May 31, 2020

God the Evangelist – Part 2, “God’s Calling is Your Destiny”

Passage: Jonah 1:1-3
Service Type:

Joseph, Joshua, Esther, Nehemiah, Paul, and Jonah were all raised up by God at various points in world history and were given specific assignments, specific tasks if you will. For instance, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. And years later when his brothers discovered who he was and they feared for their lives, Joseph spoke to them some of the most memorable words in Scripture. Genesis 50:20 Joseph said, "As for you, you meant evil against me," but here's the key, "but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today." Joshua was chosen by God to be the successor of Moses and he was given the task of leading the children of Israel into the promised land and to take possession of the Promised Land. Israel, excuse me, Esther was chosen by God and placed in a very unique position, a position in which she was able to prevent the genocide of the Jewish people. Nehemiah, here's the cupbearer to the king. Again, a faithful Jewish man who was elevated to a position of prominence. He was a cupbearer but he was also chosen by God to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul was chosen by God to take the gospel to the Gentiles for which each one of us should be eternally grateful. And then there's Jonah. Jonah too was chosen by God for a very specific assignment and that was to go to Ninevah and to call out against it. In other words, he was to go to Ninevah and to call them to repentance.

Now, each one of these characters that I've mentioned this morning, they all have something in common. Despite having lived in different times, and some even in different countries, they all shared a common characteristic. Each one of them was chosen by God and had been given a specific task or an assignment to do. And each one of them did it. Now granted, some of them may have had some questions as to how and what God wanted them to do but they completed the assignment that God gave to them. But Jonah was just a little bit different. Jonah is the only one out of the list that I mentioned who just flat out refused to do what God asked him to do, what God assigned him to do if we want to look at it that way. And I think it's probably better to look at it that way. So Jonah is unique in that respect, but despite his initial refusal to do what God had given him to do, he ultimately fulfilled the call of God on his life. You know, unbelievers may read the Bible, they may read the story of Joseph or they may read the story of Esther, and look at the events of their lives and think, well, isn't that nice all that just happened to work out. Right? They think it was just random events, you know, this could have been any two people and it would have worked out the same for anybody. No, no, not at all.

As believers, we read the Scriptures through the lens of God's sovereignty. And as we read the Scriptures we understand that behind the public events and circumstances of the lives of the people that we read about in Scripture, we understand that the invisible hand of God is constantly at work directing those events and those circumstances for our good and for his glory. A favorite verse for many of us Christians is Romans 8:28, "All things work together [for what?] for good." Now, do we have an illustration of that from any of the characters in Scripture? Well, my mind immediately goes to Joseph. Here was a guy who seemed like everything was going wrong, right? He has a dream, he gets a coat, he brags about his dream, he ends up in a pit, sold into slavery, gets a promotion over Potiphar's household, gets lied on, thrown in a prison, interprets some dreams, promised to get out, gets forgotten, eventually gets out, becomes the Prime Minister of Egypt. Was he just lucky? Was he unlucky at the start of his life and all sudden he got lucky? No, behind the scenes God was at work and every step of his life and ultimately he worked it out for good.

Listen, as believers, we need to understand and come to grips with the reality: yes, others will hurt you. You may have had some terrible experience in the past from other Christians. I have, I'll be the first to admit that. You may have been hurt in ministry. I have, I'll be the first to admit that. How do you deal with that? How do you deal with that? How do you cope with that? By believing that all things work together for good, by believing Romans 8:28. That's how you deal with the hurts and the pains, the mistreatment, the problems of life. But what about our own sin and rebellion? Let's use Jonah for an example. Did Jonah's sin, Jonah's rebellion, did it derail God's plan? Not at all. And so I think sometimes we think to ourselves, well, you know, I have messed up so badly here that I have messed up God's plan. Listen, God is not going to let your sin mess up his plan. That's not a license to keep on sinning. But the reality is God will accomplish His purposes, even through sinning people at times. And the book of Jonah shows us how God's will is accomplished despite the sin and the rebellion of his creation. And as you read the Bible, please read it with the understanding that what you are reading is the unfolding plan and purpose of eternal God.

Let's be honest as well, at times it is ugly. Sometimes it's very, very ugly. And yes, sometimes from our limited understanding there are questions that arise that we simply cannot answer. Sometimes for in our limited understanding, things can be quite confusing. There are things that we simply don't understand. There are times when we read, like the book of Judges, it seems as if it's all chaos and there's no rhyme or reason to it at all. But even in all of these ugly circumstances, even in the midst of what appears to be chaos to us, God is working. He works both directly and indirectly to bring about his plans and his purposes. There are two ways that God works. God works directly. For instance, God said "Let there be light" and there was what? There was light. There are other times where God works indirectly. Some people would say he works through indirect means or secondary causes, secondary means, meaning that he can use the actions of other people in order to bring about his will. And we see that in the life of Jonah. Were there any people in the life of Jonah that God used to bring about his will? Well, how about a boat full of sailors? How about those old boys that picked him up and threw him overboard? Whether they realize it or not they were helping to carry out God's plan and God's purposes. So each one of the characters I've mentioned this morning were destined to do what they did. So I wonder about you. Do you have a conscious sense of God's destiny for you? Have you ever stopped and considered that like Joseph, or Joshua, or Esther, or Nehemiah, or Paul, and yes, even Jonah, that you are destined to do something for God?

I don't know how many of you watched the television series a few years ago, Lost. I thought it was a great show until the last episode then I thought it was one of the stupidest things I've ever seen in my life. But anyway, I've recently started watching it again. And I noticed something this time that in the first few episodes, they have these repeated flashbacks into the lives of the main characters. In other words, they have these... if you're not familiar with the premise of Lost, let me give you the Cliff Notes version. These people board a plane in Australia and it crashes on some island somewhere in the South Pacific. And nobody knows where they're at, okay. Hence the term "Lost". Brilliant, I know brilliant. But they use these flashbacks to show how these different people ended up on this plane. And there was one character by the name of John Locke. He's kind of a creepy character. And in his flashback, they first showed him as kind of like a middle manager at some company and he was into these war games and he called himself Colonel and he had a code name like Colonel, you know. And then in another flashback, they showed him in Australia where he was going to go on something called a walkabout and apparently a walkabout is some kind of spiritual experience where you connect with the land. And so in this flashback, John Locke is in the, looks like a travel agent's office, and he's arguing with the walkabout guide that he needs to go on this walkabout. And the guide's saying, no, you can't go and John Locke's saying listen, I paid my money I've got to go on this walkabout, I've got to go. And the guy keeps saying no, you can't go, you can't go. And finally, the guide walks out the door and he gets on the bus and John Locke is screaming, I've got to go, I've got to go on this walkabout and about that time the camera pulls back and John Locke is in a wheelchair. And John Locke screams I've got to go, I've got to go, this is my destiny.

Joe and Ben and I were talking about Ulysses S. Grant the other day. Ulysses S. Grant, you may or may not know, was the 18th President of the United States. You may or may not know that he was also a very successful general during the World [Civil] War. Something else you may or may not know is that before the war Ulysses S. Grant was a total flop in life. Even after the war, yes, he became president but after that, he again was a total flop in life. We would call him the Charlie Brown of the 1800s. I mean, this guy couldn't get anything, right. But there's one thing that he was good at and that was a military genius. We might say that was his destiny. He was destined to do that. So I ask you again, do you have a conscious, conscious sense of God's destiny for your life? God did not save you to be a lump on a log. God didn't save you to be a person in a pew. God saved you to be like an Esther for such a time as this. And a sense of destiny, of God's calling on your life, is a tremendously motivating factor. And granted you and I may not be destined for the spiritual fame of a Joshua or Joseph or Paul or David or somebody like that. But you do have a God-given destiny. Think of it in these terms: you do have a God-given call on your life.

Now, I wonder if you recognize any of these names, W. H. Burns, Johnny, you may recognize this next name, Andrew Boehner (had a famous brother), Archibald Brown, Kenneth McCray, and W. J. Greer. Raise your hands if you know all those people. Nobody raised their hand. I'm not surprised. But these were all men who were pastors who were greatly used of God to bring about revival not only to their churches but to their countries. Why? That was God's calling. That was God's destiny. They didn't care if anybody knew who they were. Archibald Brown was a contemporary of Charles Spurgeon. Archibald Brown pastored the same time in London as Spurgeon raised about 1500. You never heard of him, did you? You heard about the cigar-smoking Spurgeon, that's all you heard about. But listen, just because you didn't hear about him didn't mean that God didn't use him. Because God did.

John Piper, upon discovering he had cancer a few years ago, wrote that famous, famous article "Don't Waste Your Cancer". You know, each one of us could easily write "Don't Waste Your Pandemic". Let me give you a couple of things to think about. A couple of questions to ask yourself. Number one, ask yourself why has God allowed me to live through a global pandemic? Ask yourself as a modern-day Esther, why has God brought you through such a time as this? Here's another question. What has living through a global pandemic taught me? And how can I take what I have learned and use it to reach out and minister to others? I say this was kindness and love, if the pandemic hasn't taught you anything, you've not been paying attention. At the very least, you should have learned about yourself. Perhaps you learn that your faith was stronger than you thought it was. Perhaps you learned your fear was greater than you thought it was. Perhaps you discovered you put more faith in the government than in the grace of God. I think we've all discovered we've not quite been at our best. I think we've discovered this stress has affected us more than perhaps we ever thought it would. But what is this teaching us? You know, Ephesians chapter 2 teaches us that every person who is in Christ Jesus was created in Christ Jesus for good works. We could say that's your God-given calling. Say, I don't like you using the word destiny. Fine. Use the word calling. You don't mind being predestined. Just saying.

So you were called, created for good works. You know, a bored Christian is really a contradiction. Do you need a little excitement in your life? Do the good work that you were created to do. Now, I want to say something for full disclosure. Not all the excitement that you experience in the Christian life is a happy experience. You know, today, there's nothing necessarily wrong with this, but we're all about the experience. We don't want to go on vacation, we want to have an experience. We don't want to eat dinner, we want to have a dining experience. We don't go see a movie, we want a viewing experience. We don't just want to drive a Toyota Tacoma truck with cranked down windows. No, we want a driving experience. So we want the fun and the happy experience but sometimes serving God the experiences can be very painful.

I want you to notice something here, Jonah didn't choose his destiny. Jonah didn't choose his calling. In fact, I can pretty safely say, I don't think that on Jonah's bucket list there was "preach to Ninevah". I don't think he got up on Monday morning to do his weekly review and checked his bucket list and said, oh, well, preaching it Ninevah that's still on the list. I gotta make arrangements to get the Ninevah man cause, you know, you get to Ninevah, you've arrived. No, no, no. He didn't have any plans to go to Ninevah. But God called him and said to him arise, and go to Ninevah, that great city and call out against this where their evil has come up before me. And how did Jonah respond? Well, he tried to run from it. He tried to run from it, but he couldn't escape it. Why? Because his calling his destiny was to go to Ninevah and to cry out against it. You may think yourself, well, couldn't God have used somebody else? Absolutely he could, but he didn't want to. This was Jonah's assignment. And hopefully, I will show you in a couple of weeks why, why God wanted Jonah to go. And Jonah's legacy was not to be known for being swallowed by a great fish. Poor Jonah, I mean, he had a tough enough time as it is and now his legacy is oh, he was swallowed by a whale! No, no. Jonah's legacy was that he was to go to Ninevah. He was the man that God used to bring revival to Ninevah. That's his legacy.

Now ask yourself, was there an element of risk in the call of God to Jonah? Absolutely, there was. Remember the Ninevites, the Assyrians-- Ninevah was the capital of Assyria-- they were cruel, vicious people. Let me give you just a little sprinkling. You may want to cover some of the kid’s ears when you hear this. No, it's not too gross, but it's gross enough. If they didn't like a particular artist they cut their thumbs off. Hard to paint without a thumb, isn't it? Sometimes they would just cut people's lips off. Sometimes they would invade a city and everybody lost their head and they would take them and pile them in front of the gates of the city. So everybody that came by knew that something had gone wrong there. They weren't pleasant people to say the least. There was a real risk in God's called a Jonah. Know this: there is always a risk in God's calling. Always, always, always. And the culture that we live in goes to great lengths to do what? To minimize risk. And there are times when that is right. We are not called to live recklessly. But I am afraid that if we're not careful that can be a trap for us as Christians. If we buy into the mindset that at whatever cost we must minimize risk, guess what, we're never going to accomplish much for Christ. If we do everything in our power to stay away from risk, we're never going to accomplish much for the cause of Christ.

What if Noah tried to avoid the risk of being mocked and ridiculed for building the ark? He would have drowned. What if Abraham avoided the risk of leaving his homeland and going to a country and God said I'll show you when you get there? Well, if he said sounds too risky to me, God, we wouldn't have the nation of Israel. Perhaps the greatest risk-taker was David. He's four feet something. Goliath 9 or 11 feet tall, depending on how you're measuring I guess. You know? Like Carson standing up to Alex. It's a risk. But he took the risk. Was it risky for Moses to confront Pharaoh? Here's Moses going in to confront the most powerful man in the world. Not once but time after time after time. Was it risky for God's people to circle the walls of Jericho? Go back and read that story. From a human perspective, it makes absolutely no sense at all. Hey, here's our winning strategy, I want you to circle the walls. Okay. Was it risky for Gideon to take on the Midianite army with some empty pitchers, torches, and trumpets? Pretty risky wasn't it.

You know at the end of Hebrews 11, I read this few weeks ago let me read it again. It says "What more shall I say? For time would fail to tell me if Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David and Samuel, and the prophets-- who through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release so that they might rise again to a better life." Now let's think this through here for just a moment. In order to stop the mouth of a lion guess what you had to do? You didn't send him a text... “Dear Simba, would you calm down?” No, the lion had to be confronted. Was that risky? They quenched fire. Listen, they didn't have a huge pumper truck where they could stand 100 feet away and pour water on it. They quenched the fires. Was it risky? It was risky.

You know what, we remember the risk-takers. Right? I like to read a lot of biographies. You ever read the story of the Wright brothers? You know, Orville and Wilbur first in flight. You know, they weren't the only ones who tried to get a plane off the ground. But they were willing to take the bigger risk and we know them. We don't know the others. It's a risk to share the gospel. You don't know how people are going to react. But is there a reward attached to the risk? Absolutely. Absolutely. No pain no gain the world says, no risk no reward. So yeah, going to Ninevah was a risk but it wasn't a reckless risk. Would you know this? Whenever you do what God asked you to do, it is not a reckless risk. You think about the story of Jonah, and maybe I'll squeeze this in some time, where was the safest place for Jonah to be? Ninevah. Was the ship safe? Not hardly. Getting thrown overboard. Was that safe? Not hardly. Three days in the belly of the fish. Was that safe? Guess it's better than death. The safest place was for him to go to Ninevah but it required a risk. The reason for Jonah's disobedience wasn't for the fact that he was unprepared or unqualified to go to Ninevah. It wasn't like God came to Jonah and said, you know what? You're completely unprepared for this, you're completely unqualified for this, but I want you to go anyway. No, Jonah was completely prepared and completely qualified to go. Jonah was God's messenger of grace. We saw that last week. His prior life experience had prepared him for God's calling him to go to Ninevah and call out against it. The events of his life, his knowledge of God, prepared him to take the risk and go to Ninevah. So I have to ask you, what have the events of your life prepared you for?

Even if you're a young adult God has prepared you to minister to people like you. Now, don't please don't take this wrong. Too many young people set their sights too high. For instance, let's take a young twenty-something, we'll make it a male. And he says you know what I want to minister to middle-age adults with teenage children. Admirable, but quite frankly stupid. You don't know them. You don't know their lives. You've not had their experiences. God prepares you-- and this can change over time-- God prepares you to minister to specific groups of people. And that may change over time. I started out my ministerial career as a young adult pastor, a young marriage pastor? Is that what it's called? Something like that, I'm old it's all foggy now. I probably would not make a good young marriage pastor today you know why? I ain't no young married no more. Sorry dear... she is but I'm not.

So let's think this through. Say, well, I'm just a young lady in college, I've just graduated from college or high school. What kind of ministry could I have? Well, let me ask you this, did you maintain your purity? Do you know of other young ladies your age who are struggling to remain pure? Do you know of other young women who are under incredible pressure to compromise morally? That's your ministry. That's your ministry. Perhaps you're a wife with an unbelieving or unsupportive husband. Well, hasn't God uniquely prepared you to minister to other ladies who have unbelieving and perhaps unsupportive husbands? What about single mothers or single fathers? Have you by God's grace overcome those struggles? That's your ministry. Do you deal with chronic disease? Do you live in pain? Are you constantly aware that you carry with you each and every day a condition that you know will one day take your life? Has God helped you deal with that anxiety? That's your ministry. Are you a retiree? Do you know other retirees who are struggling with loneliness and having a sense of purpose? That's your ministry. Are you a mature lady who's raised their kids not perfectly but prayerfully? That's your ministry, coming alongside young mothers trying to learn their way.

You know, there's been a, I was telling some of the folk’s, Joey and Ben and others, that there's been a noticeable increase of activity around the church this year. I guess cause all the kids are out early, you know and whatnot. So they're riding their bikes, they're playing in the parking lot, which is great and well and good. And lots of times their parents will sit up on the steps or on the porch. And so every time, normally I hear them before I see them, and when I do I go out and I'll talk with them a little bit. And inevitably, their mom or their dad or both will say, is it okay if we, if the kids ride their bikes here? Yes, yes. Have at it. If you break your leg, just don't sue me, please. But yes, yes, we want you here. And I think it was a week ago, Friday or something like that Ben and Joey and Sherrie and Todd and I were in here and some old boy walked up, walked right up on the porch, he waved at me, and he sat down on a bench and just relaxed a little bit. That's great. That's wonderful. We want people to feel comfortable here. So we got to talking, wouldn't be a wonderful thing if someone could come here every once in a while and just hang out and watch for these kids and watch for their parents and just befriend them, minister to them. Now Victoria she brought in some bottles of water and she taped to them packets of lemonade, but God bless her she tried to overdose the kid. The packet was for a whole pitcher lemonade, not an eight-ounce bottle. So we've got to correct that or we're gonna have some hopped-up kids around here.

But see, you don't have to go to Ninevah to do ministry. Minister where God has placed you. God may tell you to go to Ninevah but until he does, minister where you are. I've said it before, I'll say it again, I'll say it tiI can't say it anymore. I seriously doubt that if you won't minister in the local church, I seriously doubt though God will use you outside of the church. You'll have a hard time proving that to me. Jesus saved you for a purpose. Why do you think he's left you here? If there wasn't a purpose for you he would have taken you straight to heaven. Since you're here today, I can confidently say that he's left you here for a purpose. Bloom where God has planted you. And by the way, we look at ourselves sometimes we say, you know I just attend a small church. Can I tell you I hate that? I hate that. I hate that. Can I make myself clear? I hate that. Don't say that. You're despising the work of God when you say that. And think, well, I go to a small church, what reach how effective could we can we really be? I think a lot of Christians feel that way in the back of their mind.

But your reach very well may extend much further than you could ever imagine. At the risk of embarrassing Joey, I apologize in advance Joey, let me illustrate what I'm talking about. There's only probably two or three of us who know just how hard Joey truly works in providing and producing the video for the church. The livestream each week took a tremendous amount of effort. I get to church really early on Sunday mornings. I do so for several reasons. But during the weeks that we were doing the live stream with the lyrics and all of that, I would be here about an hour and I suddenly realized that I wasn't alone. That can be embarrassing at times, but you know, I realized Joey was here. He was getting everything set up for the day. I gotta be honest with you, when I see the amount of work that goes into it, I honestly wonder, is it worth the effort? Is it worth the effort? Yeah, we're the lucky ones. We, you know, we punch up YouTube or Facebook or whatnot and hope the streaming service is okay and hopefully our internet connection doesn't drop and we sit back with a Diet Pepsi and watch the old boy go at it. Now I mean there's a lot of work that goes into that. And sometimes you wonder is it was really worth it?

Well about two weeks ago someone contacted us. I think through Instagram that showed up on Facebook, don't ask me how it all works. I don't know, I don't really care but anyway. But here's part of the message. "I'm encouraged with this post and with your video about your church. I am a Filipino and I'm living in a province here in the Philippines," I love this, "so it's impossible to visit your church there." Ha dude, come on, man, we want you here. He goes on to say "But please pray for us here in the Philippines. Maybe you already know about the churches here in our country. Some of the churches are now adhering to the reformed teachings. More Biblical teachers through internet are being introduced to us here. In some places in the Philippines there are all already reformed churches, Calvinistic churches, both from dispensational theology and covenantal. The church I am part that I am part of here is Pentecostal. And that is now slowly reforming by God's mercy and grace. We're being influenced with reformed teachings. We already embraced the Calvinistic soteriology," (he's been reading something, amen), "though I can't really say what we already know everything about it. At least I can say most of our church, regular attendees are convinced of a monotheistic doctrine of salvation. We also are in need of guidance, how to reform our church governance, membership, and many other practices. Please pray for us in these areas. Thank you so much." Then Joey sent them a nice response.

A couple of days later, we get another message. "Hi, Joey, thank you so much, brother. Yes," I think Joey had asked him whether he was part of the church leadership or not, because he says, "Yes, I can be considered part of our leadership. There are times when our pastor assigned me to preach our Sunday services. But I mentioned we still don't have a Biblically organized leadership, membership in our church. I believe that is the area our church needs serious help brother, how to reform our church, how to implement the Biblical teachings we are learning. It would be very beneficial for us if we could have our pastor and some of us here to receive training on how to handle the Word of God rightly." And by the way, we are working on resources to do that. And then he says, "Brother,"-- we get this quite often-- "Brother is your church affiliated to John MacArthur's Grace Community Church? I hope you don't mind me asking." John who? Then he said, "Thank you for your church's willingness to pray for us in these areas, brother. Sorry about my misspelled words and typing errors. I hope you understand what my reply is. We are happy to know that our fellow brothers in a distant land are praying for us." It's worth the effort.

You know, you could get pretty good odds that I will never set foot in the Philippines. Ben and Joey perhaps, but I doubt that I ever will. But that really doesn't matter because of Joey's ministry through video. Our church has already impacted another church halfway around the world. And I doubt seriously that's the only one.

So what about you? Have you taken an inventory of the events of your life and asked how God can use those events, as painful as they may be, to help you minister to others who are facing what you have experienced in the past, perhaps currently experiencing in the present, to help minister to others? I heard a pastor say one time "God never wastes a hurt". God can, God does use our hurts. God can, God will use those difficult times and difficult experiences not only for your good but for the good of others and for the glory of God. Jonah was destined to go to Ninevah. What are you destined to do for God? And here's what I would pray if I were in your shoes. Pray that God brings people into your life who are having or have had in the past experiences like yours, but God and His Grace have not shown them how to deal with it and cope with it yet and he brings you into their life. You, who God has shown how to deal with and cope with those things, brings you two together and you're able to minister to them. I guarantee you'll never say your Christian life is boring again.