Summary: This sermon is based on Charles Swindoll's book, Paul: A Man of Grace and Grit, chapter 4. In this sermon, we explore the need to grow deep with God through time spent with God in solitude, silence and service.
A. How many of you saw the movie Castaway staring Tom Hanks?
1. Many people found the movie a little slow and boring because of lack of action and dialog.
2. Tom Hanks plays the part of Chuck Nowland, an executive with FedEx, whose fast-paced work took him on flights all over the world.
a. Chuck Noland is a manager who demands that everything must be on time and travels the world to make sure punctuality is on top of everything else.
b. He has a girlfriend, Kelly, with whom he is deeply in love with and family he hardly sees.
c. While flying aboard a freight-heavy 747, he experienced the worst of his fears – the plane crashed in the Pacific Ocean not far from a tiny, uninhabited island.
b. Chuck was the lone survivor, and washed ashore, bruised and shaken, but thankfully, alive.
c. Little did he know, but that he would live on that small island, totally alone, for four years.
3. The changes that occurred within him came slowly, but were ultimately extensive.
a. He went through great bouts within himself, struggles too deep for words.
b. He eventually came to peace and learned to live on the bare essentials of island existence.
4. Back home, he was given up for dead and there was a funeral in his honor.
a. Life sped along without him, as it always does.
5. How Chuck escapes is fascinating, but the good news is he is picked up by a ship and gets to go home.
a. After a bittersweet welcome-back reception, Chuck discovers that his girlfriend, Kelly, has married another man and has children.
b. He discovers that he no longer fits into the fast paced life he once had.
c. For all of his life his objective and focus had been his work, but for the past four years his only purpose had been survival.
d. The changes that transpired within him are so radical, he finds himself a different man – much deeper, much more observing, and much less demanding.
6. His transformation occured in a place of solitude, quietness, and obscurity.
B. Truth is, that’s where God does some of His best work in our lives.
1. A survey of the Scriptures reveals that those God greatly used were often prepared for their assignments during periods of solitude, quietness, and obscurity – just like the Castaway.
2. Take for example the case of Moses.
a. Having grown up in the prestigious environment of Pharaoh’s palace, Moses positioned himself to embrace a remarkable political future.
b. But after murdering the Egyptian slave-driver who was beating a fellow Hebrew, Moses fled to the desert.
c. Moses spent the next 40 years tending his father-in-law’s sheep in lonely and arid places.
d. It wasn’t until he was 80 years old that God plucked him out of obscurity and employed his leadership qualities and knowledge of desert survival.
e. Moses wasn’t ready for leadership until he experienced God in a desert retreat.
3. Likewise, consider the story of David.
a. David was anointed king of Israel as a teen, but he didn’t assume the throne until age 30.
b. David spent 13 years as a fugitive, hiding out in caves, trying to escape the grasp of King Saul who had become insanely jealous of David.
c. It was during those years of solitude and obscurity that David learned to rely on God.
d. It was in the crucible of the desert retreat that God prepared David to lead Israel.
4. Let’s consider one more example – the story of Joseph.
a. Joseph was the favored son of the 12 sons of Jacob.
b. Betrayed by his brothers, he was sold into slavery in Egypt.
c. After serving faithfully in Potiphar’s house, and after resisting the seductive advances of Potiphar’s wife, she falsely accused him and he was thrown into prison.
d. Joseph surely felt abused and abandoned – during the 2 years of his confinement, he must have wondered if he would ever see the light of day.
e. But it was through his unfair prison confinement that God prepared Joseph to become the leader of all Egypt.
C. I am convinced that those sustained periods of preparation are what fueled the future effectiveness of each of those servants of God.
1. Through their periods of solitude and obscurity each of them learned the value of growing deep in their relationship with God.
2. Each of them likely thought they could be God’s servants without going through their prolonged retreats, their periods of preparation.
a. At 40 years of age, Moses thought he was ready to liberate Israel from Egyptian slavery, but he wasn’t.
b. At 17 years of age, David thought he was ready to be king of Israel, but he wasn’t.