“Who We Are Not, But Are Called To Be” or “Weak, But Strong in Christ” from 9/30/07
Read I Corinthians 1:26-31 to begin – “Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.’”
· For those of you who are followers of Christ, remember back to when you were saved. Were any of you wise, noble, or strong?
· Ok, would any of you say that you are wise, noble, or strong right now?
See, these are things we are called to be. God says in His Word to “be holy for I am holy.” We are called to be ambassadors of Christ, to be pure, blameless, righteous, even Godly. However, we are not! This is what I want to talk about today; being something we are not, but are called to be.
Middle school story:
I have my own little rendition of a time where I tried to be something I am not back in middle school. In those days, all that mattered much to me was Michael Jordan, basketball, and probably a few girls. And basically in that order, too. Initially thinking about all this reminds me of a song I knew back then.
· Does anyone remember the artist “Skibo?” He had a rap song that went a little something like this…
Well, that was me in middle school. The amazing thing about this is that I wasn’t actually that bad. I could hold my own on the court and was given respect from the other ballers of my day. Through this respect I earned the right to be called something. My friends saw it fit to declare me an HONORARY BLACK MAN! And that wasn’t all. To go with this comes a cool new street cred type name! There’s a street ball basketball team nowadays called “And 1” and it’s full of ballers with cool street cred names. Names like Springs, or Hot Sauce, or The Assassin, or The 8th Wonder. What name did I get back then? POOKIE! Yeah, you heard me right, Pookie! You see, I was trying to be something, but couldn’t hide the fact that I wasn’t.
A few weeks ago Darryl called us something rather shocking. He called us “BATS!” Saying that we are bats out of hell, that we sort of fly by the seat of our pants, we dart around from here and there maybe not knowing fully where we are going, we’re maybe not the most glamorous/sexy church. As the Church, we are trying to be followers and disciples of Christ, but we are “Batty!”
My own “BATTYNESS,” where I am at:
The church isn’t supposed to be full of bats though, is it? We don’t want our houses full of bats, and I’ve had to face this on occasion. As Christians, we don’t want to be bats and would rather be eagles, or lions, etc. This topic has really been a source of struggle for me for about the past year now. I began seminary two years ago and today it has become what seems to be a whirlwind journey. When things first began they were exciting. God was helping me conquer insecurities and fears. For the first year I was getting opportunities to be in front of people, to share messages, to encourage and help others. Everything was going great and suddenly everything changed. That summer I was hired to work at a youth mission camp in North Carolina as the site director. I moved into the position with the same excitement and expected God to really show up. What happened, however? By the time summer was half-way over I found myself back at home in west Michigan. The job had completely blown up in my face and I was relieved of my position. Now, this type of thing isn’t supposed to happen to a Seminarian or someone who God has called, right? Since that summer I’ve gone through a year of things not going at all like that first year in seminary. In turn I have now lost much confidence and have had a hard time seeing God and hearing His voice in my life. As Darryl talked about last week, for a year now I have been stuck living in the past while unable to see how to go forward from here. You see, while preparing for this message I realized something. I am trying to be something I am not, but am called to be. I am not cut out to be a seminarian, but I am called to be. I am not cut out to be a Pastor, or a preacher, or Christ’s ambassador, but I am called to be. Even Darryl or Josh by themselves are not cut out for this. Now, you may not be agreeing with this, but truly by ourselves we are nothing. There is only one way we are anything more. IT IS IN CHRIST!
Look with me at a passage in Scripture found in Hebrews 11:32-34…
Hebrews 11:32-34 (New International Version)
“32And what more shall I say? I do not have time to tell about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel and the prophets, 33who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, 34quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies.”
This passage comes right at the end of what is commonly known as the “Faith Hall of Fame” chapter in Hebrews 11. A lot of Bible all-stars are mentioned within it. Everyone from Noah, Abraham, and Moses, Gideon, David, and others. Now these people were phenomenal leaders of their time. They conquered tremendous feats. They were part of huge, miraculous things. They followed God with great diligence and faithfulness. If you take a deeper look though, these people were nothing spectacular in their own right. However, they were challenged and called by God.
Darryl, Josh, and the Shepherding team have been giving us a similar challenge, or calling. They have been calling us as a congregation to live a life desperately dependant upon God. They are calling us to be things in Christ, but that we cannot be on our own.
Let’s take a closer look at one man listed in Hebrews 11 and his story…
MOSES – Now here’s a Bible all-star! I mean, he’s gotta be the Michael Jordan of the Old Testament. Here’s this guy who was integral in the freedom of the Israelites. He’s maybe the most known leader of Israel of all time. How could any of us match up with him? Well, when Moses received his call/challenge from God from within the burning bush, Moses was anything but a confident and competent man of God. Moses was more scared and stuck in his own past and insecurities. His own “Battyness” you could say.
When Moses was called he had every excuse in the book. He replied to God as “Who am I,” or “what if they don’t believe me,” my mouth is clumsy and not eloquent, surely someone else would be a better choice for you God.” Moses was sure he wasn’t good enough and was convinced he had nothing to offer. Other things you may not know about Moses was that he was 80 years old at this time. He was also a murderer at an earlier time in life. In his mind he was past his prime, and thought he was done for for committing a horrendous crime. That’s not what God thought though.
**Now Moses and I have a lot in common. Every Sunday morning I sit right over in that general direction (by a pretty hot young woman I might add) and I am absolutely convinced that I don’t belong up here. I mean SERIOUSLY, I can name any number of excuses about why I have no business being up in front of you this morning. First of all, look at me. You guys don’t listen to preachers who stand in front of you in kakis and a dress shirt? Also, I have nothing cool or crazy going on with my hair. Josh gets up here with stuff in his hair to make it all spiky and cool. Me, I have to put stuff in my hair just to keep it down and hide my colic’s. Without anything in it I can look like Dennis the Menace, or even worse. Lastly, I’ve got nothing to match Darryl’s boisterous Southern Carolina voice. I am stuck with this Wisconsin/Minnesotan thing going on.
More seriously, though, my whole life I have been convinced that I am not quite good enough. I say to God that I’ve never been a leader; I don’t speak well; I’ve never been good at stuff like this; I’ve failed too many times before; I am too reserved, quiet, and not outgoing; people might find out how much of a sinner I’ve been, etc, etc… Once again, all these things are me focusing on the past and on myself/my battyness!
You know what the cool thing is though? God has an answer for every excuse you might bring. Any excuse, is really no excuse with God. With Moses God had an answer for everything Moses threw at Him. He wasn’t shaken. He at no time said, “oh yeah, you’re right.” A few years ago was the first time I realized that I often respond a lot like Moses. At the time I jotted down a list of excuses that I present before God. You know what I was able to do shortly after I made that list? I was able to match up each excuse with a Bible verse that I had already known. It was crazy, and it didn’t take long at all. God revealed to me an answer for every excuse I had. Well, thanks a lot God, I thought. Not really. Actually, I was amazed. I was put at awe and inspired.
Does this connect with you this morning? Do you feel like you’ve been called to be something you just aren’t cut out to be? Have you been in hiding or in a state of avoidance while Darryl and Josh have been challenging you? Well, I am here to challenge you yet again this morning. What I’ve talked about this morning isn’t only just true of Moses.
Take a look at David… Here’s a scrawny, little sheep herder and youngest of seven. He at one time was also an adulterer and murderer as well. God takes this guy and makes him into a mighty warrior and valiant king.
Or Gideon… he was part of the weakest clan in Israel and the least in his family. He had little faith and before following God he asked him for a sign 3 times. But the Lord took him and 300 men, whom all we know about is that they lapped water with their tongues, and conquered a mighty nation.
Abraham? – He at separate times was a liar.
Noah? – After trusting and being courageous in his pursuit to build the ark and receiving God’s covenant; he ends up drunk in the vineyard, and naked!
Lastly, take a look at the disciples. Now here were the run of the mill. They were passed over by the Pharisees, Sadducees, and Bible teachers. They were fishermen, tax collectors, etc because they couldn’t amount to what the religious leaders of that time expected and were sent back home to be men of their fathers’ trade. These were the people Jesus called, however. These were the people God chose to be His chosen ones, His followers, His friends, His representatives to the nations.
Just like in the verse I read in the beginning… these people were not wise by human standards. They weren’t influential or of noble birth or strong. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things…” BUT WHY? So that He could show the world just how marvelous and glorious He is.
God wants to do the same in you! Wherever you are, or how ever you are right now, God is calling you to be something you are not, but are called to be. How is this possible?…
WHAT NEEDS TO CHANGE IS OUR FOCUS. We need to stop looking at ourselves, our frailties, our pasts, our insecurities, etc. This is how Moses and others mentioned in Hebrews 11 changed. If you read the whole chapter you’ll find verses like “Moses preserved because he saw Him who was invisible (vs. 27),” or “[Abraham] considered Him faithful who had made the promise,” or “[so and so] was looking ahead for his reward,” etc. These men changed their focus and began focusing on God, His promise, His Truth, and His Word. Paul, just after what Darryl spoke on last week says, “he forgets what is behind and strains forward.” He presses on keeping his eyes on the prize. It was because of this, and only in God, that their weakness was turned to strength. That they were made more than something they could be on their own. That they “through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, shut the mouths of lions, escaped the sword and whose weakness was turned to strength.”
They in their “BATTY” selves were only anything because of God. Just the same, you and I are only anything because we are in Jesus Christ. It is only by His grace, and the power, and the glory of God.
So in light of this, I leave you with this charge… As Hebrews 12:1-3 says,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”