Strange Investments

INTRODUCTION

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV)
26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

These days we here a lot of talk about investments. Now when I mention that word I could be referring to a lot of different things. I could be talking about things of a financial or material nature – that is investing in RRSPS, savings, stocks, a house, or mutual funds. When used this way, “investments” often refers to preparing financially for retirement. Then, too, investment can also be used in the context of time or relationships. Wherever it is used however the definition of investment always carries with it the understanding that you’re giving into something in order to gain something down the road. In other words, what I invest in now will eventually pay out dividends in the future. Whether it’s an investment of money, time, or talents – we hope that it will pay off!

Now have you ever wondered what investments God makes? I mean is there some celestial savings plan that allows God to plan for his retirement? No that couldn’t be, after all He owns everything and He can create whatever He needs! What about investments in time? Well, that’s kind of a moot issue as well since God is eternal and time has no effect on Him! That leaves us with one other area, and that is relationships! All through the Bible we find a clear indication that God invests in relationships. He invests in people. But then there is something else we find in the Word of God – He doesn’t just invest in anybody…it is clear that he chooses who He will invest in.

That leaves us with the question, “What kind of people does God invest in?” And the answer brings us to our text this morning. Paul’s words here in this passage might well come as a bit of a shock. They’re shocking because they are contrary to many of the ideas that we’ve all been raised with. Our society values those who have the right looks, wear the right clothes, and flaunt great talents and abilities. That’s the kind of people that the world invests in. And isn’t that right? After all an investment is supposed to pay off, right?

But listen to what Paul says in verse 28,

1 Corinthians 1:28 (NIV)
28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not…

Paul writes that God chooses the seemingly foolish, weak, and insignificant (as the world sees them). They’re the ones He calls. In fact Paul began in verse 26 by elaborating that God calls not many wise, not many mighty or influential, not many noble! It’s not that God doesn’t ever invest in the wise, the mighty, the influential or the noble but rather not many – that doesn’t’ tend to be where He goes first. Now certainly in the view of the world this is a bad investment! It is strange that God would do this…so why would God make these strange investments?

Paul writes in verse 29,
1 Corinthians 1:29 (NIV)
29 so that no one may boast before him.

God is looking to invest in people who, when everything is said and done – and He’s used them, and they’ve been successful – will say, “It was only by Your Grace LORD that we made it. We couldn’t have achieved one bit without You!”

That’s the message of these verses. Isn’t that an encouragement this morning? God reveals His glory through ordinary people like you and me. In spite of this, there are many Christians who are intimidated by their feelings of inadequacy. Of course we all know our own weaknesses and limitations better than anybody else, don’t we? And so we think that because our resources are so small, we could never do anything for God. We’ll say, “Leave it to those talented people; those ‘Super-men and women’ who have it all together!”.

But then, I’ve found out something in reply to that – those so-called ‘super-people’ don’t really exist! If you get close enough to one of those really talented, seemingly ‘all-together’ people, you’ll discover that they’re just human beings like the rest of us, with the same feelings of inadequacy about themselves that we all share to some degree.

Gladys Aylward was a missionary to China more than 50 years ago (her story was made into a film called “The Inn of the 6th Happiness”). She was forced to flee when the Japanese invaded Yangcheng, but she would not abandon the orphans that she had been caring for. With just one assistant, Gladys Aylward led more than 1200 children over the treacherous mountains toward Free China.

Along the harrowing journey she grappled with despair and, at times, a feeling of utter hopelessness. One morning on that journey, after Gladys Aylward had a sleepless night, a 13 year old girl reminded her of Moses and how he had led the Israelites out of Egypt and through the Red Sea. To which Gladys replied: “But I am not Moses”. Then the little girl said, “Of course you aren’t, but JEHOVAH IS STILL GOD!”

(quoted in The Kind of People God Invests In by Phil Morgan)

When Gladys Aylward and those orphan children made it through the mountains to safety, they proved once again that no matter how inadequate we may feel, God is still God, and we can depend on Him.

Today I want to take a brief look at three stories from the Old Testament, in which God asks three questions. I believe you’re going to see that God invests in ordinary people, and despite our feelings of inadequacy, if we will just give God what we have (even though it might not seem like much at all), He can take it and work wonders for the glory of His Name.

TRANSITION:
The first of these questions that we are confronted with was asked of Moses , and you’ll find it in Exodus.

You may recall how Moses was rescued from death as a baby – when Pharaoh was having all the Jewish infant boys slaughtered – he was hidden in a basket in the reed banks of the River Nile. And in the providence of God, Moses was found by Pharaoh’s daughter who adopted him as her own. And so Moses was raised amongst the royalty of Egypt – given the finest education and every advantage in life at that time.

As a young man he found himself perfectly positioned to be able to help his people – the Israelites. He had the ear of Pharaoh himself. He had been delivered from death, and brought by the hand of God to this incredible place of opportunity. Surely he was born to be a man of destiny.

But then it all went sour! Moses, in one rash moment of anger, seemed to throw it all away. He saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew – one of his people – and he lashed out and killed the Egyptian, and as a result he wound up having to flee for his life into the wilderness.

Moses spent the next 40 years tending another man’s sheep in the wilderness. The dream was smashed. Destiny lay in ruins. He was a young man when he fled Egypt; 40 years is the best part of a lifetime – seemingly wasted because of one rash act!

But then one day Moses came upon a bush, a bush that was on fire but not burning up and Moses decided to take a closer look at this weird bush.

For 40 years Moses had been living day to day, just maintaining the status quo. And sometimes when we get locked into the status quo, believing that this is our life’s lot and nothing’s ever going to change – God has to step in dramatically and get our attention. And that’s what God did with Moses at the flaming bush. He got Moses’ attention!

Moses encountered God at that bush – after 40 years in the wilderness. And God said the most outrageous thing to Moses: “Go back and bring My people out of bondage in Egypt.”

The answer that Moses gave to God’s call is understandable, don’t you think?! I can sympathize with him. He says, “Lord, it’s too late! Surely! Now if you had asked me 40 years ago it would have been a different story – I was well positioned then – I had youthful energy then – I was well-spoken. Lord, most of my conversation over the past 40 years has been with SHEEP. I don’t conduct myself very well around people any more – and I’ve almost forgotten how to speak Egyptian! How am I going to talk to Pharaoh?! And what about the Israelites – why should they listen to me? Lord, it’s too late. I had my chance and I blew it! I have nothing left to offer. Find someone who has the ability.”

And it’s then that God asked Moses this wonderful question – a question that He may also be asking YOU tonight…

Exodus 4:2 (NIV)
2 Then the LORD said to him, “What is that in your hand?” …

“What have you got in your hand?”

Some people are always dwelling on the failures, the mistakes, the wrong decisions of the past. “If only I’d done this; if only I hadn’t done that!”

But God says: “You want to ask forgiveness for the past? Good. Fine. But then forget it! You can’t do anything about it, except learn from it. You can’t change it. It’s done! But what have you got in your hand NOW – today?!”

“Moses, WHAT HAVE YOU GOT IN YOUR HAND?”

Moses looked down, and what was in his hand? A rod. A simple shepherds staff. A walking stick, and a tool for scuffing sheep. That’s all he has in his hand. The legacy of what seemed like 40 wasted years! And God says: “That’ll do just fine – we can use that!”

“What are going to do Lord? Hit every Egyptian over the head with a stick?”

God said: “Throw it on the ground Moses. You’re in the presence of God – now cast it before ME!” Moses threw it down, and immediately it turned into a snake, right before his eyes. God said: “Pick it up again”. Moses took it and it became a rod again in his hand.

And God said: “Come on, let’s go to Egypt and set my people free!”

Can God use a simple shepherd’s rod? Of course He can. With Moses it was a rod; with David it was a slingshot; with Samson it was the jawbone of an ass. It doesn’t matter what it is – why? Because,

2 Corinthians 10:4 (KJV)
4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

and

Zechariah 4:6 (NIV)
6 So he said to me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.

It was that ordinary, plain old rod of Moses that God used to baffle the magicians of Pharaoh’s court; it was that same old rod that God used in Moses’ hand to unleash ten plagues over the land of Egypt; it was that same old rod that Moses extended over the Red Sea to part the waters; it was that same old rod that Moses used to strike the rock in the wilderness and provide water for the Israelites.

“What have you got in your hand?” It’s not too late. God will not give up on you if you don’t give up on Him. “What have you got in your hand?” You may not feel like you have very much at all, but God wants to take what you have and show HIS strength.

TRANSITION:
Then there’s a second question that God asks. It’s found in 2 Kings 4:2. It’s a question that the prophet Elisha asked of a needy widow woman.

2 Kings 4:1-2a (NIV)
1 The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the LORD. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.” 2 Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

“What have you got in your house?”

This story shows us how God wants to take our need and give us His supply.

This widow is in trouble. Her husband, the family provider, is dead. She can’t afford to pay the bills, and the creditors are at the door, about to take away her two sons to sell into slavery in order to redeem the debt. What is she going to do? She calls for the man of God. And he asks her this question: “What have you got in your house?”

Not very much at all she replies. Just one jar of oil left, that’s all.

2 Kings 4:3 (NIV)
3 Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.

2 Kings 4:6 (NIV)
6 When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.” But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.

[Tell story of miracle with the oil – note the significance of the oil stopped flowing when all the empty jars were filled. The oil stopped flowing when there was no where left to put it]

The fullness of God’s blessing was experienced in the emptiness of the woman’s need! The completeness of God’s provision was found in the insufficiency of the woman’s poverty! The oil stopped flowing when there was no where left to pour it…

“What have you got in your house?”

There is a principle here that I hope you’ve caught, the more empty we are in our needs the more God is able to invest of Himself in us! The problem is for many of us that our jars are full. Either we hoard the blessings God pours into our lives or we try to fill the “jars” of lives with our own solutions and remedies rather than seeking the guidance of the “oil” of God.

A little boy was brought to Jesus one day, and that little boy was prepared to put his lunch at God’s disposal. It didn’t seem like very much at all – especially when you consider the crowd that Jesus needed to feed. But Jesus took that little lunch – just five barley loaves and two small fish – and He fed a multitude of 5000 men, plus women and children!

TRANSITION:
The third and final question that God asks is found in 2 Kings 6:17.

The King of Syria was attempting to make war with Israel, but the problem was that every time they went to set a trap for the Israeli armies, the Israelites moved in another direction. It soon became clear that the Israelite generals knew the King of Syria’s plans in advance. So the King called a security meeting, and he said, “There must be a spy in the camp! We’ve got to find out who it is.” But one of his servants said, “No, there’s no spy. The problem is the Israelite prophet Elisha. God shows him everything. He knows every order you give – he even knows what you say in your bedroom – and he’s telling the King of Israel.”

So, the King of Syria sent a great army, with chariots and horses, to the city of Dothan to capture Elisha.

Now Elisha was in Dothan with his young servant. It was early morning, and the servant went out of the place where they were staying to begin the days work. But he looked up into the hills, and he froze. There surrounding Dothan was this great Syrian army.

He rushed back into the house to Elisha, and reported what he’d seen. He said, “Alas master! What shall we do?”

And then Elisha said the most peculiar thing to him. He said, “Don’t be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them”.

The servant was baffled! He looked up into the hills and took a rough estimate of the thousands of Syrian solders, and then he looked back at himself and Elisha, and he counted: “1….2…, what on earth are you talking about, Elisha?”

But then, the gracious, wise man of God prayed for his servant, and he simply said,

2 Kings 6:17a (NIV)
… “O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.” …

Now, son,…

“What have you got in your eye?”

That’s the question God asks. “What have you got in your eye?” “What do you see”

So the boy looked, and what did he see now? Forget the Syrians, the mountains around Dothan were filled with horses and chariots of fire – standing guard around the man of God (not around the city – around Elisha.) It was the Host of the Lord – the angelic armies of God.

You see, the Lord’s armies had been there all the time. Elisha knew it. But the boy needed to get spiritual sight.

When you’re feeling inadequate – like the situation has you beaten – you feel outnumbered and overwhelmed – God asks, “What have you got in your eye?”

You need to get God’s perspective on things. You need to get the Romans 8:28 perspective

Romans 8:28 (NIV)
28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

A little boy was on summer holidays, and there was a circus in town. Every day he would hear the music of the parade coming down the street on which he lived, and he would race over to a knothole in the front fence and look out. He was so excited to see the colors of circus performers, and the little glimpses he’d catch of the animals. He could only imagine how wonderful it all must look in the street.

But then on one of the days he woke up with a bad headcold, and his mother confined him upstairs to bed and said he was not allowed outside to play. He was bitterly disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to look out his knothole to see the parade again. Later in the day he heard the music as the circus began to come down his street again. All of a sudden a thought occurred to him. If he climbed up on his desk, he might be able to see the parade from his bedroom window. Sure enough, when he climbed up he was startled by what he saw! Now he had a birds-eye view and he could take in the whole parade in full! All that time he’d been straining through a knothole in the fence to see just a little bit, when he could have been seeing it all from a higher perspective. (quoted in The Kind of People God Invests In by Phil Morgan)

So often we question God because we don’t understand our lives. Circumstances don’t make sense to us. We’re looking out through the little knothole of our human viewpoint, and we don’t see very well. But God sees perfectly. We need to trust Him, and wait on Him to get His sight.

“What Have you got in your eye?”

CONCLUSION

Let’s look once again at 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (NIV)
26 Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God–that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”

You don’t have to be an altogether, perfect person in order for God to use you. God usually takes the most unlikely candidates to use for His glory. God does make use of ability he’s given you, but what’s more important to God, what he looks for, is humble availability!!

He simply asks three questions:

• What have you got in your hand? (He wants to take your experiences, talents, abilities and show His strength)
• What have you got in your house? (He wants to take your need and pour in His supply)
• What have you got in your eye? (He wants to take your limited view and give you His sight).

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