God spoke these words to Israel through the prophet Isaiah. Over the last few weeks these words have been spoken over us as well as we have engaged in a series about change. We have looked at change from so many angles and yet these words are still crying out to us. Especially the part in the middle-look, I am doing a new thing-doon’t you see it?
Israel wasn’t seeing it. They were blind to what God was trying to show them. They were wrapped up in themselves so much that they missed God. He was telling them how they could get back to Him, back to where everything was good again. But they were stuck in the past, committing the same sins over and over again, following the same empty religious actions they had down for so long. Israel missed God because they were stuck in a rut.
Have you ever felt like your life was stuck in a rut? Growing up in the country, my dad taught me early on about the dangers of getting in a rut. Heading out into the woods, when you came across a rutted up road, you were in danger. So when you see a path that is rutted up, the smartest thing to do is find a new way around. You see, you don’t always know how deep the ruts are and you don’t really know where the ruts are going to lead you. One thing you do know is that when you’re in a rut, it can be hard to get out and the rut could lead you into trouble.
In our lives, it is easy to get into ruts. We get comfortable and life is going smooth. So we choose not to fight it, right? We just do today what we did yesterday, because hey jack-we made it through yesterday didn’t we? Maybe not smooth and easy, but we survived. So we choose to rinse and repeat.
So what happens when God calls us into something new? What happens when change comes to our life? We can’t just rinse and repeat and expect to embrace that change. We find ourselves in a rut. And if we can’t break free from it, we will miss the new thing God desires to bring to our lives.
One of those ruts we get stuck in so easily is called our past hurts. Heading into the woods one day I decided to show out a little for a friend of mine. I was going way too fast for the muddy narrow trail we were on. So when the trail took a sharp right, my Jeep slid a little to the left and banged off a tree. We were OK but we left some deep ruts. The next time I used that trail, I chose to follow the same ruts I had made before, although at a slower pace. Guess what? Same stupid tree jumped out in front of me again and I side swiped it once more. The rut that led me to where I had wrecked before led me right back to the same hurt again. But I still chose to go down it. Why? It was easier to deal with what I knew, even though it led me to pain, than to find a new way around.
A lot of people in this room chose to go down the road that leads back to familiar pain. We choose to endure the hurt we are familiar with because we are afraid we might find more hurt on another trail. So we put on a mask that says everything is OK and we come to church or wherever and act like we have it all together-even though on the inside we are falling apart. We are suffering through the pain of deep hurt while we try to fool those around us who could offer us comfort, love, and healing. We’re stuck in the rut of living in pain because we are afraid if we share what’s hurting us, we will be rejected. But God is calling us to forget our past. Can’t you see I am doing a new thing for you. Climb out of the rut and let me bring you joy.
Isaiah 43:5 says Fear not, for I am with you.
There’s another rut we get into called past failures. One morning while hunting on the Mississippi river my buddy was driving and we were in someone’s ruts going through deep mud. What we didn’t realize is that these ruts ran into a creek, a past failure someone else had fallen into. So guess where we ended up? I hate to tell these stories, because most of them have been hidden from my wife. But now…..
Sometimes we won’t try something new because we are afraid of failing again. I might come to conclusion that I am not going to try to quit drinking because I have always failed in the past. Or why should I try to diet when it is obvious that I have never succeeded before. Or maybe it is different, maybe it’s more of holding on to where we are with God right now because we don’t think he could do anything else with us. After all, there a lot of sin in my past. There’s no way I could ever get over that. And so we listen to God call us to a new thing, but we think he must be talking to someone else. I have too many things in my past where I have failed. His blessings are only for the good Christians.
Isaiah 43:25..I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember my sins.
God’s grace is more than enough to erase your worst failures. It is greater than any failure you will have in your future. You have been forgiven and redeemed my friends, by the blood of Christ Jesus. Your past only exists in your mind and in the words of the enemy. See, I am doing a new thing, can’t you see it? Climb our of that rut and let me set you free.
Some ruts aren’t so scary looking though. These are the ruts of our past successes. On my farm back home there is an old rutted tractor road. I walked down that road to get to my deer stands every time. It was easy to walk there, no briars, no sticks to make noise, the ground was hard so I wouldn’t sink in the mud, and it led right to my stand so I wouldn’t get lost in the dark. I had always used it and I had killed several deer from that stand. But there was a big buck I never saw, except in his tracks. I couldn’t figure him out.
One day I took a detour on a whim. I walked off the rutted road and into deep cover. there I found a huge deer trail leading to a bedding area. As i looked at tracks, I heard a deer snort. I looked up and saw that big old monster. Giving up on how I had always done it led me to a new discovery and new successes.
Sometimes we take a chance and do something new and it works. So we just keep on doing it that way, because we are afraid of what might happen is we change. I guess we figure that if we did it once, that ought to be good enough. I don;t want to fail. I am comfortable here in my success. So I just want to stay. No change for me thanks. I am good right here.
But we have nothing to fear. The same God who led us to where we found success the first time will lead us to even greater success the next time, won’t he? Does God like to set his children up to fail? Would you set your children up to fail? No way. See, I am doing a new thing, can’t you see it? Don;t be afraid to try something new again. Don’t be afraid to trust me once more. I will not fail you.
Isaiah 43:1-2…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name and you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through the fire, you will not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
Stop being complacent with where you have been. God is doing a new thing. He has a new day for you new blessings to behold. Climb out of that rut and let God open your eyes to a new adventure.
So, how do we connect this to our life? We can hear God calling us out of the rut, but how do we do that? We have to let go of our past and accept the change. And we need to lean on the rock.
When I get stuck in a rut in the woods, I look for a rock to put in my path. When I roll up on the rock, I can break out of the rut and plant my tires on more solid ground, forging ahead on new ground.
The ruts in our lives are no different. We have to realize that the ruts we are caught in are almost always due to a focus on ourselves. We are self centered. We aren’t listening to God-much like Israel was. But Jesus didn’t call us to focus on our issues. He called us to take our cross and follow him. He is the rock that we much place in the bottom of our rut in order to break free onto new ground. It takes time, but he will not fail you. Lean on the rock, trust in the rock, and focus on the rock-there’s no other way to get out of that rut. And until you are out of the rut, you’ll never find that joy that God’s leading you to. I am doing a new thing-let’s find it together!