This message was originally given at Element3 Church in Tallahassee FL. To download this message’s corresponding PowerPoint, audio, and artistic elements for free please visit www.element3.org
Reading from God’s word, 1 Kings 17:17-24
Some time later the woman’s son became sick. He grew worse and worse, and finally he died. Then she said to Elijah, “O man of God, what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?”
But Elijah replied, “Give me your son.” And he took the child’s body from her arms, carried him up the stairs to the room where he was staying, and laid the body on his bed. Then Elijah cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, why have you brought tragedy to this widow who has opened her home to me, causing her son to die?” And he stretched himself out over the child three times and cried out to the Lord, “O Lord my God, please let this child’s life return to him.” The Lord heard Elijah’s prayer, and the life of the child returned, and he revived! Then Elijah brought him down from the upper room and gave him to his mother. “Look!” he said. “Your son is alive!” Then the woman told Elijah, “Now I know for sure that you are a man of God, and that the Lord truly speaks through you.”
The pathway to ownership is a journey.
Will you guys pray with me? “Dear Lord, I just pray as we continue looking at the story that you have entrusted and given to us about Elijah and we look at our lives and wonder how we are ever going to transcend where we are to where you’ve envisioned us to be, that you will give us strength and conviction, that you will give us courage to face those things that need to be faced; that your grace will cover us and ultimately that you will call us into your presence so we can experience you wholeheartedly. We love you Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”
So, we are in week 4 of 6 week series called MyLife where we are looking at a metaphor of the phenomenon of MySpace. We’ve had Lindsay come up each week and she’s been working on her profile. If you don’t know, people on MySpace spend a lot of time working on their profile. What they are trying to do is project a certain kind of image to the world. I think that in our own lives, in our real lives, that we spend a lot of time trying to project a certain kind of image. Unfortunately, for us who are followers of Christ, many times that image that we are working on to project to others does not resemble the profile or the vision that God has for our lives. So, we’ve been going through and trying to figure out how we can close that gap and try to grab a hold onto the life and vision of the life that God has for us. We have been looking at Elijah. Today, we are continuing with Elijah’s story in chapter 17:17. It’s kind of neat, the place that we are in that we get to review in this new narrative, this new part of the story, kind of where we’ve been in the past 3 weeks. Then, we are going to launch off into another story to really help us grapple with this idea of ownership and what does it mean to be owned by God and to take ownership of the vision that he has given to us for our lives.
Message Point #1: It is about God; not about us. (MyLife as a Worshiper)
As Steve O. was reading, it’s really interesting, we were going along and if you remember last week, this widow and her son are going to die of starvation because of the famine. Elijah came in and a miracle happened. She gave her first to God and a miracle happened that God sustained her and her son through multiplying what she had to make it last so they wouldn’t die of starvation. So amazing things are happening. They are going right along and then one day, her son gets sick and he dies. Now, it’s kind of interesting at this point. She makes a mistake that many of us make. In fact, she makes two assumptions and they are both wrong. First, she said “oh, man of God what have you done to me? Have you come here to point out my sins and kill my son?” Now, the first thing is, she thinks that it’s all about her. This whole thing that’s going on in the world is revolving around her. That’s her first mistake. Her second mistake is that God killed her son. God allowed him to die, but He also sustained him. God didn’t hit him with a lightening bolt and kill him. In her world and in her grief, all these emotions are going on and she’s not seeing things very clearly. I think the same is true many times for us, especially when we’re going through adversity. All this stuff starts to go around us and we start thinking is the world against me? What’s God doing? We start to think that everything has to do with us. Back in L.A., when I was in college, I went and saw a lot of kind of avant-garde plays and things like that. One play that I went to was really fascinating to me and I think it’s kind of a picture of this in a lot of ways how we live our lives. The play was all about this person who everything was about them. In fact, whenever they entered the room, the whole world would become evident. This person was actually going through life and constructed a whole world, but really they were truly alone. Many times we live our lives like that. That you know what, when I leave a room, everybody ceases to exist, there’s nothing else going on. When I walk into the room, everybody pops back up. Intellectually, we probably don’t think that, but a lot of times we live our lives that way. We even approach God that way. If we were really going to be honest and true with ourselves, that a lot of times we think it’s about us and not so much about God. We think, what is in it for me? What did I learn? How am I going to make my life better? But, the truth is, it’s not about us. It’s about God. God is about bringing glory to Himself. Not in a sinful way or an egotistical way by any stretch of the imagination. God is the creator of the universe and He created each and every one of us for us to have a relationship, a right relationship with Him. To open up the pathway so we can experience God in all his glory and because he is so glorious, it draws us to worship Him as the one, true God. So it’s interesting, all this is going on. This widow is like, why is all this happening to me? Why did you come? Why did you do this? What is going on?
Message Point #2: Our response teaches others how to respond. (MyLife as a Follower)
Then, Elijah does something interesting. Elijah comes in and he says give me your son. He took the son up into his room and he starts praying for her son. The interesting thing is, what’s happening here is that she’s learning. She’s learning how to respond to God. The truth is how we respond when adversity strikes us speaks volumes to those around us.
When I was a little kid, my parents had some great friends. They did really well and life was going great. It was kind of interesting as a kid, I just kind of knew them as this family that was pretty well off, wealthy, they seemed like their family was perfect and all these kind of different things. One day, tragedy struck their family. It didn’t just stop there. It struck again and again and again. I didn’t realize it at the time, but this was a very Godly family and a very Godly man who ended up being my mentor later in life. The way he responded was teaching me volumes on how a person of God responds. It really put me on the track for the rest of my life because when I was a little kid, I didn’t know it then, even then I knew that there was something different about me. I knew that I had a tendency to worry more than other people around me. I freaked out a little bit more, but I didn’t realize that I was going to be dealing with anxiety and depression for the rest of my life. When that finally struck, my dad was able to introduce me to his friend, this family whose life had just totally come unglued. After many conversations with them and him encouraging me, he told me a story one day, he said my dad said to him, it’s kind of unnerving knowing that our children have been watching us all these years, but the truth is, those of us who are going through life and claim that God is our Father, that the most important times, the biggest teaching moments is not when you think you have students in front of you. It’s not when everything is going right, but it’s when everything is going wrong. How you respond will speak through the generations. It’s kind of scary to think about that, but it’s true. Each and every one of us, that people are watching how we are responding to the adversity that strikes our lives. If we have faith that transcends the situation, then we’ll be able to approach God and understand that God, how are you bringing glory to yourself in this? How are you going to show your power in this time where everything seems to be coming off the hinges? If we respond correctly and our faith transcends the situation, then our faith will transcend generations to those who are around us. That’s precisely what happens.
Message Point #3: Adversity allows us experience God’s power. (MyLife as a Leader)
It’s interesting that Elijah goes on and this experience, this adversity allowed her and Elijah to once again experience the power of God. So much so, that this pathway that this widow had been on, after this, changed everything for her. There’s a word in the last sentence of this thing that’s not there and it’s so telling. I want you to kind of look at this one word and I don’t know how you look at a word that’s not there, but kind of notice the word that’s not there. Because it changes everything and all eternity hinges on the lack of this one word. At the very end in verse 24 “The woman told Elijah, Now I know for sure that you are a man of God and that the Lord truly speaks through you.” Did you catch that? Did you catch the word that she didn’t add? She added it 12 verses earlier, when she first encountered Elijah, but now after a miracle with the flour and the oil and the miracle with her son, she had been moved to drop this one word. Let me take you back to verse 12 to help you remember. Verse 12 “But she said, I swear by the Lord, your God”. YOUR God; but now in verse 24 she says a man of God and THE Lord truly speaks through you. What has just happened? She is no longer identifying that God, your God. Her faith is no longer someone else’s. It is her faith. In fact, it’s interesting the word that she uses there, Lord. If you went to the original language, Hebrew, she actually uses the word Jehovah. Jehovah means the one true God. How did this all happen? In 12 verses, how did this all happen? It all happened because Elijah was responding correctly, being moved and she was being pulled to God to see that God has power over death, power over things, He has power over everything and indeed He is the one true God.
This is how in our lives, so many of us, especially people who grew up in the church or grew up with parents who are followers of God, that there has to be a point where our faith is no longer the faith of our parents. Or, our faith is no longer the faith of our pastor or our faith is no longer the faith of our friends, but our faith in God is a personal thing; a personal relationship, but how does that happen? How does faith that can survive through trials and adversity, how does that come about? It doesn’t come about just reading it in a book. It doesn’t come about by seeing somebody else go through it. Even though those things help, true faith that transcends every circumstance comes by going through the fire yourself and realizing that God steps with you every step of the way. It’s all about our relationship, us being pulled toward God.
It’s kind of interesting, Martin Luther said it this way “The life of Christianity, consists of possessive pronouns.” It is one thing to say, “Christ is a Savior”; it is quite another thing to say, “He is my Savior and my Lord.” The devil can say the first; the true Christian alone can say the second. Isn’t that incredible that changing the word a to my makes all the difference in the world. I mean you think about it and if I said “Hey, did you see that red car when you came into the parking lot this morning? It is a Ferrari.” Okay, that’s one thing, but what if I said this “Did you see the red car when you drove into the parking lot this morning? It is my Ferrari.” There’s a big difference. Some of you would come up to me afterwards and say “Can I have a ride?” Others would say “You’re being paid way too much. Let’s look at the budget.” Have no worries, there’s no Ferrari I don’t think and it’s not mine definitely. But, do you see the difference? Changing the same sentence from a to my makes all the difference in the world and the same is true with our relationship with God. Jehovah is A god or Jehovah is MY God? The interesting thing about the word my. My means you have some sort of ownership right? You possess it, but it’s totally different when you say Jesus is my Lord. Because what you’re saying there is Jesus owns me. Jesus owns me. There’s so much that is built up into just that one little word. When you say that Jesus is my savior, Jesus is my Lord, then you’re saying “You know what, I’m going to follow him, that my life is going to be about what He wants it to be.” There’s so much that goes into that because what goes into being a fully devoted follower of Christ? Well, Christ talks about it and He talks about how we are meant to worship Him and worship God. That we are to bring others to be able to experience His love and worship Him, that we are meant to be connecting in biblical community to encourage one another. We are meant to be teaching one another. Through silent acts of how we respond to things, but also in ways where we are giving knowledge that God has entrusted to us so they can do the same. We’re also meant to be the tangible hand of Christ, not only in our own church community, but also in our larger community. In fact, Todd and I were going somewhere. He had heard one of our favorite speakers, Brian Tome say this. He said the new apologetics, which is basically the defense of the faith, is compassion ministries. Why is that? Because people aren’t so interested in what you have to say. They’re interested in what you do. What each and every one of us needs to do is to take ownership of the vision that God has given us. We need to take a step away from a detached vision of us following God, and take ownership in the only organization on Earth that he has ordained to speak into every aspect of somebody’s life. That’s us, His body, the church. There’s no other organization that can speak into somebody’s life spiritually, intellectually, physically and emotionally. This is it. The body of Christ is here to bring holistic worshippers of the one true God, Jehovah. You remember in Mark 12:30, Christ says “And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.” But, how do you know?
Message Point #4: On the SURFACE it is difficult to know who is an owner and who is just a member.
How do you know if you have actually truly taken ownership with all that you are or if you’re just playing lip service? How do you know the difference between an owner and just and attendee or someone who’s just a member?
Well, if you think about a country club. If you go to a country club and you’re hanging out there and everybody’s playing golf, eating good food and hanging out, everybody’s kind of dressed nice and looks nice. It’s kind of hard to spot the owner. Who owns this place, say if it was privately owned? Because everybody looks the same and is doing the same thing. If you watched a while, I think that you would eventually be able to figure it out. This is how. You’d be able to figure it out because the person who transcended just looking nice, hanging out and being expected to serve and started going and serving others and doing different things to help everybody else, you would say “That’s the owner of this place.” Think about it this way. You take care of things that you have ownership of. You don’t really take care of things that you don’t own.
Think about a rental car. How many here put ultra supreme unleaded gas in their rental car before they bring it back? No one, right? I don’t. I put the cheapest stuff I can find I there, right? Does that mean I’m evil? No, it’s just human nature that in a rental car, we aren’t going to be super gas in it because it’s expensive and we don’t care if the car goes for 200,000 miles, that’s there problem. When was the last time you took a rental car to get an oil change? You want it to run good, right? You want to keep it lubricated, right? No, you don’t care. That’s precisely right. When you’re renting something, you don’t own it and you don’t really care about the longevity of it. That’s somebody else’s problem.
Let’s go back to the country club. If your walking along and you go into the restroom and the restroom is a mess, what would go through your mind? Why isn’t somebody cleaning this up? I paid membership dues to this place. I’m a member of this country club and I’m paying an obscene amount of money to play golf and hang out. I’m due, I’m owed something, right? But, if you were the owner of that country club, you would either clean it yourself or find someone you hired to get it clean. Why? Because you care. That’s why a lot of people say, why do we call people at E3 owners instead of members and that’s precisely the reason. Because American Express says membership has it’s privileges, but ownership has responsibilities. Responsibility to carry on the vision that God has for this church and for us. Each and every one of us are being called to be part of what God is doing, not calling God to serve us where we are at. So, how do we know? Well, there’s a great story still in 1 Kings if you flip back to chapter 3 and I think it will make it clear to us. The story goes like this:
…two prostitutes came to the king to have an argument settled. “Please, my lord,” one of them began, “this woman and I live in the same house. I gave birth to a baby while she was with me in the house. Three days later this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there were only two of us in the house. “But her baby died during the night when she rolled over on it. Then she got up in the night and took my son from beside me while I was asleep. She laid her dead child in my arms and took mine to sleep beside her. And in the morning when I tried to nurse my son, he was dead! But when I looked more closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t my son at all.”
You can’t always tell who’s who by the WORDS they use.
I’ve read this again and again and again. On the surface, it’s difficult to know who the owner or who the mother of this child is. In fact, I cannot find any indication from this story who the mother, the true mother is. You can imagine, it’s actually King Solomon, who is the wisest man said to have ever lived. He’s sitting there and he hears the fist part of the story. He’s probably sitting there going “How am I going to decide? It’s her word against the other woman’s word.” How do you decide because there’s no indication on the surface who the true mother is, who is the true owner. So they continue, in verse 22:
Then the other woman interrupted, "It certainly was your son, and the living child is mine." "No," the first woman said, "the dead one is yours, and the living one is mine." And so they argued back and forth before the king.
How can you tell who is telling the truth?
Uh huh, Uh uh, Uh huh…on and on until King Solomon probably had a splitting headache and was going “What’s going on?” Because on the surface you can’t tell and by words alone you can’t tell. Because people are very good at manipulating there profile, aren’t they? That we get onto MySpace and we can make a profile look just the way we want it to look. But, it just doesn’t stop at MySpace. We do that with our own lives don’t we? We compose ourselves to look a certain way for the benefit of others. We use words to make people think a certain way about us, to convey an idea about us. It’s very difficult to know the difference, who a true owner is. Who is truly owned by Christ and who has taken ownership of the vision that Christ has given for their lives, by just looking at the surface or by words alone. It’s interesting what King Solomon did because how do you know whose telling the truth?
Well King Solomon did this:
Then the king said, "Let’s get the facts straight. Both of you claim the living child is yours, and each says that the dead child belongs to the other. All right, bring me a sword." So a sword was brought to the king. Then he said, "Cut the living child in two and give half to each of these women!"
Not the solution I would have come up with, but he’s the wisest man whose ever lived, not I and he, I think has a plan. I mean you think about it, that’s kind of extreme, cutting the baby in half. I would think so at least. So, what goes on? What’s happening here because King Solomon knows something and it’s about to be revealed:
Then the woman who really was the mother of the living child, and who loved him very much, cried out, "Oh no, my lord! Give her the child—please do not kill him!" But the other woman said, "All right, he will be neither yours nor mine; divide him between us!"
Message Point #5: SACRIFICE is the key to knowing who is an owner and who is a member.
What just happened here? The one who truly loved was willing to let her son go, sacrifice her son so he may live. This is truly at the core of love, ownership and following God. You want to know if you truly love someone or something? Look if you’re willing to sacrifice. To sacrifice is the key to knowing who is an owner and who is just a member or an attendee of somewhere or something.
1 Kings 3:27 Then the king said, "Do not kill him, but give the baby to the woman who wants him to live, for she is his mother!"
Brilliant. Brilliant. So let me leave you with this. You say you love God; maybe you don’t say you love God, but if you do say you love God, then let’s take it a step further and put that love to the acid test. Would you be willing to sacrifice for God? Would you sacrifice to see his vision for your life be manifested? Because here comes a hard, hard thing to hear and I’m not a hellfire and brimstone kind of guy, but this is just true, the way it is. If you say you love something or someone or you say you love God and you are not willing to sacrifice, then you may look the part on the surface. You may say the right words, but you do not truly love that person, that thing or love God. Because true love requires true sacrifice. For our lives to go beyond what we can be and what we can do and what we can see, smell and touch, it requires us to sacrifice for others.
It’s really the definition of maturity if you think about it. When you’re a kid, it was all about you. I want more clothes, more food. I want this, I want that. You don’t really sacrifice anything for anyone, you just expect. The mark of maturity physically, emotionally, intellectually and spiritually is when you stop being a taker and you begin to be a giver. When you give, you sacrifice. So do you love God? Would you be willing to sacrifice your time, your talents and your money to be part of what He has called His body, His church to do? That’s the question. Is it time for us to leave the idea of “it’s all about me”, to leave being immature and to step boldly into maturity and start to transcend what we can see and understand and start being about what God has called us to be about. I don’t know how to say it anymore plainly than that. Each and every one of us needs to answer that question. What I hope is we say “You know what? I take ownership of the vision that God has for my life. I take ownership of the church that he has called me into and I will not expect others to serve me, but I will serve them; that I will help lead people into worship. I will tell people about God’s love, that I will connect in biblical community even though it’s scary, that I will discipline myself to learn and to teach; and I will tenaciously go and be the tangible hand of Christ, not only in my own personal church community, but also to a lost and hurting world.” It’s time we take ownership of the vision God has entrusted us with and go out and make mature, fully devoted followers of Christ. I want to unleash the power that God has given you.
Let’s pray. “Dear Lord, I know that many of us are sitting there and sitting here and just going Gosh, I don’t like that. I think it’s okay to be uncomfortable. I just pray that today someone’s going to put their stake in the ground and say you know what? I’m going to leave childish things behind. I’m going to leave the idea of just being a taker and I’m going to just immerse myself and be an owner of what God has entrusted me to do. I’m going to grab hold and take ownership of the church that He has placed me. I’m going to come together with fellow fully devoted followers of Him and we are going to do the best we can to share God’s love with the lost and hurting world. We love you Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.”