Ruth began her first sermon of 2018 by asking us how we pack when we go on holiday. Do we pack too much stuff, or are we the kind of person who counts out the exact number of outfits, and then doubles that, just in case? She asked, “Do you take to much stuff with you?”
Abraham Lee, an explosive ordnance disposal officer for seven years said that when on a mission, the team would literally only carry what was essential and would contribute to the task. He said that to carry anything extra would be pointless.
We all carry excess baggage in life; unnecessary weight that we don’t need to carry, and yet, we all do it. Over time, our emotional cargo mounts up and begins to weigh us down. There are so many things that we pick up and put in our bag to carry, such as negative attitudes, stresses, angst towards others, bitterness and unforgiveness. These can fill us up and all leave an unnecessary weight for us to carry on our backs. This emotional baggage can build up so quietly and steadily that we might not even realise how heavy it has become, and how much weight it places on our hearts and minds.
We need to deal with these things, or we will continue to carry them, and this is when we learn tools like bitterness, denial, unforgiveness, revenge and holding grudges. If we don’t deal with our past, and we don’t deal with our issues, we choose to carry them, and when we carry these things, it is like carrying weeds inside your heart, that grow so quickly and are so strong that they choke all the good, healthy plants around it. Often, we allow what happens to us to define us, and this is really dangerous as it can lead to us not being who, and where we are meant to be as Children of God.
Ruth talked about an old legend about three men who each carried two sacks. The first man hid all of the good things, and focused on the bad things, stopping to examine them so often that he barely made any progress at all. The second man, kept all his mistakes in the sack on his back, and all the good things in front of him, so he could show them off to everyone. He was weighed down by bad things but couldn’t brink himself to put them down. The third man, kept all the good things in the front sack, but unlike the second man, the sack on his back was empty because he had cut a hole in it so that all the bad things went straight through the sack, leaving him free of the burden of carrying them.
Turning to Scripture, she looked at some people who allowed what they were carrying in their hearts to affect the promise God had over them. Moses had just led the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. Travelling through the desert, they arrived at the border of the Promised Land. Moses sent twelve men to survey the land. Referring then to her main scripture, Numbers 13:25-33, we read that the men came back to report to Moses, and although two of the men seemed of the opinion that they could enter the land and take it with no problem, the other ten men, so consumed with what they were carrying from their past, talked of far more powerful people that they would never be able to overcome.
Ruth then talked of three points. The first of these is:
- What you carry will affect YOUR PERSPECTIVE
Twelve men were send into the same land, saw and experienced exactly the same things, and yet came back with two totally different views. It’s all about perspective, and what you carry has a direct impact on your perspective. You can often tell how people have dealt with past hurts, by looking at how they deal with their current issues. The sayings, ‘hurting people hurt people’, and what goes around comes around’ are a very poignant reminder that when we don’t deal with issues in our lives, they become deeply rooted in our spirit, and then, when trials and circumstances come our way, we automatically head to the ways we know of dealing with things, even though these are not good ways. In the same way, their previous treatment at the hands of the Egyptians caused the ten spies to doubt, and to question their ability to take the land, even though God Himself had promised the land to them. They were so close, and yet their doubt meant that they never got to enter the Promised Land. These spies were carrying four things which prevented them from being able to step out in faith.
In stark contrast, Joshua and Caleb were carrying faith. They believe in themselves, in their people, and in their God. They had courage, and, knowing that God was on their side, and believing this, they had confidence in the outcome because they were doing the will of God.
When we haven’t dealt with things in the past, it will change how we see the world. It becomes about us and not about God. The ten men were influenced by their past and wanted to rebel. This is a time when we can begin to carry things like hurt, bitterness, fear, doubt and ungratefulness, if we haven’t dealt with things in our life. The situation appears much bigger than us, and we can see ourselves as incapable. This is when we begin to question God’s ability.
This is what happened to the Israelites when the ten spies were coming from a place of negativity. It is hard to imagine. They were literally on the brink of the promised land, and yet, doubt and the baggage they were carrying made them think that returning to the land of slavery is a better option. Instead of reaching out for all God had for them, they were too busy hanging on to the past and carrying all of their past issues.
Ruth warned us to be careful whose bag we pick up. Family and friends can often offload stuff onto us, and this can risk it becoming our issue too. Often our first impressions can be clouded by other’s baggage and before we know it, we have judged someone without even having met them.
- What you’re carrying will affect your PACE
It should have taken eleven days for the Israelites to get to the Promised Land, but instead it took almost forty years. When we carry around issues, rather than dealing with them, it causes us to slow down. Our burden prevents us from moving freely. Instead, we need to look to Hebrews 12, which instructs us to “strip off every weight that slows us down”.
God can’t bless unforgiveness. He can’t bless judgement, and he can’t bless us trying to get even. In short, God can’t bless our mess. The truth is that while we use our energy to focus on our hurts, and disappointments, we can’t move forward, and find ourselves slipping backwards.
We need to live in the fulness of God, if we are to achieve our breakthrough and reach our promised land. Maybe this is the time when we need to look at our bags and unpack some stuff.
- What you carry will affect your PURPOSE
Some of the Israelites in the wilderness never got to reach the promised land. Not even Moses did. Ruth emphasised how sad this is. After everything they had been through to get there, they missed out at the last minute because they allowed baggage into their lives which weighed them down and prevented them from moving forward into the full purpose God had for them.
Ruth told us that the way to miss God’s will is really simple. All we have to do is ignore what God is saying. God had told the Israelites that He would deliver them (Exodus 5:6-8), but rather than listening to Him, they listened to men and ignored God, moving away from what He had promised. In the same manner, when we allow negative thoughts and feelings space in our hearts, God is pushed out.
Speaking then about what we need to do to unpack our bag, Ruth gave us eight points:
- Confront the past honestly – we can’t alter the past, but we can alter how we view it and how it affects us.
- Be aware of our thoughts – we mustn’t allow our energy to be wasted on negative thinking.
- Start anew – take steps to remove old habits and routines, creating a new existence in God.
- Forgive others – it will do us more good than it will do them.
- Go to God – ask Him to heal our hurts
- Meet together – if we are dealing with past hurts and carrying excess baggage, we mustn’t avoid Church.
- Choose our friends wisely – we must surround ourselves with people who will nourish and build us up
- Know what God says –
- He loves us
- He accepts us
- He cares about us
- He has not forgotten about us
- He sees us
- He knows us
- He provides for us
- He will not abandon us.
- He will not abuse us
- He will not forsake us
- He will help us
- He will transform us
- He will choose to forget our past
- He will heal our pains
- He will hold our hand
- He will restore us
- He will give us hope
- He will give us a future
- He will deal with our hurts
In closing, Ruth encourages us to strip off every weight that slows us down so that we may run the race God has set our before us with endurance. He is waiting for us to come to Him with everything. Every part of us, and all that we are, so that He can give us all that He is.
Scriptures: Numbers 13, Hebrews 3:19, Hebrews 12, Luke 6:37, Romans 12:17-19, Exodus 5:6-8, Philippians 3:13, Philippians 4:8, 2Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:32, 1Peter 5:7, Psalm 92:13, Luke 6:45