sermon notes from the Vineyard Church of Milan 02/17/2013
video available at www.sundaystreams.com/go/MilanVineyard/ondemand
The idea behind a leap of faith is that it demands everything from us (go ahead, jump – it’s only your life on the line!) and it promises everything to us (if you make it, nothing will ever be the same – your dreams will come true). A relationship, a job, a new business venture, an investment…
And the only way to find out if a leap of faith is going to pay off is to leap. If you don’t, you’ll never know. If you do, you only find out through the experience that follows.
The Bible tells some crazy stories about leaps of faith. Noah building that ark. Abraham packing up his family and heading off in to the unknown. David going up against Goliath with only a sling and stones. Jesus trading divinity for humanity and taking a chance on crucifixion and death. The message seems pretty clear: devote yourself to God’s purposes for you, and there will be abundant life on the other side of that leap of faith. Jesus famously said it this way: seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Of course, before anyone takes a leap of faith, they want to know if they’ve got any evidence to suggest it might be worthwhile. So over these next 7 weeks of lent, I’d like us to try an experimental approach.
Listen to what Psalm 34 says:
8Taste and see that the Lord is good;
blessed are those who take refuge in him.
9Fear the Lord, you his holy people,
for those who fear him lack nothing.
Taste and see suggests we can do some things and get some evidence. We put something in, and see what comes out. The Bible seems to say that what comes out is that the Lord is good. I say let’s give it a shot. Let’s take a leap of faith.
A whole book of the Bible, named after its author, the prophet Haggai, devotes itself to this subject. We’ll look at part of it in a little bit.
Before we get to these ancient words, let’s hear from the noted philosopher, Sheryl Crow, who wrote a song about this litmus test, even using the words of Haggai to make her point…
You can tell me the world is round and I'll prove to you it's square
You can keep your feet on the ground,
but I'll be walking on air
You're pretty good at waiting
While I go running around
Well, that's just the way it is, you know
I got a hole in my pocket
You give me love and I drop it
I guess I threw it away…
Sheryl Crow’s point is that she doesn’t understand herself or her life – at least on the terms of this song. She gets good things – in this case, real love – but she can’t hold on to them. It’s like she’s got a hole in her pocket. She puts the good things life gives her in there, but when she goes to get it, it’s gone.
And then you look at Haggai:
1 In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest:
2This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’ ”
3Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: 4“Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?”
5Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 6You have planted much, but have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
7This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. 8Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. 9“You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with his own house. 10Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands.”
In broad terms, Haggai is saying that our best bet is to give ourselves wholeheartedly to God’s purposes on earth. And if we don’t, one of the consequences that can happen is this – I like how the Message translation says it:
Take a good, hard look at your life.
Think it over.
You have spent a lot of money,
but you haven’t much to show for it.
You keep filling your plates,
but you never get filled up.
You keep drinking and drinking and drinking,
but you’re always thirsty.
You put on layer after layer of clothes,
but you can’t get warm.
And the people who work for you,
what are they getting out of it?
a leaky, rusted-out bucket, that’s what.
When we give ourselves to anything other than God’s purposes, it can be like we have holes in our pockets. Or like we are leaky, rusted out buckets. We get good things, but can’t hold them. We get money, but where does it go? Even though on the surface our needs may be met, our lives feel starved.
Today we are starting something new. A season in our church we are calling A Leap of Faith.
My goals for what each of you gets out of this Leap of Faith over these next 6 weeks until Easter are:
1. That you’d experience at least one concrete gift from God.
2. That you’d experience an ever-deeper joy of finding your purpose in God’s work on earth.
3. That you’d grow spiritually more than you have in any other 40 day period of your life.
4. That, because of these 40 days, you’ll stop worrying about money.
So we’ll begin today with the first step in a leap of faith, in this experiment to discover that Jesus Is Really Good, and worth trusting with everything you are and everything you’ve got. That first step is this:
Focusing on God’s one purpose on earth.
The promise of the Bible is that as we do that, we’ll suddenly get swept into the life we’ve always been created to experience, and the holes we’ve experienced in our pockets will get sewn up. All the benefits that come our way not only won’t slip away, they’ll build up into a life that feels rich and worry-free and utterly provided for.
Now, that life may often be hard. In fact, it most certainly will, sometimes. Jesus himself has this little inconvenience called the cross to deal with, not to mention all kinds of persecutions along the way, and he promises unusual hardships for his closest followers.
But the promise is that hardships and trouble, though real, won’t at all define our lives.
Abundance will define our lives.
Of course, an important question presents itself, if, in fact, this is true…
What is God’s one purpose on earth?
If we are to organize our lives around this purpose, take a leap of faith and give ourselves to it, it sure would help to know what it is, wouldn’t it?
The Bible is full of hints. Hero after hero in its pages is heroic precisely because they’ve taken a leap of faith to pursue it. Let’s take David, for example…
41Meanwhile, the Philistine, with his shield bearer in front of him, kept coming closer to David. 42He looked David over and saw that he was little more than a boy, glowing with health and handsome, and he despised him. 43He said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come at me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. 44“Come here,” he said, “and I’ll give your flesh to the birds and the wild animals!”
45David said to the Philistine, “You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the Lord Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. 46This day the Lord will deliver you into my hands, and I’ll strike you down and cut off your head. This very day I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds and the wild animals, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. 47All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord’s, and he will give all of you into our hands.”
1 Samuel 17:41-47
David, apparently, thinks that
· because of God, against all reason, he’s going to win against this behemoth,
· and that his victory will publicize to the whole world that God is the strongest power on earth.
· And that that publicizing is really important, that it’s the bottom line of what he’s up to.
Look at the song he writes, Psalm 96
1Sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2Sing to the Lord, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.
3Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous deeds among all peoples.
4For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
he is to be feared above all gods.
5For all the gods of the nations are idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
6Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and glory are in his sanctuary…
So here’s my take on God’s one purpose:
To make his name great among all the people of the earth.
God’s name, in scripture, runs along the lines of “The God who does awesome things for anyone who puts their trust in him.”
If this is true, that this is what God is doing on earth, his sole purpose, and that focusing our lives on this is the quickest path to a rich, meaningful, prosperous life, how do we do that?
Well, consider this: the driving principle behind all abundance comes down to three words: “Invest, don’t spend.”
Meaning that, more and more, we want to devote our lives to investing ourselves in the things God promises to reward. We don’t want to just spend our time, because then when it’s gone, it’s gone. We want to invest in such a way that God will be giving us a return over many years to come.
A few suggestions:
Invest your time in God’s great purpose.
15Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.
It’s important to make wise choices with our time – and “the days” won’t help us because they aren’t neutral; they’re actually evil. If we don’t make conscious choices with our time, it will slip through the holes in our pockets. Instead, understand what the Lord’s will is and invest your time in God’s great purpose.
Secondly, Invest your trust in God’s one great purpose. By this I mean that we focus our whole selves around God’s one great purpose, that his purpose becomes what we’re about. For many people, fasting is a time-honored way of learning to do this.
16“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 17But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
Notice how Jesus assumes that everyone who follows him is fasting. It boils down to giving up something we rely on, often food in some form, for some length of time, in order to feel the kind of desperation that we really need to feel for God himself.
When we really want something from God, we often fast as a means of signaling to him and to our own spirits that it pretty much has to come from him. Fasting, though it’s hard, is actually meant to be a pretty joyful experience, because it actually connects us with God. And it can be pretty exhilarating to actually fast for something specific in your life and see what God will do.
Thirdly, and briefly since we’ll talk about this one more in a couple of weeks, is to invest your talents in God’s one great purpose.
31 Then the Lord said to Moses, 2“See, I have chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills— 4to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, 5to cut and set stones, to work in wood, and to engage in all kinds of crafts. 6Moreover, I have appointed Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, to help him. Also I have given ability to all the skilled workers to make everything I have commanded you: 7the tent of meeting, the ark of the covenant law with the atonement cover on it, and all the other furnishings of the tent— 8the table and its articles, the pure gold lampstand and all its accessories, the altar of incense, 9the altar of burnt offering and all its utensils, the basin with its stand— 10and also the woven garments, both the sacred garments for Aaron the priest and the garments for his sons when they serve as priests, 11and the anointing oil and fragrant incense for the Holy Place. They are to make them just as I commanded you.”
If this is all of what life is meant to be about, clearly we’d want to find a way that all of who we are would be invested in it.
Finally, invest your treasure in God’s one great purpose.
The key biblical principle about how to always have more than you need is this one: your financial prosperity depends more on God’s blessing than it does on your earning power. Some people make big money but constantly struggle with debt. Lots of others do their best to invest their treasure towards God’s one great purpose and have a sense of being wonderfully provided for by God. Jesus makes a big deal about this too, teaching his followers that loving money is the root of all evil, that you can’t serve God & Money both, but that if you trust God you won’t have to worry about money.
We’ll talk more about this later in our leap of faith project over these 6 weeks.
Remember our discussion of David earlier, and how he really understood this stuff about God’s purpose on earth? It’s interesting how his life gets summed up in the New Testament: “David…served God’s purpose in his own generation.” Acts 13:36
Wouldn’t we like that to be true of us?
1. Read the User Manual for the Leap of Faith.
2. Do some or all of the stuff in there. Preferably all. But especially the first stuff.