The Mavuno Kampala blog has a swanky new home at http://blog.mavunokampala.org. Check it out!
This blog will be deleted in a few months to complete the migration process.
The Mavuno Kampala blog has a swanky new home at http://blog.mavunokampala.org. Check it out!
This blog will be deleted in a few months to complete the migration process.
SERMON NOTES by Pastor Antony Njoro:
Last week we began a brand new series “Step Out”. We saw that in 2014, God is calling us to step out to fearlessly influence the various zones of influence He has called us to. These include our families, our workplace and society. We also learnt that stepping out will require courage, obedience and initiative on our part.
Q: What is one thing you would in 2014 if you knew that God will honor your faith?
For me I would plant another satellite campus in Kampala and launch Mizizi Classes in every campus in Kampala.Have NDOA classes running in various hoods/estates in Kampala.
Last week we left off the story in Joshua chapter one where Joshua, in obedience to God’s word, began to prepare the people of Israel to invade their Promised Land. And today in chapter 2, we want to continue with the story with its many surprising twists & turns where we get to hear about some interesting characters in some unlikely spaces.
READ: Joshua 2:1-7
Rahab and the Spies
2 Then Joshua son of Nun secretly sent two spies from Shittim. “Go, look over the land,” he said, “especially Jericho.” So they went and entered the house of a prostitute named Rahab and stayed there.
2 The king of Jericho was told, “Look, some of the Israelites have come here tonight to spy out the land.” 3 So the king of Jericho sent this message to Rahab: “Bring out the men who came to you and entered your house, because they have come to spy out the whole land.”
4 But the woman had taken the two men and hidden them. She said, “Yes, the men came to me, but I did not know where they had come from. 5 At dusk, when it was time to close the city gate, they left. I don’t know which way they went. Go after them quickly. You may catch up with them.” 6 (But she had taken them up to the roof and hidden them under the stalks of flax she had laid out on the roof.)7 So the men set out in pursuit of the spies on the road that leads to the fords of the Jordan, and as soon as the pursuers had gone out, the gate was shut.
We saw last week that after God told Joshua it was time to step out, he came up with a strategy. One of the things he did was to summon two secret agents; their mission so classified that their names are not even whispered in the bible. He meets double Oh 1 & double Oh 2 and tells them their mission. To cross the flooded river Jordan, infiltrate the city of Jericho and bring back a status report on their target.
So our two agents cross the flooded river Jordan. Do they use a raft? Do they swim across? That, only they know. That’s why they are secret agents! They make it across the Jordan plain undetected to Jericho City; a city of power and wealth, guarded by a great fortified wall. Disguised in the local garb, speaking the local dialect, they shuffle through the city gates, expertly blending in with the traders and other artisans.
And then just next to the city wall, along the famous J street, they see the sign with blinking lights, ‘Rahab’s Guest House’ and in smaller letters underneath, ‘Cocktail Bar & Massage Parlor’. Even above the noise of the street you can hear loud music and drunken laughter. 001 gives an imperceptible smile to 002; this is exactly the kind of shady establishment that you want to hide out in if you’re trying to stay under the radar. And so they saunter in, looking to all the world like two innocent traders, just wanting to have a good time with the girls at Rahab’s. After booking a room, they spend the afternoon at the bar, getting as much information as they can from the other patrons.
But unknown to our spies, their cover is about to be blown! JSIS – Jericho’s Security Intelligence Service – has been on the highest level of national security alert, ever since Israelite forces were detected around the eastern border. They have informers scattered all over town, briefed to report on all suspicious strangers. One of the men at the bar laughing and cracking jokes with our spies at the bar is actually a security agent. Late in the afternoon, he says goodbye and drunkenly staggers to the door but once outside, he straightens out, gets on his horse and rides straight to the JSIS HQ looking extremely sober!
In less than an 40 minutes, there’s a sound of sirens everywhere! Everybody’s looking scared. Then comes a loud knocking at the door. ‘We have your place surrounded. We know you are harboring fugitives. Now come out with your hands up!’
There’s a shocked silence as someone turns off the music. The police commissioner puts his megaphone to his mouth to shout again, but then the door swings open and he ducks behind the door of his chariot. To his amazement, out comes Rahab with a confident smile, winks at the chief and said, ‘Hey Johnny, it’s been a long time! How are you doing these days?’ Before the chief can reply, she continues, ‘Those guys you’re looking for were here all afternoon but they left about 15 minutes ago. Now the longer your boys keep pointing those spears at me, the further they’re getting away from you!’ The police commissioner and his men have a hurried consultation. Then the commissioner says, ‘Okay men! Let’s go!’ And off they go – not knowing they’ve just been sent on a wild goose chase!
So what’s going on here? Why does a common prostitute risk her life and commit treason by harboring spies? Let’s read the rest of the story…READ 2:8-21
8 Before the spies lay down for the night, she went up on the roof 9 and said to them, “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you. 10 We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea[a] for you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed.[b] 11 When we heard of it, our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below.
12 “Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that you will show kindness to my family, because I have shown kindness to you. Give me a sure sign 13 that you will spare the lives of my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them—and that you will save us from death.”
14 “Our lives for your lives!” the men assured her. “If you don’t tell what we are doing, we will treat you kindly and faithfully when the Lord gives us the land.”
15 So she let them down by a rope through the window, for the house she lived in was part of the city wall. 16 She said to them, “Go to the hills so the pursuers will not find you. Hide yourselves there three days until they return, and then go on your way.”
17 Now the men had said to her, “This oath you made us swear will not be binding on us 18 unless, when we enter the land, you have tied this scarlet cord in the window through which you let us down, and unless you have brought your father and mother, your brothers and all your family into your house. 19 If any of them go outside your house into the street, their blood will be on their own heads;we will not be responsible. As for those who are in the house with you, their blood will be on our headif a hand is laid on them. 20 But if you tell what we are doing, we will be released from the oath you made us swear.”
21 “Agreed,” she replied. “Let it be as you say.”
So she sent them away, and they departed. And she tied the scarlet cord in the window.
You see Rahab just like everyone else in Jericho, had heard stories about what God had done for Israel. He had dried the Red Sea for them to cross. He had helped them destroy two powerful kings, Sihon and Og, along their armies. Like everyone else in Jericho, she had experienced the great fear as a result of hearing these stories. And somewhere along the process, she had come to the conclusion that if this God was that powerful, she needed to align with Him.
In choosing to help the spies, Rahab was putting her life in danger. Had she been caught harboring these spies she would certainly have been sentenced to death for treason. She was risking all that she had – her business, her family and her own life, when she took this risk to side with the agenda of the God of Israel.
It’s easy to think that perhaps she was just scared and playing it safe. But what Rahab did was truly radical. The reality was that despite the reputation the Israelites had, there was always the possibility that they would not win the war against Jericho. They may have won a few wars, but all their victories so far had been largely fought against desert tribes. Jericho was different – a walled city with abundant supplies and good defenses. What if she was helping the losing side?
Worse still, Rahab only had the promise of the spies to go on. ‘Our lives for your lives,’ they assured her. What if the spies did not keep their promise? Or what if they could not? What if despite their good intentions, they were overruled by their army commander?
And then think of how it sounded when she finally told her family. ‘This is top secret. I’ve just hidden some enemy spies. I made a deal that if we all hide in my house, they won’t kill us’. They must have asked her, “What, are you crazy? What were thinking, risking all our lives in this way!’ Maybe someone reminded her, ‘Rahab, you’re a prostitute. Don’t you know that men always tell prostitutes, they’ll be back, but never return?’ This was quite a risk to take! What if her family decided to turn her in to the authorities?
This is what makes her action so radical. Though Rahab had only heard about this God, she quickly realized that aligning with Him would mean letting His agenda take over Her agenda. You see stepping out begins with surrender. If you truly want to step out in 2014, to enter your Promised Land, then it cannot be done on your own terms. God’s work can only be done God’s way. You need to let God’s agenda take over your agenda.
If you want to Step Out in 2014, you need to know that it will only happen if it’s done on God’s terms, not yours. To Step Out will entail risk. It will require you to trust God when it’s easier to trust yourself. It may take you in an inconvenient direction when you’d rather be going somewhere else. It may be unpopular when all you want is for people to like you. It may be tiresome when you’d rather be conserving your energy and resources. Stepping out will cost you something! But God is challenging you this year to act boldly on account of what you believe. Let God’s agenda take over your agenda.
Rahab her radical action – becomes an exemplar of faith. In James 2, she’s even quoted alongside Abraham as an example! 14 ‘What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him?…(25) In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? (26) As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.’ Rahab didn’t just have faith, but put action to her faith. THE PROOF OF YOUR FAITH IS IN THE ACTIONS THAT YOU TAKE!
I heard this story about a man who was the greatest tight rope artist who ever lived. A huge crowd gathered to cheer him as he walked across the Niagara Falls on a tightrope. For his second act, he not only walked across but pushed a large wheelbarrow full of stones. This time the crowed was thunderous in applause! ‘You are the greatest!’ they cheered. When they gave him a microphone, he asked the crowd, ‘do you believe I’m the greatest?’ They cheered back, ‘yeees!’ Then he said, for my final act, I would like a volunteer to sit on the wheelbarrow as I push it across the falls’. There was a deadly silence. No one was willing to take the risk! Yes they said they believed. They even felt they believed. But their actions showed they really didn’t!
Some of us like to be in God’s cheering squad. ‘My God is awesome – He can move mountains!’ However, the proof of our faith is not in the songs we sing. The proof of our faith is in the actions that we take! Despite knowing God so little, Rahab knew enough to know that aligning to Him meant not just feeling belief in God, but acting boldly on account of what she believed. Real faith is not faith unless it is backed up by actions. James 2:19 tells us demons also believe! Let God’s agenda take over your agenda.
Who are the people God uses to get things done? I suspect that there were many men and women in Jericho who were upstanding citizens. Men and women who were hard working, honest, came from good families with solid reputations. But God chose to use a scared prostitute – the one person in the city who was willing to surrender her agenda to God’s agenda. She CHOSE A DIFFERENT ENDING to her story by aligning the little that she had to God’s agenda. It may have been a tough decision but it was the best decision she could’ve made! As a result, the bible tells us she turned out to be the ancestor of mighty kings like David, Solomon and ultimately of Jesus. In Heb.11, when the writer of Hebrews is writing out the list of people who are exemplars of faith through the generation, it is Rahab, not even Joshua, who represents her generation!
Rahab would have remained ordinary Jericho prostitute but for the fact that she chose to put her faith in the stories that she had heard about the God of the Israelites and surrender everything she had to His cause. Let God’s agenda take over your agenda!
It’s clear then that GOD DOESN’T USE PERFECT PEOPLE TO GET HIS WORK DONE! It doesn’t matter who or what we were before we came to Christ. God was not interested in your qualifications or your skills or your age or your knowledge. When you trusted in Him to save you, He lifted you up from disgrace to a position of honor and responsibility. GOD DOESN’T NEED YOUR QUALIFICATION, HE JUST NEEDS YOUR SUBMISSION…
So do you want to know the kind of people God is using today? Do you know the people here who are bringing the most transformation to their families, workplaces and even society? They may not seem like the most obvious candidates for God to use! They’re not necessarily the ones who have titles like pastor or church elder. They’re not necessarily the ones who have known God the longest. But by choosing to submit to God’s agenda, these are the world changers and history makers. Even here at Mavuno, God is using those who are saying, ‘Lord, I may not have much; I may not be much; but here I am; use me!’ Let God’s agenda take over your agenda!
What actions is God asking you to take this year that are inconvenient? What will it cost you to stand up for your convictions? What is it He is asking you to give up, in order to serve Him?
Perhaps you’ve been hearing the call at Mavuno to impact your society and saying ‘that’s an exciting vision but I’m such a young Christian! Or I don’t have any money! Or I’m still trying to get a job! Or I don’t have a car! Or I’m still single! Or my family has issues! Let someone else do it! But do you know that God can use whatever situation you are in, your family background, your past failures and mistakes, to bless others. Like Rahab, our lives stories too can be changed regardless of what we have working against us. Let God’s agenda take over your agenda!
God will definitely change your family. He loves them too much to leave them as they are. He will certainly change your workplace. He loves the people there too much not to. He will surely change our society. The question is, ‘will you chose to be part of it?’ Rahab saw her opportunity and she grabbed it – there are many who will find opportunities that will come this year to do God’s will and they will miss it because of fear or because they cling to their own agenda.Bring your friend to Ndoa on Friday or Mizizi next week.
Maybe you’ve been waiting for God to give you something more before you’re convinced to step out in faith. God isn’t looking for perfect Christians to carry out his will. He called you as you were. And like the new believer Rahab who knew practically nothing about her faith, He will use you, if you set out to be faithful with the little that you already have. Let God’s agenda take over your agenda!
Prayer & Take Out
1. Surrender my life (choose a different ending to your story by surrendering to God’s agenda)
2. Surrender my fears, my ambitions, my hopes or something God has asked me to give up – anything that has kept me from stepping out to obey
STEP OUT SERIES PRESENTS “JUST DO IT!” – Jos.1: 1-18
Good morning Mavuno and Happy New Year! It’s an amazing thing to be alive for yet another year and definitely something to be grateful to God for. I’m glad to have gotten into 2014 and I’m looking forward to the great things that I’m sure God has in store for us as a community this year!
QOD: what was your greatest dream growing up? When you thought about the future and who you wanted to become, what you wanted to make of your life…what was your greatest desire? Turn to your neighbor and share with them what your dream was.
You know I had some pretty lofty dreams. I mean there was the dream of creating immense amounts of wealth- and becoming fabulously rich while I was still young. I planned to become a millionaire by the time I was 30. Anyone else who shared that part of my dream? Along the way, I somehow figured that the fastest way to do this was by becoming a banker! It wasn’t all about me though. As I saw the suffering as millions of people burdened by poverty, others struggling with the burden of living with HIV/AIDS, youth getting into crime due to joblessness resulting from a poor economy. I felt that someone had to change and that if I made lots of money, I could help make a difference! That part of my dream remained with me – I still dream of being a blessing, not just to my country but to our great continent of Africa.
And I know I’m not alone. I know that beyond our dreams to get rich and see the world – every one of us here had great dreams of who they would become in the future and of the great things they would accomplish with their lives. Many of them may have been self-centered, but we also dreamt of doing something great that would positively influence the lives of many around us.
I want you to imagine with me for a moment, what would happen if each one of us had what it takes to accomplish our dreams. Think about it. What if every single one of us was successful in attaining our dreams to impact society. What would be different about your home village or about that corner of the city where you were raised? How would this city look? The stories we hear now about our city now; how would they be different?
Unfortunately for most people, their dreams remained exactly that: dreams! Maybe life just took a different tangent from what we thought when we were young. We got a job, we got married or we got kids – and life just got busy and overwhelming! Or maybe we tried something and it didn’t work out and we gave up altogether. Or maybe we shared about our dream but people discouraged us and convinced us to play it safe – now was not the time. As a result, our dreams have remained just that: DREAMS!
And yet I am convinced that some of those dreams that we had, that longing we had to change something, to make the world a better place, weren’t just dreams but things that God is actually calling us to change or to influence in some way or other. For each and every one of us, God has called us to a life of significance and purpose. Every one of us has a role to play in making our community- our city, our country, our continent- a better place. For some of us, the dreams from our youth were a clear indication of what God is calling us to; for others of us those particular dreams may not be exactly what God is calling us to but something different. The one thing I know is that every one of us has a calling to make a difference in our world!
This year I believe that God is challenging us to Step Out and to actually change our society: To move from dreaming of a better society and to start doing something to see it become a reality. This is our year to Step Out and make a difference! As we begin, I want us to learn from the life of a leader who had to overcome many fears, doubts and anxieties, in order to step out into the audacious dream that God had given him. Please turn with me to Joshua 1. READ: Joshua 1: 1-5 (New Living Translation)
The Lord’s Charge to Joshua
1 After the death of Moses the Lord’s servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, 2 “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. 3 I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you— 4 from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea[a] in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ 5 No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.
If there was ever anyone who needed assurance by God, it was Joshua! His mentor, the greatest leader of his time, was now dead. For 40 years, Moses had led the Israelites through the wilderness, through the good times and bad times, through all the difficult decisions. Moses was larger than life! He always knew exactly what God was saying. He never seemed to age – in fact the bible tells us that at the age of 120, he still had 20:20 eyesight. He still walked straight, with no stoop or limp. And then all of a sudden, Moses was gone. His death must have been the most tragic event these Israelites had ever experienced. I suspect Joshua was confused, overwhelmed, just managing his grief, when God appeared to him with a huge responsibility.
He was the one chosen to lead these former slaves into their Promised Land. To dispossess their enemies and to take over the land that God had promised to the Israelites. Joshua may not have felt ready, but for years, God had actually been preparing him for just this moment. As Moses’ assistant, he had walked alongside him and served him. He had climbed up the mountain with Moses to hear from God. He had observed everything that Moses had done as a leader. He had even led Israel into battle as Moses watched and prayed. But now, the bible informs us, Moses was dead, and ready or not, Joshua’s time had come.
Tell your neighbor, ‘the time has come’.
Eight years ago when we began the Mavuno journey, we felt that God had given us an exciting dream as a church. Our mission was clear – ‘Turning Ordinary People Into Fearless Influencers Of Society’. It meant that our focus was to reach out to people who did not like church or find it relevant and to help them become a revolutionary force that would bring God’s influence into their families, their workplaces and their society. We came up with a strategy, which helps people become fearless influencers in four zones of influence. The first zone of influence is over your own LIFE and for that, we have MIZIZI. This helps you connect with God and connect with your life purpose and connect with a Life Group that will help you achieve that purpose. But that is just step #1.
You see, each of us has a people that God is calling us to influence. Your second zone of influence is your FAMILY. That’s why we offer the SIMAMA class to help you deal with family baggage and start your family moving towards freedom. But there’s another zone of influence, the third, which is your WORKPLACE. That’s why we offer OMBI – to help you learn to take charge through prayer. Your fourth zone of influence is your SOCIETY, which includes your city and beyond. That’s what HATUA does – it prepares you to impact the sector of society that God designed you for.
As I prayed about God’s word for us in 2014, I sensed God is saying the same thing to us as he said to Joshua – ‘the time has come’. It’s time to dispossess your enemies! This is your word people, ‘Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them’. There are people around you who need you to step out… This is your year to step out into fearless influence. This is what you were created for! Like Joshua, many of us have been in a season of training, but God is saying ‘you can’t prepare forever; the time has come to take responsibility, to take charge and be the man or woman of the hour’. Some people like being in school! They move from degree to degree without stopping long enough to implement anything they’ve learnt. Professional students. But learning for learning’s sake is of no value! At some point, you need to step out and live it out. Many of us have taken the first step and began the journey to fearless influence through the different marathon experiences. I believe God’s word to us is that 2014 is the year to Step Out and to take responsibility for our society.
So practically – what does it look like to Step Out? Let’s read the rest of the chapter… READ: Joshua 1: 6-18 (NLT)
6 “Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. 7 Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. 8 Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. 9 This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua’s Charge to the Israelites
10 Joshua then commanded the officers of Israel, 11 “Go through the camp and tell the people to get their provisions ready. In three days you will cross the Jordan River and take possession of the land the Lord your God is giving you.”
12 Then Joshua called together the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh. He told them, 13 “Remember what Moses, the servant of the Lord, commanded you: ‘The Lord your God is giving you a place of rest. He has given you this land.’ 14 Your wives, children, and livestock may remain here in the land Moses assigned to you on the east side of the Jordan River. But your strong warriors, fully armed, must lead the other tribes across the Jordan to help them conquer their territory. Stay with them 15 until the Lord gives them rest, as he has given you rest, and until they, too, possess the land the Lord your God is giving them. Only then may you return and settle here on the east side of the Jordan River in the land that Moses, the servant of the Lord, assigned to you.”
16 They answered Joshua, “We will do whatever you command us, and we will go wherever you send us. 17 We will obey you just as we obeyed Moses. And may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses. 18 Anyone who rebels against your orders and does not obey your words and everything you command will be put to death. So be strong and courageous!”
For Joshua to step out, he needed three things. I want to call these ‘the how to’s of stepping out’. The first one is…
1. COURAGE – The words ‘be strong and courageous’ are repeated at least 3 times. Please take note! When someone tells you, ‘you’re going to have to be brave’, what are they implying? What you’re about to face is not going to be easy! To take over their Promised Land, the Israelites would have to dispossess 31 hostile nations that were better armed than them. They would have to fight giants in walled cities. No wonder God was calling Joshua to be courageous!
Being a fearless influencer is not easy. Did you know you that there are demons that are assigned to keep you from being who God created you to be? Someone will have to courageously stand up to them! Do you know there are enemies that are determined to keep your family from being who God created them to be? Alcoholism, selfishness, children out of wedlock, materialism, strife and so forth: It’s going to take courage to evict those strongholds! Do you know there are enemies that have locked your workplace into the toxic culture that it displays? Someone is going to have to courageously stand up against them. Do you know that our society has enemies that keep it back from being who we were created to be? Tell your neighbor, ‘the time has come’
‘Be strong and courageous for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them’! I can see you like Joshua going, ‘who me?’ And God replying, ‘Yes you! I know; you don’t have your act together. You haven’t arrived yet. You still have issues. But you are my plan A for the deliverance of your family or your workplace and society. So be strong and courageous!
But what if I take a risk, Step Out in faith and fail? That’s a great question! Over the years, one of the most important lessons on leadership I’ve learnt is this: The best leaders are the ones who are not afraid of making mistakes. Give me two leaders; one who attempts 6 different things, fails 4 times and only has 2 successes (a 30% success rate) and the other who in the same period of time tries only 2 different things because he knows for sure they will work perfectly, and thus has a 100% success rate. Which is the better leader? The first! Why? Because he has learnt at least 4 lessons that the other one has no idea about! Failure is not always your enemy! It can actually be the friend that teaches you how to do it better next time!
God has not promised that we will always succeed as we step out to influence for Him. But He has promised to be with us. You see, I would rather be in a place of difficulty with God, than in a place of ease without God. And this is his promise in 2014 – v. 5 ‘I will not fail you or abandon you.’(vs 9) ‘Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. ‘The time has come’. The 2ndthing you need to step out after courage is…
2. OBEDIENCE – v.8 ‘do not let this book of the law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful’. God was calling Joshua back to the basics, back to what Moses had taught him. As a Christian, you never outgrow the basics. You learnt in Sunday school, ‘read your bible, pray every day if you want to grow’. It doesn’t get more basic than that! It’s not flashy, and it’s not ‘sexy’! Success comes from daily coming to God and hearing His voice and then applying it that day. That’s why every year I challenge you to read through the bible. Rather than running on to the next thing, it’s patiently working on what you’ve learnt in order to become great at hearing God’s voice.The 3rd thing you need to step out is…
3. INITIATIVE – This one is critical. Joshua clearly knew God’s will. He was virtually assured of success. So what did he do next? He did something many Christians forget to do – he worked on a strategy! Drawing from his experience, he figured it would take 3 days to cross the Jordan so he got his officers to begin the preparations. And then as we’ll see later, as everyone was busy preparing, he sent out two undercover agents to spy out the land.
Now why would Joshua do this? Hadn’t God already assured him of success? V.3 ‘I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you’. God had already said it! All they had to do was step on the land and it was theirs! So why send people to spy out the land? Did Joshua doubt God’s promise? Was he displaying a lack of faith?
Absolutely not! Once God had shown him his Promised Land, Joshua knew he needed to play his part – to step out and take initiative. You see, GOD’S PROMISE DOES NOT RULE OUT OUR RESPONSIBILITY. This is a very important truth. Once God has shown you where He wants you to influence, then you need to not only pray actively about it but you need to start to do something! You need to actively cooperate with God’s purposes for your family/workplace/society. As the famous slogan goes, ‘just do it!’
One of the risks we often learn especially as believers is getting stuck at “I’m praying about it.” It’s tempting to wait until everything is absolutely clear before you step out to influence. God has shown you your purpose but now you want Him to dot all the i’s and cross all the t’s. To wait until you’re absolutely certain before you take that first step. But right where you are, you can begin to make a difference. You can begin to put things in motion. Maybe it’s by inviting your family members to a thanksgiving meal at your house. Maybe it’s by getting to the office early to pray for your colleagues or meeting others in your industry to brainstorm how you can influence it. Maybe it’s beginning to volunteer at a children’s home, or supporting several children from needy families with scholarships. What has God been placing on your heart? Tell your neighbor, ‘the time has come’!
One final thing I want you to notice from the text. Joshua spoke with the three tribes who have already been allocated land by Moses – Reuben, Gad and Manasseh and told them, ‘you may have already arrived, but we’re all going across. After we conquer the whole land, then you can come back to what’s yours’. What was his point? You see, even though the 3 tribes may have felt they had arrived, their ongoing security would only be guaranteed if they helped their fellow Israelites to find their own Promised Land. I’m going to say more about this text on the last weekend of this series. But for now, let me point out that a very curious principle that good students know – the best way to learn is by helping others learn! The best way to grow is by helping others grow! Have you done Mizizi? That’s great, but the truths you learnt will become much more alive when you help others to learn them!
My prayer this year? That every member of your family will encounter God this year because of you… That broken marriages will be reconciled, alcoholics will be delivered, hopeless people find hope. I pray that Mavuno people will bring God’s influence into every major corporate company of this nation. That you will change the rules of the game in business, media, education, and politics… That we will educate thousands of children from poor families… That many of you will continue to impact our prisons… That people in our city will talk fondly of Mavuno, as the church that has brought light and hope. That in the next few years, people from all across Africa and the world will travel here to see how a city can be changed when God’s people dare to step out and live extraordinary lives. That’s where I believe God is taking us.‘The time has come’!
APPLICATION – I’m going to invite us to three things as we enter into this year of Stepping Out.
HOW TO CATCH GOD’S ATTENTION
If you could miraculously have 2 more hours each day, what would you do with the extra time? How many said – SLEEP! (sleep deprived generation), gym/exercise, read more, spend time with family, catch up with that TV series, start a side-hustle, worship/pray/read the bible more (hardly have time for that now), wouldn’t even notice!
If you’re joining us for the first time or you haven’t been here in a long time, we’re in a brand new series called Be Rich. Everywhere you go there are people telling you how to get rich but this series is about how to stay rich. Because, as we said, most rich people aren’t very good at it!
Last week if you weren’t here, we discovered that most of us are far, far richer than we thought! How many people were impressed when you put in their net income into www.globalrichlist.com? Unfortunately though, like most rich people in the world, we suffer from the two side effects of wealth, which are Denial and Discontentment! These side effects lead to a unique affliction of the rich called Hope-Migration. Your hope begins to migrate from God to money; in other words from Someone that is reliable to something that is completely undependable. And so we made a freedom declaration that has the potential to set our lives free from the power of money over us: ‘I will not place my hope in riches, but in the One who richly provides.’
Today, we want to continue with 1Tim6:17-19, which as we said has specific instructions for rich people written by the apostle Paul, who wrote much of the New Testament, to his apprentice Timothy. The title of today’s message is ‘How To Catch God’s Attention’. Let’s read our text again. READ
V.17 ‘Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment’. [That’s what we talked about last time – in other words, why would you put your hope in the provision when you can put it in the Provider?]”
So we ended with this question, how do we practically put our trust in the Provider and not the provision? How do we ensure that our hope doesn’t migrate? And if our hope has already migrated, how do we take it back? That’s what Paul moves us on to next, v.18
“Command them (2nd time he says this) to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share.”
Now the words ‘to be rich’ are interesting. He doesn’t command them to be average in doing good deeds and generosity because all Christians have been commanded to do good and be generous; poor Christians, middle income, rich Christians – every follower of Christ is expected to do good and be generous. But Paul, who is speaking specifically to rich people says, ‘hey, you need to go one step further. Because the more you have been blest with, then the more opportunity you have to do good and be generous than the average person.’
Now this is completely counter-cultural! Because generally the more money you have, the more opportunity you have to enjoy life and do things for yourself. Now there’s nothing wrong with spending some of your extra time and money to enjoy good things in life. But Paul’s warning to rich people is that they should not waste the extra opportunity to do good that is provided by what they have…
Now obviously, rich people have more money. Last week we learnt that the highest paid 1% in the world earn an average income of 7.3M UGX per month and the highest paid 10% earn an average income of 2.6M. I suspect that our definition of exactly who is rich was shaken for many of us! But you know something else rich people have? Rich people have more time! How many here work 5 or 6 days a week? In other words, you work some days of the week in order to provide food, clothing and shelter to you and your family all days of the week… isn’t that right?
Did you know that that is not the case for most people in the world? In many parts of the world including in our own city, people open their business all of Sunday and even on public holidays. Why? Because they live ‘from hand to mouth’. The scene in many large factories in our city is that of 3000 people rushing to clock in before 8am. If you don’t clock in on time, or if you can’t come to work because you fell sick, then you don’t get paid, which means you don’t eat! This happens even on Sundays. And even the children have to chip in! Some of you are like me; you’ve got 3,4,5 or even 6 dependents in your household and yet only 1 or 2 of you have to work 5 or 6 days to provide enough food, clothing and shelter for the entire family for the entire week as well as to put aside something for the future. Most of our kids don’t have to work to earn their food and school fees!
So think about it: If you work 60 hours a week (10 hour days for 6 days), and sleep 8 hours a night (which is a lot!) you still have 52 hours a week left over to do anything you want to. 52hours! Now I know that time is shared out facebooking, twittering, whatsapping, watching TV, getting our hair done, taking our car to be washed, catching up with friends, shopping etc so that we still find ourselves busy, busy, busy. But the point I’m making is that the majority of people around the world don’t have that extra time at all! And those of us who have more money & time than others, have more responsibility. Paul says I want you to be rich (not average) in good deeds because the more you have, the more opportunity you have to do more good and be more generous to more people.
How can we ensure that we are truly rich in good deeds and generous? What I’m about to say next is extremely important. I promise you, I’m not saying this because Mavuno is struggling financially. I truly believe that God will provide for our needs as a church through those who willingly choose to give. So I don’t want you to miss what I’m going to say because you think it’s your money I’m after; in fact even if you never give anything to this church, I still hope you will listen to and apply this truth because if you do I can assure you that it will transform your life forever.
Here it is – it’s not the amount I give away but the percentage that counts. The surprising thing is that God is not impressed by amounts! There’s a particular story in the bible when someone gave so much that it caught God’s attention. One day, Jesus and his boys were in the temple and he was watching people give. In the temple they way they gave is they didn’t pass an offering bag. As you went into the door or went out of the door, you put money in some kind of container called the temple treasury as you came in or as you left. Now, I find it fascinating that Jesus was actually watching how much people were putting into the offering. I mean that feels kind of intrusive, doesn’t it! I’ve said it before that I don’t know what anyone here at Mavuno gives (except my wife and I), but apparently, God is interested in that kind of thing! So anyway, he’s watching people put money in and something big happens so that he calls his guys, ‘you need to see this!’ Luke 21:1-4 says, ‘As Jesus looked up, he saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. “Truly I tell you,” he said, “this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.”’
Here’s the scenario: Many well-dressed, nicely perfumed rich people throwing in impressively large amounts. But then this poor widow comes, with threadbare clothes that had been worn too often, and she puts in 2 very small copper coins. These coins were the smallest amount of currency in circulation in Palestine. The amount was so small that it was practically insignificant! But that’s all she had, and what Jesus said in response gives us an extraordinary insight into how God views our wealth.
Listen to what he said: ‘Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more’ let’s say that word together, more! Let’s say that again with more conviction – more! It’s so easy to miss the shock of that word and I don’t want you to miss it. ‘This poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others’.
Okay but what that guy put in 300k? Well, her two pieces of copper were more than 300k. What about the guy who put in 3M? Her two pieces of copper were more than 3M. What about the guy who put in the logbook for his car? Her two pieces of copper were more than that car. Now that doesn’t make sense – how could it be more? Why would Jesus say that?
It’s the principle we’ve just talked about: it’s not the amount you give away but the percentage that counts! You see, the rich people gave what they could easily live without, while the poor widow gave 100% of what she had. Radical! – Here’s what Jesus is preaching, here’s what the apostle Paul is saying, and here’s what those of us who hope to be rich or already are rich need to understand… Rich people should not only give larger sums but higher percentages. That’s Paul’s point. He’s saying I want you to be rich (not average) in good deeds, generosity and willingness to share.
If you’re about to get married, this has immediate practical application! What I’m about to say next could save your marriage and position you for a life of marital bliss! It will help you to stand out above other couples! Are you ready? This will be extremely helpful for those of you who can’t stand budgets! When it comes to money, agree together on a percentage of your income to GIVE (at least 10%), a percentage to SAVE & INVEST (at least 10%) and a percentage to LIVE ON. Through the years as your income grows, always start with pre-determined giving and saving before living on the balance, and completely avoid debt. Write your giving & savings cheques first before you write any other cheque. I promise you that 20years from now, you’re going to call me and say Pst Njoro, we pre-decided that day when you preached at Mavuno that day and thank you because what you taught us saved our marriage! Now of course you know you don’t have to be married to take this advise!
Most people don’t pre-decide a percentage to give; they give spontaneously or emotionally. You know what I mean! I see a poor child begging in traffic; I reach down to see if I have any coins in my tray as I keep my eye on the lights. If they don’t turn green and I have the right amount, then I give! OR I go to a pre-wedding fund-raiser and just before I give, my friend gives more and I feel embarrassed and reach for more. OR I go to church and ‘it’s that time we love!’ and I fish in my pocket for what’s there. But here’s the problem with the spontaneous generosity approach: IF YOU DON’T GIVE A PERCENTAGE, YOU’LL ONLY GIVE LEFT OVERS! You’ll feel really generous but you’ll only be fooling yourself! So Paul says to Timothy, tell those rich people ‘don’t impress yourself with the amount that you give, because it’s not the amount you give away but the percentage that counts!’ The main way to ensure that your hope doesn’t migrate into the accumulation of wealth, and in the process to catch God’s attention, is to pre-decide.
Begin by pre-deciding a percentage of your income to give away and give it away first. Even if you’re not a Christ follower and you want to give it to a children’s home or to the Rotary – do it still. Why this is important is that it prioritizes something outside of you. THIS IS WHAT IS CALLED A UNIVERSAL TRUTH. It’s taught by Richard Kiyosaki, Donald Trump etc – this works for everyone, Christian or not.
Now according to Paul, it’s not just about being generous with our money. Along with giving money, you also need to prioritize giving some time to do good within the context of the organizations that you give to. The irony for many of us is that as God blesses us, those same blessings are what keep us too busy to serve others! So you used to serve but now you’re married, or you have kids, or you got a promotion or your company has grown and you’ve no time! But the interesting thing is that when I was single, I was extremely busy at work with no extra time. Then I got married and I was still busy but I made time for my wife. And then we had 3 kids and I’m still busy with work and wife but I made time for them. You see, we may be busy but we make time for the things that are important to us!
One of the reasons that we love when you volunteer at Mavuno is that you are learning to give some of your time to something outside of you that is a blessing to other people. You’re learning to live for something bigger than yourself! But to be rich in doing good, it can’t be spontaneous; you have to pre-decide. Every weekend, there are tens of people at Mavuno who pre-decide to get up early and show up at Mavuno to serve. They serve as ushers, as prayer counselors, as techies, as children teachers, as teen mentors, as marriage & mizizi and Simama class facilitators, as worship team members and so on. There are families that would not be reunited if someone had not pre-decided. There are many marriages that would still be broken if someone had not pre-decided. There are many who wouldn’t know their purpose if someone had not pre-decided. There are many who would still be addicts if someone had not pre-decided.
Some of those who serve are young people just out of school. But many are busy parents with several children! Some are just beginning their careers. Others have high positions of responsibility at work, and yet have still chosen to prioritize serving! You see the way of the world is that as I grow wealthier, people serve me. But here is a group of people who have said, ‘even as God blesses me, I will be rich in good deeds!’ There are many generous people in this church who are serving passionately and giving sacrificially not because they’ve nothing else to do with their time or their money but because they have pre-decided!
You see, spontaneous service and giving is not wrong but if that’s all you do, you will miss your opportunity to do more with what you’ve been given but even worse, you will not be able to avoid the affliction of hope-migration. In other words, to stop your hope from migrating, you’ve got to pre-decide to be rich (i.e. above average) in doing good and being generous. You need to pre-decide where you’ll serve and how much you’ll give. Because whether it’s your time or money, it’s not the amount you give away but the percentage that counts!
Next week we’ll be talking about ‘Next Level Investments’ so I hope to see you then. But before I let you go I just want you to use your imagination with me for just one minute. Imagine with me what would happen if every single person in every Mavuno Church this weekend said, ‘I’m pre-deciding upfront to give a percentage of my time and money to an organization that is changing the society. Imagine with me that as a result, we all begin to realize that we don’t have to live on all that we make. Imagine that all these Mavunites begin to spend less on themselves and begin to save and invest more. Imagine that all of them throw off the shackles of debt because they begin to realize how it’s robbing them of the opportunity to live with the margins and freedom that God intended for them. Imagine that as a result, a community of radically generous wealthy people emerges who will educate poor children, provide employment for widows, eradicate abject poverty and change Africa in their generation! And imagine that you are one of them, catching God’s attention, right in the forefront of changing this continent. Somebody say AMEN!
It’s not the amount you give away but the percentage that counts!
Forgive me Lord, for being a poor steward of your resources. God I want to be rich in good deeds and in generosity. Give me humility, grace and wisdom to be a good steward of your resources. Help me to catch your attention by the way I manage the blessings you bring my way. In Jesus’ mighty name. AMEN!
FINANCIAL ADVISORY :1Timothy 6:17-19
What’s your number? What’s that monthly-figure that if you were earning it, you would finally say ‘I’m now rich!’?
Today we start a brand new series ‘How To Be Rich’. Note – I didn’t say ‘how to get rich!’ This is because you can find lots of books out there about how to get rich but very little about how to be once you’re rich. The reality is that we all hope to be rich someday. But most rich people aren’t very good at being rich. And so this series is to prepare you so that when you finally get rich, you’ll know exactly what to do! I want you to know that as your pastor, my prayer is that you all become really wealthy… God created you for a huge purpose and this continent desperately needs sons and daughters of God who set out to solve it’s problems, and it will be helpful for you to have the resources to solve those problems. So I want you to be rich – but even more, I want you to be good at it!
For a long time, I didn’t like to teach about money. The main reason was because I was turned off by televangelists on TV who seem to preach about nothing else! Somehow every message had to end with the sow-a-seed-for-a-miracle altar call! But then I began to realize that I was missing something because the bible seemed to speak a lot about money… I’ve noted here before that Jesus spoke about money more than any other subject, except the kingdom of God! He spoke about money more than about heaven and hell, more than prayer and faith, more than sexual immorality, or violence. It’s been estimated that almost a sixth of his recorded statements have to do with money! And so I determined to teach what the bible says about this powerful tool.
We have some great resources available from our previous sermons on money that will be available this month for those who would like them. The book ‘Financial Fitness’. Many of you have read it and I know many lives have been transformed through reading it. Please get your copy today at 10k
So let me get started… In one of his letters, Paul who wrote a lot of the New Testament was talking to his protégée Timothy and he said to him, Timothy look, when you talk to rich Christians there is a specific message that I want to give them. What he said next is going to be the basis for the rest of the month. If you are already rich, I’m so happy for you because this message is specifically for you! If you’re not yet rich, then I’m even happier for you because you get to hear this stuff before you need it so you can prepare! If you are not yet a Christ follower, I suspect you’ll still find principles here that will be useful and fascinating. So please turn with me to 1Timothy 6:17-19 and let’s read it together… READ 17 Teach those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable. Their trust should be in God, who richly gives us all we need for our enjoyment. 18 Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 19 By doing this they will be storing up their treasure as a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.
Now here’s what we’re going to talk about today: Wealth has side effects. Now I know you already know this because you’ve met some very strange rich people haven’t you? I mean they were ordinary guys who got 2k haircuts in the hood, ate beans and ngonja for lunch and were humble! Then they got their break and now, it’s like even the way they talk has changed! You need to understand because I don’t want you to become like that, that wealth has side effects. The first side effect of wealth is…
DENIAL – Rich people live in denial! This is so strange isn’t it because tall people admit they’re tall, short people admit they’re short, athletic people will admit that they are athletic, artistic people don’t mind telling you they are artists, their rooms are messed, cars are messed, their lives are messed and but they’re happy in their creative space! Introverts know that they are introverts, and extroverts they can’t wait to tell you that they’re extroverts like you really wanted to know! But when it comes to rich people, they never admit that they’re rich! What’s the answer you get when you ask any Ugandan how business is doing? There there!
Now why is that? Because rich people live in denial! Here’s the interesting thing, nobody’s rich but everybody knows someone who is! That’s how this whole thing works, isn’t it? Because somewhere out there is this magic line and when you cross it you’re rich, but like the equator, it’s an invisible line! The problem is that because people either don’t know they are rich or don’t admit they are rich, then they don’t know how to act once they become rich!
Let me ask you a question, if I introduce you to someone who is in the top 1% of wage earners in the world, would you consider them rich? Great! So let me give you some good news today, to be in the top 1% of wage earners in the world, you would have to earn a total household income 7.37M UGX- per month[i]. That’s household income! And even better news, to be in the top 10% of global wage earners, you need a household monthly income of (drumroll please) 2.6M UGX–!(World Bank economist Branko Milanovic presented this finding in his 2010 book ‘The Haves and the Have-Nots’, New York, Basic Books, 2011. According to him, the top 1% of wage earners in the world earn 34,000USD on average annually while the top 10% earn 12,000USD. I used an exchange rate of 2600 UGX)
Isn’t that amazing? Now I knew the response would be exactly that. I’ve just told you that most of you are in the top 10% of wage earners in the world and that many of you are even in the top 1% or close. But I knew that none of you would get up shouting, ‘praise the Lord! I got up this morning feeling sorry for myself, I came to Mavuno and just found out that I’m stinking rich!’ I mean none of you are getting up and high-fiving one another saying ‘honey we’re rich!’ And here’s why; because you don’t feel rich! The 2nd side effect of wealth is…
DISCONTENTMENT – rich people are plagued by discontentment! It’s a very interesting phenomenon and I know many of you probably don’t believe me but check this out – the problem is that the accumulation of stuff is like an appetite. And one thing about appetites that you need to know is that they are never quite satisfied, in fact when you feed an appetite, what happens to it? It grows, that’s right. If you feed an appetite it grows, if you starve an appetite, it shrinks! ONCE YOU GO GERMAN, AINT NEVER GOING BACK TO JAPAN!
Now here’s why this is important, here’s what rich people do, I’m just warning you in case you ever become one. Rich people get more stuff. So what happens to their appetite for stuff – does it grow or shrink? It grows that’s right! It gets bigger and bigger because bottom line, and this might even be true for you even if you’re not yet rich; the more a person has, the more he/she wants! So rich people do the strange thing, you might have heard of this one, it’s called upgrade. Upgrade is what rich people when they have something that works perfectly, and they go out and get another one because it’s newer. I’m sure you know someone who was so excited to have their first phone! Whether it was techno or a Samsung mini – they couldn’t believe the independence it brought them! But at some point they looked around and saw what others have and wondered, what am I doing with this horrible thing? And of course they upgraded to a duos and then the iphone and the note 2. Now even their child has a smartphone! And the phone they use could pay rent for someone for 5 months! Who does that? That’s what rich people do!
They have stuff that works and then they upgrade. I’m sure you have a rich friend who was once so happy to have their first car. What was it? A Nissan B15! Or maybe a Vitz. But then with time it didn’t represent what they were now earning. And so it was up to a Premio. Of course that was before their friend bought a Subaru Outback and they realized they were jokers! Then one day they entered another friend’s German car and it was over! Now all of a sudden both husband and wife each need a German car! That’s what rich people do!
I bet you’ve seen this; rich people they stand in front of a closet full of clothes and they say, “I don’t have anything to wear.” Yeah…and the truth is they have work clothes, workout clothes, after work clothes, weekend casuals, shoes to match their trousers… I know, it’s unbelievable! I’ve heard of rich ladies, who have like 9, 10, 11 pairs of shoes, what do you need with 11 pairs of shoes? I mean, how many pairs of shoes can you wear at once, and then they go and they buy more shoes!
Now all I’m saying is that as you get richer, your appetite for stuff is going to get bigger and bigger and you’ll think if I just had a car that works or a roof over my head, if I just had enough… and I’m telling you when you start having stuff you want more stuff because that appetite for stuff never goes away! So these two side effects, denial and discontentment go hand in hand and this is why rich people act strange and you wonder ooh if I ever got rich I wouldn’t act that way! I hope you all get rich, but I want you to be good at it!
So this is why Paul has an instruction directly for rich people! He says, ‘Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant’ Do you know what he is saying? He is saying if you ever become rich, your inclination will be towards arrogance. Ever met any arrogant rich people? And unfortunately we help them be arrogant because this is what happens. You are in a circle of people, when you’re talking and there’s this one rich guy there. And when they speak, everybody pays so much attention! They laugh loudly at their jokes! Why? Because they’re rich! They must be the smartest person in the circle. Because when a person gets rich they begin to think they’re smarter and better than others. Their time is more valuable.
Paul is saying, look, whether you think it was because you were so blessed or hardworking or lucky, regardless of how you think you got there, he says to these Christians; once you cross that imaginary line, and suddenly you have more than you need, meaning you have more than most people, don’t you let it go to your head.
Then he goes even deeper and says, ‘Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant, nor to put their hope in wealth which is so uncertain.’ Here’s what he is saying, he’s saying that when you start to have more money, when you get that raise, when you get that promotion, when you get that bonus, when all of a sudden things start looking good, you get an affliction called ‘hope migration’. You don’t see it coming; it’s not a decision that you make. But as your wealth or your lifestyle increases, your hope begins to migrate. It moves from God and migrates toward the accumulation of wealth. And Paul is saying, ‘warn those Christians not to let their hope become attached to their finances’.
The richest and wisest man in the world wrote this in Proverbs 10:15, ‘The wealth of the rich is their fortified city’. What he is saying is that as you start moving towards being rich, you’re hope begins to migrate and you begin to imagine, that there is an amount of money that if you could ever to accumulate it, you would be extraordinarily safe and that you would be able to protect you, your family, your children, and your grandchildren.
And so he says the rich begin to imagine that their wealth is what keeps them safe. That’s why when I asked, ‘what’s that monthly-figure that if you were earning it, you would finally say ‘I’m now rich’, you didn’t actually give me the right answer. The correct answer to this question will always be, ‘more than you are earning’!
You see, as you begin to increase with wealth, its natural for your hope to migrate with your income. That’s why wealthy people are generally less generous than poor people! Poor people know; there’s no point in trying to save my way into safety. If you ask a poor person to give you something, or to loan you something, they are much more open handed, why? Because, they don’t live with the myth that somehow if I hold onto what I have, I’m somehow going to be able to save my way into safety. But the richer we become, the more we deceive ourselves that we are building this fortified city that will protect us from every eventuality.
The problem is when wealth becomes your hope, you feel compelled to hoard! There will never be enough, you will never be generous; you’ll think you are but you won’t not. Because, you’re building a fortified city. And every time you get to a certain number you’ll find another number to aspire to. And you get to the end of your life and you still haven’t reached that magic number because no matter how much you have, your fortified city won’t feel safe enough!
Has your heart kind of begun to migrate? I’m going to give you two statements, and I want you to be honest with yourself, no elbowing your neighbor, no eye contact, just look straight ahead. I’m going to give you these two statements and I want to ask yourself this question, if either of these two statements was absolutely true, which one would create this anxiety in you? Okay ready? Statement #1: “There is no God”. When you die, it’s over; you’ll never see loved ones again. It’s over, there’s no purpose; nothing beyond this life. Statement #2: “You have no money”. It’s gone, you’re broke, no house, nothing! Ok, which one would create more anxiety?
Okay, let me ask the same question but put it in a different context. Imagine that you’re in hospital, hooked up to all those tubes and monitors. You’ve just heard the news from the doctor that you only have a few days to live. Now which one of these becomes more important?
Here’s what I believe has just happened; whatever your hope was before, it just shifted back to what really matters. What happens after this life? Is there a God? Where will I spend eternity? Will I see my loved ones again? Suddenly at the moment where you’re facing eternity, no one has to persuade you to put your hope in God alone.
So here’s my question, here’s Paul’s point, here’s Jesus saying over and over and over, if your hope is going to be in God at the end when you have no control over what happens next, why not just go ahead and put your hope in God now when you actually have no control over what happens next?
Paul tells Timothy to command the rich to ‘put their hope in God who richly provides us with everything we need for our [surprise] enjoyment’. God isn’t saying He doesn’t want you to enjoy life! He is saying however, don’t make the mistake of putting your hope in your wealth. In other words, why would you put your hope in the provision when you have the opportunity to put your hope in the Provider? Please say after me, I will not place my hope in riches, but in the One who richly provides.
Help me say it again… I will not place my hope in riches, but in the One who richly provides. Why would you spend a minute, a day a week, why would you spend your life, leaning into amassing a number of shillings to make you feel as though there’s some sort of security when you’re never going to get to that number? Why would you put your hope in the provision when you have the opportunity to put your hope in the Provider who has so richly provided already? Who puts their hope in riches when the economy can collapse and destroy them all? Who puts their hope in riches when you might get sick and riches won’t help anyway? Why would you put your hope in riches, when all of a sudden something happens to one of your kids and all the money in the world can’t turn their heart back to you or fix your marriage? Why would you put your hope in riches when the things that riches can help really is a pretty small category when you think about what is already most important to you and you know at the end it won’t really matter. So what foolish person and what crazy rich person would ever put their hope in riches, no matter how much riches they have when you can put your hope in the One who richly provides?
So I can see you asking the question, ‘how do I put my hope in God and not in riches?’ ‘How do I avoid hope-migration!’ The answer is… come back next week J I’m serious! Paul tells us exactly how to break the cycle and if you come back next week and you embrace what he teaches, then I promise you that no matter how massively, wealthy you become, your possessions will never possess you. Wherever you are on the spectrum, from massively rich to just starting out, what you own will never own you! For now let’s say it one more time… “I will not place my hope in riches, but in the One who richly provides.”
If you have any rich or potentially rich friends, invite them for next week!
Father, thank you for your word; how encouraging to know that people struggled with the same issues 2000 years ago that we struggle with today! And Father, the truth is You look at us and I guess we must amuse you because we’re all rich, especially compared to most people in this nation and continent. Most of us make more money than we thought we would, and we live better than we ever thought we would. But often we’re so ungrateful and we feel so entitled, and we’ve allowed our hope to migrate. So forgive us, show us what to do. We want to be good at this, we want to honor You in the way that we manage what You’ve allowed us to manage for the short piece of life. And Father I pray that we would live with the end in mind, and that we would never place our hope in the uncertainty of riches when we have the privilege, of placing our hope in a God who richly provides. AMEN.
[i] World Bank economist Branko Milanovic presented this finding in his 2010 book ‘The Haves and the Have-Nots’, New York, Basic Books, 2011. According to him, the top 1% of wage earners in the world earn 34,000USD on average annually while the tope 10% earn 12,000USD. I used an exchange rate of 88 Ksh per USD.
I LOVE THIS GAME
Right now the English Premier League is going on. We have fatherless kids, soccer singles (wives), and soccer funs glued to tv for the action. Amazing how people love to be part of something big. They love the game, but more than that they are excited to be part of a movement!
That’s sports. In life we love to be part of a big cause.
Q.O.D. What big cause have you been part of in the last few years?
(Find some pics of different initiatives)
For me it has been Msafara and Mavuno.
We all want to change the world. To be part of something that impacts our city or nation or even continent. We are beginning to see the middle class giving more and participating more in worthy causes. There is a desire to be part of something more than the pursuit for a car, house, a great job and such. People are looking for a game that has impact on the community around. They want a game that will change lives and community.
For our visitors today we are concluding our August series HUNGER GAMES. We have been talking about the games of life. Everyone wants the best out of life. We want to live well. But because life is too short…we are always running against time! Is it ever possible to find true satisfaction in this life?
But then we saw that what we are really longing for is the ultimate score of life! Because the reality is that most of us live our lives in quiet desperation! We quietly and secretly long for more because THIS CANNOT BE IT! Unfortunately, what we think can satisfy us does not quite satistfy us. It is actually a counterfeit product, a cheap imitation of the original. It does not work. But Jesus invites us to the real deal. He offers us real satisfaction. And so we said that to win in life, we need to discard the counterfeits and go for the real deal.The first week we concluded that we need to sign up with Jesus_thats where it begins.The 2nd week we concluded to win in life you must submit to the process.Last week we concluded that we must recruit.Today I want us to conclude our series and my sermon title is ‘I love this Game”
Africa is up for grabs. The Chinese want it. The West has been working for a slice of it! Forces of darkness have had a claim on it. The soul of this continent is being contested. It is clear that it is our time. Time to save the soul of our nation and the continent or delay what generations have waited for.
Jesus cried over Jerusalem because they missed their time of visitation in Luke 19. They had a window of opportunity to get things straightened but they took a nap.
The Samaritan woman ended up being a part of a big story in her world. She seized a moment and rewrote history. Let us go back to the story and see.
Text: John 4:28-30; 39-42
28 Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Messiah?” 30 They came out of the town and made their way toward him.
…..39 Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they urged him to stay with them, and he stayed two days. 41 And because of his words many more became believers.
42 They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.”
Her encounter with the Messiah changed her life and formed a story. She runs to the city to share her story with everyone. They all come to find the man. He is asked to stay in the city for 2 days (A Jewish teacher in a Samaritan town). Many believe and a movement starts. This is the kind of game that I love. A game that leads to transformation.
What does it take to start a life transforming movement?
1. An Ordinary Life – any ordinary people here? God starts a great story with ordinary men and women like you and I.
2. A transformation story – anyone who has a before and after story? The ordinary person encounters the extra-ordinary God and things begin to change. It is no longer his or her story, but God’s story in man.
3. Courage to share it – Any fearless people here? A story untold is a story wasted. You may share your story in your networks or create a network for the word to spread like a frontline initiative. Mavuno, Mizizi, and the church plants make such platforms.
4. A critical mass – You need a good number of people in a city thinking in a certain way to get a city or nation transformed. Jesus stayed for two days to ensure that a good group of people was transformed to form a core for city transformation. . It was not convenient! We are planting churches in the cities. We are trying to establish communities for transformation around the continent and in the gateway cities of the world.
To win in life, join the movement!
One is where transformation starts. But one is too small a number for broad impact. Mandela did not change SA alone; neither did Martin Luther King Jr. They were all part of a great movement. Just the faces of the movement.
Jesus started a movement, the body of Christ. This movement is expressed in local congregations or individual movements like Mavuno. The aim is to spread the kingdom and see the will of our God for the harvest fulfilled. Will be play ball in the movement he places you in? What will be your role?
To win in life, join the movement!
Your work place is waiting. Will you be the one who will open doors for the kingdom in a certain city or industry? Are you ready to pioneer? Malawi is waiting. Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, South Africa.
How do you participate fully in the movement? Here are ABCs for involvement:
Avail yourself – volunteer. As we go into 2 services, we need workforce. As we plant the churches in the nations, we need people who will volunteer their skill, time or privileges. [Mizizi,GH,Ushers]
Bless the work – Give to the work. It is more blessed to give than to receive. Many have sacrificially given for Mavuno Kampala. We still need us to give. It is a privilege to partner with God in this way.
Commit to go – be a church planter, join a team that is going out to Malawi or Rwanda or wherever, adopt and visit some of the plants as a life group. America and Europe over the years have given up their young for the global cause. It is time for us to give our best energy to the cause of the king.
To win in life, join the movement!
(Hudson Taylor story.)
What do you feel God is asking you to do? To avail yourself more, bless the work or commit to go? In fact, you could do all three.
Mavuno, let’s build together a movement that will in our generation restore God’s glory in this continent. A movement that will create transformational stories for single mums, men, the youth and wives. A movement that will impact our work places. A movement that will bring joy to homes, streets and entire nations. The streets of Africa have known war, accidents, car-jacking, poverty, lack, poor sanitation and violence for far too long. We can, and should, change the story. You have a part to play, because To win in life, join the movement!
This is what I want to give myself to. Because I love this game of changing lives!
-Bless the work
-Go (join ministry, do ministry)
Illustration: I saw a very inspiring story this week. It is taken out of a book Chicken Soup for the Soul by Jack Canfield and Mark V. Hansen.
Colonel Sanders had the construction of a new road put him out of business in 1967. He went to over 1,000 places trying to sell his chicken recipe before he found a buyer interested in his 11 herbs and spices. Seven years later, at the age of 75, Colonel Sanders sold his fried chicken company for a finger-lickin’ $15 million!
I like this story because it inspires me and gives me hope that someone can start a new business from and do very well in it.
QoD: What is one of the biggest failures you have had at work or in business?
Today we start a series about starting over again. What are some of those failures that make you want to start a fresh?
I mess up with things. I often do it wrong. Sometimes it is big time other times it is small time. Sometimes it is a hiccup in my routine but it may also precipitate a crisis.
The consequences then end up with me and I have to carry them.
Is there a refresh button, a new beginning, a second chance?
God in the Bible makes promises of a fresh start, new beginning, second chance, a season of favor, outpouring of grace – in the midst of life’s blunders.
That promise of a new start is available for us – especially in the places where we need it most. This month we talk about how we access this promise in areas of our lives where we have made mistakes and need a fresh start. There are live examples of this in scripture and we will look to see what we can learn from them.
Reset: At Work
Work and business is where we spend most of our awake time. We will do everything we can to get ahead, build our careers and pull ourselves together. The work place is not a sanitized environment – it is mean, cutthroat, target driven and impersonal.
Show of hands – how many of you work or have worked with people anywhere? How many of you have been blessed to work where nobody ever makes a mistake. You guys are angels, you are 100% perfect, and your company’s physical address is heaven. The fact is that you and I goof at work. None of us is Olivia Pope. She is the only one who never fails to deliver. But as for you and me, we will mess up. Things will go wrong on our account.
– didn’t get the job done; the report wasn’t ready
– demoted, transferred or fired – it was your fault [The Apprentice/TPF]
– project aborted and it wasn’t the bosses fault – though I tried to create that impression; it was my team’s issue
– money was lost on an idea – you are losing money not making it
– business deal fell through- I lost money and opportunity
– didn’t do the right thing – I got into a relationship at work
– caved in to negative pressure and compromised on that deal
– didn’t say the right thing – you lied about your workmate
– did an irreversible mistake
– the girls aren’t feeling you
– took on too much and wasn’t able to deliver
– I didn’t make the sales target
– Money was stolen and I knew it but didn’t say – so many paid a high price for it
– You didn’t succeed in the interview
– Your CVs specialize in being rejected
– The girls don’t feel you because of where you work
We all experience failure in the things we do which we want to count in our work, business and our careers.
Such failures, false starts and non-starts often make us
– question ourselves and our competence
– wonder what options are available for us
– depressed and unhappy about our work
– wish that there was a reset button – a way to rewind from the beginning and start over. This may be your question today.
Please turn with me to John 21.
Reading: John 21:1-17
Background: This is a story about the first pope. He was the founding pastor of the church. His name was Simon. Jesus nicknamed him Peter – meaning the Rock, the strong foundation, immovable ground on which Jesus would found His global movement. Simon was a fisherman by profession and later on Jesus told him that he would become a fisher of men.
We pick up the story from where Peter had denied Jesus 3 times. This fisher of men didn’t have the nerve to stand up for his boss. Eventually Jesus was killed and died. And as of Easter Sunday – he rose again
Afterward Jesus appeared again to his disciples, by the Sea of Galilee.[a] It happened this way: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus[b]), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. 3 “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
4 Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize that it was Jesus.
5 He called out to them, “Friends, haven’t you any fish?”
“No,” they answered.
[Peter left fishing men went back to his comfort zone and wasn’t having a good day… sorry night at work. Being a watchman is the only night job where you are grateful if you catch nothing]
6 He said, “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.” When they did, they were unable to haul the net in because of the large number of fish.
7 Then the disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” As soon as Simon Peter heard him say, “It is the Lord,” he wrapped his outer garment around him (for he had taken it off –
[he was in his work costume, he wasn’t in his normal cloths )
and jumped into the water. 8 The other disciples followed in the boat, towing the net full of fish, for they were not far from shore, about a hundred yards.[c] 9 When they landed, they saw a fire of burning coals there with fish on it, and some bread.
10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter climbed back into the boat and dragged the net ashore. It was full of large fish, 153, but even with so many the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.”
Jesus then made breakfast for a group of people who had deserted him and gone back to fishing and were doing a lousy job at it. If it were me, I would have some choice things to say to them. Instead, Jesus loved on them. Jesus personally stepped into their circumstances and intervened. “Come and have breakfast” he said.
None of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. 14 This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.
Jesus then had a moment with his disciples –
15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.
Peter Encourages me: Peter – was the Rock on which Jesus would build the church. Jesus made him the boss, the head honcho, the leader if his people. Peter failed in his two assignments.
– Failed as Jesus’ number two. John 18. He denied Jesus 3 times. He failed in his new job as the appointed leader of a global movement audaciously called – The Kingdom of God.
– Having failed in his role as Jesus’ successor, he went back to fishing. He went back to mind his own business.
o Sometimes when we fail we are likely to go back to our comfort zones. We want to go back to what we used to do, in the safety of familiarity.
o Peter’s failures remind me that we fail; many times. Peter’s story encourages me. It makes me feel human. I am consoled that the first pope who was personally called by God messed up his first assignment and even failed in what he did for a living.
o You may be at a place where you are wondering if it is only you who fails, be encouraged that this happened to Peter, and it happens to many of us.
o Be encouraged that this has happened to others.
My work is God’s business
God through his Son Jesus got into Peter’s business.
o It is easy to imagine that Jesus wasn’t there. He was there and present in Peter’s life and that of his other disciple friends.
o Jesus didn’t come in and be distant [like the song we like singing “from a distance”. The Bible teaches me that God is our ever present help in times of trouble. Jesus then intervened – he gave instructions on how to fish, he cooked a meal for them and he spoke words of life to them.
o Jesus can and will intervene in your life if you allow him in – it could be that he provides miraculously, or averts danger, or restores a situation, or perhaps even brings you in a place where you hear his word.
o It is possible to miss a blessing in my work because we are so engrossed in our situation that we cannot even look up and see how God is intervening in my work situation.
My work is all about God’s business
– After all his failures Peter was given his second chance. He may have already given up. He got his reset – restart opportunity. You too can have the same restart opportunity.
– This is how it came about – Jesus invited Peter to reprioritize his life and work away from minding his business to minding God’s business. Jesus did this with his question and challenge to Peter – Do you love me? Feed my sheep.
– Jesus was the one who taught that loving him was an – all heart, all soul, all mind, all strength affair. [Luke 10:27] Loving Jesus is all about realigning all of one’s priorities with God’s priorities. It is all about taking every resource that He has given you then making it serve God’s agenda.
– Jesus also taught that his sheep are his community – the people of His Kingdom. He taught that we are to engage with, serve, care for and be committed to his people. [Matt 25:31-45]. This is a commitment that will take your effort, time and resources.
What Jesus is teaching us through Peter is that my second chance, my reset will come when I realign myself and my resources with God’s agenda. My second chance will be activated when God can see with my life and my actions that I am loving him and taking care of what is dear to him.
Aligning my work with God’s business
God is willing to turn your difficulties, failures and challenges at work into opportunities for a second chance. The way to do this is to love God, aligning your priorities with His priorities and with his people.
Here are some practical pointers of how to love God and aligning your work with God’s business
– loving God with your life: the first place is to devote your entire life to him. He says to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. [Luke 10:27]. He says that over and above all the things we strive for and work for –the most important is to seek him first then these other things will fall in place [Matt 6:33]. One of the ways to get your reset – is to give your life to Christ.
– align yourself with his people: one of the ways to get a second chance is to love his people. You can love his people and care for them by being connected with them. I encourage you to join a life group if you haven’t already.
– Align your resources with God’s priorities: we have an opportunity as a church to give our time and money towards God’s priorities for us. We can sign up to serve in an area of ministry. We can also devote our money towards God’s priority for us as Mavuno.
– Align our practices with Jesus’ example: for those who have people working under you, you can give those who work for you a second chance in a responsible way. Find ways of helping them start over again in their work situations. By doing this you will be honoring God by taking his example. [Eph 5:1]
I thank God that even though you and I have failures in work or business, we have the opportunity for a fresh start. Peter’s story is a great inspiration for us to start over. Peter’s story teaches me that even though we all experience failure in at work, business and our careers, God gives us a second chance, a new beginning, a new season of grace – when we make a choice to love him tangibly and realign our work and lives around his agenda and priorities.
When you have a God-dream, you will find many distractions that will compete with that dream. Some distractions are very obviously attacks from the enemy. Discouragement, illness etc. We learnt a couple of weeks back that ‘If you’re living for God’s vision, expect opposition!’ In that case as we learnt, you must pray, stay the course and where needed, adjust the strategy. Some distractions are moral issues. Lust, greed for money, lying etc. We learnt last week that these undermine your moral authority. And that we should ‘never violate God’s principles to accomplish God’s vision’
Not all distractions are bad things in and of themselves. In fact, some of the most effective distractions are good things. Things I can easily justify. These are in some way the most dangerous because it’s very hard to see the danger they pose. Some common distractions that keep us from pursuing purpose include…
Nehemiah too faced distractions when he was accomplishing his God-given dream. Turn with me to Neh.6:1-19 and let’s see how he handled those distractions…
1-2a those names again! We last heard of these characters in chapter 4 when they were planning to attack the builders. They called off the attack when they realized they had been discovered and the builders were armed. Now that the wall was almost complete, they invited Nehemiah to a regional heads-of-state summit. It may have seemed as if they were finally recognizing Nehemiah’s authority and wanted to include him as a peer in regional consultations. To talk governor-to-governor: To end hostilities and to resume normal relations… On the surface, very flattering – very good for the ego – and seemingly a great career opportunity!
2b-4 Nehemiah smelt a rat. The plan was to pull him off the project to an area that would take at least a day to travel to. And in the process, it would expose his life to danger, and ultimately, compromise the completion of the dream. And so he decided to send them a message back saying this was not a good time. And he did it four times.
5-7 Since flattery hadn’t worked, the enemy camp decided to increase the pressure. In those days, letters were often written on papyrus or leather and then rolled up, tied with string and sealed with clay. But they purposefully neglected to seal this one so that its contents would be known to everyone who handled it. Ancient equivalent of posting it up on the internet! They were leaking slanderous information. Under the guise of reporting what people on the ground were saying, the letter publicly slandered Nehemiah, hinting that he was power hungry and working against his boss the king. If the king heard about this, it would mean termination of contract and life! The guys were saying, ‘talk to us, we can make this problem disappear!’
8 -9 No one likes to be publicly slandered and for most of us, the temptation would be to stop everything in order to defend ourselves publicly. Most of us are careful about having a good image and will do anything to have others think well of us. When someone tarnishes our image, we’ll stop everything we’re doing to defend ourselves. Sanballat thought that Nehemiah would be forced to either travel back to Susa to clear his name with the king or meet them to deal with the issue. Nehemiah refused to be drawn in or become defensive. He knew the enemy’s ploy was to intimidate them so that they would quit. And so he wrote back a brief open letter to them denying any wrong doing, prayed for God to strengthen him, and he stayed focused on the vision.
10 Here, Nehemiah visited a prophet’s house. It must have been someone he knew well enough for him as the governor to pay a personal visit. But in the middle of the visit, the prophet all of a sudden shared a prophecy that both their lives were in danger and they needed to flee for refuge to the temple.
11-14 Nehemiah realized that this too was an enemy plot. They had compromised several of his friends and prophets on the inside to mislead him so that he would end up discrediting himself. These were friends who were going nowhere. Friends who didn’t want him to succeed. Had he run to the temple, he would come across to his followers as a coward. In addition, he’d have broken the law, because the only reason a person could flee into the temple was if he had murdered someone and needed protection from revenge. He cut off the friendships. And so once more, Nehemiah said ‘no’ and kept working on the vision.
15-19 Despite the great and continuous opposition, the wall was finished in a record 52 days! All through this time, the enemies had used spies to keep tabs on him and then used the information they got to try to intimidate him and distract him. But once the wall was completed, the enemies lost all their self-confidence, because they could see God was with Nehemiah. Because he had refused to get distracted and stayed focused on God’s vision, God had blessed his work and now even the critics were silent. Nothing silences critics like a vision that succeeds. It’s hard to argue with divine success.
The enemy’s strategy in this chapter is very different from what we’ve encountered before. Before they had attacked the wall but when all else failed, they decided to narrow their focus and work on Nehemiah. They knew that even if the project was almost done, if they could distract the leader from the work, then they could derail the entire project. And so they tried different things – flattery, image, friends– all with one sole objective: to distract the chief visionary from the work of the vision.
Every person who sets out to accomplish a God-given vision will face many distractions over the life of that vision. This is especially true when the vision begins to show signs of success. As we said a couple of weeks back, ‘if you’re living for God’s vision, expect opposition’. And one of the ways our enemy opposes our vision is to send distractions that will keep us from accomplishing it.
I read this ‘psalm’ a little while back…
The TV is my shepherd,
I shall not [be in] want.
It makes me to lie down on the sofa.
It leads me in the paths of [materialism,] sex and violence.
[for mediocrities sake]
Yea, though I walk [through the valley of the shadow of God’s vision],
[I will fear no interruptions]:
For the TV is with me;
Its cable and its remote control, They comfort me.
It prepares a commercial before me, in the presence of my worldliness.
It anoints my head with humanism and consumerism;
My coveting runneth over.
Surely laziness and superficiality shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house, watching TV for ever. (from the Friendship Book of Francis Gay)
What are your distractions? What are some of the ‘good things’ that the enemy uses to keep you from finding and living for your God-given vision? [Tell your neighbor one]. Nehemiah teaches us an important phrase that we must learn to say to all our distractions… v.3 ‘I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down’. Nehemiah understood he was doing a God thing: A work with eternal consequence. He would not allow himself to be distracted from this great work. Every vision has a price. Nehemiah was willing to pay the price to stay focused on his God-given calling.
The bible is full of examples of people who paid the price and stayed focused on their calling. But few were as focused as the apostle Paul. He had once been an intellectual whose hobby was attacking Christianity. But then he had a personal encounter with Jesus that changed his life and from that time on, he decided that he would spend the rest of his life helping other people understand God’s gift of life in Christ. He had found his dream; his life purpose. He’s a great example of a man willing to pay the price for his vision. Listen to some of the things he said…
Paul’s whole life was focused on this one thing: Living out His God-given calling. Every vision has a price
A couple of years ago When the LA Lakers won the NBA championship. Kobe Bryant, after many years finally won the Most Valuable Player award. I watched him in TV interview afterwards and I was intrigued by what he said. ‘It’s all about winning the championship; everything I do in life is geared towards this’. Every great athlete who has remained great over a long duration of time – from Michael Jordan to Tiger Woods to Kenisa Bekele- they aligned their lives to the one goal of winning games. Everything from the food they eat, the time they wake up, the time they go to sleep, and the entertainment they allow themselves… are all governed by this one thing… winning… Every vision has a price
Listen to Paul again…1Cor.9:24-7 ‘Remember that in a race everyone runs, but only one person gets the prize. You also must run in such a way that you will win. All athletes practice strict self-control. They do it to win a prize that will fade away, but we do it for an eternal prize. So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step. I am not like a boxer who misses his punches. I discipline my body like an athlete, training it to do what it should Otherwise, I fear that after preaching to others I myself might be disqualified’ (NLT)
People like Babe Ruth, Pele, Michael Jordan… they were the greatest athletes in their generation. They aligned their whole lives to win trophies but today, they’re just vague memories; they’re not really affecting lives. But each of us has been called to live for a God dream; to live for something bigger than ourselves that will impact lives of people for eternity. How much more we should live lives of discipline, ruthlessly eliminate distractions and become the best we can be in achieving God’s purpose!
‘I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down’. What is the great work you were created to do? What is it that people will remember you for? You’ll never achieve it by sitting back and waiting for it. You’ll need to align your life to it, if you want to see it come to pass. Many years back I went through an exercise to ask myself that question. What am I living for? What is my purpose? What is my God dream helping me accomplish? What do I want to be remembered for after I die? I realized that for me it’s about 5 things…
These are the things I hope you will say about me at my funeral! If you outlive me that is! I have sought to align my life to help me attain these. But I’ve learnt that busyness is not equal to effectiveness. I want my life to be focused not on the urgent but on what is truly important.
Paul at the end of his life had this to say… 2Tim.4:7-8 ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day’ (NIV)
We look at Nehemiah with awe and want to be like him. But there’s a cost to achieving your dream and that cost is focus. To win the external war, you have to win the internal war. Before you can change Africa you need to change yourself. I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down
Let me end with a story. During a seminar on time-management held for a group of high-powered overachievers, the facilitator pulled out a one-gallon wide-mouthed mason jar and set it on a table in front of the group. Then he produced about a dozen small rocks and placed them – one at a time – into the jar. When the jar was filled to the top, he asked. “Is this jar full?” Everyone in the class said, “Yes”.
He reached under the table and pulled out a bucket of gravel. Then he dumped some gravel in and shook the jar causing pieces of gravel to work themselves down into the spaces between the big rocks. Then he asked the group once more, “Is the jar full?”
By this time people weren’t too sure. “Probably not,” one of them answered. “Good”, he replied. He reached under the table and brought out a bucket of sand. He started dumping the sand in and it went into all the spaces left between the rocks and the gravel. Once more he asked the question, “Is the jar full?”
“No!” the class shouted. Once again he said. “Good”‘ This time he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it in until the jar was filled to the brim. Then he looked up at the class and asked, “What is the point of this illustration?” One eager beaver raised his hand and said, “The point is, no matter how full your schedule is, if you try really hard, you can always fit some more things into it’“
“No.” the speaker replied, “that’s not the point. The truth this illustration teaches us is: If you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.“
What are the big rocks in your life? What is it that you want to be remembered for? What of eternal value do you want your life to count for? Remember to put these BIG ROCKS in first or you’ll never get them in at all.
As we conclude, I want to invite you to use that piece of paper to write several big rocks: things you want to be remembered for. Also several distractions: things you need to ruthlessly eliminate from your life (bad sleeping habits, facebook, idle friends, TV)…
Then for the next month, pin up the slip of paper somewhere prominent (shaving mirror, desk etc) and look at it every morning as you begin your day…
Every vision has a price
Imagine with me a community of focused people: A passionate community. A community of people who are on the frontline of what God is doing in the world today. A community of people who are not just living for small selfish dreams, but who are determined together, to change their continent and their world in this generation. A people who are fully alive, because they know that they are living for something much bigger than themselves. A people who are excited to wake up every day, can’t wait to get to work, because it’s another opportunity to fulfill their incredible purpose… Imagine, that you are an important and integral part… of this community.