I WILL – “I Will” Make a Difference
Ephesians 5:14-15 (pg. 816) November 29, 2015
I have always loved history and the stories that come from it...maybe that’s why I love the history from the Greco-Roman world and the myths that come from it...the Greeks and so many gods, that when the Apostle Paul was there in Athens in Acts Chapter 17 it says “he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols.” And since the Athenians loved to discuss new things...Paul went to the Areopagus and addresses these very religious people...He gives an amazing testimony and history lesson. Listen to it:
ACTS 17:22-34 (p. 772)
Paul says, “You’re uninformed about the one true God you don’t know...let me inform you and then from creation, to Abraham to Jesus’ resurrection He informs them...it’s a brand new thing...some sneer at the message, but others believe and become disciples.
It’s a wake up call for very religious people...who do the same things over and over again...who love nothing more than talking about their religion to have a resurrected life in Christ...some mocking say “I’ll keep doing what I’ve always done...there is no resurrection from the dead! And others “wake up...live...and make a difference.
[The Greeks have a myth about a King named Sisyphus
SHOW PIC OF SISYPHUS
He tricked the god Zeus and for his punishment He had to push a rock up a hill...But Zeus had enchanted the rock so it rolled away from Sisyphus...just before he reached the top of the hill. So Sisyphus would spend eternity continually pushing this rock up the hill without accomplishing his goal. Sisyphus was consigned to an eternity of useless efforts and unending frustration because of his rejection of Zeus’ authority.]
God has a plan...from the creation of the world...He doesn’t need anything...He is not served by human hands...rather He gives everyone life and breath and everything else...Paul knew that his purpose...His calling...everything that meant anything was because “In Him we live and move and have our being.”
Religion will put you in a dangerous sleep...Jesus’ resurrection wakes you up to say “I will make a difference.” Religion makes you endlessly and uselessly push a rock up a hill...The resurrection rolls away the stone that holds you back!
So what’s the problem with our churches today?
I. THE PROBLEM IS ME AND YOU
You see churches are no stronger than their church members...and way too many of us are spending our time and efforts pushing rocks up hills instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to enable us to roll away the stones in people’s lives.
Until you and I are willing to be obedient...to wake up and rise from the dead nothing changes...It’s time for church members to become obedient and seriously be part of the body of Christ that 1 Corinthians 12 talks about. It’s time to say, “I Will.” (The challenge we’ve heard about for the last 10 weeks)
I will have the attitude of Christ and put other church members before my wants and desires.
I will gladly participate in corporate worship with my fellow church members as long as I am physically able.
I will get involved in a group or a class so that I might grow spiritually together with others, and so that I might be accountable to them.
I will go and share the gospel with others in words and deeds, and not be ashamed of my Savior.
I will give abundantly and joyfully, recognizing that God is the owner of all things I currently steward.
I will participate in the life of my church because God leads me to do so, not becaue I feel compelled to please people and overcommit.
I will focus on what Christ has done for me, and not on the flaws of my church, its leaders, or its members.
And I will pray that God will use me as an instrument to revive His church, for His name, and for His glory.
Thom Rainer shares a great story in the concluding chapter of “I Will” and I’d like to share it here:
His name was Jeremiah Lanphier. The date was September 23, 1857. The location was New York City.
For days Lanphier had been handing out flyers about a time of prayer. He likely distributed more than twenty-thousand flyers by himself.
He was a man under God’s conviction. He was desperate for a move of God, and He knew no human-powered system or organization could manufacture such a move.
So he prayed. And he called others to prayer as well. Lanphier probably had great anticipation that many would show up at noon on September 27. The city had a population of one million. His flyers were likely seen by more than the original twenty thousand recipients of the flyers.
So he went to the borrowed upper room of a church and prayed and waited. For thirty minutes no one showed up. Then he heard the footsteps of a few coming to the prayer meeting. Six other people joined him.
Their numbers increased to fourteen the next week. Then twenty-three the next week. And the prayer meetings continued to grow.
The presence of God was so powerful. Those who were in the meetings decided to have the gatherings every day. And the numbers continued to increase. By winter of 1857 the prayer meetings were filling three large churches every day. Then, by March of 1858, every available public hall and church in New York City was filled every day.
Horace Greeley, the famous newspaper editor, sent a reporter to attempt to count the numbers at these meetings. He could only make it to six locations by horse and buggy in that one hour period He still counted sixty-one hundred people.
The prayer movement spread across the nation. At one season of this movement, ten thousand people were becoming believers each week. More than one scholar has estimated that one million people became followers of Christ through these prayer meetings.
A movement had begun.
Today I am praying for another movement of God.
Amen Thom! I am as well.
But that movement...real revival never occurs when we are focused on ourselves...Movements are started by people who seek God...and are obedient when the Holy Spirit leads.
It requires that you and I wake up, rise from the dead and make a difference...clearly something we cannot do on our own...It requires “Christ shining in us.”
II. OUR FRYING PANS HAVE TO GET BIGGER!
Paul says in our text “Be very careful then how you live - not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16)
How many of us are really careful of how we live daily? If we’re Christ followers how many of us continually make the most of every opportunity to bring Him glory in these evil days?
Most of us get really comfortable pushing the same rocks up the same hills...We make no new relationships because there’s safety and comfort in the ones we’ve always had.
Imagine a man fishing. He has a bucket and a 12 inch ruler that is broken off at the 10 inch mark. He pulls in a fish and measures it. It’s very small, only 7 inches, and he puts it in his bucket.
That’s right! What a shocker. He keeps the little fish. Then he reels in a 24 inch whopper. Seeing it’s bigger than his ruler, he throws it back in the water!
Repeatedly, the man kept every fish smaller than 10 inches and throws all the bigger fish back.
Now, I’m not a very good fisherman, but I confront him with why he’s doing this. The man tells me matter-of-factly, “My wife only has a 10 inch frying pan.”
Silly story, but how many of us have rejected the opportunities of God because they’re bigger than our frying pan?
Are you ready to double the size of your frying pan this year? It will take faith...It will take obedience...and most painfully...it will require change.
Most of us know that Hebrews chapter 11 is the faith chapter of the New Testament...It begins with a definition of faith...”Faith is the confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” (Hebrews 11:1-2)
And then the writer lists those ancients and the reason they were people of faith. But verse 6 says something extremely important about spiritual frying pans...
“Without faith, it is impossible to please God because anyone who comes to Him must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek Him.”
Do you want to please God with your daily life? I do. And if we do we must live confidently for what we hope. We must live with assurance about things we can’t see.
We must live differently. We must live outside our comfort zone...otherwise it’s not faith.
It’s like this story:
There was a man who got lost in the desert. After wandering around for a long time his throat became very dry, about that time he saw a little shack in the distance. He made his way over to the shack and found a water pump with a small jug of water and a note. The note read: “pour all the water into the top of the pump to prime it, if you do this you will get all the water you need”. Now the man had a choice to make, if he trusted the note and poured the water in and it worked he would have all the water he needed. If it didn’t work he would still be thirsty and he might die. Or he could choose to drink the water in the jug and get immediate satisfaction, but it might not be enough and he still might die. After thinking about it the man decided to risk it. He poured the entire jug into the pump and began to work the handle, at first nothing happened and he got a little scared but he kept going and water started coming out. So much water came out he drank all he wanted, took a shower, and filled all the containers he could find. Because he was willing to give up momentary satisfaction, he got all the water he needed. Now the note also said: after you have finished, please refill the jug for the next traveller.” The man refilled the jug and added to the note: “Please prime the pump, believe me it works”! We have the same choice to make, do we hold on to what we have because we don’t believe there are better things in store for us, and settle for immediate satisfaction? Or do we trust God and give up all that we have to get what God has promised us? I think the choice is obvious. We need to pour in all the water, trust God with everything. Then once we have experienced what God has to offer, the living water, we need to tell other people, “Go ahead prime the pump, believe me it works”!
I believe faith is a “pump primer!” God rewards those who earnestly seek Him.” Saying “I Will” to God is a catalyst to living water. I”ll end with some “faith pump primer” challenges:
1. Reach out to someone new. I’m not asking you to abandon your old friends. I’m asking you to enlarge your frying pan. A real person that God reveals to you in prayer, through His Holy Spirit. Ask them to lunch, love on them, get past the scary unknown and share your life.
2. Prioritize your activity and your service to impact real people. And make sure some of those real people can do nothing for you. Doing stuff for people we know and doing stuff for “groups” of people we might never meet is important...but it’s comfortable. Get uncomfortable and face to face with “the least of these” my brothers and sisters. Do you know why shepherds smell like sheep? Because they get close to them, pick them up, doctor their wounds...pray for an awareness of wounded sheep...and if you’re spiritually mature enough...be a shepherd.
3. Pray for God to make you aware of “I Will” opportunities in your “real” life.
[A month or so ago 8 of us men were in Eastern Kentucky helping repair the house of a bed ridden woman, her husband and daughter and a special needs grandchild...But that’s not the opportunity I remember. Funny but I remember one morning at an Exxon station when I was filling up my bike...I went into the store to pay and get some Gatorades...but Dennis Truesdell had already paid my bill...so I handed the 20 to the teller and said, “Pay for this woman’s gas.” After this, the teller said, “That made my day” and as we walked out, the young woman was crying...she said “you’ll never know how much that meant. My husband just lost his job...we don’t have much...Can I hug you?” And we did...and I whispered “Jesus has got you...you know that!” And she said, “I know.”]
Both of our faith grew that day...are you ready to have that kind of reward...to say “I Will make a difference?”