Summary: If God ever truly begins to do things we’re not used to, the world as we know it will be turned upside down.
It must have been about twenty-two years ago that our family attended a week-long Bible conference at a Christian conference center near North Platte, Nebraska. A family in the church I pastored in Garland, Texas paid for all our expenses so we could make the trip. I don’t recall much about those days in Nebraska except that we had a missionary speaker who challenged us each day with the needs of the world. On the last day of the conference, as he came to the end of his message, the missionary asked us to bow our heads in prayer. Then he talked about the importance of parents offering their children as missionaries if that were the Lord’s will for them. He pointed out that many parents fight against the idea of their children being missionaries because it means long periods of separation from children and grandchildren. Then he asked those of us who were willing for God to call our children to be missionaries to stand. As I think about back upon it, I don’t think there was any music playing and no sense of emotional pressure. Just a simple and profound call for parents to offer their children for missionary service in the distant fields of the world, if the Lord willed it so. I recall an enormous internal battle in my heart. At the time our sons were seven, five and two so it would be a long time before they would make career choices. Still I fought with the Lord about it. The thought of being separated from my sons, with them in some distant land, seemed too much to bear. But finally we stood up. I will tell you honestly that I didn’t want to do it, that I fought against it, and that in a sense, I didn’t even mean it. But Marlene and I stood up anyway.
That was twenty-two years ago. I didn’t think about it again until this week. Later on I’m going to tell you why I think the Lord brought it to my mind after all these years.
A Dangerous Prayer
I want to begin and end my sermon by suggesting a simple prayer that will help us and challenge us and stretch us. It’s a prayer that I learned from my friend Ramesh Richard, a professor at Dallas Seminary. Shortly after the tsunami disaster that devastated the coastline of the Indian Ocean, he sent out an email that contained what he called a "dangerous" prayer. It’s only one sentence long, but when I saw it, I knew it was a prayer I needed to pray. It goes like this: "Lord, do things we’re not used to."
And definitely dangerous. If God ever truly begins to do things we’re not used to, the world as we know it will be turned upside down. It’s a good thing--and a frightening thing--to ask God to blast us out of our comfort zone, to pull us away from the status quo, and to do with us things that make us very uncomfortable.
Jesus specialized in making people feel uncomfortable. He told the rich young ruler to sell all that he had, give it to the poor, and then come follow him (Matthew 19:21) Not long ago I sat in the home of the pastor of one of America’s megachurches. He preaches to thousands every Sunday, yet he lives in a home that would be called middle-class at best. And he said to me, "I want a congregation of people who actually believe what Jesus said. People who know that Jesus really meant it when he said, ’Give all that you have to the poor.’" That shook me up a little bit. But I’m sure he was close to the true spirit of our Lord.
The God of the Bible is not the God of the status quo. First he shakes us up, and then he uses us to shake our world. That’s always been God’s method. When God wanted to change the world, he told Noah to do something he had never done before (build an ark) to prepare for something he’d never seen before (rain). When God wanted to bring forth a great nation, he called a successful, middle-aged businessman named Abram and told him to leave Ur of the Chaldees. When God wanted to deliver his people, he found a man slow of speech named Moses and sent him to talk to the Pharaoh. When the Lord needed someone to hide the spies in Jericho, he found a prostitute named Rahab. When God needed someone to defeat Goliath, he chose a shepherd boy named David. What God wanted to deliver his people from destruction, he chose a young girl named Esther. When Christ wanted some men in his inner circle, he chose fisherman and tax collectors, a loud mouth named Peter and two brothers called the "sons of thunder," and told them to drop everything and follow him. Talk about doing things you’re not used to. I repeat. He’s not a God of the Status Quo.