The Man God Uses
1. Clear Direction Requires Immediate Action
Moving is one of the great headaches of life. No matter how exciting the destination, the hundreds of details—from packing boxes to change of address forms—add up to cause stress. Today's technology allows us to research our new place of residence and make a variety of arrangements before the moving van ever pulls up in our driveway. Imagine, though, what it would be like to be going, but not knowing. That's exactly what God called Abraham to do. In chapter 12:1-3, God tells Abraham, "Leave your country." No specific direction is given or destination identified. Only the blessing and promise of God ensure the heart of the great patriarch. One thing is clear: God said, "Leave." The first three words of verse 4 indicate Abraham's instantaneous response. Without hesitation or question, and certainly lacking any information about either the journey, the provision, or the destination, verse 4 says, "So Abram left."
Joshua 1:1-9 records the call of Joshua and the direction of God to go. Verse 10 says Joshua acted immediately—he ordered the people to get ready, because in three days they would leave. How pleased is our Lord to bless the man or woman whose sensitive heart responds instantly, willingly, and fully, "Yes Lord, I will go right now." The country song asks, "What part of 'no' don't you understand?" The Lord may well ask the believer, "What part of 'go' don't you understand?"
Abraham was a man of obedience and a man of faith. By faith, he responded immediately to the call of God on his life. You wouldn't believe the number of pastors who have asked me to recommend them to another church—as long as it's in Texas. How about you? Are you ready, willing, and able to respond immediately to the call of God on your life? Someone once said, "Faith allows us to step into the future without understanding the present." Walking with God is a life full of surprises, but be assured of this: He walks beside you every step of the way. Today would be a great day to speak the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Here am I Lord, send me!"
2. Great Blessing Demands Great Gratitude
Thanksgiving always leads to thanks-living! What better way to live than with the knowledge we are all debtors to God for this abundant life He has provided! If you have spent any time around a truly thankful person, you know it is contagious. I once played golf with an older gentleman who thanked the young lady working behind the snack bar for showing up at work that day so we could enjoy some refreshment. She seemed shocked that he would offer his appreciation, and I found myself surprised at his words. I discovered something, though, as I spent more time with him. He was beyond polite; he was truly thankful, and his spirit was infectious. My friend impacted everyone who came his way. I'm convinced that thankful people are happy people, because their priorities are in order and they recognize this principle in their life.
Abraham was such a man, and his life was a reflection of his gratitude to God. In verse 7, God said, "'To your offspring I will give this land.' So he built an altar there to the Lord." God expects and deserves immediate acknowledgment for His goodness. Why is it necessary to have national days of thanksgiving? Perhaps because the blessings of God are so numerous they are unrecognized. Impoverished people all over the world would consider the average meal of an American a once-in-a-lifetime celebration feast. Can we be less than constantly grateful? Certainly in those times of special goodness, our Lord deserves our instant and heartfelt expressions of appreciation.
We recently learned that the unborn twins within the womb of our precious daughter-in-law were competing for nourishment and oxygen and the larger was stealing nutrients from the other. The smaller baby would probably die. For nearly two weeks we cried, wept, and begged God for a miracle. On the very next checkup, the doctor said the tiny baby had completely turned in the womb and was growing at a normal rate. To us, it was as if God had placed His hand inside the womb and miraculously and physically turned the baby 180 degrees. Within one second, our eyes filled with tears of gratitude. Within two, we were on our knees giving Him unrestrained thanks and praise.
The apostle Paul encouraged us to give thanks in everything. Test this admonition today. Sit down and make a list of the many things for which you have to be thankful. Don't let circumstances prevent you from seeing the good all around you. Count your blessings today and look for even more tomorrow. You might be amazed at how the clouds will lift and how clearly you see God's hand at work in your life.
3. You Are Never Too Old to Start Again
My favorite people are those who grow older biologically, but never stop growing spiritually. A number of years ago, I sought the counsel of a veteran pastor whom I had admired from a distance. We stood in the sanctuary of his church and talked about the flow of the worship services. In the midst of our conversation, he said, "Let me tell you about something new I tried last Sunday." I was amazed. Here was a man who had pastored for over fifty years and was still trying new things! What a wonderful lesson I learned about continuing to grow, and what an inspiration he was to me!
God created us for growth, and His Word is filled with example after example of men and women He used to do a new thing even in their later years. Abraham and Sarah provide two of the best. Genesis 12:4 says Abraham was seventy-five years of age. Today at that age most persons are making plans to die. But He who has a wonderful blueprint for our lives was making plans for Abraham to live. Living with optimism and anticipation is the zest of life. I think of my dear friends Marge and Chuck Caldwell, who in their mid-eighties live every day as if it were the first day of the rest of their lives. My wife's parents sold their mobile home, packed themselves, and moved to Houston at age eighty-seven to begin life again. In Christ we don't have to age, and the best is always yet to come.
Several years ago, a study was made of several persons in their nineties. They responded to this question: "If you had life to live over again, what would you do differently?" The top three responses were these: take more risks, spend more time in reflection, and do more that would live on after they were gone. That's great advice, regardless of your age. Eliminate the risk by partnering with God. Spend some time in prayer and meditation, and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to your heart during those moments of reflection. Invest yourself in the lives of those around you, and the dividends will be eternal. You can be like Abraham—eternally young and never too old to start anew.
Principle Preaching: How to Create and Deliver Sermons for Life Applications.