Changing one’s focus and learning
It has been a few thousand years since the Israelites’ wandered through the desert, and still there are people who moan and become impatient when things gets difficult. Here are five strengths that will make it easier to move forward.
On his trip to the Democratic Republic of the Congo Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider conducted a divine service in a stadium in Tembo. More than 9,000 people in the working area of District Apostle Michael Deppner heard the Chief Apostle’s sermon on Thursday, 26 July 2018. It was based on Exodus 15: 13: “You in Your mercy have led forth the people whom You have redeemed; You have guided them in Your strength to Your holy habitation.”
At the beginning of his sermon, the Chief Apostle looked back into history: God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. But He did not lead the people directly from captivity into the Promised Land, but through the wilderness for many years. During their wanderings the Israelites acquired strength in five disciplines.
- Recognition and contentment: In the desert, the people of Israel were dependent on the water and bread which God gave them. Nobody was able to work for anything on their own. “So the first thing they learned was to recognise the grace of God and to be content with it,” Chief Apostle Schneider said.
- Obedience: God led the people through the desert. By day, a pillar cloud set the pace and direction, and at night a column of fire showed them the way. Going their own way or resting when they wanted was not possible. “They had to follow the way God showed them exactly, and when He showed them.”
- Faithfulness: When he went up the mountain to receive the Commandments, Moses was away from the people for quite a long time. They created a substitute for God: the golden calf. “Of course God didn’t like that, and He punished them severely to show them: ‘If you do not remain faithful to Me, I will punish you.’”
- Acceptance: God also taught the people to follow a servant. But the Israelites rebelled against Moses. “‘Why does he always have to do the talking? Why can’t we talk too?’ God destroyed them. The earth opened up and swallowed them. They were never seen again.”
- Fighting: God also explained to the people that He had done some of the work, but that they would now have to do their part. When enemies approached, God expected them to fight. “Sometimes the people were very afraid,” the Chief Apostle said and referred to the spies, who had come back from reconnoitering Canaan. All except Caleb and Joshua said, “We cannot possibly defeat the Canaanites. They are far too strong.” God told them, “No, I won’t do this for you. It’s your job. Fight! I will be with you and together we will defeat them!”
And today? What about the New Testament? God came to save mankind through Jesus Christ. Because of the fall of Adam and Eve, human beings could no longer come to God. They were under the dominion of the devil.” Through His sacrifice, Jesus Christ delivered mankind from the bondage of sin. Jesus Christ is the Redeemer. “And now God tells us, ‘Yes, but you cannot enter the kingdom of God directly, I first have to teach you!’ And now begins our path to salvation, our path of faith. And what are we to learn on this path?”
- Recognition and contentment: People cannot just read the Bible and think they are saved. “We absolutely need God, who gives us His word and Holy Communion.” Even today people are dissatisfied with what is offered. “Don’t we need more dancing, more miracles, and more fun!” It is no different than it was at the time of the Israelites, who had grown sick of the manna. “Those who recognise the true miracle of Holy Communion do not need big emotions or spectacular happenings in the divine services.”
- Obedience: In order to be able to enter the kingdom of God, believers must follow the path paved by God. “We must follow in the footsteps of Jesus and do what He did.” It is not enough to merely do good works. One’s attitude and actions are just as important, the Chief Apostle said. “The Lord said, ‘You cannot love God more than your brother. I measure your love for God by your love for your neighbour.”
- Faithfulness: Those who have the feeling that God is no longer with them can quickly lose their faith in Him. If God no longer helps, people quickly turn to someone else. “Let’s remain faithful to Christ. Even if God does not answer our prayers but makes us wait, we remain faithful to Him. We do not turn to the devil.”
- Acceptance: The Chief Apostle said that Jesus gave the apostolate so that Holy Communion may be celebrated, that the Holy Spirit may be dispensed, and that the faithful may be prepared for Christ’s return. The question could arise, “Why these Apostles? They are not better than the others?” Chief Apostle Schneider went on to explain that what is important is not the man, but the mission he has received from Jesus Christ. And as long as an Apostle acts in accordance with his mandate and sanctifies Himself to dispense Holy Communion and the sacraments, Jesus acts through Him in spite of his human weaknesses.”
- Fighting: Jesus has delivered us from the oppression of sin. Now it is up to us to do our share and fight against sin. Reconciling, forgiving, resisting temptation—these are tasks for the followers of Jesus. “With the help of Jesus you will win. But don’t give up, don’t let it get you down. Those who fight evil to the end will achieve victory with Jesus Christ.”