These are notes on the sermon, When The Odds Are Against You, preached by Pastor Joseph Prince on Sunday, 3 April 2022, at The Star Performing Arts Centre, Singapore. We hope these sermon notes will be an encouragement to you!
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Pastor Prince starts the sermon by sharing a testimony of a sister who received healing for her blocked arteries as she spent time with the Lord and received the Lord’s word for her. Pastor Prince encourages us to receive God’s Word in our heart with a simple, “Amen!”
“. . . be it unto me according to thy word . . .”
— Luke 1:38 KJV
This was what Mary said when the angel of the Lord gave her the word that she would bear forth God’s Son. When we say “Amen,” we agree with what God says and establish His promises in our lives!
Today’s message is a special word in season for the Benjamin Generation (the end-time generation). It is based on a story in 1 Samuel 13, where Israel's army, led by King Saul from the tribe of Benjamin, was surrounded by their enemies.
“Then the Philistines gathered together to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen, and people as the sand which is on the seashore in multitude. And they came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth Aven. When the men of Israel saw that they were in danger (for the people were distressed), then the people hid in caves, in thickets, in rocks, in holes, and in pits. And some of the Hebrews crossed over the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. As for Saul, he was still in Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.”
— 1 Samuel 13:5–7 NKJV
In this story, God’s people being surrounded by their enemies is a picture of what Christians are facing today. We are living in a time where the world seems to be assaulting Christians and trying to put us to shame.
King Saul was greatly afraid in this situation, and out of fear of his own people deserting him, he disobeyed God. In 1 Samuel 10:8, Saul was instructed by the prophet Samuel to wait for Samuel’s arrival to sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before going to war. But during this period of waiting, when Saul saw how his soldiers were fleeing (1 Sam. 13:11), he chose to offer a sacrifice on his own instead of waiting for Samuel because he was desperate to take control of the situation himself. Because Saul disobeyed God, his kingship was passed to another (1 Sam. 13:14).
Instead of waiting on the Lord, Saul felt the need to take things into his own hands. Saul was a fleshly man who walked by what he saw. The flesh always wants to do something to help itself instead of waiting upon the Lord.
The Bible tells us to walk by faith and not by what we see (2 Cor. 5:7). Even in the face of our troubles, we can choose to stand still and see the Lord fight for us (Exod. 14:13).
Unlike Saul, David was not a fleshly king. Instead of making decisions based on appeasing the people around him, David made decisions based on the Lord’s will and guidance. If you are a leader in any capacity, may you not make decisions based on seeking the approval of others but based on seeking the approval of the Lord. Do not be like the church in Laodicea who acted on whatever they felt was right, but instead, seek the Lord.
The church is not operated by democracy but by theocracy, where the Lord speaks and leads through leadership. The Lord will guide the church and grant demonstrations of His power when the church is aligned with Him. Just like how electricity can only flow through the conductors, the power of God flows through us when we are submissive to His will and aligned with the Holy Spirit.
“Then Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin. And Saul numbered the people present with him, about six hundred men. Saul, Jonathan his son, and the people present with them remained in Gibeah of Benjamin. But the Philistines encamped in Michmash.”
— 1 Samuel 13:15–16 NKJV
“Gibeah of Benjamin” — This is the capital of the tribe of Benjamin. The Philistines were closing in on them at Michmash, which was very nearby.
“Then raiders came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies. One company turned onto the road to Ophrah, to the land of Shual, another company turned to the road to Beth Horon, and another company turned to the road of the border that overlooks the Valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.”
— 1 Samuel 13:17–18 NKJV
Israel was surrounded by their enemies (the Philistines were closing in from Beth Horon, Ophrah, and Zeboim, while Jerusalem was occupied by the Jebusites). As a result, the people were afraid and went into hiding. Some even defected to join the Philistines.
This is a picture of the church today: some of us have adopted a victim-mentality, expecting to be attacked and defeated instead of expecting God’s kind of victory. God’s victory is different from the victory attained through the arm of flesh. We cannot overcome the flesh with the arm of flesh; we cannot use worldly methods to overcome the world.
“Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts.”
— Zechariah 4:6b NKJV
This is God’s way to overcome our trials—through the power of the Holy Spirit that flows in us as we follow the Lord.
The Philistines were Greeks who entered Israel via the Mediterranean coast instead of crossing the river Jordan like the children of Israel did. The river Jordan is a picture of being born again, where we die to self and are resurrected in Christ. As believers, we are crucified with Christ; our old selves (this includes flesh, the part of ourselves that has the propensity for sin) have passed away and our new selves have been resurrected with Him. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
“Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make swords or spears.”
— 1 Samuel 13:19 NKJV
During this time of battle, the Philistines had the knowledge and technology to make iron while the children of Israel only had the knowledge to make bronze (which is weaker than iron).
This is a picture of how today, the world seems to be more advanced than the church. However, if you look back at history, you’ll find that many significant inventions that have blessed generations came from believers or the Jewish people.
“But all the Israelites would go down to the Philistines to sharpen each man’s plowshare, his mattock, his ax, and his sickle;”
— 1 Samuel 13:20 NKJV
“and the charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares and for the mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening the axes and for setting the goads.”
— 1 Samuel 13:21 ESV
The Philistines did not want to share their knowledge with the Israelites so that they could remain more advanced in weaponry. However, the children of Israel were allowed to use iron for their farming tools, but they had to go to the Philistines and pay an exorbitant amount of money to sharpen their iron tools with the Philistines’ iron. This added to the Israelites’ shame as they became dependent on their enemy’s help during a time of battle.
When we use the things of the world, we become dependent on the world. God wants us to depend on Him. Today, it can seem like the people of the world are more advanced or are experiencing more breakthroughs than the church. But we do not have to depend on the ways of the world to attain victory. God can give us victory using whatever is in our hands.
Example 1: Victory with an ox goad
“After him was Shamgar the son of Anath, who killed six hundred men of the Philistines with an ox goad; and he also delivered Israel.”
— Judges 3:31 NKJV
Example 2: Victory with a sling and a stone
“So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone…But there was no sword in the hand of David.”
— 1 Samuel 17:50 NKJV
Example 3: Victory with a donkey’s jawbone
“He found a fresh jawbone of a donkey, reached out his hand and took it, and killed a thousand men with it.”
— Judges 15:15 NKJV
In the Bible, we see how God’s people defeated their enemies with the simple things that they had in their hands. Shamgar defeated the enemies with an ox goad, David defeated Goliath with a slingshot, and Samson defeated 1,000 Philistines with the jawbone of a donkey. Even though they did not have any strong weapons (which would have added to their natural strength for battle), these men still defeated their enemies because the Lord was with them. In the same way, we do not need the weapons of the world to get victory in our lives.
Our victory comes from God and following His ways.
The Greek translation of the word “church” is “ekklésia,” which means “called out.” The church is called out of the world. Even though we are in the world, we are not of the world.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.”
— 1 John 2:15 KJV
Being worldly does not refer to enjoying God’s creations or inventions that have brought us joy and delight. Instead, it refers to indulging ourselves in things that concern the lust of the flesh, the lust of eyes, and the pride of life (1 John. 2:16). The world glorifies pride, but God glorifies humility.
If any latest invention or form of progress in the world feeds the lust of the flesh, the lust of eyes, and the pride of life, then it will rob us of our inheritance in Christ.
All of God’s blessings can come on you and overtake you without help from man’s creation.
“. . . that the LORD your God will set you high above all nations of the earth. And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you . . .”
— Deuteronomy 28:1–2 NKJV
“. . . and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,”
— Ephesians 2:6 NKJV
“who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,”
— Ephesians 1:3b NKJV
God has placed us higher than the world. This promise for the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 28 is our reality today. Because of the finished work of Jesus, we are seated in heavenly places and blessed with every spiritual blessing! These blessings translate to material blessings as well, e.g. wisdom and power to get wealth (Deut. 8:18).
If an invention or idea is from the Lord to be adopted by His people, it will have His fingerprints on it
“Put the Ark of the LORD on the cart . . .”
— 1 Samuel 6:8 NLT
During David’s reign as king in Israel, the Philistines stole the ark of the covenant during a battle. When the ark brought great destruction to many Philistine cities, the Philistines decided to send it back to Israel. Not knowing the proper order of how to transport the ark, they put the ark on a cart driven by two milk cows (1 Sam. 6:11–12).
When it came to how to transport or treat the ark, the Philistines didn’t know any better. But David grew up knowing God’s ways; he knew that the ark was meant to be carried on the shoulders of Levites (the priests) and not transported on an ox cart. However, David adopted the way of the Philistines and transported the ark using an ox cart when trying to move it to Jerusalem. While David had the right motive in wanting to bring the ark to Jerusalem (the center of God’s people), he went about it using the ways of the world. We cannot use worldly methods to glorify Jesus when they contradict God’s ordained ways as stated in His Word.
“Now all these things happened to them as examples (‘tupos’ – types), and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”
— 1 Corinthians 10:11 NKJV
The events that happened in the Old Testament are examples and types written for our learning and benefit today.
“Examples (‘tupos’ – types)” — The Philistines are a type; they represent a system of worldliness trying to make inroads into our lives.
“Then the LORD appeared to him and said: “Do not go down to Egypt . . .”
— Genesis 26:2 NKJV
“Then Isaac sowed in that land . . . The man began to prosper, and continued prospering until he became very prosperous . . . So the Philistines envied him.”
— Genesis 26:12–14 NKJV
During Isaac’s time, there was a famine in the land. The Lord instructed Isaac not to go down to Egypt but to sow in his own land instead. As Isaac followed the Lord, he prospered to a point where his enemies envied him! In the same way, we need not envy others. When we follow and trust in the Lord, He can cause us to prosper and be the one others will be envious of.
“. . . work heartily, as unto the Lord . . .”
— Colossians 3:23 ASV
“Labour not to be rich;”
— Proverbs 23:4a KJV
We do not work to be rich but to glorify God.
The ways of God are simple. He can use the little we have to prosper us.
We saw how in Judges 3:31, Shamgar overcame the Philistines with an ox goad. An ox goad is a picture of the words in our mouths.
“The words of the wise are like goads, and like nails firmly fixed are the collected sayings; they are given by one Shepherd.”
— Ecclesiastes 12:11 ESV
“goads” — The Hebrew translation of this word is “lamed,” which means to teach. The ox-goad is a picture of our words.
Wisdom for parenting
Parents, do not underestimate the power of your words! Your words can teach your children—be it a simple word of encouragement or a word of correction, God can use these words to impart wisdom and grace to your children. Do not despise the words that you speak. Ask God for the right words that can speak right to the hearts of your children.
Example 1: Moses and his rod
“Then Moses answered and said, “But suppose they will not believe me or listen to my voice; suppose they say, ‘The LORD has not appeared to you.’” So the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” He said, “A rod.”
— Exodus 4:1–2 NKJV
Although Moses felt like he only had a rod in his hand, God used this rod to call forth the plagues in Egypt and split the Red Sea.
Today God is asking you: What is that in your hand?
He can do great things with it!
Perhaps what you have in your hand is time. When you give it to the Lord, He can lead you to use your time wisely and productively in ways that will bless you and bring breakthroughs.
Example 2: The widow and her jar of oil
“A certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets cried out to Elisha, saying, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that your servant feared the LORD. And the creditor is coming to take my two sons to be his slaves.” So Elisha said to her, “What shall I do for you? Tell me, what do you have in the house?” And she said, “Your maidservant has nothing in the house but a jar of oil.”
— 2 Kings 4:1–2 NKJV
“Jar” — This does not refer to a large jar of oil that some of us may have at home. The Hebrew translation for this word is “asuk,” which refers to a small flask. God caused oil to flow out of this small flask to fill many vessels until the vessels ran out (2 Kings 4:5–6)!
In these two stories, we see how God used the simple things that Moses and the widow already had to prosper them. The key to their blessing was not the things that they possessed but the blessing of God upon them.
Some of us might feel like we do not have much to offer or that our gifts are too small. But just like how the Lord multiplied the oil that the widow had, He can multiply the gifts that we already possess! We need not be envious or feel inferior when comparing ourselves with others. Even if what we have might not seem like much, with God’s blessing, we will prosper.
Example 3: The widow and her little flour and oil
“So she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I do not have bread, only a handful of flour in a bin, and a little oil in a jar; and see, I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it, and die.” And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said, but make me a small cake from it first, and bring it to me; and afterward make some for yourself and your son.”
— 1 Kings 17:12–13 NKJV
“make me a small cake” — This widow had only a little flour and oil, but she used it to give Elijah a cake. There’s something special about the simple act of giving.
“. . . it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.”
— 1 Corinthians 1:21 NKJV
“For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified . . . Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
— 1 Corinthians 1:22–24 NKJV
“Save” — This includes healing, deliverance, protection, and prosperity.
The world might think it’s foolish to believe that Jesus’ finished work at the cross can save us, but that is how God ordained it to be. God’s ways are simple. Even a simple piece of bread and a little juice (the Holy Communion) has the power to heal us when we put our trust in the finished work of Christ! The simple ways of the Lord can bring us wisdom, favor, power, and success.
Back to the story of King Saul and his army being surrounded by their enemies:
“So it came about, on the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan. But they were found with Saul and Jonathan his son. And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.”
— 1 Samuel 13:22–23 NKJV
When all the odds were against them, God was just waiting for one man to step forward and confront the enemy. And that person was Jonathan, Saul’s son.
“Now it happened one day that Jonathan the son of Saul said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the Philistines’ garrison that is on the other side.” But he did not tell his father.”
— 1 Samuel 14:1 NKJV
Jonathan decided to fight the Philistines with his armorbearer without Saul’s knowledge.
Jonathan’s armorbearer was a young man. Today, God is looking for young men and women to carry out His great and mighty exploits. We are living in a time where the Lord is raising the youths of today to become His champions. He is going to raise this generation of youths to become His mighty men.
“Between the passes, by which Jonathan sought to go over to the Philistines’ garrison, there was a sharp rock on one side and a sharp rock on the other side. And the name of one was Bozez, and the name of the other Seneh. The front of one faced northward opposite Michmash, and the other southward opposite Gibeah.”
— 1 Samuel 14:4–5 NKJV
The Philistines were positioned on ground with higher elevation than Jonathan and his armorbearer.
“Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the LORD will work for us. For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few.” So his armorbearer said to him, “Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart.”
— 1 Samuel 14:6–7 NKJV
“For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few.” — Nothing can stop the Lord from saving us. The Lord is a Savior and He wants to save you in your situation right now, no matter the odds against you.
“Do all that is in your heart. Go then; here I am with you, according to your heart” — This is what Jonathan’s armorbearer said to Jonathan. Jonathan was a leader who led with his heart and followed the Lord. Leaders who love God will inspire others to follow them and want to support them. In contrast, Saul’s men seemed to follow him half-heartedly (1 Sam. 14:36).
We lead with our hearts. When it comes to your children, it’s heart work (not hard work). Speak from your heart to their heart. Let them see your love; let them see why you’re correcting them.
“So both of them showed themselves to the garrison of the Philistines. And the Philistines said, “Look, the Hebrews are coming out of the holes where they have hidden.” Then the men of the garrison called to Jonathan and his armorbearer, and said, “Come up to us, and we will show you something.” Jonathan said to his armorbearer, “Come up after me, for the LORD has delivered them into the hand of Israel.”
— 1 Samuel 14:11–12 NKJV
“Come up to us” — According to the wisdom of the world, the one who commands the higher terrain will win the battle. Naturally, this would’ve been a disadvantage to Jonathan and his armorbearer. But the ways of God are different; even in situations where the odds might seem to be stacked against us, God can turn them around for our victory.
“And Jonathan climbed up on his hands and knees with his armorbearer after him; and they fell before Jonathan. And as he came after him, his armorbearer killed them. That first slaughter which Jonathan and his armorbearer made was about twenty men within about half an acre of land. And there was trembling in the camp, in the field, and among all the people. The garrison and the raiders also trembled; and the earth quaked, so that it was a very great trembling. Now the watchmen of Saul in Gibeah of Benjamin looked, and there was the multitude, melting away; and they went here and there.”
— 1 Samuel 14:13–16 NKJV
The result is that all the Philistines ran away from the two men.
When King Saul saw the commotion in the Philistine camp and realized his son and his armorbearer were fighting and winning, Saul and his army joined them.
All it took was for two people (Jonathan and his armorbearer) for the Lord to deliver Israel from the Philistines. The Lord was just waiting for someone to take a simple step forward.
If you take that small step on your own, it’s true that nothing will happen. But if you’re doing it with the Lord and with His leading, you will see blessing and victory. The Lord will deliver us when we trust Him and step out in faith. Even if it seems like the odds are against us, the Lord has promised that He is with us!
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
— Matthew 18:20 KJV
“not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together . . .”
— Hebrews 10:25 KJV
This refers to the physical assembling of the church. Pastor Prince ends the service by encouraging us to gather together. The church is where our blessings and inheritance in Christ are found!
“Lord Jesus, I confess You as my Lord and my Savior. I believe You died on the cross for all my sins and I believe God raised You from the dead when I was justified in You. Thank You, Lord Jesus, Your blood has washed away all my sins. And from now on, Lord, please reveal more and more of Yourself to me. I want to know more and more of You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
“May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be multiplied upon you and your family. In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, may the wisdom of God cause you to see where you are patterning after the world and where you are falling short in these areas. And that the Holy Spirit lead you out of the world, out of Egypt, the place of double stress, into a place of great expansion and abundance, the land flowing with milk and honey. The Lord give you the wisdom and the eyes to see what He wants you to see: your inheritance in Christ for everything is in Him. May God give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation from this day forth, the eyes of your inner man being enlightened, that you will know the glory of your inheritance, the riches of your inheritance in Christ. And that you will possess it and not allow the Philistines to deprive you of it. In the name of the Lord Jesus, be totally blessed, you and your families, throughout this week. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
“Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, “Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the Lord will work for us. For nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few.””
— 1 Samuel 14:6 NKJV
“But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty;”
— 1 Corinthians 1:27 NKJV
Beloved, you are set apart from the world for the glory of God. This means you don’t need to depend on worldly methods to see success and breakthroughs, but you can trust in the Lord’s blessing upon the little you have to bring victory in any situation—even if it looks like the odds are against you.
Friend, when you trust in the Lord and His ways, you will not be put to shame!
We hope these sermon notes blessed you! If they did, we encourage you to get the sermon and allow the Lord to speak to you personally as you watch or listen to it.
© Copyright JosephPrince.com 2022
These sermon notes were taken by volunteers during the service. They are not a verbatim representation of the sermon.
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