Summary: We become available to God when we fully worship and trust Him, when we go out of our comfort zones; there are many possibilities open to us in our church and community.
Montgomery Hills Baptist Church, Silver Spring, MD July 9, 2006
If what you expect to receive and what someone wants to give you are not the same thing, you are doomed to disappointment. If you want a particular thing, but the person you are dealing with is determined that you shall have something else, it is going to be tough. I well remember the Christmas when my brother grew up; every year he had torn into his gifts under the Christmas tree, and every year there had been toys and other goodies. But this year he was almost twelve, and this year every gift was a shirt, socks, pajamas, so-called useful stuff. I can still see the disappointment written all over his face. What he expected to receive and what others wanted him to have were not the same thing, and he was disappointed.
You are shopping. You go into the store, with your mind made up that the item that was on sale is what you want. But when you get there, the clerk says, “We have something much better. You don’t want that flimsy little nothing. You want this – it’s much better, and just a little more expensive.” So you can either insist on having the cheapie you came for; or you can listen to the sales clerk, who you know is trying to bait and switch, but who really might have a point about how much better this pricier thing is. What we expect to receive and what someone wants us to have are not the same thing, and we are disappointed. But sometimes they are right. Sometimes what we want is not what we really need.
Our spiritual lives are like that. What God wants to give us is not always what we think we want. What God wants to give us and what we suppose we want are often not the same thing. For God wants to give us meaning, direction, and purpose in life. God wants to give us a place in His Kingdom. But what do we want? We want something for ourselves. We want satisfaction, we want excitement, we want thrills. We go to church looking for a spiritual rush, for a buzz, but what the Lord wants to give us is an assignment. We’re disappointed in our worship experiences. Why? Because what we expect to receive and what God wants us to have are not the same thing. Yet which is better for us? Our desires or God’s plan?
The young prophet Isaiah went to the Temple, looking for something. It was a time of upheaval, and so he was looking for assurance that in such a time, everything would be all right. He was asking for a word of hope that, as old king Uzziah had died and there was uncertainty on the horizon, his precious Lord would hold his hand, lead him on, lift him up, and let him stand. If you are tired and weak and worn, that may be what you think you need. But Isaiah got a lot more than that. Isaiah got a life assignment out of his visit to the Temple:
Whom shall I send? And who will go for us? Those were the Lord’s great questions, and to them Isaiah responded, “Here am I, send me.” So far, so good. But keep on listening, for Isaiah’s assignment was to do something impossible; Isaiah was to take on something that could not be done. Isaiah was to preach to a people who would not listen and teach a people who would not learn. Isaiah was to dream an impossible dream. What a strange thing the Lord said to the young prophet:
“I said, ‘Here am I: send me.’ And he said, ‘Go and say to this people: “Keep listening, but do not comprehend; keep looking, but do not understand.” Make the mind of this people dull, and stop their ears, and shut their eyes”
That’s pretty dismal business, isn’t it? To know that you are going to give yourself to something impossible. Isaiah, go preach to people who will not listen, teach people who will not learn. Push that rock up the hill only to have it roll down again. Fill that reservoir only to have everything leak out. Tilt against the windmill. Isaiah had to face it. Not only did he himself get something he didn’t expect when he went to the Temple, now he finds out that no one is going to want what God wants him offer them. Isaiah is supposed to keep on keeping on, talking to folks who don’t hear him and working with people who don’t want to be worked with. Impossible! Who would want to do that?!
But Isaiah accepted that assignment and became available for impossible dreams. What had happened with Isaiah to make him available for an incredibly exhausting assignment, fraught with disappointment?