Moses was never alone, even in his darkest moment. And neither are we!Read More
- I will keep running.
- I will persevere in prayer.
- I will ask someone to join my little cloud of witnesses.
- I will speak words of encouragement to others.
Full Sermon Script
Welcome, I’m Matt VanCleave, one of the Teaching Pastors at Blue Oaks.
If this is your first time at Blue Oaks, I want to say a special welcome to you. I’m glad you decided to join us. 
We’re going to start today by looking at Hebrews, chapter 11 as we continue in our series Extraordinary. 
This is what the writer of Hebrews said: >>>>>
By faith Moses’ parents hid him for three months after he was born, because they saw he was no ordinary child, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time.
He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward.
By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible.
By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of blood, so that the destroyer of the firstborn would not touch the firstborn of Israel.
> Then the writer of the Hebrews goes on to talk about other great heroes of our faith, people who persevered and wouldn’t quit. People who just ran and ran and ran and kept on running.
Then in chapter 12 the writer mentions why he talks on and on about those who have persevered. Here’s the payoff. >>>>>
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
> Therefore, the writer says, “since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily hinders our progress. And let us run with perseverance the race God has set before us.” 
Just keep running. And keep running. And keep running. Don’t quit, because when you’re running a race, although the start can be lots of fun, what matters is how you finish. Just keep running. 
I have some friends who compete in marathons for fun. I sometimes think people who run marathons for fun should be locked up because there’s something wrong with them. 
For those of you who don’t run marathons for fun, I want to walk through the stages a runner goes through in a Marathon.
And I only know this from what I’ve read. This is definitely not from experience. 
In the first stage of the race, a runner experiences what might be called the pleasure stage.
When you run at this point, your body’s loose, your heart’s pumping, your blood’s flowing, your head’s clear, your lungs breathe deep… the birds are singing, the sun is shining, fish are jumping, Daddy’s rich and Mama’s good looking.
This is also known as the runner’s high.
How long the runner’s high lasts depends on your conditioning. For me it would last about 5 or 6 minutes. 
After the runner’s high fades, the next stage is the work stage. The work stage is when running becomes like a job. You’re just getting the job done. 
Then comes the physical exertion stage where you’re giving it all you’ve got and it becomes very difficult. 
Now, if you keep going long enough, you reach a point where the temptation to quit is overwhelming. Your legs feel excruciating pain. Your lungs feel like there are burning coals at the bottom of them.
Runners speak of this stage as hitting the wall.
And how long it takes before you hit the wall depends on your conditioning. For me it would be about 10 minutes. 
Now, to hit the wall and keep going, that’s the test of a runner. A race isn’t won or lost; a race is completed or abandoned when you hit the wall. 
Now, the start of the race is fun. The start of the race is easy. I could start a marathon.
Finishing is hard work. Finishing well, that’s glory. Finishing well is what counts. 
So I’m here today to ask you this question:
*Will you run the race to the very end?
*Will you finish well?
*Will you be steadfast and immovable? 
“Run with perseverance,” the writer of Hebrews says. Just keep running and running and don’t quit. [
This brings us to our friend Moses today. We’ll look at Exodus 5. 
We saw last week that God called Moses at the burning bush.
After Moses thought his race was done and he retired to the desert, he thought he missed his opportunity, that’s when God called him.
And as we saw last week, Moses didn’t want to go. Moses wasn’t the best follower. He resisted God. He was afraid the Israelites wouldn’t listen to him.
But finally, in response to God’s persistence, Moses agrees to go.
He meets with Aaron, and they go to the people of Israel.
Moses has been terrified the people aren’t going to believe him, but they do what God told them, they do the signs, and the writer says at the very end of chapter 4: >>>>>
The leaders were soon convinced that the LORD had sent Moses and Aaron. And when they realized that the LORD had seen their misery and was deeply concerned for them, they all bowed their heads and worshiped.
> You can imagine Moses now breathing this huge sigh of relief. He’s done it – faced his worst fear and the people believed him.
So the worst is over, right?
Not even close. It’s only the start of the race.
The people say, “Let’s go to Pharaoh. We’re already slaves. It can’t get any worse than this.”
So Moses and Aaron go to Pharaoh, and they’re very bold. >>>>>
Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Let my people go, so that they may hold a festival to me in the wilderness.’”
> They’re very confident here, very bold. They use prophetic language, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel says – Thus sayeth the Lord.”
They don’t waste any time flattering Pharaoh, as pretty much anyone else would have done. They don’t even ask his permission. They say, “The Lord says, ‘Let my people go.’”
Then this odd thing happens to them. Pharaoh doesn’t play ball with them. Pharaoh is actually hostile in the face of their demand. 
Now, put yourself in Pharaoh’s position for a moment – you’re the most powerful man in the world, and someone comes to you and says, “We want to take your labor force away.”
So Pharaoh responds: >>>>>
“Who is the Lord, that I should obey him and let Israel go? I do not know the Lord and I will not let Israel go.”
Then they said, “The God of the Hebrews has met with us. Now let us take a three-day journey into the wilderness to offer sacrifices to the Lord our God, or he may strike us with plagues or with the sword.”
> Now, their response here in the face of Pharaoh’s resistance is very different than the first verse. They don’t mention the Lord, the God of Israel.
Now they say “The God of the Hebrews,” and that’s the term the Egyptians used for God. It was their name for this little tribal god that they thought the Israelite slaves worshipped.
It was no longer, “Let my people go.”
Now it’s “Couldn’t we get a pass for like a three-day weekend? We’ll be back to work on Monday.”
The switch is like this – “Thus sayeth the Lord, pretty please.”  >>>>>
But the king of Egypt said, “Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their labor? Get back to your work!” Then Pharaoh said, “Look, the people of the land are now numerous, and you are stopping them from working.”
That same day Pharaoh gave this order to the slave drivers and overseers in charge of the people: “You are no longer to supply the people with straw for making bricks; let them go and gather their own straw.
But require them to make the same number of bricks as before; don’t reduce the quota. They are lazy; that is why they are crying out, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to our God.’ Make the work harder for the people so that they keep working and pay no attention to lies.”
> Pharaoh’s not really interested in servant leadership. He’s not an empowering people-builder kind of guy.
He’s not into the inverted pyramid structure, where the top guy is on the bottom. He’s into the original pyramid structure, because he built the original pyramids. 
“Who is this Yahweh?” he says. “I’m not impressed. Get back to work twice as hard as before.”
Well, that’s not what Moses had signed up for.
The Israelites had thought, “We might as well go to Pharaoh. We’re slaves already. It can’t get any worse.”
And what happens? 
It got worse. 
Now Moses thought it was hard to go to Pharaoh. That was nothing compared to what’s going to happen to his people when he goes back to them. 
Imagine this scene for a moment. Put yourself in his place. You develop a compelling vision. Let’s say it’s a vision to reach a group of people who aren’t being reached. Let’s say it’s to reach the Bay Area for Christ, where 95% of the people are unchurched.
You devote yourself to this vision. You’re not perfect, but you’re going to give it a shot.
You spend time alone. You get a compelling vision, a sense of call, and then you tell it to a group of people.
You call a little flock of faithful people who decide to join you. But things don’t work out exactly the way you had planned. It’s going to take longer than you thought.
The challenge level will be higher. You run into a Pharaoh. You’re going to have to make bricks without straw.
You hit a wall, so you go back to your little flock.
Then this amazing thing happens. They don’t say, “Thanks for leading us. Thanks for coming up with this compelling vision. We knew there’d be roadblocks. The Pharaoh’s hardness of heart will just make our ultimate deliverance all the more miraculous. We’ll just roll up our sleeves and make bricks without straw for a while. You keep challenging us, and we’ll just keep following.”
They don’t do that.
Imagine a little flock that obstinate. Hard to believe, isn’t it? 
Instead, they complain, they resist, they say, “We don’t want to make bricks having to gather our own straw. What have you done to us?”
Look at the text starting at verse 13: >>>>>
The slave drivers kept pressing them, saying, “Complete the work required of you for each day, just as when you had straw.”
And Pharaoh’s slave drivers beat the Israelite overseers they had appointed, demanding, “Why haven’t you met your quota of bricks yesterday or today, as before?”
Then the Israelite overseers went and appealed to Pharaoh: “Why have you treated your servants this way? Your servants are given no straw, yet we are told, ‘Make bricks!’ Your servants are being beaten, but the fault is with your own people.”
Pharaoh said, “Lazy, that’s what you are—lazy! That is why you keep saying, ‘Let us go and sacrifice to the Lord.’ Now get to work. You will not be given any straw, yet you must produce your full quota of bricks.”
The Israelite overseers realized they were in trouble when they were told, “You are not to reduce the number of bricks required of you for each day.”
When they left Pharaoh, they found Moses and Aaron waiting to meet them, and they said, “May the Lord look on you and judge you! You have made us obnoxious to Pharaoh and his officials and have put a sword in their hand to kill us.”
Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble on this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.”
> *You will most likely be tempted to quit when things don’t work out the way you had hoped.
*You will be tempted to quit when you run into opposition.
*You will especially be tempted to quit when you feel like you’re alone. 
And that’s Moses.
God calls him. He resists. God keeps calling him. Finally Moses gives in – “Okay.”
Going to the people looks like it’s going to work out. He goes to the Pharaoh, and wham, he hits the wall.
Pharaoh’s against him; Egypt’s against him; his own people turn against him. Moses probably felt like he was on his own. 
Only he wasn’t alone. 
And neither are you, not in your darkest moment. 
You see, the hinge of this whole story comes in verse 22. Moses has hit all of the walls. Then the writer says: >>>>>
Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people?
> That’s the hinge of the story.
Moses returned to the Lord! He goes back to God in prayer. It’s a prayer of protest, it’s a prayer of complaint, but he returned to the Lord.
He says, “Why, Lord, why have you brought trouble on this people? 
Then chapter 6, God begins to speak back to Moses. >>>>>
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Now you will see what I will do to Pharaoh: Because of my mighty hand he will let them go; because of my mighty hand he will drive them out of his country.”
God also said to Moses, “I am the Lord. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob as God Almighty, but by my name the Lord I did not make myself fully known to them. I also established my covenant with them to give them the land of Canaan, where they resided as foreigners.
Moreover, I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians are enslaving, and I have remembered my covenant.
“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.
I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’”
Moses reported this to the Israelites, but they did not listen to him because of their discouragement and harsh labor.
Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go, tell Pharaoh king of Egypt to let the Israelites go out of his country.”
> Now, you would think that by this time maybe Moses has gained some strength.
But look at his response: >>>>>
But Moses said to the Lord, “If the Israelites will not listen to me, why would Pharaoh listen to me, since I speak with faltering lips?”
> So God calls him again.
Now the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron about the Israelites and Pharaoh king of Egypt, and he commanded them to bring the Israelites out of Egypt.
God calls them again… and God calls them again… and God calls them again. 
And in the time we have left, I want to look at two things we’ve got to do if we’re going to finish the race.
Alright, there are two things I want to point out in the time we have left today, just two things. If we’re going to finish the race, if we’re going to persevere, two things we’ve got to do, and the first one is what Moses does again and again and again.
That is to
Persist in prayer,
to persist in prayer, to continue to return to God over and over and over again.
Moses gets a lot wrong. He wavers and he wobbles and his knees buckle a lot.
He just does one thing right. He just keeps returning to God. And the primary form that persistence takes among Christ-followers is persistence in prayer.
Christian persistence begins in prayer and ends in prayer and is sustained in prayer. 
And you know something, Jesus never tired of teaching about this. 
He said in Luke 18 that it’s like a widow who needs justice.
She goes to her city official, who turns out to be corrupt. I know it’s hard to believe there could be such a thing as a corrupt politician, but use your imagination.
Jesus says this woman has no connections, no money. She’s on welfare herself, can’t bribe him, but she calls him and writes him for so long that he finally says to his staff, “Just take care of what she needs. Get her out of my hair and off my back.” 
Jesus says, imagine that you have friends who come to visit you from the Midwest. They arrive at midnight and they haven’t eaten since noon. Your kitchen’s empty and the grocery store is closed, so you go to your neighbor.
You pound on the door, and you say, “Give me some meat and potatoes so I can feed them!” It’s in Luke 11. You can look it up later on if you want to.
The neighbor says, “It’s midnight and the kids are in bed and it’s the first good night’s sleep I’ve had all week. Are you crazy?”
“But if you keep pounding long enough,” Jesus says, “he’ll give you food just to shut you up.”
Jesus says, if you can persist with corrupt politicians and cranky neighbors, how can you not persist with God who listens to his children with infinite patience… who longs to give good things? 
You know, one of the gifts God wants to give us is growth, the kind of growth that only comes when we persist again and again and again and again. 
So I want to ask you right now to identify the greatest challenge of your life these days. I want you to think of the place where you’re ready to give up. Maybe you’ve already given up.
I want to ask you to make a commitment that you’re going to relentlessly persevere in prayer. You’re going to pray tonight before you go to bed and you’re going to pray tomorrow and you’re going to keep praying.
*Maybe it’s a relational challenge. Maybe you have a difficult person in your life.
*Maybe it’s someone you love who’s far from God and you’re about to give up hope.
*Maybe it’s a pattern of sin in your life that you haven’t been able to break, and you feel like you’re in its grip and it’s going to last forever.
*Maybe it’s an area of work where, just as for Moses, things have not turned out the way that you hoped.
*Maybe it’s a new habit that you need to cultivate.
*Maybe it’s a family problem that’s been going on for years and somewhere along the line you’ve stopped praying.
*Maybe you feel defeated with school. You’ve only just started and you feel like giving up. 
I’m asking you today, will you make a commitment? Will you say, “I’m going to do what Jesus commands no matter what? I’m going to persevere in prayer, I’m going to run the race and I’m not going to get distracted. I’m not going to get turned aside. I will keep praying and seeking God on this until I know I have his direction and his counsel. If it means praying every day from now until the day I die, I’ll do it. Even if I never get the answer I want, like the men of faith in Hebrews 11 who persevered in faith even though none of them had received what the Lord had promised. If I never see it, I will never give up, I will never give in, I will run the race, I will finish the course, I will keep the faith.”
Will you say that today? 
The writers of Scripture say if you want to run the race you’ve got to persevere in prayer.
Even when, like Moses and so many other Moses after him, you’re ready to quit, God will say, “You’ve got to go back to Pharaoh.” You’ve got to go back to whatever it was that you thought you were so inadequate for. Just don’t quit. Just don’t give up. Just keep running. 
Maybe like those that the writer of Hebrews speaks of in chapter 11, maybe you’ll never see it. Just keep running. Persevere in prayer.  
Alright, the second thing we need to do is this: the writer of Hebrews says about the great heroes of our faith that they were given courage to run the race because they were surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses.
So what we need to do is
The writer of Hebrews says others have run before you, others will run alongside you.
And it’s the same thing for you and me. If we’re going to finish well, we need our own little cloud of witnesses.
You need to find a few people who will inspire you, who will keep you going.
You need to find a few people who will say to you, “Don’t quit, just keep running, just don’t give up.”
We need to persevere in prayer. And we need to find a a few people who will support us. 
In every life, every one of us needs to have support — our own little cloud of witnesses. 
*These are people who watch you run the race of your life, and they cheer you on; they believe in you.
*They’re realistic about your failings and your shortcomings, but they also have a vision for what God made you to be.
*And when you have these people in your life, these people who cheer you on, you have this deep sense that they’re for you.
*Their very words breathe life and encouragement into you. When you win, they cheer, as though they had won themselves.
*They are a living, breathing incarnation of Paul’s advice in Romans: “Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn.”
*When these people tell you they’re praying for you, you know they mean it. You know they really are.
*When you feel defeated or tempted by sin, or discouraged by failure, you know that God will use their presence to strengthen you. You know that if you’re just around them, somehow God will use that to fill you with the desire to follow Him once again.
*They are one of God’s greatest gifts in your life. They make you a better person. They help you live more like Jesus would live if he was in your place.  
Alright, now as we sing a song we’re going to have the opportunity as individuals to say to God, “I’m not going to stop, God. No matter what happens, I’m going to pray day after day after day, and I’m going to find an Aaron or two. I want to pull together a little cloud of witnesses to cheer me on, and I’m just not going to stop.”
We’re going to do that, and as we do, there’s something I want you to consider. 
Ultimately the Bible is not the story of the perseverance of Moses or Israel or any human being. It’s the story of the perseverance of God. It’s God who just can’t give up loving these funny little creatures he made.
It’s God who says to you and me, “I’m not quitting on you! I have you in the grip of my love, and I will not let you go. I won’t!”
Alright, let’s pray, and then the band will lead us.
Blue Oaks Church