I recently read this sermon from Bruce Ball and it touched my heart in a way that I am still discerning. Maybe it will bless you also.
You asked me to be your new pastor so I could grow your church. I told you then and I will tell you now: It will not be me who can grow your church. Only you can grow this church. It will not be my abilities to reach out into the community to bring in new people to hear about Jesus; it will be your desire to reach out to them. I just wanted to lay this one very basic foundation as to how I manage a church before we proceed. Too many churches are only willing to go to church on Sunday morning, and then go home and stay uninvolved the rest of the week. Too many churches leave everything up to the pastor, and then if things don’t go like they think they should, they fire the pastor.
Don’t play that game on me. I am willing to give you my time, my talents, my desires, my faith, and my love. I require that you give me your desire to reach others for Jesus Christ. If we can accept that mandate on both sides, we shall be fine and we shall have a church that is very strong in the Lord. If we can’t, all we will have is a social club. I don’t like social clubs. I want to see each of you being everything you can be in the Lord, and doing everything you can do for Him.
Now, you will notice that I speak on many subjects as time goes by, but every now and then, as you know by now, I zero in on one subject and preach about it more during certain periods. One subject that will almost always be included in my sermons is reaching new people for Jesus Christ. I do that, because no matter what else we are doing, or whatever we might be called to do, reaching new people for Jesus is the top priority in every Christian’s life, and it should be the top priority for every church.
This morning I want to talk to you about something that is happening more and more in Christian relationships with the Lord. What I see is that an individual will come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, or a Christian will grow closer and stronger in their relationship with Jesus Christ. At first, they become very excited about what God is doing in their lives, but they soon become accustomed to having a life of routine and this leads to being confined to a cardboard box and the comfort found in NOT doing anything differently in their lives.
When this happens, they hinder the work of God, and, at best, they can only grow to a small level of faith in the Lord. They settle in their comfort zone, being happy that things don’t change – and then God will ask them to do something new, or in a way that they are not used to doing. He might ask them to take a step of faith and do something that just doesn’t make much sense, and out of fear of the unknown we will sometimes refuse to press onward. By being so inflexible, we actually render ourselves useless to God.
Most people will start thinking everything that does not make sense to them is wrong, or they start to think that their priorities are the only right ones. They have forgotten that God works through other people, too. The bottom line when this happens is their level of faith actually starts to deteriorate to the point that they cannot feel comfortable trusting God anymore.
There was a man named Nasseri who actually lived in aParisairport for 11 years. He was a man without a country. He had been expelled from his native country ofIran, and on his way toFrance, his passport was stolen. Landing inParis, he was not allowed out of the airport, and was soon shuttled toEngland. Because of no passport, he was sent back toFrancewhere he was again denied permission to leave the airport.
For 11 years, he lived in the airport. He subsided on handouts from employees and used the public restroom to keep clean. He spent his time writing in diaries. Then in September 1999, the French authorities presented him with a travel card and a French residency permit. Suddenly he was free to go anywhere he wanted.
But when airport officials handed him his walking papers, he just filed them in his folder, and resumed writing in his diary. You see, over the years he became so comfortable where he was, he was afraid to leave the safety of that comfort, even for something much better. And, too many of us have grown accustomed to where we are in our relationship with the Lord and have grown so used to how we do things for Him, that we have become fearful and have lost our faith that He will carry us.
Let me say that if you do not ponder God’s desires for you daily; if you do not try and actively seek His will in your daily life; then there is a very good chance that you are the person that I am speaking about right now.
1. WHEN GOD SPEAKS TO YOU, HOW DO YOU FEEL?
There will be a time when God tries to speak to you, and He will either want you to do something different than you have ever done, or He will want you to do something for an entirely different reason than you are used to. And you begin to feel uncomfortable. You start to question “why”, and you might even start feeling angry. Sometimes, we start to run away from God because getting out of our comfort zones is just too, well, uncomfortable. It is during these times that you must remember something very important: Those feelings are all negative, and God is not the author of negative feelings.
If you are feeling upset by something that is happening in your personal life, or in your church, or on your job, stop for a moment and see where those feelings are actually coming from. If they are coming from Satan, they are meant to hurt your walk with the Lord.
We become like Mr. Nasseri. We become accustomed to where we are and what we are doing and why we are doing it that way and we are actually afraid to change – even for God. We begin to lose our faith and once again revert back to where we only trust those things that we know, that we understand, or that we feel comfortable in. We, too, choose to stay where we are because we fear where we could go.
The evolutionary steps of our faith has gone from –
– being lost and having NO FAITH in God
– being saved and having EXCITED FAITH
– being blessed and having COMFORTABLE FAITH
– being fearful and LOSING FAITH
The 11th chapter of HEBREWS is called the ’faith chapter’, because we read about the absolute faith that so many of the biblical heroes had. I pray every day that I would be able to have the same amount of loyal faith as they did. Listen as I read to you what these men did in their faith.
“By faith, Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith, he condemned the world (fear) and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.”
In Noah’s time, they had never experienced rain. Can you imagine what went through Noah’s mind when God asked him to build a really big boat to carry animals in? He probably thought that either God or he had gone crazy.
But, because Noah had faith, he build the ark, even though he had no real understanding on what was about to happen. Had Noah been like many of us, he would have told God that he was used to the way things were and he wasn’t going to do something that upsetting to his comfort zone.
Of course, had he not built the ark, he would have died. What do you think is going to happen when we choose to do things our way instead of God’s way? Do you think we are helping or hurting God’s work?
“By faith, Abraham when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going.”
In verse 10, it says why Abraham obeyed and went into the unknown (& uncomfortable)
“For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.”
In verse 27, it says tells us a about Moses.
“By faith, he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw Him who is invisible.”
Moses had killed an Egyptian for hurting an Israelite. He knew he could have been killed, but had no fear because He knew God. In fact, He so much faith in God that He put his entire trust in Him and walked out into the middle of the desert.
I asked you what you feel when God speaks to you. Unfortunately, most of us feel some level of fear: The fear of the unknown.
2. WHEN GOD SPEAKS TO YOU, WHAT DO YOU DO?
How would you feel if you were in a row boat and you were rowing but was not going anywhere? That is how I would describe some Christians today. They believe, but just not enough to accomplish. They have faith, but not enough to trust. They have not thrown in the towel yet, but they aren’t going anywhere for the Lord.
In MARK 6:45, we read –
“Immediately, Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd.”
Jesus told them to get in a boat and go, and they did. Would we go, or would we sit around and discuss it amongst ourselves for a while first, or maybe go back to Jesus several times with questions as to ’why’ He wanted us to go?
In verse 48, it says that Jesus saw them straining at the oars because the wind was against them. During the night, He walked out by the boat and was about to pass them and keep walking, and in verses 49 & 50, our Bible says they saw Him and thought He was a ghost and all became absolutely terrified! I would like to think that I have great faith and would react differently than they did, but knowing me, I would probably be the most frightened in the boat.
They were frightened because they did not understand. Too many times, we do not understand either. We don’t understand that all the things we are used to, and all the things we rely on do not mean anything when Jesus gets involved. Our natural tendency in this sinful world is to rely upon the knowledge we have learned from the world. Certainly, men do not walk on water, do they? And, good Christians go to church and get really involved, but don’t do much else. And the churches must never change or we get upset because we do not understand.
I want you to know something….and DO NOT FORGET THIS: The disciples were out on the water, and Jesus was about 8 miles away on a mountain. In verse 48, it says that Jesus saw them straining. Even though they were far apart, Jesus had His eye on them all the time. He knew what they were going through and He loved them enough to keep them safe.
I asked you what you do when God speaks to you. Unfortunately, too many of us find it too uncomfortable to listen to Him, so we blame somebody else and end up running away from the wishes of our Lord.
3. FAITH THAT HONORS GOD
There is a big difference between trusting and trying. For instance, if you tell someone to turn with their backs toward you, then close their eyes and fall backwards for you to catch them, what is their reaction? Even those who do it cringe at the thought of you not catching them, don’t they? It is only rarely that we find someone who has enough trust to be relaxed and fall backwards knowing they will be caught.
That illustrates how we have faith in the Lord. Once in a while, we will relax and just be peaceful as we ’know’ the Lord will carry us through any situation. Most of the time, we try our best to trust, but keep running back to the only place we have ever known and continue to do things the way we have always done them, and for the same reasons we have always used.
What kind of faith is honored by God? Last week, Willie spoke about how Peter was the only disciple to have enough faith to step out of the boat. Let me put it another way. Peter was the only disciple who had faith enough to do something different and know that the Lord would carry him. I know some of your stories, and I know that some of you have also stepped out of your boats to do great and mighty things that God has called you for. But I also know that none of us have been as courageous and faithful as we needed to be.
This church is going through new territories right now. We are, and will continue to be, called upon to do new things, or to look at things in a new perspective. For this church to grow and be powerful for the Lord, it cannot be timid. It must be a church of absolute faith. And that means that we, as the members in this church, must have that kind of faith in our daily Christian walk, too.
There may be times when we are asked to serve more than we feel comfortable in doing, but it is imperative that we have the faith to know it is for God’s people, so we should do so. As this church continues to grow, we will have to ask you to consider serving one hour and worshiping one hour. That means that, with having two or more services, you might be asked to come and serve for the first one, then stay and worship with us for the second service. It might be inconvenient to do so, but just remember that you like to be served just as others do, don’t you? And in so serving, you are also serving our Lord.
There might be times when we are asked to accept something that is new. Sure, we must look analyze it, but only from the perspective of, “Will it somehow help this church succeed for God?”
I have heard much about how great the church down the street is, and I asked several people in this church what they have that this church does not have. The answer astounded me. The answer was simply, “Everything we want to have, but don’t.”
We have not done a very good job growing strong and viable for the Lord. Look around you. You will see grandparents and grandchildren. Where is the middle generation? We have lost them because we have not offered them what they needed to stay. the missing generation is sitting this morning in churches like that church – and others just like them. The grandparents can drag the grandkids to church all they want, but unless this church changes our perspectives, when they get old enough to do what they want – – they will be gone, too.
You asked me to come and pastor this church. I told you then, and I tell you now that it is not me who can build this church. It is you. It is your faith in doing everything you can to walk your personal life like Jesus walked His. It will be your desire to reach out into the community, not my ability to reach out, that will bring people into this church to hear about the word of God. My question to you is simply this … “Do you want that badly enough to do it?”
We have been talking about faith this morning. The next time you find yourself afraid of stepping out for the Lord, I suggest you read:
GALATIONS 3:9 – 10.
“So, those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written, ’Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”
The world says that if we are running short between paydays, we cannot tithe. The Lord says that we cannot afford to withhold our tithes. Who is right? One is living by the law, or by trying. One is living by faith and is doing.
I will tell you this about Diana and myself. There has been many times we have not been able to write out a budget and make it properly balance, yet we have never run out of money and have always had not only enough to meet our needs, but some left over for other things, too. Why? Because we have absolute faith that God will provide for us as it is written and that is the kind of faith that God really does honor.
How about you? How has your faith been lately? Have you made it honorable to God, or have you made it comfortable and convenient to you?
In GALATIONS 3:11, it says that
“the righteous will live by faith.”
I would pray that we do not live by what the world tells us, but that we live only by our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
Found on BruceBallMinistries