Below is an extract from a sermon preached at Port Augusta on Sunday September 28th. Excerpts of it have been taken from the book and study "Experiencing God" by Henry and Richard Blackaby.
Several years ago when I was working as a coach driver I remember sitting out on the veranda having a meal break when I found myself engaging in a conversation with some workmates. I can’t remember how it happened but I do remember us getting into a discussion about God. One of my workmates said to me that he didn’t believe in God because he simply could not see him and he asked me to prove that God existed. This is one of those questions that you really don’t want to be asked let me tell you. I thought for a moment and responded with the following question. Does the wind exist? His answer was yes. I said how do you know it exists because you can’t see it? His response to me basically answered his question about God. He said that he knew the wind existed because he could see the effects of it.” This is how I responded to his question. We know God exists because we can see the effects of Him within the creation. Friends I want to say to you today that God is certainly at work all around us. The effects of God working are evident everywhere, if we are looking for it.
When God created the world he didn’t leave his interaction with the creation at that point. God has been actively involved with world history ever since. When Adam and Eve were disobedient to the commands of God sin entered the world. Ever since then God has been actively working through people to reconcile them to himself. Even today God is working to bring about redemption to those who are alienated from Him and who are destined to judgment and eternal separation. God the Father is working through His Son Jesus to reconcile the world to Himself, and He has chosen to accomplish His will and purpose by using His people; that is us. As God continues to move in His mission he seeks to move people into the area of His activity and so God wants us to be a part of what He is already doing.
In John 5 Jesus said that He only ever did what He saw the Father already doing. Friends if we are going to be able to successfully reach out to people with the gospel we need to be working where God is already at work. We need to be doing what God wants us to do and not what we think is the best thing to do. So how do we work out where God is already at work? How do we know what God is already doing and how do we engage with the work He is doing? Well there are a number of ways but I just want to look at three that will help us discover where and how God is working.
God never changes. His character, His mission and how He works has always remained constant. The scriptures are a great place to start as we try to determine where God is at work because as we read through the stories (especially within the Old Testament) we see God in action. God always has a purpose and He always involves people in that purpose even if He doesn’t disclose all the details at once. If we use Moses and the captivity of Israel as an example we see that God had heard the cries of His people in Egypt and over many years God began to position Moses into the right place in order to carry out his purposes for Israel (we see this story in the book of Exodus.) God eventually showed Moses where He was working, how He was going to use Moses, and then finally He invited Moses to join Him in what He was about to do. Throughout scripture we see God constantly interacting in the lives of people as He attempts to redeem a lost world.
As we read the scriptures of the Old Testament we see a pattern of how God works that helps us understand the New Testament. As we read the Old Testament we see that the Holy Spirit worked very different to how He does today. The Spirit of God did not continually stay with a believer. Rather the Spirit of God would empower an individual at certain times in order to accomplish a task. And so when we look at Moses we see this in action. God positioned Moses and the people, God gave the assignment, God empowered Moses to do the work and then finally the work was done. In the New Testament the Spirit works slightly different in that when a person receives Christ as their Saviour the Holy Spirit comes and joins with that person who then empowers them to do the will and purposes of God. In either case God still works through people to accomplish His will and purpose.
Develop our love relationship with God
One of the things I hear regularly is that people want God to use them to do something for Him. They ask the question “What has God called me to do?” or “Why isn’t God using me?” The simple answer is that God does want to use us and His purpose for each of us is to share the gospel and to tell others about Him. The problem is not that God doesn’t want to use people, the problem is that for some people they long for God to do a significant work in their lives without first developing the love relationship that He calls us to. If we attempt to do things for God without first developing our relationship with God; we will fail to hear what it is that God is calling us to do and we will fail to see where it is that God is at work because our spiritual eyes will not be open. Our relationship with God is the very thing we were created for. Our relationship with God is far more important to Him than what we do for Him. This is a huge trap for churches as we run programs and wonder why people don’t come. Our programs should come out of our relationship with God and where He shows us where He is at work and not the other way around. The church is very good at starting programs for programs sake rather than asking God what He wants us to do. When our relationship with God is as it should be only then will God begin to give us assignments for us to do. God is the one that initiates the assignment and not us. Whenever it appears that God is not doing anything new in your life, focus on the love relationship you have with Him and stay there until God gives you a new assignment. If God has not given us anything new to do then it is highly likely that we have not completed the last thing that He called us to.
Following the leading of The Holy Spirit
In Acts 8 we see a perfect example of this with the apostle Phillip. Phillip was called by the Holy Spirit to head south from Jerusalem toward Gaza. On the way he came across an Ethiopian Eunich who was reading a scripture from Isaiah while in his chariot. The Holy Spirit prompted Phillip to go over and talk with the man who then proceeded to ask questions about what he was reading. God had opened up an opportunity for Phillip to share the good news of Jesus.
Friends God is at work everywhere and he often works in the most unexpected places and at the most inconvenient times. Phillip was prompted by the Spirit to speak with the Eunich and explain the scriptures. We will never know what affect this event caused for Ethiopia as this man was a royal servant. Through Phillips obedience the whole royal court and maybe even an entire nation could have been saved simply because Phillip followed a prompting of the Spirit. Friends God gives us opportunities to witness and often He does it at times which may appear inconvenient to us. He may ask us to run programs or do things that seem totally strange to us but God knows what He is doing.
We have already discovered that God is constantly at work, positioning people and events into perfect alignment in order to accomplish his purposes. Have there been times in your life when you have felt God prompting you to speak to a person for no reason at all? Has there been a time when you have felt led to speak with someone about spiritual things? Has there ever been a time when you felt someone had a real need and God was calling you to act? Opportunity to involve yourself in God’s work can happen at any time. Like the workmate that I shared about earlier, God led us to a spiritual conversation through a simple question being asked. Friends God opens up opportunities for us and we need to be looking out for these opportunities. Sometimes they are extremely subtle but other opportunities may present themselves very clearly. If our understanding of how God works is clear and if our love relationship with God is right and we know God’s voice, then we will be able to identify when God is calling us to work with Him.
Right now, God is at work around us: in our church, in our families, in our schools and local communities and one of the biggest tragedies Christians face is that even though they want to experience Him, they do not know how to recognize Him at work around them. If this is true of your experience in Christ then I pray that you will learn to clearly recognize where God is at work. And once we know where He is at work we can then adjust our lives to join Him in His divine purposes. God calls us to see where He is at work and to join Him in sharing the gospel. We don’t have to be gifted in any specific area in order to do this. All we have to do is find out where He is working; say yes, and step out in obedience to join Him.
Friends God is always at work in His world. His mission is nothing more than to bring others into a personal relationship with Himself through Jesus Christ. In John 5 Jesus shared how He knew and did the will of God the Father. It was because the Father loved the Son, He showed the Son what He was doing and then Jesus watched to see where the Father was working and joined Him. We can use this same pattern in our own lives.
· Watch to see where God is at work around us
· When God shows you then join Him in His work.
· Keep your attention on God’s call to an assignment rather than on your abilities to complete the task.
· And finally step out in obedience and join Him in what He is doing.
Friends when we join God in what He is already doing He will be able to work through us to accomplish His divine and eternal purposes. The fruits produced will be unlimited.
“...Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself;he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these,
so that you will be amazed."