July 30th Sermon at our Red Deer church – Don’t Be Such a Chicken – Pastor Chuck Roth
Father, I just ask Lord as I deliver the message this morning that I would be able to do it in a way Father that brings life to people. Father I pray that they wouldn’t get lost in the details of a message but they would hear what I believe your heart is for this congregation. And so Lord just minister to each one of us, help me to speak plainly, help me to speak with enthusiasm. And Lord I pray that for each one of us Lord that you would open up our ears so we would hear what you really are saying to us, so thank you for that Father, in Jesus name we pray, amen.
I’m going to start a new sermon series, it’s called Don’t be Such a Chicken. If I were to ask you a question this morning, what if God wanted to really use you to make a difference in the world? What if God really wanted to use you to make a difference in the world? What if he was calling you to do something that’s far greater than you’ve ever thought of before? What if God wants to use you to make an incredible difference? What if you just let your mind just wander for a little bit, not when I’m preaching but just after the message maybe, what if you just let yourself dream for a little bit about what God has in store for you as an individual and for us as a congregation? Because I really believe that God wants to take us someplace different and some place special that’ s probably more than we’ve ever even thought of. For some of you right now you’re thinking of all of the opportunities you’ve missed in the past and all of the things that have gone wrong; you know what? Today is a new day, so today is not a day where you look at the past and you think, “Yes, I made that mistake or this happened or this wasn’t fair to me” or whatever is going through your mind.
Yesterday is yesterday. Today is a new day and I believe that God wants to do something new and something fresh and something different in our church as well. I believe that God wants to build on what we’ve done in the past to a far greater degree than probably we can even imagine. The other week I was looking and watching some music videos of the Bethel Church in Redding California, and I mean that’s kind of the same as Hill songs or whatever, kind of the same type of thing. And I’m not talking about their message and I’m not talking about the way they do things or their structure, but those two churches have really risen up and are influential in building the kingdom of God, right? What if God wants to use us the same way? What if God wants to use us? As I was watching the video I saw the altars were just filled with people who are praising and worshiping God. Last Sunday or most of the time Jordan comes and Jordan sits in the front here and Jordan is up, what if Jordan is kind of a foretaste of what’s going to happen in our congregation? What if God is going to pour out his spirit afresh and anew upon us in a really new, startling way and and we’re going to see more miracles than we’ve seen in the past and we’re going to see God moved by his hand more than we’ve seen him move in the past? What if we’re entering into a whole new area? What if…? And not just what if, but what if God? What if God?
When Joyce and I first came to Red Deer 11 and a half years ago now, man time goes fast, but when Joyce and I came I remember I used to work out with Maureen’s husband Mike at the Calicut Center, and we would exercise very vigorously (how many of you believe that?) for a while, and then we would sit in the hot tub for just a very brief period of time. And I remember as part of our conversations were ‘what if’, what if we’re really going to be successful here? And at that time there was probably 20 or 30 people that met here, 20 or 30 people that said that this was their church. And we’ve seen God do amazing things over the years, we really have. And we’ve seen some of the ‘what-ifs we’re going to be successful’ here. Mike and I have seen some of that. Mike has taken mission teams, how often has he been, four times to Mexico, to Africa, to Thailand. And I don’t believe God is done with Mike in the missions department either. He stepped back for a bit here, taking a new direction in life, but that doesn’t mean life is over for him. We’ve seen a lot of the what-ifs, we’ve seen some of that stuff that we were talking about in the hot tub. That’s not funny, let’s move on.
We saw God bring to fulfillment some of those things that we could just imagine about. But we’re not done yet; we’re not done yet. And I believe it’s time to dream again, it’s time to let our imaginations go again, it’s time for us as individuals to just let ourselves dream about what if God really wanted to use me? What if God wanted me to do something? And I I really believe that he does. But just because God wants to do something doesn’t mean it will automatically happen. Just because God wants to use each one of us doesn’t automatically mean it will happen. If we just stay laying on our couches or we keep waiting for an envelope to come in the mail with a million dollar check from somebody. Come on, how many of you… yes a few more of you are getting real, becoming honest this morning. I used to dream as a boy that somebody would just come down the road and have a horse for me to ride on, and I could just picture them coming and I could… and you know what happened? My dad bought me horse later on, so I did get one. But my dream wasn’t fulfilled that way. Anyways I’m getting off track here.
God wants to do something new, but it doesn’t mean that it will automatically happen. You see, what’s needed is for us to have courage. It is so crucial and so important that each one of us have courage. If God is calling us to something new, if God is calling us to greater things, if God is calling us to a place of influence, if God wants to use us to really make a difference, maybe in our victory organization, in the city for sure, in the province and around the world, what if God really wants to use us for us to enter into what God has for us? Courage is going to be required, right? It may be God’s heart to use us in this way, but if we don’t have courage to step out and to do some stuff, well we’re just not going to see the fulfillment of what we want to see. The Apostle Paul told Timothy, he wrote a couple of letters to Timothy and he told Timothy, he said once, he said, “I’m reminded of the sincere faith that you have.” He said, “Your grandmother had it, your mother had it and now you have it.” And then in 2 Timothy the Apostle Paul said to Timothy he says, “For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.”
You see, Timothy had this within him, but the Apostle Paul said fan it into flame. You build a campfire and it’s just kind of their smoldering and you’re hoping it will take off and so you start to blow on it, fan it into flames so this fire, this thing that God has put in us, this small thing that God has put in us, fan it into flames Timothy. And I believe it’s important for each one of us to fan it into flame in the same way. Then look at the next verse, verse seven, it says, “For God gave us a spirit, not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” God gave us, us here, us not a spirit of fear, but of power and love and self-control. Another version says God did not give us a spirit of timidity.
I like to look at the meaning of the words of this verse. If you look at the word fear it means a state of fear because of lack of courage or moral strength. God didn’t give us this a state of fear because of lack of courage or moral strength. We talked over the last couple weeks about how even if persecution comes, even if we suffer for doing what’s right we need to do what’s right, right? And God didn’t give us a spirit that’s afraid to do what’s right even if we suffer for it. God didn’t give us a spirit of that. But God gives us courage, courage to do the right thing, not a spirit of timidity. Instead he gave us a spirit of power and love and self-control.
Look at the word love, guess what love means? Love. I’m going to leave it at that this morning. I mean you’ve probably heard 3072 sermons defining what love is. Well we’re talking about love here, I think everybody gets that OK. God gave us a spirit of self-control, that’s to behave in a sensible manner with the implication of thoughtful awareness of what is best, moderation or sensibility. How many of you believe I came up with these definitions myself? I didn’t. But the one I want to focus on this morning, the one I want to focus on this morning is the word power. Power means the potentiality to exert force in performing some function. The holy spirit that God put in us means that we have the potential to exert force and perform a function. Notice the word potential. Fan into flame Timothy the potential that God has given you. When I was a kid I used to be very proud of the fact when I would bring my report cards home to mom and dad, the teachers always put in them “Charles could do good if he wanted to.” Hey, I could get a good report card if I wanted to. I’ll leave it at that. And then it wasn’t until my daughter started to get interested in guys where I realize that really potential doesn’t mean anything. Unless you’re fulfilling your potential, unless you’re driving in a direction with the potential that you have, it really doesn’t mean anything. So just to have potential doesn’t mean much. God gives us the potential to be powerful, but that really doesn’t mean much unless we activate the potential that’s inside of us right.
God wants to activate the potential that’s inside of us. The Spirit of God has put within us the potential to be very powerful to accomplish the what-if God’s, we need to fan this into flame. And I want to share a story with you from the Scripture that’s actually kind of depressing in a way, because it’s about a group of people who have potential but they never reached their potential, and in doing so they missed out on their calling. And I’m thinking about a tribe from the children of Israel. Let me give you a brief history, the children of Israel started out with one man, Abraham. I think probably a lot of us recognize that fact. Abraham was the first guy, then Abraham had a son Isaac, Isaac had a son
Jacob, Jacob’s name was later changed to Israel. And the tribes of Israel basically, with a few exceptions, a couple of exceptions or whatever, the tribes of Israel were named after Jacob or Israel sons. There was a couple of exceptions but one of them was Joseph, remember the story of Joseph? Joseph was sold as a slave to Egypt, and then Joseph actually became a leader in Egypt, he became second in command to Pharaoh. Well Joseph had, two sons Ephraim and Manasseh, and before Jacob died he claimed Joseph’s sons as his own, he adopted them in a sense. Not in the sense that these kids are going to move into my house and and I’m going to raise them and they’re going to be mine, not like that. But basically what Jacob was doing was giving Joseph’s sons a real inheritance along with the other sons. The fact is that even though Ephraim was born after Manasseh, Ephraim was supposed to be the head tribe in Israel, Ephraim was supposed to have a tribe and it was supposed to have the rights of the firstborn son. Firstborn son always had a double inheritance, a double portion of the inheritance, and Ephraim was supposed to receive this. Ephraim was one of the, I’m not sure if not the largest tribe in Israel, and Ephraim was supposed to be the head tribe in Israel, that Ephraim had a problem. And it says…
Well one verse I missed here, Jeremiah 31:9 just in case you think I’m really getting off base here. Jeremiah speaking for God says, “I am the father of Israel and Ephraim is my firstborn.” Now let’s move on. Ephraim was supposed to receive the inheritance of the firstborn and then in Psalm 78:9 and 11 it says, “The man of Ephraim, well-equipped with bows and arrows turned and ran on the day of battle.” They had not been faithful to God’s promises, they refused to follow his teachings, they forgot what he had done, the miracles that he’d shown them. These verses in Psalm 78 it’s kind of going through a history of Israel and what’s happened there, and when it comes to the tribe of Ephraim it says even though these guys were well-equipped with the weapons of war, it says when it came time for battle these guys ran. They had bows and arrows but when the going got tough these guys left. In verse 67 it says, “He rejected the tent of Joseph, he did not choose the tribe of Ephraim. But he chose the tribe of Judah, Mount Zion which he loved.”
You see, Ephraim lost their position as firstborn, even though they were the largest tribe they lost their position of leadership, why? Because they turned and they ran in the day of battle. The fact is if we run in a day of battle we’re never going to fulfill what God wants us to fulfill, right? If we take the safe route, if we take the easy route in life we will never fulfill entirely what God has for us to fulfill. There’s more to the story when it comes to the tribe of Ephraim. If you look at the verses it wasn’t just the courage thing, but I think the courage thing was the result of a few things that they did. They forgot what God had done in the past, the victories that he’d won over other nations. And if you look at the history of the tribe of Ephraim you’ll see that they never totally surrendered to God either. They never totally completely decided that they were going to follow his teachings. They were proud and arrogant, and this showed up but specifically in one battle.
Do you remember the story of Gideon? God came to Gideon while Gideon was hiding in a wine-press trying to thresh out a little bit of grain for his family. And God came to Gideon and he said, “Gideon, I’m going to use you to save the nation of Israel.” The Midianites had overrun the land, and every time there was a crop about to be harvested the Midianites would come in and destroy everything so the Israelites were poor and they’re suffering and they’re struggling. And God says to Gideon, “I’m going to use you to save the nation.” And so Gideon gathers together, goes through couple tests, gathers together a sizable group of men to fight the Midianites, nothing in comparison to the army that the Midianites had. But what he does, he gathers these men and God says, “You have way too many guys. You’re going to be able to claim the victory for yourself.” So to make a long story a little bit shorter anyways, they pare the group of men down to 400 men and God does a real miracle with Gideon and his 400 men. And the Midianites start to fight amongst themselves and then they run away.
And what does the tribe of Ephraim do? Gideon is fighting these guys, people are starting to join in, the tribe of Ephraim joins in for a little bit. But look at their attitude, they get mad at Gideon because Gideon didn’t include them in the battle plans in what was going on. They were proud and they were arrogant and they thought, “Hey we’re the biggest tribe here, we’re really somebody. God is really using us.” And so they get mad at Gideon, and Gideon has to now take on the tribe of Ephraim while he’s still fighting the Midianites. And in Judges 8:1 it tells a story a little bit, it says, “The men of Ephraim strongly protested Gideon’s actions. They said, ‘why did you do this to us?’ You didn’t invite us to go fight Midian with you.'” They thought that they were pretty special, but Gideon was following God and he didn’t involve the tribe of Ephraim. But Gideon is wise and in his response and verse 2 Gideon tells the tribe of Ephraim he says, “I haven’t done anything compared with what you’ve done. Aren’t the grapes that Ephraim picked after the harvest better than all of the grapes of Abihazer’s entire harvest?” God handed a couple guys, Arab and Zeeb – there, you can laugh at me for all of my pronunciations here – Midians commanders over to you, what have I done in compared with that? He appealed to their pride, and when they heard what Gideon said they weren’t angry with him anymore.
The battle is still going on, and because Ephraim’s pride is hurt they take on Gideon. It shows you who they were, it shows you their mindset. And if you fast forward in history and you look at David became King, the tribe of Ephraim, yes, came under David’s leadership, but they never totally surrendered to David. When there was trouble, when there was a issue Ephraim always went their own way. And then when it was David’s grandson Ephraim went their own way, turned their back on God and did their own thing. They never totally surrendered to what God wanted. And I believe in them not totally surrendering to what God wanted, then… and also it said in those previous verses it says they forgot what God had done. I believe if we do that then we’ll miss out on what God has, we’ll lack courage ourselves. You see it’s not just about us just deciding waking up one morning that we’re going to have courage, it’s about us doing the things today to be obedient to God to recognizing that he really is a king, to recognizing that he really is the Lord and I’m going to be obedient to him today.
I’m so proud of some of you. Gail isn’t with us this morning, but Gail was talking about how she went to the City of Red Deer Town Council and had some grievances with some of the stuff that they wanted to do, and that took courage for her to go into council chambers and to make a statement, right? Evelyn told me that she’s starting to to swim and she’s afraid of the water, but she’s getting over her fear of being afraid of the water. Some of these things we think are small things, but it’s setting us on a course where we can be brave and we can be courageous and we can tackle some of these things that God has for us. We need to have of a mindset of courage, we need to be obedient, fully obedient to the things that God has for us. And we need to be people that are willing to really submit to what God has for our life, not kind of hold things off like, “Yeah, I’ll be submissive but…” We really need to be submissive to the Lord. And we need to take the small challenges that he gives us now and do those things. Is there a neighbor that you need to call? Call them. This isn’t big stuff. If God wants you to do something do it. I wish I could bring you complicated messages. None of this stuff is big stuff, it’s just do the thing that’s before you, do it. And I don’t mean to be the dad that tells his kid “Do it.” I don’t mean to be that guy. What I want to be is the guy that encourages us. We can do this, we can do that. Take a chance, and yes, you’re scared, all of us are scared of stuff, but it’s not being fearful that’s bad, it’s being fearful and letting your fear control you and not stepping out and doing, that’s where the harm comes. Fear is a good thing, to a point; fear is a good thing.
We need to be people of courage if we’re going to do the what-ifs. We have the potential to really be powerful. We have the potential to really make a difference; but courage is needed. Think of great men of God in the Old Testament, or even the New Testament, think of the great men of God and what they did. When Joshua took over from Moses and he’s going to lead the entire nation into the Promised Land that’s filled with Giants and all kinds of obstacles, God told Joshua numerous times “Be courageous.” When a huge army came to fight King Jehoshaphat, a huge army that greatly outnumbered him, Jehoshaphat had courage and he prayed. And you know what he did, he sent the praise and worship team out ahead of the army; how would you guys like that? I think that’s a great idea, right? How many of you think we should do that sort of stuff ourselves here? But these guys had courage.
Sometimes I think we misunderstand. Here’s one prophet that stands up and tells Joshua God’s going to win this battle, all you need to do is show up and God’s going to win the battle. And so Joshua gets together his praise and worship team and they go out, and that’s exactly what happens God wins the battle for them, they don’t even need to fight. But put that in today’s language where we’re facing or we pretend we’re facing a real issue here, a life and death issue, and somebody stands up in the congregation, somebody who has a track record, but stands up in the congregation and says, “You guys don’t need to do anything, God is going to handle this for you.” And even though… it used to be when I was a kid “the Russians are coming”, it’s starting to become that again. But even though they’re coming you don’t need to stand up and do anything, God is going to win this battle for you. If somebody stood up and said that how many of you would just jump on board with that and you’d say, “Yeah.” I would be like, “Y-y-yeah.” I’m just trying to put it into context, but these guys had courage and they just did what they were told. They didn’t hide in the city, they didn’t hide behind walls, they didn’t try to run away. But they had courage and they went out and God won the battle for them.
I love the stories in the Old Testament. I love the stories of David’s mighty men and I think of the courage David’s mighty men must have had. I like to say this, on TV the hero seems to be able to stand in the street in full view with a six-shot revolver and take out all of the bad guys that are hiding behind rocks and in buildings and stuff who have AK-47s, right? Well if you don’t follow the story of David’s mighty men who had courage, they’re even greater than that. Here’s one guy Joash Bathshebeth, he raised his spear against 800 men whom he killed in one encounter. Here’s one guy armed with a spear in the middle of a battle, defeats 800 enemy. Can you imagine having people like that around you if you’re in a war? That’s what you want, right? But these guys had courage, they did incredible exploits. David said once, “Man, it’s hot and it’s dry here. I wish somebody would go over there to that well and get me some water” and the well is behind enemy lines. And what do David’s three… I think it was three of David’s mighty men, what do they do? They break through the enemy lines, go over, get a drink of water, and then I guess they have to break through the lines again and come and they give David this water. Think of the courage of these guys. Think of the courage of these guys. Do you know what David does? He pours the water out on the ground, he said, “This is a sacrifice to God.These guys risked their own lives. I’m not drinking this water.” But the courage of these guys, and look at the things they accomplished.
I think it’s time for us to dwell on the what if’s a bit, and then to have the courage and the strength and the boldness that we need to have to see God take us to a whole other new level. It’s time to rise up, it’s time to be people of courage, it’s time to take on those challenges, it’s time to do the stuff. It’s not time to run and to hide in our houses, it’s not time to pull back and to wither and to die. God wants to do something special for us, and and God has given each one of us potential. Let’s take advantage of the potential that he’s given to us. In 2nd Timothy 1:14, and I’ll close with this, it says, “By the Holy Spirit who dwells within you guard the good deposit entrusted to you.” Guard the good deposit entrusted to you, the potential that you have inside of you, the potential that we have inside of us let’s guard that and let’s have the courage to be obedient to God, let’s have the courage to go forward and to do those things that God is calling us to do.
None of your lives here are over. There isn’t anybody who’s here by mistake this morning, I really don’t believe that. I believe God is calling each one of us, and even whether you’re part of this congregation or not God is calling you to make a difference where you’re at. Let’s rise up let’s take advantage of the opportunities that he gives to us, let’s go guys, let’s go. And we don’t have to look at yesterday’s failures or yesterday’s defeats, today is a new day, it’s a new day. It’s a new day. How many of you are with me? I just so believe that it’s time for us to rise up. And life may have beat us down for a while, but our lives aren’t over yet. Today is a new day and God is going to use us in a fresh, new way.
Father I thank you so much for each person that’s here. I thank you Father that you’ve given them incredible potential. I thank you Father that there isn’t any of us who’ve reached the potential fully that what you’ve been wanting to give to us. So Father I just ask Lord that you would bless us as we go forward Father, a new season in September, I pray Father that we would be people of courage, that we would be people that have strength, that we would be people that trust in you, we would be people that have faith in you. Pour out your spirit upon us here Father, may we receive, may we achieve the potential that you have given to us. Thank you Lord.
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