Sermon Notes


1. Listen to God for the strategy of the battle
    a. The conquest of Canaan
    b. Through the wilderness
    c. Other Scriptures
    d. The principle in Jesus’ life
    e. The principle in the Church’s life
    f. What happens if we don’t listen to God?
        i. God’s blessing - Children were born
        ii. God’s blessing - Food provision
        iii. God’s blessing - clothes provision
2. Listening to God for His strategy will mean that we use different methods
    a. Jesus and demon expulsion
    b. Israel into Canaan
    c. The Old Covenant and the New
    d. Zerubbabel’s Temple
3. The element of surprise (God’s Unpredictability)


Some individual local churches found that, years ago, God blessed a certain format or method and have kept with it for years, not realising that it was God who they were supposed to cling to, not the method.

Some churches have repeated the same mode of worship (if that's the right word for it!) year after year because they enjoyed it, not because the Lord ever commanded them to conduct themselves in that way.

While others know that there must be more to christianity but are unaware just what they should change into in order to catch a fresh breath of God in their fellowship, even though they’ve tried with numerous changes that they’ve seen work in other congregations.

Neither adhering vehemently to the old, nor choosing our own way of worship, nor change for change sake will ever catch the Spirit’s breath of life on a long term basis. True, we might get the occasional blockbuster of a meeting, but, week in week out, the monotony will drain what little life we did have out of us.

The title of these notes might sound a bit obvious, almost trite. But, for a great many fellowships, although the truth of the statement might be affirmed, the experience of it is non-existent.

Whatever the battle faced or whatever the strategy needed, victory will not come by using ‘methods’ that are man-centred - even if they have an element of God in them (for example, the statements ‘It always used to bring victory' or ‘It works for the fellowship down the road' mask the problem). But victory will come when we set our faces to seek God, to hear Him and to obey what He tells us to do.

Listening, then, is the primary occupation of the one who wants to see victory.

1. Listen to God for the strategy of the battle

If God wants to lead us on into more of His presence, more of His anointing and more of His power, then it means that we must listen afresh to the voice of God for the strategy of the battle. The 'God of war' is also the Master tactician who knows the perfect move to win the ultimate victory in any and every situation.

a. The conquest of Canaan

Joshua 6:1-5 - Jericho. At the beginning of the campaign, God gave specific instructions on how to take Jericho.

Joshua 8:1-2 - Ai. God's strategy was to lay an ambush in order to take the city.

Joshua 7:1-5 - Ai. In between the above two Scriptures, the failed attempt to capture Ai was a direct result of Joshua's failure to ask God what to do. Had he listened to Him instead of being carried away with the euphoria of a victory at Jericho and therefore planning his own strategy, he would have been told that there was sin in Israel and that the nation was no longer able to stand victoriously against its enemies.

Joshua 9:3-27 (esp v.14) - The Gibeonites. The children of Israel made a covenant with the Gibeonites (a people who they were to make no covenant with because they dwelt in the land that God had given to them and were told to wipe out all its inhabitants) without asking counsel from God. Fortunately, God honoured their agreement, but they were still guilty of forgetting to go back to God to ask Him first before they did anything.

b. Through the wilderness

Exodus 17:5-6 - Massah and Meribah. Moses heard and obeyed when he struck the rock.

Numbers 20:7-8, 11-12 - The waters of Meribah. Moses heard but disobeyed by striking the rock.

The Law was and is a type of Christ, an illustration to us of both what He is like and what He did on the cross, and it is Christ who is, figuratively here, the supernatural Rock of sustenance in the wilderness (I Cor 10:1-5). Christ the Rock was smitten once to release the water of life, he suffered once for all time and for all men on the cross of Calvary (Heb 7:27, 9:28) - forever afterwards He is spoken to in order to receive the provision of Living water.

Blinded by his anger, possibly, Moses thought that it would be alright to follow the method that he had the last time this had happened but failed to realise that the old way should not be adhered to when God speaks concerning something new.

c. Other Scriptures

II Chr 20:13-17 - Jehoshaphat. When an enemy army came up against the land in order to dispossess God's people from their inheritance, he set himself to hear the word of the Lord.

Then when he heard it he obeyed it and, as a demonstration of his faith in the promises of God, sent the singers out first in front of the army (v.22) - probably one of the very few occasions when the minstrels have won the battle without a shot being fired (NB - the enemy army didn't commit suicide because of the musicians' bad playing!).

I Samuel 30:1-9a - David. He enquired of the Lord before he pursued the enemy, then he knew that victory was guaranteed (v.17). The Amalekites in the Bible are often a type of satan and his multitudes - if we ever find that satan has stolen part of our God-given inheritance from us, then we need to hear from God first before we will know that the victory is assured and that we might pursue him successfully.

Doing what seems right will not win God's battles - we must listen to God for His strategy.

d. The principle in Jesus' life

John 5:19 - '...the Son can do nothing of His own accord, but only what He sees the Father doing...'

Jesus perceived what the Father wanted Him to do, then He did it. The verse here is not implying ’copying’ or ’mimicry’ but the same work, denoting equality with God; it is not a duplication of work but a harmony with it. Jesus didn't see God do something 'somewhere' and decide to do that somewhere else - He perceived what the Father was doing in the situations that He found Himself in and did that work.

Jesus' ultimate obedience to the strategy of the Father is recorded for us in Mtw 26:39 when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Even though the way of the cross was not Jesus’ will (that is, He would rather have found some other way to reconcile the world to God), He chose the strategy that was offered Him.

e. The principle in the Church's life

Mtw 16:19 - 'Whatever you bind/forbid on earth, shall have been bound/forbidden in Heaven'.

Despite our English translations making out that Heaven will get in line with whatever we decide shall happen, Jesus actually said that we will be able to make anything happen or forbid anything happening if it has previously been decided upon by Heaven (God).

In other words, we must listen first for the strategy in order for us to be effective and to experience the victory.

f. What happens if we don't listen to God?

I include this section because we often equate the Lord's material blessing upon our life as evidence of us being in His will. If such a statement were true, then you would only have to look around for the richest christian to determine who was doing God's will best.

And, if it was the case, the occult sects which have large possessions and the wealthy businessmen who cheat and prosper must be so close to God's heart that we should be following their example!

God, being the gracious God He is, still blesses a disobedient people (even His own disobedient people), but they fail to receive the fulness of His purpose and provision. Blessing is bestowed upon all men because of God's grace - and if it's grace then it's done regardless of merit and solely by God's choice (Mtw 5:45). He allows both rebels and righteous alike to become materially rich.

God blesses people because He delights to give people what they don't deserve - it is part of His character to give freely without merit being a criteria for the gift. Blessings, therefore, are a product of His grace and not necessarily of our righteousness.

Having great possessions is not a sign for us that we are in God's will and doing what He tells us to do (Rev 3:17). And having great possessions means that we have greater responsibility to use them in accordance with the revealed will of God and not according to what we want to do (Lk 12:13-21).

I should point out that we are not saying that God blesses our disobedience, but that He blesses us even when we are disobedient. He sustains and nourishes us even when we don't run to do His will or even want to know what His Word is on a specific matter.

The best example of this principle has to be the children of Israel when they found themselves wandering aimlessly through the wilderness for an additional 38 years because they failed to go in and begin to take possession of the land that the Lord had already given to them (Deut 1:26).

Even throughout this entire time, God still blessed them and provided for them, even though they had failed to possess the promised land and they had no direction in God - they perpetually wandered round in circles until the last of the disobedient generation died out. It is a sombre point to be made that learning about the same principles again and again over a period of time is an indication that, although we have a sense of constantly moving on, we are, in fact, achieving nothing and going nowhere.

There were three specific areas in which we see God's miraculous and mighty provision and yet, with the same blessing, we see that the Israelites' disobedience had withheld them from experiencing the provision of God in all its fulness.

Not only will it help us to observe this principle in action, but it has much to say to us and will warn us to test our own lives out to see whether we are laying hold of our possessions in Christ or whether we are wandering around aimlessly, being blessed by God but going nowhere.

If it's the latter, then there is but one thing to do - in the words of the first heading above, we must begin to 'listen to God for the strategy of the battle'.

The three blessings of the children of Israel

i. God's blessing - Children were born

Detail - Children are a blessing sent by God (Gen 33:5, 48:9, Ps 127:3-5 - 'Blessed is the man who has his quiver full of [sons]'). Through our children we perpetuate our name and teach them the way they should go that they may be a blessing to us.

The perpetuation of Israel/individual tribes relied upon God blessing them with children. It was a horror to the Jews if a man, because of no offspring, did not continue his line. Hence, God's provision in the Law (Deut 25:5-6).

But...No growth

The first census - Numbers 1:45-46                                            603,550
(not later than 2 years after leaving Egypt, taken at Sinai)
The second census - Numbers 26:51                                          601,730
(around 40 years after the Exodus)
Net reduction                                                                               1,820

(NB - The book of Numbers gets its name because of the two census that are recorded - one at the beginning, the other at the end).

Spiritual application - Conversions (new births) yet no numerical growth in the church.

How would you like to see 600,000 new converts but the church remain as strong as it is today? In a number of churches there has been conversion after conversion but with no numerical growth. The blessing of the new birth but no expansion - building up another fellowship with the fruit of your own labours (Deut 28:4-5 Cp with Deut 28:30).

When a church stays the same size over a long period of time, then it is an indication that it is in a wilderness experience and has not yet begun to lay hold of the promised inheritance in Christ.

NB - Isaiah 54:2-3 - Room must be made for expansion. When God says ‘growth', enlarging our borders to cope with it must take place or else there comes a withholding of 'growth'. Converts, yes, but no numerical growth.

ii. God’s blessing - Food provision

Detail - Exodus 16:4 (Manna to eat), Exodus 16:13 (Quails to eat), Joshua 5:12 (The manna continued until they ate of the produce of the promised land), Num 20:8, Exodus 15:24, 15:27 (Water provided whenever they were thirsty).

But...they had not eaten of the promised land (except on that one occasion when the spies brought back a cluster of grapes - Numbers 13:23).

Joshua 5:12 - The produce of Canaan and the manna were incompatible so that the latter stopped when the former began. God fed them with manna until they were able to feed themselves. Having to feed a baby is a wilderness experience, but providing food for a child to feed itself is the beginning of the promised land.

Isaiah 1:19 - 'If you are willing and obedient you shall eat the good of the land'. Through the Israelites' rebellion when they stood on the border of the promised land, they failed to go in and begin to eat of the fruit of their inheritance.

Spiritual application - Not being partakers of God's promises but settling for enough (instead of laying hold of the fruit of the land).

Moses is able to say to the Israelites 'you have lacked nothing' (Deut 2:7) after the forty year journey, but the land of promise still awaits them.

Heb 5:12-14, I Cor 13:11 - Many christians remain always in childhood, never growing up to maturity in Christ. They feed on the manna provided for them and give thanks to God for it, but they never become adults in their christian walk and so never press on into the fulness of God's provision.

In the promised land, God's provision is in great abundance - it is only barely sufficient in the wilderness. God feeding us is wilderness - in the promised land you have to work for your food by cultivation and so feed yourself with God's provision.

Being in the wilderness is like being on a diet and eating dry wafers instead of cream cakes!

The Church continues on such a small amount of God's provision because it has failed to gain access to the land of abundance through obedience. It waits for God to feed it rather than to feed itself with God, and is often content with nomadic wandering instead of anxiously pressing on in to lay hold of its rightful inheritance.

iii. God's blessing - Clothes provision

Detail - Deut 29:5 (8:4, Neh 9:21) - In the conditions that the Israelites experienced, it was a miracle that both their shoes and clothes lasted a few days, let alone forty years.

But...they had put on nothing new.

They may have tried to revamp the old and make it look new, but it was always the same in a different form. I wonder how the men of Israel felt when their wives came to them most weeks and complained 'Darling, I simply haven't got anything new to wear!'?

And, before anyone emails me...that isn’t meant to be taken seriously.

Spiritual application - Not moving on in God into new things.

There's always been different ways of doing the same thing but this is nothing new - singing praise in choruses instead of hymns is certainly not a 'new thing' but the old one revamped to make it more acceptable to the people of today's society. New choruses but no new life is not moving on into new things.

There's always been additions possible to the normal run of things but neither is this new - changing the service around so that the sermon comes first and the communion later on is certainly nothing new, neither is adding a couple of solo songs and a drama sketch.

But, to capture the new we must forsake the old.

Isaiah 43:18-19 reads 'Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old (the context is the events of the Exodus out of Israel). Behold, I am doing a new thing...'

Mtw 9:17 - New wine is never put into old wineskins or else the wineskin will break and the wine will be lost. Structures come very much second place in the Church. It is the life of God that is first and after that we organise ourselves around Him.

God has restored to the Church over the years and He is still restoring. In the Reformation, God restored to the Church the doctrine of 'Salvation by faith' (not that it was unknown through the centuries leading up to then, but it was not widely known). With the Pentecostals, He restored the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gifts (again, not unheard of before that time). More recently, in the House Group churches He established the ministry/counselling of setting free/deliverance (though that must be a temporary arrangement as Scripture shows us that Jesus set free with a word of command and this is how we are to do it, too).

And where will God move us on into next?

Of course, many churches still do not know the infilling of the Holy Spirit except in theory and so there will be a need for the Lord to bring them into this part of their inheritance, but for others it will be something different. What is most important, however, is that we don't accept a wilderness experience but, rather, actively seek God for the correct strategy to move us on into victory after victory (as we said at the beginning).


Listening to God is the prime objective of the Church of Christ. Without that Word and obedience to it, we will wander aimlessly around in circles always thinking that the blessing we experience is 'it’, never realising that we are only on the very edge of all that God desires to do both in us and through us.

2. Listening to God for His strategy will mean that we use different methods

New life given by listening to and obeying God will lead us into new methods. But new methods are not an end in themselves, they are mere religious observances when we think that we can capture the anointing of God by following set procedures and formats. All methods only bear a form of the reality, they are not the reality in themselves.

a. Jesus and Demon expulsion

Mtw 8:28-34 - Jesus banished the unclean spirits into pigs with a word of permission.

Mtw 17:14-18 - Jesus cast the demon out with a word of rebuke directed at it and the boy who was before Him.

Lk 13:10-13 - Jesus laid hands on the woman and she was made straight. The demon's influence also left her.

Mtw 15:21-28 - Jesus cast the demon out with a word spoken at a considerable distance from the possessed.

No two of these instances gives us a specific methodology to be used when confronted with a demonic spirit. Jesus (merely) did what was necessary in each situation and did not consider them to require the same treatment. Notice also that, when instructing the 12 to cast out demons, Jesus said nothing about the method that they were to employ (Mtw 10:8).

b. Israel into Canaan

Israel were brought into Canaan in two different manners.

i. The Exodus

God brought them through the parting of the Red Sea, via the giving of the Law at Sinai and then by military conquest (Ex 14:21-29, Is 43:15-17 [GNB]).

ii. After exile

God provided for His people with streams in the desert (Is 43:19b-21 [GNB]).

And what did God say after the first but before the second? 'Don't remember the way I did it last time, I am going to do it a new way' (Is 43:18-19a [GNB]). In a certain sense, we too must forget the way God worked then and look to how He is going to work now. Every new move of God (Methodism, Baptism, Pentecostalism, House Church-ism) means a new way to do things and a new demonstration of the power of God that is relevant to the culture of that generation.

c. The Old Covenant and the New

In Ex 12:14, Lev 23:14, the Bible uses the phrase ‘a statute forever'. The word highlighted means, literally, 'the vanishing point' - the point at which things are no longer important. This frequent phrase in the Torah does not mean that the Mosaic Law was for all eternity but that it was to be observed 'until the law ended (fulfilled in Christ)' (Heb 10:1).

When God promised to bring in a new covenant, He says that it will not be like the first one (Jer 31:31-34), but that it will be altogether different in its scope and purpose. New wine is for new wineskins, the old must make way for the new (Mtw 9:17). And, therefore, the new will express itself in different ways to the new:

 OLD                                              NEW
 i. Animal sacrifices                         i. Our bodies as living sacrifices
 ii. A man-made temple in                ii. A body-temple in which to
 which to worship God                     worship God
 iii. God's presence in a                   iii. God's presence in His people
 iv. Law engraved on tablets             iv. Law engraved on human hearts
 of stone

The religion of yesteryear, the old way of doing things in the Church, holds back the blessing of today. The Jews held fast to the old and missed the new that Jesus came to bring. When God speaks, holding fast to the old way will mean that the Lord will pass by.

d. Zerubbabel’s temple

Ezra 3:10-13 - The foundation was laid. Many who had seen the first temple wept, for the foundation was far smaller than the one previously constructed by Solomon and they were grieved at how they’d fallen from such splendour.

But, though it was a small foundation, God said of it that from small beginnings this temple would be more glorious than the previous one, indeed, the most glorious temple of all in His eyes.

For it was this Temple that was never destroyed as a result of the disobedience of the children of Israel as the other two were. The new, though smaller, was, in God's eyes, far more glorious.


So long as the battle is won, therefore, the method is totally unimportant so long as it does not contradict Biblical principles and deny Christ.

We must, firstly, be warned in case we try to emulate those around us by using the same methods that they use (Acts 19:13-16). The power, authority and ultimate victory do not rest in methodology but in listening to the voice of God and obeying Him.

And, secondly, we should be warned not to criticise the method that others use (Mtw 9:32-34, Mk 3:1-6) when it runs contrary to all that we think or would do ourselves.

3. The element of surprise (God's unpredictability)

If a person or people know what an enemy will do, then they are in a good position to be able to withstand him. Nations have to anticipate the enemy's tactics and strategy in order for them to have the upper hand in the conflict.

God changes His strategy in battles because He enjoys it (He’s the God of infinite variety) but also to employ the element of surprise.

Joshua 6:4-5 to 8:1-2,15,19-20 - The change of tactics surprised the inhabitants of Ai, they expected the same sort of attack that had previously failed.

II Sam 5:6-10 - Climbing the water shaft into Jerusalem surprised the enemy. They did not expect such an assault.

I Sam 14:6,12-15 - Jonathan's unexpected solo attack brought panic to the Philistine garrison. It ended in the rout of the entire army.

Judges 7:7,19-22 - Gideon and the 300 terrified the Midianites and Amalekites by the employment of unexpected and unusual tactics (note that at no time were torches and rams’ horns employed during WW2 to defeat the axis forces - it was a method solely intended for that one battle).

The cross - Until Jesus cried ‘It is finished', the enemy didn't realise that he had brought about and participated in his own defeat (like Job 2:4-5). Mk 9:31-32 - Even the disciples who knew it did not perceive it until after the resurrection because they expected the Messiah to come with power and authority and not have to suffer an ignominious death.