October 20, 2013

What’s In Your Hand?

Passage: Exodus 4:1-17
Service Type:

Last week as we began our fall stewardship emphasis I asked you a very important question: How are you using your time? I asked you that question because how you use your time is a matter of stewardship. And today as we continue this stewardship series I want to ask you another question? What is your life purpose?

The bible says every one of us has been created and intricately woven in our mother’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully made. God says, “I know the purpose I have for you.” Everyone here has been created with everything you need to fulfill that purpose. And it’s important, because as we learned last week, life is so short that when we stand before the Father on Judgment Day we should be able to say, “Hey Father, I have finished the work that you sent me to do.”

What is your life purpose? And what is it that God has given you in order to fulfill that purpose? And again that is a very important question because it is a matter of stewardship.

But you see the problem is so often we minimize our potential. We downplay or deny our talents. We downsize our dreams. I love the statement, “It’s better to have an impossible dream than no dream at all. God dreams are impossible dreams. Because you can’t do it, God does it through you.”

What we do is when we look through human eyes we down size our vision based on the obstacles we see, our own human limitations, and the lack of resources. We always seem to fall into the trap, but dreaming God-sized dreams is the consequence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives.

God’s promise on Pentecost is that the Holy Spirit will be given to all people, both men and women, you hear that ladies? It says that your young folks will have God visions and your old folks will dream God’s dreams. And that is what we need if we are going to be the people, and the church that the Lord created us to be.

Now go with me this morning back to Moses. Moses has had a burning bush encounter at age 80; and thank God he found it before he died. Am I right? God says Moses’ mission is to leave the land of Midian where he has been a shepherd for the past 40 years and go back to a place, Egypt, where he was wanted for murder. While he was in Egypt at age 80, he would go to the most powerful political and military leader in the world. He would become the deliverer of one million Hebrew slaves.

A God dream or a burning bush is an A-ha moment. It’s when you realize “Yes, this is what God wants me to do!” You are then able to articulate it. That’s what a burning bush is. It is what God wants you to do and being able to articulate it. For most of us, it is not our day job.

And what happens when God gives him this mission? He immediately begins to make excuses as to why he can’t do it.

And his first one in Exodus 3 is this: “But God, who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” In other words, God I am not qualified. Do you ever feel that way? I am inadequate for the task that you are trying to call me to do.

You can only imagine what Moses was feeling. Pharaoh represented the number one military power in the world and God is calling an 80-year-old. Let me tell you this, if you are feeling adequate, then your mission is not big enough. If you are feeling adequate, your mission is not big enough because God wants to accomplish it through you. And how does God answer him? God said, “I will be with you.” If you are only doing things you think you can accomplish, then you haven’t discovered your life mission. You haven’t discovered the purpose for which God created you.

The second excuse Moses uses is this: “But God, suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them,”The God of your fathers has sent me to you and they ask me what his name is. What am I going to tell them?” In other words, but, but God I am spiritually unfit. I am spiritually ill-prepared. I am spiritually illiterate. “What if they ask me a theological question that I don’t have an answer for? What if they ask God's name?” Because Moses doesn't have an answer he doesn't want to go.

Look at how God answers Moses question, “Who are you, God?” God tells Moses to tell the Israelites that God's name is: "I am who I am". In other words, tell them that the God who always has been, is, and always will be has sent you.

The third excuse comes in Exodus 4:1 which we heard in our scripture reading a moment ago: Moses asked, “But God what if they don’t believe me? What if they don’t listen to what I say?” In other words, but, but, God they are not going to believe me; I lack credibility.

Do you remember for what Moses was known in Egypt? Why did he leave Egypt? Do you remember? Moses had committed murder. Moses believed if he went back to Egypt, he would have the credibility of a murderer. What is everybody going to be saying? See the problem is that we downsize the expectations of what God can accomplish through us. We base those expectations on our own understanding of ourselves, including our limitations and failures, and also other people’s opinions.

Folks here’s the thing; when God is all you have, then all you have is all you need. When God is all you have, then all you have is all you need.

Here is the fourth excuse: “Moses said to the Lord, but Lord, I have never been eloquent neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” In other words, man I stumble over my words. Lord I am afraid to speak in front of people. Anyone relate to that one? Who can relate to that? Can you? Sister, if I ask you to come up here and close us in prayer today how would you feel? You would drop on the floor? And probably wouldn’t come back next week? No, I am not going to ask you.

Moses is trying to hide behind His inability but God tells Him that He will not call Him to something that He doesn't equip him for. See here is the whole point; God’s strength is displayed through our weakness. God’s power is displayed through our inadequacy. God says to Moses, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I the Lord? Now go. I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”

We see Moses as totally inept and inadequate for the mission that God has called him to. Would you agree with me? So the question is, why does God choose someone like this for such a mission? My bigger question is why does God choose someone like you and I for such a mission?

So here is the first thing I want you to remember when it comes to using your talents to accomplish God’s plans. And pardon my expression, but the first thing we must do is to get rid of those big buts!

Any big buts out there this morning?

BUT Lord I don’t have the right kind of education...

BUT Lord I’m too old to live that dream...

BUT Lord I just don’t have the time…

BUT Lord I just don’t have any talents…

BUT Lord the money just isn’t there...

BUT that decision feels way too risky...

BUT I’m just one ordinary person...

BUT Lord find someone else to do it…

What excuse do you have? In order for God to do what you were created for, and to do all he wants to do through you, whatever it is you need to name that excuse and lose that but.

Now let’s changes gears slightly here and let me take you back to our scripture passage from Exodus 4. “So Moses answered God what if they don’t believe me or listen to me and say the Lord did not appear to you?” And then the Lord said to him, “What is in your hand?”

“Um a staff, a stick, what am I going to do with a stick?”

The Lord said, “Throw it on the ground.” So we see one a question and then a command. Moses threw it on the ground and it became a snake and he ran from it. (How often we run from the work that God is trying to accomplish in our life.)

Then the Lord said to him, reach out your hand and take it by the tail. So Moses reached out, took a hold of the snake and it turned back into a staff in his hand. This said the Lord is so they may believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, has done this not you, because they’ll look at you and say, “Uh ah! I know it wasn’t you.” The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob has appeared to you.

Now the problem, and it’s kind of natural to do, is that you and I tend to focus on what we don’t have. Now please hear me, in God, everything you need you have already been given. In God, everything you need to accomplish the mission you were created for, you have already been given. God uses our ordinary gifts, talents and life experiences that you and I just kind of take for granted.

What is a staff? A staff is an everyday tool in Moses’ toolbox. Moses could never conceive that through this ordinary tool he used every day, God would accomplish an extraordinary miracle.

Now what was this used for? For a shepherd, a staff was used for stability. The terrain that most of the shepherds in Moses day and in the region where he lived was extremely rough and rugged. So they needed to be able to brace themselves to stay on the mountain.

Another purpose for a staff is as a weapon if robbers attacked. Who wants to volunteer to let me show how affective a staff is as a weapon. When hyenas, wolves and coyotes would come against the sheep, then the staff was used as a weapon.

It was also used to guide sheep. Many of the staves that they carried would have a crook in them which could be used to guide sheep. Guiding sheep is like herding cats. By placing the crook around the neck of a sheep and you can gently move them where you want them to go. The staff had all kinds of uses. At night when they made camp, they would take a lantern out of a pack and use the staff to hang it, and it would light their camp. Sometimes when it began to get dark on these narrow paths, they would carry the staff with the lamp.

Let’s think about it. There was no way Moses could conceive that a staff would be used to fulfill God’s mission. It was an everyday ordinary tool.

It’s no different for me. I use a keyboard as a tool on an everyday basis. How many use a keyboard on an everyday basis? It’s amazing how these things work, and you don’t even think about it. I was doing email this morning; you don’t even think where the letters are on the keyboard. This little finger knows exactly where the “delete” key is because I have to use it a lot.

Who would ever have thought this little tool that I just take for granted could do God’s work in such a way to create words that can reach the ears of hundreds of people both here and those who listen to them online?

It is amazing. God uses the collective of all of your life experiences even your failures. You see Moses became a shepherd through failure. That staff represents failure. That dude was prince of Egypt. It’s quite a fall from prince to the pasture. Shepherds were lowest on the rung of society, so God was going to use Moses’ failure for his redemptive purpose.

Consider all your life experiences, Acts 7 says this, “Moses was educated in all the wisdom of the Egyptians and he was powerful in speech and action.” Do you notice it doesn’t say he was educated in all the scriptures? Why was he useful to God? Moses knew how to infiltrate the Egyptian culture. He had mastered and was a student of the Egyptian culture.

Folks listen to me. You have been equipped with everything you need to accomplish the mission for which you were created.

Think for a moment of a little seed. One little seed contains all of the genetic coding to create that which it is intended to create. You can go out to the Sequoia National Park and see these giant trees. All of that came from one little seed. All of the genetic code to grow that tree is already contained in that one seed. One human embryo contains all of the DNA to create a mature human being. So if all of the gifts when God wove in you in your mother’s womb and all of the gifts, all of the talents were there, what’s the Holy Spirit’s part?

The Holy Spirit is the warmth of the spring soil that awakens these latent gifts and talents in you. That is what happens in the new birth. We are given the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit awakens these latent gifts and talents. That’s what it means, once you were dead, but now you have new life; it’s awakened. The more we learn to submit to the Holy Spirit and we say, “Holy Spirit I give you my mind, my thoughts. Holy Spirit I surrender my mouth, my speech. Holy Spirit I give you my hands that they may serve your every purpose. Holy Spirit I give you my feet that I only go and follow where ever Jesus leads.” The more I surrender to the Holy Spirit, then the more powerful God’s influence becomes through my talents and gifts in the world. Everything you need you have already been given.

Now there are three helpful questions to help identify gifts and talents. The first one is centered on gifts of the head. Here is the question to ask. What do I know a lot about? What is the thing I know a lot about but it’s more than most people around me know?

Maybe for you that is…

The second is the gift of your hands. What do you do better than a lot of people around you?

Maybe for some of you that is…

Do you see how God used this? Do you see how all of those experiences that God has used, that is called gifts of your hand.

The third is what are you the most passionate about? And you know what for many of you that may not be your day job.

People go on mission trips. Carry communion to a shut in.

Those are the questions in discovering what is in your hand. What are the gifts of your head? What do you know a lot about; maybe more than other people around you? What is the gift of your hands; what are you good at? And what is the passion of your heart; what is the gift of your heart?

We are born; we are wired to accomplish God’s purpose in this world. The first thing that God says to Moses is a question, “What is in your hand?” Everything you need you have already been given. The second thing God says to Moses here is a command; “Throw it to the ground.”

Now think about that for a minute. Throw it is a declarative action. Too many people are timid; God didn’t say, “Why don’t you gently put it on the ground?” We often say, “Well, I’m going to try this but I’m going to keep my hand on it just in case I don’t like it.” I hear people say many times, “Well, I knew I was suppose to not sit and take, I was suppose to move out and do, but it got a little risky and it cost more than I thought. The time it involves.” No. Throwing it down is a definitive, definite action. As a matter of fact in scripture, here is what that means. It literally means, “Make or take up a challenge.” When you throw it down you make or take up a challenge. It is a commitment to join an enterprise. So through the years that expression has in different generations has become “throwing down the gauntlet”. “Throwing my hat in the ring.” It is a bold definitive declaration.

I love the way Thomas Edison said it, “Vision without implementation is hallucination”.

John, if you were just sitting here in church and thinking it would be a good idea to start a GRACE Ministries outreach and never done it, there would have been 28 families who would not have had food through that ministry and have been blessed through that ministry?

Folks, you have to release to increase it. You have to take what you have been given and you have to put it back in God’s hand and you don’t take it up until God puts it back in your hand. See when God puts it back in your hand, it’s no longer just a stick its God’s stick. From that time on, Moses didn’t refer to it as staff he called it “God’s staff”.

Now you may not think you have much to offer. But here’s the bottom line: we have to utilize what God has placed in our hand not what we wish we had. No matter how much or how little we have to utilize what God has placed in our hand. Actions create energy; write that down. Thinking doesn’t create energy; actions create energy. You can’t think your way into a new way of acting. You have to act your way into a new way of thinking.

Friends you don’t have to have all of the ingredients you need for success for your mission at the outset. They will come at the appointed time. You don’t have to have everything. Walk. Act. Release. Throw it down. Acting by faith on God’s promise is the only resource you need and when you give your best, you can trust God with the rest. Amen.

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