- What do you feel “keeps God from using you?” What weakness/shortcoming/fault is something you feel stands in the way?
- What is something you have, right now, that God can use? If you aren’t sure, pray and ask God to reveal it to you.
- Do you believe God will use you? Why or why not?
Good morning and welcome to Hope City Church! We’ve got some fun planned for you today. How many of you recognized some of those images from that video? Anyone? Let’s start off easy, raise your hand if you remember Veggie Tales. Remember these guys? What about this one… McGee and Me. Okay, how about Hanna Barbera’s Bible Adventures? Or let’s branch off into the music video world. Did anyone grow up listening to Steve Green’s Hide Em In Your Heart? Or really going back, digging deep is Psalty the Singing Song Book. My family had a vinyl record of Psalty the singing song book. It was incredible.
These items are blasts from the past, treasures from a day gone by. They all point back to the days spent in Sunday School. It was an amazing time of life Sunday School, wasn’t it? I don’t know what you think of when you think about Sunday School, but I think about an hour-long time where some poor soul was locked in a room with a dozen crazy 5th graders! They did their very best to engage us and teach about the Bible. The goal is found in the name, Sunday School. Let’s see what we can teach these kids. It’s important for them to KNOW a lot about GOD. And so, we would do crafts, worksheets, play Bible Trivia games, and every other kind of creative thing to help us learn more about God. I need to pause and just say how these men and women are heroes in my world and in my life. They laid a Biblical foundation in my world that I am so grateful for.
As a kid I would watch Davy and Goliath almost every Sunday morning before going to church… My dad was a pastor, and my mom played piano and organ at our church. So I’d go to church early… Kind of like our Roadies now… But this Claymation show was on every Sunday morning, right before the Hour of Power with Robert Schuller. Occasionally I’d watch a little bit of that before heading off to church.
I loved my childhood, as I mentioned. I loved most of my Sunday school teachers… there were a couple old ladies who I’m pretty sure just didn’t like kids… But one of the things that I always felt was that we learned a lot about the story of God, about the biblical characters… but we didn’t learn how that mattered to me. We had a pretty flat understanding of scripture.
Over the course of the next 4 weeks, in our series Sunday School Remix, we will be diving into 4 stories that you learned in Sunday School and asking, God what do you have to say to me today from this story from what I learned in my yesterday’s. My prayer is that over these next 4 weeks, God’s word will come alive in your life, that stories will become more than tall tales, but they will breathe life into your story and change the direction of your life.
One of the issues that I had as a kid was that I learned about the heroes of our faith, but it left me wondering… I mean, those people are AMAZING! But I’m pretty average. How could I make a difference in this world. How could I do something significant for God. These are the random thoughts of a 12 year old boy. Because what I learned in Sunday School was that only the strong and successful are used by God. Right?
I think that this is true of many people, not just moody 12 year old boys. We get this idea in our head that somehow, someone else is going to be the person that God uses to change the world. I mean, I’m not Billy Graham, right? I’m not Pastor Craig Groeschel, or Pastor Steven Furtick. Many of us are plagued by 3 B’s… One of the first things that we buy into is that we need to be BETTER. If only I was a better person. Or if I was better at it. God would use me if I was Better. Another thing we believe is that the other guy is BIGGER. They are bigger, they have a bigger bank roll. They can afford to make a difference. They are stronger, or more capable to do this than me. We start to minimize ourselves because we have maximized someone else in our mind. Or one of the last ones, and maybe even the most devastating to us all is that we believe that it’s not BELIEVABLE. God using me? No way. Do you know what I’ve done? I’ve been divorced. I’m in recovery. I’m pretty sure I don’t even like my kids… We end up asking the question, Can I make a difference for God, and do I matter to God.
We tend to: We overestimate what can be done in a day and underestimate what can be done in a lifetime. We think if I was better, or bigger, or more believable, than I could make a difference today. We make our own plans for how we might serve God, or how God might use us. But those plans don’t always work out right away, do they? Together we can learn from an old Sunday School Lesson, about how to make a difference in this world, a story from way back when about a man named Gideon. Gideon made his own plans for how he was going to make a difference in this world and how he was going to leave his mark but God had other ideas.
To help us really get into the Sunday School feel, Let’s pull out an old Sunday School Classic, THE MAGICAL FLANNELGRAPH…
Let me set the scene for you today…
(FlannelGraph- Desert Scene)
Again the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord, and for seven years he gave them into the hands of the Midianites. 2 Because the power of Midian was so oppressive, the Israelites prepared shelters for themselves in mountain clefts, caves and strongholds. 3 Whenever the Israelites planted their crops, the Midianites, Amalekites and other eastern peoples invaded the country. 4 They camped on the land and ruined the crops all the way to Gaza and did not spare a living thing for Israel, neither sheep nor cattle nor donkeys. 5 They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts. It was impossible to count the men and their camels; they invaded the land to ravage it. 6 Midian so impoverished the Israelites that they cried out to the Lord for help. [i]Judges 6:1-6
Israel and God had a fractured relationship. What once was intimate and positive turned into something distant and cold, something transactional rather than relational. Israel wandered away from God, and as a way of bringing them back, God used a nation called Midian. The Midianites swarmed in on the Israelites, like LOVE BUGS do to us in the spring and the fall. Look at this, I had to drive to the center of the state for a meeting and look what happened to the car I was driving. COVERED! ANIAHLATED by love bugs. This is what the Midianites would do to the nation of Israel. They would destroy their crops, decimate their livestock and take over their land. And the people of Israel had enough… they cried out to God for help.
God not only heard their cry, but He had a plan, and He sent an angelic messenger to deliver that plan to none other than our boy, GIDEON. Look at what the messanger said:
11 The angel of the Lord came and sat down under the oak in Ophrah that belonged to Joash the Abiezrite, where his son Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites. 12 When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”
Pause here… this is an ancient wine press that I got to visit in Israel. It is carved into the rock and it was used to press out the juice from grapes, not beat the chaff from wheat. It was central to the community, and usually shared by neighbors. They were protected. Threshing floors on the other hand looked like this. They were open and exposed. That was the point of them. The wind was supposed to come through and blow away the chaff, and leave only the kernel of wheat behind. Gideon is operating out of fear. He’s trying to protect what little crop he has left. And the angel of God comes and calls him a mighty warrior! Something is off here.
14 The Lord turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?” [ii]
There is everything wrong with this scene… A fearful, young man, is going to be what God uses to save Israel? If you and I were making our own plans for how to do this, we would plan things very differently. We’d pick someone with a bit more swagger than Gideon, someone who would be willing to stand out and stand up to the midianites. But God says to Gideon, “GO, save Israel.”
Let me ask you this, if God is sending you, what’s preventing you? When you feel God tugging on your heart to make a difference, what is preventing you. Or God is leading you to make a change in your neighborhood, your work place, your community…. Why is it that when God sends us, we create excuses to prevent us?
God has a word for Gideon, and I believe a word for us today too. He says Go in the strength you have. In other words, if we’re going to follow God, we need to follow God right now. Not when we’ve got it all together, not someday when, but today, now… PT. 1 GO WITH WHAT GOD HAS GIVEN YOU.
You’re wondering, how you’re going to make a difference in the world? What if you started looking around at your own world… what has God given you that you could use for the good of others?
If you’re a builder, how could God potentially use your skills and abilities that He’s given you to help build other people. What if you will build more than houses, but by building houses you could be building families and communities?
Maybe you’re a business owner, and quite frankly you’re really good at making money. What if God gave you the ability to make money, so that you would have an abundance of money to invest into God’s work here and around the world? It is not wrong to make a lot of money, it’s wrong to hoard money and grow in greed on any level, a lot or a little.
Maybe you’re a stay at home mom. You just might be doing the work of the Lord and you don’t know it. What if your greatest contribution was not what you do, but someone you raise? God has given you a gift.
Too often we make excuses because of what we don’t have. Listen to me, God is not limited in what He can do through you because of what may be missing in you. Go with what God has Given you.
Gideon still isn’t sure though. Gideon made three requests of God to confirm that what He was saying was true. First he asked God’s messenger to stay present with him so that he could prepare a sacrifice. Gideon put a sacrifice of a young goat and a lump of dough on a rock. The angel of the Lord touched the rock with the end of his staff and fire came from the rock and consumed the meat and the bread. Gideon was moved, and realized that this was the angel of the Lord. His second request of God was to make a wool fleece wet while the rest of the ground remained dry. God caused the wool fleece to be saturated so much so that it could be wrung out and fill a bowl. Gideon still wasn’t sure… Look at what He says next.
39 Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me. Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground covered with dew.” 40 That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry; all the ground was covered with dew. [iii]
When it comes to what God has called you to, do you ever feel like you need multiple confirmations? Than you are in good company. You are just like Gideon. He asked for three signs, and God gave Him three signs. Gideon, I want you to go and change the world for your people. You’re going to save your neighbors, friends, and family. BUT LORD… HOW DO I KNOW…
It’s easy for us to get annoyed with Gideon for his testing. We think of when Jesus said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the Test.” In Luke 4:12… And we start to wonder… see here’s another reason why God couldn’t use me. I’m not confident enough. I feel weak. But Gideon’s story reveals that PT. 2 GOD’S PATIENCE OUTLASTS YOUR WEAKNESS. If God is telling you to go, and He’s gifted you for this, why do you think for an instant that He is frustrated with you for not already accomplishing the mission? God is a patient God, a God who understands humanity. He created you, He wants something for you far more than what He wants from you. What if the thing that God was calling you to, while yes it accomplished something for the community, accomplished something far more significant in you?
Too often we get confused, and we mix up our plan, with God’s plan. Here’s how it should shake down. We’re going to roll up into Midian with 32,000 men and we’re going to wipe out their strongest men first, and then move onto their food storage, and then their weapons reserves… Never again will they be able to overpower us. That sounds like a good plan to Gideon. Except that wasn’t God’s plan. Look back at the story…
2 The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men for me to deliver Midian into their hands. In order that Israel may not boast against me that her own strength has saved her, 3 announce now to the people, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’ ” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained. [iv]
Sounds like a good plan, right? Cool… Cool… so we’re going to be a little bit sneakier… I like it God. Cool. But we’ve still got 10,000 men. We can do this. I like the plan.
4 But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there…
So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues like a dog from those who kneel down to drink.” 6 Three hundred men lapped with their hands to their mouths. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
7 The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the other men go, each to his own place.” 8 So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites to their tents but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others. [v]
Gideon went from 32,000 men to 300 to wipe out the entire Midianite Army. And according to God’s plan 300 > 32,000. And don’t forget how these men were chosen. They weren’t the elite army types… They didn’t go through some Israeli Ninja Warrior Course to figure out who the greatest warriors are… it came down to how do you drink water? 300 men. God’s plan was to use 300 men to defeat countless other men.
If I’m Gideon, I’m saying, why me. This isn’t the plan I thought of when you said Go you mighty warrior and save my people.
And frankly, some of you are experiencing this in your own life right now. You may be wondering, God what in the world are you doing right now? This isn’t the plan. I thought that it would look a little more like up and to the right… Or I thought that I’d be married, and have 2.5 kids right now.
Almost 3 years ago, Tiffany and I set out to Launch Hope City Church. God put a vision in our heart to serve our city, to be #FORSarasota… we believed that the local church should be an anchor of hope here in our community. And we were determined to launch a life giving local church. We partnered with the ARC, the Association of Related Churches, a church planting network, and we went through an extensive interview process with them. They did reference checks on us, background checks, financial checks on us, and drilled us about our marriage, our kids, everything before they would give us the green light to plant a church. We made it through all of the training, all of the interviews, and got to the final conversation, and they said, “When are you looking to launch the church?” I said, early September. They looked across the table and said something I’ll never forget. “We want to plant you, we want to support you, but we can only do that if you wait until January.” I was devastated. THIS WASN’T MY PLAN. This wasn’t the way that it was supposed to be. I knew that it had to be different. I asked if I could think about it over night.
Tiffany and I prayed, and prayed about it. I had already worked so hard, and they were saying we needed more time? I wanted to see this church start up, and it was going to take more time.
We came back home from that trip, and said, Yes, we will wait.
We had to learn the same lesson as Gideon, that PT. 3 GOD’S PLAN IS GREATER THAN YOUR PRESUMPTIONS. Gideon presumed he was going to roll into the Midianite camp with 32,000 fighting men. Instead he had 300. He presumed He would be swinging a sword, and yet God goes on to show him that they would be blowing trumpets and holding breaking clay pots.
Gideon didn’t swing a sword, he didn’t throw a spear, he didn’t do a single thing that you would think a soldier would do. He put God’s plan first, above his presumptions. God uses average people in above average ways when they surrender the outcome to Him! So if you’re in a season of waiting, or wondering, what in the world is God doing? Or maybe you’re wondering if this was the plan… let me remind you, God’s plan is greater than your presumptions.
God defeated the Midianites that day. He worked through a man named Gideon. He heard the cry of the Israelites and while He was concerned with their comfort, he was even more concerned with the connection with Him. It was undeniable to the world around them, that this only happened because of God. There was no military muscle, no significant strategy here… This was a move of God on behalf of His people.
If you’re wondering, could I change the world? Could I make a difference in my community? Let me remind you of this truth that we learn from Gideon… GOD DOESN’T NEED GREATNESS HE DESIRES FAITHFULNESS. God can do more through a person’s faithfulness than skill. Skill gets noticed by man, but faithfulness gets used by God. God created you and placed you exactly where you are on purpose for a purpose. If you have a pulse, God’s got a purpose for you. Last time I checked, everyone in here still has a pulse. That means you’ve all still got a purpose. What if that purpose was different than your presumptions?
What if God has given you abilities so that you would use those efforts to SERVE OTHERS. On July 20th, we are hosting our Day 4 Hope, where we are partnering with Tatum Ridge Elementary School Families in need. We are going to be ensuring that all students will be able to return to school ready for a successful year of learning. We are sponsoring 75 families this year to receive backpacks, school supplies, hair cuts, medical exams, food, and while yes we are going to be taking care of their physical needs, we are also going to provide an opportunity to pray with them and encourage them along the way. I can’t think of a better opportunity for you to get out of your comfort zone and SERVE OTHERS than by jumping in on July 20th and serving.
What if God has given you the ability to make money, or he’s blessed you with money, so that you can be GENEROUS with your money. Now, I’m not talking to just those people who make a lot of money. This applies to every person in the room. Here at Hope City Church, we are a tithing church. Every year we give away at least 10% of what we receive, this goes to support new church plants, our community, and people in need. What if God is saying, I know it doesn’t make sense in your mind… but I want you to be generous with your finances. Would you do it?
What if God has given you the ability to Host people in your home? I’m talking about inviting those around you closer to you by inviting your neighbors and coworkers to join you at your house for a meal, or desert or a BBQ. Everyone is looking for someone to love them, care for them, and pay attention to them. Imagine the God sized conversations you could have with others when you acknowledge their presence and invite them into yours.
Remember, God uses average people in above average ways when they surrender the outcome to him! What could God do through you, as you step out of your comfort zone and follow HIS PLAN OVER YOURS?