Read at beginning of service:
2 Peter 1:3-4 (NIV)
3 His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
Every now and then I come across statements that are used often in Christian circles but when I think about it are really things I wish we would be more careful in saying. One of those statements is?”God wants to use you”. To me the word “used” can be a bit negative. At least it is without explanation. Why? Well for one, we live in a very “user” oriented world. In this context there?s the sense of “using” something for personal gain ? in some cases when that something is “used” it is then discarded because it becomes useless. In other cases something is used over and over again until it is worn out. When talking about using tools, instruments, medication, food etc. it?s just a descriptive verb. However in it?s most negative contexts the word “used” is associated with being taken advantage of. How many of you have ever said (or heard someone say), “He/She used me!”
Now with that being said, let?s really think about the statement, “God wants to use you”. You see where I think we need to be careful about what we say sometimes? I mean how many husbands would dare say, “yeah I want to use my wife.” Or wives say, “I want to use my husband”. It smacks full of egocentric bullying and sounds incredibly selfish. So when we say, “God wants to use you” there can be this immediate association with how God is out to use people for His own personal gain and then they?re discarded or that we are just brainless “tools/instruments” in God?s hands. The sad thing is ? there are people who believe that.
Of course for the most part, when Christians use that statement that?s not really what we mean. What we really mean is that God wants to work in and through your life to transform you, to influence others through you, and to glorify His name. Is this for His benefit? Yes ? but the difference is, it?s also for your benefit. When God “uses” us it doesn?t deteriorate us but instead enriches us. The people God “uses” experience great blessings in their lives and are a great blessing to others and bring great blessing to God. In a real sense, God is blessed when we are blessed.
I believe that seeking to be “used” by God is really endeavoring to partner with His work. And friends, His business is the best thing we could ever be a part of.
People all over the world can testify to the richness of their lives when they “get in” on the creators work. Recently there has been an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in a revival at Bethel Pentecostal Church in Sarnia Ontario. Some of the reports that I?ve been reading coming from the revival are really exciting. People getting healed. Lives being transformed ? and you know what the cool thing is? It?s not just happening in the church building. What?s really inspiring for me when I read about this is what?s happening in ordinary people?s lives who are getting in on what God is doing. Let me just share one example ?
At the beginning of June Candice, a 17-year-old girl had a broken hand. Some of the youth who were attending revival services went to her high school and were praying for healing for students at the school. Candice was healed through their prayers and went to church on a Thursday night to check it out. At church God convicted her of sin in her life and she dedicated her life to Christ.
The next day (Friday) at school a friend complained of pain in his ear, and she prayed for him. The power of God touched the young man and healed his ear.
On Saturday Candice joined an outreach team in Canatara Park to share her faith. That night as a result of the Word of God she had heard preached, she went home and filled two garbage bags with drug paraphernalia, alcohol, clothes, posters, and other things that she believed were strongholds in her life. She has completely turned her life around, has been set free from bondage and is stepping out in power and authority for the cause of Christ. (originally published on the website of Bethel Pentecostal Church, Sarnia, Ontario, June 2006)
This is exciting! And that?s just one example of many of the kinds of things God is doing as they partner with Him in His work. What does the Bible say is the fruit of his kingdom?
But when the Holy Spirit controls our lives, he will produce this kind of fruit in us: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? —Galatians 5:22-23 (NLT)
I?ve got to ask you the question, who wouldn?t want to be a part of something like this? Who wouldn?t want to partner with our creator in His work to advance His kingdom, and see His power at work? Who wouldn?t want to experience the fruit of the Spirit in their lives? Hopefully there is a kernel of desire awakened in your spirit to partner with God in the incredible work he?s doing. If so, then I want to share with you 5 keys to inviting the powerful work of God through your life.
Embrace the Dream – Believe that God wants to work in through you.
This is so important ? until you actually believe that God wants to work through you it isn?t going to happen. If you are going to be used by God, you will have to believe that God will use you. God has already made it abundantly clear in His word that His desire from day one has been to work in and through man to accomplish His greatest works.
In the beginning, He set Adam and Eve over the rest of His creation and Adam even named the animals. He walked with them and talked with them. What do you think they were talking about?
Reading through the Old Testament you?ll find story after story of how God took ordinary people and accomplished great things through them.
Abraham was old, Jacob was insecure, Leah was unattractive, Joseph was abused, Moses stuttered, Gideon was poor, Samson was codependent, Rahab was immoral, David had an affair and all kinds of family problems, Elijah was suicidal, Jeremiah was depressed, Jonah was reluctant, Naomi was a widow, John the Baptist was eccentric to say the least, Peter was impulsive and hot-tempered, Martha worried a lot, the Samaritan woman had several failed marriages, Zacchaeus was unpopular, Thomas had doubts, Paul had poor health, and Timothy was timid. That is quite a variety of misfits, but God used each of them in his service.
(The Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren, p. 233)
Something is common in every story of a person used by God is that they first must come to a place where they embrace God?s dream for them ? where they actually believe ? “Hey! God wants to use me!”
Discover the hangups – Realize/recognize that He can?t use you unless sin/pride is dealt with
There is a problem however and that problem is sin. At it?s root sin is simply that state of pride that declares “I don?t need God. I am God” With that delusion everything moral is a matter of relevance and the door is closed to God?s blessing in our lives.
At it?s utter core all sin is traced to the single characteristic of pride. That is why the greatest hindrance to God working in your life is pride!
James 4:6 (NIV)
6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
The more you die to yourself and live to Christ the more “useable” and effective you are for God?s work.
Every single one of us have “hang ups” in life that we pride fully hold on to. Things that we might say are off limits. Friends if you really want to be used by God you have to surrender everything to him. Everything. All your hang-ups ? everything. It?s not just all the bad things ? but it means all the good things as well ? there must be nothing that you hold back from God. Why is that? Because anything you say is off limits becomes an issue of pride.
So before you can be used by God you need to ask Him to show you all those hang-ups in your life. To show you the sin in your life. To show you the pride in your life. And He will. We need to pray the prayer of David,
Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
It?s a simple truth ? Holy God can?t partner with Sinful and Prideful Man. Until we realize and recognize the sin/pride in our own lives we?ll never make it to/follow the next principle.
Repent of Sin and Release Your Hang-ups – Signing up for the adventure
Once you are aware of your sin and your prideful hang ups two things need to happen ? we confess our sins, and release our hang-ups.
I want to make something clear in case you?ve got it all wrong ? becoming a Christian isn?t just about praying the sinner?s prayer or raising your hand when the speaker invites you to respond. Becoming a Christian involves receiving instant change and commitment to a process. There are two things that happen when a person becomes a Christian:
They receive forgiveness for their sins and receive the life of Christ in exchange for their old life of the sinful self-nature apart from Christ. There is spiritual awakening that takes place where we are made whole and perfect before God. On the spiritual side of things we are no longer slaves to sin, and it?s bad fruit.
Process of Transformation
However, while there is this “instant” change that takes place there is also a process in which that change is worked into our physical, emotional, and mental lives. Paul calls this process “working out your salvation”
Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed–not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence–continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
It?s like a blind man who?s been blind from birth. All of a sudden He is healed and instantly he can see! However, he still needs to go through the process of learning everything he?s seeing and working that change into his life.
That?s where commitment comes in and frankly a lot of Christians get stuck on the commitment part because the process can be hard at times.
The key is availability – when you commit to the process of the “working out of your salvation” then you are making yourself available to God?s work. When you say and believe with your heart, “You know what, this isn?t some passing fad or fancy?this isn?t a ?trial-run??I?m in this for the long haul.”
Here?s the cool thing. When you confess your sin, your pride, and release your hang-ups ? God doesn?t leave you alone to the process of transformation in your life. Did you catch what Paul said? “for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose!” The truth is, you can?t do it on your own.
Philippians 1:6 (NIV)
6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
I love what Rick Warren shared to a group of leaders about Moses, he said this,
Remember how God told Moses to throw down his staff? When he did, what happened? When he did, the staff became a snake, a living entity. Then he told him to do what? That’s right! Pick up the snake. At that moment, it became again an inanimate object. Warren said that the staff, when first held in the hands of Moses, represented his identity as a shepherd. It represented his income as one who was paid to take care of his father-in-law’s sheep and goats. It represented his influence. It was the instrument with which he guided and protected the flocks entrusted to him. And it even represented his infirmities, his broken dreams, failures of the past and sense of inadequacy for the future. When he was willing to lay down his identity, his income, his influence and his infirmities before God, the staff came alive with potential for the future. And when he picked it back up, it was no longer just a shepherd’s staff. It was known as the “rod of Moses.” When this uniquely gifted man, humbled by life, let go of all he had, laying the staff humbly before God, he was able to pick it up and, with God’s help, begin, at age 80, what was the most productive era of his life
Getting in on the agenda ? spend quality time with God.
The purpose of this principle can be restated in this little nugget that you can remember: Spend more time with God and God spends more time with you. To see God?s powerful work in your life and to understand His unique purpose for you requires getting in on His agenda through prayer and absorbing His word.
Matthew 4:1-2 (NIV)
1 Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. 2 After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.
Jesus started his ministry after a forty day fast in the desert where he encountered temptations from Satan. What is true of all great men and women used by God is the passionate love they have for Him and the time they spend with Him.
Any ministry done that is not birthed by a relationship with Jesus Christ, a personal encounter with the Holy Spirit, is counterfeit before God?s eyes. And hear me, success in religious activity does not constitute being used of God. Someone may minister to thousands, be a world known minister and still not be truly used of God. Being popular in religious circles didn?t impress Jesus Christ during his ministry. He rebuked the religious spirit every time he faced it.
On the flip-side even the seeming most insignificant things can be given incredible importance when a person spends quality time with God and gets to know HIS Agenda!
What does spending quality time with God entail? Reading the Bible, Praying, and making a point of meeting with Him.
What happens when you do this? What happens is you begin to recognize the voice of the Spirit of God. You begin to learn His agenda for your life and are more aware of His direction in the areas He wants you to partner with Him on.
Here?s something else to remember: Finding out what God is doing and getting in on it is much easier than trying to figure out what you think God should be doing.
Ephesians 5:8-11 (NIV)
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9 (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10 and find out what pleases the Lord. 11 Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.
Obey God-given opportunities – put some rubber on the road.
As you get in on God?s agenda by spending quality time with Him specific focuses and interests will begin to surface that capture your attention. As you make yourself available to him opportunities will present themselves for you to experience His hand at work. Then you are simply faced with the choice of whether you will act on those opportunities or not.
A couple important things to remember though:
- Not every good opportunity is God-given.
Sometimes even the most logical and obvious chances that present themselves can be things that aren?t what we should be doing. How do you learn the difference? Hint?I?ve already told you (Spend Quality Time with God). Bring every opportunity to God before acting on it and then go where your gut leads you. If you are spending quality time with God, and if you are willingly surrendered to His will your “gut feeling” is going to be the direction of the Holy Spirit. God speaks to everyone in a unique way folks so for me to give a formula for hearing the voice of God is pointless. What I can tell you is that as you spend time with God you?ll learn to recognize His voice in your life. (Share about David inquiring of the Lord in 2 Samuel 5)
2 Samuel 5:24 (NIV)
24 As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.”
2. Just because something seems insignificant doesn?t mean it is.
Friend?s God doesn?t always use us in huge flashy ways. In fact, it is much more likely that the majority of His work in your life will be in the small unnoticed stuff. One story that quickly comes to mind is an event in the life of Christ. It?s a story that some of you are probably familiar with ? and one that illustrates this perfectly. One of the greatest miracles of Jesus recorded in the New Testament is His feeding over 5000 people with a little bit of food equivalent to a couple of McDonald?s Value Meals. Let?s zoom in on a section of that story in John:
John 6:5-9 (NIV)
5 When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, “Eight months’ wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!” 8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, 9 “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”
A little boy had in his possession something seemingly insignificant that day that ended up being instrumental in one of Jesus? greatest miracles. I want to caution you, don?t ignore the small barley loaves and small fish in your that show up in your life because you don?t think it?s important to God! Sometimes the right word, or the right act at the right time, in the right place can have a powerful kingdom impact in eternity.
CONCLUSION – Living HIS Lead.
Do you know who has the lead role in the play of your life? You do! But never forget who the director is. The director gives you cues and instructions on playing your part. Following His prompting can mean the difference between a stellar performance or a grating show. There is nothing better than being involved in the incredible and extraordinary work of God and it can happen when you Live His Lead.
So in closing this morning I invite some of you to embark on the most challenging, yet-rewarding adventure of your life as you embrace the life God has for you in Christ and welcome His work in and through you. And to those of you already embarked I encourage you to keep believing that God can use you, release those hang-ups that are revealed by His spirit, commit to the outpouring of His grace in every area of your life, continue to find and treasure quality time with God where you “get in” on His agenda, and finally, put the rubber to the road when those God-given opportunities come your way!