Songs of Zion | Casey Peterson | April 26th, 2020

Which way is YOUR story going?

Message Transcript:

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Which Way?

Psalm 67:1-2

       Once when a ship was sinking a passenger frantically called out to the captain to ask
how far from land they were. “Two miles.” Said the captain. “Which way?” Asked the
passenger. “Down.” Said the captain.

Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.”

         Which way is your story going? Two months ago, nobody thought that a pandemic
would be one of the chapters in their story. Nobody thought joblessness, unemployment,
loved ones getting sick or passing away—no one thought things were going to go that way.
And you are probably at a place in your life where you have no idea about what is going to
happen, and life might feel like you’re on a sinking ship and you cry out to God with the
psalmist Psalm 86:11 “Teach me your way, O Lord,”
Psalm 67:1-2 “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon
us, that your way may be known on earth,”
God shows the world His way by blessing us.

        The word ‘bless’ very simply means favor. To bless someone is the opposite of cursing
them. For God to bless us means he has changed the way he looks as us. He has given us
favored status in his sight. And God blesses us so that the world might know His way. “May
God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, so that your way
may be known on earth,”
Which means God shows the world His way by blessing us.

      After Adam and Eve rebelled against God it was obvious which way the world was
going. Down. The curse on the world seemed to get worse and worse, until we get to
Abraham. And in Genesis 12 God makes Abraham the most pivotal, critical, history-changing
promise that had ever been spoken: he told Abraham “I am going to bless you.”
Now that might not sound like much to you, because we throw that word out like
pennies in a tip jar. Like yeah it’s worth something, but not much. Somebody sneezes we say
“bless you.” Somebody does something dumb we say “Bless their heart.” You get a new
purse you say I’m ‘blessed.’

      But what you’ve gotta understand is that up until God blessed Abraham, no one had
been blessed before like that. You’ve gotta understand which way the story was going. The
story was not defined by God’s blessing, but by the curse of sin. The way the world was going
was the way of death, disease, divorce, decay. Genesis 6 says that the wickedness on the
earth was so great that God’s heart was grieved. And as the world is spiraling under the curse,
God appears to Abraham and tells him, “I am going to bless you.” And he tells him “I am going
to bless you, so that all people will be blessed.”

       God shows the world his way by blessing us. Our problem, though—and this might
surprise you—is that we don’t always welcome God’s blessing into our lives. In fact, we
regularly run away from God’s blessing.

       The Bible records the account of man named Jonah who God commissioned to go to a
town called Ninevah and tell the people there about the way of the Lord. God blessed Jonah
so that he could make God’s way known to the world, but as soon as God told Jonah which
way to go, v. 3 says, Jonah ran from the presence of God.

      The place of God’s blessing in your life is in His presence. You will not experience the
power of God’s blessing if you try to run from his presence, because that’s where His blessing
is found. His presence is the blessing. We sang this morning, “May his presence go before
you, and behind you, and beside, all around you, and within you, He is with you.”
Now, Jonah ran away from God, but let me tell you something: you can never outrun
the blessing of God on your life. Psalm 23:6 says, “surely goodness and mercy will pursue me
all the days of my life.”

        Jonah looked at a map, he saw which way God told him to go, and he got on a ship to
go the opposite way. But God’s blessing was coming after him. Verse 4 says, “But the Lord
hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship
threatened to break up… verse 5: But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and
had lain down and was fast asleep.”

        It is possible that you can get so comfortable running from the blessing of God in your
life that he has to use a storm to wake you up. Sometimes his goodness and mercy will come
in the form of a storm that he uses to get you out of your funk so that he can be gracious to
you so that all peoples of the earth might know his way. Because remember, God’s blessing
isn’t just about us, it’s so that His way would be known in all the earth.

            Some of you have been running away from God’s blessing on your life. While everyone
around you has been scrambling around, throwing stuff overboard, calling out to their gods to
rescue them from this storm, you’ve been sleeping. You don’t want to change the way you’re
going. You refuse to pick up the phone and forgive that person. You’re too scared to take the
opportunity to do something you know you’re gifted in. You want to lead you family better but
you’re afraid of doing life different than the way the world does.

          Oh, “May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,
that your way may be known on earth,”
So look at what happens to Jonah. Knowing that this is His storm, and knowing that he
deserves it, he has the other men on the ship throw him into the ocean, and immediately the
storm died down.

      So the question is: what happened to Jonah? Now everyone whose ever read a
children’s book knows that God had appointed a huge fish to swallow up Jonah, but they also
know that it is humanly impossible to live inside the belly of a fish for three days. But what the
children’s books about Jonah don’t tell you is that many theologians and pastors—myself
included, don’t think that Jonah lived in the belly of a fish for three days. No. He was dead
inside that fish for three days. Jonah 2 says, “From deep in the realm of the dead I called
for help, and you listened to my cry.” “To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the
earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the
pit.” (Jonah 2:1, 6).

     How many of you know that in order to truly receive the blessing of God, and know His
WAY you have die to your WAY first. Jesus said that in order for a seed to produce life it has to
die first. It has to fall down into the depths of the earth and be buried. But after a little while,
new life emerges. Whoever tries to hold onto his life will lose it, but whoever gives up his life
for Jesus’ sake, will find true life.

        Maybe you’ve been trying to go ‘your way’ for your whole life, rowing against the storm
and throwing things overboard with no results. The only way to receive the blessing of God, is
to surrender your life into his hands. To pray the prayer of Jonah, “When my life was ebbing
away, You, O Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit.”
       On the third day, God raised Jonah from his watery grave, and the fish spit him out on
dry land. Because God blessed Jonah with new life, he went into Ninevah and made God’s way
known to them. God had to bless Jonah with resurrection so that his WAY would be known on
the earth. So that his way would be known to Jonah, His way would be known to the
Ninevites, and so that His way would be known to you. “May God be gracious to us and
bless us and make his face to shine upon us, so that His way may be known on the

God Changes the Way the Story is Going

    Which way is the story of your life going? Isaiah 53:6 says, “All we like sheep have
gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way;” God’s way is almost always
different than our way. God changed the way Jonah’s story was going, so that his way would
be known. He changed the way Jesus’ story was going so that his way would be known. The
story of Jesus life is surrounded by disappointment, failure, and betrayal, and it looked like it
would end in death, but God changed the way the story was going so that His way would be
known. One writer said Gods’ way is “always, almost late.”

    Once during Jesus earthly ministry a messenger ran up to him and told him one of his
best friends was sick and about to die. It was Lazarus. And it was Lazarus’s sisters, Mary and
Martha who sent the messenger to come and get Jesus. The reason they sent a messenger to
Jesus was because they knew, “If there is anyone who can change the way things are it’s
But Jesus didn’t go. And Lazarus died. And by the time Jesus did show up it had been
four days. And by the time he got there you know what the sisters said to him? They said,
“Lord, if you had been here, our brother would not have died.” “Lord, if you had done it our

          How many of us are sending up our messengers to Jesus asking him to do things our
way? Some of us did that this morning. “Lord, my business is about to tank I need (fill in the
blank).” “Lord, my marriage is about to fall apart, I need you to do ______.” Lord my loved
ones are headed the wrong way so I need you to do things my way.”
But listen to this: God doesn’t change the way the story is going to make OUR ways
known. He changes the way the story is going to make HIS way known.
God said in Isaiah 55:8-9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your
ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my
ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”

        When Jesus got word that Lazarus was sick he heard the sisters telling him to do it their
way, but Jesus told them, “this story doesn’t end the way you think it does.” Jesus said in
John 11:4 “this illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God.” “I change the way the
story is going to make my way known.”

         So Jesus went to the tomb where Lazarus had been laid for four days. And you know
what he did? We normally overlook this part, but he told Martha to take away the stone. Even
when Jesus is about to supernaturally change the way the story is going look what he does: he
invites Martha into His ways.

          Some of you are dealing with the disappointment from things that God didn’t do things
your way. Your career. Your family. What you had hoped you would become. Maybe you’ve
been dealing with that disappointment for four days. Or four years. Or four decades. Your
hopes, your dreams, your expectations, and everything you thought God was going to do your
way has been sealed up in a tomb for what you would say is too long for God to do anything
with now.
That’s what Martha thought. She said, Lord it’s been four days. She told Jesus,
“there’s going to be an odor, Lord. He’s not gonna be what he used to be, it’s been too long,
Jesus. It’s too late.”

         Some of you are standing at a tomb with God’s blessing in it, refusing to roll away the
stone of your ways because you think it’s too late. But Jesus is inviting you into His way. And
in order to receive the blessing of God and know his way, I’ve gotta roll my ways outta the way.
V. 40 says, “Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of
God?” So they rolled away the stone, and Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come
forth!” And the man who had been dead for four days, came out of his tomb, alive. And the
Scripture says that many who saw what he did, believed in Him.

            God changes the way the story is going to make HIS way known. And just a couple
chapters later Jesus would say, “I am the way” (John 14:6).

      God changes the way the story is going to make JESUS known. God gives us his
blessings to make Jesus known. God turns his face towards us to make THE WAY, Jesus
Christ, known, and he can turn his face towards us in blessing, because on the cross he turned
his face away from Jesus.

           So when we pray, “may God be gracious to us and bless us, and turn his face
toward us so that his way may be known on the earth,” What we are asking for is the
blessing of resurrection life so that our friends, and families, and communities would know

      But here’s what this means for you: do you want the world to know Jesus? Then you
need to receive his blessing on your life. Do you want the world to know God’s way? Then
receive his blessing.

         God is calling you to roll away the stone of your doubts that say, “It’s too late.” “It’s not
possible.” “I missed my chance.” Oh, don’t you rob God of his glory by refusing to receive his
blessing on you. Don’t you dare stay asleep on that ship! Don’t you dare say that stone is too
heavy to move! Some of you need to realize that your refusal to accept God’s blessings in your
life is actually keeping other people from seeing the way God is. They see you living in slavery
to fear instead of living as a son or daughter. That’s not God’s way you’re showing them. Your
refusal to accept God’s blessing on your life hurts the people near you. That storm that Jonah
experienced didn’t just affect him, but everyone on the ship with him, and it didn’t stop until he
surrendered himself to God’s way. And when he finally did the Scriptures say the men on the
ship worshiped the Lord. Receive his blessing to heal your marriage. Receive his blessing to
glorify himself in your family. You’ll have to die to your old ways, but God will raise you up in
resurrection power. Lift your eyes up to heaven and see that God has turned his face toward
you because of Jesus, and receive the blessing of resurrection life, so that everyone would
know His way.

             May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, that
your way may be known on earth,”

Receive the blessing of God today.