Sermons

This is a collection of Michael White’s sermons, from CityLIght Church in New York City.

David Inquired of the Lord

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘David Inquired of the Lord’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 6/9/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

      HERE
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David Inquired of the Lord

David did many things well. He served selflessly. He led by example. He sank his teeth into every opportunity God gave him, and made the most of it. He capitalized on small beginnings, and refused to take matters into his own hands in an effort to accelerate his destiny. He stayed patient, and continually died to self so he could be fully alive to God!

And the one thing David did that tied all these amazing attributes together and allowed God to “work all things together for [his] good”[1] was this: David inquired of the Lord.

Inquiring of the Lord is like brushing your teeth: you should do it at least several times every day, and it’s best to start young. David started inquiring of the Lord long before he became king; and that habit served him well throughout the rest of his life, even into old age. Don’t wait until God has established you to inquire of Him! Start now: before you step into your destiny. Not only will it save you years of wasted time and effort; it will also properly condition your heart so that when God’s timing arrives, you are ready to receive everything He wants you to have.

In 1 Samuel 22, David was starting to gather an army in his defense against Saul. But the men God sent David were not exactly the best of the best. He attracted, “..everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented” (1 Sam 22:2). Needless to say, these men needed some work! So how would David know when they were ready to fight? He inquired of the Lord:

Then [David’s men] told David, saying, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and they are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines, and save Keilah.” – 1 Sam 23:1-2

When David didn’t believe in himself, he inquired of the Lord, and God reminded him who he was created to be. David’s intuition was probably screaming that his slapstick army wasn’t ready for war. They could have used more practice! They needed more time to prepare! But when you step out to seize your destiny, it doesn’t matter if you feel ready, or if you think you’re ready: all that matters is what God says. David inquired of the Lord, and God said go! And that was enough.

Once David was sure they were supposed to go into battle, his men still needed some convincing:

But David’s men said to him, “Look, we are afraid here in Judah. How much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” Then David inquired of the Lord once again. And the Lord answered him and said, “Arise, go down to Keilah. For I will deliver the Philistines into your hand.” – 1 Sam 23:3-4

Do you let other people talk you out of your destiny? Have you ever gone to others – family, friends, support networks – when you’re not sure if you’re ready, only to be convinced that it’s best to sit on the sidelines? It was all David could do to gather his men and get them ready for battle; but when he did, they tried to convince him they weren’t ready! So what did David do? He inquired of the Lord again, and God reminded David that He would give him the victory!

God isn’t bothered by your inquiries. He isn’t put off when you want to speak to Him again and again, even about the same thing! He loves being in constant communication with you. He will remind you of your destiny as often as you need to hear it. He will remind you that He is with you as often as you need to feel it!

When David was tempted to be swayed by the opinions of others, he inquired of the Lord. He decided to go into battle – even if he and his men didn’t think they were ready – because he knew that was what God was calling him to do. And when you step out on the word of God – even when you don’t feel ready – the reward is always victory: 

And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines, struck them with a mighty blow, and took away their livestock. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. – 1 Sam 23:5

Heavenly Perspective

God sees a different version of you than you see in yourself. You see the “now” you: full of doubt, and surrounded by obstacles. But God sees the “future” you: hand raised in victory, living out the calling and purpose He has on your life. You see your life as a linear progression. In your mind, the success or failure you have experienced up until this point will determine your ability to succeed in the future. But God sees your life as ripe for divine interruption. He can insert victory in a moment when you seek Him!

You are full of potential that is hard to see, and the way you draw out that potential is by seeking God. Inquire of Him! Require of yourself that you check in with God daily so you can be reminded of the calling He has on your life. The way you get from the “now” you to the “future” you is to seek God at every turn.

Here’s what that looks like in practice: before you make any decision, whether big or small, stop and ask God what He wants you to do. Say, Lord, I don’t trust myself to make the right decision, but I trust You! I invite Your Holy Spirit into my day to show me exactly where to go, and exactly what to do. When you call, God answers.[2] When you stop and ask His opinion, He will tell you what He wants you to do! When you stop and ask for directions, He will tell you where He wants you to go!

Do you know why you can’t fully trust yourself to make decisions? Because your heart, left to its own devices, is prone to make selfish decisions: 

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” – Jer 17:9

But aren’t you glad that God knew what He was doing when He gave you “eyes to see, and ears to hear?”[3] When you seek Him, everything changes: 

I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind… – Jer 17:10a

God will search your heart to ensure you are not being led by your feelings. He will test your mind to refine your decision-making process!

When you do as you know best, you run the risk of making decisions that conflict with God’s plan for abundant life:

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death. – Prov 16:25

But when you inquire of the Lord and ask God to make your decisions for you, He will help you to not only do the right things, but also avoid the wrong things.[4]

God’s presence protects your decision-making process. His presence purifies your intentions and motives. When you let Him lead, He will make sure everything you put your hand to will succeed![5]

When I worked on Wall Street, the principle of “inquiring of the Lord” was absolutely key. As a trader, I was expected to make profitable decisions quickly. I didn’t have time to pray and fast before every trade! But I did have time to intentionally and consistently seek the Lord.

Every day before I stepped foot onto the trading floor, I would ask God to give me wisdom.[6] I would confess to Him that I didn’t have the knowledge or the intuition to make good decisions on my own! I would ask His Holy Spirit to come in and do the thinking for me. And the result was supernatural favor and success.

You don’t need a list of pro’s and con’s; you need the voice of God. You don’t need to ask your mom or your best friend; you need to ask the Spirit of the living God! Don’t get excited about what could be and charge forward, listening to your flesh. Get filled with God’s heart for you – your destiny – and never look back.

His Inquiry Increased

The more David advanced in his destiny, the more important the principle of “inquiring of the Lord” became. The more you progress in your destiny, the higher the stakes will be. That makes it more important to seek God at every turn, not less!

When you experience a measure of success, don’t convince yourself you have all your ducks in a row and don’t need the word of the Lord anymore. Your decision-making mindset should never be, “I’ve got this!” Remind yourself that you are there because God got you there, and you will only stay there if God keeps you there!

When David became king, many things changed. The Ark of the Lord was carried into the city. The word of the Lord was once again prized. A culture of worship was established throughout the entire nation of Israel. But for David, the most important principle of his life stayed exactly the same: David inquired of the Lord.

Just because David was anointed did not mean the way forward would be easy. In fact, the more David advanced, the more the enemy tried to prevent him from moving forward:

Now when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. And David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. – 2 Sam 5:17

Did you think the enemy was just going to let you waltz right into your destiny? Did you really think Satan was going to let you step into your divine inheritance without putting up a fight? Of course not! He’s going to attack you more, not less! And that is why it is so important – now more than ever – to inquire of the Lord at every turn.

The Philistines also went and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?” And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.”- 2 Sam 5:18-19

When the enemy stepped up his attacks, David doubled down on his response. He inquired of the Lord; and as he did, God told David exactly what to do at every turn.

You are anointed. You are called to greatness! God created you to do something no one else can do. But when your destiny finally starts to come together, it’s not time to sit on your hands and rest on your laurels. It’s time to inquire of the Lord: to seek God more than ever before!

I’ve been learning this in my own life. I’m currently writing my third book. Our church is growing. We’ve had some absolutely amazing testimonies in our Healing Rooms of creative miracles taking place! So my response is not to rest on my laurels. My response is to seek the Lord more than ever before. Kingdom advancement gets Satan upset; so I am turning up my mandatory prayer time every day. I’m making at least one hour in prayer with the Lord non-negotiable every single morning. I’m adding another hour later in the day! I’m doing all this because I recognize that the more the anointing increases in my life, the more I have to seek God to protect it.

Once David had the word of the Lord, he had everything he needed:

So David went to Baal Perazim, and David defeated them there; and he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me, like a breakthrough of water.” Therefore he called the name of that place Baal Perazim. And they left their images there, and David and his men carried them away. – 2 Sam 5:20-21

David listened to God, and he won. It’s just that simple. As long as you have God’s voice, it is absolutely impossible for you to lose!

The Enemy Will Come

But just because David won once, didn’t mean the enemy was going to give up. Before David and his men even had a chance to celebrate victory, the enemy was back, and looking for blood.

Then the Philistines went up once again and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. – 2 Sam 5:22

Jesus has won. Death is defeated! He conquered the grave! Victory is yours. You are “more than a conqueror”[7] in Jesus’ name! But that doesn’t mean the enemy is just going to give up. Seek God: now, more than ever before.

Therefore David inquired of the Lord, and He said, “You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the Lord will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.” – 2 Sam 5:23-24

Did you know that God’s strategy for victory isn’t always exactly the same? His battle plans change, based on where you are, and what the enemy is trying to do. Here’s why that is so important: if David had attacked the enemy again head on as he had in the first battle, Israel would have been defeated! But because he sought God for a new strategy – because he inquired of the Lord! – he had the updated battle plan God wanted him to have.

And David did so, as the Lord commanded him; and he drove back the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer. – 2 Sam 5:25

This was the same enemy! It was the same battleground! But God wanted David to use an entirely different strategy the second time around. God was still going to give David the victory, but He was going to do it a different way.

Are you trying to fight the same enemy with the same strategy? Are you losing ground because you’re not constantly asking God if you need to tweak your approach? Stop fighting the same battle on the enemy’s terms! Stop doing the same thing the same way and expecting different results! Ask God what strategy He wants you to use, and watch as your enemy flees before your face.

No matter what you’re facing, God has a solution. And the way you get that solution – that battle plan from Heaven – is by inquiring of the Lord. Sometimes God will tell you to run into the battle and attack the enemy straight on; but other times He will ask you to go up a different way! Consistent victory belongs to men and women who take the time to seek God and decipher His plan.

Time Well Spent

Inquiring of the Lord is the time investment you can make. There is nothing more important; and there is nothing in the world like it! The level of greatness you experience in your life will be directly proportional to the amount of time you spend listening to God’s voice.

But What If God Doesn’t Speak?

To close our discussion on inquiring of the Lord, here is a practical question. What should you do if you just aren’t hearing God’s voice? What if you really need to hear from Him, but every time you go to pray it sounds like He’s silent?

Follow your peace. Peace belongs to Jesus, the Prince of Peace:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. – Is 9:6

And He has given you His peace as a gift on purpose: 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness,       faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. – Gal 5:22-23

Jesus wants you to use His peace for something! Did you know that whenever you enter uncharted territory, you have an amazing gift called peace that you can use to help you make the right choice?

Here is what Jesus told His disciples when He sent them out to preach the Gospel:

“Now whatever city or town you enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and stay there till you go out. And when you go into a household, greet it. If the household is worthy, let your peace come upon it. But if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. – Matt 10:11-13

When you go into a new place, let peace be your guide. If Jesus wants you to stay there, your peace will “come upon it” (v 13). But if that is not where God wants you to be, your peace will “return to you” (v 13).

Do you feel anxiety in your relationship? Do you feel unrest at your job? Do you feel uneasy and unsettled in your apartment? Could it be that your peace is refusing to settle on a given place or situation because God doesn’t want you there?

Inquire of the Lord. Seek to hear His voice! Wait patiently to hear God speak. And until He does, use the God-given gifts He has already given you, and follow your peace.

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Rom. 8:28)

[2] “It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; and while they are still speaking, I will hear.” (Isa. 65:24)

[3] “…Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and return and be healed.” (Isa. 6:10)

[4] “And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, ‘Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!’ So God granted him what he requested.” (1 Chron. 4:10)

[5] “The Lord will command the blessing on you in your storehouses and in all to which you set your hand, and He will bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” (Deut. 28:8)

[6] “Now give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can judge this great people of Yours?” (2 Chron. 1:10)

[7] “Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom. 8:37)

Leading by Example

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Leading by Example’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 5/26/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

      HERE
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Leadership Matters

If you want to fulfill your destiny, you have to learn to lead. Whether or not you feel like you’re a natural leader is irrelevant. If you want to step into the calling God has over your life, you will need other people; and motivating other people to work together to accomplish something is called leadership.

Do you consider yourself a leader? If you’re a parent, you have an opportunity every single day to lead your children. If you work in an office with other people, you have the unique chance to lead the people God has put around you towards a common goal. If you volunteer in your church, eventually God will surround you with other people so you can teach them what God has taught you. All of us should be leaders. After all, isn’t our ultimate mandate to lead people into relationship with Jesus Christ?

The way you lead the people God has around you now, will show Him whether or not He can trust you with other people down the road. Leading is all about stewardship. There’s more at stake than just your personal skill set. God has filled you with something that He wants to use to bless the people around you; and you will need the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit to get it out.

Leadership is hard. Managing people has its challenges! But that’s why we’re here: to look to God’s Word to show us something we might never find on our own.

What Is Your Leadership Style?

Different people lead different ways. What kind of leader are you?

Kurt Lewin is often considered the founder of social psychology, and the originator of the sensitivity training modules we now see in many successful organizations. Lewin and a group of researchers first identified three basic variations in leadership style in 1939[1]:

1) Autocratic

The autocratic leader is task-oriented. The most important goal of leadership is getting the job done, and little time and attention are devoted to the people doing the job. Autocratic leaders command, and they expect you to do what they say. They like to control tasks, in lieu of providing autonomy. They provide specific directions to employees, and clearly communicate their expectations for success. Autocratic leaders typically make decisions independently based on what they perceive is best for them or the organization, without soliciting input from employees.

There are benefits and drawbacks to this style of leadership. This style works well when you need urgent, specific results. Over the long term, however, this style can be stifling for employee creativity and morale. Autocratic leadership does not produce a team of self-starters; it often breeds a small group of yes-men and women who just want to make the boss happy.

Entrepreneurs are often autocratic leaders. When you found a company, you often think you always know best because you have the most personal experience with your business. You want things done your way. Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, is a perfect example of this type of leader: he communicates production goals and productivity milestones and asks his employees to do whatever is necessary to get it done. Saul, the first king over Israel, also led this way. After Saul became king, he commanded all of Israel to come and fight, or face the consequences.[2] The result was a good one: victory over the Philistines! But over time, morale under his leadership crumbled.

2) Delegative

Delegative leaders are people-oriented. At the opposite end of the spectrum from autocratic leadership, delegative leaders are often hands off (liassez-faire or “let it be”). Instead of one strong leader making decisions, the delegative leader often passes on decision-making authority to the group.

There are strengths to delegative leadership. Long-term, this style of leadership takes the emphasis off of one person. The needs of the community are more important than just getting results. Highly motivated people who are self-starters often thrive in delegative environments.

However, the delegative framework has weaknesses as well. Employees who are new or need training often find delegative leadership to be too hands-off. There can be little top-down direction, and performance expectations can be muddy and obscure.

Moses started out as a delegative leader. When God called him to speak in front of Pharaoh, he was afraid; so he immediately delegated that task to Aaron.[3] When Moses went up on Mount Sinai to meet with God, he couldn’t be physically present to lead the people, so he delegated authority to Aaron. God’s people didn’t know what was best for them, so when they decided they wanted an idol, they were without a leader who would tell them “no” for their own good. The results were disastrous,[4] and the gold calf was born.

3) Participative (mix of task and people oriented)

The third and final type of leadership Lewin identifies is participative. This style is a mix of task- and people-oriented. The goal is to get the job done, but never at the expense of the people doing the job. The participative leader provides top-down instruction and guidance needed for the members of an organization, but also creates an environment where feedback is both expected and encouraged. The participative leader makes the final decisions, but employees and/or volunteers feel included in the process. You are always present as a leader, but never overbearing.

Given the shortcomings of both autocratic and delegative leadership, participative leadership can seem like the best of both worlds. However, this type of leadership can put strain on a leader. It requires constant commitment on the part of management to meet with employees and incorporate feedback into business decisions. It can be difficult for this type of leader to bridge the gap between what is best for an organization, versus what is optimal for the people who make up that organization.

A contemporary example of a participative leader is Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft. While CEO, Gates gave his management team autonomy and listened to their insights; but at the end of the day, he made the final decisions. The result is that Microsoft is still a viable and impactful organization, even though Gates is no longer involved in day-to-day operations.[5] The prime benefit of participative leadership is that an organization will continue to thrive long after a former leader is no longer directly involved.

David, the second over Israel, was a participative leader. David always made the final decision as king; but he led in such a way that his servants felt valued and utilized.

The goal of this discussion on leadership styles is not to convince you that one style of leadership is “better” than another, but rather to challenge the common perception that there is only one “best” way to lead. The best leaders often switch their leadership style based on what their organization needs at that moment. And this is key to our discussion: Biblical leadership is not about doing what’s best for you; it’s about doing what God says is best for the people you lead.

A Man of the People

David was a man with an agenda. God had spoken a very specific calling over his life, and everyone around him knew it. Even Abner the Son of Ner, commander of Saul’s armies (Saul was David’s predecessor and attempted murderer), knew David was to become king.[6] David would be king; and he would rule as God told him to rule, regardless of what other people expected. David was never afraid to take charge and make difficult decisions.

However, David also cared deeply about his people. We see this in the way he led. He didn’t lead in a purely autocratic style as a dictator. Whenever David asked God’s people to do something, David participated. This is empowering, participative leadership at is finest. Everybody knew David was in charge; but David took great pains to remind everyone under his leadership that he was a servant of God, just like them.

The people of Israel accepted and adored David long before he was king:

So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. And Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. – 1 Sam 18:5

“Accepted” is the Hebrew word yatab (Strong’s H3190), which means to be pleasing, and to cause gladness and rejoicing. To watch David lead was an act that inspired joy! And do you know what David did so well that made people love him?

But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them. – 1 Sam 18:16

David “went out and came in” before God’s people. He participated! He demonstrated with his actions that he was never “above” service to God’s people. David never asked the people of Israel to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself!

This “principle of participation” was important to David, even into old age. Long after David should have retired from battle, he continued to fight. He insisted on leading his people into battle, instead of sending them out from his presence. Eventually David’s men had to tell David to stay home for his own safety:

When the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David and his servants with him went down and fought against the Philistines; and David grew faint. Then Ishbi-Benob, who was one of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose bronze spear was three hundred shekels, who was bearing a new sword, thought he could kill David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid, and struck the Philistine and killed him. Then the men of David swore to him, saying, “You shall go out no more with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.” – 2 Sam 21:15-17

David risked his life to make sure the people had a participative leader. How different is that from the autocratic leaders you know, who just send people out to do the stuff they feel too important to do? How different is that from the self-centered boss who just dumps the stuff he or she doesn’t want to do on you all the time? How different was David from Saul, who was too scared to fight Goliath, so he sent David out instead?

Great men and women lead by example. Eleanor Roosevelt was the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945, during President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms in office. After her term as the longest serving First Lady of the United States, she went on to become the United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945 to 1952. For almost thirty tears, she wrote a newspaper column called My Day. Her predominant leadership principle? “It is not fair to ask of others what you are not willing to do yourself.” [7]

The best boss I’ve ever had is a man named Steve. When I landed a job on the trading floor of a major bank in 2008, Steve was my first boss. This was a cutthroat industry, known for long hours and flaring tempers. My hiring manager had prepared me for success: I had to be the first one at my desk every morning, and the last one to leave at the end of the day.

But no matter how early I got to my desk, Steve always beat me. My first morning on the job, I showed up at 6am for a 6:30am start time. Steve was already there. My second day, I showed up at 5:45am. Steve was there! My third day, I showed up 5:30am. And guess what? Steve was there!

No matter how late I stayed, working on spreadsheets and finalizing trade details, Steve always outlasted me. Eventually he took me aside and said, “Don’t worry about being the first one on the desk or the last one to leave. I’m always going to get here before you, and I’m always going to be here later.” This is a true leader. I was twenty years his junior; yet he stopped at nothing to show me what hard work and dedication look like.

My own mother demonstrated this “principle of participation” for me as well. When I was in middle school, I got a job delivering newspapers. Every single morning, a stack of newspapers would drop with a thud at the end of our driveway. It was my job to stuff the papers with advertising inserts. Then, I would trudge several blocks from our home and distribute the papers to everyone in a radius of several blocks.

But I didn’t have to do it alone. My mom woke up at 5am every morning with me. When I stuffed inserts, she stuffed inserts. Then we would load up the papers, and head over to my route to drop them off. My mom was a successful marketing executive working on an MDiv on nights and weekends; but she stopped at nothing to show me what hard work and dedication look like.

King David did it, too. He wasn’t willing to ask anyone to do something he was unwilling to do himself. And because he led by example, David never had to remind anyone that he was king; his people naturally honored and served him, because they loved him.

Servant Leadership

Ultimately, Biblical leadership is about more than participation; it is about service. I believe the key to successful leadership is the best leaders don’t lead based on what’s best for them; they lead based on what’s best for the people they serve.

Jesus was a Servant Leader:

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. – Phil 2:5-11

Jesus didn’t die on the Cross for you because it was best for Him! He did it because it was best for you. He did not come to be served, but to serve.[8] Are you willing to lead in the same way?

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] Kurt Lewin, “Experiments in Social Space,” Reflections 1, no. 1 (1939): 7-13. Retrieved from http://bit.ly/2L9tR8D

https://www.americanexpress.com/en-us/business/trends-and-insights/articles/whats-your-most-effective-leadership-style/

[2] “So he took a yoke of oxen and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the territory of Israel by the hands of messengers, saying, ‘Whoever does not go out with Saul and Samuel to battle, so it shall be done to his oxen.’ And the fear of the Lord fell on the people, and they came out with one consent.” (1 Sam. 11:7)

[3] “So he shall be your spokesman to the people. And he himself shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be to him as God.” (Ex. 4:16)

[4] “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’” (Ex. 32:1)

[5] Satya Nadella took the helm as Microsoft CEO in 2014 following Steve Ballmer.

[6] “May God do so to Abner, and more also, if I do not do for David as the Lord has sworn to him— to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul, and set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan to Beersheba.” (2 Sam. 3:9-10)

[7] Eleanor Roosevelt, “My Day, June 15, 1946,” The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Digital Edition (2017), accessed 6/19/2019, https://www2.gwu.edu/~erpapers/myday/displaydocedits.cfm?_y=1946&_f=md000366.

[8] “…just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Matt. 20:28)

Love for the Word

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Love for the Word’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 5/12/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

      HERE

Love for the Word

David did many things well. He had many attributes that contributed to his success. He stayed patient as he faced resistance to his calling. He was a devoted servant, even when those he served didn’t value his dedication. He led by example, charging into battle with his men.

But perhaps the single most important attribute David embodied was this: he was a lover of the Word of God. David prized the Word of God. He valued the Word of God. He would not live without the Word of God!

David is explicitly named as the author of 73 Psalms.[1] In addition, David is identified as the author of Psalms 2 and 95 by New Testament writers.[2] All told, David authored 75 Psalms in our Psalter. The Psalms tell us what was important to David. They tell us how he thinks! And one of the most common themes throughout the Psalms – these songs of praise to God – is a love for the Word of God.

What the Word Does

1) God’s Word Causes Us to Prosper

God’s Word gives life and causes us to prosper. Although David is not explicitly identified as the author of Psalm 1, this Psalm serves as an introduction to the entire Book of Psalms.

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. – Psalm 1:1-2

Do you want to be blessed? Delight in the law of the Lord! Meditate in God’s Word day and night.

Do you know what it means to “meditate” in God’s Word? “Meditate” is the Hebrew hagah, which means, “To reflect, to moan, to mutter; to ponder; to make a quiet sound such as sighing; to meditate or contemplate something as one repeats the words.”[3] As Jack Hayford’s Spirit-Filled Life Bible explains,

“Hagah represents something quite unlike the English ‘meditation,’ which may be a mental exercise only. In Hebrew thought, to meditate upon the Scriptures is to quietly repeat them in a soft, droning sound, while utterly abandoning outside distractions. From this exercise comes a specialized type of Jewish prayer called ‘davening,’ that is, reciting texts, praying intense prayers, or getting lost in communion with God while bowing or rocking back and forth. Evidently this dynamic form of meditation prayer goes back to David’s time.”[4]

When David “meditated” on the Word of God, he didn’t just think about it. He repeated the Word, out loud, over his life. And what was the result? He stepped into his destiny with supernatural speed.

Do you “meditate” on the Word of God? Do you actively proclaim God’s Word over your life? Whenever you encounter a new obstacle, do you command it to move with the Word of God? Whenever you are tempted in a new way by the enemy, do you respond to his devices with the Word of God? The Word of God is an incredible weapon; and your destiny depends on your willingness to use it.

Here is what will happen to the man who “meditates” in Scripture:

He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper. The ungodly are not so, but are like the chaff which the wind drives away. – Ps 1:3-4

Doesn’t it sound refreshing to be like that tree? You will be planted and refreshed. You will be rooted and grounded! You will be permanently fruity, even when you’re surrounded by drought.

When you build your life around the Word of God, “whatever you do” will prosper.

2) God’s Word Gives Us An Anchor In An Uncertain World

The Word of God is pure. It is uncorrupted. In a world full of counterfeits, the Word of God is the real deal you are looking for!

In Psalm 12, David finds himself surrounded by people who would say one thing, and then do another. He was discouraged because men who had promised to be faithful didn’t live up to their word. But in the midst of his struggle, he looked to God: the only One who will perfectly deliver on His Word! 

Help, Lord, for the godly man ceases! For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men. They speak idly everyone with his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak. May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaks proud things, who have said, “With our tongue we will prevail; Our lips are our own; who is lord over us?” “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy, now I will arise,” says the Lord; “I will set him in the safety for which he yearns.” The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times. You shall keep them, O Lord, You shall preserve them from this generation forever. – Ps 12:1-7

We live in an uncertain world. People come and go. The “faithful disappear” (v 1)! But God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb 13:8). He doesn’t make promises He can’t keep, because He magnifies His Word above His name (Ps 138:2)!

Do you need an anchor in turbulent times? Something to make sure you don’t drift too far from your design, your destiny, and your purpose? Cling to the Word of God: the only guarantee you have.

3) God’s Word Makes You Wise

The Psalmist loved God with his whole heart. The Psalmist meditated on the Word of God all day! 

Oh, how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day. – Ps 119:97

David had many enemies. At times the Israelites faced wars on multiple fronts, as nations like the Philistines, the Moabites and the Amalekites attacked God’s people all at once. But David knew that no matter what his enemy was up to, God’s Word would make him wiser:

You, through Your commandments, make me wiser than my enemies; for they are ever with me. – Ps 119:98

David was in uncharted territory. The only example he had as a prior King of Israel was Saul; and Saul failed in many ways! But David knew the Holy Spirit – speaking through God’s Word – would be the best teacher he could ever have:

I have more understanding than all my teachers, for Your testimonies are my meditation. – Ps 119:99

David was wise. His son, Solomon, inherited the value David put on patient wisdom. But no matter how many books of ancient literature David read, he knew there was only one Book that really mattered: 

I understand more than the ancients, because I keep Your precepts. – Ps 119:100

David relied on God’s Word to keep him on the right path:

I have restrained my feet from every evil way, that I may keep Your word. I have not departed from Your judgments, for You Yourself have taught me. – Ps 119:101-102

David loved the Word of God more than he loved anything else in his life!

How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through Your precepts I get understanding; therefore I hate every false way. – Ps 119:103-104

Charles Spurgeon, known as the Prince of Preachers, had this to say about David’s love for the Word of God:

“First, then, let us consider David’s love for the word. He has tried to express the inexpressible by saying, ‘O how I love Your law!’ He cannot tell the Lord how much he loves it. He had good reason for loving God’s law—his love was a reasonable one. Love is sometimes blind, but in this case, David loved with his eyes open and loved with good reason.

“We ought to love all that God gives to us, and especially all His blessed teaching. If you do not love the Bible, you certainly do not love the God who gave it to us—but if you do love God, I am certain that no other book in the entire world will be comparable, in your mind, to God’s own Book. Where God’s handwriting is most plainly to be seen, there God’s servants will at once turn their eyes. When God speaks, it is the delight of our ears to hear what He says.[5]

Do you love God’s Word? Is it “sweeter than honey” (v 103) to you? Does an honest reflection of your lifestyle show that your prize the Word of God above all else: not only in deed, but also in action?

Smith Wigglesworth was a man of great faith. Dozens upon dozens of people experienced miraculous healing as he laid hands on them. Testimonies included a woman healed of a tumor, a woman healed of tuberculosis, a woman in a wheelchair walking, and many more.[6] There were even reports that people were raised from the dead as Smith Wigglesworth laid hands on them and prayed![7]

And do you know what trait Smith Wigglesworth shared with King David? He loved the Word of God. Wigglesworth often stated that the Bible was the only book he had ever read. He was a plumber by trade, with no formal religious or ministry training. However, he moved powerfully in the Spirit because he loved the Word of God!

Do you want to move in power? Read your Bible! Reading about the Word of God is not the same thing as reading the Word of God. There is no substitute for getting to know the heart and will of God; and it happens through His Word!

Why We Run

We all go through times in our lives where we run from the Word of God. When we are struggling with sin, our Bible is often the last Book we want to pick up. When we know we made a bad decision (or are tempted to make one!), Scripture is sometimes the last place we turn. After all, isn’t it better to ask for forgiveness than permission?

Receiving the Word of God can be painful, because the healthy conviction that comes from reading God’s Word can cut like a knife:

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. – Heb 4:12

The Word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword! It will pierce you in those places where you are acting to fulfill the desires of your soul instead of your spirit. But you need to feel that pain if you want to grow!

The times you feel like reading God’s Word the least, are the times you need to read His Word the most. Don’t run from God’s Word. Don’t be afraid of what He is going to say! His Word might hurt, but the temporary pain and conviction it brings will be worth the inevitable freedom that follows.

Finding Rest

Taken out of context, Hebrews 4:12 (above) seems downright painful. Why would I want to go back to my Bible every day if I know it’s going to be sharp and painful? But in context, we see that the supernatural surgery God’s Word brings is the only way we can ever find rest:

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.

Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. – Heb 4:9-13

There is a rest that remains for the people of God! There is a level of beauty you have yet to see in your life, that God created you to experience! God wants you to cease from works, and commands you to “be diligent” to enter His rest! But you cannot enter the rest, unless you allow the Word to enter you!

Let God’s Word into your life. Let it cut you. Let it convict you! Let it bring the healing you so desperately need.[8] Let it give you life!

A Necessary Appendix

Does loving God’s Word mean you keep it perfectly? Certainly not. Loving God’s Word simply means you always come back to it, no matter what.

Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life. He did it for you! And that means you don’t have to be perfect any more. Aren’t you so glad that whenever you pick up your Bible, you have nothing to fear?

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Heb 4:14-16

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] Psalms 3-9; 11-32; 34-41; 51-65; 68-70; 86; 101; 103; 108-110; 122; 124; 131; 133; and 138-145.

[2] Psalm 2 is attributed to David in Acts 4:25; Psalm 95 is attributed to David in Hebrews 4:7.

[3] Strong’s H1897

[4] Jack Hayford, ed., New Spirit-Filled Life Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2002), 687.

[5] Charles Spurgeon in sermon #3,090 from the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, 1874.

[6] Roberts Liardon, God’s Generals (New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1996), 204–224.

[7] Desmond Cartwright, Real Smith Wigglesworth (Ida, MI: Baker Publishing, 2003).

[8] “He sent His word and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” (Psalm 107:20)

Small Beginnings

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Small Beginnings’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 4/28/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

      HERE
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Don’t Despise Small Beginnings

Zerubabbel was a man with a monumental task ahead of him. Zerubabbel led a group of Jewish people – 42,360 according to historians – back to Jerusalem in the first year of Cyrus, King of Persia. The Hebrew people had been in Babylonian captivity for years, and were finally returning home. But someone had to lead this ragtag group of people.

Ultimately, Zerubabbel was tasked by God to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem.

Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem. – Ezra 1:3

King Solomon had built the temple in the 10th Century B.C. Nebuchadnezzar had razed the temple in 587 BC. Now, Zerubabbel had the pressure of rebuilding the temple to its former glory. And do you know how he planned to do it?

Then he said to me, “This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will become a level plain before him! And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout: ‘May God bless it! May God bless it!’” – Zech 4:6-7 (NLT)

God’s message to Zerubbabel (through the prophet Zechariah) was a strong one: as you’re building, don’t try and do it yourself. The temple wouldn’t be rebuilt by force, or by strength; but by God’s Spirit.

What has God asked you to build? What work has He asked you to do? You have to know that whatever monumental task He has given you is not going to be accomplished through your own self-effort. It will only come together if you ask His Holy Spirit to do the work!

Then another message came to me from the Lord: “Zerubbabel is the one who laid the foundation of this Temple, and he will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” – Zech 4:8-10 (NLT)

“Do not despise these small beginnings.” God knew, in advance, that Zerubabbel would encounter moments of extreme frustration because the plan of God was taking a long time to unfold. But God’s caution to His servant was not to despise the work – no matter how small the beginnings stages seem. God had started the work, and God would complete it; and when all was said and done, the Temple would be a testimony to God’s faithfulness for all the world to see!

You Are Called to Greatness

You are called to greatness! Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19). Your life is a testimony of God’s faithfulness! But greatness takes time. Zerubabbel had a choice as he started to build the temple: would he celebrate every victory as it happened, no matter how small? Or would he allow the enormity of the remaining work to cause him to despise what God had already accomplished?

You have the same choice. God has given you big plans. Maybe you have trouble celebrating what God has already done; and instead, you’re upset because so much is left to do. But this is how God often works! He will give you big plans, and then ask you to celebrate the small victories along the way. He will ask you to demonstrate a thankful heart by being a good steward over the small victories, before He leads you into the monumental ones!

Any major breakthrough typically involves a string of smaller, gradual victories. Any big deal usually starts with a small beginning! Are you able to thank God for the victories – no matter how small – as they come?

David’s Small Beginnings: The People God Gives Us

Do you remember the call on David’s life? Historians estimate that David was between 10 and 15 years old when he was anointed king over Israel:

Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. – 1 Sam 16:13

But it would be decades before David would actually reign:

David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah. – 2 Sam 5:4-5

So what did David do in the interim? Yes, he “behaved himself wisely” (1 Sam 18:5): he went wherever Saul sent him, and did whatever Saul told him to do. But he also refused to despise small beginnings.

Saul persecuted David for years. 1 Samuel 22 tells us just how bad things got for David. Here is a man who was supposed to be the next king! Yet eventually we find David, trapped in a cave:

David therefore departed from there and escaped to the cave of Adullam. So when his brothers and all his father’s house heard it, they went down there to him. And everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who was discontented gathered to him. So he became captain over them. And there were about four hundred men with him. – 1 Sam 22:1-2

There are two things to note here that signify just how small David’s humble beginning was. First, David was in a cave. Kings don’t belong in caves (see the Resurrection)! David doubtless had countless opportunities to harden his heart. God, I can’t wait any longer! he could have cried. My life isn’t supposed to be like this! he could have pleaded. But instead of despising his situation, David kept his heart pure, and his eyes on God.

Second, look at the quality of the soldiers God sent David. When God finally decided to give David an army, He didn’t send David the best of the best. God sent him, “…everyone who was in distress, everyone who was in debt, and everyone who has discontented” (v 2). God sent David the most bitter people in the kingdom (the Hebrew word for “discontented” means “bitter of soul”)![1] But David didn’t turn them away. He “became captain over them.” Here was David, trapped in a cave, with four hundred losers! But did you know God makes losers into winners?

David made an intentional decision to treasure the people God had sent him, instead of despising them. And look what God did as a result:

Then they told David, saying, “Look, the Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and they are robbing the threshing floors.” Therefore David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go and [a]attack these Philistines?” And the Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines, and save Keilah.” But David’s men said to him, “Look, we are afraid here in Judah. How much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” – 1 Sam 23:1-3

David’s men had zero confidence. They were afraid in hiding; so how much more afraid would they be in battle (v 3)? But David didn’t care. He saw potential in the people God sent him. So he took God at His word, and the result was victory!

Then David inquired of the Lord once again. And the Lord answered him and said, “Arise, go down to Keilah. For I will deliver the Philistines into your hand.” And David and his men went to Keilah and fought with the Philistines, struck them with a mighty blow, and took away their livestock. So David saved the inhabitants of Keilah. – 1 Sam 23:4-5

It’s not your strength that matters; it’s the strength of God, who fights for you. It’s not the quality of your team that matters; but the Spirit who works in and through them! Management theory says you have to be around people who make you better and smarter; but Scripture says only one thing matters. Is God with you?

If David had despised the small beginning God was giving him, he would have missed out on the opportunity to build the army God wanted him to have. But instead, he chose to celebrate his small beginning; and God brought him victory in the end!

Where do you feel like you’re stuck? What are you in the middle of, that you feel like you can’t do for one more day? Who are the people on your team, who you just can’t put up with for one more moment? Don’t despise your small beginning! God will use it for victory in the end!

Joshua’s Small Beginning: The Places God Puts Us

Joshua knew what it was like to have a small beginning. For years, he faithfully served Moses. Most passages refer to Joshua as Moses’ “servant.” But here is a passage that gives Joshua a different title:

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant… – Joshua 1:1

Talk about an opportunity for offense! Joshua was not just a “servant;” he was an “assistant.” This is not a glorious term! I mean, when you close your eyes and dream with God about whom He wants you to become, do you cry out to God, Lord make me an assistant? Of course not! The word “assistant” typically describes the least desirable role. But Joshua owned it. And look at the result:

After the death of Moses the servant of the Lord, it came to pass that the Lord spoke to Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ assistant, saying: “Moses My servant is dead. Now therefore, arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them—the children of Israel. Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon as far as the great river, the River Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and to the Great Sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life; as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you nor forsake you.” – Josh 1:1-5

Joshua had faithfully served Moses for many years. When Moses met with God “…face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Ex 33:11a), do you know where Joshua was?

And [Moses] would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle. – Ex 33:11b

Joshua was in the presence of God with Moses! Whenever God met with Moses, He met with Joshua. What Joshua could have despised as slavery, God meant to be a training ground.

Did you know you inherit the anointing of the people you serve? God talked to Moses; and because Joshua served Moses, God would now talk to Joshua. God promised Moses that every place his foot tread upon would be given into his hand (Deut 11:24); and because Joshua served Moses, God would now extend the same promise to Joshua. No man was able to stand before Moses; and because Joshua served Moses, no man would be able to stand before Joshua! As God was with Moses, so would He be with Joshua!

Joshua undoubtedly had a choice every single morning, Would he continue to serve Moses with a good attitude? Or would he get bitter because he thought he was called to something better. He was, in fact, called to something more; but that “more” would come on the other side of his service.

Joshua made a daily decision to embrace his humble beginnings, instead of despising them. You see, if Joshua had been unwilling to be an assistant, he never would have been promoted to leader. If you want to lead, you have to start with an assist. If you want to be an influencer, you first have to be a follower!

Being Thankful

So, how do we avoid despising small beginnings? The answer is not to try to avoid despising them. The answer to sin is never to try not to sin; it is to invite the power of the Gospel into every area of your life, and trust that the light will force out all darkness!

The antidote to contempt – or despising something – is gratefulness. Here is where transformation is going to happen in your life: instead of despising your current situation, are you willing to thank God for it? Can you pray bold prayers, like, Lord, I know destiny takes time. Thank You for everything You have given me. I’m not going to despise the team You have put around me. I’m not going to hate the role You have given me! Help me to never despise what You are doing, in Jesus’ name!

Here is the key:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Phil 4:6-7

When you make a decision to approach God with thanksgiving, His perfect peace will wash over you.

The peace of God “surpasses” all understanding. That doesn’t just mean that you are going to have so much peace, you won’t be able to understand it. That means you have a choice: you can either choose the peace of God, or you can try to understand. But Scripture is telling you what to choose in advance! The peace of God “surpasses” – or is better than ­– all understanding! So when you finally sacrifice your need to understand everything, and instead simply say yes to God and submit to His plan, you will receive a perfect peace that is better than any amount of understanding could ever be!

Don’t despise small beginnings. It might seem small to you; but to God, there is nothing greater.

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] Hebrew nephesh; Strong’s H5315

Passing the Test

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Passing the Test’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 5/5/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

      HERE
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Testing of the Lord

Do you ever feel like God is “testing” you? Like He is allowing certain undesirable situations in your life to persist, so you can grow? Are you in the middle of a test right now?

David was a man who experienced the “testing” of the Lord. Remember that David was anointed to be king between the age of 10 and 15 years old; yet it would be twenty years before David became king: first over Judah (age 30), and then over all of Israel (age 37). So, what took God so long? Why didn’t God thrust David into his destiny immediately? If God knew David was His guy, why did He make him wait so long?

David experienced the “testing” of the Lord. But he wasn’t afraid of it; in fact, David welcomed it:  

Vindicate me, O Lord, for I have walked in my integrity. I have also trusted in the Lord; I shall not slip. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my mind and my heart. For Your loving kindness is before my eyes, and I have walked in Your truth. I have not sat with idolatrous mortals, nor will I go in with hypocrites. I have hated the assembly of evildoers, and will not sit with the wicked. – Ps 26:1-5

David invited God to test him. Look at verse 2: “examine me, O lord, and prove me; try mind and my heart.” David knew something we should know: God already sees what’s going in in your mind and heart; so instead of pretending nothing is wrong, why not run to Him? Instead of trying to block Him out (knowing He sees what’s inside anyway), why not invite Him in to do some Holy Spirit surgery?

David not only welcomed the tests; he also valued the tests:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Ps 139:23-24

David knew that inviting God into his heart was a litmus test for his true internal condition. If there was any wicked way in him, David wanted God to know. He wanted God to get it out! And he knew that it was only by giving God an invitation to test him – to try him and examine him – that his heart could be healed.

What I want you to see here is that David did not fear the testing of the Lord. He didn’t run from it! In fact, he embraced it.

God Tests Us

God tests His people. However, the way He requires you to “pass” the test is probably different than you’d expect. We have to understand that the “testing” of the Lord is very different under the Old Covenant, versus under our New Covenant of grace through Jesus Christ.

Under the Old Covenant, God tested His people with a very specific purpose. We see this explained after the death of Joshua. The people of Israel had just settled in the Promised Land; but they were still surrounded by enemies.

By the way, this speaks to your current situation. Scripture says that we are “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor 5:20). We are in this world; but not of this world. God has made us messengers in this fallen world, with a mission to show the world the love of God. He has given us an inheritance – salvation – but for the time being, we are in hostile territory. We are surrounded by the work of the “prince of the powers of the air” (Eph 2:2); and in that condition, God wants us not only to survive, but also thrive!

So when God’s people were surrounded by enemies, what did they do?

Then the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel; and He said, “Because this nation has transgressed My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not heeded My voice, I also will no longer drive out before them any of the nations which Joshua left when he died, so that through them I may test Israel, whether they will keep the ways of the Lord, to walk in them as their fathers kept them, or not.” Therefore the Lord left those nations, without driving them out immediately; nor did He deliver them into the hand of Joshua. – Judges 2:20-23

They failed! God was angry at His people because they couldn’t pass the test! God allowed Israel’s enemies to persist because He needed to know if they really loved Him. He needed to know if they would follow His word – even when things got tough – before He trusted them with more.

But no matter how hard God’s people tried, they couldn’t get it right. They couldn’t pass the test!

In Judges 3, the pattern continued:

Now these are the nations which the Lord left, that He might test Israel by them, that is, all who had not known any of the wars in Canaan (this was only so that the generations of the children of Israel might be taught to know war, at least those who had not formerly known it), namely, five lords of the Philistines, all the Canaanites, the Sidonians, and the Hivites who dwelt in Mount Lebanon, from Mount Baal Hermon to the entrance of Hamath. And they were left, that He might test Israel by them, to know whether they would obey the commandments of the Lord, which He had commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. – Judges 3:1-4

God had a very specific purpose in His testing. He was testing His people to teach His people (v 2). There was a new generation of Israelites who did not “know war” (v 2). They hadn’t experienced victory firsthand. They hadn’t seen God’s faithfulness with their own eyes. God allowed enemies to persist: not so His people could be defeated, but so His people could experience victory!

So why didn’t His people experience victory? Because they wouldn’t listen to Him. God was angry (Judges 2:20) because no matter how much instruction He gave His people, they just wouldn’t do what He asked!

I have a 5-year-old son. My wife is home full-time with our three children, so she makes dinner most of the time; but every once and a while, it will be my turn. Whenever I make dinner (disclaimer: it’s usually mac and cheese!), my son and I have an exercise. Before I start to cook, I ask him to go and sit at the table. All I want him to do is sit in his chair! It’s an exercise in waiting in obedience; if he will just stay where I ask him to stay, I will bring him what I promised to bring!

But guess what happens as soon as I turn my back and walk into the kitchen? He gets up from the chair! All he has to do is sit still – in the boundaries I have set for him, for his own good – and I’m going to bring something satisfying to him. But he just can’t do it. He doesn’t have the maturity. He has too much energy! He goes and gets a toy, or a book – or he just runs around the table – and before he knows it, he’s in trouble.

This is why God was so angry with His people! They just couldn’t stay in the chair. He asked them to do simple things – love Me with all your heart! (Deut 6:5) – but they kept getting up and taking matters into their own hands.

How Do We Pass the Test?

So, how do we keep God from being angry with us? How do we pass the test?

I recently conducted an informal survey among our congregation. I asked two questions. The first: does God still test us? No less than one hundred percent of respondents said yes. The second question was more difficult (and open ended): If God tests us, how do we pass the test?

The responses to the first question were uniform; but the answers to the second question were all over the map! One person said “perseverance and faith.” Another said, “By letting go and accepting that we can’t be perfect.” Yet another replied, “We endure” (with a crying face after her answer). Perhaps the best response was, “I can’t pass; so I fail, and I pray.”

Here’s the point: we all agree that God tests us; but none of us agree how to pass the test! And that is a big problem! What good does it do to know God tests us, if we don’t know how to pass?

Under the Old Covenant, God was testing His people’s behavior. The way His people had to “pass the test” under the Law was doing exactly what He said. Perfect obedience! That should be a terrifying realization for us. Why? Because no matter how many times God’s people tried to get it right, they couldn’t! They always ended up failing. So if His people failed, how do you and I stand a chance?

If the only way to “pass the test” is with perfect behavior, we are all out of luck. None of us is perfect, and we know it! James puts it this way:

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. – Jas 2:8-10

James lays out the startling reality that if we’re anything short of perfect; we’re completely imperfect. If we choose to be judged under the Law by trying to “pass the test” with good behavior, we are setting ourselves up for failure. But aren’t you glad there is a better way to “pass the test” on this side of the Cross?

Jesus Already Passed

The Cross of Jesus Christ changes everything. You and I could never pass the test on our own. We could never do exactly what God has asked us to do, 100% of the time! But what if Someone else has already “passed the test” for you?

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Heb 4:14-16

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, already passed the test! God requires perfection; and Jesus is perfect! He was “in all points tempted as we are” (v 15). He was exposed to every temptation, struggle, sickness, and hardship you and I could ever face! But the difference between Him and us is, while we always fail, Jesus is PERFECT! HE PASSED THE TEST!

You are not under the Old Covenant anymore. You don’t have to be judged by the Law! You are under the New Covenant of grace! That means the way you “pass the test” is no longer by being perfect! It is by having faith that Jesus was perfect in your place: by believing that He passed the test for you!

Under the Old Covenant (the Law), your behavior was tested. But under the New Covenant (grace), your faith is tested! Aren’t you so glad you live on this side of the Cross!

The Point of the Test

God is not testing you to break you; He is testing you to refine you. It is for this reason that David was grateful for the tests:

For You, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined. – Ps 66:    10

David trusted that the testing was producing something. He knew that even though it wasn’t always comfortable, God was refining him in the testing.

Before the Industrial Revolution, there was a person called a silversmith. His responsibility was to take silver that was mined from the earth, and turn it into the finished product you would find in a jewelry store. The silversmith would take the unrefined metal and put it in a huge pot. Then, he would turn up the heat. As heat was applied, he would stir the metal.

As he stirred, impurities (“dross;” Prov 25:4) would rise to the surface. Whenever something “wicked” (Ps 139:24) rose to the surface, he would skim it out! This is what God is doing as you are going through the testing! He is allowing anything that does not need to be in you to come to the surface, so He can take it out! The testing removes impurities! It kills impatience! It extracts “selfish ambition and conceit” (Phil 2:3)! The testing of the Lord causes every unholy thing in you to rise to the surface: not so that God can make you feel bad about your shortcomings, but so He can strain them out!

God’s testing is doing something in you. He is making you more refined. He is making you more like Him! The silversmith would stir and stir – removing impurities as they came up – until the process came to a close. Do you know how he would know his work was done? He would be able to see his reflection in the silver. What was once a messy hunk of metal had become a pure, undefiled final product!

And God is doing the same thing in you. The testing may be uncomfortable, but it is necessary. You may not like it! But it is the process God uses to conform us to the “image of His Son” (Rom 8:29).

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. – Jas 1:2-4

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Death Means New Life

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The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Death Means New Life’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Easter Sunday, 4/21/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

New Life

I love Spring. As I type this, I’m looking out over the quiet side street where we live, listening to birds call as the sun rises. Our neighborhood in Brooklyn is full of new life, as trees that have stayed patiently dormant for the winter sprout crisp, green leaves for Spring. Perennial trees are flowering and swaying in the wind, their branches dancing with joy at the thought of coming back to life.

Spring means new life. It is no coincidence we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ every Spring, as signs of new life fill the air. The world and everything in it cries out to remind us that, no matter how long your “winter” has been, there is new life coming!

Hope Was Lost

When Jesus died on the Cross, life as the disciples knew it was over. Have you ever felt like all hope was lost?

The disciples had been following Jesus for three years. Peter and Andrew were fishing when Jesus called them to follow Him: “They immediately left their nets and followed Him” (Matt 4:20). James and John, brothers whom their father had been grooming to take over the family business, did the same (Matt 4:21-22). Matthew was “sitting at the tax office” when Jesus called Him (Matt 9:9); but he immediately left that business because he knew anything to be gained by chasing riches paled in comparison to the wealth he would inherit following Jesus.

The disciples gave up everything to follow Jesus; but in one moment, on the Cross, it seemed like all hope was lost:

Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last.

So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”

And the whole crowd who came together to that sight, seeing what had been done, beat their breasts and returned. But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. – Lk 23:44-49

How could Jesus be dead? He had promised the disciples for three years straight that He would be King. He had asked them to leave everything and follow Him. He had promised them that “everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for [His] name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold” (Matt 19:29). So, as Jesus died on the Cross under the infinite weight of the sin of the world, the disciples had to be wondering: where is our hundredfold return?

But Out of Death…

The disciples wouldn’t understand the purpose of Jesus’ death until they saw the way He rose. The promise of the Gospel is this: out of death always comes new life. It doesn’t matter how hopeless your situation seems; because Jesus Christ is the Author of hope.

Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. – Lk 24:1-4

My prayer for you this Easter is that, as you revisit the details of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, you would find something unexpected. These women who were disciples of Jesus, came to mourn His death; but instead, they found they had nothing to mourn. The stone had been rolled away from the tomb! They didn’t show up to find everything neat, dead, and in order, as they expected. The body of Jesus was not there, because He had risen from the grave!

Angels – messengers from Heaven – met the women in that place of fear and despair. They challenged their perception that their hope was lost, and encouraged them to remember everything Jesus had told them was going to happen:

Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.’ ” And they remembered His words. – Lk 24:5-8

The angels’ cry to these women at the tomb was: stop looking for dead things where God says there is only life! Stop trudging through your hopeless situation as if Jesus hasn’t already promised there is going to be breakthrough! Stop looking for your future in your past; because what’s waiting for you is not certain death, but everlasting life!

Didn’t God already tell you He was going to do it? Didn’t God already promise that every hope and dream you’ve ever had in His name will be fulfilled? The disciples came for a funeral; but they left celebrating a Resurrection. And doesn’t your Bible say that God is the same yesterday, today, and forevermore? So if Jesus did it in their lives, won’t He do it in yours?

Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles. And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them. But Peter arose and ran to the tomb; and stooping down, he saw the linen cloths lying by themselves; and he departed, marveling to himself at what had happened. – Lk 24:9-12

To those who had not seen the evidence, the story of the Resurrection seemed like an “idle tale.” So, my challenge to you this morning is this: do you really believe in the Resurrection? Do you really believe that everything that looks dead in your life is coming back to life? Because if you do, you are going to have a level of fearlessness and boldness you’ve never experienced before!

Not all the disciples believed. Some needed proof. And Jesus didn’t punish them for that. He showed up and proved He had been raised from the dead. But He also made clear that we have an incredible opportunity to choose to believe, even if we have questions and doubts:

Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”

So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”

And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.”

And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”

Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” – Jn 20:24-29

To “believe” in Jesus means to put your confidence in Him (Strong’s G4100[1]). Are you willing to believe in the Resurrection, even if you have questions? Are you willing to believe in the Resurrection, even if you have doubts? Are you willing to believe in the Resurrection, even if you have fears?

“Blessed,” Jesus says, “are those who have not seen [the Resurrection] and yet have believed” (Jn 20:29). Your breakthrough – your blessing! – will come when you make a decision to believe that a resurrection is coming in your life, even if you have yet to see the evidence!

New Life

The promise of the Gospel is that death does not exist when Jesus is present. So, where do you need a resurrection?

Do you need a resurrection in your relationship with God? I’ve been there. I grew up in church; but in high school and college, I drifted away from following Jesus. I made a decision that there were certain things I wanted to do that didn’t line up with Jesus’ plan for my life.

But I’ve experienced a resurrection. I gave my life back to Jesus over ten years ago now, and I have seen life in places where I only saw death. I have seen life in my marriage. I have seen life in my career. I have seen life in my family: all because I made a decision to believe, even through the doubt and the fear. With Jesus, out of death always comes new life!

Do you need a resurrection in your relationships with other people? I’ve been there. Before I met Jesus, I was a terrible friend. I would promise to be there, and never show up. I would pledge my best, and deliver my worst. I was such a bad friend, that I didn’t even get invited to one of my best friend’s wedding when he got married.

But I’ve experienced a resurrection. God has made me faithful instead of fearful. He’s made me one to stay, instead of run. He’s made me a good friend, a faithful father, and a loving husband. With Jesus, out of death always comes new life!

Do you need a resurrection in your career? I’ve been there. I worked my entire life to get to Wall Street. I went to an Ivy League school to study applied economics and management. I got through a grueling analyst program and became an associate at a major investment bank. But then, after almost five years of faithfully serving a company that demanded everything of me, I was laid off. I was hopeless. I wanted to leave New York. Everything I had worked for was gone!

But I’ve experienced a resurrection. God brought me into something new called ministry. I would have never asked for it, or even known how to prepare for it. But it is life to me! I knew what it felt like to just work a job; and now I know what it means to walk out a calling. When you have Jesus, out of death always comes new life!

So, where do you need a resurrection? The Gospel promises that anywhere you have experienced death, Jesus will bring new life. All you need is one touch from Him to change everything:

Then Jesus, again groaning in Himself, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of him who was dead, said to Him, “Lord, by this time there is a stench, for he has been dead four days.” Jn 11:38-39

Mary didn’t believe a resurrection was possible. So Jesus had to remind her of everything He had promised:

Jesus said to her, “Did I not say to you that if you would believe you would see the glory of God?” Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead man was lying. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth!” And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him, and let him go.” – Jn 11:40-44

Wherever Jesus is, death cannot be. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been stuck in the same situation. It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been lost to feelings of doubt and despair! Jesus will come into your life, and change everything in just one moment.

Are you ready to live your life for Him? Scripture says that, “… if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). If you’ve never given your life to Jesus, pray this simple prayer with me:

Father, I admit that I am not perfect. But I declare I don’t have to be. Jesus was perfect; and Jesus is perfect, for me. I receive the gift of salvation, and I believe in the finished work of the Cross, in Jesus’ name!

If you just prayed that prayer, you are saved. Find a local church, and get plugged in! Today is the day your new adventure in Christ begins.

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/greek/kjv/pisteuo.html

How to Get Promoted

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The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘How to Get Promoted’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 4/14/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

A Quick Review

In Part One,[1] we discussed the reality that every believer is called to greatness. Moses (Exodus 3), Saul (1 Samuel 10), and David (1 Sam 16) all had their lives divinely interrupted by God, as He called them out of the mundane and into their destiny. Saying yes to God’s call would position them to fulfill their design: a function that would facilitate God’s plan and change the world.

In Part Two,[2] we examined the various forms of resistance that typically rise to the surface when we say yes to God’s call on our lives. When you say yes to greatness, unfortunately the enemy – Satan – typically paints a target on your back. Sometimes the enemy will defy you to your face (see David and Goliath; 1 Sam 17); but more often than not, he will work through other people to try and get you to give up your destiny and sacrifice your call to greatness.

In Part Three,[3] we looked at the reality that destiny takes time. David was a man who waited well; and as he waited for God to fulfill the call to greatness on his life, David “behaved himself wisely” (1 Sam 18:5, KJV). He protected the condition of his heart! When we wait well, we optimally position ourselves for alignment with God’s purposes and plans for our lives.

Biblical Promotion

In this chapter, I want to show you something I call the Biblical Pathway to Promotion. Every Biblical leader – the men and women whom God thrusts into their destiny – has something in common. They approach – and receive – promotion the same way.

You may have heard the old adage, “It’s not just what you do; it’s how you do it.” How you go about seeking promotion is just as important as receiving the promotion you seek. So, let’s talk about how to receive the promotion you crave in a manner that honors God.

The World’s Way

What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard about getting promoted? Here are “11 things that will get you promoted,” from the financial education resources site, LearnVest,[4] taken from conversations with managers in multiple fields including marketing, tech, media, executive recruiting, and financial planning:

1) Tell Me I’m Wrong. Bosses like to be around people who challenge their thinking in a healthy way. This isn’t about being annoying and disagreeing; it is about being willing to go against popular consensus, with the data to back up your thoughts.

2) Bring the Bad News First. Don’t just tell your boss what’s wrong; tell her how you are going to fix it. This shows your manager you’re on top of your work responsibilities, and have the ability to creatively solve problems.

3) Be Drama-Free! Gossip Girl should not be your real life: especially not in the office! One boss in the survey said this: “Your job is to make your boss’s life easier, not plop your drama on his or her lap. Save that for your friends and family or your diary.”

4) Smile! “Your boss would like to harbor the fantasy that you actually like your job, since she is paying you, spending more time with you than her family, and helping you more than you realize,” one boss said. “You can at least smile and seem like you are enjoying things in return.”

When I first started preaching as a very young man, I tried to “look serious” at Sunday service by keeping a straight face. Since I was so young, I thought it would make people think I was older and more mature. Instead, I found out it just made me look angry. Don’t turn people away by scowling instead of smiling!

5) Take Notes. I love it when I see people with a pen and paper in church. I immediately want to have a conversation with them to find out what they’re all about, and how I can help them achieve their goals. It shows me they’re focused and serious about what they’re hearing.

Did you know that writing something down with pen and paper helps you to remember it better? Writing with pen and paper boosts memory and enhances your ability to understand concepts and facts.[5] Unfortunately, the same benefit doesn’t apply when we take notes with a cell phone or laptop.

6) Never Skip the Office Party. Sometimes deep bonding can only happen outside of work. People want to get personal! But not too personal 😉

7) Don’t Expect to be Rewarded. “Don’t walk around with the air that you deserve it, because that sense of entitlement is going to get you nowhere,” one boss advised. Are you completely your assignments because you want to honor God with your work? Or because you’re expecting to be rewarded?

8) Hold Up Your End. Be a team player! As one boss lamented, “It’s awful when you claim to be a team player, but complain when you are given responsibilities to help.”

9) Ask How You Can Help. Don’t wait around for your boss to give you work! Be proactive. Take initiative! Make yourself irreplaceable by working harder at solving practical problems than the people around you.

10) Have A Solution. Don’t make your problem your boss’s problem. If you tell your boss something’s broken, bring a solution on how you plan to fix it.

11) Know Your Job – and Do It. Prioritize your responsibilities in such a way that the most critical things get done first. What is your boss ultimately paying you to do? Do that first; and save everything else for later.

Self-Promotion

There is an entire industry built around how to get a promotion. According to the dominant thought of today’s business leaders, your promotion hinges on what you do to get there. The world’s way says that self-promotion is essential: if you want to get promoted, you have to make it happen on your own! March into your boss’s corner office and ask for that raise!

In January 2018, the Harvard Business Review ran an article titled, “How to Ask for a Promotion.” Jospeh Weintraub, the founder and faculty director of the Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program (CLTP) at Babson College, said, “…to advance in your career, you’ll need to learn to advocate for yourself. You can’t assume that the organization will take care of you just because you do a good job. There is a degree of self-promotion that’s needed.” Put simply, he says, “If don’t you ask, you don’t get.”[6]

This same theme – you have to promote yourself – is evident in most of the literature you read about success in the workplace. We’ve been taught since a young age that, if we want to get ahead, we have to advocate for ourselves. We’ve learned by experience that the squeaky wheel gets the grease: so if you want to get what you feel you “deserve,” you had better speak up!

The Bible Way

But the Biblical Path to Promotion does not involve promoting self. The world says, if you want to get promoted, you have to advocate for yourself (self-promotion!). But God says, if you want to get promoted, you have to lay down your desire for promotion at His feet.  

So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Lk 14:7-11 

Do you see it? How the way of Jesus stands in such contrast to the suggestion of the world’s greatest leadership coaches? Business culture says, “Get up and advocate for yourself!” But Kingdom culture says, “Serve others, and let God advocate for you.”

If you insist on taking the “best place” (v 8), God will eventually humble you. Self-promotion might work for a time; but eventually the house of cards is going to come crashing down. If you build it, you have to maintain it! But if you will take the “lowest place” (v 10), God will exalt you. You won’t have to exalt yourself! If you let God build it for you, He will do all the work to maintain it.

I love God’s response when we humble ourselves and willingly take the lowest place: “Friend, go up higher” (v 10). First, we see that humility leads to intimacy. If you come proudly before God and insist that you should be up higher than you currently are, He won’t call you friend! But if you will humble yourself and concede that His plans for you are better than your plans for yourself, He will call you friend. Second, we see that humility leads to promotion. Do you want to go higher? Get lower! Do you want to be exalted? Humble yourself, so God doesn’t have to do it for you! 

Jesus’ Thoughts on Self-Promotion

James and John were devoted disciples. They had powerful ministries; so much so that they were known as the “Sons of Thunder” (Mk 3:17). If Jesus had a Dream Team, James and John would have been on it!

But even James and John had to fight a desire for promotion. They had to fight the temptation of self-promotion!

At one point in their walk with Jesus, James and John tried to promote themselves:

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to Him, saying, “Teacher, we want You to do for us whatever we ask.” And He said to them, “What do you want Me to do for you?” They said to Him, “Grant us that we may sit, one on Your right hand and the other on Your left, in Your glory.” – Mk 10:35-37

It wasn’t enough for Jesus to be glorified. James and John wanted to be glorified with Him! It’s easy to give James and John a hard time for their request; but how often do you and I act the same way? How often do we pursue God’s glory, only to ask for a little glory for ourselves on the side? How often do we approach God with the attitude, “I want You to do for me whatever I ask,” instead of going to Him with the humble admission, “I want to do for You whatever You ask!:

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you ask. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” They said to Him, “We are able.”

So Jesus said to them, “You will indeed drink the cup that I drink, and with the baptism I am baptized with you will be baptized; but to sit on My right hand and on My left is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it is prepared.” – Mk 10:38-40 

James and John didn’t know what they were asking for; so Jesus made clear that they were not asking for the right thing. They would indeed “drink the cup” that Jesus drank. James would be the first apostle to be martyred; and according to church tradition, John was boiled alive in oil for his faith in Jesus Christ, but would miraculously survive to later be imprisoned on the island of Patmos. Jesus laid down His life to suffer and die for the church; and James and John would follow in His footsteps. Be careful what you wish for!

Do you know how the rest of the disciples responded? “They began to be greatly displeased with James and John” (v 41). They were upset, because James and John were promoting themselves instead of the Gospel! The truth is, they also might have been upset because they hadn’t thought to have the self-promotion conversation with Jesus first! But Jesus quickly intervened, as He always does, to remind everyone what mattered most:

But Jesus called them to Himself and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers over the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever of you desires to be first shall be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” – Mk 10:42-45

“It shall not be so among you.” You don’t have to fall into the trap of self-promotion that the rest of the world is subject to! You get to be above the jockeying for position and recognition that everyone around you can’t ignore. Do you wan to be promoted? Become a servant. Do you want to be first? Put yourself last. Thus is the counter-intuitive nature of God’s kingdom!

The disciples had some trouble embracing this message. Before long, they were at it again:

Now there was also a dispute among [the disciples], as to which of them should be considered the greatest. And [Jesus] said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called ‘benefactors.’ But not so among you; on the contrary, he who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger, and he who governs as he who serves. For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves. – Lk 22:24-27

Jesus’ constant message was the opposite of what we hear in contemporary culture today. Do you want to be “great?” Serve. Do you want to “govern?” Promote the people around you, instead of promoting yourself. The disciples wanted to know who was greatest, and Jesus reminded them: it was HIM. And even He was the “One who serves.”

Every great leader you see in Scripture had one thing in common: a willingness to serve. Jesus provided what is perhaps the most adequate summation of His teaching on this subject to a group of religious leaders in Luke 14:

So [Jesus] told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” – Lk 14:7-11 

The way to promotion is humility. The way to greatness is to serve! The Biblical path to promotion does not entail convincing your superiors that you deserve it; it involves serving whomever God calls you to serve, for as long as He calls you to serve them!

Let’s not forget that the promotion you experience in this life is not the most important goal. What better promotion is there than to be seated in Christ, at the right hand of God “in heavenly places,” (Eph 1:20) for all eternity?!

Come Up Higher

At the time of this writing, I’ve been in full-time ministry for six years. Full-time ministry is not easy; but being a pastor has been the most rewarding calling I never asked for. That’s the truth: I never really wanted to be a pastor. I just had a desire to serve; and the more I served the church, the more the Lord promoted me.

When I first came to our church more than ten years ago, I had just moved to New York City. I wanted to meet other guys my age and form a good group of friends. So, I signed up to be an usher. I quickly met some of the men who are still – to this day – some of my closest friends.

Soon after I became an usher, I joined the worship team. I played jazz saxophone all through college and I could improvise well, so I told the Worship Director. He asked me to audition for the worship team, and I made the cut. Before I knew it, I had a church community that felt like family: all because I had made the simple decision to serve.

One day while I was ushering, I met my wife. She was on the First Impressions team: greeting new guests as they walked into service. I wasn’t trying to meet anyone; and neither was she! But the Lord saw that both of us were serving, so He honored that and put us together. When my wife and I got married several years later, our Lead Pastor made us Care Pastors (our church’s term for lay pastors). We never asked to be ordained and given a title; but because we were so focused on serving, God’s response was, “Friend, go up higher” (Lk 14:10).

Several years after that, I got laid off from my job in finance. I had six months of severance to think about next steps. In that time, our Lead Pastor came to me and asked if I would be interested in coming on full-time staff as the Executive Pastor. I would manage the church’s staff, finances, and administration during the week; and on the weekends, I would preach and pastor at our Manhattan location.

Again, I cannot stress this enough: I never asked to be a pastor. Quite frankly, I never even knew I wanted to be a pastor. But God knew my design – what He had created me to do – and as I demonstrated a willingness to serve, He promoted me to where He wanted me to be.

You don’t have to promote yourself to fulfill your destiny. Serve God, and He will promote you.

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] https://www.citylightnyc.com/podcast/Called-To-Greatness-031019.mp3

[2] https://www.citylightnyc.com/podcast/Called-To-Greatness-Part-2-032419.mp3

[3] https://www.citylightnyc.com/podcast/Called-To-Greatness-Part-3-033119.mp3

[4] https://www.themuse.com/advice/bosses-tell-us-11-things-that-will-get-you-promoted

[5] https://www.medicaldaily.com/why-using-pen-and-paper-not-laptops-boosts-memory-writing-notes-helps-recall-concepts-ability-268770

[6] https://hbr.org/2018/01/how-to-ask-for-a-promotion

Called to Greatness Part 3

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Called to Greatness Part 3’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 3/31/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

Called to Greatness Part III

In Part One,[1] we discussed the reality that every believer is called to greatness. Moses (Exodus 3), Saul (1 Samuel 10), and David (1 Sam 16) all had their lives divinely interrupted by God, as He called them out of the mundane and into their destiny. Saying yes to God’s call would position them to fulfill their design: a function that would facilitate God’s plan and change the world.

In Part Two,[2] we examined the various forms of resistance that typically rise to the surface when we say yes to God’s call on our lives. When you say yes to greatness, unfortunately the enemy – Satan – typically paints a target on your back. Sometimes the enemy will defy you to your face (see David and Goliath; 1 Sam 17); but more often than not, he will work through other people to try and get you to give up your destiny and sacrifice your call to greatness.

Hurry Up and Wait

In this chapter, I have some sobering news for you: your destiny is going to take some time to unfold. Quite often, God will show you some major things He wants to accomplish in your life up front, and all at once; but what we don’t always want to hear is that those things are going to unfold slowly, in a process that often takes years or even decades.

So, once we accept the call to greatness, how do we wait wisely for God’s destiny over our lives to unfold?

He Behaved Himself Wisely

We turn again to the story of David. In Part One, we saw David’s Call to Greatness:

Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. – 1 Sam 16:13

What an incredible scene. Historians estimate David was between 10 and 15 years old when he was anointed to be king. He was called from the field, shepherding sheep, and the Old Testament prophet Samuel anointed him in dramatic fashion. David was anointed, “…in the midst of his brothers;” in other words, this was not a private ceremony! Everyone around David – his father and brothers included – knew there was a kingly call on David’s life!

But do you know what David had to do next? Wait. David was anointed at a young age; but David wouldn’t become king until he was thirty years old:

David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah. – 2 Sam 5:4-5

At age 30 David became king over Judah. Then, 7 yeas and six months later, he became king over the entire nation of Israel.

God’s destiny for David was real! But what David didn’t know up front was that his call to greatness was going to take some time to unfold. So, how did David wait well? What did he do in between receiving his call to greatness, and seeing it play out in his life? How did he position himself to receive everything God had to offer, and make sure he didn’t miss out on everything God planned to do, in and through him?

Here is our answer:

So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. – 1 Sam 18:5

David “behaved wisely.” The King James Version says David, “behaved himself wisely.” To “behave wisely” is the Hebrew word, sakal (Strong’s H7919). It means to be prudent (i.e. showing care for the future), to be circumspect (wary and unwilling to take inappropriate risks), and to wisely understand: to have insight and comprehension that result in prosperity.

You see, David had plenty of opportunities to be foolish. He was young when he was anointed to be king. He could have told everyone around him, and bragged about the calling on his life. He could have adopted a lavish lifestyle, knowing that some day he would be able to pay down his debts. He could have become a complete jerk, because he knew he would rule over the people around him!

But David did none of those things. He understood that his future was much more important this his present. He “behaved himself wisely;” and because of that response, God had everything He needed in the form or a response, to make David’s destiny come to pass.

So David went out wherever Saul sent him, and behaved wisely. And Saul set him over the men of war, and he was accepted[3] (Hebrew: he “made them glad”) in the sight of all the people and also in the sight of Saul’s servants. Now it had happened as they were coming home, when David was returning from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women had come out of all the cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet King Saul, with tambourines, with joy, and with musical instruments. So the women sang as they danced, and said: “Saul has slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.” Then Saul was very angry, and the saying displeased him; and he said, “They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed only thousands. Now what more can he have but the kingdom?” – 1 Sam 18:5-8

David’s actions made the people glad; but they made Saul mad! The people were falling in love with David! But Saul was starting to hate him. What’s the point?

When you “behave wisely” in response to God’s call to greatness, not everyone is going to be thrilled. But your job isn’t to please people; your job is to simply step out and do whatever God is calling you to do, with, “…clean hands and a pure heart” (Ps 24:4).

So Saul eyed David from that day forward. And it happened on the next day that the distressing spirit from God came upon Saul, and he prophesied inside the house. So David played music with his hand, as at other times; but there was a spear in Saul’s hand. And Saul cast the spear, for he said, “I will pin David to the wall!” But David escaped his presence twice. Now Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with him, but had departed from Saul. – 1 Sam 18:9-12

As time went on, Saul lashed out at David more and more. But notice why David made Saul so uncomfortable: Saul was “afraid” (v 12). Saul knew the Lord was with David, but no longer with Saul.

What does it mean that a, “…distressing spirit from God came upon Saul” (v 9)? I believe God was trying to make Saul uncomfortable, because Saul was no longer supposed to be king! David was the one who had the Holy Spirit on him to be king! But Saul was afraid to lose power. Saul started to give away the kingdom with his words (v 8); and David would be there to accept the throne.

Sometimes other people won’t respond well when they see the call of God on your life. But your response should not be to prove them wrong. Your response should not be to try and silence them! Simply “behave wisely.” Trust that God is going to put you in the right place, at the right time, to step into your divinely appointed destiny. It may take some time, and other people may not like it very much; but God will do everything He has promised to do.

Saul hated David so much that he threw spears at him! But David didn’t fume and try and get him back. Years later, David would have two chances () to kill Saul! But his response was, “Who am I to stretch out my hand against the Lord’s anointed?” At every turn, David did the right thing. He refused to take matters into his own hands, and attempt to accelerate the destiny over his life. He “behaved wisely;” and that was all God needed to see.

Therefore Saul removed him from his presence, and made him his captain over a thousand; and he went out and came in before the people. And David behaved wisely in all his ways, and the Lord was with him. Therefore, when Saul saw that he behaved very wisely, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and came in before them. – 1 Sam 18:13-16

What Saul meant as a punishment, God turned into promotion. By the time David was forced into exile, all of Israel loved him. On the surface, it seemed like things couldn’t be going worse for David: he was being pushed out of the country he was supposed to rule, by a king who didn’t want to give up the throne! But the whole time, God was perfectly positioning David to step into the call of greatness over his life.

It’s All About Your Heart

As you’re waiting for destiny to unfold over your life, what matters most is the condition of your heart. God had plenty of warriors to choose from! He had plenty of men who knew His word. But He had only one who was, “…a man after His own heart” (1 Sam 13:14).

What is your heart condition like? Are you frustrated God is taking so long? Are you angry at the people around you who are making your life difficult? The unfortunate reality is this: you are going to have to wait for God to fulfill the call to greatness on your life. Greatness takes time! But as you wait, are you willing to “behave wisely?” Are you willing to protect your heart? Are you willing to act with integrity and character while God takes His time? Are you willing to refuse to take matters into your own hand, electing instead to allow God to do everything in His own time?

David constantly invited God to examine his heart:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me, and know my anxieties; and see if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. – Ps 139:23-24

Was David perfect? No (see 2 Sam 11:2). But what David had going for him is an insistence to “behave wisely:” to make sure he didn’t do anything on his own, but that he waited on God for every good and perfect thing to come to pass.

As you position yourself for greatness, can you stand before God and honestly declare that you are a (wo)man after His own heart? Can you bare your heart before Him, and confess that you have zero ulterior motive to serving Him? Can you say your heart hasn’t been tainted by the people around you who aren’t as excited about your destiny as you are?

It’s not just about what you do as you wait for your destiny; it’s about how you do it. David “behaved wisely” because his heart was right! He constantly let God in to poke around under the hood, and examine what was going on in his heart condition and his thought process. And the result was that David did all things well.

Anger and Bitterness

Anger and bitterness can interfere with your destiny. If you are angry and bitter, your emotions will cause you to hear things you think are from God, that aren’t really Him. Jesus explained this to His disciples:

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. – Matt 5:23-24

Take this test: when you go to pray, who is the first person you think about? It should be Jesus! But many of us think about someone else. We go to pray, and we think about other people. God, change him, we start. Lord, tell her to help me! But whenever you think about someone else instead of Jesus in prayer, we have a problem.

Remember this: bitterness and resentment will negatively impact your ability to hear from God objectively. If you want to “behave wisely,” you have to let it go! Whatever people have done to offend you: is it worth hanging on to the offense at the expense of your destiny?

David didn’t allow Saul’s hatred to penetrate David’s heart. He refused to, “…give place to the devil” (Eph 4:27). David knew this powerful truth: if your heart is anything put pure before the Lord, the enemy has a foothold to your life. But if you constantly come to the Lord and ask Him to protect and preserve the state of your heart, He will answer your prayer!

The battle is in your heart. Do not give the enemy room to disrupt the call of God over your life. Do not give the enemy room to delay the call of God over your life! Forgive quickly, and love lavishly; and you will find yourself perfectly positioned to receive everything God wants you to have.

It’s All About Perspective

When did David really become king? He was thirty years old when other people first recognized him as king (2 Sam 5:4). But he was just a boy when God recognized him as king (1 Sam 16:13).

I would like to argue that David really became king when God anointed him, not when the world finally recognized him. David knew it. He didn’t need affirmation from other people when He already had it from God! He knew he was already king in God’s eyes, so it didn’t matter what anyone else thought! And if he was already king in God’s eyes, what reason did he have to be impatient?

David had plenty of opportunities to become frustrated and offended; he just didn’t take them. And neither should you. Behave yourself wisely. Ask God to keep your heart in the right place; and you will find yourself perfectly positioned to step into the call to greatness God has over your life.

You shall increase my greatness, and comfort me on every side. – Ps 71:21

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] http://intelligentcharismatic.com/called-to-greatness/

[2] http://intelligentcharismatic.com/called-greatness-ii/

[3] https://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/kjv/yatab.html

yatab; Strong’s 3190

Called to Greatness II

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Called to Greatness Part II’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 3/24/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click the play arrow above.

You Are Called

Last week[1] we discussed the reality that you are called to greatness. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you’ve done: God has a purpose for your life that is greater than you could ever imagine! You might feel like you’re stuck in a dead-end job today; but that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have something great for you.

Moses was, “…tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law” (Ex 3:1) when God interrupted him and called him to greatness. Saul was wandering around, looking for his father’s donkeys, when Samuel, “…took a flask of oil and poured it on his head, and kissed him and said: ‘Is it not because the Lord has anointed you commander over His inheritance?’” (1 Sam 10:1). David was “keeping the sheep” (1 Sam 16:11) when God interrupted his life and anointed him as the next king over Israel! Don’t you see? It doesn’t matter what you’re doing now. You are not defined by your present! The only thing that matters is what you will do going forward. You are defined by your future in Christ!

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it. – Jn 14:12

You are called to greatness. Are you ready to accept it?

Once You’re Called

That was the good news. Now, are you ready for the bad news?

Just because you’re called, doesn’t mean the way there is going to be easy. Here is the reality: as soon as you accept your call to greatness, you will start to experience resistance. I wish I could stand here and tell you that walking out your destiny would be straight forward and simply; but unfortunately, it’s just not true! Your destiny will unfold over your life; but you’re going to have to break through some resistance on the way.

Just because David was anointed as the next king over Israel, didn’t mean his life would be easy all of a sudden. As soon as he was called to greatness, he faced resistance from multiple places. The purpose of this message is not to discourage you that your destiny will not come easily; it is to prepare you for the resistance that is coming, so you 1) will not be surprised, and 2) will be prepared to deal with it!

Level One

The first layer of resistance David faced came from his family. Before we go any further, take a moment to read 1 Sam 17:1-16. The armies of Israel were gathered against the Philistines. Every morning, the “champion” (v 4) of the Philistines – this giant named Goliath – would present himself before the armies of Israel. He would taunt them. He would beat his chest, talk about how awesome he was, and tell the armies of Israel how pathetic they were.

Nobody wanted to fight Goliath. Saul was the king; but he didn’t want any part of Goliath (v 11). None of the best warriors in the armies of Israel wanted anything to do with this giant, and for good reason: his height was “six cubits and a span” (that’s about nine feet tall!),[2] “the staff of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his iron spearhead weighed six hundred shekels” (v 7). When the warriors of Israel heard Goliath calling them out, “…they were dismayed and greatly afraid” (v 11).

But then there was David. David was the youngest of all his brothers; and his three oldest brothers had followed Saul to battle. One day, Jesse (David’s father) sent David on an errand:

Then Jesse said to his son David, “Take now for your brothers an ephah of this dried grain and these ten loaves, and run to your brothers at the camp. And carry these ten cheeses to the captain of their thousand, and see how your brothers fare, and bring back news of them.” Now Saul and they and all the men of Israel were in the Valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. – 1 Sam 17:17-19

Jesse wanted David to bring his brothers some food; so David went.

What I want to highlight is this: what seemed like an errand was actually God positioning David for victory. David thought he was just dropping off food to his brothers; but God was actually bringing David to the battle. God knew Goliath would be spouting off and defying the armies of the living God. God also knew that David was the only man in all of Israel who would not allow Goliath to talk like that.

When David heard the giant challenging God’s armies, David knew Goliath might as well be challenging God himself. Where everyone else saw certain defeat; David saw victory. Where everyone else saw an enemy, David saw an opportunity!

But his brothers didn’t want to hear it:

Now Eliab his oldest brother heard when he spoke to the men; and Eliab’s anger was aroused against David, and he said, “Why did you come down here? And with whom have you left those few sheep in the wilderness? I know your pride and the insolence of your heart, for you have come down to see the battle.” And David said, “What have I done now? Is there not a cause?” – 1 Sam 17:28-29

David had done nothing wrong. He faithfully dropped off food for his bothers. While he was there, he heard the enemy asserting himself in a way that David knew was not God’s will. So, he decided to do something about it.

But look how his brother’s responded! Eliab was angry! He mocked David for being a shepherd instead of a warrior. He accused David of 1) pride and 2) insolence of heart.

This is the first level of resistance. David got pushback from his family: those closest to him, who should have supported him the most, supported him the least.

Do you know why I think Eliab was really mad? He was mad because he knew David was a bigger man than he. Eliab had watched as David was anointed in front of his entire family (1 Sam 16:13). Now, Eliab was standing back – afraid of Goliath – as David approached the battle and wondered out loud if he could take Goliath down!

Sometimes the people whom you expect to support you the most, will support you the least! Are you ready for that resistance? When it comes, don’t be surprised; be thankful that you are on the right track.

When I told my parents I wanted to leave a career in finance to take a call into full-time ministry, they thought I was crazy. They tried to talk me out of it. “Think of your future,” they begged me (they’ve accepted my decision since then!). They thought I was throwing away my future by chasing after what God wanted me to have!

I didn’t take it as discouragement; I understood it was resistance. They simply hadn’t heard God’s heart on the matter like I had. I wanted to charge into battle against the enemy, and take ground back for the Kingdom! But not everyone would understand.

Level Two

The second level of resistance David faced came from his mentor. When Goliath spoke, David responded:

“For who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God?” – 1 Sam 17:26

He spoke with confidence and boldness. He stood out so much because of his words that Saul took notice:

Now when the words which David spoke were heard, they reported them to Saul; and he sent for him. Then David said to Saul, “Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” – 1 Sam 17:31-32

David wanted to fight Goliath. Saul should have been ecstatic! After all, Saul – as king – was the one who should have been bold and brave enough to face the giant. Now, here was David, offering to take one for the team, and charge into battle against the greatest enemy Israel had ever faced.

But Saul’s reaction was not good. He was anything but ecstatic:

And Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are a youth, and he a man of war from his youth.” – 1 Sam 17:33

Now wait just one minute! Saul already knew about David. Specifically, Saul’s servants had told David that David was, “…a mighty man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a handsome person; and the Lord is with him” (1 Sam 16:18). So why now, all of a sudden, would Saul forget everything he knew to be true about David, and tell him he wasn’t good enough?

Maybe Saul didn’t think David would win the fight, and he was trying to protect him? Maybe Saul was jealous that David had the courage he lacked? Whatever the reason, David came to Saul – his spiritual leadership – and instead of receiving the support he needed, he got completely shut down. This is the resistance you might face as you embrace your call to greatness.

Now I want to be very careful here. I am not saying you should not seek out wise counsel from people who are “older” (i.e. those who have been a Christian longer) and more experienced than you. I am saying that you should be prepared – and not let down – if they don’t immediately support what you are proposing as you charge after God’s plan for your life.

But watch very carefully how David responded. He did not punch Saul in the face and burn a bridge with his spiritual leadership. He did not go and fight for another nation (i.e. he didn’t leave his church and go find another one because the pastor didn’t agree with him)! David continued to serve Saul, even though Saul didn’t think David could do what God had called David to do.

So, have a conversation with your advisors. Seek wise counsel! Hear them out, and heed their advice. But at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what God is telling you to do.

When I was growing up, I played jazz saxophone. I practiced hard all through high school. Our school’s jazz band went to the Berklee College of Music’s annual jazz festival, and we did well. I had a solo in one of our songs, and I won an individual award for musicianship.

When we got home from that trip, I was flying high. I felt like I could take over the world! I asked my saxophone teacher, “What do you think about me moving to New York City to make a living as a saxophone teacher?” His reply? “Do you like waiting tables?”

This was the dose of reality I needed. I didn’t let it discourage me; I just received his comment as something to think about. At the end of the day, I had to discern that God’s will was not for move to move to the world’s greatest city and try to make a living as a starving artist. Sometimes your mentors will give you a healthy bucket of cold water in the face, and keep you from doing something silly; but other times, they might discourage you from charging into a God-ordained battle and taking the victory He promised you. Wisdom means knowing the difference!

David would not let resistance interfere with his destiny. He explained himself to Saul:

But David said to Saul, “Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or a bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard, and struck and killed it. Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” Moreover David said, “The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” – 1 Sam 17:34-37a

You see, David had a history with God. God had given David victory before; and David knew God would do it again! David had already experienced a string of smaller victories with God. He knew God’s faithfulness because of his testimony! So when David faced the biggest adversary he had ever faced, he already knew what God was going to do: give him victory, just as He always had before!

Because of David’s persistence, Saul was convinced:

And Saul said to David, “Go, and the Lord be with you!” – 1 Sam 17:37b

David was ready to charge into battle. But the resistance he would face was not over yet!

Level Three

The third level of resistance David faced was outright resistance from the enemy. Did you really think the enemy was just going to let walk into your destiny without putting up a fight? Did you think Satan was just going to let you reach out and seize God’s best, without trying to fight you for it?

David was ready for battle; but Goliath would give him the worst verbal abuse he had heard yet:

Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand. And he drew near to the Philistine. So the Philistine came, and began drawing near to David, and the man who bore the shield went before him. And when the Philistine looked about and saw David, he disdained him; for he was only a youth, ruddy and good-looking. So the Philistine said to David, “Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?” And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. And the Philistine said to David, “Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and the beasts of the field!” – 1 Sam 17:40-44

Goliath made fun of David. David had a staff, some stones, a pouch and a sling: exactly what God told him to bring into the fight. But Goliath taunted him that it wasn’t good enough! Goliath’s shield was so big that somebody else had to carry it (v 41). So when David showed up with just a staff and some rocks, Goliath laughed in his face!

And the enemy will do the same to you. Don’t mind what Satan says. God knows what you need. Carry whatever He has told you to bring into the battle you are facing. You don’t need anything else!

David responded to the enemy out loud:

Then David said to the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, with a spear, and with a javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you and take your head from you. And this day I will give the carcasses of the camp of the Philistines to the birds of the air and the wild beasts of the earth, that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. Then all this assembly shall know that the Lord does not save with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s, and He will give you into our hands.” – 1 Sam 17:45-47

David didn’t back down when the enemy taunted him. He replied with an understanding that if he had the “name of the Lord” (v 45), he had all the power he needed. Did you know there is power in God’s name? Did you know that at the name of Jesus, every knee must bow (Phil 2:10)? When you charge into battle in the name of God, you are not just fighting for yourself; you are fighting on behalf of God! And when you fight in His name, there is no way you can lose.

By the way, this is how you should respond when the enemy taunts you: out loud. When the Holy Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (see Matt 4:1-11), the enemy came with a litany of different attacks; yet Jesus’ response was always the same! He responded out loud, with Scripture. So when the enemy taunts you, respond out loud, with the word of God!

David would not allow the taunts of the enemy to interfere with the supernatural confidence God invited him to have. Goliath laughed in David’s face! Yet David was the one who would be laughing at the end:

So it was, when the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, that David hurried and ran toward the army to meet the Philistine. Then David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone; and he slung it and struck the Philistine in his forehead, so that the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the earth. So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and a stone, and struck the Philistine and killed him. But there was no sword in the hand of David. Therefore David ran and stood over the Philistine, took his sword and drew it out of its sheath and killed him, and cut off his head with it. And when the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled. – 1 Sam 17:48-51

David used God’s strategy to disable the enemy; and then he used the enemy’s own weapon to cut him apart.

How Will You Respond?

God has called you to greatness! Some people may support you as you pursue His call on your life; and others may not. But what other people say about you is none of your concern.

You might face resistance from the people closest to you. You might face resistance from people in your life you expected to champion you the most. You will face outright resistance from the enemy, as he tries to intimidate you and force you to abandon God’s call on your life! But when resistance rears its head, how will your respond?

Let God’s voice be the only voice you hear: even if the room is full of doubters. When all is said and done, He will bring you to the victory every else said was impossible.

Then, as David returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul with the head of the Philistine in his hand. And Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?” So David answered, “I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.” – 1 Sam 17:57-58

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

[1] https://www.citylightnyc.com/podcast/Called-To-Greatness-031019.mp3

[2] https://www.gotquestions.org/how-tall-was-Goliath.html

Called to Greatness

The following is an adaptation of the sermon ‘Called to Greatness’ preached by Pastor Michael White on Sunday, 3/10/2019, at CityLight Church. To listen to the full podcast please click

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Called to Greatness

You are called to greatness. Each and every single believer is called to greatness. If you believe in Jesus Christ, God will do something through you that has never been done before!

Do you believe it? Do you believe that God put you on this Earth to accomplish something that nobody else can do? Do you believe that there is a work He has given you to do, that will impact the world in a way that blows your wildest expectations out of the water?

Witness the intricacy with which God designed you:

For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. – Ps 139:13-16

David is talking to God; but he is also reminding himself of his intricate design. Here is what we learn about ourselves from David’s words:

1) God made you. You did not make yourself. To simply do what you “want” to do is dishonoring of your design. To do what God created you to do is the only logical fulfillment of the creation process.

2) You are fearfully and wonderfully made. God thinks you’re wonderful! And then enemy is afraid of you. Jesus has given you, “…authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you” (Lk 10:19). You have authority over all the power of the enemy! Not just to hold him back, but to trample him! What more confidence do you need that God believes in you, and has equipped you with everything you need to do His work?

3) You are a “marvelous” work (v 14). David knew it through experience; but do you? Have you given God the chance to show you His goodness, by trusting Him that His word is true?

4) You are “skillfully wrought” (v 15). God does not make mistakes. Better still: when you make mistakes, God redeems them!

5) The days are “fashioned for you” (v 16). God created today with you in mind! There is no such thing as “luck” or “random occurrence.” God put you on this earth – here and now, today – to do something that will reverberate for all eternity! Praise be to God!

What did God create you to do, that nobody else can do? And are you ready to step into that design, full of faith, and embrace the calling He has on your life?

Moses

Moses had a call to greatness on his life. He just didn’t know it! Maybe you’re in the same boat. Perhaps God has designed you for something amazing and intricately specific, but you’re the last to know about it. So if you don’t think you’re designed for greatness, you’re in good company. Moses was there too:

“Come now, therefore, and I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring My people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” So He said, “I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.” Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And He said, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ ” – Ex 3:10-14

When God called Moses, Moses wasn’t ready. He was, “…tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law” (Ex 3:1), when all of a sudden, God showed up! “Come now,” God said, “I will send you to Pharaoh that you bring My people…out of Egypt” (v 10). What an amazing call! What an incredible destiny!

But look at Moses’ response: “Who am I” (v 11). Who am I? Moses wasn’t convinced. He was making a mental list of all the reasons the call of God on his life didn’t make sense. He was coming up with excuses as to why God had the wrong guy. Yet watch what God does. He forces Moses to take his eyes off himself, and put them right back on God: “I will certainly be with you” (v 12).

It doesn’t matter who you are. Your qualifications and level of preparedness are absolutely irrelevant to God! All that matters is who He is. Moses asked God, “Who am I?” And God responded, “I am with you.” When God is with you, nothing else matters. When you have His presence, you have all you will ever need to do everything He has called you to do!

Moses was actually the only man alive who could do what God was asking him to do. Moses was born a Hebrew (Ex 2:1), but raised an Egyptian (Ex 2:10). And Moses wasn’t just raised as any Egyptian; he was raised in Pharaoh’s house, as Egyptian royalty!

God needed someone who was Hebrew – one of His people – but who also understood the customs and norms of Egyptian nobility! Moses was His guy! But Moses didn’t want to believe it.

Who has God called you to be? Are you having trouble believing it?

King Saul

Saul was Israel’s first king. It was never God’s will to give His people a king. He wanted to be their king! But Israel cried out for a king, and God gave them their desire:

Then Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah, and said to the children of Israel, “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all kingdoms and from those who oppressed you.’ But you have today rejected your God, who Himself saved you from all your adversities and your tribulations; and you have said to Him, ‘No, set a king over us!’ Now therefore, present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your clans.” – 1 Sam 10:17-19

Saul had a call to greatness on his life, too. But just like Moses, he was the last to know it!

When the people of Israel cried out for a king, Saul was God’s answer to them:

And when Samuel had caused all the tribes of Israel to come near, the tribe of Benjamin was chosen. When he had caused the tribe of Benjamin to come near by their families, the family of Matri was chosen. And Saul the son of Kish was chosen. But when they sought him, he could not be found. Therefore they inquired of the Lord further, “Has the man come here yet?” And the Lord answered, “There he is, hidden among the equipment.” – 1 Sam 19:20-22

But Saul didn’t believe the calling on his own life! When God crowned him king in front of all God’s people, Saul didn’t step up and accept his calling with his head held high and a smile on his face; he hid!! Saul was so reluctant to accept the crown that other people had to run and “bring him” to the throne!

So they ran and brought him from there; and when he stood among the people, he was taller than any of the people from his shoulders upward. And Samuel said to all the people, “Do you see him whom the Lord has chosen, that there is no one like him among all the people?” – 1 Sam 10:23-24

This says something about the people God chooses for greatness. Saul never asked to be king. He never wanted to be promoted. Saul was simply made king. God called him to be great, even though Saul never asked for it; and from that point forward, it was Saul’s responsibility to step up and accept the call!

King David

David was the second king over Israel: Saul’s successor. But just like Moses and Saul before him, David didn’t ask to be king. He didn’t want to be promoted! He was simply minding his business when God interrupted the trajectory of his life and called him to greatness.

One day while David was tending to his flock, the prophet Samuel showed up out of nowhere to anoint David as king:

So Jesse called Abinadab, and made him pass before Samuel. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Then Jesse made Shammah pass by. And he said, “Neither has the Lord chosen this one.” Thus Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel. And Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen these.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” Then he said, “There remains yet the youngest, and there he is, keeping the sheep.” – 1 Sam 16:8-11a

What was it about David that attracted God’s attention? Why did God pass over all seven of David’s brothers and choose him?

David had a humble heart. He was a shepherd, “…keeping the sheep” (v 11). You see, God does’t need a fancy resume or the perfect credentials to use someone for greatness. He simply needs to see a humble heart.

Before God called Moses to greatness, he was “…tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law” (Ex 3:1). Before God called Saul to be king, he was looking for his father’s donkeys (1 Sam 9:3)! Before David was anointed king, he was watching his father’s flocks in the field. What’s the point? When you simply serve well with a humble heart, you won’t have to look for greatness! Greatness will find you.

And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him. For we will not sit down till he comes here.” So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with bright eyes, and good-looking. And the Lord said, “Arise, anoint him; for this is the one!” Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward. So Samuel arose and went to Ramah. – 1 Sam 16:11b-13

Nobody expected David to be the next king over Israel. Even Samuel thought it must be one of his older brothers! But God, “…does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7).

It doesn’t matter what somebody else has told you. It doesn’t matter what you accept – or refuse to believe – about yourself! God has called you to greatness; and that is all that matters.

Greater Things

Do you know what Moses, Saul, and David all had in common? God had greater plans for them, than they had for themselves. And do you know what? He has “greater” plans for you too.

You’re no Moses. You’re no Saul! You’re no King David. But you are you; and God has called you to greater things:

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it.” – Jn 14:12-14

© Michael D. White, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Michael D. White with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.