will be in vain.” We are saved by grace alone, but in the battle with sin and temptation God expects you to use the brains and the brawn that He’s given you to cooperate with the divine. Many people fail, they are overcome because they don’t believe that they can get the victory so they don’t make any effort at all, and they stand still waiting for God to do for them what they are able to do for themselves, and they’re overcome. Let me give you a number of illustrations to this point. If there is anything I wanted to impress, this is it. If we would do our part, God will run to our aid and do something supernatural.

There are steps to victory. Now here are a number of examples of how those steps to victory work. You remember reading in the gospel of Luke chapter 17 the story of the ten lepers. They are dying of leprosy. Leprosy is a type of sin; we all have that. They come to Jesus. They don’t come too close because they’ve got leprosy. They call out over and over, “Son of David, have mercy on us! Son of David, have mercy on us!” And it’s a pitiful sight. They’re all bandaged and they’re kind of disintegrating because they’ve got leprosy. And Jesus tells them something unusual. He said, “Go show yourselves to the priests and make the offering for cleansing from leprosy.” There was actually in the Levitical law an offering that you would make for cleansing from leprosy. Not all leprosy they had was the type of Hansen’s disease that we speak of today that was still pretty much incurable. They can arrest its growth, but there still is no cure per se for that kind of leprosy. But they had sometimes it was psoriasis or a rash and they would call it leprosy and they had an offering for cleansing from that. Well these fellows had the deadly kind of leprosy. They were part of a colony. So when He says, “Go show yourselves and make the offering for cleansing,” that didn’t make sense because you don’t make the offering of thanks for cleansing for leprosy while you still have the leprosy. Do you see what I’m saying? But they decided to obey Jesus and do what might have seemed ridiculous and take the step towards thanking and praising God for the cleansing from leprosy while they still had leprosy. Here is the verse I want you to notice. Notice, “…as they went, they were cleansed.” Now you’ve heard me refer to this one before. Why don’t you say that with me? As they went, they were cleansed. King James says in going, they were cleansed. In other words, as they took the first steps to do what God had told them to do, then they were cleansed. If they had not taken those first steps… Was their part hard? No, just start to step towards obeying Me and I will then empower you to do what I’m asking you to do. So whenever you know what God’s will is, one moment at a time say, I am determined to do what God wants me to do and then He works a miracle for you. The children of Israel, when they came to the border of the Jordan River I want you to notice something. When He first saved them, He parted the Red Sea before they got in the water because they were babies in their faith. They didn’t know how to trust Him. They didn’t know what to expect. They were just beginning and so they needed that. God often works more miracles for us in the beginning of our experience to strengthen our faith. But after forty years of learning to trust Him, when they finally got to the Jordan River, God said, cross again, and the river is at flood stage. It may as well have been the Red Sea; they were going to drown. And the Bible tells us that as the priest went forward and put their feet in the water, and it really did take faith because they not only put their feet in the water, they stepped in the water while they were holding the ark and that’s heavy. It’s a golden box full of rocks. It’s an anchor. Then the water parted. They had to put their feet in the water before God worked a miracle. They had to take the first steps. Am I right? Sometimes you’re waiting for God to maybe work a miracle for you and you could apply this to your life. He is wanting to do something for you and it could… Some of you maybe have been stuck in a job. It’s very hard for you to live your Christian faith but you know you need that security and you don’t know what to do. Well, maybe you just need to take that step of faith and start knocking on doors or call someone else. Say, Lord, I’m going to go work for You in some other capacity or get out of this environment, but you’ve been afraid. Take a step and see if God doesn’t start working miracles for you. God will find, as you look at history and you look at the Bible, He blesses those who are willing to take initiative. He’s not just going to do it.

You take the first steps to say I am going to start taking steps of obedience, and then God has a way of breaking your chains. Now you’ve probably heard me share this before, but I use the example of smoking, but it works whatever the category might be. When I try to help someone get the victory over smoking I do something called the five minute plan. That’s where I just ask some simple questions. First we establish is it God’s will? Do you believe the Lord wants you to quit smoking? I just went over this with them there in Columbia where it’s a big problem. I said, “Does it also say on the packs in Columbia this stuff is going to kill you?” They said yes. In China they don’t print that on the cigarettes and smoking is like epidemic. But people still smoke even though it says that on the pack. And they said, yes. Alright, I said, so first thing is you say is it God’s will that I quit? Well, one of the commandments is thou shalt not kill. That would include don’t kill yourself. Yes, I believe it is God’s will that I quit. All right. Second question is will God help you do what He wants you to do? Will God ever ask you to do something that it’s impossible for you to do? Wouldn’t that make the Lord a tyrant to ask you to do something you’re incapable of doing? And if you in your own strength are incapable, He should at least then help you, right? So either by natural means or divine effort God will always help you to do what He’s asking you to do. And I ask the candidate that. I say, do you believe that? Yes. I say, great. Now here is where it really gets interesting. Take your cigarettes and throw them away and then we’re going to pray. Wait! But I want the miracle first. I wanted to have all of the desire removed first and then if it works then I’ll throw them away. I say, no, no, no. That’s backwards. You take that first step, and you destroy them. Oh, but they’re expensive! Do you know how much they cost today? I remember talking to a man who had a challenge with drinking and he said, “Pastor Doug, what am I supposed to do? I’ve got a bar in my house full of good liquor.” I said, “There is no such a thing as good liquor.” There is a reason liquor stores say spirits up there because people drink that and they get possessed by spirits, I said, so… He said, “Well, can I sell it to my friend?” I said, “What are you going to be an accomplice?” He said, “No!” I said, “Go. I’ll pray for you to get the victory over this, but you’ve got to take the first step and throw it away. You’re wanting God to work a miracle and you’re not saying I believe that this is His will. You take the first step and watch.” “Ah, alright.” And do you know how many times I have seen it? Many, many times people take these steps of faith. Now you can process this in your mind. How would you apply this principal to your life? It might mean something different for each one of you. It might mean that you pick up the telephone call and talk to someone who has been a wicked influence in your life and say, “I am not going to see you anymore,” and then get on your knees and say, “Lord, now give me the strength.” It might mean making your toilet an altar and flushing tobacco or alcohol or some other substance that you know. It might mean all kinds of things. It might mean you’ve got some magazines that need to get torn up and incinerated. It might mean, it might mean you need to cut the internet cable to your house. I don’t know what it means for you, but you take that first step and then you say, “Lord, I am really going to need Your help now. I’ve taken the step. I need a miracle.” I’ve seen it so many times. I meet people weeks after and they say, “Pastor Doug, I have absolutely no desire for alcohol. It’s gone. God just took it away from me.” He worked a miracle. Or it might be whatever the situation is, but God then will give you strength as you step out. Another example in the Bible. A man had not walked for thirty years. He laid by the Pool of Siloam and Jesus went over to him and He said, “Would you be made well?” He said, “Oh, thank you, Sir, but you know the problem is whenever the pool bubbles I can’t get anyone to toss me in the water and someone else gets in before me.” They had this superstition back then that whoever got in the pool after the water bubbled or rippled that they’d be healed. Jesus said, “Wise up.” That man could have laid there and argued with Jesus and said, “It’s not possible, don’t you realize?” But he made an effort to do what Jesus was asking him to do, and as he made the effort all of a sudden those nerve impulses went to those muscles that had atrophied and the strength and vitality and mass went to the muscles and they were healed and he stood up and he’s not only walking he’s leaping. God worked a first class miracle because he made an effort to do it. All through the Bible you see this.

Another key in the steps to victory… Let me read something to you. This is from Signs of the Times February 14, 1878. “Divine power combined with human effort will give to all perfect and entire victory.” You probably didn’t notice the reference because you didn’t realize what a good quote I had. That was a great quote. Do you want to hear the reference again? Signs of the Times February 14, 1878. Let me read it again. I’m not done. “Divine power combined with human effort will give to” how many? “…to all perfect and entire victory.” That’s good news! “Every believing mind will be filled with conscious power. The language of the soul will be ‘I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me.’” Now in these steps of victory it is crucial that you don’t take your eyes off the goal and put your eyes on the problem. Nathan had a birthday this week and so part of it was we went to, we took some of his friends to a park and they had a batting cage. I hadn’t done that in a long time. I hadn’t played hardly any baseball since I was a kid. I thought, “I can play baseball.” I still remember. I’ve got it, I thought. Boy, I tell you, you can sure blow a lot of money in a hurry having someone pitch balls with a pitching machine. Anyway I didn’t go for the hardball. I didn’t know if I was ready for that, but I went for the fast pitch softball. I went into the cage. The first three balls that went by, swing, strike. I thought you know if this was a real game I would have been out. I was so focused on watching the machine because I kept thinking, when’s it going to toss it? When’s it going to toss it? You ever work with a pitching machine? You know what I mean? The light comes on and you’re waiting for that wheel to lob the ball at you. I was watching the machine. I wasn’t watching the ball. After three strikes I realized, wait a second! I’ve got to watch the ball. I forgot everything I learned as a kid. And then after I started watching the ball, I either hit it or fouled every time. But it makes a big difference if you keep your eye on what your target is. You know for the Christian to be victorious our target is Christ. You become like what you look at. A camera will absorb on its plate, even digital cameras have a plate where it absorbs the light. It has an iris that opens and closes, a shutter. It will absorb the image to which it is aimed. Your soul is like that. Little ducks when they’re born… I saw someone emailed me in my spam mail this week a picture of a bunch of little ducks following a husky around. Evidently these baby ducks hatched out and the mother was not around but there was a husky dog, and so you see this husky dog walking down the street with the master and all of these little ducks following because they’ve got something in their soul that there’s this crucial point when they first hatch out when they look around and say, “What is my mother?” If you happen to be there, you’re Mom. Karen and I found a baby duck one time kayaking like this and we tried to rescue it a little bit and we thought we’d better let it go and it kept following us. It kayaked with us the rest of the trip. It wouldn’t leave us because it bonded to us. Humans have something in their soul like that where you become like what you look at. One of the keys of a Christian is to fix your eyes on Jesus. You know the story. Peter was able to do the impossible. Christ was walking on the sea and Peter said, “Lord, if it’s You, let me come to You.” He said, “Come.” Peter steps out of the boat, and he begins to do something nobody else could do which is to walk on water. Jesus could do it. One reason I think Jesus was walking on the water is because it is something that is obviously impossible without supernatural help. Living the Christian life in these carnal bodies, in this sinful world is an impossibility without miraculous intervention. This is how I interpret that and I’m right. I think that it’s telling us that for us to walk the Christian walk it’s impossible just like for you to walk on water unless you have your eyes fixed on Jesus then the impossible happens. So Peter is walking on the water as long as he’s looking at Jesus, but when he took his eyes off Jesus and he looked at the problem, he saw the blowing wind and the mounting waves, as soon as he took his eyes off the focus his faith began to sink, he began to sink and he lost his victory. He turned back at the last minute and said, “Lord, save me!” and Jesus pulled him back up. What did Jesus say? Matthew 14:31 Why did you doubt? “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” How did he express his doubt? He took his eyes off Christ and looked at the problem. Keep your eyes fixed on Jesus. Hebrews 12:1-2 “Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…” Keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus is how we get the victory. So often we’re overcome because we look at the temptation and we focus on it and say, “I’m not going to do it, I’m not going to do it, I’m not going to do it!” I’ve seen these poor dogs that they train. You know how hard it is to teach a dog that’s hungry, set food down in front of the dog, and say, “Don’t eat it”? You’ve probably seen people like that before. You know what a dog will do though? If a dog is trained not to eat something he will not look at it. The only way they can ever learn not to eat food that is not theirs when they’re hungry is don’t look at it. You’ll see the dog go like this. He’s going like, the food is right there, and finally when the master says, “Okay, go for it” then he’ll look at it. But it is so hard for them not to eat what they are looking at. Yeah, that’s what I think I meant to say. Now in keeping with that story about Peter there are two stories about Jesus on the sea. They’re both stories that teach about victory. In one story Christ goes walking to them and Peter comes out and of course Peter sinks when he takes his eyes off Jesus. In another account in the Bible it emphasizes not just Peter walking on the water, it emphasizes that there in a storm Christ has sent them across the sea. He tells them to go to the other side. John chapter six says “when they rowed five or twenty furlongs” and that puts them right in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. They’re totally transecting the Sea of Galilee. They’re right in the middle of it. The wind was against them. They’re rowing into the waves. They’re not getting anywhere. You know your problem is not whether or not you make it to the destination. Jesus said for you to cross. He didn’t say there wouldn’t be wind. He didn’t say there wouldn’t be waves. There will be. He said, “You cross.” They were making an effort to cross and then they saw Jesus walking towards them on the water. At first they were terrified, they cried out and thought it was a spirit. Later Jesus said, “Do not be afraid. It’s I. Be of good cheer.” And it says in John 6:21 “then they willingly received Him into the boat and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.” Now the point here is they were rowing when Jesus came to them. Keep rowing. In other words, if the Lord has sent you to do something, if He has told you what His will is, you do. No matter how impossible it might seem, you do. There are days I feel exactly like that. I feel like we’ve been sometimes assigned a task that is impossible. But my job is not to worry about what is impossible. My job is to do what God has told me to do and you leave the results to the Lord. They continued to row. They weren’t making any headway, but you know what? When they invited Jesus into the boat they were at their destination. This is a great story because they combined human effort and then invited Jesus into the equation and that equals the destination. They were doing what they could humanly do to go where Jesus told them to go and when they invited Him, He came to them while they were rowing, didn’t He? He didn’t come to them right when they left the shore. Why didn’t He just get in the boat with them? He was trying to teach them and us something. That, I will send where I want you to go; I will join you and empower you if you do what you can humanly do to achieve it. Some people are going to misinterpret this and I probably can’t help that. They’ll say, Pastor Doug, this sounds a little bit like righteousness by works. It’s not! This is good Bible theology that God is not going to do for you what you otherwise can do for yourself with the brains and the power that He’s given you. Do what you can do humanly. When David brought down goliath was that a miracle? Was it God’s power? Who gets the credit for that miracle? God does. Did David pick up five stones? If David had just swung the swing around and let go of the strap and there had been no stone in it and said, “Well, I’m using faith.” Well, that would have been presumption. God worked a miracle. God guided the stone. God gave David the strength, but David ran out to meet the giant. He picked up the stones, he swung the sling, and he took the sword and he hacked off the giant’s head. He did what he could humanly do, but do you know what the Bible tells us? God gave a great victory that day. God gave the victory; David did what he could humanly do. We often forget about that.

Another principal in gaining the victory, and this is back to the steps part of it, draw near to God. Constantly be drawing near to God. You know the story of the prodigal son? As soon as the father saw the son trudging his lonely steps home, he ran to meet the son. Now our Heavenly Father has got better vision than the father in the parable of the prodigal son. As soon as our father sees any of us moving towards him, he runs to meet us and to help us the rest of the way home. Well, let me read it to you. James 4:8 “Draw near to God” what’s the rest of that? “He will draw near to you.” You make an effort to come home. You make the first steps to draw near to God. Some people say, “Oh, I can’t come to church. I’m not ready to come back to church.” I’m saying this now not for you but for those who might be watching. Some people watch our programs; they don’t come to church though. “I’m not good enough. Maybe someday I’ll get myself straightened out, you know, and then I’ll come back to church.” They don’t realize that you’ve got to draw near to God and then He’ll draw near to you. You take the first steps to come back to God. Some people say I want to get straightened out. The only time they come back to church straightened out is when they’re in their coffin. Don’t wait until that’s how you’re straightened out. Start coming just the way you are and draw near to God, He’ll draw near to you. Acts 17:27 “so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” God is not far. He’s waiting to run to meet us, but He’s not going to force Himself on us. We must draw near to Him. Jeremiah 23:23, this is a good verse. “Am I a God near at hand, says the Lord, And not a God far off?” He says I am a God near at hand, and not a God far off. I’m near. So draw near to Him. “His victory” (Christ’s victory) “is an assurance that we too may become victors in our conflicts with the enemy....” This is Councils to Teachers and Bible Workers, page 16. “…but it is not our Heavenly Father’s purpose to save us without an effort on our part to cooperate with Christ.” Did you catch that? His victory is an assurance that we can come out victors in our conflicts with the enemy. “…but it is not our Heavenly Father’s purpose to save us without an effort on our part to cooperate with Christ. We must act our part and divine power uniting with our effort will bring victory.” You know if I stop right there I think you get the point of the message. How can we be victorious over-comers? Do what you know you can do. God is going to reveal His will to you; you move forward by faith with what you know.

Now having said all of this about victory, there are real victories and there are counterfeit victories. The devil has a counterfeit for every truth of God and the victorious life is a life of holiness. The devil has a counterfeit victory. You know the story in the Bible, Exodus 32:17 & 18, Moses is up on the mountain. He’s getting the Ten Commandments and if the Ten Commandments are about anything they’re about obeying. While he’s up the mountain what are the children of Israel doing? They’re having a party. Joshua evidently is waiting for Moses partway. Moses meets Joshua and they make their way back down the mountain. They hear the noise off in the distance and this is what Joshua says. It says, “And when Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said unto Moses, There is a noise of war in the camp.” I think that probably the angels say that sometimes with some church services. Alas, Lord! There is a war in the camp. And Moses said, “It is not the voice of those who shout in victory, nor is it the voice of those who cry out in defeat, but the voice of those who sing that I hear.” It’s a counterfeit victory. I know. I’ve got some dear friends and they go to church and they shout and they scream and they carry on. They call it praising the Lord. They say they’re just praising God, “We’re getting the victory.” And you’ve probably seen it. Go to some of the Christian channels, well, maybe you shouldn’t go. The pastors will say, “If you want to make the devil run then shout! Let’s give the victory shout!” And they say, “Ah! We got the victory now!” And it’s just a big old hootenanny. A lot of commotion and they call that getting the victory. That’s not getting the victory. If you want to get the victory, obey him. That’s why God was with Hezekiah and so many others we read about. So I just wanted to throw that in that there’s a counterfeit out there.

But there is a genuine victory through praise that comes. There’s examples in the Bible like when King Jehoshaphat was surrounded by three enemy nations. No way that his army could overcome them. It was a great multitude. II Chronicles 20:21 & 22. “And when he consulted with the people, he appointed those who should sing to the Lord, and who should praise the beauty of holiness, as they went out before the army and were saying: ‘Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.’ Now when they began to sing and to praise, the Lord set ambushes against the people of Ammon, Moab and Mount Seir, who had come against Judah; and they were defeated.” They were praising the Lord for His holiness and for His goodness, and they were singing and you know what? They got the victory through this genuine praise. Before this they consecrated their lives and they humbled themselves and they repented and they prayed and that’s what prepared them for the genuine article of victory. Another example would be Acts 16:25 & 26, Paul and Silas were in prison, no way of escape, but they had been faithful to God and at the darkest hour, at midnight, Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God and the prisoners were listening. They were being witnesses to God through their trial. “Suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone's chains were loosed.” Now how do we apply that in a practical way? When trials come, when you have a variety of tests and things that may come to you, or temptations might come, you take the steps that you know that God wants you to take and then you thank Him for helping you. Start believing in advance that God is going to do what He promised to do. If you really believe then you can praise Him now for something that hasn’t happened yet. If you are doing God’s will and you have promises in His word to assure you then you have a right to praise Him now before you’ve actually been able to cash the check. I could use that analogy. If you give me a check and I know the check is good I can start rejoicing before I take it to the bank if I trust you. Isn’t that right? And so in praising him, it’s often true that the devil and his forces flee. That is not to be confused with the bedlam that you see in some churches masquerading as praise. Do you hear the distinction I’m making here?

Victory through trial. Sometimes we gain our victories through trial. There’s one story in particular that I think is very interesting. In II Samuel 19:2 there was a battle, big battle between David and his forces and Absalom, the son of David who had rebelled, and his forces. The only way they got victory that day was through the death of the king’s son. Are you listening? When Jesus died on the cross was that a defeat or a victory? That was a terrible trial, but that outwardly apparent defeat was in reality a tremendous victory because when Christ said, “It is finished!” and He died having lived a perfect life without sin as our substitute and had suffered for our sins that marked a great victory for you and me. The victory came at a tremendous cost to the king. When David and his soldiers won a victory that day and Israel was reclaimed it cost the king his son and it was a terrible trial for David, but it was a victory for God’s people. Psalm 30:5 “Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.” It is typically true that many of our great victories often come on the heels of great sacrifice. You think of some of the great battles: the Battle of the Bulge and Okinawa and Iwo Jima and you could go on and on and there was tremendous sacrifice and struggle, but they were often turning points. Gettysburg one of the bloodiest battles, but it also marked a real turning point in the war. Great trial, great sacrifice, victory. You might sometimes come out the other side of one of those trials and feel that kind of burden, but it can be a victory.

Finally, when you know what’s right, take a stand. Sometimes victory is not charging forward, it’s not retreating, it’s standing where you are and not moving. There is a similar story to this three times in the Bible. I Chronicles 11:12, I’ll use this one. I Chronicles 11:12 through 14 talking about David’s mighty men and it sites some of the exploits of David’s mighty men. “After him was Eleazar the son of Dodo, the Ahohite, who was one of the three mighty men” of David. Now how did he get that great status? “He was with David at Pasdammim. Now there the Philistines were gathered for battle, and there was a piece of ground full of barley. And the people” (the soldiers of Israel) they “fled from the Philistines. But” they all fled, but they David and Eleazar would not run. “…they stationed themselves…” Do you know what that means? They positioned, they stood their ground “in the midst of that field…” And by the way barley is a type of bread. It’s a symbol for the word and they said we are not going to give up this field of bread to the enemy. We need to take a stand for what we know truth to be. “…they stationed themselves in the midst of that field, (and) defended it…” Why would you die for a field of barley? Because it’s God’s barley and you’re not giving it to the Philistines and it’s a symbol for the truth. And it says “and (they) killed the Philistines.” These two soldiers fighting back to back. So the Lord brought about a great victory. Now what makes a victory a great victory? You know when you think about Gettysburg we don’t often think of a great victory because there were what, fifty thousand soldiers dead or wounded that day from the north and the south. What makes a victory a great victory is when David goes against Goliath and you’ve got some little guy going against some big guy or you get two guys going against five hundred, that’s a great victory, right? Because it seems so unlikely. They gained that victory because they took a stand. By the way, you and God are always a majority.

Now something happened this week. I think I’ll close off this sermon by sharing a story. I’m doing this cautiously, but earlier this week we got a phone call. I think Bonnie took the call at Amazing Facts. There is a father, a man who is a Pentecostal church of God minister and he says, “We’ve been watching the Amazing Facts programs and we’re convinced on the Sabbath truth. So I shared it with my church and a few people left, but most of them have accepted it.” He said, “We’ve also watched the programs on the Left Behind stuff and we don’t believe the secret rapture anymore.” This is Pentecostal Church of God. That is a core teaching of theirs and he said we’ve renounced that. One by one he began to go through the different teachings they’ve embraced. I could tell from talking to him that he’s still got more studying to do, but the man has got phenomenal faith. He’s now, they’re keeping the Sabbath in their church there in Austin, Texas. I hope you pray for that man. and then he said, “Now I’ve got a son who all his life was told that he was going to be a witness for the Lord by being a professional football player. He got a remarkable invitation.” Graduate of New Mexico. Was part of the team there The Falcons, and he said, “Our son came home a few weeks ago. He finally got hired by the New York Jets to be a professional football player.” He’s in the lineup of this professional team right now. He said, “He came home after being hired and getting signed for three years, a very lucrative contract, and we shared what we’ve learned about the Sabbath truth. We did it some reluctance because we knew this was going to create a real problem for a pro football player who plays and practices regularly on Sabbath, but we figured we had an obligation to share the truth with him. He recognized it was the truth and he has embraced it lock, stock and barrel. Now our son has gone back to the head coach. His dream has come full. He’s been signed as a professional.” He called me yesterday, the young man who is the Jets player. I’d told his dad, I said, if he’d like to talk to me, have him give me a call. He called and told me the story. This is actually a picture I grabbed from the Jets lineup. His name is Robert Turner. I said, “Do you mind if I have our church pray for you by name?” He said, “No, please do.” Let me tell you the story. By the way, six foot four, over three hundred pounds. No, he’s not a quarterback. What do they call him? an offensive guard. The young man is so spiritual, he’s just like twenty-two years old, and he said, “I’ve accepted the Sabbath truth. I went to the head coach of the New York Jets and I said, ‘I know you’re going to think I’m crazy. I will work harder for you; I will play harder for you than anyone else. I’ll do it six days a week, but from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday, that’s the Sabbath. I’m not going to practice; I’m not going to play.’ The coach” he said “his eyes got this big.” At first he didn’t know what to think. He said, “Well, let’s talk to the chaplain.” So the chaplain comes and talks to him and he said, “You realize of course we can have a special prayer and we can have a little devotional and then you can go out and play. That’ll satisfy the Lord.” He said, “No, you don’t understand. I can’t do that.” He said he’s got all of these people… He talked to his agent and his agent makes a lot of money on this contract. He said, “My agent is an Orthodox Jew who grew up keeping the Sabbath and he told me, ‘You should go ahead and play. Don’t worry about it. God will understand.’” He said, “I have had everybody around me telling me all of the reasons to compromise, but I can’t get away from the word of God. So I told the head coach I would rather make thirty thousand dollars a year for the rest of my life and go to heaven than make millions of dollars a year and be lost.” He told me, he says, “I know what hell is. I’ve practiced in a hundred and ten degree heat with all of my gear on.” And so he’s going through this struggle right now. They’re not sure what to do with him. He says he’s got everybody and, “I’m studying with everybody on the team.” All of these pro players I could name that you had mentioned. He said, “We have never seen that before.” So if you hear that the New York Jets are pulled out of the lineup this year because they won’t play on Sabbath… But I want you to pray and his Dad’s name is the same name, Pastor Robert Turner and his son is Robert Turner II. I hope you’ll pray for these people because I am inspired by their courage. Unfortunately I don’t know if all of the young men and the ladies who have been raised in our message would have the same courage. He has just learned this and he says, “This is the truth and I have made up my mind. Here I stand.” We prayed together. He says, “I’m so glad you called. I haven’t had an encouraging word from anybody out here,” and I just hope you’ll be praying for this young man. I said, “You know what, if you lose your position…” He said, “Well, I’m already being a witness even if I do. Maybe I’ll travel and talk to young people.” I said, “If you lose your position and you take a stand for truth, as far as God is concerned it’s a victory in heaven. I don’t know what the Lord will do. I don’t know how…” Some of you know the story of Eric Little who even though he had the day wrong he had the principal right and he said he would not run in the Olympics on what he thought was the Sabbath and they ended up giving him another race another day and he won the gold. He ended up dying a missionary in China in a prisoner of war camp, and you know what? That life is a victory life. If you’re seeking first God’s kingdom and you’re taking a stand and you’re doing God’s will, then you can be victorious. I thought as we close this message there is a song I wanted to sing and it’s about the victory. Now did I share everything with you I had? Oh, no, I knew I had one more verse. Revelation 15:2 when we get to heaven “And I saw something like a sea of glass mingled with fire, and those who have the victory over the beast, over his image and over his mark and over the number of his name, standing on the…” That’s talking about just the evil in all ages as well. “…standing on the sea of glass, having harps of God. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb…” We will be singing a victory song through eternity and rejoicing with the Lord. Getting victory now is very important because I want to be on that sea of glass, don’t you, friends? There is a song I used to love to sing. I haven’t always been a member of this denomination and there is a good Baptist song called Victory in Jesus. How many of you know that song? It’s pretty popular. It’s not in our hymnal so we’ve got it here on a blue sheet and we’d like to invite you to stand and we’re going to sing this one together and I want to hear you sing it with gusto!

I heard an old, old story how a Saviour came from glory, how He gave His life on Calvary to save someone like me; I heard about His groaning, of His precious blood's atoning then I repented of my sin and won the victory.

Oh, victory in Jesus, my Saviour forever. He sought me and He bought me with His redeeming blood; He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him, He plunged me to victory beneath the cleansing flood.

Isn’t this a great song? It’s the kind of thing I hope you’ll be singing through the day, but I want to give you an opportunity to respond. Some of you are really sensing battles and there may be something specific in your life that you’ve been praying about for some time and you’re asking God to give you the victory. Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Is there something that you’d like to bring to the Lord and ask for Him to help you right now? Some special need in your life? If so, we’d like to have special prayer for you. Come. We’ll sing verse two.

I heard about His healing, of His cleansing pow'r revealing. How He made the lame to walk again and caused the blind to see; And then I cried "Dear Jesus, come and heal my broken spirit," and somehow Jesus came and brought to me the victory.

Oh, victory in Jesus, my Saviour forever. He sought me and He bought me with His redeeming blood; He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him, He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood.

I heard about a mansion He has built for me in glory. And I heard about the streets of gold Beyond the crystal sea; About the angels singing, And the old redemption story,

And some sweet day I'll sing up there The song of victory.

Oh, victory in Jesus, my Saviour forever. He sought me and He bought me with His redeeming blood; He loved me ere I knew Him and all my love is due Him, He plunged me to victory, beneath the cleansing flood.

Amen. Isn’t that a victorious song? Well, we’d like to pray that God will give us the victory. How many of you would be willing to say, “Lord, by Your grace, I’m willing to take the steps, do my part that I might experience Your divine power and be a victorious over-comer”?

Father in heaven, dear Lord, we are so thankful for Your goodness. We’re thankful that by the victory of Jesus, by His death on the cross, that He has purchased in reality a right for us to succeed. I pray, Lord, that we’ll do what we can to follow what we know, to take those steps of faith. Help us not to focus by fear on the problem, but to fix our eyes on Jesus as the author and finisher of our faith. Lord, I pray we’ll also believe that since You’ve promised all of these good things to those that overcome it is indeed possible for us to overcome. Bless each person who is here today those in a special way who have responded to the call. I pray from this moment forward they will do what they can to experience that victory and then, Lord, I pray that You will send to them divine power through Your Spirit through Your angels to work miracles in their behalf. Break the chains; heal the leprosy, whatever is needed, Lord. Let there be change that we might glorify You. Help us to succeed. I pray that You’ll also be with those who may be watching and whatever the needs are they’re grappling with and struggling with, Lord, help them to experience the life of a victorious overcomer. Be with us as we go from this place and I pray that we can take that sense of joy and victory with us. In Jesus’ name we pray and we thank You. Amen.

You may be seated. I’d like to remind, if there are any who are here today or who have come forward for the call, if you’d like to visit with one of the pastors we’ll be at the door greeting people and we’ll be happy to pray with you. Some may have some special need for prayer and we will have a group that will be remaining behind and praying here in the sanctuary. We do encourage you to keep the sense of reverence here.

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