Posted by: lepages | November 24, 2010

Living with failure…

the first of 3 preaches taken from the book of Joel under the overall theme of ‘Getting real about living in a fallen world’.

I’ve included the notes as they were used to preach, but they had application to a call to prayer in our church – I’ve not changed that, but you might like to heed the call to prayer and apply it in your situation.

If you’d like to hear the preach rather than read my notes you can do so from the church website here.

Getting real about living in a fallen world

Living with failure Joel 1


The Bible is an incredible book. It deals with all of life – the good, the bad and the ugly.
It’s an incredibly honest book. It doesn’t just talk about the spiritual side of life. It isn’t just a list of rules. It talks about life as we find it in our world, and says ‘How do we relate to God in the midst of what’s going on in our lives and in our circumstances?’

We’ve had read to us the first chapter of the prophet Joel from the Old Testament – a man who spoke for God as his people faced the turmoil of having their land invaded by locusts. A locust invasion is devastating. It’s not just something that happens in the pages of the Bible, in past history – it’s something that still happens today. In fact if you were to go online and google ‘locusts’ you would find news video clips from the past few weeks of Australian farmers sharing their fears of locust swarms coming and devastating their crops – and you’d see video of planes dropping insecticide to try and kill off the developing locusts before they could swarm and devastate their crops.

We read these words and they can seem very distant, unrelated to our experience.
I want to show you a video clip which may be a bit disturbing. I make no apology for that.
I want us to understand the devastation that the people felt that Joel had to speak to.

Show video clip

‘Oh my God’ is a fitting response – but rather than an exclamation, it ought to be a cry for help..

Joel speaks into a situation of devastation, a product of living in a fallen world.
I’ve entitled this series:-
‘Getting real about living in a fallen world’

We still live in a fallen world.
The effects of sin and the resultant curse upon creation are still felt today.

This week is sub-headed:-
‘Living with failure’

Failure is something we all have to live with.
Joel spoke into a situation where the crops had failed as a result of the invasion of locusts – they had consumed all the vegetation life and the result was that it affected everyone and everything.

Failure of crops is still an issue around the world – sometimes as a result of drought, sometimes as a result of flooding, sometimes as a result of war.

But we have to live with failure in many spheres of life.
We fail personally, others fail and it affects us personally.
Marriages fail.
Our health fails.

We face failure nationally too.

As a nation our economy has failed – we might like to put the cause of the failure somewhere, but we still have to live with the results of the failure.

As a nation we have failed morally. We have one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancy – why? Because we have encouraged young people to express their sexuality and use a condom rather than encouraging them to hold themselves back and save themselves for a married relationship.

We face failure internationally and globally – look at the situation in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Haiti or Pakistan.
Failure in so many different ways.
Some a product of human action and inaction.
Some a product of living in a fallen world which has been damaged by sin.

So, we’re going to look at this passage and say, if Joel was called to speak to the people in that situation, what would God say to us in the situations we face? What would he say to us as we face the effects of failure, whether that be personal failure, the failure of another, the results of living in a fallen world that can affect us nationally, or the effects of living in a fallen world which cause failure in diverse ways across our world.

I want to suggest that in this first chapter of Joel he calls us to do two things when we find ourselves living with failure. The first thing is this:-

Face the facts

If you haven’t got your Bible open at the passage then please turn to it.

Joel 1

God calls a whole range of people through the prophet Joel to face the facts of their situation.

We’re very good at ignoring the facts.

I heard someone share just yesterday of a family situation with a child with leukaemia and of how the father is just ignoring the fact that it is happening.

Again and again it’s said that people facing debt situations are apt to try and ignore their situation and hope it goes away.

We can look at awful situations in our world, in our nation and somehow try and ignore them.

That is not what God would have us do.

In this passage he calls the people to face the facts.
He starts with the elders v2
‘Hear this, you elders’
but he doesn’t leave it there and say as long as the leaders hear that’s all that matters, he goes on to say:-
‘listen, all who live in the land’

Take note of what is happening in your day!

And he makes the point it’s not just for the adults to take note and face the facts.

V3 ‘Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children and their children to the next generation.’

So this includes you folk in Sunday Gang.
And it’s not just for you to listen, but for you to take the responsibility of facing the facts and of telling others too.

Neither is it the responsibility of just those who have got their lives sorted.
In v5 the alcoholics, those who have their lives wrecked by substance abuse are called to wake up, to weep and wail because of what has happened.

Those who face the immediate effect of the invasion of locusts are called to live in the reality of their situation – to face the facts that their harvest has been destroyed.

If you were to take our situation as a nation with our current economic failure it would be a call for those who are largely responsible for it – the bankers who handled finances unwisely, the Government which failed to face the way it was spending way beyond it’s means, to come to a point where they would despair of the situation, where they would wail and grieve over it. Sadly, those who have come to that point are I think few and far between….

The priests and others who ministered before God in the Temple are called to do the same (v13) And not just to turn up for the normal duties and responsibilities of worship – this was no ‘Make sure you turn up at Sunday Worship, Cell group meeting, and Saturday prayer!’

It was a call to come and spend the night in sackcloth – showing their poverty before God, as a sign of mourning and repentance.

They were called (v14) to
“Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD you God, and cry out to the LORD.”

The situation we face as a nation, is not the same as that faced by the people invaded by locusts at the time that Joel wrote – but the call to us all, to face the facts of our situation as a nation, perhaps for us personally as we live with the affects of failure, whether of our own making, or that of others, to face the facts of the tragedy which affects so many situations globally – the tragedy upon tragedy that faces the people of Haiti – the awfulness of the situation in Pakistan – and similar things in other situations around our world, is just as real.

We are called not to stick our heads in the sand, live in our own little bubbles and pretend these things don’t matter, we are called to respond to them.

As I did initial study for this series I really felt that we should make some response, just as the leaders of the people of that time were called to make a response. I shared this with the other elders and so, as a result we are taking to heart v14 and we are declaring a holy fast, calling a sacred assembly on Thursday of next week, the 18th of November. The church building will be open from early in the morning till late at night to enable us all to come and ‘cry out to the Lord’ – bringing to him, bringing before him the areas we have seen failure and its effects in our world – whether that be in the area of personal failure, whether it be in the realm of our national failure socially, economically, morally, or whether it be in the realm of global failure, whether as the result of human failure as we see in the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, or the effects of the curse on creation as a result of sin of the turmoil which has caused devastation in Haiti or Pakistan, or elsewhere.

I would encourage you to fast on that day. We call you to fast and to come before God. Jesus didn’t say ‘If you fast’ he said ‘When you fast’ – he assumed that as his people we would fast.

For most of us that means choosing to go without food so that we can dedicate that time to seeking after God. For some of us, due to health reasons like diabetes for example, that may not be wise. But you can fast in other ways. For some of us, to fast from T.V. Radio, Computer. Internet. Telephone, Mobile Phone may be a more demanding fast than that from food.

There will be no cell group meetings that week so that there is no conflict with the call to come together as a church to cry out to God, for ourselves personally, for our town, for our nation, for global situations.

So God through the prophet Joel called his people to face the facts of their situation – whether they were the leaders of the people, on the senior end of the age spectrum or young children, whether they were folk with social problems, hard working labourers and farmers or religious leaders.

He calls us to do the same – to face the facts – the reality of failure in our world that maybe effects us personally or that we see affecting others.

Have we honestly faced the facts of situations in our own lives, the consequences of what it means to live with our own failure or the failure of others?

Have we honestly faced the facts of the situation our nation is in?
Economically – and it’s implications for people across our nation – perhaps for our own lives.
Socially & morally, with a large scale rejection of God and his values which used to previously be the bedrock of our nation’s laws.

Have we honestly faced the facts of some of the situations we see around our world where peoples are devastated, perhaps by different causes, but to the same degree that the people of Israel were as their land was invaded by locusts?

We are called to ‘Face the Facts’ but I want to suggest to you that we are also called to:-
Feel the feelings

Words that echo through the chapter:-
v5 weep, wail, v8 mourn, grieving, v9 mourning, v11 despair, wail, grieve, v12 the joy of mankind is withered away, v13 mourn, wail, v18 cattle moan, mill about.

I don’t know whether any of those words ever describe you?

The wonderful thing is that in Christ he turns our mourning into dancing.
He takes people who are without hope and gives them hope.
He takes Chilean miners stuck underground and gives them a joy and a future.

But scripture encourages us to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15)

There will be those of us here carrying great pain. We need to feel that pain and stand with them. There will be others who rejoice and we need to rejoice with them.

As we face the facts, we need to be prepared to face the feelings which go with those facts – the feelings of fear and desperation which our country’s austerity measures bring to some, the desperation felt by those who have lost everything, lost family and friends, lost homes as we look at situations such as those in Pakistan and Haiti, we need to face the emotions that people feel who have no hope in Christ and as we face the facts, as we feel the feelings, we need to:-
Cry out to the Lord!

At the end of the chapter Joel says v19
‘To you, O LORD, I call’
and then he lays out before the Lord the situation he sees before him.

The prophetic call in v14 is to declare a holy fast, to call a sacred assembly and to call everyone to cry out to the Lord.

Today I want to call you to do the same.
To cry out to the Lord for things that you face, to cry out for our nation, to cry out for the things you see around the world.
You might want to do that as we continue in our time together this morning, you might want to come and do that as we gather for Prayer & Praise this evening.
You might want to do that as we gather in our cell group meetings during this week.
You might want to do it as we gather for prayer on Saturday morning, but above all, I want to call you to come and to pray and cry out to God as we gather for prayer and fasting on Thursday week.


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