Anything but Thankful (Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea)

Written by Kris Vos
November 20, 2023

On the journey of renewal, I have often found myself between the devil and the deep blue sea. It is hard to be thankful in those moments.

Have you ever found yourself between the devil and the deep blue sea? The Israelites certainly did, quite literally. A day that should have been filled with celebration at God’s miraculous deliverance from slavery in Egypt, turns sour.

  • Pharoah has a change of heart, and God guides his people to a strategically horrible spot (humanly speaking).
  • They have on one side, a deep blue sea waiting to swallow them and, on the other, a devilish army of chariots eager to cut them down.
  • The Israelites are anything but thankful. They cry out. They complain. They ask to go back to being slaves. Moses encourages them in verses 13 and 14 of Exodus 14. Then God speaks in verse 15.

On the journey of renewal, I have often found myself between the devil and the deep blue sea. It is hard to be thankful in those moments.

  • As you listen to Moses speak as the leader of his people, be encouraged. Then, listen to God’s direction in verse 15, and move!
What to do when you’re between the devil and the deep blue sea
Verse 13: “Do not Fear”
  • Fear can be paralyzing. It keeps us from taking calculated risks. It hinders our faith in what God can do.
  • My friend Bret is a Druid. He helps me see the world from a different viewpoint. He likes to dive into what I consider conspiracy theories. They get him pretty wound up, and fearful. I try to be a non-anxious presence when he gets riled up.
  • I acknowledge that things look bad, but I say, “The kingdom that I am a part of is not in jeopardy. My King is not biting his nails and stressing over current events. He’s got this!” We have nothing to fear because God is in control!
Verse 13: “Stand firm”
  • I used to imagine “standing firm” was someone standing straight-backed and saluting. But think about how you might stand firm when someone is trying to push you over. If you stand up straight, you will be easily toppled. If you stand with your knees bent, your center of gravity low and your arms ready to absorb any attack you have a much better chance of standing firm. I still remember my basketball and baseball coaches teaching me the “ready position.”
  • You should be ready to spring in any direction. Standing firm does not mean just standing there and doing nothing. Standing firm means getting ready!
Verse 14: “The Lord Will Fight For You”
  • One of the greatest battles we fight in renewing the local church is reaching people who are far from God. Their walls are so high, and their assumptions about life and God (or, rather the absence of God) run so deep in their thinking. How will we ever reach them?
  • This past Sunday, I found myself with a potluck cupcake in my hand chatting with the father of one of our preschoolers who has deeply rooted beliefs in something close to humanism. But he was asking questions and listening to the hope of the Gospel. God is the one who brings people from the community to our churches, and he is the one who changes their hearts.
Verse 14: “Be Still”
  • In his commentary on Exodus, Terrence Fretheim says stillness is a listening posture. It is not a do-nothing posture. Get ready and listen closely because God is about to do something amazing!
  • The Israelites had just witnessed the 10 plagues God used to conquer Egypt, but those wonders were a distant echo as the rumble of chariots and the crashing waves pressed in on them. The voice of their leader rose above the din and said, “Listen, do you hear that…?”
  • Are you listening? How tragic would it have been if Israel had surrendered moments before God opened the Red Sea. Get ready and listen to God. His wonders never cease!
Verse 15: Move!
  • The last word comes from God’s own voice. Why are you crying out to me? Tell Israel to MOVE!
  • There comes a time when the planning is finished, the praying is completed, the preparations have been made, and it is time to go! The work of renewal can be slow going. It is important to listen well to God, to your church, and to your city. But we cannot hesitate when it comes time to move.
  • I will always remember when I watched the man who discipled me lead someone to Christ. When he finished the conversation, he turned to me and said, “Now Kris is going to disciple you.” I wasn’t ready! I still had to go to seminary. I didn’t know enough to disciple someone else. But God said to move, so I did. The path forward is clearer than you think.
  • “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15).

Happy Thanksgiving!

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